Puppy’s First Run

Posted on September 7, 2012

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Once upon a time in college I adopted a dog from the Humane Society. I bent over a pen of puppies while I was wearing a braided leather keychain necklace with a key fob at the end of it, and this adorable little piece of beagle mixed heaven grabbed on to it with her tiny puppy teeth and never let go. I lifted her right out of the pen as I raised up, and she became a part of my necklace.  She was my soul dog. I named her Princess Sunflower (it was 1993) and called her Sunny Bunny.  The best part of Sunny was that she loved to run.  We would run 10 miles a day at times and she was always ready for more.  Oh, the miles we covered together.  We moved all around the country and went through lots of loves and roomates (and room-dogs) and growing pains together. You know, the 20’s. She lived right up until my oldest was almost born, 13 years.  What a gal.

In the past few months, over my study desk, I have put up a strip of white butcher paper that has become my vision board. I keep pictures of my goals on it.  I have a photo of the Gillings School of Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill (where I am striving to soon be a graduate student) and a photo of a UNC T-shirt, which I hope to have the privilege to wear.  I have pictures of Hawaii, where I was lucky enough to grow up and I wish to return (part of the ten year plan) and set up a wellness ranch/farm/camp/center.  And I have a picture of myself running cross country in high school.  It’s my favorite picture of me.  It was my senior year and I ran the fastest 5k time of my life that day, because my dad came to the meet and I was so excited. (22:18, I still remember.) Right next to and slightly overlapping that photo, I added a picture of my Sunny.  She was my running buddy and I wanted to have that again.  We have an 8 year old dog, Bella, whom I love and adore, but she is technically my husband’s dog, and well, not a runner. Not at all!

Fast forward about a week after putting up that photo, and I adopted…Oliver, from the Independent Animal Rescue. What a sweet little beagle faced mutt!  He even has that white tip of the tail that Sunny used to, and when we met in person the first time, it was love at first sight.  I knew he was my man!

He arrived wearing what I would consider now to be a cat collar. Today, it might fit him like a bracelet.  He has grown, so so much in this month!  He has gone from three to four months old since joining our family.  I decided, as I have been sitting at my desk every day and gazing upon the running me and the WonderDog Sunny, that today was the day for Oliver’s first training run.  I had extremely high hopes that running would be his calling. He certainly isn’t short on energy. Or strength. Or size. Or an eagerness to be with me.

I can officially declare today a success!  We started out well, he seemed a little confused at first:

“Where are we going? Do we go this way? Are we going down this path? Let’s go to the fountain! Hey! Where are those runners going? Is that a baby in a wheely basket? Whoah! Holy Smokes! A bike! Yikes Yikes!”

…but through it all the first hundred yards had relatively light leash to feet entanglement.

Once we established that his side would be to my right, with a shortened grip on the leash to keep him comfortably in step with me, we got a pretty good cadence going.  He got a little jumpy when we passed people, but he started to get less and less excited and we kept along.  His eagerness and curiosity was at a peak.

“Is this a game? So do we just run? Like this? We are just running? Oh!  I can do that!  Look! A dog! I am running! Do these people see me? Look at me, people! I am running!  I am a good dog!”

Whenever we would hit a stretch of trail that was relatively straight and uninhabited, Oliver would pick up speed and look at me for approval. I’m pretty sure he was smiling when he did this.  That seemed to be when he was happiest, like he couldn’t believe that this new game consisted of getting to run as much as you want.

I thought I would turn around at mile one, but I figured, maybe we will go to one and a half and try to get in a 5k.  I figured 3 dog miles was probably like one people mile as far as exhaustion goes. (Don’t ask me to support this math with any type of evidence.) But I realized at that point we were so close to my usual turnaround for my daily four (minus one loop around the park track.) So we pushed on and got to our halfway point.

Once we were clearly headed in a “returning home” trajectory, Oliver really got excited and started booking.  Again, I’m quite sure there was a doggy smile that accompanied this change of pace.  We got to pass many of the same path users on the return trip, and since I am a social gal and had already informed many trail pedestrians during the outward portion of the run that “this was puppy’s first run,” he received an impressive amount of cheerful moral support.  Every dog has his day, right?

As impressed as Mommy was with baby pup’s first try at jogging, it became clear in the last quarter mile that he was getting a little pooped.  We slowed our pace a good bit and brought it home.  We did my usual cool down walk, passing our “exit” to walk to the next bench and back, and we passed these two awesome ladies we’d seen earlier and they asked how he did.  I was more than happy to give them the play-by-play they didn’t know was coming to them.  They were nice enough to take a picture for us at the end of the run, so the slideshow above has many pictures of me trying to snap a moment mid run, which was ridiculous, as well as this finish line photo.  I also have a snap of my vision board showing the young, young me and a young Sunny Bunny. I think it is clear which pictures are the Oliver before we run and Oliver after we run shots inside the house, I hope you enjoy!

Moral of this story? Put things on vision boards to make them happen.  Train your dog to be a good running buddy for his and your longevity, and always run with poop bags.

Happy Running!

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