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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Running Canine

Leni with my Persian cat keeping her in sight

Meet Leni. 

She and I are good friends. She makes that absolutely clear by totally flipping out upon seeing me in my running shoes.

Leni is a 7-year-old female chocolate Labrador and we’ve been running together regularly for several years. Today we did hill sprints. Sprint up, jog down, repeat. At first, she thought I was nuts, but after the first couple of times she got the hang of it. Prompted by the beeping of my GPS watch we’d start, stop and then turn around and jog downhill. By the end she was having fun with the game and didn’t want to stop.

But Leni is not my dog. She belongs to our neighbor, which is an unbeatable deal for my family. We dog-sit her when they are on outings or vacation; we don’t have to wake up early, nor go out in the rain or cold for walks; nor do we have to feed her or pay the vet bills. And she doesn’t love us any less because of that.
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Dogs are amazing creatures and can be trained easily with a little patience and discipline. Lucky for me, Matthias, her ‘real’ owner, trained her when she was a puppy to run with him, so once she was ready to start with me all she had to learn were a few English commands: right, left, and straight ahead and of course, upon seeing a rabbit in the field, Holy sh*t! Slow down, Leni, or you’re going to kill me!
Matthias and Leni were once running alone in the woods on a Sunday morning when Leni suddenly raised her head, sniffed the air and picked up the pace. Matthias had no idea what was going on until he came around the next bend and saw me about 50 meters ahead. (Geez, I didn’t realize I stink that much!)

running with dogs, ultrarunning, ultramarathon mom, holly zimmermann, canine runnersSadly, about half of pet dogs are overweight. This naturally is not the fault of the dog. Depending on age, breed, size and overall health of the dog they need varying amounts of exercise but few get what they actually need for both physical and mental well-being. Except for the short-nosed breeds like Bulldog, those two or three brief walks a day, though well intended, are most likely far from the 30 minutes to 2 hours per day that the pooch requires! Breeds in the hunting, working, or herding groups (e.g., Labrador retrievers, hounds, collies and shepherds) need the most activity, including at least 30 minutes of rigorous exercise on top of 1-2 hours of daily activity (i.e. walking, playing, ball retrieving, etc.). 
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So, f you have a friend or neighbor with a dog, stop by on the way out for your next run and ask to take it along. You will definitely be rewarded in the end with an über-happy pooch and a new true friend.

I’ve oftentimes been asked if I feel safe running alone in the woods. Normally I don’t worry about random events, but with Leni at my side, I definitely feel safer, because I know that if she had to, she would protect me with her life…and, as with any good friend, that goes both ways.

Ready Leni? Here I come!

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