There she goes. Again.

She ran out the back door the moment I opened it and plotted her course straight towards the huge tree in the corner. I can hear the squirrels chattering at her from high above, the animal version of sticking out their tongues in a snarky retort.

I launch into my usual, “Holli! Come here!” in an attempt to bring her back from her temporary wild dog fantasy, but it’s no use. Once she’s focused on a squirrel she won’t give up until it hops onto the fence and heads for the neighbor’s yard.

 One small victory in the effervescent life of a Labrador retriever.

I give up and stand at the edge of the grass, watching her run gracefully up and down the fence line as one squirrel plays the daily game catch-me-if-you-can. Deep in her gene pool lies the stuff great hunting dogs are made of, at least according to the breeder. And when she runs and leaps around the yard you can see tiny glimpses of the dog she was born to be.

But fate placed her here, in this suburban home with 2.0 kids and not a hunter to be found — her retrieving instincts destined to be directed towards the many spit-stained stuffed animals that inhabit her toy basket. She sleeps on the bed with my teenage daughter and spends countless hours curled up at my feet under my desk.

Not quite a dog’s life — more like the life of a princess, as my husband routinely points out.

You see, around the time she turned 1 year old, she hurt her leg while running up and down the fence chasing a nighttime critter — either a possum or a raccoon. Her leg swelled up and it was difficult for her to move around. After several vet visits, ultrasound treatments, medications and as much “rest” as one can force on a lab she was healed and life moved on.

But then when she was 3-1/2 years old it happened again. She was sitting right in front of me as I sat in the steps and tied my shoelaces. I motioned for her to back up and she did. The cry of pain was upsetting enough, but when I looked at her leg it was sticking straight out to the side, in a direction back legs weren’t built to go.

And it was the other leg.

So after a trip to the emergency vet, CT scans and consultations with the surgeon it was determined that Holli has an uncommon, chronic problem with both Achilles tendons in her back legs. The surgery and recovery period is very involved and difficult, so we decided to wait it out. We carried her home, nursed her back to health and decided to try and limit her running and activity in order to avoid surgery for as long as possible.

And yet, she runs.

She runs because she doesn’t know that she can’t. The consequences of running up and down the fence in hot pursuit of a squirrel mean nothing to her. She lets her inner hunting dog loose and runs with grace and agility. 

I swear she’s even smiling.

She runs because she can, because she doesn’t understand my long-winded explanations about why I called her back into the house. Because to her, running feels like something she is compelled to do, something she can’t stop doing. That she isn’t afraid of the consequences.

She runs.

Why don’t we?

We all have something we wish we could do, or maybe even feel that we were born to do. And yet, how often do we throw up our arms and say, “WTH? I’m going to do it!”

Has someone told you that you can’t? Is your inner critic whispering “You’ll fail” in your ear, ever so quietly while you daydream?

This is how I feel about writing, most days. That I am driven to do it and really need to get those words out, but that time and work and my inner critic all get in the way.

That I need to write like nobody is reading.

That I need to take one more run at that squirrel on the fence.

And not worry about the chatter.