D’artagnan came to me at a time when I was living alone on a mountaintop, above the clouds. He was an eight week-old retriever pup, looking up at me with big brown eyes, helplessly and expectantly, from the bottom of a large brown cardboard box, knowing his life was in my hands. Over the ensuing ten months, we shared adventures and developed a bond.

The day came when it was time to leave the mountain. An icy rain was falling, immediately enveloping the landscape in a coat of ice; still, I was headstrong in my determination to leave that very day.

D’artagnan was intently watching me as he always did, while I loaded the rear compartment of the Explorer. Suddenly, I slipped on the ice and struck my head hard on the open rear hatch door. The blow brought me to my knees. I desperately struggled to retain consciousness; to pass out in the ice storm alone on the mountain meant the certainty of death from exposure.

D’artagnan bounded over to me and I felt his warm breath and presence as he urgently licked me to revive and heal me. I was on the edge of the abyss, but he pulled me back. The puppy I had named D’artagnan surely saved my life with his love and ministrations.

The life and death moment that D’artagnan and I shared was an epiphany: Clearly, my life was in his paws, as his life was in my hands; I understood then that I was not alone on the mountaintop, with a dog; in fact, I was not alone; I was with another soul, together as one.

The truth that D’artagnan personified and which I embrace is that the bond of our love encompassed life and transcends death.