That Dog Won't Run
Right when we get up is the only time he likes to cuddle. I adopted an Australian Cattle Dog, so it’s not like cuddling was high up on my list of wants from a pet. But it would be nice to have that kind of reassurance. A way of them telling you, “I really, really appreciate you making me a part of your life.”
But our quick morning nuzzles have always been followed by a brisk, invigorating jog. Starting my day off with a few miles under my feet makes the rest of the day’s challenges seem a bit more surmountable. And Aussie as a breed are supposed to like running constantly. The name tells you straight out what humans have bred them to do; herd cattle. They’re workers.
Of course what they often don’t highlight is along with that instinctual desire to make sure every living thing is moving in an orderly manner comes one of the sharpest minds on four legs. They work for a purpose. Get the cows in the pin. Retrieve any wayward stragglers. Fetch as needed. They’re as goal-oriented as they are active.
So when Grayson, my dog/roommate, started to just stop in crosswalks at about mile 3 of our 4-milers, I was concerned he was injured. I took him to the vet and explained what had been happening over the course of a few weeks. And his doctor couldn’t find anything amiss with him. He had high energy (up until he stopped.) He’d play fetch to the point of dehydrating if I let him. His poop samples came back clear.
“He just doesn’t want to jog,” his vet told me. Up to that point, that had never even occurred to me as an option. They’re supposed to be your best friend and faithful companions. They aren’t supposed to have wishes other then treat, ball, scratch, repeat.
“What if someone forced you to do a physical activity that you didn’t want to do. Would you go through with it?” the vet asked me. When put into that context, it was clearly understandable. I have good friends who live only five miles away. But five Los Angeles miles which depending on the day, time, and events happening here could take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour and change to get to and I bail on them. Running without the incentive to round up something or the pay off of toys must seem like a form of punishment to him.
So now my new goal is to run while finding a way to spice things up for him. I take different routes along the way. I make more frequent stops for him to pee and smell the other dogs and coyotes that came before. I’ve even reverted to playing Tug-of-War with his leash as I run, a habit I trained out of him as a puppy.
Seeing the individual in my dog has made me more aware of the individuality in people. We all have things we do for the ones we love that we’d rather not. And we all have things we love to do that we’ll never give up. What’s important is finding a way to keep yourself open to the needs of others. Even if it only gets you a couple of minutes of cuddles.