David wasn't the only one acting like Switzerland. Solo, our other German shepherd, lay in the corner, his chin sunk into the concrete floor. Solo is a cadaver dog. He and I had trained and searched for the missing and presumed dead for the past eight years. He had been the canine center of my life for nearly a decade. Solo taught me how to be search dog handler. I'd shed plenty of tears during his early training. He'd been an occasional jerk when he was younger: dog aggressive, happy to ignore a command if more fun could be had elsewhere. Those early training struggles now seemed inconsequential. Any tears I shed over him these days were sentimental. I could barely remember a time when Solo hadn't used his nose, his intelligence, his inherent drive -- his bond with me -- on a search.
The same passage of time that created a soft miasma around my memories of teenage Solo had been harder on Solo's body. My canine sidekick, now almost 10, was receding. He was a pro, but an aging pro. His coat was thinner and softer. When he came over to the bed each morning for his head rub, I could feel his big skull beneath his fur and skin, no longer protected with thick ligaments. Coda, his succubus replacement, seemed to gain flow from Solo's ebb. The world, to her, was not just horizontal, but vertical. She liked to place her body, whenever possible, on top of things -- on top of Solo, on the back of the couch. She hurdled herself at our picture windows when she saw rabbits in our yard, warbling like a banshee. She counter-surfed, rearing like a sidewinder with a parallel movement so she could snake her head over the edge of the kitchen island. She jumped on tables and over easy chairs in a single bound when she was in the mood. She ran like the wind through the woods. Sometimes, terrifyingly, away from me.