For the Love of Dog

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Bailey (left) and Jake

On my run around the Augustana campus the other day, an unexpected theme connected the observations I made. Since it was a beautiful spring day, it wasn’t a surprise to see a number of people taking their dogs for a walk. However, three instances stand out in my mind, both in the diversity of what I saw and in how I connected with them through my own experiences with what we do for our pets and what they do for us.

I first encountered a woman walking three dogs by herself. They all seemed to be behaving, neither getting their leashes tangled nor dragging their owner along the sidewalk. Seeing this woman with her pack reminded me of the times I’ve gone for walks with my parents and their two dogs, Jake and Bailey. They generally do well, but it can still be an adventure wrangling two energetic dogs, especially if they see a squirrel or a rabbit. It also reminded me of the joy that having more than one dog can bring. Having watched Jake and Bailey become good friends, I always love it when my parent send me pictures of the two of them together.

Soon after passing the woman and her herd of canines, I saw another dog who had gotten loose. The dog dashed along the opposite side of the street from where I was running and his owner sprinted after him. Despite the fact that the owner seemed to be in good shape, he was no match for a dog running free. Watching him give chase took me back to a couple of times when I’ve had to do that myself. Once, I had to chase our old collie on a mad dash through all of the backyards on our block. Another more recent time, when Jake and Bailey escaped through an open garage door, I ran after them barefoot through the snow, until the rest of the family could mobilize to chase them down. In those moments, the dominant emotion is fear. The fear of losing track of furry friend, along with the fear of seeing a dog run into a busy street. As I watched the man across the street pursue his own dog, I couldn’t help but get anxious as the dog approached 26th street, one of the busier streets in the area. Luckily, the dog turned around before he got there and decided to run back to his owner. By the time I turned the corner on my route and left them behind, the two had been safely reunited.

Finally, near the end of my run, I passed an older gentleman walking his small dog. The man had a cane and he moved with more of a shuffle than a walk. His walk was slow enough that I lapped him with my cooldown walk not long after passing him on my run. It was then that I appreciated the beauty of watching the gentleman taking his small friend out for a walk, even if it probably wasn’t the easiest thing for him to do. Despite the physical difficulty, it mattered to him to take his dog out and make sure she got her exercise. This is not something that I’ve experienced myself, but it brought me to reflect upon the flipside of that, where I’ve spent time with our family dog in the twilight time of its life. When a furry friend is nearing the end, it makes you appreciate all of the time left that you can get. There’s something special about humans and dogs helping each other stay happy right to the end.

It wasn’t until after this final encounter that I felt like the theme of my run somehow had become focused on dogs. Nonetheless, that’s where my mind went. As my girlfriend and I discuss the possibility of getting a dog, it makes me look forward to that idea all the more.