I open the garage door, and as I pull forward see that Patrick’s van is gone. It’s the first thing I always see when I come home, and when his side is empty it expands my heart, lifts my mood the teensiest degree. Today is no exception, for I’ve left work early. The instant I realize he’s gone I make plans.

I can take Max, my second-class dog for a walk. Just the two of us. Don’t get me wrong. I love Pal. But he’s desperately needy and consumes attention like a leech. Leaving almost nothing for the only thing I have left to care about, Max. So I’m looking forward to spending some alone time with my favorite.

But first, I need a moment of privacy. I'm in my basement lair and, as I sit, vulnerable, shorts at my ankles, I hear the wheels of Patrick's chair on the floor above and lament the loss of freedom. The window of opportunity has closed and we won’t be taking a special walk today.

I almost convince myself I've imagined it, when I hear Patrick yell my name. I don’t respond. I’ll be upstairs in a matter of minutes, I reason. But another three seconds pass and I’m getting a text. My phone isn’t accessible; I’ve left it on the side table. I didn’t think I’d need it for the few moments I had wanted for myself. And I really only need another moment before I’m right upstairs. But it doesn’t matter. Now the phone is ringing, insistently. Demanding an answer.

I hurriedly finish my business, alarmed at the urgency of Patricks repeated demands for my attention, and trudge upstairs, my dream walk thoroughly in ruins, worried that something seriously pressing awaits.

Will you help me feed Pal?