My pup’s hunting instincts have pushed my physical activity beyond the lazy comfort zone I’ve been sitting in for about the past month, and it’s a wonderful thing.
When we took D.D. in April for her complementary veterinary check-up, an eager animal lover working the reception area sold us on the merits of our Carolina dog mix.
“That breed is also known as a Chinook — she’ll hunt anything: ducks, birds, squirrels, rabbits,” he said excitedly.
My fiancé and I shared a glance and a grin with each other, the silent understanding that neither of us has any interest in hunting, which means D.D.’s instinctual merits are lost on us. The receptionist caught on.
“Oh man, you guys don’t hunt?” he said, launching in to show his childhood in Pembroke was filled with outdoor adventures he shared with his father.
We’re more the city-dwelling types with little outdoor acumen, we said, but we still intended to be active with our dog.
My fiancé and I have shared many laughs during our walks with D.D. recalling how let down that man sounded to know we wouldn’t embrace our pup’s wilder side.
We usually hold her leash with a tight grip and yank her back when she lunches at small animals, but one night while we walked her together, we decided to let her have some fun. Rather than restraining her, my fiancé let D.D. take the lead, and the pair trounced after some squirrels together, man bounding after dog and impeding her speed.
It’s infinitely amusing to see her whine in frustration and try to scale large oak trees from all sides, never quite internalizing that the squirrel is long gone and she’s not equipped for climbing.
That evening, we let her chase a handful of squirrels before reeling her back in.
Though that outing provided lots of laughter, I’ve learned the hard way that it wasn’t the best move to make. When I walked D.D. alone on my bum ankle after that, she thought she had leeway to run after critters.
We’ve gotten D.D. back under our control at most times, but on one walk last weekend her predator instincts were at their prime. Posture erect and ears standing high, D.D. charged a squirrel about 10 feet away. She pulled so quickly that I had two options: either to let go or go with her.
I went with the latter, taking cautious, deliberate steps with awareness about whether my recently sprained left ankle was in jeopardy of rolling.
“I’m running!” I thought as I bounded after D.D.
Despite our best efforts (or, really, hers), that lucky squirrel got away. But the incident left me wondering if maybe it was time to lace up my Asics once more. I’ve tried a time or two since my injury, but each attempt has ended in pain and wincing.
So on Sunday morning, I dropped the dog off at home, put on my brace and launched my “Just Run” playlist and took to the pavement.
I got about 20 paces in before realizing that my short jaunt with the dog was a fluke – the pain still definitely was there. So instead of quitting entirely, I walked a mile at an aggressive speed.
I didn’t stop there; I came home and worked my upper body with an old Jackie Warner workout DVD, challenged my core with some Gaiam yoga with Rodney Yee, and wound down with a lower-body stretch aimed to target my pained area.
Since then, I’m proud to say, I’ve also attended my yogalates class and the more challenging TRX. I can’t do all of the exercises that come up, but my instructor offers good modifications that won’t strain my ankle and keep me moving.
While I’ve yearned to get back into exercise during my rest period, D.D.’s antics gave me enough confidence to get me back into the swing of things — and that’s one of the reasons we decided to enrich our lives with her.
The two of us have even trotted a few spurts together. I hope to soon resume running the way I used to, and I’d even like to improve my speed — but for their sakes and my own squeamishness, I hope we’re not fast enough to catch the squirrels.