I love my dog. I swear.
After all, I must love her to take her out running with me as much as I do.
Lily is a special kind of dog. Not a special breed — she’s a Humane Society mutt. She’s simply a unique combination of athleticism, enthusiasm, loyalty and willingness. That’s a polite way of saying Lily loves to run, loves to run fast, and will drag you along for as long as you can keep up.
Do you have a four-legged running partner? Maybe some of this will sound familiar.
You gotta deal with poop
I prefer to take Lily out on Mondays and Thursdays. Those are garbage days in my neighborhood, and that means everyone’s cans are at the curb. The average runner may not really think about this, but I can virtually guarantee that Lily will stop mid-run to poop. (Usually I find this out when the leash is practically yanked out of my hand behind me.)
I’m a good neighbor, so I clean up the mess. And I’m sure it’s comical to see, but it’s no fun jogging up the street with a leash in one hand and a poop bag in the other. It’s hot, it’s stinky, and who actually carries hand sanitizer on a run?
Harnesses aren’t for us
Not long after we got Lily a few years ago, we bought her a holiday T-shirt for Christmas. It’s really cute. But when we put it on, she froze. Would not move. At all. We quickly learned that anytime we put a shirt or sweater on her, she freezes. It’s actually gotten to the point that we use “the shirt” for discipline — and if she sees it, she runs and hides.
It turns out that Lily feels the same way about harnesses. Every expert on the subject insists that harnesses are the way to go and that leashing your dog by the collar can crush her throat. Sorry, experts: If I want Lily to run, we’re doing it the old-fashioned way.
Dogs don’t know pacing
“Oh boy, we’re going for a run! I can’t wait to run! Come on, Dad, you’re not keeping up! I want to RUN!”
I’m the kind of runner who needs a solid mile to get warmed up. Lily is the kind of runner who’s ready to go full speed from the first stride. So when I say I’m taking the dog for a run, what I really mean is that she’s taking me for a drag.
And just like any other runner who starts out too fast, Lily will lose steam at some point. And then guess who’s dragging whom!
On two occasions during the summer, Lily has actually gotten so tired that she just stopped. Right there in the middle of the street. Done. D-O-N-E. I nearly had to carry her home.
Other dogs want to come along.
Know this about your dog: If your yard is fenced in, your dog spends his days trying to figure out how to get out. Plenty of dogs do escape. And for a dog who has to spend all day and all night in small yard, nothing in the world looks better than traipsing along with Lily and her dad as they cruise past on their morning run.
What these dogs don’t realize — or maybe they just don’t care — is that the one thing that can distract Lily from her morning run is sniffing another dog’s butt. That brings things to a grinding halt. And it inevitably happens on speedwork day, when I’m picking up speed on a tempo run or in the middle of a fartlek pickup.
Running solo involves escape.
If Lily sees me wearing running shoes, she has an inkling I might be going for a run. If she sees running shoes and shorts, she knows some kind of exercise is about to happen. And when she sees me strap on my iPhone armband, it’s time to get hyper.
The excitement is palpable, and like a child’s, it’s completely pure. And my wife says the disappointed howling when I leave Lily behind is unbearable.
But sometimes I want to pay attention to my form, not whether there’s a squirrel 50 feet ahead. Sometimes I don’t want to expend energy wrestling with Lily on the leash because I’m on a long run. And sometimes I’m just in the mood to do my own thing.
The best scenario is to get out the door before Lily wakes up. That’s usually on the weekend, when her bunkmate (a.k.a. my daughter) sleeps in. But if I’m dead-set against running with her, and she sees I’m going, my best bet is to get into the car and drive somewhere — even if it’s nearby. I’m told there’s still howling, but it’s not nearly as awful.
Lily runs on my left. Always.
Except when there’s something really interesting to sniff on my right, in which case – watch out! It’s actually a miracle I’ve never fallen, the number of times I’ve tripped over her.
I’m just hoping to entertain you a bit with the comedy that is the Lily-Andrew running team. If you’re looking for some serious advice on running with your dog, Runner’s World has a ton of info. This Washington Post article from last year is a good overview, too. Despite all our pratfalls, I strongly urge you to take your dog out for a run. She’ll never say no, you’ll have some real bonding time together, and you’ll improve her health as much as your own.