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July 25, 2017Uncategorized

Running with Ghosts

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Just as I remember them.

I spent yesterday driving and I owe tomorrow to the road. But before I pay that debt I have these precious moments alone.

Penny and Zero are with me, but I have always considered my dogs a part of myself. The nameless part I can never share with another person. Not because I lack the will, but because in any attempt to translate it – through word or deed – its truth is lost.

So I silently share this truth with my dogs as we stand in the rain and look down the path leading into the trees. I am here in search of ghosts, but not the Revolutionary War specters many say walk these woods. I am here to commune with a boy and his puppy.

I gather myself, dogs and all, and run into the darkness.

The world has changed. But we already know that. It is a fact the despondent and the nostalgic both wistfully demand we remember. While I agree with the sentiment, I believe the familiar phrase uses the wrong tense.

The world is change. Not, “Everything happens for a reason.” Just, “Everything happens.” As I run along the path, Penny and Zero weaving through the trees, I think about finding my purpose in that constant change.

There is no better person to consider that purpose than myself. Not the self I am now, but the one I was then. When Eko and I ran these woods together. Here, in this familiar solitude, I find it easiest to see and speak to him

He runs ahead of me, while his puppy joyfully bounds circles around him. They play in a tight orbit with all the unencumbered enthusiasm of youth. He will never hear me, but it’s important I tell him what’s to come.

“You will go on a great adventure,” I say. “You and that four-legged heart of yours will swim in one ocean and then head west until you swim in the other one. You will forge a new home and a better life away from the comfort of these woods. You will marry an incredible woman and your wedding rings will be carried by the same dog who carried you across the country.”

“You will have a son. You will wrap him in the same blanket you first wrapped that puppy in. The love you share will be compounded in ways you cannot yet understand. On a rainy day, years from now, you will return to these woods with two dogs and run again. You will be me.”

Penny and Zero gallop past. A reminder I must share the full truth.

“Your puppy will not be here. He will not live to meet your son. You will pour yourself into your dog, discover yourself through him, and you will lose him. You will lose yourself. The person you are will be gone. You will learn to face your fears, name them, and love them. The person you find will be me. It’s not fair, but the world is not fair. The world is change.”

I pause to watch Penny and Zero wrestle in a clearing. If I close my eyes I see a third dog playing in the space between them. I smile. Happy to discover myself finding new joy in these old woods. Happy to have spoken with the boy. Happy he did not hear a word of it.

My joys and sorrows are not his. Not yet. Even if I could tell him everything I would not. To deprive him of the discovery would be to deprive him of his search for purpose and direction amidst the seas of change.

The boy and his puppy bound deeper into the woods and it is here we must part. It hurts, but I can protect him no more than he can protect me. We each have our journey, and we are each lucky to have our dogs to go with us to the places in our hearts where no person may follow.

Penny, Zero and I emerge from the woods panting from exertion. The rising steam from our breath depositing the memory of our run into the fog. A new set of ghosts we may run with another day.

As we walk back the rain cleanses the tears from my face, just as the mud from the trail cleansed the guilt from my soul.

I load the dogs into the car and sit beside them in quiet company. The windows fog over, the rain intensifies, and for a few minutes we share this small refuge.  I haven’t spoken a word since we arrived, but I have said everything I need to. I am at peace.

But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep.

I start the car, returning to the world of change and the constant search for purpose within it. I hug myself – one dog in each arm – and receive two wet kisses in return. I drive through the fog, just barely able to see ahead.

I do not know what I will discover when I leave these woods. And that is why I must leave them. Thankfully – now, then and always – I do not travel alone.

Comments for Running with Ghosts

  1. I was lost in YOUR moment……and it is a moment that each of us has whether we are truly “conscious” of it or not but it comes. Onward we go, with our bag of memories, thoughts, hopes, dreams, but one does remain in the woods, mired in mud and wet with rain – or maybe tears. But that is the way of the world. Thanks for sharing your moment. We “get” it. Oh yes we do.

    Hugs, Pam

  2. Jess says:

    Wow, this is heartwarming. I know the bond you shared with Eko and read how the unexpected loss was unbearable. I am happy to read of this rebirth.

  3. TheRidgebackLife says:

    I had to stop reading and let my eyes dry. Took me three tries before I fininshed. Then I went back and read again. I have that place, too, where it’s just me and my dogs. They’re running ahead of me and up into the hillside then down into the creek (well, not IN the creek). I’m lost in my memories, which are a lifetime’s worth. So many people lost along that walk. So many stories told to a young child. So many dogs (and horses) that are no longer with us. Your words, once again, wrapped up all my thoughts and emotions and shapped them onto a page so eloquently. Every time I read your stories, I am so grateful that I found you so many years ago. Otherwise, all those thoughts in my head would be there without words. Thank you, Will.

  4. Victoria Coleman says:

    as usual your prose brings me joy and tears – so well written – until you and Eko meet again you have wonderful companions to help you on your road of discovery

  5. Saba Imru Mathieu says:


  6. The tears are flowing reflecting on your beautiful, yet foggy moment. And then I realize my own forest of change awaits me with my own ghosts. Thank you for reminding me of the travels ahead to be shared and experienced.

  7. Cindy says:

    Thank you so deeply for being both brave and generous enough to share, in words, the depths and breadth of your gorgeous complex journey. You’re able to select and string the language together in a way that seems impossible, until you do. So glad you have your dogs, Emily, your son and forever Eko.

  8. this was soooooooooo beautiful and once again I am crying……..((((hugs))))) to you

  9. Kismet says:

    Even worse. Today would have been Kyla’s 15th birthday. We still remember and miss her. We know your feeling.

  10. meANXIETYme says:

    Thank you for sharing things that both rip you apart and put you back together again. It helps to know others are treading similar paths in this life. My family’s love goes out to yours as you follow the sometimes foggy path forward.

  11. coastingnz says:

    As always your heart felt words bring me to tears but I cry more often than normal these days as our boy Nico has been diagnosed with a terminal cancer and we won’t have him with us for much longer. I tell myself he has had the best life possible and of course he is getting more of that now too. I didn’t think I could love or spoil him more but turns out I can. I still often think of Eko as I walk on the beach knowing that soon I too will have lost my best friend – but tell myself he will always be with me in my heart and my memories. For now though I have him in the flesh and I treasure every moment. I wish all dogs in the world felt a little of the love we have for our fur children. Thanks as always for sharing your emotions and helping put mine into perspective. The world goes on – life goes on and we just have to adapt as hard as that is sometimes.

  12. Never ever alone….. Awesome.

  13. Eve says:

    With tears in my eyes and a heart that hears the same from that other world we do not see all I can say is what you write is simply: Beautiful and from the heart! HUGS!

  14. Jo Rhodes says:

    Jo,Sam and Dean

  15. KarenS says:

    I knew I would be a teary eyed mess as soon as I saw the title of today’s blog and decided to wait until I left the office to read. Yep. Teary eyed.

    Life does go on, we change and learn to adapt. But at times something or someone comes into our life that helps open our eyes to what is possible. And that experience will never leave us. Nor will they. Nor should they. I remember you saying that a dog doesn’t change the world, but it changes our world. And Eko did change our world. Because of him you decided to write, and we found your words. And we have enjoyed the journey with all the joy and sorrow ever since.

    Eko was a dog of a lifetime and that little boy was very lucky to have found him. Hugs to all.

  16. Marnie says:

    (((HUGS)))……..SO Beautiful. Thank you.

  17. dogdaz says:

    You sum it up so precisely right. Squash was my Eko. There are some dog soul mates that are just that pivotal element that makes everything different from then on. Your writing gets better and better. Thanks. – Lorian, the DogDaz Zoo keeper

  18. Erika D. says:

    Wonderfully said. I have had three Border Collies. I parted ways with two of them when I was young, after they were fully trained they needed to work more than we could provide, and lived out their lives with new families. My third passed this last Christmas holiday: I made the call to euthanize, I held off her vein for the needle, and I snuggled with her and listened with my stethoscope to her heart to the end. All three of them are now my little ghosts, along with my dear spirit horse Smokey. I plan to have a tattoo for each of them by the end of the summer: three paw prints along my foot, so they can always walk with me, and a quote for my dear horse soon as well. There are still moments though, when I expect one of them to heel on my left, or I can almost feel the heavy breath of a horse on my shoulder, blowing through my hair. I wouldn’t be me without each of them, and I would never warn my younger self because I needed to learn what they had to teach me.

  19. The feeling I got after reading is difficult to express in word or deed
    Keep writing.

  20. Emmadog says:

    Mom’s first dog Trine and then Katie are always with us. She talks about them all the time, feels them with us on our walks at times. Beautiful piece. Their souls are always with us.

  21. We all run in the woods of our own memories – mud tears and all. But as you say, onward we must go. Always.

  22. We are reborn again and again throughout the years. My dogs help me find the strength to begin anew each time.

  23. The woods we run through in our hearts and minds belong only to each of us, but it’s always nice when we can share where we’ve been once we return.

  24. Thank you. I feel incredibly lucky.

  25. The woods are always there. It just takes a bit of courage to run through them. We’re fortunate to have our dogs to lend us theirs.

  26. Thank you! It’s tough trying to articulate these ephemeral journeys inward so I’m glad to hear it resonated.

  27. We carry them with us, always.

  28. We build, it breaks, we rebuild, it breaks. The falldown is inevitable, the rebuild is not. Fortunately I’ve found my dogs are always willing to lend the courage I need.

  29. There’s no easy way, no good way, no right way to lose a best friend. And certainly no fair way either. All there is is loving them as much as you can in the moment and I know Nico is in the best of hands in that regard.

  30. Couldn’t have done any of it without him. A very lucky boy indeed.

  31. Thank you for the kind words and encouragement!

  32. “I wouldn’t be me without each of them” perfectly captures what it means to fully invest yourself in you pet. No matter the cost.

  33. Agreed. And I love that bittersweet feeling when we’re reminded of them while out in the world.

  34. Geri Zeibert says:

    When you write like that, you bring me to tears. The loss of our soul mates is the most difficult challenge we face in life. You portray that loss so elegantly. You also offer hope for the future. Blessings.

  35. I often feel the same… and my tears are running… but you said it best… we travel not alone… and fortunately my travelcompanion just spat in my face while barking so I have a reason grab a kleenex to wipe my tears away ;O)

  36. This is so touching and like so many other readers brought tears to my eyes. Some of my tears were memories of our past dogs and some for the two that are with us now. Thank you for sharing your beautiful message.


  37. smololive says:

    As an animal lover, this was really touching ❤ the photos and striking words really left an impression on me~

  38. You’re a beautiful writer and an old soul, Will.

  39. brian ibrahim says:

    great work.its so sentimental

  40. Fran says:

    No u will never be alone. EKO watching ur journeys n over u. Eko is happy I m sure u have Zeto,Penny n Lincoln to share ur journey since he can not be here. Hugs to all

  41. Fran says:

    Sorry Will, I fat fingered Zero

  42. Oh Melvin says:

    This. Is. Amazing.

  43. smololive says:

    Hoi :3 I have nominated you for the unique blogger award your amazing work. Please check out the post here:https://olivesshapes.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/unique-blogger-award-%E2%97%A1%E2%99%A1/

  44. smololive says:

    I have also nominated you for the versatile blogger award:https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/69000308/posts/1543633479

  45. And once again, I’m crying with you. I love your philosophy on change: The world is change. Everything Happens. Eko may be gone but his soul lives in your heart and your words.

  46. Reblogged this on The Workbench of Faith and commented:
    This is the one blog I read regularly. I read and subscribe to a few, but this one always speaks to me, especially today. Such wisdom in a young person and all because of his beloved dog…

  47. I love animals, so your post is very touching to me. Great post!!

  48. manseljames says:

    Very warmly written. Very evocative and even if you are not mad about doga, it makes you smile. It made me smell the rain and think about my kids. Lovely

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