It is Spring, very almost.
My baby puppy Neitzsche is still alive, after the vet told me last year that he wouldn’t make it through another winter.
And this winter was the winter-ey-est.
So as I move from the treadmill back outdoors to the park, I have a new decision to face: Neitzsche can’t run with me anymore.
For years and years he has been my baby puppy, and for years we walked the river together. He is trained as a Deaf dog, and knows how to stay on the right as cyclists whish past us and how to pull me over when I don’t hear their warning bells or shouts of “on the left!”
I love him, this baby puppy, and he has been my friend through the very hardest years of my life.
He is old, now, and sore, and can’t go on long walks with me. Sometimes I am ridiculous and spoil him with a ride in the stroller, but when I am baby free and just want to run, he can’t keep up.
There is grief there, for both of us.
The summer mom moved into my house, two summers before she was killed, mom got me a new puppy. A crazy one. A hyper insane little boy baby puppy. Her vet told her that if Neitzsche was so well trained, then I had to get a new puppy before Neitzsche died so that it would be easier to train the new puppy.
The new puppy made me crazy.
But the vet was right, and he was easier to train.
In fact, the new puppy is super smart and amazing, learning all Neitzsche knew and then some. He is leash broken, but doesn’t require a leash. When I run, he stays right by me. When I walk and say “go play,” then he runs off to play and scamper and chase ducks and birds and runs back to me. Anytime he is off playing, I only have to clap once or say his name, and he comes right back to me.
He is really good.
And his name is Rilke, this new puppy.
And today I finally had to kiss Neitzsche goodbye, give him a special treat, and take the new puppy for a run without Neitzsche. Last summer I took them both, but mostly had to carry Neitzsche. I can still do that sometimes, but I also need to run. And I like it better when I have a dog to run with, mostly because when I learned to run, I learned with a dog (sweet Molly, that I miss often).
Today was my day to start taking Rilke, even when Neitzshe can’t go.
There is grief there, but also a smile, this gift from my mother.
And a smile from my mother almost feels like a hug.