Since his retirement every day began the same way. He would wake before the sun rose, put on his running shoes and shorts, and was out the door. He loved this time of the day above all others. The world was still asleep or groggy at best. He had the road to himself and was completely alone…almost.
Leaving the house with him religiously was his running partner Trooper, a beautiful eight year old German Shepherd. There was some discussion as to which one actually took the other running everyday but this has been their routine ever since he had adopted Trooper from the shelter when he retired.
Their route never varied. They would run to his brothers house who lived seven miles away down a rarely traveled country road. Once there he would sit down and have a glass of orange juice and visit for a few minutes. He would then call his wife to tell her he was on his way back. This was done so that she wouldn’t worry. After all he was almost seventy now.
She was just finishing her first cup of coffee when the phone rang right on time. “Ok you’re on your way back?” was the way she always answered the phone. This time it wasn’t her husband.
She was told by her brother-in-law that he was going out to get the morning paper when he found him. He told her he was laying face down at the top of the driveway. Trooper had laid his head in the small of his back and that when he saw him he started whining. The ambulance was called but there was apparently no need to hurry. The doctor said it was a massive heart attack and that he never felt the concrete kiss his cheek when he fell. He was dead before he hit the ground.
The family gathered immediately. We spent the night with Mom trying to console her for this was exactly how Daddy had said he wanted to die so many times, ” dead before I hit the ground.”
The next morning was painful especially for Mom because her routine had always been structured around that phone call. Just as she was telling us that this was the time the phone would ring…it did. You could here the sharp intake of breath as we all gasped wide eyed at each other and then the phone.
I picked up the phone to the sound of my uncle trying to stifle his sobs. I listened and just answered OK. Turning to face my mom and siblings I didn’t know how to say this but somehow I managed. ” When I got up this morning I let Trooper out to use the bathroom. I put on the coffee and everybody was getting up… well..I forgot about him. That was Uncle Mike on the phone. He said when he went to get his paper this morning…Trooper was laying in the same spot he found him yesterday…whimpering.