Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dog Intervals

Marathon in 5 days; I really, really needed to run last night. So I came up with the brilliant idea of Dog Intervals. The way this works is that you start with your most hyper dog, take it out, and run a few miles with it. Then you come back home, get a drink, swap the tired dog for the second-most hyper dog, and do it again. Repeat until miles are done or until all dogs are tired, whichever comes first.

I started with Citrus, my year-old Lab who has simply been driving us nuts with her energy in the house lately. I have never run with her before, partly because she is just barely old enough to run safely for any distance and partly because it's been so hot. She thought running was a fine thing... for about the first 3/4 of a mile. I headed west on 36th Street toward the 36th Street trailhead. This is a route that is almost entirely rolling hills, mostly uphill on the way out and mostly downhill on the way back. Once we had done a couple of the uphills, Citrus's pace slowed to a jog, then to a protesting walk. I was feeling all right, but was unable to do more than a slow jog myself, and that with Citrus at the end of the leash 6 feet behind me. I gave her short walk breaks, during which she perked up considerably. It was a beautiful cool evening, and she wasn't panting too hard or anything like that; she just plain didn't like the idea of running. It was total fat-kid-in-gym-class. I had planned to do 4 miles total with her, but since I was dragging her when I got to the 1.5 mile mark, I figured that was enough torture (for her and me both) so turned around and dragged her lazy butt the rest of the way home.

My 4-year-old Australian shepherd Sunny was next. He used to be quite the runner, but since his ACL tear a couple years ago he has been mainly a couch potato. I planned 2 miles for him, just in our neighborhood, since, even though he loves to run, I'm never sure how his leg is going to do, especially when it's a long(ish) distance and he hasn't run with me for probably a year. His running style hasn't changed. He goes out full throttle, running as fast as he possibly can and dragging me along behind him, with lots of hysterical barking. Then he gets tired and settles into a jog. As tired as he gets, though, he never quits. (The difference between shepherds and Labs -- the same difference I saw a thousand times when training both breeds as guide dogs.) We had a fine two miles.

Finally I swapped him for Hilda, my 8-year-old German shepherd. She has always been an excellent running companion -- settling into a steady, ground-eating pace from the beginning, making it her responsibility to watch for things like obstacles, narrowing sidewalks, etc. She did not disappoint even though I gave up running with her quite a while ago. (I got too fast when I was training to Boston qualify, and she couldn't keep up anymore. Now, though, 9:00 miles feel like 7:00 miles and she had no trouble keeping up with me.) We ran down Mission to Ajo and then back for a total of 3 miles. When we stopped at the turnaround, she jumped up on me and I asked her if she wanted to go home and she turned around and pinned her ears back in shepherd work mode and started heading for home without any further direction needed.

Dog Intervals are a lot of fun. They broke up an 8-mile into shorter, easier distances, and they tired out my three high-energy dogs, giving me and Tim a peaceful, quiet evening at home, and they gave me a chance to spend quality time with my (lately) very neglected dogs. Three cheers for Dog Intervals!

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