I walked the other day in Runyon Canyon, a cleft in the Hollywood Hills with a steep short climb. It was good to get my blood flowing again. It was good to breathe hard, to feel the growing wet in the small of my back, and though people half my age ran up the slope I labored to walk, I felt fit.
Two years ago today I walked with him, guided his aching, wobbly bones down a frost-slicked slope to his little park, and the killdeer complained in flight. I was certain of looming desolation, terrified of it, and yet I was whole, somehow, in a way I have not felt since.
Runyon Canyon is full of dogs. They walk there off-leash, running far ahead of their owners, trailing far behind their owners. A rottweiler stod at the base of one steep slope, reluctant to climb, and she leaned against me to procrastinate as her man waited patiently. The hill above her rises a few hundred feet in a quarter mile, and I’d just watched a three-month-old puppy struggling to hoist itself up one railroad-tie step after another, mighty shoulders straining against the pull of an entire world. His woman laughed at him sweetly.
A part of me has been amputated these years.
We looked at puppies a few days ago, having found an adoption center along our route from one errand to the next. There was a little one there, a two-month-old rottweiler-shepherd mix boy, and I had to look away. He has followed me since. I am lucky to have a few sensible reasons not to adopt a dog, unemployment chief among them, because if I didn’t I’d have to face the real reason I walked away: it would still feel like betrayal.
Last night I dreamed of my other half, his legs grown strong again and his eyes new sharp, and he ran ahead of me frustratingly as I followed in the truck. No sideward glances toward me, nor hesitation in his step, his business was his own and I merely sought to intrude, to take him back to a home neither of us has anymore.
I carried him up that long hill two years ago, and it was an easier climb than the one I will make again today without him.