For those of you who may have been living under a rock for the past few months, you may not know how completely, utterly obsessed I am with dogs. Big dogs, small dogs, fuzzy dogs or furry dogs, I love just about all of them. This one in particular…
I’ve had Labradors before. Ocean and Aspen, two purebreds who were the first loves of my life.
Like typical Labradors, Ocean and Aspen lived for retrieving, swimming, and the mandatory nightly belly rubs before bed. I was unbelievably lucky to have them in my life for 15 and 14 years. They got me through pulling up stakes and moving 1300 miles away from everything and everybody I had ever known to start a new life. They got me through the nightmare of one relationship gone horribly wrong and onto the best one a girl could ever dream of finding. I took them everywhere and spoiled them rotten, because that’s what you’re supposed to do for your BFF’s, right? But take them running with me? Well, not so much.
Then, along comes Calypso the Wonder Mutt. A speed demon with wings on her paws, she makes Usain Bolt look like he’s dragging dupa. I can honestly say she has single-handedly, (or maybe single-pawdedly(?), reduced my average mile time by an entire minute. I used to think this crooked running mutt liked running with her humans because she love to run. However, it didn’t take us too long to figure out her game: she only loves running because she gets to come home and do this.
Before splashfest gets to begin though, we still have to get a couple of miles under our paws, and sometimes that can get a little tricky. I have two areas where I run with Calypso – around our development’s lake and the park across the street. Both loops keep us pretty close to drinkable doggy water, which is top priority for this puppy mama. We also live in a very dog-populated area, which can present some sticky issues on its own. Take my advice for what it’s worth, but keep in mind, every dog has its own unique personality, just like it’s owner. How you handle any given pooch situation, may not necessarily work for the next runner/dog team. All I can reiterate to you is BE CAREFUL.
Whenever the Wonder Mutt and I run across another party of the canine persuasion, we always SLOW DOWN. Nothing can freak out an oncoming pooch more than a big human, (and let’s face it, unless the other dog is a Great Dane, we’re ALL big humans), and a strange dog coming right at them. Slow down, make eye contact with the other handler, and ask if their dog is okay to approach. Most of all, watch your own dog’s body language. Are her hackles up? Is her tail up or down? Is she avoiding making eye contact with the other dog or is she showing cautious interest? Or in Calypso’s case, is she acting like she’s never seen another dog in her life and thinks she just found her long-lost soul mate? Scary as it may be, this is when you really hope the other handler is paying attention and knows how their dog will react. If you have any doubts at all though, keep a wide berth or turn around and go the other direction. No blood, no harm, no foul.
As I mentioned before, I keep our dog runs short and always near a source of clean water. Dogs sweat through the pads on their paws. Hot pavement = hot paws. If it’s too hot, don’t even risk it – leave the pooper at home. If you’re running somewhere that does not give you access to clean water, bring some with you. Your buddy is going to warm up a whole lot faster than you will, especially if your mutt is black and the sun is blazing. Keep close watch on their tongue and the saliva that collects on their lips. Too big of one and too much of the other is a good indication that your dog is getting pretty toasty. Slow down and if possible, let them walk on some grass for a while. Those precious little pads will thank you for it.
Most of all, make sure your dog is READY to run. A quick visit to the veterinarian before starting is always a good idea. A dog’s growth plates aren’t fully developed until about 18 months old, so you may want to keep them moving by walking and swimming until then. Just like you, they will need to slowly build up their endurance. Warm them up slowly and keep the mileage low to start. If you see any kind of lameness or distress, get Skippy home and to the vet to make sure everything is okay. Dogs are masters at masking discomfort, so it’s up to you to make sure they don’t overdo it. These guys live to please their masters, and if running makes their masters happy, they’ll run themselves right into injured pads and heat stroke. Your run may be important to you, but nothing can take the place of a happy, healthy dog.
Without a doubt, some of my best times are those spent running with the hubby and Calypso. To see her perk up at the sight of another dog, a friendly neighbor, or God help us – a squirrel (think Dug), is priceless. I hope to have many years logging the miles with her, along with watching her give Michael Phelps a run for his money when we get done. So if you’ve ever wanted some company on your runs without feeling like you have to keep up a conversation, contact your local rescue or a reputable breeder. You won’t regret it. Cross my paws.
Enjoy the ride.
Do you run with your dog?