Reckoning & Delight: the first delight
Emmett has been my running partner since he dropped into our family. At first, the running was purely practical: this sixty pound, two-year-old, quivering ball of energy needed a way to tap the powder keg of restlessness. Without it, all the shoes, couch cushions and trash cans in the world wouldn’t keep him entertained. The running helped; the house was mostly spared of destruction.
Shortly after we started running together, I began training for a marathon. Emmett faithfully ran almost every run with me, short or long. After 1
8 miles slogging through the cold, spring Seattle rain, I could barely drag myself off the couch to eat, but Emmett was perked up and ready to go for his afternoon walk.
A few years later, Brian and I sold our house in Seattle and were nomading around the country looking for a place to settle. We had a list of criteria, one of which was a community where Em and I could enjoy running. This is to say, a place where there were paths and parks to jog away from traffic, pretty scenery to witness as we ambled past. We pounded pavement in Bend, Boise, the San Francisco Bay area, Missoula, Bellingham, Portland, Bozeman, Rapid City and rural Wisconsin.
Aside from providing Emmett the exercise he needed, he was also a safeguard for me. As a woman running alone in strange cities, sometimes for six or eight miles at a time, I took all sorts of precautions with my safety. I mapped routes ahead of time. I made sure to let my husband know exactly where I’d be running and how long I’d be gone. I took my phone and I never, ever ran with music. And Emmett, my big dark brown mutt, my generous protector, my loyal companion acted as a pretty solid deterrent.
He’s eleven now, a geriatric dog according to the chart in my vet’s office. I worry about him. Naturally, I want him around as long as possible. After our recent lengthy running sabbatical I asked my vet if it was ill-advised to run with a dog of his age. He answered with overwhelming encouragement: dogs, like humans, live longer when they are healthy and in good shape. Don’t push too hard, take it easy on him, but if he is enjoying the run, run!
Emmett doesn’t just enjoy running. He adores it. He knows that “okay, let’s go” and a flick of his leash means that we’re picking up the pace. He looks at me balefully when we’ve walked too long. When he’s not attached to me, he runs like the wind (I, unfortunately, run like a light breeze). Watching him sprint around our yard is like poetry—his back legs arc to reach the front legs that tuck birdlike beneath his body. His tail curls close to his hind end and the expression on his face is somewhere between mania and glee.
We often drive to a secluded, paved trail a few miles from home to run. He knows what it means when we turn on Highway 310, he begins tapping his feet when we approach the turn. By the time we’re parking he’s whining like a child.
My husband says Emmett and I share a soul. Our moods mirror one another. When I’m not feeling well, Emmett is more subdued. Our seasonal allergies hit at the same time every year. We tend towards anxiousness that shows up in our physical health. While I don’t take quite as much pleasure in running as Emmett, I often have similar manic/gleeful reactions to things I dearly love.
This week, Emmett ran through our electric fence to chase a rabbit or a cat. This happens more often than I like, but because we live in a fairly secluded area I don’t typically worry too much. He is unstoppable when on the scent of something, I’ve learned that you have to wait out his nose. Trying to convince him to come home is futile.
An October snowstorm was in full swing when Emmett took leave of our yard. I walked around a bit calling after him, drove in circles until the visibility was too poor to do so, and then I just waited at the backdoor until he came trotting down the street, finished with whatever rousting he’d started. He always looks so pleased with himself until he sees me, then he lowers his head in shame. He knows what he’s done.
He came back with a bum paw. Because he is convinced he’s part mountain goat, I believe he probably slipped on the snow on the hillsides that frame the marshland to our east, and maybe got stuck in some brush. He stumbled up the stairs and I gave him my best “serves you right” look.
But today when I went for my run, I had to leave him at home. He’s doing better, but still favoring his other leg, and so I ran alone. He saw me lacing up my running shoes and putting on my warmest running shirt. He knew I was leaving him.
It was cold, so I didn’t do my typical warm up because I just wanted to run already. Get the blood flowing to my shivering appendages. A mile and a half into the jog my calf seized up in a cramp that still hasn’t totally gone away, hours later. I swear when I hobbled in the backdoor, freezing and damp, Emmett gave me his best “I told you so” look and then sidled up for a good scratch.