Friday, March 9, 2012

Running partner

While watching the Westminster Kennel Club a few weeks ago, someone referred to the German short-haired pointer as an SUD: sports-utility dog. Today, I utilized my dog's sporting skills when I took Popcorn, our 9-month-old lab/pointer mix, for her first long run with me.

Growing up, my dad and I would take our dog, Pepper, running in the forest preserve. He was never on a leash but always followed along pretty well. It helped that the woods by our house included a long trail on which you could run two miles or so without even coming close to a street. Pepper loved going running with us. He would sometimes run ahead, sniff around, then sprint back. We could never get him to drink from the forest preserve pumps, so we would have to take him home right away so he could get some water (especially on hot days; Pepper was a shaggy black dog).

One of the things we have been looking forward to with Popcorn was taking her running. When reading a description of her mix, we saw that lab/pointers enjoy amazing endurance and can run up to 20 miles with their owners. I'm not expecting to run 20 with her soon, but five (when I'm back in shape) would be nice. Today, on a gorgeous almost-spring day, I took her to Liberty Park to run two. This park and its running trail is bordered by a couple busy streets and requires leashes, so I had her on a line the whole time.

I'm happy to report, the first long run with Popcorn was moderately successful. For the first couple hundred yards, she wanted to play, jumping up and trying to grab the leash in her teeth as I ran. She eventually stopped that and mostly kept the pace I was at running. A few times, she got distracted by something and stopped, but started up again when the leash yanked her along (not hard -- I wasn't running fast). She did get in my way twice and I almost tripped over her. But for the most part, she ran, occasionally picking up a wood chip of the trail to chew, then spitting it out and finding another. We only had to stop twice: once for water, and once for poop (hers, not mine).

The water stop was interesting. The corner of Liberty Park is above a spring that bubbles through a water fountain. Next to it is a small spigot that dribbles into a bowl specifically for dogs. We approached the spring and I knew Popcorn was thirsty, so we stopped, but she didn't know what to make of the running water. She put her nose near it but wouldn't drink, reminding me of when Pepper wouldn't drink from the forest preserve wells. On our second time around the 1.5-mile trail, after we were done running, Popcorn drank. She saw another dog drinking from the bowl, and maybe that gave her confidence she could as well, or maybe she was just thirsty.

Afterward, we went to a Jimmy John's drive-thru. I bought lunch and returned to the park, finding a quiet spot where I could eat and Popcorn could relax. I turned on the Cubs preseason game on my phone and enjoyed the sunny day for a few more minutes. The first run with the dog wasn't perfect, but it was better than I expected. More runs with her are sure to follow.

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