Sunday, January 6, 2008

How 'bout Those Dores and How 'bout My Dog!

Vanderbilt's basketball team is a quiet 15-0 against a decent schedule. Yesterday, Dori, the kids and I watched VU play an athletic 11-2 UMass team on TV. The Dores struggled early, but turned up the volume to pull even at half, then pull away at the end, 97-88.

VU has a complete team, and I don't even think they're playing to their potential yet. They are deep, athletic and fast, and most players have "basketball sense." VU's star player is Shan Foster, who can shoot opponents out of a gym. Freshman center A.J. Ogilvy from Australia is averaging 19 points as a freshman and looks like NBA talent. Every position goes two deep. That said, team defense and perimeter defense against good opposing guards look so-so at best right now. But scoring shouldn't be an issue.

The scary thing is Tennessee is better than us right now. Those boys can guard you. It should be a race between the Dores and Vawls for the SEC East; Kentucky is struggling and Florida looks down this year (but never out). Kentucky looks like they may miss the NCAA Tournament on this pace; they're 6-7. Blue Mist is not happy.

So I took Pepper, who's not yet two years old, for his first major run today. We ran the 5.8-mile loop through Percy Warner on a very nice day. Only in Nashville ... it's 11 degrees four days ago and 65 today. No wonder everyone's sick.

Pepper has become a very sweet dog, much like a labrador retriever. He's got the dalmatian perkiness (yes, he ate Will's homework, as the photo above shows) and a curiosity that won't quit. He's a house dog because of his deafness, but I've been running him more lately to see what he's got and get him more exercise. I ran at a slow pace today for two reasons ... we were on a hilly course after yesterday's 5.5 and I didn't want to torture the dog. The farthest he's run is four miles on moderate terrain; this was six with some major climb.

When people see Pepper, they just stop and gaze. Some think he's probably almost ugly, but most see what I see - a unique dog with peppered spots (and a few giant ones) and an animal with great spirit. They like him, and so do we. He's been a great pet for the kids; even Dori, who didn't think much of him at first, likes him (none of us did, really ... he was a nut of a puppy and we strongly considered finding him a new home). But our training and patience are being rewarded.

Pepper is very different than Otis, our 110-pound black lab who was the most stunning dog I've ever seen or will ever own. Otis was the man. He had a bear of a heart and was strong and extremely athletic. I loved him and still miss him. My sister painted him for us after we put him down, and that painting is to the side of our bed. He and Dori are the last looks I get before sleeping. So while "Pep" and I were running today, I thought a lot about Otis, who used to crank out long runs and 15-mile hikes on the Cumberland Plateau with me like we were walking to the end of the driveway.

Pepper pulled me the first two miles today, intermittently taking a poop break, lifting a leg or sniffing another dog or person. He then ascended Three Mile Hill with me, which we took slowly, without a problem. Around mile four, I saw a tiring dog, but I didn't see any quit. At mile 5, the dog hit "his wall." I thought we might have to walk it in, but I slowed for him and he found a second wind. Very cool. He made the six miles.

After a little water, some stretching and some congratulatory pats on the head, Pep and I headed home. I thought, "I have a running buddy any time I want!" And maybe, just maybe, if Pepper had a blog, it would be called "Run for Otis."


Summer said...

Your words are so colorful, Jim. I could see you and Pepper running. What great companions they are, no matter how rough the terrain is along the way.

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