On Sunday, I opened the hatch to my car so I could begin packing. Allarah excitedly leaped inside and waited, patiently panting in the Phoenix heat as I packed my bike and gear around her. Then we drove 4.5 hours to my cousin's house in Nevada where she met their two dogs and got along great - as she always did. That night, I picked out a 7 mile route so she could go with me. We left in the early morning when it was still fairly cool for what would be her last adventure.
During the ride, I made a wrong turn fairly early on that would extend it by another 2 miles, but still far less than the 15 she did 3 weeks before, so I decided to keep going. She began showing signs of fatigue much earlier than usual, so we stopped frequently for water and I encouraged her while massaging her muscles and checking her pads. Everything seemed pretty normal aside from her diminished stamina. At this point, there wasn't anything to do but complete the circuit.
We had just reached the dirt access road that led back to the car when she laid down and wouldn't get back up. I tried giving her more water, but she could barely even drink. She had been on a much longer ride 3 weeks before and experienced temperatures 20 degrees hotter, so I didn't expect what was to come. Still, I didn't push her, but I knew she had to cool down.
I carried her over my shoulders 100 meters to where I'd left my bike. Then I rode with her over my shoulders as far as I could. Eventually, I couldn't carry her anymore, so I set her down and rode the remaining 3/4 mile back to my car and drove quickly back down the access road to her. I put her in the back and packed all my stuff as quickly as I could.
With the a/c maxed out, we headed back. Having seen her exhausted on challenging trips before, I expected her to be fine. This was a dog who hiked Camelback Mountain before she was even 6 months old. She jumped off cliffs with me, hiked many miles in 100-degree weather. 3 weeks ago, she went with me on a 15-mile ride at 7,000 feet of elevation. She ran a whole mile with hundreds of La Cholla needles in her body and paws without stopping or making a single sound. So this fucking trail, ironically named "Good Call", had no right to take her from me, but it did.
When I looked back the second time to check on her, a frozen face starred back at me. One I had never seen before, but one that I will probably never forget. I panicked, calling her name and tapping her nose. I turned back again hoping she would wake up, but she wasn't coming back. I cried - harder than I've ever cried before - like I am right now.
I drove to my cousins house so I could pick up my stuff and head home. I had already called the only person with any land that I knew, Courtney, and asked if I could bury her there. She and her wonderful parents agreed. My cousin, Brenda, insisted that I not drive 4 hours with my dead dog in the back of my car, so I agreed instead to go to the pet cemetary down the street.
Brenda, the incredibly kind and generous person that she is, nearly insisted on paying for everything. But I think I had already made up my mind to bury her myself. So I asked if they could store her body in a bag. As the guy that kindly bagged Allarah's body rolled the cart to my car, he asked if she had parvo. In fact, he seemed almost certain that she was ill with something based on his observation and her active lifestyle.
I suppose it was possible and certainly made me feel less guilty. She was sick a month prior, but showed no signs in the following weeks. Brenda later brought up the possibility of a bite or sting during the ride. Allarah, having shown no reasonable signs of pain in the past from torn pads and her run-in with the La Cholla farm, probably wouldn't have even noticed.
Unfortunately, I'll never know why such a seemingly routine outing became her last nor stop blaming myself. I just have to be content with her short 3 years of life being more full still than most dogs or even humans get to experience.
It was a long, lonely, and tearful ride back to Phoenix. When I finally arrived at Courtney's, her dad had the most generous and sweet idea for the area and I cried again.
It began to rain shortly after we started digging (how poetically cliche). When I finished, I carried her from the car and lowered her into the grave. Removing the bag broke the dam of tears again as I looked down and recalled the day's events and countless amazing ones before it. I took her purple bandana and crawled out of the hole.
The rain had mostly stopped by the time I stood up and emptied the first wheelbarrow of earth onto my friend's body. I cried again as I emptied the second. Leaving room for the tree, I headed for my car to go find one worthy of the honor.