2. How I Found My Running Partner

2. How I Found My Running Partner

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners

How I Found My Running Partner

Beware of the chair!
 ~Author Unknown

One morning I started to sweat. Profusely. Just sitting down. I would have attributed it to hot flashes, but I knew those were years away. The accompanying pain in my left arm was what made me ask a neighbor for a ride to the emergency room.

The heart attack was minor in nature, but a major scare. Who knew that a size 2 forty-year-old who ate plenty of veggies, hated junk food, and only ate lean meats would be a candidate for heart problems? After one night of observation in the emergency room I headed home.

My doctor blamed my sedentary lifestyle for my new health problems and told me I needed to get some daily exercise. He said that because I worked at home, I lacked the need to go out, walk around an office building, walk at lunch, run for trains, and all that. I simply walked from my bedroom each morning, headed to the kitchen for coffee, and walked about 35 feet to my office. Sometimes still in my jammies.

He told me to start running. Slowly at first, maybe 50 feet, stop, walk, rest, run another 50 feet. He told me perhaps I could run each day with my husband, an accomplished headstrong runner who could do five miles a day without even breathing hard. I knew for a fact that my husband would never allow me to accompany him and slow him down, but I was ready to promise my doctor anything in order to stop the lecture.

The following day, Karen, the neighbor who had driven me to the hospital, came over to check on me. I told her I had my marching orders, or rather, my walking orders. Karen knew how much I detested exercising and laughed at my predicament.

Then she said, “I have an idea! Roxy loves to go to the park!” Roxy was her nine-year-old Lab, and we were crazy about each other. I frequently took her for her afternoon walks when Karen was away on business. “With my travel schedule, I can’t take her as often as I’d like. Why don’t you take her?”

Before I could answer, we heard some barking. Our yards were connected by a two-way gate that Roxy had mastered. As we watched her padding across the lawn and up my back stairs, we were astonished to see that Roxy had somehow managed to find her leash and bring it with her! As she pranced through the kitchen door, she proudly wagged her tail as she dropped the leash at my feet, and extended her paw in a “high five.”

“How did you get her to do this?” I asked Karen. The entire episode smelled of conspiracy! Karen, however, couldn’t stop laughing and swore up and down she had nothing to do with this!

I picked up the leash and headed out the front door with Roxy in tow. She led me down the block to the park where she promptly took off like a wild bronco! Up, down, around bushes and trees, other dogs, other owners, hills, dales and doggy hydrants. I couldn’t even get her to slow down enough so I could take her leash off! And she seemed to know exactly what she was doing. She had this all planned! I finally begged for mercy as I sweated, gulped for air, and headed to the bubbler.

As I walked her home, Roxy was calm and kept glancing over at me with what looked like concern. She would slow down, look up, and when I nodded to say, “I’m fine, girl,” she’d pick up the pace a bit.

The following day I had a deadline I was certain I wouldn’t meet. Being a freelance writer, this was my life. As I worked diligently, I heard Roxy barking out back. This was nothing unusual — Roxy loved to bark at the neighborhood squirrels and kids coming home from school. But something made me get up this time and go look.

Sure enough — here came Roxy, leash in her mouth, heading up my kitchen stairs! Same time as the day before! I was sure Karen had put her up to it this time, so figuring Karen was hiding in the bushes outside, I called her cell phone, knowing she’d pick up.

“Okay, lady, how on Earth did you train Roxy to do this?”

Karen seemed befuddled. “Huh?”

“The leash thing! She looks so cute sitting here with the leash in her mouth!” I explained.

“She’s at your house? Good grief! She must have gone out the doggy door in the basement. I am at the grocery store and she was sleeping when I left!”

I just looked down at Roxy, and I knew. This was her idea. She knew how to help me. And she was doing it.

This routine went on for almost three years. Every day, rain or shine, Roxy showed up with her leash and barked at my kitchen door. I could set my clock by her: 3:00 on the dot, every day.

My doctor was thrilled and I was feeling wonderful. I actually toned up with all this running and chasing and doggy babysitting. I loved spending time with Roxy. It gave me something to look forward to each day.

Even though I wasn’t officially “jogging,” I was certainly doing my share of running! Maybe without form, but certainly with lots of purpose. Roxy would never let me take off her leash! She seemed to instinctively know I needed to be attached to her in order to get better! Many of our doggy dates ended up with a healthy frozen yogurt at the park, which I lovingly shared with her.

Then one morning my phone rang very early. Caller ID told me it was Karen, and my heart skipped a beat. No one calls at 6:00 with good news.

I picked up the phone and simply said, “What’s wrong?”

She was crying. “Can you come over?”

I ran through the backyard in my robe and slippers, not knowing what I’d find. Karen opened her kitchen door for me.

“She’s gone. I can’t believe it. I tried to wake her for breakfast and she was cold. At least she died in her sleep; she didn’t suffer like I thought she might. I didn’t want to tell you, but she had a bad heart. It was a matter of time.”

I looked at our beloved Roxy, all curled up in her warm cozy bed, peaceful and quiet — with her leash next to her, ready for our afternoon outing. I couldn’t help but think that maybe we managed to keep each other alive a little longer than was meant to be.

That was almost ten years ago. I still run, but this time I have my own Lab, Sally, a gift from my husband.

It’s now Sally’s job to put me through my paces at the doggy park, and she does a marvelous job. Each day as we walk out the front door, Sally barks once, and wags her tail, looking at the large white urn on the bookshelf. This is where Roxy’s ashes are, in loving memory. As I see Sally bark at the urn each day, I can’t help but wonder, “Does she know?”

~Marie Duffoo

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