Friday, 26 October 2012

Dog Tired .....


I consider myself one of the lucky ones in this world that has had the honour of living with and owning dogs, ever since the day I was born when we were the proud owners of a retired greyhound named Jacko. He was followed by a Manchester Terrier x Whippet named Tim who sadly left us at the tender age of 3, and then Patch, another young whippet cross that we had from Pat Wood of Animal Lifeline in Leek.

Me and Jacko - Black Rock Sands, Porthmadog 1976!

A couple of years later, I left home to work for the Youth Hostel Association in the Yorkshire Dales and Derbyshire where I spent a lot of time running and walking in the hills. I desperately missed having my own dog to walk and run with during this time and couldn't wait to get my own home where I could have as many dogs as the house would allow.

Whilst historically, my family had always had a preference for the gentle natured whippet, I had an obsession with Border Collies who came across as sturdy, obedient and intelligent dogs that needed lots of exercise - the type of dog that suited me perfectly with the amount of activities I did in the hills and mountains across the UK.

Not long after completing my final season at the YHA, I became the proud owner of Leo - a black and tan Welsh Border Collie  - and Sam, a ginger coloured Collie Cross. Both of them were absolutely brilliant dogs, and as expected, they were very obedient and well behaved around people and other animals. I spent many hours running with them, covering miles and miles of woodland trails and open moorland, enjoying that human / canine bond that only a lover of dogs can understand, and sharing our love for the great outdoors.

Me, Sam (L) and Leo (R) -
West Highland Way, Scotland  
 I had over 17 very happy years with Sam and Leo, and my only regret is that I didn't move to Canada sooner as  I'm convinced they would have felt very much at home and loved the open space.  Unfortunately, we lost both of them not long before the move, but I'm fortunate to have so many fantastic memories, and it almost feels like they are still living over in the UK and that one day, we'll meet up with them again.

Since losing Sam and Leo, we have acquired another little dog whose name is so frequently mentioned that I don't think he needs any introduction! His name is Wilson, and he came into our lives almost 2 years ago as a young pup of just 8 weeks of age. 

He was born on 19th December, the same birth date as Andy - and was described as a  Border Collie x Whippet - speed and endurance, gentle natured and  obedient - and so it was that he became a huge part of our lives.

It's funny how things are never what they seem, and had we taken greater notice of the Trade Descriptions Act, I think we would have asked for a refund! 

Wilson went from looking like a Jack Russell as a young pup, to a very leggy and skinny young pup, and as he grew, his legs kept getting longer and longer, he started to fill out a bit and ended up with a neck to rival that of Mike Tyson!
   
Short and stumpy little puppy.........
  
......to a leggy looking whippet type dog!

From an early age, he barked at other dogs and despite puppy training and assessments by a doggy behaviourist, we have never been able to curb this behaviour. Yet he's the most loving and loyal little dog anybody could wish for, although he is still quite a nervous little chap. The assessment showed that he tries to be alfa-wolf but hasn't got the confidence to take the lead, and so he pretends to be a big tough dog when really he'd scarper if anybody more than looked at him. The only time he's obedient is when he takes his toy out for a walk with him - you have his full attention and he will spend hours running backwards and forwards chasing his ball or teddy, even if surrounded by a hundred dogs!

We'd decided to have a young dog again, not only because we missed the liveliness of a youngster, but also because I'd had so much pleasure when running with Sam and Leo and I wanted to experience that feeling again. Wilson has tons of energy and I figured a good hour long run would tire him out. However, the first time I tried to run with him at about 6 month of age, he sprinted like a whippet at the race track, dragging me along with him, and barking at anything that went past - cars, bikes, people, combine harvesters - it really didn't matter. I tried it a few times, but everytime he seemed to behave in the same way, and the enjoyment of running with a dog became more stressful than anything - I just looked like an idiot with an out of control dog!

That was until earlier this week when I decided to give it another try. We'd had some heavy snow in Calgary and wanting to avoid treadmill running for as long as possible, I figured that a run on the tracks and trails around Fish Creek Park would be much more enjoyable, even though there was a good 20cm or so of snow, it was going dark, and temperatures had already plummeted to around - 7 degrees. I had a recovery run planned in and with the snow, it was going to be a slow one anyway, so I decided to take Wilson with me.

He'd already had a good walk around the local fields, but when he saw me putting on my running kit, he started to get restless and nearly knocked me to the floor when I picked up his lead and collar. He was so excited, and once out on the paths and starting to run, he was off before I'd even got my footing on the ice and snow.

The first mile or so was a nightmare. There was patchy ice that I couldn't see properly in the darkness, and I had an over excited little dog that was loving the freedom of running in the outdoors. Arse over tit came to mind on several occasions, but as we progressed, I kept telling him "steady" and he kept looking at me with a hint of understanding and slowed down whenever I said it. 

We eventually reached the proper snowy bits where we could both relax and were less likely to fall over. That's when I really started to enjoy the run! Being in the parkland area meant lots of wild smells and Wilson picked up scents on numerous occasions and tried to drag me off after some wild animals that were unseen to me in the dark, except for a herd of deer that I spotted digging in the snow and trying to find the grass beneath.  We passed a couple of other dogs too, but with a firm "leave it" from me, amazingly, he just glanced briefly and ran by without any commotion. I was gobsmacked but so proud of him.  With a lovely wet nose and looking so happy striding out beside me along the trails, it was clear that Wilson was loving this experience just as much as I was!

Me and Wilson partway through our run
We spent about 45 mins out on our first run together, and I have never seen Wilson look so content when we got back home. He cleared his dinner bowl, and then came and snuggled up next to me on the sofa and fell fast asleep, and I felt a strengthening bond growing with the young chap.

I've since been out on a couple more runs with Wilson and am absolutely loving being with him. Every time i pick up my running kit or shoes, he looks at his lead and collar as if trying to say "take me mum" and it doesn't seem right to let him down.

We are still contemplating getting a little friend for Wilson and the thought of being able to run with 2 or maybe even 3 dogs at some point is very appealing. I'd already started to get my mojo back for running since doing the Grizzly trail race the other week, but now I'm looking forward to hitting the trails and sharing them with my 4-legged friends. In the absence of Andy ever taking up running, I think I've definitely found the perfect running partner :o) 

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