Thursday, September 21, 2006

my dog Jack

My dog Jack knows nothing of pacing. He always, always starts out way too strong. He gallops along in the first mile, tugging at his leash, chasing leaves and pouncing at each approaching tree like it's the first tree he's ever seen. He winds and wends his way along the running trail, nose to ground, tossing his head back every few seconds to assure himself that I'm there and seek confirmation that I, too, am having The Greatest Adventure Ever. Jack is six years old, but mostly acts like he's two.

I'll work in some sprints, just to tread out some of that fatigue still set in from Ironman, and he'll look up at me, amused at the new speed, then quicken his trot to keep up. Children will pass by on bicycles and he'll divert to greet them. I won't stop, so he'll give them only a passing grin and then return to me, looking over his shoulder at them. I'll slow again from the sprint and he'll want to find some bush or tree to mark, to which I'll tell him, "No Jack! This is my time! Not your time!" He somehow understands that (he's heard it a million times) and returns to his form like the scolding never happened.

But by mile three, inevitably, he starts wearing out, paying for all his early excitement. He'll spend half a mile right at my side now, instead of three steps ahead of me. I'll say, "Dude, you always do this. Everytime." He'll say nothing, his pose now earnest; no longer sniffing aimlessly and chasing random events. Now he's a runner, caught in the runner's zone. Now he can't be bothered. Now he's working.

And we'll near the end of our short 3.5 mile course, and I'll pick some object way up the trail and begin a Finish Line sprint. "C'mon Jackson, let's go!" I'll shout, and he'll give a tired grin at my excitement as I take off, the first few yards with him now behind me. Soon enough he'll catch up, his trot now a full run, keeping his pace by seeing my legs in his periphery - no longer looking back, or up, or around. I'll feel us both start to slow and so speed up, cheering, "C'mon Jack, c'mon Jack! It's the Finish Line! It's right up there! You can do it, let's go let's go let's go!" And he'll push on with whatever he has left, and I'll go to my new place in my mind, the one where the wet, cold, shiny street reflects all these lights and colors and the voice rumbles down the chute and the crowd screams and shouts all around us, and I'll roar in those last fifty yards, "C'mon Jack it's the Ironman! It's the Ironman! Let's finish strong!" And Jack will strain against his weariness and I'll push against that surprising fatigue and suddenly we'll pass the crack in the trail, or the sign, or the tree...no Ironman tape awaiting us, no music or booming voices, no gentle old lady to corral us to our family, no delirious crowds cheering our achievements. Just a man and his dog on a cool fall day on an unremarkable running trail. And I'll slow to a walk and Jack will look back at me to make sure that I'm okay, that the stop is intended, that the race is over.

I'll cool down, catching my breath, and tell Jack, "Okay, now it's your time." And he gets it (he's heard it a million times), and meanders into the grass to discover scents, or walks to the other side of the trail to the inviting sapling, and pees all over everything while I stop and wait for him. I'll let him go when the car is in sight, and he'll amble over, too tired now for a full sprint, and sit by the rear door and await the water that's bottled inside. And when I get there I'll rub his head and thump his sides and say, "Jack you are a good dog. What a good dog. Such a great runner. You're an Irondog Jackie. You are an Irondog." And he'll grin between sloppy drinks and interject a slobbery lick at my salty legs or hands before going back to his drink, not knowing that he's an Irondog, but knowing that I think he's a good dog, and mostly just happy to be there on this day, with me.

8 comments:

Pharmie said...

I love dogs. What a great post. It reminds me of my parents' dog, Rosie, who trained for my first marathon with me. They make the best running partners sometimes.

Bike Chick said...

That was a fun read. Thanks for sharing it. I like the picture. It's a great moment.

JohnnyTri said...

You and Jack are awesome!
Thanks for sharing..
Rockon`

Todd said...

Please tell me your next post will give JoJo some love...

Jack rocks, dogs are my favorite!

xt4 said...

Ah, DoDo. She of Very Little Brains and Legs Too Stubby For Running. She certainly does deserve a post all her own...

Sara said...

I love that one! Jackie dog. . . I can't believe he's six! So-Jo Jo doesn't run the trail with you guys? She's got girth.

TriTimKC said...

Nothing like a run with your "best friend". Cool post. I didn't get chance to say congrats on the IM finish. The race report was just incredible. Great job man.

TriSaraTops said...

What a good boy! The only thing I wish was different about my dog was that he'd be a running dog. Mugsy the Wonder Pug is wonderful at sprints, but can't go more than a half mile running. The whole "no nasal cavities" thing gets him every time. :) But he is my biggest fan at home, and he LOVES to lick salty legs!