Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tuesdays with Rory

I adopted Rory a little more than six years ago from a shelter out in Bonita, California.  She was the most calm dog there, and just nuzzled me while I poked my fingers through her pen door.  That plus her caramel eyebrows sealed the deal, and I adopted her on the spot.  But after having spent six years together, while she is definitely a lover, she's certainly not calm.  Well, she's calm most of the time that she's sleeping (bunny dreams are terribly exciting, it seems), but other than that, she's fairly distracted. 

Now, I've always loved the idea of taking her running with me.  It makes so much sense - she gets exercise, and I look like I'm running with a big, scary dog.  People pretty much leave me alone when I run with her, and it makes me feel more safe.  Our only hiccup is that Rory does not listen to me while we're out.  She's a million other directions, spotting squirrels and birds and kids and dogs and twigs and rocks and anything but me.

This wouldn't be a huge problem except that there have been multiple times that her distraction has caused me to trip and fall.  She looks off to the side, her rump bumps into my calf while I'm midstep, and I fly forward into a full, bouncing belly flop on the concrete.  It's not fun, and it hurts more than a little.  Neither are twisted ankles after she's clothes-lined me with the leash.  Beyond that, it's just not good for her to be scatterbrained when we're out, not paying a lick of attention to me and what we're doing. 

Our running struggles reached a near meltdown a few weeks ago, and I began handing her and her leash over to Bo one mile into each run.  I was fed up, frustrated, and my running gate was crooked and tense because of my dealing with her.  I just gave up.  And that alone was even more frustrating.  I don't give up; I work through things, dangit.  Even if it requires work and more work and lots of failed attempts.  I work through it to success. 

Then one Sunday afternoon, I needed to burn off some pent-up energy from having sat on the couch all day.  I was feeling antsy and just craved movement.  I threw on some shoes, told her to come with me, and we hit the trail in the mini-forest behind our house.  And we hiked.  And she fell into line right behind me.  She was off leash, and had an entire field to run through.  And she followed me without one word of direction from me.  She followed me.  As she made me her pack leader, I began evaluating myself at that point.  How was I different?  What energy was I giving off?  I realized that afternoon, that I was feeling happy and my only goal was to work out some pent-up energy.  I simply wanted to get my legs moving and to breathe the outside air.  And because I was calm and focused and content, she followed me.

It was a huge, huge breakthrough for us that day.  I came back happy and hopeful; two emotions I almost never experience when Rory and I are out together.  And I began running in the mornings when there are fewer distractions for her.  And when I'm not reeling from a long day of work and impending Sarandipity orders and the endless lists I have spinning through my mind. 

And I'm consciously working on being a leader who approaches a run as a gift from God - something to be grateful for.  Until a week ago, I've always approached running as a task on my list, a means to an end, whether that end be a marathon or weight loss.  It's always been a chore.  But this morning, as we set out in the gray hush of dawn, I reminded myself how incredible it is that I can run.  That I have a simple, reliable way to calm my mind and work out energy and instill contentment in my soul.  And I tried to keep my mind in the moment and focused only on moving forward. 

I'm a work in progress.  But, as usual, I'm working on it.  And in the correct direction this time.


  1. We want to start trying to take our dog for walks. I'm glad he's only 20 lbs because I can't imagine trying to walk him if he were the size of Rory! (ours is border collie/black lab/something little but looks like someone just shrunk a black lab)

  2. What a great post, thanks Sara. There's nothing like appreciating the value of happy, no pressure exercise. Just getting out and enjoying the world with a nice hike or run, it's beautiful.

    I totally understand about your running woes. For me, running with a dog is completely different than actual running. Shaak Ti runs at 200 miles an hour, pulling with all her might, so I have to run while doing a low grade lat pull to keep her from yanking my arm out of its socket. This is very tiring, and its not until 1.5 or 2 miles that she's out of enough pep that she actually runs beside me. Puppy is like Rory, darting back and forth between my legs, with no rhyme or reason. It's good though because it makes me slow down and focus on running on my toes, which helps prevent wipeouts. Silly puppy, she's still earning.