As we wrap up our first year of Member Spotlight articles, it’s only fitting that we pay tribute to a member that’s been with us since even before the beginning. Though she would have surely been a featured member sooner or later, it’s with great sadness that her unexpected passing has firmly put her into the “sooner” rather than “later” category.
Dixie, our yellow labrador retriever, would have been 5 years old this month…we think. We named her Dixie because her mom was rescued from a kill shelter in Arkansas while she was pregnant. She and her 3 siblings were birthed and cared for at Wright-Way Rescue in Niles, which is where we adopted her. Dixie came to us only weeks after we tragically lost our shih-tzu to unexpected illness; we adopted her specifically as the opposite to Texas so as not to mourn painful similarities; I also wanted a dog I could run with.
It’s said that animals are our first children. If you’ve had or have a pet, you know this to be true. Dixie was my and Melissa’s first child. And that child loved to run! Once she was almost a year old, I started taking her with me on one or two runs a week. Pretty soon I had to run with her daily, or bike alongside her so she could run, just to control her puppy energy. Eventually, she was my companion for several 14-milers, always setting the pace. She even has one official race on her resume: the 2011 Cleveland 5-Mile Turkey Trot, where she finished with a blistering 6:23 min/mile pace. In that way, she gets much credit for making me a faster runner. There won’t be another sub-3-hour marathon where I don’t recognize her contribution.
Dixie loved our runs so much that on the days I would run without her, she would find one of my other running shoes, take it to her bed and lay with it, and stare with disappointment when I returned. This went on for years, and became even more heart-wrenching after multiple surgeries for a torn Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL surgery) and meniscus damage in the same knee within a year. Though our runs became less consistent, she was still good for up to 6 miles and would occasionally make an LRC group run. Many of you have seen her Strava posts. Having access to Lake Minear year-round was the perfect offset: she also loved to swim. She even made it to a few of the LRC group swims this summer.
Three human children later and Dixie was as good to them as we were good to her. She followed them around the house everywhere. The day before Thanksgiving, Dixie was hit by a train. In the days since she passed, I keep thinking about what I could have done differently, or would have done differently, or should have done differently. And the truth is, there’s nothing. Sometimes life happens. Sure, we spent less one-on-one time together with the birth of each child. But with that came the love each one of them had for her, the raucous play Mars and Mila engaged Dixie in, and the copious table scraps Dixie lined up for. And at the end of the day, she still jumped up into bed, sprawled out, and laid her head on my feet. She was loved, no doubt.
Let this serve as a reminder that every day with someone is something we should cherish. This applies to our family members, our pets, each other. Enjoy it all and keep those memories close. And take lots and lots of pictures.