Walking dogs for fitness and fun

I really wanted to call this post How I lost 30 pounds walking dogs.

Turns out that won’t happen unless I also cut back on the M&Ms and french fries.

When I first started volunteering at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley, I went two or three times a week and walked three dogs about 20 minutes each on a trail that included some steep inclines. As sweaty and dirty as I was when I returned to work afterward, I thought surely I’d drop a ton of weight.

(In my early 30s, I lost 3 pounds just by walking Isis several days a week, with no changes to my diet. Sadly, I am now in my late 30s.)

Realistically, I couldn’t keep up that pace, so I cut back my volunteer hours to once a week. I’ve watched happily as many of the dogs I’ve befriended have found families of their own.

Two of my favorite inmates at the moment are Abe and Dylan, whom I like to cally Dilly, Dilly Bear, or Dillsbury Dough Boy.

Abe looks a lot like my old pal Buddy, who recently got his own home, soccer ball included. He’s a lean, but very tall hound-shepherd mix, with a boisterous bark that might intimidate visitors who only see him behind bars. But let him loose in the play yard and he’s a big, smiley goofball. Yesterday, I let him run loose for a few minutes before our walk. I let the dogs drag their leashes in the yard, so I don’t wind up playing keep-away when it’s time to put the leash back on. Abe ran so hard that he tripped over his leash and flipped onto his back like a cartoon character.

Don’t hold it against him, but Abe is a bit of a puller. It’s not his fault; no one taught him any better. I make kissy noises and give him treats when he comes back to me. (A clicker would be impractical; I need both hands on his leash.) On the wooded trail, I let him pull ahead a little, because he is a hound dog and deserves quality sniffing time. Yesterday, while he had his head buried under a bush, I saw a deer ahead on the trail. The deer ran off before Abe saw it.

It didn’t go entirely unnoticed though. Abe sure perked up when we reached the spot where the deer had been. He went bonkers, squealing and sniffing, making snuffling noises against the ground and, sorry to reuse the imagery, looking like a cartoon dog. I worried a little that he might pull me off my feet, but I held onto that leash for dear life as he dragged me up the trail until he lost the scent of the deer.

After returning sweet Abe to his kennel, I visited Dilly, a medium sized brindle pit bull mix. Dilly is the ideal dog for snuggling on the couch. He has this way of leaning up against you, like all he wants in the world is to be touching you. I sat down on the floor of his kennel and he crawled into my lap and I just held him for a few minutes, kissing his head. Honestly, I wouldn’t trade Mia and Leo for anything, but Dilly could teach them a few things about cuddling.

On my walk with him, I paused a few times to crouch down and rub his belly (and kiss his face, I admit it). At one point when I stood back up, he had a sudden burst of energy and sprang ahead. Unprepared, I let the leash slip out of my hand.

(Somehow, I managed to hold onto huge Abe, but let Dilly go? How did that happen?)

I quickly recovered from the heart-lurching fear that I’d just lost a shelter dog, realizing that Dilly would come back to me if I sat down and offered him a lap to sit in. And he did.

At this point, I was feeling pretty fatigued, still recovering from a recent head cold.

Maybe I won’t walk a third dog, I thought. I had planned to walk Clark, whom I like to call Clarkson. Now that Buddy has found a home, Clark, the so-dark-gray-he’s-almost-black pit-lab mix, has been there the longest of my pals. He initially was surrendered by a family with an apparent allergy, then was adopted to a family who brought him back after he got in a fight at the dog park. He’s been pretty anxious since I’ve known him, chewing through at least one collar and two harnesses. The shelter staff says he didn’t do that kind of thing during his first stint in the clink.

I couldn’t let Clark down, especially since shelter staff felt the need to rename him Clyde, so in lieu of a trail walk, I played with him in the yard. I swear, never has a dog been happier to chase a tennis ball. And then… he got even happier when I threw a second ball to him.

Two balls! I get to play with both of these? At first, Clark dropped one ball to pick up the other, but then he realized he could fit both in his mouth. There’s an old boat on a trailer in this play yard, and Clark likes to lie under it and tear the fuzzy skin off tennis balls. Tail wagging, huge smile on his face.

How, I ask you, HOW does this dog not have a yard of his own? I want to give Clark a yard, and a family with kids to play with him, and a bucket full of tennis balls to tear apart. Who cares if he doesn’t play well at the dog park?

I want to give Dilly a couch and a person to lean on.

I want to give Abe a person with patience to teach him to walk nicely on a leash (using force-free methods of course), and yard to race around in without a leash to trip him up.

I would use those wishes before I wished to lose 30 pounds.

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5 thoughts on “Walking dogs for fitness and fun

  1. That last picture of Clark is so adorable! All three of these pups are so lucky to have you until they find their forever homes! I’m 100% with you on thinking seeing happy dogs is more rewarding than seeing a smaller number on the scale!

  2. I bet Dilly, Abe, and Clark love it when you come to visit. It looks like you had a great time together.

  3. I always wonder why they are called “tennis balls.” More are probably used as doggie balls to chase and destroy.

  4. I think it’s great that you use your time walking shelter dogs! They look like they definitely appreciated the fresh air :)

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