Gather ‘round, folks. It’s time to listen to another one of my “Tales of Woe.” This one may determine if you have a soul or not? If you cry, soul. If not, no soul. It’s pretty simple, really. I’m kidding. Maybe. Somewhat.
So, long before I got into rock climbing, I was blessed with my pup Hamlet (yeah, yeah, I know, I am a theatre kid first and a climber second). He was never a crag dog, but he came into my life right when I was starting to be “active.”
You see, you may not know this from me now, considering my handle is @chubbygirlclimbing , but in the past not only did I not climb, but I was…well, to put it bluntly, a lazy bastard. Like, that girl you see in P.E. that cries after a quarter mile run kinda lazy.
To be fair our P.E. classes consisted of cup stacking and square dancing, so maybe I can blame the physical education in Texas more than my lack of athletic ability. I’m going to go ahead and do that, in fact. To protect my ego. Please support me in this. You have no choice, actually.
As I grew older, it became clear that I was going to have to make some changes. A lot of my lack of activity was psychological. I was shy and embarrassed easily. I felt stupid exercising where anyone could see me. So I picked up a very solitary sport. I started running. Very slowly.
During one of these runs, I saw a man jogging with his black lab. But his running buddy was not merely by his side but barking at the man to go faster. With every bark the guy would sprint a little harder. This dog was not only man’s best friend but man’s best coach. Now, if I had that, I would go from a “chubby girl running” to “fine hottie that could maybe pose for a fitness magazine or something.”
I would get a dog. I would train that dog to train me. Genius plan.
Who I ended up falling in love with was a golden retriever runt that couldn’t even go on a full walk before stopping in his tracks right in front of me and begging to be picked up.
This was fine. He was still small. As he grew, he would start to run. But, not quite as enthusiastically as that black lab.
Hamlet was an interesting dog. He didn’t have that normal golden retriever smiley disposition. This may have been my fault for dubbing him after a possibly mad/definitely depressed/debatably maniacal Shakespeare character.
Despite his somewhat morose personality, he did grow into quite the adventurer. He would only get despondent if things didn’t totally go his way. Once, when I took him to Lake Tahoe, he chased some ducks out into the water. He could never catch up to them, of course, and upon realizing how far he went out (i.e. not that far at all), he decided to let the lake take him rather than making the swim back. I had to go save his ass.
Oh shit, now that I think of it, Hamlet may have actually taken on my personality…
While on one of our jogs, he decided to bound in some little muddy river, promptly got stuck, and gave up on life. I had to save his ass then, too.
He never quite got the hang of barking at me to run faster but having Hamlet in my life did push me to do more. If I missed a run, he missed a run. So, I had to go out and run. And I never wanted him to lose out on an opportunity to soliloquy when I forced him in life vests and took him kayaking, or forced him in backpacks and took him hiking, or forced him in little booties to protect his feet from hot sand. He could never walk in those damn booties.
When I started climbing, I always imagined that once I got good enough to lead outside, he’d be there at the crag like the other dogs, but way more concerned than the other dogs, because “Excuse me but what the hell is this, what are you doing? I’ll have you know I am a dog but I am judging you silently from below,” is definitely how he’d feel there (and there’s nothing he’d love more than to judge me).
Unfortunately, I was a little too slow on that front. Hamlet passed away last month at the age of fourteen. It was very sudden; he went from healthy to not overnight. Luckily, my family and I could be by his side.
I know people are dealing with much worse than losing a dog right now. I know he was old, and I know I had to, and did, make the right decision when the time came to let him go. But all the adventures feel a little hollower without him beside me, or at home to greet me. My old friend witnessed me make a lot of changes. His memory will always mark those years that I became more active, more confident, started climbing and treating myself better.
So, hug all your crag pets extra tight for me this holiday season. I’ll miss having that little weirdo’s eyes on my life, but I’m so glad I had him for the time that I did.
“Goodnight, sweet prince.”