Most blogs are easy to write. This one definitely is not. I’m going to take a moment to honor, and remember, my original running buddy, our family dog, Kramer.
I’ll never forget the phone call. I was on the air when my son, Tommy, called me and said, “Dad, can we get a dog?” I was hesitant. As parents, we know that the majority of training, cleaning, and spending extra time with a dog comes mostly from the parent. Did I have enough bandwidth for this? Between being a Husband and Dad, working full time, coaching, and…and then the statement that stopped my mind from wondering. Tommy said, “Dad, every boy deserves a chance to raise a dog.” A true mic drop before mic drops were a thing. That was 2009. We adopted Kramer, and he instantly became part of our family.
When I began really running, and logging the miles, I would take Kramer with me. Daily, when I would come home from work, all I would need to say is, “Kramer, wanna go for a run?!” Immediately, his tail would wag, he would stretch out his body, and run to the door. We would take off for 3-4 miles, and love every minute of it. He was always willing to run until I would say, “OK”. That was his permission slip to stop and, “water the fire hydrant”. Then I’d say, “OK”, and away we’d go for more miles. Together, we logged several hundred miles together. He was always willing, and wanting, to get his exercise, and neighborhood watering, done.
As a family, we enjoyed the countless unique things that made Kramer so special. From his fascination of eating ice cubes and grapes, to his pure excitement of rolling around all over his “treat”. He even had times in which he would actually wink at us.
As years passed, his stamina, and mileage, slowed. But everytime I walked in the door, and headed up to my bedroom, he followed me and sat down right next to the dresser which held my clothes for running, ready to hit the road.
One of the hardest things to witness, was watching the kids finally leave the house for college. They each had their, “moment”, hugging and kissing Kramer. We always made sure to send pics to the kids when they were away, just to keep them connected. “Thanks Dad. He’s the best boy.”
That said, every time they came home from break, or for summer, they walked right through the door excited to see, “the ol’ boy”. It only took about 3 seconds for Kramer to catch their scent, and his tail would wag in double-time, and he’d like their face faster than a child holding an ice cream cone on a 87° day.
A few months ago, an unsettling feeling kept creeping into my mind, “I wonder how many more years we have with him?” I have no idea where this stemmed from. But, it was something that I just couldn’t shake. Kramer never slowed down, or did anything to make me believe he was getting old. It was just a, “gut feeling”.
2 weeks ago, my son, Tommy, was playing tug-of-war with Kramer, when he noticed a touch of blood on the cloth. None of us thought much of it, until we noticed Kramer’s bottom lip was quite swollen.
After the weekend, we brought him into the vet, only to learn that Kramer had cancer, and was given about a month left to live.
As a family, we decided to spoil him like crazy for his last few days of life. I don’t regret that one bit. He winked. He wagged. He walked right to the very end.
But I tell ya, that final drive to the vet was one of the hardest 7 mile drives we’ve ever made. I cried a lot. Honestly, I still cry everyday.
Friends, there’s a reason dogs are called, “Man’s best friend”. Dogs love unconditionally. A lesson we could all learn more about.
If you’re a dog owner, take some extra time to share some extra love. You will not regret it. Take pictures. Make memories.
So, Kramer, “Mr. Kramer”, “Fat Dog”, “‘Ol’ Boy” thanks for hogging the bed at night. Thanks for, “running in your dreams”. Thanks for your “Kramer crawl” before we would go for a run. And yes, every boy deserves a chance to raise a dog.
Adopt a dog. Love your dog. And run by faith.