A few weeks ago, Zabeth and I were sitting with Ketzl the evening after her last physical therapy appointment.

The session at Sterling Impression hadn’t gone well. As Ketzl has declined, we’ve adjusted her exercises, switching from treadmill to pool, eliminating e-stim when it no longer proved beneficial, etc.

As I’ve mentioned before, her decline has accelerated in the past few weeks, and she’s lost nearly all movement in her front legs now (her rear legs have been gone for a year or more). Given the amount of muscle wasting, we’d tried to adjust her life jacket and buoyancy to keep her head above water, supporting her as she did her laps.

She usually attacks the pool with enthusiasm, but this time was different. I don’t know if it was the person in the pool with her, or the life jacket, or that she didn’t feel that she could swim at all. Whatever it was, she was terrified. Wild-eyed, in full panic, doing her best to let me know. We quickly took her out of the pool, made some adjustments and managed to finish her swim session, distracting her with cookies, trying to finish it on a happy note.

But it was clear that swimming was no longer fun: it had crossed from rewarding work to a threat. I can’t bear to put her through it again, to see her so afraid, and so that phase is over.

Z and I talked about that and the things that brought her joy. Swimming was one of her happiest activities, one of the few independent ones she had left. And now, even that has been taken from her.

Her world—once filled with wonder and delight, with swimming and running, rolling and digging, the sights and smells of her dog playmates and other people—has shrunk again.

And still she holds her head up, and meets my gaze with her deep brown eyes, a flicker of defiance lighting them from within.

When does her world become too small to contain her huge spirit?