This is a love story. Vulnerability. Blech.
This does not happen often, but this dog is really special to me. So, here goes: I ran/raced triathlon competitively throughout most of my teen and adult life until a chronic injury got real, like really real. Enter a decade of doc appointment, tests, rest, diagnoses, frustration, surgeries, depression, climbing out of depression, training, only to start over again. To add to the problem, my profession is fitness. I’m as gritty as they come, but with the inability to train, compete and teach fitness, I lost a big part of myself. Chronic pain is a chronic bitch and by 2015, I thought I had officially broken up with running.
“You F#$&er.” My left hand investigated my torn jeans, bleeding face and dinged up Doc Martins, while my right hand held his collar. We sat side by side, deep in the woods, me on a log, Ojai in leaves. He sat with an open-mouth pant. His eyes sparkled, even in the dark woods. I dropped my head, tasting harsh metallic in the back of my throat. My calves throbbing in pain. A split second error, a mis-clip of his leash. As opportunistic as they come, he took the opening and set off into the icy forest behind our house.
20 Minutes Earlier
I got the other dog to safety and pursued the shadowy figure bounding up the valley. Sprinting uphill, over trees, under trees, I slid, I clawed and crawled through bramble. He stayed close enough to keep an eye on me, far enough away to make my quads burn and my booted feet feel like they weighed a million pounds. I knew we’d break through the forest and hit the cul-du-sac soon. I prayed no dogs were out, knowing he would bolt hard or fight hard. When we hit civilization, Ojai paused, scanning for his next move. With a soon-to-be lost dog on the line, I needed a better strategy. I whooped it up with a joyful noise used for recall, caught his attention, turned my back to him and ran into the woods. He chased me, caught up and settled in at my side.
I remember Ojai’s foster mom asking me why I wanted a 3-legged dog. “I don’t,” I said with a laugh. “I just want a great match. I guess it doesn’t matter how many legs he has.” Jesse and I both fell in love with the sleek, handsome black dog. To top it off, Ojai was incredibly tolerant of our pint-sized Havanese and Hilo was enamored by his new 3 legged pal. On the day we brought Ojai home, his foster mom told me that he was going to fall in love with me. I remember thinking how lucky that this enchanting dog was going to love me.
Ojai had never known a human bed. The first night with us, he took up a small spot at the foot of the bed, cautiously curling into a tight ball. Night 2, he claimed his forever place - his head on my pillow. Ojai was about 3 weeks post amputation when we brought him home. His barking, lunging, and maniac chasing increased exponentially over the next few weeks. He hated bikes, the mailman, pedestrians, fast movement, slow movement, no movement, things too close, things too far away. I got yelled at because he’d flail at the end of his leash and scare the shit out of people. He was a wild banshee in public. But, when that wasn’t happening, he loved on us with the same intensity. Everything, the good and the bad, is extreme. Still, I saw pure magic in him. I was determined to make him better.
In the moment, I was offended when he bolted on me. Me? His best friend. His rescuer. His mom. After a few minutes of sitting on that log in the woods, it all became so freaking clear. His love of running reigned above it all. I used to know someone exactly like that.
Local Dog Adventure Blog
Join me and my 3-dog crew as we share our stories of training and adventure. Whether you're a newly leashed dog guardian, veteran handler, weekend warrior, cuddle on the couch sort, got yourself a fancy AF purebred or filthy, little mudblood, all are welcome in the Local Dog Tribe. If you want your pooch to think you're the coolest thing since sliced hot dogs, read on!