The pavement’s still wet this morning from the previous night’s storms, but the sky is a bright blue, only a few white, fluffy clouds suspended overhead. I lace up my running shoes and grab his leash from the hook near our door. He’s already there, of course, with his tail wagging erratically from side to side, a look of pure joy spread across an innocent face.
He knows what comes next and he can hardly wait.
Like me, Buddy started running later in life. I sometimes have to remember, in dog years he’s forty to my thirty-seven and he’s not had the benefit of conditioning, but he’s always eager to go another lap, sometimes pushing me when I would rather give in to the soreness of my tired, aching muscles.
When we start our first few minutes of warm-up walking, he’s overly-eager, prancing beside me, urging me to take off into a sprint. “Wait,” I tell him. It’s too soon for me yet.
Just a few more yards.
“OK, go,” I start to say, but he already knows and has taken off in a brisk run, pulling gently at his leash. He looks back at me with his tongue lolling out one side, mouth turned up at the corners, as if to say, “Come on. You can run faster than that.” And I pick up my pace to match his child-like energy.
Each time we pass the driveway to our house, he moves to the opposite side of the road, pulling me with him as if to say, “Not yet. I want to keep going.” We run like that–encouraging each other, lap after lap–around our little neighborhood and it’s nearly two and a half miles before Buddy starts to slow his steps. By now, his four legs have done twice the work of mine. I’m just getting warmed up, but I slow to match his pace and walk for a ways with him, sometimes even pause while we catch our breath. When we get to our house again, I tug at his leash and he walks slowly up the drive toward our front door.
I let him be the judge of when he’s done and I’ll often drop him off to let him rest and to get a drink of water while I run another two, even three miles. When I finally relinquish myself to my own exhaustion and turn in my driveway, he’s waiting at the door for me.
I’m convinced that if he were able, he’d offer me a bottle of water. We exchange looks and I scratch him behind his ears and tell him what a good friend he is. The perfect running partner.