This is Boris, and it's how we will remember him.
He was 15 in this photo, taken last year in May, up in the woods a couple of miles away from home.
Over the last six months or so he began to decline, as we all do when we get older, and since the end of May this year, that decline accelerated. He went up to the woods with us on Tuesday morning, the last day of July, for a final walk, and then we went to the vet with him, to do the kindest, and hardest thing a dog owner has to do.
I say, "dog owner", but in fact, we have been his pack. Over the years the number in that pack has changed on a weekly or monthly basis, as teenagers became adults, and as people travelled away for work or for fun.
It is very strange, living without him. Because of the aforementioned travel for work, it's often been just me and him in the house, sometimes for a week at a time. He was always there in the morning, and his presence shaped my day. Get up, take him down the garden, feed him, let him sleep for an hour, take him out for a walk. And pretty much the same pattern in the evening.
Since he died, I haven't set foot in the back garden at all.
I vacuumed the house on Tuesday evening – a completely normal activity. The Dyson is pretty efficient and there was the usual mixture of black dog hair and dust in the collection cylinder. I did it again last night, and already, there is hardly anything being sucked up and I wondered how long it will take for evidence of him to disappear from the house altogether?
It's been a topsy-turvey couple of months. Observing Boris become slower and stiffer and gradually have less vision and poorer hearing has been difficult for both of us to watch.
I got up on Wednesday morning and I was on my own in the house (because of work/travel etc). It struck me that I haven't had that feeling of being completely alone at home, with no-one else (dogs, chickens or people), since 1987.
Thirty one years of a particular type of start to the day has come to an end.
I've been thinking about this a lot over the last couple of days. The mornings have a different shape now.
It's the third of August.
In one month's time, on the third of September, I will be sixty.
I could sit about moping because I miss Boris, or I can do what he did as a puppy and a younger dog, and I can sniff out new adventures and excitements. Today is sixty minus one month, and although I am feeling very sad, and somewhat reflective, I don't want to waste a single day.
Maybe my new mantra should be "Be Like Boris". Perhaps that is his legacy.