Slowing Down


By Ashley Dannelly
July/August 2012

She notices the squirrels before we reach the end of the driveway. Haddie, my Great Dane puppy, is obsessed with the creatures, and this puts a serious kink in my plans. I had her all ready to go for our long run this morning, but now it seems like she would much rather spend her day right here with the squirrels.

When we run together, Haddie has to wear a gentle lead—a small strap that rests across the top of her nose—so that she can’t pull me any way she’d like. This morning, she simply takes a seat on the hard-packed dirt and grass, staring out into the woods by our house and wishing she could chase the squirrels. In this position she looks almost like a child. I wonder what she must be thinking as I realize her imagination must be working non-stop when she looks out into the trees.

I stand with Haddie for a moment and watch the squirrels at work. They really are fascinating. They can leap and run so quickly that you have to train your eyes not to lose them. They seem to be working together on some sort of project, from high up in the top branches of a tree all the way down to the ground. Haddie is sitting still, leaning forward to get a better look, when I decide it’s time to go.

“Come on, Haddie!”

Immediately we’re off. I’m wearing some new running shoes, so I try hard to run with the best form possible. They’re lightweight and lack much of the cushion that my previous shoes have had; I’ll definitely have sore calves tomorrow.

I work through my stride and pay attention to my cadence, trying to think of songs that match the speed at which my feet should turn over, but so far I can’t bring any to mind. I know Haddie is thankful that I’m not talking or singing for once.

My run is feeling a bit labored when, all of a sudden, I look to my side and notice that Haddie is no longer there. She is jogging far behind me, her head cocked to the left, looking at what seems to be nothing at all.

“Haddie,” I say in a frustrated tone, “heel!”

She begins to run toward me, and for a moment she is at my side again. I turn my head forward and work to keep up with our pace.

We live on Lake Murray, a beautiful lake in the heart of Columbia, South Carolina. On morning runs, before the sun is in full view, I love to take Haddie and run along the causeway, where we always stop at the docks to catch a glimpse of the activity. People back their trailers into the water, getting ready for a day on the lake in their boats. Turtles jump off rocks into the water to escape the incoming commotion. Birds fly through the air searching for their next meal, and fish move quickly back and forth underneath the water’s surface. Sometimes the fish move so seamlessly that it looks like they’re playing an elaborate game with one another, though logic insists they’re just looking for food.

When Haddie and I run down the causeway this morning, it seems pretty quiet. There are no boats yet; everyone must have chosen to sleep in. Instead of stopping at our normal spot to take in the scene, I decide to keep running. We’ve only run a few miles and our pace isn’t all that fast, so I feel the need to run a bit harder and forego our standing tradition.

Almost immediately, when she realizes I don’t plan to stop, Haddie puts on the brakes. Her front paws become stationed sturdily ahead of her chest and her head is cocked so high it looks as if she is sniffing for some tantalizing treat from up above. Despite her gentle lead, she stops me in my tracks.

I turn back and begin to walk toward her. There is no point in trying to pull, she’s not going anywhere. When I make it to her side, I squat down and pet her back and then her tail, looping it up in a half circle at the end.

“What is it girl?”

All is silent.

I am almost ready to pick up her front paws and set them into motion myself when I hear a rustling in the leaves below.

Looking down, I spot a squirrel that has come right up to us. This seems odd to me, since normally I can’t even look at one without it scurrying away at top speed. I glance at Haddie to be sure she notices this, but she is looking off in the distance.

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About the Author

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  • Ashley_Dannelly's picture

    Ashley lives with her husband, Joe, in Lexington, South Carolina. She received her master’s degree in English from Clemson University and currently works at Columbia International University where Joe attends seminary. In her free time, Ashley enjoys reading, riding her bike, running, swimming, rock climbing, wind surfing, and eating all the tasty treats Joe makes at home!  Ashley is an Editor-at-Large for Shout! Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine, you can contact her at [email protected].

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