There are times on our walks, when Duncan is off-leash and the park is dark and entirely our own under a mostly-clear and starry sky, that we wander far and wide from each other. While I stare at my feet, plodding heavily and loudly forward through the snow's thick crust with the soft layer of stewy slush beneath, Duncan skips along, loping like a coyote, head down and back arched, sometimes stopping to investigate things unknown to me, and sometimes sprinting vast distances, his feet barely disturbing the surface. I keep my eye on him and listen for the musical patter of his feet, and wonder if he's forgotten me entirely, if some completely wild side of his nature has taken control and steered him far away to place where I don't exist.
Tonight, after one of our these walks, with fifty or sixty feet separating us, he suddenly came back to me, leapt up and did a little sidewise jog around me, pushed himself against my chest and forced me onto my back in the not unpleasant cold of the snow. When I was down he threw himself into me, did a snow angel on top of me, rolling across my belly, his tail slapping my face, slid away, then ran through his complete repertoire of tricks, rolling three times one way and three times back the other, standing up only to bow at my side, raising first one paw in a high five and then both to give me ten, all while I laid on my back, my breath a cloudy halo above us. And when he was done he stopped, stared at me a long silent while then barked the three words he can speak, "I love you."
My dog has never forgotten me. Not for instant. And he loves me always.