My love of all things furry began when my family got a dog. I was three years old. Her name was Heidi and I loved her instantly. After the first night Heidi spent at our house, my mother went to check on me, but I wasn’t in bed. I was lying on top of the golden colored dog. Heidi did not spend long with my family. She was old when we got her, and one of my first memories was of some tall, faceless person taking her leash to lead her to her death, as my tiny heart broke.
Later we had a couple cats that took another piece of my heart when they, too, left this mortal existence. As an adult, I have two cats, but the desire for more fuzziness in my life is never completely abated. Surprisingly, running has introduced me to more than one furry friend.
I always hope to find animal friends on the streets, to the point that sometimes I foolishly assume animals will be my friend when they most definitely are not. (Raccoons are not your friend!)
I’ve seen all kinds of animals while running, but one of my favorite are dogs. In some places I’ve lived, dogs have had a tendency to escape the confines of their homes and roam freely until someone can find them and bring them home. On a dusky morning one spring, a dog found me on the street where I ran, smiling the way dogs do.
I stopped. I always stop for friendly animals. Strike that. I always stop, just in case the animal is friendly. This dog was only too happy to get a good scratch behind the ears. As I scratched the scraggly fur, I looked around, waiting for a human companion to appear, and for me to get that feeling of guilt that always accompanies petting a friendly dog, just waiting for the human companion to read my mind.
“You were planning on stealing my dog!” Human companion will say.
“No, I swear—” I cry.
“Don’t lie to me!”
“Alright. I thought about it, but—”
This morning, no human companion appeared. The longer I stood there, the more I wanted to keep this dog and the guiltier I felt. So I turned away, took a breath, and jogged down the street. My new scruffy friend trotted along side me.
“Stay,” I told him, trying very hard to make it sound like I meant it. (Which I didn’t.) “Sit.”
The dog sat.
The dog ran.
I stopped. “Sit,” I said again. The dog sat, it’s matted tail wagging happily against the concrete sidewalk, tongue hanging out of a grin. I looked around. No humans. I felt for a collar. No tags. “Sit,” I said again, and this time the dog stayed.
For five seconds.
Half a house away, it started following me again. I stopped again and we repeated the discussion in which I (grudgingly) tried to get rid of the dog and he smiled (adorably) back.
As soon as I started running again, he joined me. I gave up and let him. We made it nearly a mile back to my house without any fatigue on Dusty’s part (yes, I gave him a name).
He tried following me into the house, which did not sit well with the cats. He sat on the front porch while I showered and dressed and ate breakfast and got ready for work.
“We should call animal control,” My husband said.
“Hmmm,” I disagreed.
“We can’t keep him,” he persisted.
“I know,” I lied.
Dusty sprung up and tried to join me in the car when I left for work. I was tempted to call in sick. We were meant to be together.
“If he’s still there tonight when we get home…” I suggested.
My husband gave me A Look.
I thought about him all day, wondering if he was sleeping on the porch, or wagging his tail at the window, or rolling in the grass. I couldn’t wait to get home.
When I did, Dusty wasn’t there.
I never saw the friendly mutt again, but for one morning we were companions and his smile lightened my steps and every day I run for the chance to meet another Dusty.