Running: From hatred to necessity

Warning.  This, may be a long one!  We had two amazing labrador retrievers.  Galaxie, our oldest was 14 years old and Orbit was 12.  We had them since they were pups.  During the whole transition from my job and trying to figure things out, Orbit got sick.  He stopped eating and was in really bad shape.  The vet said he was trying to tell us that he needed to go and that the IV fluids and all the things we were doing to try to keep him with us were not what he needed.  We decided to say goodbye and I felt like he was relieved.  Not a week later, and fatty tumor that Galaxie had for years started to grow.  In the span of two weeks, we had lost both of them.  I was devastated, but told myself I would not get another pet anytime soon.  I didn’t give them enough time and attention in their lives.  After all, I was not giving anyone enough during that time, other than the job that is.

I had left my job, and was now home during the day.  I kept looking for Orbit under my feel as I worked a consulting gig at my home computer.  With my hubby at work and my son at school, and no pets to keep me company, I felt totally alone.  I told my husband that I wanted to start considering a new dog.  I promised myself that if we got one, I would devote more time to it.  We wanted to look for a puppy.  We thought that it would be great for D2 to have one.

We went to the local shelter to find out what the process was.  Back when we got Galaxie, we checked the shelters and puppies were not easy to come by so we expected to get our name on a list of some kind.  To our surprise, there were a few puppies available for adoption!  We met a couple, but one stole our hearts.  We decided immediately that Hera was the newest member of our family!

As I promised myself I would, I gave her more attention.  We did pet obedience classes, did some minor agility work and went for regular walks.  She grew quickly and is a very sporting breed.  She had lots of energy to burn.  Our walks soon became faster and faster.  Eventually I started to jog with her.  If I didn’t, she wouldn’t burn enough energy.  I started doing intervals because my cardio was absolutely horrible.  I would walk a minute, run a minute.  That was the most I could do.

I started my new job, and no longer had the luxury of walking Hera whenever I wanted.  I started waking up around 5:30 to take her for our walk/runs.  I found that I was actually starting to feel good.  I was improving my cardio.  I was increasing the run part of the interval slowly and making pretty ok progress.  I was one of those people that always said I thought people that ran were insane.  Running was horrible.  It felt horrible, looked horrible and was extremely painful (to me anyway), but here I was running a full five minutes before walking.

There were some mornings where I just didn’t want to get up.  Hera made sure that was not allowed.  If the alarm went off, and I didn’t rouse, she would come nudge me with her cold nose and talk to me until I got up.  (We say “talk”, she sounds a lot like Chewbacca with some barks thrown in.  Many Star Wars references to come in my posts.)

I got one of those belts that I could attach her leash to so I could swing my arms when running.  We were all set.  I decided I wanted to go further than just around the two blocks that make up my primary neighborhood.  I mapped the distance to the local greenway.  Just about a mile.  Could I make that?  That was the new goal.

I set out one morning with Hera in tow.  We were going to make it to the greenway!  I did intervals of walking and running and felt like I had just broken the tape of a major event.  I was more proud of myself than I had been in ages.  We did it!….. now, how exactly was I going to get back?  I walked most of the way, but did some running and told the story of my epic journey to my husband who was also proud, and just happy that I was happy.

This continued for many weeks, months even.  I ran to the greenway, then on the greenway.  I remember how excited I was when I covered the equivalent to a 5k in a training run.  Wow, I thought, I am running a 5k each week, plus some.  I was truly happy and starting to feel like a real runner.  Not to mention I was starting to see some changes in my body.

I slowly realized that I was enjoying the runs.  It was recommended that Hera not do too many miles until she was done growing, so Sundays it was just me.  I started slowly increasing my mileage.  I couldn’t believe how great I felt on my run and the entire day after.

One morning, on our usual run, I heard a couple arguing in their front yard.  I had researched (surprise, surprise) that in that type of situation, it is best for your dog if you stay calm and go about your business.  Hera was clearly uneasy, so I crossed the street so that we were not on the same side as the chaos.  The woman said something to the man, and she slammed the card door she was standing next to as hard as she could.

I don’t know what Hera thought was happening, but all I know is she thought in that split second that we were in danger and she immediately took off in the opposite direction.  I went down to the ground and she drug me a bit before stopping. At 75+ pounds, there wasn’t anything I could do in that split second.  Luckily we ended up in the grass, but it was painful none the less.  The man tried to come over and help, but I asked him to please stay back as Hera was trembling and clearly not ok.  He complied and I told him we’d be fine, we just needed to rest.

The was the last time Hera ran with me.  I am so beyond saddened by it, but I know that I need to get her in a comfortable place before we can try that again.  For both our safety.  She became extremely sensitive to loud sounds and a good thunderstorm sends her looking for a way out of her own skin.  We have been working with the vet and slowly introducing her back into going for walks so that she can see that everything is going to be ok.

I miss my running buddy, but I know we will get back to that place again.  I owe her that.  If it was not for her, I would not have found running.  I would not have found my way back to the happy self that I hadn’t been in so very long.  I owe that dog my very happiness and I will do what it takes to make sure I repay the favor.

How did you get into running?  I’d love to hear your story.  We all have one!