AJ loved to hike throughout the greater Lake Tahoe area. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

When I started writing tributes to AJ on her 16th birthday I didn’t think I would still be at it today. This incredible dog of mine turns 19 on Valentine’s Day.

Getting to the highest point in her Tahoe yard–the top of the hot tub. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It’s appropriate her other mom, Joy, picked this day for Audrey Jean’s birthday. (She was a rescue, so we don’t know the exact day she was born.) Appropriate because this dog stole my heart as well as Joy’s. The love she has provided both of us cannot be measured.

Joy returned that love in equally large quantities, as I do to this day.

AJ finds enough room to spread out in the Jeep while traveling to Baja. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It was August 2012 that AJ came into my household; just days after Joy died of cancer. I never would have guessed that she would end up spending as much time with me as she did Joy. Joy and I have been incredibly lucky to share one special dog.

AJ is far from perfect. She had so much energy when I first got custody of her that she could run, and run, and run. We would go hiking and off she would go. My throat would be sore yelling for her to come back. She always did, but never quickly. And one time she came back with her side slashed so stitches were necessary. Another time she escaped her doggie day care in South Lake Tahoe, and walked home to discover I wasn’t there. Oh, the stories I could write about her.

Waiting patiently to go for a walk. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Today, well, it’s hard to get her to want to go on a walk of any distance. She does laps in the house, which gets her exercise. She has a small back yard to wander around in, smell plants and water them as well. My mom doesn’t even wince knowing this is happening. (Mom is the gardener.)

One winter the snow was so abundant AJ could look over the fence. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

AJ and I have had the talk—more than once, and several times of late. Her energy is waning. She is literally on her last legs as her back right one keeps getting weaker. She gets a regular dose of some substance that is to help with the osteoarthritis and gets a CBD nugget twice a day. She has pads to give her traction on the inside floors.

Do dogs really stop to smell the flowers while hiking? (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I have looked up end of life options in the area and there are multiple people who could come to the house.

This will be her last birthday. She has done what she was put on the earth to do. She has been with me through so much happiness and so much sadness. She’s even lived in another country. What a great traveler she was on those long treks.

She has multiple coats, and has never liked getting into any of them. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

When we were in Baja I asked her if she could stay around long enough to get me to whatever my next venture was going to be. She’s done that. And she’s experienced it with me for nearly a year.

In her prime, AJ was quite the runner. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I can’t ask more of this dog. She’s already given me more than I ever expected. Now it’s my turn to make sure whatever time she has left is as pain free as possible (I have stronger stuff for her too) and that she knows how loved she is.

Call it therapy; her favorite place at her Auntie Jann’s in Todos Santos was the gravel. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I have doggie cake and ice cream to make her on what assuredly is her last trip around the sun.

Happy Birthday, girl. I love you.

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