Last year, right about this time, my friend Dan and I participated in a 5-K walk/run to benefit FOTS, Friends of the Shelter. The cause appealed to us as dog lovers, and we enjoyed it so much, that we returned, along with about 400 other people and their dogs. You might recall my story about the pig who walked last year, named Kevin Bacon. We looked for him, but he was not there. The announcer for the event mentioned his name, but so many dogs were barking in their eagerness to get started that we couldn’t hear why Kevin was missing. 400 dogs all in one place, made for an exciting start, although it was a bit overwhelming to Dora, and she, not a barker in harness, tried to hide between Dan and me as we waited for the runners to go by before we started our walk. Not all the dogs were eager to run or walk. A little dog named Spike, whom Dan had been baby-sitting, had to come with us, and although he was really cute, he was much more interested in sniffing and trying his darnedest to mark every blade of grass along the way than keeping up with Dora. Dan finally picked him up and carried him most of the time. Carrying 20 pounds of dog for 3 miles proved to be quite a workout for my friend, who has undergone 3 major surgeries in the past few months, but Dan is a terrifically good sport, and he is no stranger to physical fitness.
I like this trail, because there are about 4 different surfaces that we walk on, making the course interesting and enabling me to keep track of where we are, particularly on the way back. “Oh good. Here’s the little woods we went through with the uphill, and we get rewarded with a little downhill on the way back, and we’re about halfway through the second half. Oh good. Here’s the stretch of grass near the lake, and now we’re back on the concrete, so I know the end is in sight.” And “Here’s the little rise in the surface that tells me we’re crossing the finish line.” My biggest problem was not the heat or the distance but a persistent bee or maybe several persistent bees that made my head their target. Note to self for next year. Don’t use the strawberry shampoo that morning.
Some of the experienced walkers with dogs who couldn’t manage a walk like this, due to hip problems or short legs, used special doggy strollers or back packs for their pups. If we do this again next year, and if we let Spiky come with us, we might have to invest in one of those carriers. My running days are over, but I can still keep up a pretty good pace with my energetic Dora.
Dora is 7, about middle-age for her breed, but she and I are still a good team, especially when we have “Uncle Dan” walking just behind my right shoulder, giving me a heads up when a change in terrain might trip me or when slower walkers might make me wonder why Dora is slowing down. He’s great at keeping me informed, like when runners came toward us on our left on their return to the start and when a guy was returning with his dog draped over his shoulders and when we were approaching a water stop. Of course Dora wouldn’t drink from the common bowl. ”What? Drink after those other dogs? You can’t be serious.” I had to give her a drink from my cup. I tried to ignore Dan when he’d say, “Oh my gosh. You 2 are so amazing. She is so smart. I’m so impressed.” I used to be uncomfortable with his effusive praise, but now I just accept it and keep moving. What’s impressive is Dora’s professional behavior in this setting. And I’m so thankful for my friend’s dedication to our being able to participate and to our safety. Thanks Dan. Same time next year?
Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”
Available at Amazon.com, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261