Wednesday, October 5, 2011
A DECADE WITH FRIENDS
You know you’re getting old when you go out there and “try” to complete a “two” mile run. Oh for sure, I still manage to plug along and struggle through it but let me tell you, it’s not easy. When one considers that he used to run triathlons, one almost tends to get discouraged when tackling this now considered “monstrous challenge”. Let’s face it, I’m not 25 anymore and as you get older, the body can’t necessarily put into action what the mind dictates.
This was most obvious the other morning when I started out for this morning jog accompanied by “Mosqua” and “Maggie”. We had been back at this particular routine for just about two months now and while the old girl was still enthused about these outings, for my faithful sidekick “Mosqua”, this was to be another story. At almost ten years old, he was no longer impressed by the scenery as he had run this mountain trail more than once in his lifetime. Throughout that decade, he had almost managed to sniff every blade of grass and cock his leg at the base of every single tree along the way. So this particular “loop” was not a mystery to him and he knew exactly where I would terminate my daily run. Therefore, instead of following me, he just went and parked it at the finish line where he would wait for me to return. I hadn’t noticed his absence, this till maybe half a mile down the trail. A bit worried that he wasn’t at his usual spot, by my side, I decided to turn around and go look for him. He wasn’t hard to find as there he was lying in the middle of the field, this big black mass of fur, soaking in the morning sun.
When I got to him, he didn’t really move. Of course, he did acknowledge my presence by slapping that huge tail of his on the dusty trail but that was about it. He was just satisfied to rest there with his head on his front paws pointing in the direction from where I would eventually come out. A bit concerned by this unusual behavior, I asked him, “Are you all right, Old Buddy?” He responded immediately, rolled on his side and started to wag his tail even faster. He had this sad look on his face that said it all… “Hey listen Boss, I can’t do this anymore. If you don’t mind I’ll just wait for you to come back. I’m really tired and this old body of mine just doesn’t want to co-operate.”
And yup, there it was - the reality of it all. Ten years of living with sleddogs had just flown by and one could not even imagine as to where the time had gone. It had simply vanished. Facing the unavoidable eventuality square in the face, this lump rose to my throat and my eyes got a bit glassy. In my old Shepard’s case, the end of this beautiful journey with my “Best Friend Forever” was coming to its end. “Mosqua” still had maybe a couple of good years left in him but who were we kidding. The days were gone where he would pull the sled or chase after me on the ATV. His will to please was still high on his priority list but now instead of retrieving “man size” sticks, he was satisfied walking around with a “toothpick” in his mouth. This bond that “Mosqua” and I had between us was unbelievable. We had shared a most memorable decade together and this through thick and thin. But now the prospect was clear and both of us would have to face the facts of it all. This was part of a dog’s life cycle and now he was probably going to spend most of his remaining time either farting on one of his favorite couches or wait for me in the truck while the younger dogs and I did our thing.
Getting a clear message from my old trusted friend, I patted him on the head, told him to stay and continued on my run. This sad moment I had just had with my “Mosqua” was to make me realize that there were more than a few in the barn that were also nearing retirement. Hell, come to think of it, I had three distinct groups in there. I had the “Viagra” crowd, the racing prospects and the upcoming but dreaded “snot nose” yearlings.
In this day and age where everybody is struggling to make ends meet, one might consider that an easy solution would be that when a dog has outlived its usefulness, it should be put down so to save on some of the expenses. And this avenue is a well traveled path by many mushers out there but not one that I care to entertain. Fortunately for my dogs, Fran and I consider them all members of our huge family first and then working sleddogs after that. When I look at specimens such as the “Kid” and “Vixen” get so excited when I touch a harness or drive by with the ATV, it’s hard to think of them as just “a dog”. Throughout the years, this old crowd has hauled my ass around for over 15,000 miles and for some reason, I feel compelled to owe this bunch of dogs some sort of loyalty. Me and these guys have had one great adventure throughout those years and I don’t think that writing about it truly draws a clear picture of the marvelous times we spent together.
That’s what I was thinking of while I was “huffing and puffing” during my “ultra-mini-marathon”. Then at one point, just as I anticipated, I got into the “zone” and forgot about my aches and pains. Instead, my mind wandered off to the days when this mushing madness started. All those crazy escapades that we had gone through, made me shake my head in disbelief but at the same time they made me smile out loud. If someone would have been out there to see me laugh to myself, he would have thought that I was “three bricks short of a load” but that’s OK… I knew that I was visiting precious periods of my life and to be pegged as an “outcast” was all right in my books. Those dogs had brought a most definite positive spin into my life and it all started with “The Baisley Mob”.
To be continued…