Yesterday we drove west to the Appalachian Trail to do a family hike. We did this same five-mileish hike last Memorial Day weekend and really enjoyed it, so I thought it would be fun to go back. Now, when I say family hike, I include our 13-year old whippet, Connor. He has always loved to hike with us and I can’t think of a time when I’ve left him behind.
Connor, as you might expect, has always been a beautiful runner. He used to be my running partner, too, until about six or seven years ago, when he made it clear he didn’t want to go along anymore. Walking and hiking, however, have continued to be a regular part of the routine. For some reason, the day before our hike this weekend, I questioned whether or not we should bring Connor. There hasn’t been any real incident that would make me feel this way, it’s just that he’s been slowing down of late.
My gut instinct was on. We didn’t get very far into the hike when Connor really started dragging. At the first rocky ascent we came to, he planted his feet and refused to go on. I started coaxing him and gently pulling on the leash, and then came a kick to the gut–his hips gave out. He just kind of fell down into a hopeless heap and started shaking–he was clearly as scared by this as we were. Mr. Zippy picked up Connor and carried him for a while and when we got to more level ground, set him down again. We led him to a nearby spring and tried to get him to drink (it was pretty hot on top of it all) and then decided that we’d better just head back down–we didn’t want to push him at all.
I can’t know for sure, but I suspect we’re entering new territory here with Connor, where likely he won’t be joining us for anything other than short walks. Thinking about this today, I applied it to humans and running and how eventually, whether we like it or not, our bodies will ultimately limit us. That will be a bitter pill to swallow, for sure. In spite of it, though, I still firmly believe that those of us who remain active and eat healthy diets will lead a much better quality of life than those that choose to live otherwise. You use or it you lose it–I buy in.
Until that day when my body says “not so fast,” or “time to walk instead of run,” I’m going to enjoy every step. How about you?