Last night my best friend, my most loyal companion and for many years the most dedicated running partner decided her old body was too tired. I have visions of her running strong and free again today, something she hasn’t been able to do for awhile.
To manage the sadness and tears, I went for a run last night and realized that one of the only athletic events I have ever won was the year that Kelty became Lexington’s Mutt Strut Champion. The truth is I got to participate in the win, only because the rules required Kelty to drag a human over the course. I remember on that day being worried she might kill herself by working too hard in the heat.
I have written a lot about Kelty over the years, in fact, she is the only thing that has a dedicated archive section on my blog. Every other category of interest always seemed less important than she did. Every dog owner believes that their dog is the best, so it would not be that impactful to say that she was the best dog. However, it’s not possible to overstate the value she had in my life for the past 13 years.
On Saturday, I had an almost perfect day, which I shared in a post. I am so thankful that she and I were able to have that day together. In my heart, I think we both knew it was a long goodbye. I am so thankful to Dr. Cundiff at Hartland Park Animal Hospital, he not only took great care of her the past 10 years, but last night he enabled me a chance to say goodbye.
I find it easy to sit and think about what things are necessary to make me a happier person. It’s also a bad habit of mine to review all the things that are missing, in order for me to be ‘completely happy’. I’ve had several discussions over the past month that have made me realize that I’m not alone in this scenario. Yesterday was a great example of a day where life could have turned into a moment of despair. The world is an incredibly fucked up place in many ways. But, it’s also an amazing time to live. I personally believe we live in one of the greatest moments in the history of our species. The next 50 years are going to be crazy in so many ways, I just want to try and participate in that as much as I can.
Yesterday, was an almost perfect day in my little world. I wrote a few blog posts several years back, discussing what makes me happy. Two of those posts were about running and my dog Kelty. With that in mind, here is a timeline of yesterday:
5:15am – Kelty wakes me up to let her outside
5:21am – I lay back down
6:00am – I get up so I can feed Kelty and get stuff for the run group
8:00am – Meet run group at West Sixth, we warm up and I do an easy 7.6 miles
9:30am – Get some Starbucks on way home to shower
10:30am – Head back to hang with Kelty
12:15pm – Fall asleep on the floor with Kelty
3:00pm – Cook a package of bacon and 5 eggs, which Kelty and I share
5:00pm – Head to my house to get ready for Mid Summer Nights Run
6:00pm – Ride my bike downtown to the race
7:00pm – Start to warm up for race
8:00pm – Start the 5k, with many other people around town
8:18pm – Finish 5k and chat with Paul and Pete about pushing each other during the race
8:25pm to 9:00pm – Chat with different friends and runners about the race
9:15pm – Get my bike and ride back home
9:30pm – Shower, head to Kroger for some food
10:00pm – Hang out and eat with Kelty
10:30pm – Fall asleep on the floor with Kelty
There were a couple other things that happened yesterday, but it’s probably obvious that my day centered around running and Kelty. It was almost the perfect day.
The other day I wrote a post about waiting on serendipity, and that it can be an ineffective approach to living. Waiting on serendipity can be a romantic narrative, but unless one has the emotional ability to manage the swings, it can be a challenge. The other lesson, from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was that the classical and romantic understandings are not able to mutually exist. Therefore, it’s also valuable to understand which type of understanding you lean towards.
I was thinking about another fairly important character in the storyline of my life, my dog Kelty. If truth be told, she’s probably been one of the central beings in my life. I was thinking about her introduction into my life in terms of randomness versus intentional action. She was a clear result of taking an intentional action, both on my part and her rescuer’s, Nikki. The reason that this story is worth sharing is that my intentionally made efforts were not in an attempt to adopt her, but in an effort to discourage her adoption.
It’s almost painful to write that, as I think about it today.
At the time I was just getting started on my first ‘real’ job post graduate school. Living in a small one bedroom apartment in Divide, Colorado working for the Teller County Public Health Department. Nikki was living in Lexington, working on finishing her masters degree. The hope I had at the time was that Nikki would be moving to Colorado as soon as she finished. I do not remember the timeline accurately, but the condensed storyline is that I thought adopting a dog made that transition harder. Nikki thought otherwise and adopted her.
I don’t have a list of cons I had for adopting a dog, but here were a few that I can recall:
It will limit the ability to travel, because it will need someone to watch after it.
If it travels with us, we will be limited to activities that could happen while it was in the car.
My landlord doesn’t allow dogs and it’s hard to find one who does. It’s impossible in Divide (given I lived in the only rentals there).
It will require a ton of attention and effort to train.
It will cost a lot of money to feed, take to vet, etc.
I probably had a lot of other reasons I would share when discussing the issue, but those were the big reasons why I didn’t want a dog. It’s always nice to be able to look back and realize that you are wrong, especially when you were wrong and the outcome was very positive. Here’s what ended up happening:
Nikki and Kelty moved to Colorado. Nikki ended up living with a co-worker of mine in Woodland Park, while Kelty came to live with me. My landlord never knew and for the most part, it was never an issue. Kelty took nearly zero training, as she was already house broken. She had some anxiety when she first lived with me, but after a short period she grew to be more relaxed. I worked in an office that was under my apartment, so I’d often see her looking out the window at me as I walked around the building and into the office (or she could have been checking out the beautiful views of Pikes Peak I had out my sliding glass doors?). We also started going for daily runs together at the Divide Park across the highway. It was an open field with an approximately 2.5 mile trail and unobstructed views of Pikes Peak. I’d run a couple laps, while she’d run circles around me the whole time. She acclimated to the 9,200 ft. elevation in a much better way than I did! On weekends, we would find trails to run together. I think her favorites were at the Crags which were not that far away, but presented wonderful views once you reached the summits.
Kelty was a great runner, which might be one of the reasons we got along so well, so quickly. My hard lined opinion about not having dogs, especially a ‘house dog’ quickly melted away during these early days. I remember being certain I would never let a dog sleep in a bed that I was in, however it took a few short weeks before she found her way to overcoming those objections also. As she’s aged, she can no longer run. However we’ve had a lot morning walks to get coffee, which provide much of the same opportunities to bond.
The past six months it has been sad to watch her age. There are times that she doesn’t even seem to be herself. However, having tried nearly all the anti-anxiety meds the vet suggested, we finally found that SAM-e gave her some since of peace. There are moments that she’ll act like a 3 year old puppy again, with energy and vigor. Though most of the time our lunch-time walks are limited to 30 minutes, where we make it 4 or 5 blocks.
The clear result of Kelty becoming a part of my life is nothing but positive.
“I stop and summarize the triplet: rarity, extreme impact, and retrospective (though not prospective) predictability. A small number of Black Swans explain almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas and religions, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal lives.”
I can rationalize the events of her adoption, piece together the storyline to make some sense of it. But it’s mostly a storyline that is artificial, created to give myself some context to share with others when they ask. The truth is that her introduction into my life is one of those random and wonderful events that happened.
I concluded my previous post with: “For the time being: live intentionally, yet remain aware and open to the randomness life provides”. That seems like a pretty excellent way to end this post also.
The other night I was laying on the coach and listening to Kelty cry. If you know her, then you wouldn’t be surprised by this story. As wonderful of a dog as she is, she likes to cry for attention a lot. She doesn’t ever bark (maybe 5 times in 10 years, potentially less), she doesn’t pee in the house (definitely less than 5 times in 10 years) but she does like to cry. So at first I ignored it. I ended up going to bed and since Nikki is away dog sitting other dogs, I let her sleep in the bed with me. It is kind of a habit, because if I don’t she cries until I do.
Even as she was in the bed she continued to cry. She ended up standing right over my head and crying to ensure I couldn’t sleep. I started to worry after about an hour of petting her and trying to figure out what was wrong. She was breathing funny and then I started to really get worried. At 13 to 14 years of age, I am starting to fear the worst in these moments.
I decided to go sleep on the couch, bringing her along to see if that would help. As I walked up the stairs, she followed and then I heard her tumble. I looked back and she was at the bottom. She started back up and a few steps up, she fell down again. I picked her up and carried her to the couch. We laid there as she cried. I continued to pet her and hoped it was helping at least a bit. By 2:45am, I was getting pretty tired, she was not. At some point I finally fell asleep. The next morning, I saw her fall over trying to walk. She couldn’t stand long enough to go to the bathroom and then I got really sad.
If you go back to the origin of Kelty into my life, you would have to know that it was not with a great deal of excitement. I was living in Colorado, Nikki was living in Kentucky still, but with plans to move as soon as she finished school. Then for some reason, Nikki decided to get a dog from the Humane Society. I was not only against it, I was pretty pissed off. The thought of having to find a place to rent that would allow dogs, the need to find someone to take care of her when we wanted to do anything, the general hassle… I was 100% against it.
Like many things in life, the anxiety I have about the future never came true. Kelty moved in with me, as Nikki lived with a co-worker of mine, while I had an apartment of my own. My landlord did not really say she could live there, but it worked out.
We quickly became great friends, as she loved running more than I did. We would regularly go to the Divide Park, which had a 3 mile trail loop with hundreds of acres of open field. I would run the loop and she would run – everywhere. On weekends, we would go hiking on a new trail and she would always lead the way.
After we moved back to Kentucky, we continued to run, although mostly on sidewalks and stuck to me with a lease – I imagine she’s run 100’s of miles with me. The truth is that she ran really well and you never had to worry about her pulling you in different directions. We even won the Mutt Strut together one year and were titled the fastest human / dog team in town. She really was my motivation for that race, as she pulled me for the majority of the run.
The same is not true if you take her on a walk. She is terrible to walk with, but we still do it everyday. Most days we get coffee from the Daily Grind, so she can get a treat from her friends there and two treats from her friend at the dry cleaners we pass. Her running days are over, but the morning walk is still something we both look forward to with anticipation as soon as we wake up.
I know she is getting older and that is just part of the deal. But yesterday and today have been pretty sad to see a once superior athlete struggle to walk without falling over backwards. She wants to go run so bad, but the body just isn’t working for her. I do wonder if the little show she put on last week, sprinting back and forth through the yard and around the trees for 15 to 20 minutes was just too much. Like an old and worn out athlete, trying to make one last display of greatness. Maybe she has some lessons to share with Brett Farve?
Anyway… I always learn something from her. Today on my little run, that I wasn’t all that excited to go do, I did think of her around mile 4. I thought about how much she would love to be running with me. It made me very grateful for the gift I have today. The gift of running.
I am writing this as she lays on the coach next to my feet. Crying of course!
It’s only fitting that the next post I have for my “I’m happy when..” series includes her. And it simply needs to say, I’m happy when – Kelty. I’m just happy when we do anything together, I’m so thankful for the Lexington Humane Society 10 years ago and that Nikki didn’t listen to me and my fears.