We weren’t going to come here. Winter storms had imposed their prohibitive will on traveling the mountain passes from California to Idaho, forcing cancelation of a previous attempt. And even after waiting for a break in the weather, we still drove through a zero-visibility blizzard and stayed the night halfway along the route.

We weren’t going to come here, because she was fine. She’d been going to physical therapy, swimming, and finally regaining strength after a couple of surgeries as a puppy to repair disintegrating elbows. But the surgeon had wanted to track her progress, and his reputation deserves respect, so we kept driving.

I took her in the next morning. After watching her take a few steps, the surgeon’s gut told him to do another CT scan, which revealed more unexpected fragments of bone floating around in both elbows. He tried to remove them later that day, but called me after couple hours of operating to tell me the fragments were too big for the arthroscope.

She’d already been under anesthesia for longer than he felt comfortable, so he stopped for the day and she stayed overnight. The surgeon came in on his day off to cut her elbows open, which he hasn’t done to remove bone fragments since the advent of the arthroscope.

He found the biggest bone fragment he’s ever seen from elbow dysplasia in his long, distinguished career, tangled up in cartilage and saved for me when I picked her up. The biggest are usually at most the size of a pea, but this one I’m holding in the palm of my hand is bigger than a marble.

And so we start down this road again. She is happy, a little confused as to why she’s confined again and will be for the foreseeable future, but happy. Hopefully, she’ll be better than she used to be, which is all any of us can hope for.

And to think.

We weren’t going to come here.