Whole Dog Journal's Blog February 22, 2017

Why I'm Grateful for My Dogs - Again

Posted at 05:01PM - Comments: (32)

Yesterday, I had a long list of things that I needed to do and had committed to doing – things for myself, my job, my husband, a friend, and the shelter where I volunteer. The list was so long that just contemplating it made me feel tired.

Not even on my list, but in the back of my mind, was the knowledge that the dogs haven’t been out for a good long run in days and days. Nine-year-old Otto can cope with that; while he loves going out for off-leash runs, his behavior doesn’t really change if he doesn’t have that opportunity.

But Otto’s counter-point is one-year-old Woody, whose behavior gets increasingly gravity-defying with each day that goes by without a run. The carpet runners in my hall start piling up at either end, as he finds he can no longer walk through the house; he has to dash down the hall and slide into the room at either end. He starts greeting guests with airs above the ground. Wooden things (like the redwood bench on my deck) start getting chewed anew.

My son’s three-year-old dog, Cole, who is staying with me for a couple weeks while my son travels, is somewhere between my two. He can maintain good behavior when he’s not getting daily runs, but his neuroses start increasing. (Like a lot of coonhounds, he’s a sensitive soul and inconsistently demonstrates weird behaviors, such as spinning before mealtime, trembling and panting while riding in the car, hiding if anyone raises his or her voice, especially if another dog is getting reprimanded).

So when I realized that the sun was going down on a rain-free day  – and we haven’t had many of those lately – I gave up on the thought of ticking off a few more of the things on my to-do list in favor of taking the dogs out for a run in our favorite place.

This particular place will close to off-leash dogs in just a few days, and stay closed until the end of June, for the nesting season. It’s a “wildlife area” – not a “wildlife refuge,” as several of my friends have mistakenly called it – but an area that is nevertheless managed by the state fish and wildlife department for recreation and hunting.  Migratory ducks and geese nest there, as do native pheasant, quail, doves, and countless other non-game species of birds. All the so-called “game birds” are hunted there in specific seasons, but from March 1 through June, the birds get a break from predatory humans and their off-leash dogs, to lay eggs and hatch their babies. So this run was probably the last one that my dogs will have in the tall, green, open fields until next year. (They can run there again when the grass is all California summer brown, and the birds are all back in the air.)

Otto (on the left) and Woody


They needed it – the chance to stretch out and race each other across the fields.

All the dogs had a good time running, but none more than Woody. He runs and ducks and swerves and does these great kangaroo bounces, seemingly for the simple joy of doing them. It looks like he’s chasing a rabbit or running a race, but mostly, while Cole and Otto are munching on the tender spring grass or sniffing the small game trails, Woody is doing these great, looping laps of the field, all by himself, running for the joy of running.

As much as Woody and the others needed a chance to race around outdoors, what I remembered once we were out there, and I was laughing so hard I nearly peed myself at Woody’s antics (and couldn’t concentrate on making sure my camera was taking proper exposures), was that I totally needed it, too.

After the past week of pressure from the rain and the constant threat of another evacuation or flooding, and helping with evacuated shelter dogs who are being housed by half a dozen of my friends, on top of my own work and family obligations, I didn’t realize how tense I was, how shallowly and tightly I have been breathing all week. As I walked outside under a wide open sky, through the deep, wet, green grass, surrounded with birdsong and geese calling each other overhead, and led by three vibrantly healthy, exuberant, responsive dogs, I felt my tiredness float away. I felt my lungs start to work again; I breathed deeply, taking in all that color and oxygen and joy.

If it hadn’t been for the dogs – for trying to get the dogs tired – I’d still be exhausted! But that walk filled me up, and I’m happily plowing through my to-do list again, even as they sleep.

For the millionth time, thank you, dogs!

Comments (32)

I am very envious of the people who have safe areas for exercising their dogs off leash.
That is when dogs have the most fun, I think. I have my fourth Boston Terrier, a breed I very much enjoy. Living in the northeast makes cold weather outings difficult even with all the trappings for warmth and getting her dressed is like watching a slapstick comedy. She just turned two and is not fond of all the rigmarole, not to mention the layering that I do to be comfortable in the cold. She loves being out and is very smart, letting me know when enough cold is enough. Hot weather.......same thing, when the huffing and puffing begin we are back to air conditioning and all is well.
Despite many breed descriptions saying that BTs are good apartment dogs(and they are) they still need exercise and a good walk is best. Inside there is a lot of fetching going on as well as hiding toys and tugging on a tennis ball knotted in a sock. She loves to play, play, play. Fortunately she is an excellent smuggler and sleep buddy!
Know your breed or breed type since there are so many breed mixes today, rescues sometimes make very very wonderful and adaptable pets. I have gone that route many times in the past and have never been disappointed. I was a basket case when my 15yr old BT passed away. Life is not lived fully without a dog!
Thanks Nancy for the great write up. Your dogs look so happy and healthy!

Posted by: Her Woofness | February 27, 2017 8:47 AM    Report this comment

Cheers to that! Great pictures! The best part of my day is my daily 3-5 mile off leash run with my 2 German Shepherds. I make sure to schedule it in to my day every day because I know how important it is for all of us. I always say it is my medicine. They make me laugh every day, I love my time with them!!!

Posted by: Amy S | February 26, 2017 11:18 PM    Report this comment

I am so lucky to have a large fenced in field nearby where my Belgian sheepdog can run and play at his own pace - periodically he runs back to me with such happy eyes as if to say, "thank you, isn't this just the greatest!" To see my dog running in great looping races about the field is a joy and so good for his bones, muscles and mind. Then I see things through his eyes I would never see myself: a fox on the edge of the woods, a deer, a groundhog, a heron, a box turtle - it is such a delight to walk with a dog. As much as it is good for the dog to run free, it is also good for us humans to get out into nature and enjoy it and such a joy to be with a dog doing just that. Both of us are refreshed and recreated by our walks.

Posted by: giordana | February 26, 2017 6:53 PM    Report this comment

You write "my dogs haven't been out for days". . . are you kidding? Dogs need to
be out running EVERYDAY! Why do you have dogs if you are not taking care of their needs?
You might receive kuddos for writing on-line and posting your photos, but what are your dogs doing while you are posing???

Posted by: taffetal@yahoo.com | February 26, 2017 3:31 PM    Report this comment

OMGosh! I absolutely LOVE these pictures and descriptions! Especially love the one of Woody head-on, seemingly floating in a mid-air leap. I swear you can see a big grin on his face! Yep, our dogs make us happy. And when they are this happy, they make us laugh out loud.
Thanks for the story.

Posted by: jae | February 26, 2017 2:30 PM    Report this comment

OMGosh! I absolutely LOVE these pictures and descriptions! Especially love the one of Woody head-on, seemingly floating in a mid-air leap. I swear you can see a big grin on his face! Yep, our dogs make us happy. And when they are this happy, they make us laugh out loud.
Thanks for the story.

Posted by: jae | February 26, 2017 2:27 PM    Report this comment

A reminder of what we all need. I have to take exception to your stating that your senior dog could "cope" with not getting this exercise time. Lack of exercise for senior dogs is more harmful then for younger dogs. Sure, your younger dogs outwardly SHOW how they are affected by lack of exercise more but your senior dog's lack of exercise is not about running off steam it's about keeping his joints mobile, his organ functioning well. It's about stretching his longevity about life itself. As the Director of a rescue organization and a lover of senior dogs - my oldest right now is 21 and fully functioning - I know that daily exercise is a must to keep all dogs happy but for a senior it's a lot more than that....

Posted by: Mleary | February 26, 2017 11:27 AM    Report this comment

You stole the words right out of my mouths.. and written so well.
When days are so busy.. spending time with my dog outdoors is truly re-creation

Posted by: flashgordon | February 26, 2017 10:01 AM    Report this comment

Woody has grown up to be gorgeous!! No surprise.

Posted by: catfitzg | February 24, 2017 10:12 AM    Report this comment

I have 4 dogs. 2 adult dachsunds & 2 - 4 month old cavaliers.Our house burned down in 2015 & I lost my 2 best friends.While I still miss them very much & of course they can never be "replaced", I now have new children to love & give me much joy.I cherish my time with them & they are very spoiled, I hope they realize how much they're loved & needed.

Posted by: LadyVM | February 24, 2017 4:56 AM    Report this comment

My three German Shepherd Dogs and I are fortunate enough to live on large remote acreage (forest, field, no public road frontage) so they get daily off-leash playtime. But since I am home those unfinished chores are calling to me. Last year I started tracking with one of my dogs. Training for TDX gets me to open big-sky places in all kinds of weather. With Miley leading the way, I am caught up in the wide-open spaces, the pleasure of being outside in wind, rain or sun, marveling at her enjoyment of her work and her amazing ability to follow the track. Responsibilities are forgotten for a while.

Posted by: 3GSDsmom | February 23, 2017 11:18 PM    Report this comment

Dogs are the best!!

Posted by: Mel Blacke | February 23, 2017 8:23 PM    Report this comment

On 2/18 99% of the snow was gone, the sun was shining, temps were in the 40s and it was the first time since 12/30 that my whippets and I could go out in our fenced 3 acres. True joy for us all!! We've been able to get out each day now. BeeGee often just runs and leaps the sagebrush just for the joy of it while Rose focuses on chasing the wonderful scents and hoping for a bunny! (Bunny always wins!)

Posted by: Narrowdog | February 23, 2017 6:09 PM    Report this comment

Thanks for this reminder, my new puppy arrives in 3 weeks and this just made me cry, the waiting is a challenge as I have no dog now, but the joy will come, and I remember having this much fun with my previous Leonbergers. Thanks

Posted by: Charlee17 | February 23, 2017 5:28 PM    Report this comment

Thanks , I have been feeling like that too latley. As a matter of fact I think I will take Benny and hit the country today .

Posted by: Benny's mom | February 23, 2017 4:18 PM    Report this comment

Especially right now when things seem so uncertain and frightening, my dogs are a joy and a comfort. I am thankful for them every day.

Posted by: puppypig | February 23, 2017 3:33 PM    Report this comment

An off leash run is our most favorite thing and we try hard to get one daily.

Posted by: Carolyn M | February 23, 2017 2:01 PM    Report this comment

I agree with all the other comments...this is a wonderful post. Just reading it made me feel good. I'm also one of those with no open space to run off leash...reading this and looking at your photos, I could feel the wind in my hair, the smell of the grass and the joy of your dogs running with abandon. Thank you for sharing!

Posted by: GiftofGalway | February 23, 2017 1:55 PM    Report this comment

Great reminder!
I'm heading out with my senior gal, border collie and Aussie right now.
It's much needed for all of us and something that shouldn't get pushed off the list!

Posted by: luckystar | February 23, 2017 1:52 PM    Report this comment

Love Love Love this post and all of the replies!! I too went one year without a pup after number 3 of my rescued greyhounds passed.......saddest year of my life! I am now a mom to a 5 month old Fox Red English Lab pup that I have had since she was 7 weeks and YES it is impossible to be depressed around my pup! I have my smile back and am so in love with her and all of the training and exercise that goes with her! Nancy when I was reading your article I took a couple of DEEP breaths as I too can totally relate to you and your list! Most of the time my list does not even include things for myself. But my puppy is for myself!!

Posted by: SlyBrandy | February 23, 2017 1:20 PM    Report this comment

After losing the two previous Goldens that we raised from puppies, we went without for a year and a half until we recently rescued a five year old Golden, given up because of seizures, never treated etc. We knew we could handle that, she's a really great dog, and now on phenobarbital.

As the saying goes, "A house is not a home without a dog".

Posted by: Gabrielle1 | February 23, 2017 1:04 PM    Report this comment

We are eternally grateful for our farm and the surrounding fields and woods. Our Belgian even in her golden years is enriched anew those days we take off and decide to just follow where her nose leads.

Posted by: annab | February 23, 2017 12:12 PM    Report this comment

nancy, thank you for that wonderful article, and reminder of how much they do for us! I am so happy to hear you are all allright! Here in Phila. ,I was following news from your area, and worried about you all!

Posted by: Boss | February 23, 2017 12:02 PM    Report this comment

Thank you for confirming for me about how much joy our pets bring to our lives. I just adopted a young at heart Bassett/dashound mix after the loss of my last dog in a 8 month period of time(a pit in may 2016 and my collie 2/17). I adopted her the next day.(I would be in a physc ward if I had not,the pain of loss was so great). She has me living again. I am doing woodworking and painting again.
The day I got her on the way home from the shelter I stopping for BBQ and she pushed me out of the truck! (She was not car trained to her side. )She gets playful, she will remind me by dropping a toy on my chest to play fetch in the middle of a TV show!
Even though I have limited mobility, she has me active again! And your last post reminded me of that fact, dogs are the best medicine even when we don't know we need some.

Posted by: Sewanee76661 | February 23, 2017 11:49 AM    Report this comment

Nancy, thank you for affirmative magic!!! All dogs everywhere are stress busters. Dogs work tirelessly to remind their foolish humans that they key to the kingdom of joy is held between canine jaws NOT human hands scrolling keyboards or human legs scrabbling behind walkers.. Through our dogs we are reminded to live and laugh and learn to bark on the wind!!
I have degenerative scoliosis and my Papillons are constantly saying, "Hey you can still run in the mind's eye!!! Our legs will carry you!!!"

Posted by: Robyn Youl | February 23, 2017 11:39 AM    Report this comment

I wouldn't be near as happy and content without my two dogs. They add life to the overall party called living.

Posted by: beautysMistress | February 23, 2017 11:38 AM    Report this comment

I LOVE this post! My dogs have always gotten me out more than I'd likely go on my own, but never as much as right now, since I am the mom of a VERY athletic and fairly reactive border collie. This is a dog who absolutely NEEDS to run around every day, but is also unable to be off leash within sight of other dogs. I have been pushed to find appropriate places for us to hike, and this has led me to discover some wonderful nearby walks in areas that I had never explored before. Thanks go to my furry fitness trainers!!

Posted by: Jack's mom | February 23, 2017 11:02 AM    Report this comment

My dogs get daily lengthy walks but there isn't any open space for them to be free other than dog parks which I do not frequent. I'm jealous of that amazing, beautiful open space which is not common in South Florida. Lucky you and your boys!

Posted by: SFLSue | February 23, 2017 10:56 AM    Report this comment

My standard Schnauzer doesn't let me relax after work ever!! We go out & do our barn chores & check fence lines for 45 min or so, but he is still waiting for a walk, so some one on one time. Some days I really don't feel like going out walking in the woods, I'd rather allow myself to be lazy, but I always feel better after walking in the woods with Scout. They make you get out no matter what!

Posted by: joanne.c | February 23, 2017 10:55 AM    Report this comment

I referr to our rescue Portuguise rescue dog as my personal trainer, he comes and gets me every night for his mile to two mile walk. Once we are out the door it is what I needed and so refreshing. Not to mention my 30 plus minutes of exercise the government says I should do a day!

Posted by: Phantom II | February 23, 2017 10:43 AM    Report this comment

My two Australian Shepherds are a stress reliever / change of perspective makers too. Taking the time for them is actually the time I need for me. Thank you - love your articles.

Posted by: Fay Schafernak | February 23, 2017 10:33 AM    Report this comment

Thanks for the post and the pictures. Our own hearts are lifted just watching our dogs run free, whether it be a field, in the woods, or on the beach. We always return home with a smile!

Posted by: CaptainK45 | February 23, 2017 10:29 AM    Report this comment

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