It’s been months
since mud’s been stuck
to his paws, longer
since I’ve had to comb
any burs or ticks
from his thinning coat.

I lift him, and the scale
clicks before the needle
settles on a number
I can round off
to the nearest pound,
subtract my weight from,
and call in the difference to the vet
so he can prepare
the next morning’s dose.

The last time I wanted
to wrap my arms around him
like this he’d been gone days
before I found him
in Al Steele’s pasture, worrying
a herd of spring heifers,
ignoring my shouts,
his leash wrapped
uselessly around my fist
as he chased down another night
of freedom, chewing up roadkill
and rolling in shit.