This boy still makes me laugh after nearly three years together. That’s relationship glue, right there.
You might be thinking I dropped that whole Project Half Marathon thing like it was a sack of rotten eggs since I haven’t mentioned it in about, oh, three months. Falsehood. Project Half Marathon is in giddy-up, full-charge ahead mode.
It has been a difficult transition from Insanity into running slowly for a very long ways. I still can’t say that I enjoy it, but I am focused on my goal of completing a half marathon to the very best of my ability. High intensity interval training (i.e. Insanity) will be my reward for 13.1 miles of jogging.
I’m not a long distance runner so I’ve been hitting “oh wow this is the longest I’ve ever run at one time” moments on a regular basis. My scheduled 7-mile long run this past weekend didn’t happen due to unwellness. I felt guilty so I ate a plate of chocolate chip cookies. Don’t do that. It didn’t help.
This week I’m running 4.5 miles twice (last night and tomorrow night) with some shorter runs and cross training. I’ve been incorporating Yoga with Jillian and some hill work. Sundays are my long run days. I am tentatively planning eight this weekend. Cue the “I’m scared!” music.
How am I feeling? My body is sad. A blister and a strained calf muscle made last night’s 4.5 miles a tad painful. Mentally, I’m focused on my goal, but I really wish I was enjoying the journey more. I keep hoping a tidal wave of joy is about to sweep over me, and I’ll never want to unlace my shoes again.
I get through my runs with music and the champion of long distance running, my border collie Doc. He doesn’t quit. He doesn’t whine. He doesn’t get tired. Music wise I am stuck on stuff from my college days – which is both good and bad. Hinder, Foo Fighters, Snow Patrol, Coldplay. It never fails to amuse me when Collective Soul’s song Run shuffles through.
Seriously. How can you not appreciate the irony of Collective Soul singing “I’ve got a long ways to run.”?
All I can say to that is, “Why, yes, yes I do indeed.”
I was sitting on the couch. Eating cheese and crackers. Wincing at every small movement that sent a jolt of pain through my pounding head. There was a movie playing on my television, and that’s why I didn’t hear the truck pulling up in my driveway.
Not at first anyway. And then the headlights pierced through the living room curtains. Maybe it was DU coming up to do chores, but it was later than usual. Maybe it was CT pulling in to read the meter, but the truck drove past it. Maybe…
…I raced for the door. Threw it open. A young man stepped out into the swirling snow. He didn’t have a coat on. I remember, because that’s what I focused on when he said, “I just hit your dog.”
“What?” I said. Calmly. I said it normally like I was asking him to repeat the last item on a grocery list. I didn’t shriek. I didn’t jump out of my slippers. I didn’t grab my hair or gasp or scream. My heart did though. I never dreamed hearing someone say, “I just hit your dog.” would rip right through me. My heart leaped up into my throat, and then dropped into the bottom of my stomach. I made myself wonder why he wasn’t wearing a coat so I wouldn’t puke all over his shoes.
“I just hit your dog. I’m sorry. Really, I’m so sorry. He ran off. I don’t know how badly he’s hurt. He really yelped…I’m sorry.”
I nodded. “It’s not your fault,” I said. “He’s been crossing the road a lot. I’ve been worried about him. It’s not your fault. It’s ok. It’s not your fault.”
It’s mine. I thought. You knew he wasn’t being careful when he crossed the road. You knew he was crossing it, recrossing it, traveling down the middle. And you didn’t fix it. You didn’t train him to stay off. It’s your fault.
And then he was there, Doc was. He came out of the darkness, whimpering, shivering, wiggling, straight into my arms. The man – Matt – reached down to pet him. He apologized to him. Told him to be careful. He apologized to me again. Then drove away.
I hauled Doc into my arms. Examined him inch by inch, smoothing his fur and cradling his head in my hands. He seemed to be okay. And then my heart exploded. The tears left wet trails down my cheeks. “Please don’t die,” I whispered into the brown eyes staring up into my green ones. “I need you to be here. I need you to be alive.”
It’s a matter of time. Doc is a hard-headed dog, and getting hit won’t have taught him enough to stay away from the road. I can’t watch him every second of every minute he is running free. Others have even commented on how he’s there and then you blink and he’s 100 yards away. He’s a big, athletic dog with an inquisitiveness that has him investigating everything. That inquisitiveness and that zest for exploring – it will kill him.
I don’t know what I will do when that happens. He is a dog. Just a four-legged fluffy furball. But he is one of my closest friends. He has been my constant companion for a year and a half, and I have spent more time with him in those 18 months than I have with any person. He has pulled me out of bed on the days I didn’t think I could get up, and he has made me laugh when I didn’t think I had even a smile inside me.
That’s the thing, you know, about ranchers and their animals. Lots of people connect with dogs. Everyone can grasp that. But it’s the same way with a good cow horse. Or that one cow who always runs to the hay wagon first. The bottle calf you never find a momma for.
Animals teach us about love and about life in a way people can’t. They are companions through thick and thin, and they don’t leave when the trail gets too bumpy. Animals help fix the broken parts inside of us, I think, and that’s part of being a rancher that rarely gets talked about.
I think it was a mouse. I swear it was, but I can’t say with absolute positivity because it was dark. And because I was running the other direction. I hate mice.
The laundry piling up in my bedroom was demanding I no longer put off leveling my washer and dryer. So I yanked on my mud boots over my sweatpants, shrugged into my Carhartt and went to the woodshed at o-dark-thirty to look for some boards. Most normal people do something else at that hour – like sleep – but after this morning, you might be able to make a case to certify me as crazy. Certainly as “not normal”.
I rummaged around in the woodshed after sending Doc in first to make sure I wouldn’t surprise any little people. Though I am a licensed Iowa coon hunter, I didn’t want to tackle one this morning. And I say “licensed” in the very loosest sense of the word.
I found some boards with potential and was crunching my way back through the snow to my house when I felt it – something bumping into my leg. “Doc, stop it,” I muttered into the dark, knowing it was him bumping his nose into my knee. It continued, and I circled once…twice…another time for good measure… No Doc. So, if it wasn’t my dog…
“MOUSE!” I shrieked. At decibel levels an opera singer would have been jealous of. Dogs for three counties were momentarily silenced. And then I went…crazy? A little bonkers? Off my rocker and into the fire?
As I said, I hate mice, and the thought of having one sharing my pants was a little more than my nerves could handle. I hopped around in the snow, jerking my gloves off and yanking at my sweatpants. One boot flew through the air, and the second one joined it. A second later I was standing there in my socks, underwear and Carhartt. I whirled around like a mad woman looking for the mouse I’d just set free from the confines of my pants. Looking…looking…it was going to be a little embarrassing if there hadn’t been a mouse running up my leg. As if it already wasn’t a turn-your-cheeks-red type of situation.
A few moments later, my nerves no longer strung so fine, I sheepishly started to chuckle. And then I started to laugh in a way I haven’t for far too long. There I was…standing in the middle of my yard in my sock feet with no pants…on a morning when the thermometer read 10 degrees.
I have two bachelor degrees. I am working on my masters, I am gainfully employed, and I do have higher brain function on most days. I even have friends! But this morning, as I walked through half a foot of snow in nothing but my underthings and a Carhartt, I began to seriously contemplate the possibility that I might have been dropped on my head as a baby. I also became seriously thankful I live on a ranch with my closest neighbor a quarter mile away. And that it was dark so no one driving by could see me. And that I have a good enough sense of humor to share this with you all.
And there was something inside my pant leg. I’m telling you, there was! REALLY.