I want a prairie dog to comfort me the next time I watch Finding Dory. I want a prairie dog to be there for me when I’ve taken too big a bite of pancake and feel the fragility of life. I want a prairie dog to stand by me, little nose twitching, tiny feet tapping, mouth slightly open when I close my eyes to learn if there’s anything to look forward to I’m gone.
I need a prairie dog in my life. Lately, I’ve been riding my bike to work because I’m doubling down on the smugness being a vegetarian gives me by also not contributing to the rapid destruction of the atmosphere. On my journey to campus, I see many things worth remembering, but only one thing is truly valuable. I see the train, and I ride next to it and imagine robbing it from my bicycle. I see the cars rushing along route 66, and I make faces at the drivers if they look at me. I see swift old women but not for very long. There’s so much to see and to recognize as special along this ride, but there’s only one thing that matters to me now: the prairie dogs that run around the side of the bike track and stand up and stare as I ride by.
Every day, I reach the top of another long hill, panting like I deserve for treating my body like I treated my bank account. Every day, I nearly stop, step off my bike, and walk for a few minutes to catch my breath. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but I’m trying to look less like a potato and more like a robust french fry, so I want to keep riding.
And every day, just as I approach the end of my ability, I see them standing sentinels upon the hill, waiting for me, these silly regal dirt critters. There are not many people I ever want or need to impress. I don’t care very much about how physically adept people think I am. I’m not putting on a show for the drivers that pass me. But I want those little prairie dogs to be proud of me. I want to give them a reason to swing their heads as I go by. I want a prairie dog to be there for me when I need it, in emergencies, in sickness, in the moment of dense despair, I want a little fuzzy burrow beast to look at me with its beady eyes and show me it’s proud.
In the end, it may not be support groups or motivation or medication that keeps me going, it is the image of a prairie dog that never gets to swivel its head because nobody passes it anymore.