Blazer didn’t bark. Tonight, when I ran up my parent’s driveway, Blazer didn’t bark.
He always used to bark. I didn’t even notice I noticed the bark until the bark was gone.
A German Shorthaired Pointer, Blazer was our outdoor dog, my dad’s hunting dog (or attempted hunting dog, rather), so he mainly lived outside in his doggy kennel-slash-area. As much as his bloodlines and breed called for a more serious personality, Blazer was….a goof. Since he was a puppy, he ran with a bowleg, his right leg kind of jutting out like some type of puppy-paw wing. He chased frogs in our pond. He ate grass. Most of all, Blazer hated being away from my family.
If Blazer was running around our yard and one of us went inside, you could count to 30 and he was at the door, pacing, wondering why we weren’t outside. If my dad, my brother and I took our small fishing boat for an even smaller lap around our pond, Blazer would immediately jump off our dock into the pond to be near us. He’d frantically swim until his paws scraped the side of the boat and we pulled his wriggling, wet, speckled body out of the water and into our laps.
“Come on, Blazer!” we’d laugh. Blazer would pant, his mission accomplished, with his pink tongue and mouth shaped into a doggy-faced grin to prove his pride. He’d then scramble to the bow of the boat, standing like Jack from Titantic: “I’M THE DOG KING OF THE WORLD!”
Because he hated being left out, Blazer got upset every time I went for a run. I wanted to take him with me, but Blazer never really became a “run on a leash” type of dog. We tried a few times, but it turned into less of a run and more of a “Blazer drags Lindsay” type of workout. I settled for letting him play and run around the pond once I got back.
Every time I laced up my tennis shoes in the driveway, Blazer would perk his ears up and watch anxiously. “We’ll play when I get back,” I’d say as he cocked his head. Then, as I began to run, one foot in front of the other down our gravel driveway, he’d start:
“Yip, yip, yip!”
As a German Shorthaired Pointer, he should have bellowed rather than yipped, but this was his whiney bark. His “Where are you going without me?” bark. It was this same bark he used when I returned from the run. As soon as I reached the end of my driveway, not even in sight of him yet, I could hear him barking, as if to say, “You’re back, you’re back, you’re back!” And I would run just a little bit faster, straight to my dog, sprinting all the way, sweaty and tired as he slobbered all over me but I didn’t care because I was gross already and it didn’t matter, because it was amazing to have a living thing be so excited for me to come back.
Blazer died earlier this year of old age. This is my first summer running down the driveway without him. The first time the frogs are back in our pond but Blazer isn’t here to chase them.
And I miss him. I miss how happy he was to see me. I miss how goofy he was and loving and silly. I miss how he showed his emotions as a dog more openly and honestly than a lot of people I know.
I miss how much he loved me, my brother, our family.
So on nights like tonight, where I lace up my shoes in my parent’s driveway for old times sake, and my feet hit the gravel, right foot, left foot, right foot, left food, and I don’t hear the “yip, yip, yip, where are you going??” bark, my heart aches.
And on nights like tonight, when I come back from that run, it’s not just sweat running down my face; it’s tears. Ever since he passed away, I let the tears flow as I run down the driveway to nothing but silence.
It’s funny how you don’t even notice the habits, the small details that make a presence known, like a bark or a lick or a nudge from a wet nose, that suddenly make the world feel a little more empty, a little less happy, when its gone. There’s a reason we have pets. There’s a reason we say dogs are “man’s best friend.” And I know I am lucky to have had such a good friend in my dog.