Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ode to a Running Partner

Dear Diesel,

We had you for 9.5 years. You left us much too soon. One special bond we shared was that of being running partners. Before we started running together, I'd watch owners jog with their dogs out of duty - running for the dog. And, sure, it's popular wisdom that tired dogs are better dogs. Those runs were as much for me as they were for you. During the course of a run we bonded, fought, shouted together (okay you barked), proudly floated on pavement (an yes, you had the best "prance"). And sometimes, just for fun, you'd pee on my shoes at stop lights while I was distracted.

We started by hiking with you. However, it became very clear that you hated the mountains. John and I once took you on a hike that resulted in us combing cactus out of your snout. Yes, this was as painful for us as it was for you. And we walked you, but the walks were about John and I (or John, Alexander, and I). We'd watch you at the dog park, but still that was something different.

You, Jessie, and I would take off from our house, and I could feel the energy between us. Most of the time we'd run at night, after we'd both had long days - okay your days were full of sleeping. You'd race from the house like a horse out of the gates. At times, you weren't the most obedient. You'd want to stop when I didn't. You'd decide that you needed to growl at another dog. And sure, it was frustrating. Sometimes, I'd take you running out of duty, and we'd spend the first mile fighting. I'm sure you could sense I was tired and unenthusiastic about running that evening, and I'm also sure that was the precise reason you decided to test me. After the first mile or so, we'd get synced up. Our strides seemed effortless, and I'd look down and see you, head held high, proud to be a dog running.

You enjoyed being part of our little running group - Jessie, you and I. You had to be just a little be in front of her and always on her right side. This formation felt so normal. As the years progressed, Jessie slowed down, and we'd have to go alone for a couple of miles and swing back to pick her up.

Just before Thanksgiving, I remember coming home after a run with you and telling John "Diesel's gonna be alive for ever." That day, you and I ran 7 miles at sub 8-minute pace, and you didn't miss a step. You came home, panted for a couple minutes, and proceeded on with your day as if nothing happened. I was sure we'd have you in our family forever.

As December grew on, I noticed you getting smaller and skinner. Despite your protests, I didn't run you as far or as fast. We stuck to short jogs and dog park visits. I thought maybe you needed less exercise and more food. I fed you as much as I could.

On New Year's Day, Alexander woke us up exclaiming, "Mom Diesel's got a lot of throw up in the yard." I jumped out of bed, looking for you found you shaking under the bed. That was very unlike you; you were a people person, a snuggler, an attention whore. I held you, knowing that something was really wrong. Alexander and I spent about an hour just holding you, waiting for Grandma Rhonda to come get Alexander, so I could take you to the emergency vet. From there the day went drastically downhill.

Of all the things I miss about you, the thing I miss most is my running partner. I get to go on big, adventurous runs through the mountains with fun, interesting people, but Diesel, running with you was the highlight of my day. For that short 30-60 minutes, we were together - with nothing else to get in the way. We didn't traverse mountains or run for hours at a time, but we bonded in a way that I'm having a hard time explaining. When we returned to the house, I felt satisfied, not because I ran my dog, but because I ran with my dog, side-by-side.

Thanks for the memories Diesel. I will miss our runs, but I have an erie feeling that you're still right by my side as I jog along.