She sits alone waiting for the first rays of the morning sun to light her corner. Patiently she sits with her eyes gazed toward the road. Very little moves to interrupt her solitary stare. Then, at the edge of her vision she detects motion. She turns to fix her eyes upon that which has broken the stillness of the morning. Familiar with the neighbor’s daily walk, she chooses to respond as if it’s something new, something foreign, something that others must know. So, she barks. It’s a bark of notice, a bark of alarm.
The sound of her bark is loud, breaking the silence of the early morning. Often there is a cadence of two shorts and a long. She repeats these same sounds until the neighbor is well out of sight. To me, this bark sounds much different than when it is me she sees in the morning. When Regie catches sight of me hitting the road without her, there is an inflection of disappointment and betrayal in her bark. Instead of ending sharply, it trails off with a whining groan. In my mind, I hear Regie say, “I know it’s you. I want to be out there with you.” Or maybe even, “I can’t believe you’re out there without me. I thought we were friends.”
Our Lab mix is one of the reasons why it’s hard for me to fully enjoy running the mile and a half loop around our neighborhood. It’s a perfect place for an early morning run; smooth and flat with very little traffic. The distance is long enough to prevent monotony but short enough to add another lap without totally bonking halfway.
When the pandemic shut things down, I felt fortunate to have the neighborhood loop as an easy option for running, possibly even a little cycling. It didn’t take long for me to grow tired of the same loop we walk each evening with our dog. Plus, Regie quickly realized that I was out there without her. I did take her for a few early morning walks. As much as she liked those extra walks, they really didn’t scratch my cardio itch. I’m sure the neighbors didn’t appreciate the days when I ran without her, trying to ignore her persistent pleas to be included.
So, I have learned to feel a little more comfortable leaving the protected subdivision for the two-lane highway that connects us to the rest of the world. With businesses slowed and the school up the road closed, traffic is reduced. However, people still drive fast and the shoulder is inconsistent. By running a little more than a mile in either direction, I can access paved country roads with less traffic that are better suited for an ambling pedestrian.
I have ridden these roads on my bike in summers past. Exploring the area around our home has been enjoyable and worthwhile. Riding and running these local routes is much more comfortable to me now. As spring unfolded, I became more acquainted with the natural nuances of the area.
I have ventured away from our neighborhood to run other courses a few times during our time of being “safer at home”. These provided some welcomed variety. Plus, there is safety and comfort in running the lighted sidewalks of nearby towns. As we take another step towards opening up, I look forward to revisiting the routines I abruptly abandoned. I’ll move forward knowing that I have more local options available for those days when it’s best to say closer to home.