Marathon Man

by Sheila Wellehan

Our day starts at four in the morning,
or maybe that’s when the last one ends.
We stumble down the front steps in the darkness.
He’s never made a mistake.

After sunrise, it’s Lactated Ringer’s, liquid
to fight dehydration – it runs his engine like gas.
It flows from a bag hung atop an ancient hat rack
to a needle I pierce beneath his skin.

Then medicine hidden in lotion and chicken nuggets,
followed by pan-fried beef liver steak.
It’s a workout, I’m doing extra strength training
to keep up with my marathon man.

He’s closing in on his sixteenth birthday.
His hip bones protrude, he barks for help getting up.
But he sure can walk, some days for two hours,
this dog who refuses to die.

Still stubborn and in charge of the household
despite a tumor, two seizures, a stroke –
he’s training me for the day he must leave me,
training me for the rest of my life.

SHEILA WELLEHAN’S poetry is featured in MockingHeart ReviewRust + MothThimble Literary MagazineTinderbox Poetry JournalWhale Road Review, and many other journals and anthologies. She lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Visit her online at

Photo by Sheila Wellehan

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