Old Dog and a Bad Knee
My dog and I used to race each other on the road in front of the house. One of us always cheated.
It was me. I cheated. Every time.
It’s because one of us always won.
That was not me. Not once.
We’d walk to the end of the driveway and start our run from there. Except she is a dog and constantly distracted by some smell. She would wander off into the ditch to check on who’d passed through the culvert and it was then, when she wasn’t looking, I’d take off like a fastball thrown by a girl-arm–in other words–for all I was worth. Our neighbor’s mailbox was the finish line. She’d catch on and tear after me. I’d make it about 30 yards before she caught me, passed me, loping along with her huge wolf grin and squinty eyes, ear flaps flying in the wind. She beat me every time.
Those were our glory days. To be honest, my glory days were never that glorious. I’ve never been a fast runner and it’s never been a problem for The Jo Dog to keep up. Plenty of time for her to stop and sniff. She used to run circles around me. There. I admitted it.
We’ve both slowed down since then, and a couple of years ago I retired The Jo from running with me, altogether. It was a forced retirement, I can assure you. Now when I tie on my shoes and head for the door, she gives me the big eyes and flying-nun ears. Every cell in her body poised to spring to the door when I tell her “come on.” And when I don’t say the words… oh god, I can’t even bear to look at her.
I love running with my dog. My dog lives to run with me. Seriously, it’s the reason she exists on the planet. That, and to consume yummie chummies. Ask her. I hate that she’s too old (13) to go anymore. But today was a beautiful day. So I caved. I told her the magic words: “come on.”
Neither poets nor scientists have ever recorded the full measure of such joy as that which exists in the heart of dog that gets to go.
We went to the nearby Junior High and I galloped my little donkey gait around the track, she stayed in the center of the grass wandering back and forth, keeping her eye on me, cutting across the middle to meet up with me. It was kinda like how we used to be. But now I run circles around her.
Afterwards, my knee hurt. My knee always hurts. When I bend it. When I don’t bend it. When I rub it. When I don’t rub it. When I look it and call it stupid. It hurts. Feels great when I run. Hurts when I stop. Weird.
I’ve tried to think what I did to it, some huge catastrophic event that has damaged the works, bike accident, bad fall taking a ski jump, (ha), ice pick through the kneecap. I don’t really remember any of these things happening. I watched my dog do her best stiff-legged run of pure happiness today and realized that the only thing wrong with my knee is the catastrophe of circling the sun 48 times.
We’re getting old. The way things work, she’ll probably go down before me. But not gently. We both have aches and cranky joints. We both just want to run for as long as we can.
We didn’t race each other today. Those days are long gone. But the fattened-up September sun did shine on us, made our shadows long and slender and for at least a couple of miles today we were a little bit glorious.