At the peak of my ten-K days I had two jogging buddies who accompanied me on evening runs. In earlier days I ran alone at dawn, usually five to ten miles, depending on my schedule. I lightened the load when I acquired these small companions.
These pals of mine were Frank and Nako.
Frank, a black toy poodle who never had to worry about getting a sissy-cut, was named after St Francis of Assisi. He was stoically silent when I rescued him from the pound and completely unaware of my presence. This curly-headed little critter seemed to be much more interested in the huge, dark, big-dog stool near the back of his cell. It had apparently been contributed by a previous tenant. I was informed by the doggie warden that when this little guy was first discovered running the streets of Phoenix, he was wearing a mute collar. He was arrested and interred and sentenced to death in a gas chamber unless someone adopted him before his ninety day appointment with the county canine killer arrived.
“If you don’t mind” I implored, “would you bring him around and introduce us, please?”
Instant friends, I took Frank home to present as a birthday present to Terri. But Frank eventually became my jog dog as Terri’s enthusiasm for the evening ritual began to wane. I kept my pal on a leash at first, until he knew the way. As his behavior became more predictable I released the tether allowing him to run leashless, gradually increasing his free time.
One evening as Frank and Terri and I started across a busy intersection we heard a strange cat sound from about a hundred feet to our rear. Meow ow ow ow, Meow ow ow ow. It was Nako (Japanese for cat). Nako was Terri’s pet. Offensively independent, this strange animal and I were becoming very attached to each other. The three of us turned to investigate. Each long meow which sounded more like a howl was interrupted every time one of Nako’s paws hit the pavement. Meow ow ow ow.
She was apparently stating her refusal to be left behind and demanding to be part of the team. Very assertive, this kitty; she never experienced the tethered restraint but she would soon demonstrate that she knew exactly what to do. We waited for her to join us.
A year or so later we sold our Phoenix home and moved to Scottsdale. On our first evening in our new environment, Terri and I left Frank and Nako locked in the back yard after having jogged next to us daily for more than two years. This was our first evening in our new home and Terry had resumed our evening habit. Being in a strange neighborhood and respectful of the new pet control rules contained in the CC & R’s we decided to go it alone this first evening. Five minutes from home we heard this heart-rending doggie howl that just had to be Frank. We ran back home and opened the gate and in one and three-quarter seconds I had a wiggly armful of doggie as Frank leaped through the air like a refugee from an acrobatic dog act with a weekend Gypsy Circus. Nako greeted Terri by rubbing against her legs, purring like a buzz saw and we all enjoyed a brief reunion. Frank was no longer mute. His voiced approval and disapproval of every family event took some getting used to.
A year later Nako and Frank and I were jogging on the Scottsdale Country Club golf course, late at night; Terri who was no longer part of the team and homesick for a previous way of life had returned to familiar climes.
As we ran geysers suddenly erupted and Nako was blasted by the full force of a stream of water meant to arc over a twenty-foot span. Nako was only a foot from the sprinkler head when it struck and was knocked five feet through the air. She hit the ground running and disappeared, never to return. Or so I thought.
Some months later I was entertaining former team-member Terri, who was asking me about our Big City Kitty. As I was telling her the story we heard a familiar sound.
Meow ow ow ow, Meow ow ow ow.
I miss them. I really do. I jog on a treadmill. I live in a condo. Maybe an iguana.