Taylor walks behind me. Sometimes alongside me. At times even, several steps ahead of me. Wherever he may be in proximity to me, his ears bounce while his head sways opposite his body wiggle waggle this way and that. His gait is a thing of vibrant animation. It brings me such a big smile, and gives me confidence no matter how fleeting, that he is here to stay. Sometimes even, Taylor just runs past me, with a heavy breath that more often indicates energy and intent rather than exhaustion.
We started at 7:26 AM this morning, which a week later still feels like 6:26 AM. We are an hour into an easy pace on this hike. The skies are cloudy, an appropriate mix of blue-grey steel, paynes grey, and white. The clouds are rolling in. The foghorn sounds in the distance, a comforting sound, to go along with the birds chirping, and the whooshing of the wind against the trees. It reminds me in some ways of the outskirts of Mallapally, the tiny village in India where I was born.
Surprisingly, we run into nobody on the trails this morning. It’s just us. And every callout of “Taylor-boy!” dominates the airwaves, accompanied by his piercing eyes, lively smile, and strong breath. Halfway through now, while Taylor’s tongue hangs a good deal longer than when we started, dealing with arthritis in both his hindquarters, he’s still going strong. We hit the post marking the Orchard Trailhead 0.3 mikes away, our customary ritual before turning back. I take a moment to pet him as he looks at me strangely. I’ve a feeling he wants to get on the way. It’s not warm and the wind is definitely challenging both of us. We crack on.
On our way back, Taylor suddenly has a burst of energy and starts running back down the decline, in full gallop hurdles a thick tree branch in his way, before running across the trail to the large grove of trees bordering our second favourite lookout point.
I’m living in the past tense now.
Just as I was about to snap a picture of Taylor jumping over the tree branch, my phone died.
Halfway through our hike home, something magical happened. I don’t know how or why, but was just thankful for the moment. I swear the years immediately turned back the clock and Taylor was just a puppy again. He took off in a full sprint, I hadn’t seen him run so hard or so fast in years. All of a sudden he jumps down from a ridge, gets back into a full sprint and leaps from one side of the trail to the other. He must have been frozen in the air for at least two seconds. My eyes were snapping pictures of him at breakneck speed. I’d never seen him smile so wide, his tongue loosely hanging from his mouth. He seemed to hang there in eternity, much longer than Michael Jordan’s jump from the free throw line of the most iconic dunk in NBA history. And then just like that, it was over. We were both back to the present. “Taylor-boy! I love you buddy!! I love you!!” His stump of a tail was wagging this way and that. He was happily panting, his eyes staring straight into me.
We’d never been happier.
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ALWAYS BE EPIC.