It's September. The shadows that follow Joey and me when I walk him toward Bulloughs Pond in the late afternoon drag behind us. The long and lanky shadows that precede Joey and me when I walk him back from the pond seem anxious to climb up the hill. Even the shadow of Joey's tongue, which is by then hanging out, seems longer.
We are walking a lot these days. His happiness follows and precedes us.
Joey's been doing great: I cannot even pinpoint exactly when he stopped favoring his right side leg, the leg that was badly hurt, the side with the metal plate and screws, and that had three broken toes, and stopped hopping on three legs rather than four. But he did!
For a few weeks there, in the glory of the summer, I was taking him swimming in the lake, taking him literally doggie-paddling, giving his legs a workout, and getting his endurance up. (At least I was doing that until I got kicked out of the lake!)
Dad was taking Joey running in the morning...building up his muscles and his endurance. At first it was for five minutes, then for ten, then for fifteen and finally one morning he took him out for a big twenty-minute run. Maybe once a week at first, then twice...
We're still building up his endurance. He starts out strong. Unlike before, at some point in the run, his tongue hangs out. He doesn't realize he needs to stop so we have to realize that for him. On some days, he just gets slow toward the end.
But it just seems that all of a sudden I noticed he was walking normally and running normally, on all fours! His coat is not grown in, people are still pointing and asking, "What's that on his back?" but his walking doesn't give anything away.
When I ask Phil "Do you have your running partner back?", he pauses. Almost, but not quite.
On his long runs, the mornings when Phil runs for 40 minutes or more, Joey can't make it all the way. He's good for about 15 minutes but can manage 20. So Phil has to figure out how to run Joey - and still get his own long run in.
This is where I come in! I somehow get up early and run with the two of them (so early!) and when we get to a certain point, Phil gives me Joey's lead and goes off and runs by himself - and I walk Joey home. By the time we're near home, a faint light can be seen in the eastern the sky, behind our home. I'm exhausted, but Joey is ready to keep on going. Too bad. He's with me, now! I've run 2-1/2 miles and it's still much earlier than I ever would be awake! But Joey's a really good sport. He stays happily with me.
I'm amazed to see the energy this dog has at 5 a.m. Isolated cars are out on the roads at this hour, one here, one there. Joey's up and running even before the first bird songs can be heard. He scampers from scent to scent, like a squirrel from tree to tree, Joey's tail wagging; he runs with grace, silently (except for the jingle of his "dog" tags). We have to remindl ourselves that this dog is ten years old and has just survived a car accident.
What is the source of all his energy? What is the source of all the love and good-nature he has in his heart?
The thing is that I probably wouldn't have volunteered to get up so early and run, or almost any activity that would involve driving for 20 or 30 minutes to find a place where Joey could run free, before our dog was hit by the car. But this is no longer "before" he was hit by the car. This is after.
I've watched Joey's will to survive, his infinite heart and love and joy. I've watched him want to live again, to run again. Through the glass window of door to the treatment room of the animal hospital, I've watched him kiss the doctors while he's up on the examining table being given IV's. Joey has learned to be obedient to many rules and regulations that he does not want or understands, just because it's me who's asking him to, or it's Dad who's asking him to. He actually seems to enjoy playing by the rules (for the most part). While I don't give him much of an opportunity to be tested on the limits of his "dogness" and short-term memory, he's expressed his trust in us.
So - up and running at that awful hour? Spending my afternoon going somewhere to make a dog happy?
For now, at least, it seems impossible to not do otherwise for the guy!
I mean, he's really sincerely in his heart appreciative of it!