A guest post by writer Michele Regenold:
I’m a cat person. I love cats, even persnickety ones. I love their independence, their cuddliness, their snootiness, their sweetness.
I like dogs too, but it’s not the same indiscriminate affection I have for cats as a species. So I was surprised when dog love appeared in my life. It sort of snuck up on me.
One day in my late thirties I decided I wanted a dog of my own who would be my special running buddy. Hunting dogs make good running buddies. My husband has hunting dogs, specifically pointing dogs for hunting upland birds like pheasant, grouse, and quail, so we decided we’d get one my husband could take hunting.
I didn’t know then that this dog would become my travel buddy too and near-constant companion. I didn’t know then how much I would come to love this orange and white dog with freckles on his nose.
And when, in my mid-forties, I lost Diesel suddenly, unexpectedly, the pain of that loss was sharper and longer-lasting than any I’ve known. No more sniffing my breath as I rubbed his ears when we greeted each other. No more huddling next to me during thunderstorms. No more wrestling on the floor. No more runs together.
Running without Diesel on the winding, hilly country roads near my house felt incredibly strange after eight years of running with him, tugging the other end of the leash.
After a couple of weeks of running solo, I decided to try running with our other dogs. I felt like Goldilocks and the three bears. Chester wanted to go too fast. Dasher wanted to go too slow. Snowden wanted to circle me constantly and make me keep changing leash hands. Nobody was just right, of course, because none of them was Diesel.
Throughout the fall, winter, and spring I ran alone, imagining Diesel bouncing along beside me. Then as spring slowly warmed into summer, I tried running with Snowden again.
When I first ran with Snowden last fall, a few weeks after Diesel died, Snowden had just come to live with us, having recently experienced his own loss. His human companion, a shooting buddy of my husband’s, died of cancer and the man’s family wanted to find a hunter who would adopt Snowden.
So not only was Snowden thrust into a new human and dog family, but here I was trying to run with him at the other end of a leash, a process he obviously was not accustomed to. And since he didn’t know me or what I wanted, we didn’t mesh well.
Over the winter, Snowden and I got to know each other better, and as spring turned into summer, I decided to try running with him again. Although he’s not thrilled about the harness being put on him, he holds still for it (unlike maniac Chester), and he’s gotten the idea that we’re both running in the same direction. He’s still learning how to behave when a vehicle approaches us. And he still weaves in front of me sometimes, but he doesn’t do that annoying circling thing.
Snowden is a friendly, lovable dog who is burrowing into my affections. It seems that dog love is here to stay.
Michele Regenold, an aspiring children’s novelist, teaches English at Nicolet College in northern Wisconsin. She runs with Snowden, walks with Dasher, and cross country skis with Chester.
Photos: At the very top is Diesel. Next comes Snowden. The dog posing with Michele is Diesel.