Hope Springs Eternal. Days 127-128

We'd spent the night in a Walmart carpark, which in some cases allow RV parking overnight and have been a bit of a saviour on occasions where no RV parks were available and I sat drinking my SIS shake wondering what today had in store. I couldn't have imagined how it would pan out. Getting hastily dropped off at last night's end point, I trundled into the clear morning and through the town of Dierks, a few miles down the road. I was heading to a place called Newhope for lunch, which amused me because of the Star Wars link… On the road, which was a lovely stretch with lots of greenery, trees and spring vibes, I saw something ahead. I initially presumed it was a coyote, due to the size, but they're so sharp, they see you a mile off and don't dwell by the road for long, in my experience. I thn thought it may have been a small deer, but when I got around 150 yards away I saw it was a dog, who had seen me and was making my way towards me. I was initially a bit wary, but it was wagging its tail and seemed fairly friendly. She was a small cross breed, I guessed a Labrador/Shar-Pei later on. She was very friendly, licking my hands and jumping up. I then noticed that she whilst not emaciated, was thin and covered in patches of scale and alopecia that indicated a nasty chronic skin issue, likely mites of some sort. There were a a few houses around, so I asked at those that I could. The dog followed me me closely, though hung back at a house that had another dog barking, as if frightened. When I stepped onto someone's porch where three cats were sleeping, she didn't chase them. Good girl. No-one knew her. I walked a bit further, with her following and asked at a local workshop. The chap Jacob didn't recognise her and explained in the nicest way one can, that many of these dogs have severe mange, the local pounds don't cover this area and they are often shot to prevent them suffering. I understood, but of course, couldn't let that happen. Meanwhile Nads had arrived. I filled her in and it was decided that we should see if she would follow me the few miles to Newhope. She walked for the first half mile until I decided I needed to be running, time-wise and off I set. She didn't leave my side. In the town we tried to ring local animal shelters and the local sheriff, but came up with nothing. We got some food from the local garage, where they explained there are unfortunately a lot of dumped dogs about and gave a few other bits of advice which we were grateful for. We christened our new friend Hope, in honour of the town and a brighter future. Hope ate the tin of food voraciously, and slept soundly on a blanket outside the RV, in the sun. Emotional, I couldn't really think straight, or make a decision. We were worried about the local pounds, in case they thought she wasn't suitable to be re-homed and euthanased her, while the idea of her living out her possibly short remaining time incredibly itchy, hungry and cold was unacceptable. We decided we'd take the risk of scabies, bring her into the fan and find a solution, whatever that was. We even debated bringing her home, but with Nads leaving very soon (i.e. before we could get Hope up-to-speed with rabies jabs and arrange things)and also the huge cost of flying her back (If we had the money to spare, I'd rather give it to a rescue and help many dogs), we reluctantly shelved that plan.

We finished in the town of Kirby and on chatting to the staff of the Kirby Restaurant and one of the locals whilst ordering some of the best takeaway food we have had (they did this lemonade sherbert pie, which was incredible), they informed me about a local lady, Nita who rescues the re-homes a lot of animals. Strangely, she was related to one of the people whose house I'd knocked at and had already messaged me thanking me for taking the time to do so. This was an option. Through my work, I know a lot of people like Nita do this regardless of their own financial situation and not knowing what this was, we didn't want to lump her with a dog that had a lot of problems that definitely required attention, so we fond a local vets, Wright's of Glenwood and resolved to take her in first thing. After almost snaffling my dinner, but backing down very quickly with a sharp “NO!” she ate her own then settled on a fairly meagre bed, but the best we could provide and slept and slept and slept. In fact, we all did that night. Team Going the Distance was back up to three.

Start: Near Jct of Highway 70 and Noey Lane. Finish: Kirby Restaurant. 42.1 miles. Day 127 Tune of the Day. Terry Bush – The Littlest Hobo. We'd found our littlest hobo. This stop she made, she made a new pair of friends.

Wednesday was always meant to be a big day, due to our meeting with Dave Hair two weeks previously. We'd since learned that I was going to get to run with some of the Spa Pacers, Hot springs' running club and maybe go out for dinner later on, so we had to make tracks. Of course, our new variable, in the shape of a cute, loveable, though slightly skanky, crusty Hope, meant we didn't know where today would take us. She had been as good as gold overnight, didn't move and didn't mess anywhere. I ran to Glenwood first thing and met the guys at the local services. Nads said Hope hadn't taken her eyes off the McDonalds the whole time they waited for me. I went into the vets and chatted to Michole and Kayla about Hope. Michole said that she would have a word with Dr. Wright as soon as he arrived and we waited. . In the meantime she was going to phone a local rescue charity to see if they could take her as a favour, even though she was outside the usual catchmentI popped back in a bit and was greeted with the classic “Good news, bad news”, though in a way that took me by surprise. The local charity were unable to take her currently and after a word with Dr Wright (still no hint of positivity in her voice, my heart sinking)… “We can take her and hold her until they can!”. I don't know if she meant to, but she'd completely got me! Smiles all round! This was an amazing gesture from the team, as vets generally just cannot do this (often to the frustration of the public) due to space concerns and then an inability to move these poor guys on. We felt Hope was special, there was a reason why she found us, followed me and behaved so well. I think the team at Wright's sensed this and maybe our efforts already had persuaded them. We offered to pay for her initial treatment/tests, which was reluctantly accepted by the guys and she was vaccinated against rabies, tested for heartworm, Lyme disease and Erlichia all negative!) and given anti-parasite treatment. This could not have worked out any better and we returned with a box of doughnuts for the team and headed on our way with reassurances of updates on her condition. Boom.

So the rest of the day was going to have to live up to a lot. It started a bit cruelly, running past a brewery called Bubba Brews (OMG!), but this was unfortunately closed, though turned out well a little later, when I arrived at the RV to find Charlie, one of the main men at the Pacers chatting to Nads about the days events. I was to be escorted into Hot Springs by two club members and would meet with other members of the club at the Chamber of Commerce for a run to our campsite, before heading to dinner afterwards at one of the club's fave places to go. Charlie is a bundle of enthusiasm and even if I was in a bad mood, he'd have gotten me excited about the rest of the day, so I was obviously buzzing by now.

True to his word, he and the aforementioned escort team – Larry (great beard) and Jamie (a lovely lady, no beard) were by the bridge that takes you into Hot Springs (a scene very Antipodean in nature) and the sign that informed you that this was President Bill Clinton's boyhood town. We had a chat about Jamie's Boston Marathon adventures, Larry's halves and of course, Bill on the way on. Seeing we were on an upward curve of awesome, no point stopping now. Dave was there (unfortunately poorly, with a rotten cold, so hand shakes were exchanged for elbow touches!) and introduced me to the local press and the rest of the club. I was presented (guiltily) with the clubs' shirt and medal for their local half marathon, two cases of the famed local spring water (Thanks James!) AND a plaque declaring me a descendant of DeSoto (DeSoto was he first European to discover the springs in 1541), which I got the impression was sort of like the freedom of the town and a huge honour (I'm looking for a flock of sheep to drive down the main street still…). Wow. We then trooped en masse, down the main street, past the spas, the WW2 rehab hospital, no used as a school to the highway, where we were met by our actual police escort! I thought this was just a concerned law officer, but no – arranged. Incredible. Charlie and Dave (another Dave!) were waiting with some beers and after a quick shower, drove us into town for a great meal at the Copper Penny, where I regaled those assembled with an explanation of Scousers and Scouse, after I ordered an Irish stew and finally got my hands on one of Bubba's Brews! Charlie picked up our tab (very much appreciated, though of course, initially resisted) and dropped us back at the KOA campsite, drawing to a close one of, if not the best day of the trip so far. This was a 10. No doubt.

Start: Kirby Restaurant. Finish: KOA Hot Springs. 45.7 miles. Day 128 Tune of the Day: John Lennon – Instant Karma. Through a weird twist of fate, we'd gotten to do a really good deed. I like to believe in Karma, but I've never had it happen so quickly and be so abundantly rewarded for it.

Total: 4227.54 miles.