Zoe here, I’m on a break, so I’m going to let my human have my spot this month, but I WILL be BACK.
It seemed the end of an era. I knelt beside the still body that was lying on the sidewalk in front of my house. I touched the back of my hand to his familiar face; it was cool to the touch. Not that I needed to do that; the thin skin on his face was a shade of bluish gray that indicated only one thing. I called 911 and waited for the paramedics to arrive.
Leaning against the stone wall in front of our home, I continued to stare at the body. I knew him, but I didn’t know him. Who were you?
In death, he did not seem as old as he had appeared when he was jogging through our neighborhood, which he did every day for forty-some-odd years, regardless of season. More recently running slowly, awkwardly. I don’t know how many miles he jogged, but I do know his route took him many miles from our neighborhood, because I’d see him as I drove around town. He was always running. Occasionally I would catch a glimpse of his face . . . all angles and shadows, scrunched up, lips pursed, as if he’d just bitten into a lemon. I had always thought he looked to be in pain, but perhaps that was just his natural face.
I’d never had the opportunity to speak to him, but I could have acknowledged him with at least a wave or a passing nod. I’m not sure why I didn’t. Our German shepherd, Candi, acknowledged him.
She barked at this man every day for all seventeen years of her life, whether she was inside or outside at the time he came by. When she was outside, her barking was always accompanied by energetic leaps into the air, clearing the height of the fence, but always coming down on her side of it. I felt she was just happy to see him, because she could have cleared that fence and overtaken him easily if she had wanted to.
Initially, knowing that made me anxious, and I often wondered if the man had ever worried that Candi would land on his side of the fence. Apparently, he did not feel threatened by her, because he never altered his course. In fact, there were times when I’d happen to be looking out the window when he jogged by and I swore I saw him smile and wave to her. She knew it, too; at those times, her tail would have launched a rocket.
Just before her eighteenth birthday, Candi crossed the Rainbow Bridge. From that point on, every time we saw the man jogging by our home, or if we drove past him as he ran his route, my husband would bark. He said he was doing it in memory of Candi, as well as to uphold the tradition between our jogger and our dog.
My mind returned to the present. I noticed the man sported a zippered fabric belt around his waist. I knelt down, opened the belt, and found what I was looking for. I heard the sirens of the ambulance coming closer. I slipped his license back into the belt. “We’ll miss you, Geoffrey.”
I stood and gave Our Jogger a final, soft bark. I think he understood.
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