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.

fitDogFriday

It’s been a while since I joined the FitDog Friday Blog Hop brought to you by SlimDoggy and co-hosts Peggy’s Pet Place and To Dog With Love. Hop along using the Linky Tools link below.

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Three new friends

Today I signed up to volunteer at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley. I’ve always wanted to walk shelter dogs, but have never done so before, because it seemed like I ought to be walking my own dogs.

Well, why not do both?

Truth be told, I found myself on the HSSV website yesterday fantasizing about getting another dog. I’m conflicted, because on the one hand, I want Leo to have a playmate who will run around with him more than Mia does. On the other, I’m scared of having to break up a three-way dog fight.

I saw this handsome fellow’s profile and felt sad that he’s been in the shelter since November, after being found all by his lonesome on a mountain trail.

But how to know whether he’d get along with my pups? Maybe I should go visit him.

Then I saw this guy, and my heart broke to read that he’s never been allowed indoors. He might not even be house trained.

jeck

I can’t adopt all the dogs, as much as I’d like to, but I can visit them regularly. And if in getting to know them, I think one of them might be a good match for our family, I can bring Rob and the dogs over to meet him. (Assuming our next dog will be a boy, in the interest of preserving Queen Mia’s status.)

My volunteer orientation isn’t for a few weeks, but I introduced myself to all the dogs today. Jeck, the shepherd, was the first one I met. He was very mellow, sullen even, but he kindly angled his body for me to scratch his butt as best I could through the bars. What would that be like, to adopt an adult dog who had never been inside, who wasn’t even house-trained? Could he stay out in the yard all day, and then sleep inside with all of us at night?

Jeck was quiet, but Hugo, the brindle pit bull, and his next door neighbor, Koa, were rowdy. Hugo jumped up on the bars and pawed the plexiglass. Let me out! I want to play. I’ve been in here so long.

Oh, Hugo, how I wanted to play with you.

Here’s Koa’s profile:

Koa looked at me soulfully and barked when I paid attention to Hugo. Don’t be swayed by his fancy brindle markings. Black dogs always get overlooked in shelters!

Boys, boys. Be patient. I’ll come visit you as soon as I can. And if some wonderful person takes you home before I get back, I’ll understand.

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I want to save them all

Note: I would love it if the following story ended with me bringing Misty home, but, spoiler, that hasn’t happened. My hands go up to everyone who’s ever rescued a dog, and for those who rescue animals every day.

My heart won’t stop bleeding for all the homeless dogs. Perhaps I need to block all the dog rescues I follow on Facebook and Twitter.

After last week’s puppy visit, I felt at peace with our status as a two-dog family… until I saw a listing last night on Old Dog Haven for a 10-year-old German shepherd, described as “very broken down.” The Facebook post had no photo and I couldn’t find one on Petfinder or the shelter’s website. I thought of asking for a photo, but then thought, Does it matter what she looks like?

I said to Rob, “There’s this dog at the shelter in Everett. Says she’s been there a while and led a very rough life before that…”

As the words came out of my mouth, I felt ridiculous. A senior dog? A female? Not part of our plan. Our next dog is supposed to be a pit bull, remember?

Still … the shelter is only a half hour from my office, and I knew I’d have some down time today.

This morning, a new Facebook post included Misty’s photo.

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My heart ached as I drove to the shelter, trying to convince myself that I’m not crazy. I’m not committing to anything. I just want to see the dog. Get a new picture of her. See if she’s in any better shape since this photo was taken. The description said she likes being outside during the day. She could be much easier than a puppy to care for. She could lie beside Mia in the backyard … assuming Mia tolerates having another female in the house.

If we fed her a diet of raw meat and grain-free kibble, I bet her coat and skin would clear right up.

It took longer than a half hour to get to the shelter. There were road closures. When I walked in, I asked the lady if she had a shepherd named Misty.

“For adoption? No.”

“You don’t have a dog named Misty?”

“Not for adoption.”

“I saw her on Old Dog Haven.”

“For fostering? You need to go through Old Dog Haven.”

“I can’t even see her?”

“You need to go through Old Dog Haven.”

I called Old Dog Haven from the car and got voice mail. I could do nothing but drive away feeling heartsick, wondering if I should have pressed the issue. Poor Misty, not only is she in jail, but she’s not even allowed visitors? But shelters have rules for a reason. Maybe I’d jumped the gun.

Later I saw on Facebook that several other people had called or stopped by and been told the same thing, but the shelter is all straightened out now, and Misty is available for adoption. I was angry that I was denied the opportunity to see her, but encouraged because so many other people expressed interest in her. A few people have put in applications already.

That’s the beauty of social media: in just a few hours, Misty’s story touched tons of people. My heart’s still bleeding, though, thinking about all the dogs in shelters who don’t have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds broadcasting their stories to the masses.

Take, for example, all the dogs at the shelter that I didn’t even bother to look at today, because I was so focused on Misty.

UPDATE: Misty was adopted on Sept. 10. Later that night, she showed signs of bloat, possibly from an enlarged spleen or tumor that caused her stomach to twist. She was euthanized in her new owner’s arms. Very sad, but as Old Dog Haven and her new owner point out, it’s also a success story. The purpose of Old Dog Haven and similar rescues is to prevent senior dogs from dying alone in shelters.