Monday, January 9, 2012

Walking the dog down Memory Lane

Well, I can't believe I actually got out to walk the dog on Saturday.  I never do that.  Poor dog. She is truly housebound.  With two active adults in the family, you'd think she'd get out all the time, but the truth is that we're active with other things and somehow she gets lost in the shuffle.  But, on Saturday, with the kids at grandma's and grandpa's and me still not running, I thought why not?  It was a better option than sitting on the couch all day.

Sabrina, a.k.a. "Dog," doesn't
get as many walks as she deserves,
but true to dogdom, she loves us anyway.
I felt appropriately chastised when I had to ask Dog twice if she wanted to go for a walk.  It used to be that that word alone would send her into convulsions of joy, leaping around the house, whining, running from me to door and back again.  Saturday, when I asked, she just looked at me like, "Huh, come again?"  It had obviously been a while.  Finally, though, we got geared up and headed out the door.  No goal was in mind, no time I had to be back, no thoughts whatsoever.  Little did I know, however, that such a simple thing as walking the dog would open the door to so much reflection.

Dog and I ended up doing approximately three miles around the neighborhood, and I was surprised by all the memories that flooded my brain.  It's been a long time since I've done anything around our area.  It used to be that was the only place I ran.  Up until a couple of years ago, running for me meant heading out the door, running for a bit, and going home.  I have done endless loops and iterations around my neighborhood, countless two-mile, three-mile, and four-mile variations on a theme.  This direction one day, that direction another - all circling back to the house at some point.  Through the houses, out on the farm road, past the park, on the main road.  This turn instead of that to keep things fresh.  I've run by myself, with my husband (when we could still run together), with baby stroller for one, with baby stroller for two, with one dog or two.  It wasn't unusual in the early days of my running "career" for me to head out with a baby jogger and both dogs in tow.

On my walk, it became apparent to me that in a strange way, I miss those days.  I mean, the running stank.  I can't deny that.  When you are really just trying to get into running, it's hard to find the strength to continue when you feel you have to jolly along a baby and two dogs.  Endless snacks, songs, and toys placated the two-footed companion(s).  The dogs - surprisingly - were not as easy.  You'd think dogs would be great running companions, and one of mine was.  The other,.... another story.

Punch only threw his 80+ pounds around when he
didn't want to run anymore.  Otherwise, he was a big softie.
The only dog I have known who could be completely naughty
but make you feel like you should be ashamed of yourself
for yelling.
Punch would be very enthusiastic about our runs to start out, so enthusiastic in fact that he usually would drag me down the street for the first mile.  After that, however, the situation would deteriorate and I would be the one doing the dragging.  There is nothing like trying to cajole an 80-pound Boxer along who has decided he has had enough.  Punch's idea of taking his running down a notch was not to walk, but rather to flop down dramatically on his side with his tongue lolling out and his eyes rolling to look at his tormentor as if to say, "Are you kidding me, lady?  I'm a sprinter, not a distance dog." Nothing could move that dog if he didn't want to move - not pulling on his leash, not rolling him onto his legs, not begging, pleading, nor threatening.  And, goodness knows, there was no shortage of any of those.  Right about the time I wanted to give up hope and sit down, too, he would deign to budge.  The rest of the run would be a slow jog home interspersed with walk breaks.  Maybe that is where my affinity for the run/walk started.

So, more than the actual runs through the neighborhood themselves, I miss what that time represents.  Like any reflection into the past, it can be hard to be reminded of how young you were.  It was only a couple of years ago, but it might as well be decades.  That time seems so far removed from my life now.  Mostly, my life does not seem to be my own anymore, taken up as it is with the needs of two growing children.  I don't have the babies anymore, and while I am good with that, I also occasionally miss all the things that came with that - the unquestioning love, the unquestioning hugs,... mostly, the unquestioning.  Of course, I miss Punch, too, whose short life was like a shooting star across the sky.  He died of cancer at the age of five, but he was so energetic (mostly) and filled with a Boxer's sense of humor that it still seems to me like he squeezed a full lifetime into his short years.  There is a lesson to be learned there.

No, I don't miss running through the neighborhood.  It was nice taking a walk and seeing things with new eyes again, but the truth is that I've outgrown our little enclave.  As I have grown as a runner, I have moved beyond what our streets have to offer.  Doing longer runs, you either have a choice of doing endless loops around the known, or untying the loop and heading out into unchartered territory.  I chose the latter.

I don't exactly remember when I took my first running steps out of the security of our familiar stomping grounds, but I still remember the feeling of adventure that came with it.  The thought that the road was open and endless and I could do anything I wanted.  I must like that feeling, because a lot of my runs remain to this day only loosely planned as far as destination is concerned.  Running has taken me so many places, literally and figuratively.  It's brought me out of my comfort zone, out of my neighborhood, and helped me meet new friends.  It's brought me an appreciation for life and everything we have in it.

E. and Punch enjoying life.
Walking around the neighborhood the other day, I did feel a sense of loss for the past.  However, mostly I just felt grateful - happy to have the things in my life that I have.  I am grateful to be able to see my kids grow, I am grateful to have known such a great four-legged companion as Punch, albeit briefly.  I am grateful for the old dog I have to walk with today.  I am grateful for my husband (even if we can't run together anymore).  And, I am grateful for running and the places it has taken me.

I hope that I am able to continue to grow and appreciate all that life has to offer.   And, if once in a while I feel I need reminding, then I guess all I need to do to remember is slow down and walk the dog.

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