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Some of life’s greatest blessings come with four legs. Especially in the life of a runner. When running with friends, the more legs, the better, I say!!
I didn’t always run with my dogs. To be honest, in the beginning, I barely knew what I was doing. I was excited to realize that I could be a runner, and I just knew Maddie would love it, too.
So I took her with me on one of my first neighborhood runs. No sooner had we turned the first corner and another dog started chasing us. Maddie strained against the leash, trying to get at the alleged imposter. When she pulled, she yanked me off-balance, and I panicked. I turned around, took her straight back home and continued the run without her. In hindsight, I could have slowed to a walk and focused more on Maddie and less on myself. But I was focused on learning a running rhythm, and I didn’t have the confidence yet to train both of us!
We eventually got the hang of it and Maddie became my best running buddy. Then Milo joined our family, and we’ve become quite the trotting trio. It has taken some adjusting and adapting, but we seem to have the hang of it now, and it has become a major part of our lives together
Blessings and Wisdom
Here are some of the blessings and wisdom I have gained from running with my dogs:
They hold me accountable.
We don’t run every day (as of this writing), but we would if they had a say in the matter! They are ready to go the instant my feet hit the floor, and they expressly lay on the guilt when we don’t! I wouldn’t go so far as to say they sulk; it’s more the canine equivalent of “(sigh) it’s okay, don’t worry about little old me!” They are forgiving when I don’t run with them every day. Disappointed, but forgiving . (I’m lucky, though. My friend Bridget’s dog, Dolce, has a different way of dealing with disappointment; she steals and hides Bridget’s shoes in the backyard!
They teach me to keep trying until we find what works.
It was challenging to run with both of them at first. For awhile I took them out separately, but leaving Maddie caused her great anguish. While the distress described above is mostly passive, taking Milo and leaving her behind resulted in major sulking and scolding on her behalf! After all, running had been “our” thing for quite a while before Milo came along! How could I betray her in this way?!?
So I tried running with both of them. It was a lot of trial and error. Running with one on each side of me was a logistical nightmare. Keeping both them on one side was difficult with two leashes, as we all tried to go different directions and tripped over ourselves. Finally, a quick research trip to the pet store yielded a solution: an adjustable leash coupler. Each end attaches to their collars, and the adjoining loop attaches to a leash. It works because Milo’s side can be extended, they are less likely to get tangled on a “short leash”, and they are practically forced to stay together. Thanks to the leash coupler, Milo was essentially trained by Maddie!
They teach me selflessness.
When I run with my dogs, the run isn’t just about me and my training anymore, it’s about making it a positive experience for all of us. I have to be aware of when they are getting thirsty and tired, or when they need to take care of “business”. There are times we’ll be running along and my mind will wander, then the next thing I know my body is jerked to the side of the road because Maddie can wait no longer to relieve herself. And poor little Milo; during one of his first outings with me and Maddie, he stopped to pop a squat, but we didn’t notice until we’d dragged him on his little tush for a good 15 feet!
A sure sign that they are tired is when they start to pant heavily, lag behind me, or when they simply plop down in the cool grass of our neighbor’s lawn.
They teach me to run with purpose.
They are laser-focused, eyes and ears always on alert. This means my eyes and ears must be equally tuned in. I’ve stopped listening to music when I run with them. I have to see what they see, hopefully before they see it…because if they see that rabbit dash across the road before I do, or stop on a dime to investigate the waste in the road, we could be in trouble. So I have to be just as focused and prepared to steer us away from distractions and danger.
They don’t complain about distances, terrain, or speed.
I think they would keep running whenever, wherever, and as long as I wanted them to. But experts recommend that dogs need to acclimate to running just like humans do. We took it in smaller bites in the beginning: Maddie and I started out at about 2 miles and worked our way to about 6. I started Milo out just running down the block and back, then up to a mile, until he was just over a year old. These days, we average about 3 miles at a leisurely pace. This seems to work well for both of them, as Maddie is not getting any younger and Milo is not getting any taller! I’m also leery of taking them out onto the trails until they’ve had rattlesnake diversion training. When we do run on trails, I keep them on leash for their safety.
They teach me how to rest.
I mean, they really have this one down. We usually run early weekday mornings before I go to work. Often while I’m getting ready, I’ll realize they are not following me around as they usually do. Sure enough, I’ll find them in each of their favorite resting spots; Maddie under the coffee table, and Milo curled up in the corner of the coat closet. With their morning exercise and breakfast out of the way, they are settled in for R&R. They barely even notice when I leave for work!
The best part about having dogs as running buddies: they are always ready to go, and will always stay by my side. Do you run with your dogs? I’d love to hear about your adventures with your running buddies!