Tethered.

Dear friends,

photo

This is Ed. Part Golden Retriever, part Labrador Retriever, Ed is a rescue dog that came into our lives some eight years ago after Parker begged for a canine companion of his own.

We had lost our Black Lab, Cassie, some time earlier and Ed came bounding into our lives just when our household of four broken hearts, two active children and one neurotic Chihuahua most needed him.

He’s lived in three towns with us, two in Oklahoma and now one in Missouri. He has adapted to spacious yards, small ones, the noise of city streets and now — a wooded 15 acres filled with deer and turkeys and rabbits and all kinds of woodland friends he loves to chase.

Of late, he’s been chasing something else.

My 1000 mile goal.

Ed is my running buddy. He’s covered every mile I have since I announced my goal and he’s done it with far more enthusiasm and grace than I have.

I never ran with Ed before we moved to Missouri. I’m not sure why except I just never did. Once we moved to Missouri, things changed. For one, we live in an area far outside the city limits where most of the dogs run free. Our pasture is fenced, but it’s far enough from the house that Ed and Frito (the aforementioned neurotic Chihuahua) were miserable when we first moved in and tried keeping them there (and tried convincing them to sleep in our barn). About a month in, we caved and let Ed and Frito run free like the other dogs. We moved their doghouse from the barn to a sheltered spot not far from our kitchen door and they were gloriously happy to cavort with neighborhood dogs at will and nap by the back door.

But once they were unfenced, our two outdoor dogs couldn’t help but follow me as I headed out on my runs. Whether I wanted it or not, I suddenly had running companions. After Frito died last year, the plural changed to singular, so now Ed is my trusty exercise buddy.

It’s been interesting, this journey into my own fitness that’s also a journey into Ed’s. At about 8 dog years, he’s older than me. His age shows most in the expanding mask around his eyes and the increasing time it takes him to rise after resting. But it sure doesn’t show on the hills, at least not as much as it does on me.

On weekday mornings we run before dawn and the neighborhood is deserted so I allow him to run off-leash. For the first month, I was so slow on the uphill climbs that he would often stop a few yards ahead of me and patiently wait for me to catch up. Occasionally, he would look over his shoulder at me as if to say “Come on. Can’t you go faster?” But mostly he just slowed his pace and/or patiently waited on me.

On weekends, though, I run much later, usually when cars and walkers and other dogs are out and about, so I put him on a leash. On those days that he is tethered to me, he can only get a leash’s length ahead of me and I don’t feel so slow. He is a good dog so he never tugs.

On Saturday, we ran late — almost noon — so I had him on a leash. And even though we put in six miles, I noticed I got far enough ahead of him on the final downhill run that I had to give him a little tug. It was probably unkind to Ed but it was good for my ego. “Come on, old boy,” I said out loud. “Keep up with this old gal. I’m beating you.”

It made me think about how fortunate I am to have such a faithful running companion. He never begs off, never gives up, never gets sick, never brags, never complains. Whether 7 degrees or 85 degrees, rain or shine, dark or light, he shows up. Tethered or not, he is my loyal sidekick who doesn’t know we have a goal but is determined to meet it every time I open the door and call his name.

With gratitude {for this family’s best friend},

Joan, who thinks if anything keeps her running for 52 weeks straight, it will be Ed

The road to my house.

Dear friends,

This is the road to my house.

As you can see from the photo, today is a little overcast. Pretty breezy, but a beautiful 64 degrees. Autumn is in full splendor.

I had one heck of a week, working 42 hours in the last three days alone. But on this glorious Sunday, I paused on my way to the grocery store to snap a photo because, otherwise, how would you ever believe me when I say I live in one of America’s most beautiful spots?

It’s clear now, isn’t it, why Mr. Mom and Parker are so happy with our little patch of paradise, our 15 acres of wooded bliss, chock full of wildlife living under the big Missouri sky?

And me? I complain a lot about those darn hills. (Especially when I’m running up and down them, as I did four times last week — hooray for me!) But I never fail to appreciate their beauty, or the ways in which they delight our spirits even as they exhaust my incline-weary running stride.

I’m right where I told you I would be today. On the sofa, with a a cup of coffee and stack of magazines and my laptop. I’m narrowing down tonight’s supper menu, which will likely be a whole roasted hen, wild rice and Basmati dressing with sausage and sage, cheese grits and corn pudding, and sauteed kale with garlic and red onion. Between the view and the menu, I can’t think of anything more restorative to fill my short weekend respite.

With gratitude {for a glorious Sunday and a three-day work week starting tomorrow},

Joan, who might be disappointed if at least one reader doesn’t note how insanely steep and unrelenting the hills are, thereby commiserating with the flatlander who hasn’t yet made her peace with running in this part of the world

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