I left for this morning’s run without my dog. She watched, old white paws up on the windowsill. “Bye, Em,” I said with a wave before running down the block.
For years the most energetic, eager being in our household was our dog, Emmy. But over time I’ve taken her along on fewer and fewer of my runs. She’s 12 now—a very healthy 12, knock on wood—but her energy has more limits than it used to, and after a couple of blocks she’ll make it clear, through ample sniff breaks and the slowing of her pace, that it’s time for us to go back home.
When my husband and I got Emmy as a puppy, I dreamed that she would be my everyday companion, giving a sense of protection on any pre-sunrise or post-sunset run and every secluded trail. This dog of ours, though, ran away whenever we got out the leash, not because she didn’t want to go out, but because it was more fun to be chased. Early on she made it clear that her preference is either a very casual walk or a short-lived, all-out sprint. The slow and steady run I like to do is not quite right for her.
Even so, we’ve run together for years and years, me often bringing Emmy along for a mile or so, then dropping her off at the house for a scoop of food, a congratulatory pat, and a long rest as I go on my way out the door again.
The passing of time, of course, has brought many changes. She’s seen me through long workdays and grad school, pregnancy, and the birth of one child, then another. She’s run alongside a single stroller and then a double and then a balance bike, standing by as I’ve untangled her leash from the wheel when it gets run over, pausing while I pick up a book happily tossed out onto the street by a chubby toddler hand. She’s run early in the morning, in the evening, and around finicky nap and school pick-up schedules. She’s panted next to me at the park drinking fountain as I clumsily fashion a makeshift water bowl out of a plastic bag. As my life has gotten more full, she’s traded nearly all of her sprints through the park for runs at my pace, on my schedule. I’ve had a lot of understanding, faithful running partners over the years, but no one has been more lovingly generous than my dog.
One of the things we do now is the evening walk. On a cool summer night after the kids are tucked in bed I’ll leave my husband home with his beloved, oft-heartbreaking Mariners and take Emmy for a long, unhurried stroll. We pass gardeners and friends chatting by their yard waste bins, smelling that distinctly summer scent of sprinkler water hitting sidewalks still warm from a day of baking in the sun. Often, someone will praise my beautiful, quirky old dog.
“What kind is she?” they’ll ask. If they’re adults they’ll wonder if she’s part terrier. If they’re kids they’ll say, “She looks like a wolf!” I’ll explain that we don’t know; my husband and I adopted her from the shelter, SpokAnimal, when she was a fuzzy stray puppy. We think she’s part terrier and part something that loves the snow and stays impeccably clean, like a Shiba Inu. Zero parts wolf, though they’re right; she does look like one.
The next morning I’ll get up early, when Emmy is the only other soul awake. I feed her and let her out, drink half a cup of coffee, and toss her a bite of my pre-run granola bar. She watches as I do a couple of stretches and pull on my shoes. She doesn’t stand expectantly next to me while I do this like she used to. She knows I’m running. She knows it’s no longer her thing.
But running was never her thing. She would always rather have sprinted across a field of summer grass or powdery new snow, would always have rather walked—nose up, ears perked—on a cool, quiet evening. And many times she did. But most often, she ran with me. However ill-matched we’ve sometimes been, running was for many years our thing, one way of seeing the world, side by side. //
Sarah Hauge lives in Spokane with her husband and two daughters and will be running the Happy Girls Half Marathon in September.
[Feature photo: Sarah Hauge]