Free at last! I thought; racing across the open space as fast as my legs would carry me. The wind swept icy cold past my face, the joy of running free.It reminded me of my puppy years; the never-ending excitement at the world. Which seemed infinitely big, and held endless possibilities. The lack of restrictions on my mind and naivety are both things I find myself missing now I’ve grown. This park had been huge in those days, an endless playground to explore. I remembered the trees when they were newly planted, now stretching high above my head. And playing with my master, it had just been us and Toby back then.‘Max!’ I heard my name being called behind me, my master wanted me to return to him. I stop and slowly walked back in the direction I had come, savouring this feeling for as long as I could.I gazed around as I walked, memories of Toby stretched across every blade of grass. Toby was older than I, when I was young he showed me the rules of the household. He was a grumpy dog at times. And as a puppy I found it hard to deal with his lack of playfulness and jealousy of the attention our master lavished upon me. But as I grew I came to think of him as a father figure. The one I could go to for advice and trust to look after me if I was in trouble. We had never been as close as we were those last few years. I’ll never forget the way Master cried when Toby left us. I can still smell him sometimes. In the kennel, around the lawn; though that has been fading ever more quickly lately.‘Max, come!’ Master called to me again, his mate walking slowly behind him, their small child in her arms. I trotted quietly over to him, letting him pat me and tell me to stay close. I understood. He didn’t want to play; this was an outing for his new family. I was merely escorting them.I watched them sitting quietly, knowing that this was my duty, and was reminded vividly of her. It was a few years before Toby left, when I was at the peak of my prime. Master decided it was time. At first I had not understood what he was saying while he spoke animatedly to the other man. I had asked Toby what was going on, and he had said I would see soon enough. And god did I see. The first time I laid eyes on her I knew I would never look at any other dog the same way. Her sleek fur and luscious tail. The moment I smelt her I understood. She was my match. When she left I whimpered, she had looked at me and told me not to despair. We would always have that day. Master didn’t understand why I was not the same for many days.I fidgeted absently as I sat, scratching my ear, standing up and sitting down again. I felt quite lonely all of a sudden. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand, or that I didn’t want Master to be happy. But without Toby to keep me company, and with all Master’s attention focused on his new family, I was beginning to feel unneeded. Perhaps it was a good thing I didn’t have many years left in me. I knew that he would be upset of course, to lose me. But he would soon find other things to occupy his time. I wondered to myself if they would get a new puppy, as he had with Toby and I. The child would enjoy that.I had seen one of my puppies once. It had been a complete coincidence, but I had recognised it immediately as mine. She had her mother’s smell, and my colouring. I didn’t speak to her. She probably didn’t even realise who I was. That was the way of the world. But she had seemed happy with the family that had adopted her, and I could only hope her siblings had, had the same good luck.The master called to me suddenly from across the park, and my ears perked up immediately. I leapt up and raced toward him. Forgetting all my previous thoughts as I ran through the grass.Free at last! I thought; racing across the open space as fast as my legs would carry me. The wind swept icy cold past my face, the joy of running free.