Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Saving Annie

This is a story that has nothing to do with running or everything to do with running. You can decide.

Last night Jennifer let our beautiful 14 year old dog Annie outside before going to bed.  I had taken some cold medication earlier in the evening and between the meds and my massive head cold, I was drowsy and drifting in and out of consciousness.  I don't recall Jennifer asking if I had let Annie back in, but apparently she did and apparently I replied that I had indeed let Annie back into the house. Jennifer returned to her book while I zonked out beside her.

Annie sleeps next to our bed on her own little doggy-mattress on the floor.  Before retiring an hour later Jennifer noticed that Annie was not on her dog-bed and a quick search revealed that she was nowhere in the house.  She realized that her drug-altered husband was confused and in fact did not let Annie in the house.

Jennifer called from the door but Annie was nowhere to be seen.  Thinking that Annie was on the deck of our gazebo overlooking the river (her favourite spot in the world) she grabbed a flashlight and went searching.  While standing on the deck she heard a whimpering coming from the river way below.  She navigated the treacherously steep bank in pyjamas and a light jacket with flashlight in hand. She scanned the river and saw a shape sticking out of a hole in the ice. It was Annie.  She had found a break in our fence and wandered off onto the river and broken through the ice.

Jennifer quickly returned to the house and woke me from my Benylin induced slumber.  I quickly donned a pair of boots and rushed to the river to size up the situation.  There we were, separated by 30 paces of crap-ice under a dead-cold moonless sky.  Her head poking out from the ice, her front paws clinging to the edge, the ice breaking beneath her paws. Her entire body was submerged in the ice-cold water.  Me standing in pyjamas calculating my next move. What's a guy to do?

My mind works rapid-fire... I know the river well... I estimate she's in about 3 feet... the current is very strong... frigid water.... old deaf dog...terrified...confused...exhausted...don't know how long she's been under... she's about to let go...she will be swept under the ice.  Forever gone.

There is no time for ropes or ladders. This is a code-red, critical situation.

I approach her cautiously.  There's no point talking to her, she's deaf. I remember the terror in her eyes and her look of utter helplessness. The crap-ice crunching underfoot with each step.  Black water pooling in my footsteps. My feet sinking 6 inches with each step. The ice around the edge is the worst I recall from an ancient lifesaving lecture.  I am within reaching distance. I bend slowly, carefully, and grab her collar and haul, and haul, and haul.

I am not a big man. I am not a strong man.  Some might say I am not a smart man. But I called upon my inner-superhero strength and hauled with all my might. I slowly drag this 75 pound dead weight out of the hole and across the ice to the safety of the bank. Both of us lay panting, exhausted under the stone-cold moonless sky.  

Saving Annie from the hole.  You can see the pointy part where she clung for life.
The whole enlarged over the night.
Here's the part where you can decide if this story anything to do with running.  
It's a stretch; I know.
Work with me here.

Annie lay on the bank completely spent. Her drenched fur added another 20-25 pounds bringing her total weight to about 100 pounds.  Her hips at the best of times are stiff and squeaky. She can't stand let alone walk. She's hypothermic and needs warmth immediately. She was out of the frying pan and into the flames as the saying goes.

So what''s a guy to do with his 14 year-old, 100 pound, deaf, hypothermic, confused, near-death, immobile, dog on the river bank about 150 feet from warmth?

Carry her.

The bank is very steep and very long. It wasn't pretty but I managed to carry her more barrel style than fireman style up two sections of the steep bank.  From there we rolled onto the gazebo deck (I told you it wasn't pretty), across the yard, and into the house where Jennifer coaxed the life force back into her creaky old frigid bones.  Carrying her had taken every ounce of energy I could muster. I had nothing left. I left it all on the bank.  I was spent, exhausted, and lay panting on the floor watching Jennifer warm Annie's body with love and care.

The three of us wrapped in a blanket of love and care.

I carried her barrel-style up the bank, onto the gazebo deck, across the yard, and into the house. 
Annie's fine now. She needs a bath. She stinks of river gumbo. I question if she even has a memory of the event.  She sleeps by my feet as I tweet these words.

So what's the running connection?  

It took tremendous strength, super hero strength in fact, to carry this old beast to safety.  Had I not been a runner, had I not been in good physical strength, had my lungs not been full, had my heart not had the capacity, had my legs not have the power, had my arms not have the strength, had my determination failed, dear old, sweet old Annie would not have survived.

I thank my running body for the strength it has bestowed upon me.  I am in awe of my strength. I marvel at my health. I am humble and I am grateful for the life force that surges through this old body.

It's a good day to be alive.