I headed down the trail at a moderate speed, evaluating how fast she wanted to go without being pushed too hard. She passed me. I couldn’t have that, so I sped up a bit. She heard me coming and jumped to the side to let me go, taking my back wheel instead. I could hear her back there, looking for a move to get around again, so I kept my pace. There she came, leaping over a boulder and landing well in front of my wheel like Super Pup, sans cape. I couldn’t help but giggle.  My heart swelled with pride as I watched her lithe little mutt body stretch out like a gazelle.

Riding with Jojo changed my line. Instead of hauling ass down the quickest route, I took her line, jumping roots and creeks. I wanted to ride like she could run. She made me laugh.

I sped up a bit in spots just to see if I could pass her, and then I’d slow down again to see how she would take the lead. It was exhilarating hearing her back there, watching her, and seeing how happy it made her. I stopped for her to rest and drink at every intersection, checking to see that her paws were still holding up. I couldn’t believe that she was still bounding away after birds and squirrels.

For the last mile I let it rip. I tore down through the wide trail, jumping the whoopdie whoops and riding the berms high. Suddenly I didn’t hear her. I stopped and called her, but she didn’t come. I whistled. She didn’t come. I headed back up the trail calling to her and finally saw her bound out of the woods. She was taking a straightline toward my whistle, rather than the trail. She looked fine. I pet her, gave her water and finished the last half-mile slowly so she could trot. Once back to the parking lot, she flopped beneath the truck and refused to move – even when friendly dogs asked her to come out to play.

That’s when I saw her paws. Oh, I felt terrible. They weren’t bad, but there was blood. The webs between two toes were slightly bleeding and one pad was torn. I pulled her out and put her in the truck where she calmly lied on the ride home. If I weren’t so worried I would have enjoyed the unusually peaceful drive.