Running with Buddy – Part II (A year later)
Snow flies as he skitters around a corner, haunches slipping sideways on the ice, front paws pawing for purchase. He turns ninety degrees in midair to follow an old set of footprints off at a tangent.
Posted Wednesday, 2 March, 2005
“C’mon Boo!” I yell, breaking his reverie briefly. He stops and looks back at me. Tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, grinning. His breath comes in steamy plumes in the winter woods. He seems to be saying, “C’mon yourself, old man, lets go!”
My trail shoes struggle with the 3-4 inches of fresh powder overlying an inch or two of ice and petrified footprints. The fresh snow makes it hard to figure out where it’s safe to plant your foot. I’m doing my best to avoid a highly kinetic human-ground interaction, if you know what I mean.
He doesn’t care. He’s got four wheel drive. Every once in a while he’ll loose it on a corner and scramble sideway to catch himself. He’s so low to the ground it doesn’t have the same issue with balance and gravity that I do.
He’s been cooped up all day in the house. The kids treat him like a lap dog. I find them lying on the couch like a big kid-dog fur ball watching TV. He’s a working dog. He’s designed to be outside running.
I had him all programmed for the invisible fence until the neighbor’s black lab decided to liberate him. Now I can only let him out if I’ve got time to chase him around the neighborhood. The good news is that the neighbor bought an invisible fence too so now we are going to figure out how to wire both yards together so that they can play and still stay out of the road. We’ll see to that when the snow melts.
Keeping him in the house when he wants to be outside is a pain. He’s a herding dog. He follows me around whenever I get up keeping just in front of me on the off chance I might make a break for a door.
But when he gets out with me in the fresh snow he’s very happy. I’m pretty happy too to be running again after six months struggle with the smashed patella tendon. I’m slow, but I’m doing it. Today I run him on the old loop up the hill to the AT&T tower down into the conservation land and around the pond.
I’ve been cutting this loop short by a mile or so because of the deep snow and the buggered knee. This will be my first time to stretch it out to the full 10k. The conservationists chased off the snowmobiles. Which I guess is a good thing for conservation, but I’d rather run on a packed snowmobile path than slog through knee deep show. Snow shoes and cross country skis just don’t create the wide, level, packed path that the Skidoos do. First we had a couple feet of drifting snow. Then we had a warm spell, followed by a cold snap that produced slick, lumpy ice on the trail. Today we have 3-4 inches of fresh powder. This gives enough traction for Buddy and me to head out and tear it up a little.
I’m slow. I ran a 20 mile race on Saturday and my hamstrings are a little angry. When we ran together out here last spring, he was tired coming back the last few miles. Not today. He’s got more energy than a Saturn Rocket. A black and white fire ball loping down the trail and looking over his shoulder laughing at me like, “Isn’t this great?”
When he was a puppy I trained him to stop before the one road we have to cross and wait to be leashed. He’s impatient. He wants to get going and bites at the lead. I heel him on the road. He’s pretty good at heeling. He doesn’t try to trip or dart, but he does pull too much. I have him sit and wait until I give the release word before we cross. I want him to respect the cars.
Unfortunately he thinks trucks, cars, people on bikes, anything moving or making noise must be some kind of sheep that needs to be herded back to the barn. I definitely don’t want to let him out in the snow because he thinks the snowplows need to be herded. He’s not stupid, just genetically designed to herd. Working dogs need to work.
He won’t go out on the frozen pond ice with me; he doesn’t think that is a very smart thing to do. Likewise, when I go in the pool in the summer he tries to ‘save’ me. Running around the edge barking madly, “What are you daft man? Get out of the water!” Then eventually his loyalty overcomes his outrage and he dives in to drag me out.
One thing he does like to do is run. Man, can he move. I think the neighbor’s Lab is loosing weight from all the running he has to do to catch up with Buddy. The Sheltie down the street can’t hold a candle to him and gets outflanked at each turn. I certainly can’t catch him anymore.
He spent all morning either sitting in a chair looking wistfully out the window at the snow or sitting at the front door looking at me and moaning. What a pain! Eventually I’ll break for lunch and head upstairs. He’ll follow me, jumping up on the bed to lie with his big fuzzy head on my pillow and watch. When I put on my fleece, he gets excited and can barely contain his enthusiasm. One of the ‘key’ words in his life is ‘run’, as in “Hey Buddy, want to go for a run?”
He runs like a wild palomino, loping like a wolf. He still stays to the trail and is a well disciplined runner, but he’s usually a couple hundred yards ahead stopping every once in a while to impatiently wait for me to catch up. That’s ok champ. Keep it up. I’m getting stronger. When this snow melts, after the marathon, I’m going to hit the track and get some speed back, and then we’ll see who’s laughing at whom!