You’ve probably heard the song by Toby Keith, the one with the line “I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.” Well, I’m starting to relate.
Last month I turned thirteen. Thirteen! I’m a fit thirteen, and most people are surprised by my age, but still, I’m a teenager. I have the satisfaction of those we meet thinking that Chico is the old guy because of his white face, but when it comes down to stamina, I’m afraid the little dude has me beat. Damn it.
We’ve been out walking a lot since we got to Vulture Peak near Wickenburg. There are trails heading out in every direction, most of them with sandy footing and fairly gentle ups and downs. But, early last week, we set out on Majestic Trail, a ridge walk to the southeast of camp. We did this same hike when we camped here two years ago and I don’t recall it being quite as steep or long.
Just over halfway through, I was starting to tire and look for shade. It was a warm, sunny morning, granted, but no more so than two years ago. And then I picked up a branch from a thorny shrub on the back of a leg. Just got that pulled out and I had a cluster of cactus thorn in a back paw. I’m known for my stoic nature so I just kept on walking for a bit, but Teresa was behind me and noticed that I was trying to walk on the backs of my legs rather than my feet. On top of all that, the trail was rocky and my feet were getting sore. But I carried on. As Toby says so well in his song, “My body says you can’t do this boy, but my pride says, oh yes I can!”
In my prime, I kept up with horses all day on the trail on a regular basis. And just a couple of years ago I completed the two-hour Majestic Trail hike without a thought beyond enjoying the exercise and the day. This year, all I could think about was getting back to camp, having a big drink of water, and lying under the trailer in the shade. The trail seemed to go on forever. Thankfully, Teresa & Nollind do bring water along for us, but when I’m walking I never quite drink my fill.
At last, we were down in Cemetery Wash (I had a sudden understanding of how it might have earned its name) and then onto the main road to camp. Almost home. I was going to make it. My legs were tired, my feet were sore, my tongue was almost on the road, but I was going to make it. I could tell Teresa was worried about me. I think if I didn’t weigh sixty pounds I would have been carried back to camp. Thank God! How embarrassing would that have been?
Half an hour later, I was lying on the bed with Nollind, resting from the morning’s exercise, and I felt a heaviness in my chest. I coughed. I coughed again. And a third time. It sounded a bit like Nat trying to cough up a hairball. And then I remembered what the vet said the last time I was in, that I had a heart murmur and the beginnings of heart disease. Sure, whatever, was my thinking at the time. I felt fine. But one of the symptoms of the progression of heart disease is a dry cough after exertion. Oh.
But don’t worry, I’m okay now. We’ve been on some one-hour walks since Majestic and I managed them without issue. The good news is, dogs don’t normally have heart attacks, so it’s not like I’m going to be running after a ball one day and just hit the dirt. Then again, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing for a guy like me, going out at a dead run.
By the way, in case you were wondering about my security duties, it started raining overnight so the horse camp rolled out this morning. It was like a mass exodus of trucks, trailers, and motorhomes, one after another all morning long.
We’re enjoying a rain day. I don’t mind the break from our morning walk routine since, these days, I take every opportunity I can to rest up for the next outing, just in case it’s uphill and hours long. I’m not as good as I once was, but …