Disclaimer: The following is an exercise in verbosity.
It's been extremely cold for the past couple of weeks and I've decided to embrace the frigidity. In order to be successful, I must adapt to the conditions which have been allocated by the balance of the seasons on this orb. I'm outside with my clients' dogs for up to six hours per day, so I always wear appropriate clothing and make sure conditions are safe for the dogs, too. If you stumbled upon this post and ever wondered what a day in the life of a dog runner was like, I'll try and outline for you what my day consisted of and how the dogs I worked with handled the conditions.
During my first appointment I ran with an eight-year-old husky through some deep virgin snowpack all over the country club golf course, today our de facto playground. He is partially blind in his right eye but that didn't matter because there was nothing but beautiful wide open space, all snow covered and other-worldly. I can't quite describe how that felt, but it was many things: exhilarating, satisfying, cathartic, revelatory. I was wearing a balaclava, two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, two upper layers, a beanie and two pairs of gloves with a pair of shoes with well over 500 miles logged. We climbed the steep northwest side of the golf course towards Wayne Ave. and were both in need of a few deep breaths. The dog, Malachi, was moving effortlessly through the snow as if bred for this type of activity. There were obscure tracks around, some obviously from sleds or skis, but we didn't follow any particular route. Sometimes it feels really good to just carve your own path so I let Malachi lead the way and I acted as custodian for his adventure. We returned to his domicile and he was contented.
*The weather today was cold enough for schools to be canceled. I postponed all of my appointments until the conditions were safe for outdoor activity. I put the health and well being of the animals (humans included) ahead of any decision about keeping an appointment that I make. I genuinely cherish every moment that I am with a client's dog. It's what I do for a living and I want to provide the dogs with an experience that they'll look forward to every week.
I ran with another dog at the OARDC after that. He is a ~two-year-old Irish Doodle named Ollie. His energy rivals the husky's energy from my first appointment. I've been running with Ollie for almost one year and he knows the routine. We always have an amazingly fast first mile which consists of a flat sprint to the highway, crossing 250, and then mostly uphill to the arboretum. We usually take the forested path on the easternmost side next to the Dix Expressway; however, today I decided it would be safer to traverse the cleared roadways. During our run we actually came upon two different walking pairs; one a man and woman, one a man and his dog. I commanded Ollie to wait; he barked. Wait! Bark. Wait! When he was finally obedient, we proceeded and turned onto an uncleared path (Dawn Redwood Ln), which had only one set of tracks. During the steep downhill I looked at my GPS watch and it showed an unsustainable pace, so I slowed to something more manageable, but for a minute it was a wild ride. It was then that he had been exhausted to the point of joining me in a relatively similar cadence (I also failed to mention that I use double leashes - one on the front of the harness and one on the back, much like a marionette). Back to home base, tired and happy, but apparently not tired enough because he was jumping up on me giving me hugs not wanting me to go. I promise - I'm not making this up! Dogs are truly the best.
No time to waste! I immediately drove to the next appointment and during the trip I drank some Gatorade and ate some peanut butter & cheese crackers as a little caloric jolt to the ole system. All of my somehow-sweaty-even-though-it's-below-freezing gear was thrown on the defroster as I drive the 15 minutes across town to meet Ellie, a coon hound.
As I pull into the drive, Ellie is barking at the window, harness on and knowing that she is about to get her weekly jaunt. I pull my somewhat defrosted gear off the vents, layer up and meet Ellie's owner through the garage. Now the fun part! We start south towards Highland and begin up the Kinney field path. It's not cleared, but that's no issue for this hearty walker coon hound. She strides with ease through the uneven path, sniffing the prior passers-by and their deposits, while determining where the best place for her own would be. I would describe her gait as a saunter - she has a swagger that I've not seen in other dogs. (As a side note, the first time I ever took her out, it was spring and she targeted up a tall oak like there was a coon in the tree. It was really cool to see her instincts come out!) She is what I would refer to as a "sleeper" - she doesn't look like much in the speed category but when push comes to shove, she will take you for a ride. She is definitely in my top five fastest dogs I work with. We ended up with almost four miles in 30 minutes which is definitely on the quicker end of things! Every time I take her back home, and once she's inside, I can hear her barking from my van inside of the house because she is sad to see me go.
With those three runs, I logged a little over 10 miles. That's what the day of a "dog runner" consists of, more or less. Usually more, but winter causes cancelations and that's OK. As with Malachi, this weather adds another opportunity to really see these great dogs excel in their natural environment, but I am always thinking of safety and will be sure to make the right decision for you and your pet(s). I am content to be flexible and to make an appointment work for your schedule. I'm quick to respond and concise in communication, unlike this blog post! I've had so many great appointments in this winter weather with all types of dogs: Labradoodles, Beagles, Hounds, Labs, Golden Retrievers, Corgis, Pits, Huskies, German Shepherds, and many others. We've crossed many types of terrain and always safely and usually with frosty beards at the end. I so appreciate all of my clients and I look forward to meeting you and your dogs very soon!