Well, my life completely derailed yet again, but I’m back on it.
Our legal, financial, and family issues came to a head – let’s just say we no longer own any property. I can live with that. For a while though, I wasn’t taking care of myself, meals were down to what we could afford – not the healthiest – and despite needing it and knowing I would feel better, I stopped running after my 10k zoo run in the fall – I just couldn’t find the motivation.
We went away at the end of October for my partner’s birthday, and left our beautiful Miley at a kennel we had used many times and trusted thoroughly. Our trip started out wonderful, but on our second night there, the phone rang after we had gone to bed. I saw the number – the same town our kennel was in, and I just knew. I answered, my stomach churning. I heard her words just as I expected. “Steph, it’s ______. Something terrible has happened.” She had been walking Miley and another dog, and for some reason they got spooked or saw something – to be honest, I still don’t understand – and pulled their leashes out of her hand. I think the other dog came back, but Miley ran straight up the laneway onto the highway, and was hit and killed instantly by a car. The driver didn’t stop, and just like that, Miley was gone. My sweet dog – my running buddy, my best friend, my secret-keeper, my baby girl – gone. The owner of the kennel did everything she could for us to make it easier, but there was nothing she could really do. Our world stopped. We drove home two days later – I couldn’t drive the next day – and ten minutes from town, I panicked. I told my partner we had to stop and buy new bedding. I couldn’t go in the house and face sleeping on the bed my baby had slept on with us every night since she was a year old. We stopped, went home, stripped the bed, and bagged all of her toys and blankets. We tried to go back to normal, but couldn’t. I couldn’t go for a run without my buddy. I didn’t even want to go for a walk. We stopped caring about what we ate – it just had to be easy. My partner didn’t eat at all for days, and I couldn’t stop eating – and not good stuff. We had her cremated, and her ashes sit on a shelf in our living room with her picture and her pawprint.
It’s taken a while, but I finally feel like I can breathe again. I will never stop missing her, just as I have never stopped missing my first heart dog, McDuff. Miley’s loss hit hard for so many reasons – the suddenness, and the sheer helplessness factor were terrible. We always knew bad things could happen – that she could run away, and we thought we were prepared. We had pet insurance – if she’d made it to a vet, we could have paid for any treatment she needed, but she didn’t, so it was useless. She was microchipped, and wore tags – my partner and I both belonged to all of the local lost dog networks – but she never even had a chance to get lost, she was gone so fast.
After weeks of not doing much of anything, and with a very expensive, already paid for, 10k race coming up, I had a decision to make. The race was on a Sunday, and up until Saturday morning, I figured I wasn’t running. It was to be by myself, and I hadn’t run since my last 10k – in September. In addition, I had run this trail race in 2011, and it kicked my ass then. On Saturday, I decided I would try to run, and maybe drop down to the 4k distance if I needed to. Sunday morning, I drove out to the ski resort where the race was scheduled, and I sat in my car. What was I thinking? I couldn’t do this. It wasn’t possible. Then I thought about driving home and telling my partner I hadn’t done it. I thought about logging onto Facebook and telling my human running buddy through IR4 that I hadn’t done it. Yeah, not happening. I posted on my Facebook that I was about to do the race but was devastated to be doing it without my Miley. The responses started coming in, people telling me I could do it, and that Miley would be beside me the whole way. I got out of the car, got my race kit, and got warmed up. When they called for people to gather at the starting lines for their distances, I headed for the 10k start line. Part of my brain was still screaming at me to be reasonable, but I didn’t listen to it. I took off at the sound of the gun, and ran the first portion of the run straight – probably the longest, fastest no-walking start to a race I’ve done yet. The funny part was that I was able to picture Miley running beside me the whole way – which she wouldn’t have been allowed to do if she’d still been alive. I wish I could say I ran the whole 10k – but that would have been more of a miracle than I could have – but I did finish it. There were 25k-ers finishing at the same time as me – but it didn’t matter. I crossed the finish line and went in to grab my free chili and hot chocolate. I sat down, feeling sore, and noticed a pain in my chest that had started at about the halfway point, but that I had been ignoring. I was confused. I had thought it might be emotion causing the pain, but somehow that didn’t make sense. Then I heard the whistling. Rhythmic squeaking that seemed to coincide with my own breathing. Oh. Uh oh. I have had asthma since elementary school, but it usually results in rapid breathing and trouble catching my breath – in this case, it was a full-blown, breathing-through-a-drinking-straw, attack. Thankfully, I had my inhaler with me – a miracle in itself, because I never need it, so I never have it with me. I took it, and the asthma eased up. After my race, I again lapsed into a habit of not running.
Almost a month after my race, my partner and I went to look at a puppy at a humane society in the next city over. She had some behavioural issues, and was considered a special case requiring placement with experienced dog owners. We decided to give her a chance. We named our new 8-month-old border collie mix Bellatrix – Bella, for short. Bella isn’t quite ready to be my running buddy yet, she’s still tough to control on a walk, let alone a run, but she is going to be amazing with a little training.
Over the last few months, my health began to spiral out of control. My weight going up, my blood sugar going up, chest pains, etc. Then we had a family scare – my father, who had a heart attack in May, may have Parkinson’s Disease – like his mother and brother before him. I seem to get everything that runs on that side of the family, and I’m terrified for my dad and for me. I watched Parkinson’s take my grandmother’s body first, then her mind. My uncle is doing alright, but his movements are stiff, slow, and shaky. I needed to get serious about my own life if I wanted to be around for my own family. I decided to follow the Nerd Fitness tradition, and respawn. At the same time, Nerd Fitness made an announcement that they were starting a new program, and my partner and I made the decision to follow it. We’ve already found a wonderful support group in the new program, and it’s given us hope for our lives in more aspects than just health and fitness.
Some of the goals that I’ve set for myself are to write daily – 800 words a day between my two blogs and my novel, which I started during National Novel Writing Month in 2015 and abandoned; to learn the guitar, which I’ve owned since I was in high school but never learned to play; and to get my home in order. My partner is also writing, and learning to play the keyboard. We’re going to try to improve every aspect of our lives, and we’re going to do it together.
We have these friends who have also gone through hell lately, and when we talk to them, they echo the same sentiment we feel – if we didn’t have each other, we would be sunk. I couldn’t do this without my partner, we’re a team in everything. When one of us falls, the other picks them up, and when one succeeds, we both do. Our relationship strengthens with every joy and challenge we face together, and we know now we can get through anything one way or another.
On to a better life – me, my partner, our fur-babies, and if need be, a cardboard box.