I’m running with a dog which isn’t mine, but somehow she seems connected.
She slows when I slow; she speeds up when I do; when I turn my face to get the measure of her, she shifts hers to match. Instantly.
Dogs scare me. Ever since a German Shepherd chased me with fierce blue eyes and snarling teeth that tore into my bum. That was two years ago. I’ve not been the same since.
Of course, today’s companion is a German Shepherd too, so now I’m freaking out. She’s emerged, unannounced, from the cool shadow of a doorway and has slipped seamlessly into my stride. My pounding heart is heavy in my ears, and my gasps for breath compete with her panting.
Stopping doesn’t work. She stops with me, waiting for my next move. So I start and stop, then start up again. She tracks my movements like a shadow.
I’m not sure of my route – it’s my first day here in this pretty Andalucian village – but even if I were, I know that I’d never dare to duck and dive in an attempt to lose this creature with a wonderful lightness of foot.
The dog is not after me, she’s with me. I feel protected – I think. I’m still afraid and I’m also in awe. But gradually, my breathing returns to normal, I start to relax and my pace becomes more rhythmic. The dog and I run as a unit; I like it.
Then as suddenly as she arrived, the dog is gone. Down a side street where I immediately lose sight of her.
Now I’m running solo. It’s quieter, easier, and not so exhilarating.
I see the dog around town many times after that, but I see no flicker of recognition on her face. Nor does she ever find me on another run, though I keep looking out for her.
There are no photos of my companion (I was too scared), but this is the village where we ran, and where my heart skipped a beat when a dog challenged my fear. I’ve not been the same since.
[NOTE TO MY KIDS: WE ARE STILL NOT GETTING A DOG]