it’s a dog’s life

I used to run on the days I felt like it, as far as my legs stuck with me, wherever my car was parked.  Now I run everyday, at least five miles, and only on trail.  I cannot look at the sheets of rain and say “maybe tomorrow.”  I cannot feel the ache in my quads and think “perhaps I need a day off.”  I cannot take a quick jaunt to work or lap around the neighborhood.  I cannot, because now I have a dog.  And not just any dog,  but a dog who needs to run.  An hour or two romping through the woods off leash leads to a perfectly calm and obedient friend for the rest of the day.  Without said romp;  he is a high-strung monster that paces the house, digs up the yard, barks at the wind, and grabs cats by the tail (see earlier blog for further information.)

My get to run has turned into my have to run.  The thing is, unlike most have tos, this one is not a burden.  I look forward every day to watching the dog fall out of his chair when I mention going running.  I laugh when he trips over his own feet on the way to the front door, often completely unable to control his excitement long enough to actually stop at the door.  I enjoy the one-sided conversation I have with him as we drive in search of the perfect trail. I smile when we pull into the parking lot of Mulkey Creek, turn the corner that reveals the Oak Creek Maze, or conquer the 29th hill crest bringing the McDonald Forest bumper into view.  I smile because when I look in the back seat, he is smiling too.  And, as the car parks, there is nothing more satisfying than the feeling of his face stretching  from the back seat to give me a little ‘thank you lick.”  Yes, running has always been enjoyable, but now it is down right entertaining.

God says life is like a good long run; an endurance race where you are the only contestant,  eternity is the prize, and Jesus is  your unfair advantage.  If that is true, my dog knows how to enjoy life — he loves the run, he is always competing, and he makes it seem effortless.

I think I would like to live life the way that my dog runs trail. 

My dog lets his ears flap in the wind.  His ears, though soft and sweet, are entirely too big for his head and when he runs they almost give him lift off.  He looks like a complete goober, but he never stops running.  My dog runs too fast downhill sometimes and his rear end gets too close to his front end.  He has learned  to sit down when this happens and just ride the hill out, and he never stops running.  My dog has a fetish for small, furry, noncanine animals (a direct quote from the guide to dog breeds I read once).  He will sprint and pounce on anything that even slightly resembles a small, furry, noncanine animal.  He has run into trees, rolled down bluffs, and fallen off trails in his pursuit of such creatures (which usually turn out to be moss balls or the wind rustling leaves), but he never stops running.  My dog introduces himself to every other dog out for a run.  He has been snarled at, bitten,  and “forbidden to pass.”  He has also made a few friends, and as much as he would like to stop and play, he never stops running.  My dog runs as though the world is his, as though no one else exists.  Yet my dog, never gets too far ahead or behind me.  My dog runs with me.

I want to live life letting my ears flap, riding out the hills, pursuing what I love, and taking the time to know the people I encounter along the way.  It means I might look silly sometimes and I will have to face the downside of  things head on.  It means that I will have some near misses, some mishaps, and some mistakes.  It also means that not everyone will embrace me, and not everyone can come with me.  Still, no matter what, I want to keep running;  to run as though the world was created just for me (which God says it is ), never getting too far ahead or behind Him, but running with my God.

Yesterday, we finally had a short break in the rain and the trails dried up a bit.   A half-mile from the car I thought to myself “wow, the dog isn’t covered in mud for the first time in weeks.  I won’t have to towel him down, cover the seat with the giant piece of plastic, and then still clean up all the mud that (despite my best efforts) is ground into every nook and cranny of the backseat.” The dog apparently has ESP, because the moment I  finished my thought, he suddenly veered off the trail into the parallel ditch filled with two feet of muddy water.   He ran the entire quarter mile through the ditch to ensure that he was completely adorned in pond scum by the time he reached the car door.  I should probably mention that this is the same dog who hates water and cowers at the sound of the shower turning on.  It is also the same dog who knows that being dirty means getting  a total body rub down with extra ear massage and a treat for holding still. 

If I am going to live life like my dog runs, I am going to get dirty.  But if I learn only one thing from my dog, I hope I learn that there is no shame in getting dirty.  God is always ready to clean us up, and he does not withhold our reward.  Afterall, in the race of life, Jesus is our unfair advantage.