Our dog, Skylar, turned 11 years old on Monday. I’ve only been around for the past three of those years, but I can’t imagine what it would be like without her around. She brings a calm and uplifting spirit into my life every day. She’s my go-to gal on rest day exploratory recovery walks and she’s always within sight when I sit down to stretch after a long run. She’s been on many treks with me over the past few years, through the open fields of Saskatoon and down into the forested terrain leading to the South Saskatchewan — a place where she ran free since her youngest of years.
I’ve watched her bound through the high, stiff winter grass, seen her withstand wild prairie winds, watched her race down single track trails making a beeline for the cold river on a hot summer afternoon and I’ve seen her stare at me in concern on a tough day. I’ve often wondered what she was like as she grew from an unsure, curious puppy into the confident spirit that loves flying through the open fields, along sandy beaches, and up and down steep forested trails. I’ve asked my partner, Candace, who brought Skylar home at eight weeks old, countless questions about what she was like through her younger years.
I like to think I’ve created somewhat of an accurate picture of what life looked like for Candace and Skylar before I came along: seemingly endless weekend walks, crazy chase games played in the house, quiet moments of camaraderie, adventures had and road trips taken. Though I haven’t had as much time with Skylar, she’s a significant part of my life. There’s a connection between runner and dog that transcends that of simply the relationship between person and pet. Perhaps that’s born out of a mutual insistence to soar through the air, tackle difficult routes, and feel nature underfoot. Or maybe it’s in the laser-like focus on the task at hand and desire to be in the moment even though these moments fly by so quickly.
Running can be a fickle sport, filled with ups and downs. Yet, in our four-legged friends we find the comfort of consistency. A dog is a buddy who is always ready to usher us through to the day after a tough race, who looks at us with an unfiltered optimism and reminds us of the simple beauty of waking each morning, stepping out the door, and running.
Skylar has slowed down a bit in her later years. Still though, she has an unrelenting spark and ability to turn her jets on without a moment’s notice. To watch her take off into running flight will forever be one of my favourite sights this world can offer.
My hope for Skylar as she enters her eleventh year is that she continues to feel the freedom in running: the refreshing breeze, the spring in her step and the scents in the air. If her current state of being is any indication, my Canadian-born buddy has many years ahead of her to enjoy our new home in United States. I look forward to waking up early every morning as excited as she is to start the day.