The end.

this is how we sleptWe look for meaning in death, and it’s easy to understand why. It never feels like we’ve had enough time, so we look for signs to make peace with the end. Signs that it’s the right time, if we’re the ones making the decision. Signs that it was meant to be, if we’re not.

But the truth is that we never really do have enough time, and I don’t think there’s a way to feel confident that it’s perfect timing when a decision needs to be made (or it’s made for you). You just do your best with what you’ve got.

Gordo was my companion for 16 years. I was 19 when I got him—a lifetime ago. He was with me through changing jobs, boyfriends, homes. He licked Ian when we started dating and that meant we were going to get married. He comforted me when I was sad, and made biscuits on my shoelaces before I’d leave the house. Every night he got in the bed and requested I turn on my right side so he could curl up under my chin, my arm wrapped around him so he could fit his head in the palm of my hand. I used to not be able to sleep unless he was there.

Gordo was my friend. And now he’s gone.

What feels like spring

Birds chirping. Sun shining. Grass growing. Wind blowing.

Barenaked Ladies on repeat. The old stuff, though, starting with Gordon.

Thinking about packing up the space heater. Dreaming of working from patios, or without pants in the house.

Cats finding sunshine and not moving for hours. The dog gets in on this game now, too.

Walks in the morning and the evening. Waving to neighbors. Emails about crime ramping up again, as it does when the weather gets warm, and struggling with leaving the house because of it for a while.

The smell of leaving windows open all day. Hiking without jackets. Wishing I could find a field like that one at MTSU all those years ago, when I left the Mass Comm building after changing my major, and I felt completely content except for being alone.

Because now I’m not, and having someone to walk through fields with—metaphorically or no—makes every season’s change so much more welcome.

We’re getting there

Happy dogStella is the first dog I’ve ever had, so I’m not sure if she’s more or less protective than most. But she is a great watch-dog. I feel safer when she’s in the house with me, especially at night. She does this thing where she’s sitting on the floor by the couch with us and she thinks she hears something, but instead of a full-on bark she kind of puffs. Like “buff, buff!” It starts out strong but gets quieter, until she’s sure the danger has passed.

She’s getting good at recognizing Ian’s car and footsteps, and she rarely barks anymore when he comes home at night unless his arrival wakes her up from a nap.

I’ve been working on training her to walk on a loose leash, with varying degrees of success. She still pulls, but I’ve found that tying a half-hitch around her waist just above her legs—so that when she pulls it puts some pressure there—helps tone it down some. Wednesday night it snowed, though, and all bets were off. She wanted to plow her way through untouched snow all over the neighborhood yesterday morning, and who was I to stop her? I wanted to do the same thing.

UntitledIt’s funny how having a dog suddenly makes all outdoors adventures much more fun. I loved hiking before, but now that we have Stella it’s all I want to do on the weekends. And I’d never dream of going without her. Last year we got about the same amount of snow (8 inches) and we were all “Let’s throw the cats outside for a few minutes. Ok, back inside!” But this year? I woke up Thursday morning and the first thing I did was take Stella outside so we could explore our neighborhood covered in a puffy white blanket. Ian ran around in the backyard with her. The cats were still unimpressed.

Having a dog is still challenging at times, especially when all I want to do is lay around or play a video game and she wants me to watch her sit outside and eat sticks. Or let her inside, and then outside, and then inside again. And then outside. But for the most part, we’re past the “developing routines” stage and into a good rhythm. We’re at the beginning of the fun part, I think. Somewhere among house-breaking and obedience classes and hikes and bar-hopping I acquired this little sidekick, and I rarely want to go anywhere without her now.

Rattling around

I’ve got all this stuff rolling around in my head lately, but I can’t quite make sense of it. I can’t even see what it is, really. I feel like there’s this part of my mind that’s obscured, like I can only get a glimpse if I don’t look directly at it. I know it wants to find a way out of here, though, because I’ve been remembering my dreams lately. That generally happens only when my mind is full and can’t handle all the weird shit it produces on its own without some sort of intervention from my mouth or fingers to get it all out.

I always think I’m a great compartmentalizer until I start remembering my dreams. Then everything runs together and I realize that compartmentalization, for the most part, is bullshit. Everything is intertwined.

Anyway, I’m not really at the point in my dreams where I can tell what’s going on upstairs yet, but the dreams are coming fast and plentifully. I really need to keep a journal by my bed so that I can write down anything I remember as soon as I wake up. It all fades so quickly—I had an entire dream on the tip of my tongue this morning but as soon as I started recounting it, it escaped me. I could actually hear myself forgetting it as I spoke, and now all I remember is that I’d found a journal belonging to Carole King and unlocked the secret of who she wrote all of her sad songs about. The name was unfamiliar to me, but I don’t remember it now. I guess it doesn’t matter.

Maybe the dream was telling me that I need to get better about writing down my thoughts. Or maybe it was hinting that I shouldn’t write my thoughts down because one day someone unessential to my life will find them and share in my secrets undeservedly and then forget them, as though they don’t matter.

Maybe it was my subconscious telling me to write down my dreams.

How meta.

Making the most of the time we have left

Gordo is dying. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with him—he’s been poked and prodded and had enough blood drawn to make the Red Cross vampires jealous, but all of his blood work has come back normal. He’s in great health for a 15-year-old cat, the vet says. But he’s lost several pounds in the last few years, and two of those pounds were lost in the last three months.

In November he had some digestive issues, so I took him to see the vet (who is a wonderful cat-only vet that we love). She noticed that his thyroid could be felt through his throat and suggested some routine bloodwork. That all came back fine, and after a couple days on some medicine his issues cleared up and he seemed back to normal, though still thin.

Then the Sunday before Christmas, he had a seizure. We caught the whole thing on video, weirdly enough, because at the time it happened Ian and I were in the living room setting up our new Dropcam. We weren’t sure exactly what happened until we went back and watched the clip, and being able to save a clip of the episode and show the vet helped her diagnose the seizure.

But man, it was scary. We were futzing with the Dropcam when Gordo came running into the living room with a piece of paper in his mouth (he’s obsessed with crinkly paper), and Stella came in after him. He turned and swatted at her like he always does, and she reached up and popped him on the top of the head (she flails her paws when she thinks the cats want to play, though she usually doesn’t make contact). He hissed and walked away from her, and then circled around to the side of the coffee table to hop up on it. But his hind legs wouldn’t let him jump. He walked in a little circle near the couch and then fell down, his hind legs twitching but unable to support him.

We heard him meow and that’s when I noticed he was laying down on the ground, drooling, dazed and unable to move. My first thought was that Stella had done something to him (not on purpose, but she is larger than him) so I hollered for Ian to get her out of the room. I touched his back toes, and when he made no reaction I got really scared. He absolutely hates his feet being touched, so this was a bad sign. I petted his head for a while, sure that this was the end.

He stared straight ahead for what seemed like 10 minutes but was probably only 45 seconds, and then all of a sudden he snapped out of it. He looked up at me, confused but alert, and then slowly stood up. He limped around for a few seconds, and I decided to see if he would eat some treats (my idea of how sick my cats are always hinges on whether they will eat or drink readily). He did—in fact, he ate them like he hadn’t eaten in weeks. Then he limped around a bit more, but after about an hour he was back to normal. He jumped up on the table and then to the couch and laid on my lap, purring and content once again.

At the vet’s office the following Tuesday, she reviewed the clip I’d brought and determined that the way his body acted physically, combined with him seeming dazed and then snapping out of it, plus being ravenous after the whole ordeal, indicated that he’d had a seizure. But since it was only a one-time thing, she didn’t want to treat him with anti-seizure medication. She drew blood to do a full thyroid panel, which then came back negative again, and she noted we might not ever know what caused the seizure.

I asked her if the dog popping him on the head could have caused it, but she and her staff doubted it. For one, Stella would have had to hit him really hard to cause any kind of event, and she just tapped him. Our vet said if we wanted to really try to attribute it to the dog, maybe his adrenaline was going because she was near him and he doesn’t like her, and then when he had trouble jumping that increased his adrenaline again and he just got kind of overloaded. So I’m thankful that she doesn’t think Stella was the cause, at least not directly.

Ugh, and my heart broke watching the clip from the Dropcam. As soon as Gordo fell down, Stella knew something was wrong. The other cats ran away, but not Stella. Before he even started crying out, Stella ran to him and sniffed his back legs, and when he meowed she immediately looked up to Ian, who was standing near them but not aware of the situation unfolding yet. And then our first instinct was to move her away from him, even though she was the first responder, so to speak. That cat punches Stella in the face every chance he gets, and she still loves him.

Anyway, there isn’t really anything we can do for Gordo. He’s taking a glucosamine supplement because he’s old and has been acting a bit stiff lately anyway, and I’m feeding him wet food once or twice a day to help keep his weight up (which BK is loving since she gets in on this as well). We woke up New Year’s Day and found he had vomit on his ear, which could indicate he’d had another seizure overnight, but who knows. I stopped by the vet’s office and she said she wants proof of another seizure before treating him, and I completely agree.

People have been telling me for a while to start preparing myself emotionally for his death, and I don’t think I was ready to do that until he had the seizure. But now I’m ready. I’m done poking and prodding him—my goal now is to make sure he is happy and comfortable. So he’s going to get all the wet food he can eat, plus some sips of beer (his old favorite) and bites of pizza crusts (his new favorite).

I’ve known this cat for 15 years and can read him better than I can most people. He doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to do, and when he’s ready to die he’ll die. My hope is that I won’t have to help him. For now, though, he’s still got some spark left. He’s still running around after balls of paper, having Wrestlemania with King Boo, and he’s still snuggling under my chin every night when I go to sleep.

Cats are funny in that they can be so attached to people yet still so independent and in tune with nature and their instincts. It’s like they straddle this line of a certain existence, as though they live in a sort of purgatory—caught between their true nature and the nature of humans. In the end, though, nature claims all of us, regardless of who or what we are. And we can’t fight that, no matter how hard we try.

2014 in review: What a great year

This was a year of big changes, but they were positive and exciting ones. We had a big 2013, too, with moving to Chattanooga and learning our way around a new city in the latter half of the year, and for the most part 2014 still felt very exploratory and adventurous.

But it also felt like we’re getting settled here. We’re making friends and getting invited to parties, we’ve got our favorite bars and restaurants pretty much hammered out, and we have a home that we hope to stay in for many years to come. We’ve gotten most of our things unpacked and we’re finally getting around to hanging things on the wall. I drive to Nashville every month for work, but my heart doesn’t feel weird when I drive through Murfreesboro anymore. 2014 was a year of starting to really feel at home in this city.


Blue House snow

We started the year out by closing on and moving into our cute little house in January, and then we got snowed in—twice (though the big one was in February). It was a pain to move twice in one year, but we love our house and where we’re located and don’t plan on having to move for a very, very long time. I write love letters to this house in my head all the time, which I think comes from years of waffling on whether to buy a house in Nashville and really learning what we wanted and didn’t want. So, hooray for being patient and getting it right.


Not too shabby for a first-timer, if I do say so myself.

March marks the first time I ever shot a gun. My in-laws took me to a gun range and taught me how to hold one, how to stand, and how to shoot. For most people this sounds simple and silly, but I grew up in a place where only bad people (and cops) had guns and have always had kind of a phobia of them. I decided that 2014 would be the year I got over that, and had a great first experience shooting in a totally empty range where I didn’t have to worry about noise around me or what a n00b I looked like.


It's been a fun morning. Bringing this girl back from Atlanta now.

April brought what was arguably a bigger change than buying a house—we adopted Stella! At six months old she was still very much a puppy, and the cats had no idea what to do about her. And, quite honestly, neither did we. She wore us out every day and we quickly realized we had to get her into obedience classes since we’d never trained a dog before.

But man, what a welcome addition she’s been to our family. She is the friendliest, funniest dog I’ve ever met. And she’s so good with the cats. Sure, she gets amped up sometimes and will try to chase or play with them, but King Boo keeps her in check and for the most part she’s very respectful of them. Gordo will seek her out just to punch her in the face and she just walks away like nothing happened.

We’ve been taking her to day camp once a week, and she’s become the star camper due to her sparkling personality and the way she can get even the shyest of wallflowers to come out of their shells and play. She runs all the dogs ragged, comes home covered in spit and dirt and collapses on the couch, happy as a clam. It’s the best $20 I spend every week.

I do still look forward to the days when she’s a bit calmer and I can sit in front of the TV for more than 15 minutes without having to get up to let her outside or back inside (or back outside again), but I’m trying to enjoy her puppy energy as much as I can. She certainly made me more active this year; she will never say no to a walk or a hike, no matter the weather outside.


Today was gorgeous

In May my mom and I visited Ireland, a trip we’d talked about taking for years. I kept meaning to blog about it after I got back, but I never could put into words how special it was for me. Not just getting to spend time with my mom, who I don’t get to see often enough, but being in a country our ancestors came from and seeing so much beautiful history preserved. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I definitely need to get back there to explore other parts of the country we didn’t make it to.


Look whose backpack came in the mail today

In June I finally bought a new camera—a Canon 70d—although I’m still working out how to use it and I’m not sure I’m actually happy with it. I probably should have kept saving for a few years and just made the jump into full-frame photography, so we’ll see if I keep this sucker around for as long as I did the last one.

We also bought Stella a backback in June and started taking her on hikes just about every weekend in the summer and fall. She gets so excited when she sees that thing, though at this point she’s gained some more weight and we’re going to need to buy her a new pack pretty soon.

June also marked the time when King Boo stopped kicking Stella’s ass every day and started laying next to her on the floor. It was the beginning of their friendship—which is ever-evolving and at times still volatile, but is a constant source of amusement around the house.


#100happydays Más béisbol

July was filled with fireworks (and learning Stella isn’t afraid of them but isn’t exactly a fan, either) and baseball—a very American month, I suppose. We had tickets to seven Lookouts baseball games last season and packed them all in during July and August.


5th Ave Apple Store. So cool. #100happydays

In August I visited New York City for the first time ever—alone. I was going for work but went up a few days early to explore the city. I lucked out and got perfect weather, so I traipsed all over the city looking for food and landmarks and I was not disappointed.


Twenty one pilots from afar #musicmidtown

In September Ian and I cheered on two of our friends who ran the Iron Man, and really enjoyed spectating a ridiculously difficult sporting/fitness event while drinking beer on the street outside.

The month also held our third visit to Music Midtown. Unfortunately they changed the lineup this year so that it featured newer, poppier acts instead of the 90s/rock vibe the festival has had in the past, and I think it will have been our last time at this festival—at least for a while.


La Perla

October was a great month. We celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary with a trip to Puerto Rico, and I swear I find myself at least once a week wishing we were back there. After my friend and her husband helped me figure out how to get Internet on my phone (thanks for nothing, Verizon!), the trip was so relaxing. Ian and I travel so well together, and we don’t ever really need a schedule or plan to have a good time. We stumbled into so many great restaurants and bars there, and had a great time just chilling on the beach with some beers (even though the sea stole my sunglasses, that sonofabitch). Ian and I are coming up on 11 years together (holy crap), and I know I am lucky that I get to spend most of my time with someone so perfectly suited for me and my weirdness. He’s really my favorite person in the world.


Getting ready to hit the trail

November was kind of scary because Gordo got sick, and at the vet we realized he’d lost quite a bit of weight. Although he’s been losing it steadily over the past few years, it seems to be a more rapid loss lately and we’re really having to keep an eye on him.

But November was also a lot of fun—Ian and I continued to explore Chattanooga’s hiking trails and bars, and we hung out with new friends and old. My sister Emily came to visit, too, and we took advantage of the sunny (but cold) weather and did a photoshoot down by the river and took Stella for a hike.


These cookies look much better with striped kisses.

And here we are in December. We started out the month at a cabin in Gatlinburg, and though it rained it was a much-needed getaway. I baked a lot of Christmas cookies, and we were back in Murfreesboro and Mt. Juliet to celebrate Christmas with family.

Looking back on the year, it was a really, really good one. I traveled a lot, but we also had lots of friends and family come and stay with us for several weekends. It was a good mix of being at home with the family and getting out and exploring our city—and the world. Even though I know we worked hard for what we have, I feel really lucky to have had the opportunities that I did, the job that I do, and to be surrounded by the people that are in my life.

2015, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

How is it almost Christmas?

Somehow fall morphed into winter and now it’s mid-December and I’m scrambling to finish my Christmas shopping. Ian and I spent the past weekend in Gatlinburg at a cabin we’d also stayed in a couple years ago. I won a free weekend there because the owner liked the review I left so much, but we’d been waiting to cash in the trip. Even though it rained all day Saturday, the trip came at the perfect time. I’ve been feeling a bit stressed out and the weeks approaching the holidays always get me a little down, so it was a relief to just chill out—sans dog—in the woods for a couple days.

(I know those of you with kids are laughing at me right now.)

Gatlinburg was all gussied up for Christmas, and I guess that inspired me a bit because Monday night Ian and I went to Big Lots and bought an assload of lights to decorate the outside of our house with. Of course, the excitement was fleeting and overruled by laziness, and we still haven’t put them up. Mainly because it’s dark after work and we don’t feel like futzing around in the front yard in the dark and cold after working all day. As much as I keep telling myself I’ll work on putting them up at lunch the next day, I have a feeling they’ll end up going into the attic until next year when I don’t wait until right before Christmas to decide to decorate.

But I did decorate the inside of the house some. Our cats are psychos so we can’t have a tree, but each year I decorate our biggest bookshelf with those big colorful lights and a window in our living room with a strand of the small white ones. I also threw a strand of white lights under the TV this year and hung my little star lights under the kitchen cabinets.

I don’t really know how to describe the feeling I always get around Christmas—it’s kind of like feeling bummed out, but with nostalgia and gratitude mixed in. Having strands of lights and a candle that smells like a pine tree always helps, though. And this is our first Christmas in our new house, which is exciting and seems to be cutting down on some of my usual holiday blues. We’ll have lived here a year at the end of January, and I still sometimes get goosebumps when I pull in the driveway after being gone. I know it’s not great to be so attached to a material possession, but this is our house, where we’re continuing to build our little family and make memories, and I really love it.

Welcome to America

It seems as though, in this country, if you are black and fight with a cop, sell black-market cigarettes or brandish a toy gun, you are killed. You don’t get a trial, your motives aren’t investigated. The death penalty is doled out on the scene. You don’t even have to be an adult to merit this punishment.

But if you’re a white cop, you can shoot a man numerous times instead of calling for backup or using your ASP or pepper spray, use an illegal method of subduing and commit what the coroner calls a homicide, or jump out of your vehicle and immediately gun down a 12-year-old, and you’re off the hook. You don’t get a trial, your motives aren’t investigated. You’re let off scot-free. You don’t even have to be fit for duty.

What a country.

Dogs are pretty cool

I had this whole blog post written up comparing the way I relate to my cats vs. Stella, but I just re-read it and I sound like I’ve really gone off the deep end. Maybe I have. Maybe I was never sane to begin with. That’s probably more like it.

Anyway, things are good. The house is starting to feel more harmonious; BK has been spending time out of her cat tree, down on the couch with us and sleeping in the bed every night. She ignores Stella for the most part, and will hiss and smack her if she gets too rowdy when she’s nearby, but I’ve seen them sleeping on the couch next to each other a few times so I know she’s not scared or too irritated by her.

We’ve enrolled Stella in a dog day camp once a week to help her expend all of that puppy energy, and let me tell you: It’s not cheap but it’s worth every penny. She comes home completely exhausted and is calm for at least the next day, sometimes two days. She also comes home completely covered in dog spit and dirt, so we’ve had to start bathing her after each visit. She’s pretty good in the tub, but I need to get one of those hand-held sprayers or shower heads that hooks onto a tub faucet. She’s got so much fur, especially now that she has her winter coat, that it takes forever to rinse the shampoo out of her.

I’ve also hired a trainer to come to the house and help me train her with leash walking. We met Julie at Play Dog Excellent when she was the teacher for Stella’s most recent obedience class, Manners Matter. She came out to the house on Tuesday and showed me some exercises I can do outside to help Stella learn where she should walk in relation to me on our walk, and then more importantly, what I can do to teach her not to pull. She’s preparing a full assessment on Stella (which I can’t wait to read), but the main thing is that while Stella wants to please, she also gets ridiculously excited when she goes outside. I need to learn to break through that excitement and get her to focus on me. Hoo boy.

One of the things we learned in that Manners Matter class is that with a “toddler-aged” dog (10 months to two years), you’re going to have a lot of good and a lot of bad days. This is one of the truest things I think I’ve ever heard. We’ll have days where I think Stella is growing up, where she seems like the smartest and best-behaved dog. And then we’ll have days where she scratches to go outside and wants back in 20 times in an hour. Where she won’t stop pacing when I’m trying to work. Where I’ll try to walk her and she’ll go in all different directions and bark at anything that moves.

But man, the good days are so good. She’s getting more affectionate, and sometimes Ian will put her up in the bed with me in the morning and she’ll lay against me and go back to sleep. When we’re driving somewhere she’ll get up on the center console for a bit so she can see out the front window, and she’s started doing this thing where she will lean against me. At first I thought it was for balance, but I’ve noticed her doing it when we’re driving straight ahead. And more and more often I catch her leaning up against Ian as she sleeps on the couch.

Our bed is too high for her to get up and down safely on her own, so we’re looking for some dog stairs that are tall and deep enough to use. She’s a bit nervous around stairs in general, so it might take some practice, but hopefully she’ll get used to them and in the mornings she can join the animal pile that our bed becomes.

As long as BK doesn’t mind, that is. That cat rules the bed and even we have to move to accommodate her.

That’s the last time I let Stella pick the trail

She started down the path with such authority that I figured she knew where she was going. Never mind that she was a newly turned one-year-old puppy who’d never been on the trail before. She was so insistent that I, attached at the back of her leash, followed her blindly.

We’d hiked two other trails at the north end of Stringer’s Ridge before, but never the Hill City trail. I didn’t know where it would lead us, but we had water and were fed and ready for a workout. We should’ve taken the trail’s name as a warning, but dogs can’t read and I was foolishly optimistic. As we ascended the mountain ahead of us, my legs started to burn and there were a couple hills that required Stella to get a running start. I used her momentum to propel myself up those hills, too. She pulled me along more often than not, and for once I was appreciative of her energy and tendency to pull on her leash. Going downhill was another story, but her excitement kept me going as my Fitbit ticked off flights of stairs climbed.

A mile and a half in, I started to get nervous. We were both getting worn out from the extreme hills and valleys we’d climbed up and over, and there was no connection point in sight. I wasn’t necessarily worried for myself, but I know Stella and I know she’s not an endurance dog. She’s a sprinter, and she’d blown through all of her puppy energy. I couldn’t pull up a map of the trail system on my phone, so I texted Ian and asked him how long the Hill City trail was.

10 miles total, he texted back. See you in six hours.

I wasn’t concerned about getting myself to the next connection point, even if it was 10 miles away, but the thought of having to carry a 32-lb dog out of the woods made that back part of my mind start to panic a bit.

This beast led me down the most difficult trail at Stringer's Ridge today, where we climbed the equivalent of 38 flights of stairs over 3.25 miles. That's the last time I let her pick the trail.

We moved off to the side of the trail so we wouldn’t meet the business end of any cyclists flying by and had some water. I gave her some of the treats I’d packed and we listened to the wind slowly lilting through the leaves that were falling around us.

We were on a directional trail, so we couldn’t turn around and go back the way we came. I knew that the trail connected with three other trails at some point, but there was no map nearby and the one that Ian consulted didn’t include mileage. We trucked on, and I was glad I packed a liter of water. We passed a blaze and I figured a connection would appear soon.

After walking a while longer, a slow-moving cyclist approached us and I asked him how far to the next trail connection point. My relief was audible as he said “Just up the hill a ways, you’ll see the big parking lot.” We walked another half mile or so and came upon a connection point and a map, where I dejectedly realized the parking lot he was talking about wasn’t the trailhead we’d parked at but some other lot that wasn’t officially part of the park.

We’d started up at the very north end of the park and now were at the very south end. We’d only gone a little more than two miles, but it was the most strenuous two miles in the trail system. A man and three old women, along with their dogs, came out of a clearing and I swallowed my pride and asked them if they knew the fastest and easiest way to get back to the Spears Ave trailhead. They were nice and pointed out a good route on the map, one that had a gradual elevation change and not the thigh-burning ridiculousness we’d just encountered.

What a gorgeous city I live in.

I gave Stella some more water and we headed out, up the Cherokee trail, and then cut over to the Strut, a trail I’ve hiked many times. She perked up when we hit the final passage of the trail, and pulled me down the hill and back to the car. I texted Ian that we made it out, turned the air conditioning on full-blast, and hauled our happy asses back to the house.

In total, we’d climbed the equivalent of 38 flights of stairs over 3.25 miles. That’s really not anything crazy, but I’d prepared to only go about a mile and a half. Luckily I always over-prepare with water, and luckily Stella is always game for a walk. She never once tried to quit. When I’d slow down she’d look behind me and smile, tongue hanging out, urging me on. She pulled me up countless hills. When she’d slow down I’d let her rest, but then encourage her to keep going. We were in sync, marveling at nature, getting our second and third winds at the same time.

And when we got home, we both resolved to do nothing else physical for the rest of the day.