As you may have noted from earlier columns, each day I take my dog, Stadler, on a long bike ride. I call it the dog jog. Some of you have had a few questions about how this works. Essentially, Stadler wears a harness to which I attach a leash. I put on my helmet, given to me by the G.P. who says, “I can fix a broken arm, but broken brains are intolerable,” climb on Gertrude (my bike), and Stadler drags us right on down the road. It’s only really dangerous when she’s fresh and raring to go. After about a mile, she settles into the jog and I start pedaling. Or at least this is what usually happens.
Last Sunday dawned sunny and blustering. I don’t like doing the dog jog when it’s windy because it gets about a thousand times more difficult to pedal. Gertrude is many things, but aerodynamic is not one of them. In fact, over the years, I’ve adapted her to be even less streamlined than she was originally designed to be (imagine the Merrimac trying to win the Tour de France) because death by over enthusiastic dog isn’t on my bucket list. Anything to slow Stadler down on the Cannonball Run bit of the ride had been added – we’ve got a wicker basket, and an emergency bell that is supposed to alert pedestrians to dive out of the way. Unfortunately, the bell dings so cheerfully that people think something nice is coming rather than a giant black dog running flat out in pure stupid dog joy, and thus they often hit me with stink eyed looks born of ding-related disappointment. Gertrude’s seat is also very low because I like to at least think I might have the opportunity to get my feet down in case of an accident. The guy at the bike shop when I bought her was horrified, but he couldn’t talk me into putting that seat into a higher position (for easier pedaling). Short people can’t be easily talked into falling further than necessary. I’m close to the ground, and that’s where I’m staying.
Dogs are endorphin junkies. There’s no real nice way to say it. When Stadler thinks it’s time to go, she acts like a heroin addict in a long line at a methadone clinic. She bounces straight up into the air, all four feet off the ground in somehow tiny but simultaneously very high dog hops. She tries to help me put on my shoes, even though she very clearly has no idea how shoes work. She tries to herd me out the back door, going through her dog door and coming back in just to show me how one gets outside in case I forgot during the night. If Stadler doesn’t get her fix, she bugs me for hours and then finally settles on her dog bed and gives me the brown frown all day long. Petulance, thy name is dog denied.
Because of huge chocolate eyed sadness followed by a session of extreme dog jerkiness, I rarely deny Stadler her run., and Sunday was no exception. I’ve since looked up the weather, and the wind was blowing at about 32 mph in three directions. I’m not sure how this is possible, but it sure happens a lot in Corpus, which has caused me to hypothesize that this place is some kind of Bermuda Triangle style hell vortex. I knew it was going to be a rough ride, but some things have to be done. I asked my friend Amber to wish me luck, and off we went into the wind.
The first few miles were all directly into the gusting, and we went slowly. I had to take Gertrude down to second gear and grimly pedal the whole way. Stadler was high on endorphins (puppy smack) and didn’t even seem to mind that her ears were blowing behind her head like black hairy banners. If her ears represented a country in the Olympics, it would definitely be one where they really like yaks and are still cooking-with-burning-poop rugged. Stadler’s ears are a tough looking standard.
We made it about 8 miles, with little relief from the wind. It seemed like no matter what direction we went, we headed directly into the vortex….until we headed for home. At that point, the forces were at behind us, and my back acted like a huge sail, propelling us forward at a high rate of speed. Admittedly, I should’ve braked, but I was tired of pedaling, going slowly and basically the entire canine species. Instead of doing the responsible thing and slowing us down, I instead started pretending that I was the Millennium Falcon and the Stadler was a TIE fighter. I might have been kind of swerving all over the road, chasing my dog. I MAY have also been singing the “Imperial March.” Whatever. The sun was out. The day was glowing a sort of ethereal happiness. Most importantly, everything was easy and nothing hurt. Clearly horror movies have taught me nothing, because right when the happiness hit like a skillet to the face is exactly when I should’ve started worrying. Stadler saw another dog walking on a leash with what appeared to be a nice young couple. My dog is well trained. She knows that she has to “mind her business” when we’re on the run, and very rarely does she mess up in an uncontrollable way. On this day, however, she decided to jerk the leash to try to go and say hello. Even this would’ve been okay, had her leash not got caught in the front brake while we simultaneously got hit by a hard gust. I went right over tea kettle. Being old means that, when you fall, you don’t bounce right back up like your legs are pogo sticks. You have to lie there for a minute and try to figure out if everything is still attached and movable. The poor kids thought I was going to die. Stadler did, too. She suddenly got really concerned and helpfully stuck her nose in my face. I eventually got up and got back on the bike with just a few cuts, fairly gross road rash, and some deep bruises. We wobbled home.
My left knee was swollen up like an eggplant, and it was pretty clear that I was going to have to lie around and ice it if there was going to be any chance of getting back into the saddle the next day. I’ve long held the philosophy that sometimes, when the chips are down, it’s best just to default to pirate. I got an ice pack and a tumbler of Sailor Jerry. Here is the conversation that ensued with my friend, Amber:
Me: Stadler wrecked us on the dog jog. She’s pretty contrite. She just tried to give me her rawhide treat, but I was putting bacon in the oven, so she probably just wanted to trade. Dog is a jerk. I’m drunk and I need a nap, but it’s four p.m. I’m screwed.
Amber: (20 minutes later) What are you drinking
Me: Sailor Jerry. S. Fub. Fun. I mean fun. Because spelling is a thing.
Me: (40 minutes later) I just made the bed half naked because all my bits got hot. I might also have had to tie a scrap of fabric around my head Rambo style to get it done. Fitted sheets are stupid. It takes a million minutes to figure out which way they go. I’m gonna put on x’s with a sharpie.
Am: DON’T MARK YOUR SHEETS WITH A SHARPIE.
Me: (15 minutes later) Do I have a piece of fabric tied around my head (sends picture)
Am: Yes. HAHAHAHAHA!
Me: (30 minutes later) I’m bad at drinking.
Am: You are not good at drinking. This is TRUE.
Me: SHHHHHH. I am awesome at drinking. I’m the drinking Rambo. SULTANA RAMBINA!
Am: I like the title.
Me: Sultana Rambina says there is a time when a person of personage should personally eat some pizzas. But that person is not me because cats are CLEARLY aliens.
That’s evidently when I passed out. I work up the next morning, drank a lot of water, looked at my text messages, and then I checked my bedding. There is a neat, black X in all four of the corners of the fitted sheet. Sultana Rambina is not a problem solver, but she got further than I ever have. I can’t even find the Sharpie.