Saturday, September 11, 2010

I'm Going to Love You Forever

Disclaimer: This is perhaps world's longest post ever. The following is our story, I just published it under "About Us" and wanted to share for everyone. I'm frequently asked how I got started running, and why-well here it is. Buckle Up.

HELLOOO! I'm Julia and that little fawn pup is Goliath. Our story is short, sweet and a never ending love song.

Once upon a time, I was a newly married 20-something struggling, just struggling. Stress took the best of me, and I spent many nights in tears overwhelmed with responsibilities and obligations. In a 6 month period, I ate myself 30lbs heavier. In December of 2008, my exhaustion reached epic proportions. At my family doctor I stepped on a scale prior to my consultation where I for sure thought I'd get a death prognosis. The scale read a number I couldn't even fathom, I didn't even recognize and worse, I didn't even expect. The nurse vociferated it to me and it echoed high into my cerebellum. My opinions wavered, and tears swelled: Was it worse that I had absolutely no idea I gained this much weight? or Was it worse that my first thought was Wow, You're FAT.

It's no surprise that I have no pictures of me during this time. I didn't even look at myself enough to notice. The Saturday following the doctor's visit, I enrolled and attended Weight Watchers. I have never been a dieter-for-skinny-jeanser, or exerciser-for-funner so this was really novel to me. Sure, I dabbled with trying to get healthy in the past but I never felt a strong need anytime I'd start I never truly felt there was anything wrong with me. Maybe, I was a little chubby but I never felt fat until this time. My first meeting adjourned and I set forth on a new mission with new guidelines. On my first day, I ate Church's Chicken and Pizza Hutt. In my first week, I didn't realize fruit had points. But in my first month, I had lost five whole pounds.

This was 5lbs lighter, and the closest picture I have to my starting weight.

Five whole pounds. You may scoff, but to me this was huge. I'd never successfully lost weight. The night after I received the most important sticker to date, I laid in bed looking at pictures of puppies on CraigsList and semi-joking with my husband. I desperately wanted a dog, and the better half was adamant that we couldn't take care of one. I was going through the postings reading off the dogs available for rehoming, "Babe! Look beagle-terrier mix!" "Ooohhh rottie mix!" He'd laugh at all of them until I said "...dude check this out, Boxer-Husky mix," the combination perked his interest, he turned from his desk chair with an eyebrow raised: "Boxer Husky?"
"Yes! Boxer-Husky this guy has a whole litter. I guess he's a breeder of boxers and his Husky knocked up his female"
"Yeah! Can we?!? PLEASE?!"
"Julia...." and in his last attempt to divert he said "But what would we name it?" as if that would stop me. I tossed out names off the top of me head:
"Banjo?" "No."
"Duke?" "No."
"Warrior?" "No"
"....Goliath?" He turned around again and said "Well I guess email the guy and see if they are still available?"

The email was already sent. A reply came within minutes, yes the pups are available and the only male has had no interest. I replied with "The male is mine, we'll be out there tomorrow"

The husband and I drove over an hour outside of the city into winding back roads. Fear stricken the whole time, I was a getting a puppy and I was going to be largely responsibly for it. What if he didn't like me? What if i was a unfit furmom? We got there and were greeted by the accidental breeder who introduced us to the Mom Dog, and then Dad Dog-both were beautiful, well demeanored dogs. He excused himself to fetch our new addition, and a few short minutes he returned and handed me a 5lb hand warmer. The little pup fidgeted in my embrace, and I set him down to watch him interact with his mom. He clumsily pranced after her, and was desperate for her attention. When he ignored him, he stopped short and pouted. He was distraught for a brief millisecond, turned and walked up to me. I picked him back up, and nestled him into my parka. His wet nose grazed my chin, and plopped onto my clavicle while my husband handed over the payment for his vaccinations.

The day we brought him home

Look how clean my carpet use to be? The next weeks were full of sleeplessness, accidents and utter joy. We were completely unprepared but Goliath and I rose to the occasion. I spent hours pouring over dog books, calling my Vet and talking to friends. He was housebroken in less than a month, in the dead of winter. The day I taught him to shake was the single most proudest moment of my life. We'd go on walks, trips to the dog park and excursions to family and friend's homes. Goliath went everywhere with me, and I found myself experiencing something that I hadn't in a while: unbridled happiness. I hadn't smiled this wide, laughed this deep and been this positive in the better half of a year.

Goliath at three months

Over the next few months, we grew up together. He seemed to double in size week after week, and I continued to see the number on the scale go down. Our walks would get longer, and the stints at the dog park seemed to double but nothing was a match for his energy. The husband and I took turns playing him to exhaustion before bed, but he'd still wake up at 3:00 am wanting to play. In the mornings, we'd walk for miles but we'd still come home to a path of puppy destruction. Finally, it dawned on me: this dog was made to run. When he had matured enough, and I had lost enough poundage our morning walks became our morning struggle to jog. He'd fight to run faster, and I'd fight to breathe. There were so many initial kinks to work out: leash handling, poop pick up, lack of oxygen to my brain and so many more. We'd come home when I couldn't take any more, and my sweat could fill a man sized pool. I'd collapse onto the couch, and he'd lay down at my feet unfazed.

After my first race

By April, I signed up for a four mile road race having never really ran four straight miles before. I finished in a little over forty minutes, and felt certain death looming. Those four miles pushed me to a brink I never wanted to see again, my stomach cramped, nausea set in and my muscles failed. As I crossed the finish line, I remember thinking Does this mean I'm a runner now? It did. That month I had officially lost 10% of my body weight and ran my first race. I was on top of the world, and I had Goliath there with me. We set into a regular running routine, before or after work. Rain, humidity and unmitigated heat-we ran in it. The pain of every step eased as we stuck with it.

Goliath never grasped the leash concept still after months of running together. He'd pull and pull and pull some more. He'd choke him self, and have asthma-esque gaps for airs on walking breaks. I knew he longed to run free, and he'd push the boundaries to do so. He was an untamable spirit on a leash, until one series of unfortunate events. We had set out on a Thursday early evening out-and-back run, like any run before. Our usual jaunt includes a half of mile of city pavement that lead us to a bike/hike country trail. We cross one busy intersection, and run due south to the trail. Goliath was pulling as usual, and as usual I was struggling to gain control. After a quarter mile of this give and take, Goliath's collar gave way to the pressure and the ring that secured his leash snapped off. He was loose and running. Just like he'd always wanted to be, he didn't want to run away-but he just wanted to run. So he did, but instead of running toward the trail he darted back toward home, and the busy intersection.

The more I chased him, the faster he ran. I knew what was going to happen, but I couldn't stop going after him, I attempted to get him to chase me but he had zeroed in and was driven. I screamed loud enough to stop traffic, and as Goliath's four paws entered the intersection I did too. He didn't look for cars, and neither did I. I had complete tunnel vision, and screaming. I screamed again, and cars stopped in all directions. A red Camry screeched inches from hitting him, and the halting brakes startled him.

The white Suburban never even saw him.

The whole intersection was motionless, I could hear windows rolling down and my sobs echoed. Goliath's body law there, silent and unanimated. I looked around at everyone staring at me, as lakes of tears poured from eyes. My husband, who heard me, stood on the opposite side of the street stunned. Time truly just stood still, it seemed like an eternity. In reality, only half a second passed until Goliath stood up and finished his run. He wasn't done running free apparently. I followed him, and whirred passed my husband who still stood there shocked. Goliath waited for me at the front door, and I scooped him up terrified. I checked his wounds and draped myself over him sobbing. I knew this was too good to be true, dogs do not get mowed over by SUVs with no internal damage.

We rushed to our Vet, and I held him in my lap on the way there convinced he had internal damages that were fatal. Upon arrival, Goliath was back to his normal self with addition of road rash. It was determined that his worst problem was a minor case of fleas. We left with antibiotics for road rash and stronger flea prevention.

This was the next day

It is hard for me to even fathom how blessed I am that he didn't die, or sustain serious injuries. The emotional toll on both of us was pretty great, for a month neither of us left the house to run. I often found myself just gazing at him contemplating how he lived. A friend told me that he knew his work with me wasn't done, that he knew he couldn't leave me-that he wasn't done changing my life. That friend couldn't have been more correct. It took a while to get Goliath back out there, and we've since taken ever precaution possible to ensure his safety. He's more weary of streets, and sticks to my side now. He no longer wants to run wild, but wants to run together. I like to think he knows that he's lucky to be alive, and even more lucky to be able to run still.

Since the accident, Goliath and I have ran thousands of miles together and completed one race together. With his assistance, I've trained for and completed six half marathons, and countless 5Ks. A year after my first road race, I ran it again and crossing the finish line never felt more routine. This time I KNEW I was a runner. October of 2010, will mark my first full marathon and Goliath has trained with me on every single run. Over the two years with him, my life has changed so much. I have never been more confident, more accomplished and more happy. There have countless people that have inspired me, touched my life and helped me grow into who I am today-but none have done what Goliath has, and continues to do so each and every day.

April 2009-April 2010

I am not the fastest. I am not the thinnest. I am not the strongest.
But I'm not finished, and we're just getting started.


Kelly said...

Jules, I'm in tears. This is a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing.


Sarah said...

Great entry, Julia. I loved it. Makes me miss my puppy, big time!

Mrs. W said...

I love you, Goliath, and Lo!

I miss you guys!

(I Love the featured follower!!!)

Jillian said...

This is beautiful, inspiring & touching story. Thank you for sharing w/ us, your readers.

Jillian :)

Anonymous said...

From one runner to another.....great story!


ashley &amp; sundance said...

What a fantastic story! Love it!

Michelle said...

This made me cry!!

KT Bee said...

Holly @ couchpotatoathlete said...

I'm glad Goliath was ok! I can only imagine how terrifying that was for you!

Thanks for sharing your story Julia!

Becky said...

Julia, your story is so heart felt and so inspiring. I find myself to be very proud of you and the accomplishments that you have done with Goliath. I am sometimes jealous. :D

I have 2 dogs and wish they could be runners, however, they are both small and not meant for long distance running. So, daily walks have to do. They keep me on my toes and I wouldn't want my life to be without them.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Crazy Lo said...

Thank you so much for writing this. I feel as though I know Goliath through your writing.

Kristen said...

I love your story and I love Goliath! What a great dog. I would love to run a marathon and your story is an inspiration to me. I'm a little sad that my dog is too old to run with me now :( Goog Luck! I can't wait to hear about your marathon.

Amanda said...

I'm so glad to hear Goliath was okay. I couldn't imagine seeing my dog being hit. Wow, both of you were truly blessed that day.

Your pics look amazing. You've come such a long way and look amazing!