I owe my fitness to my dog. Actually, maybe I owe much more than my fitness to Scooter, my golden retriever who would have turned 13 years old this month. She was about 6 months old when I moved to the Midwest for school and it was a schedule adjustment to get up early for walks. The day I came home to a pile of shredded paper that once amounted to an expensive textbook, it became quite clear that walking was just not going to be enough anymore. So, I started running again. Not that I was ever a â€œrunnerâ€, but I had run many miles over the years playing soccer. However, I regret to admit that once my life with regular practice scheduled by a coach ended I became a sporadic and inconsistent exerciser. Ironically, it was somewhat easy to ignore my own fitness and health but I really wanted to make sure my dog was healthy and fit.
The first organized race I ever ran was the Dog Jog several months later. We ran and walked, stopped at all 3 water stations, and upon finishing felt that a 5k was a long distance. I remember being quite shocked at how fast people ran the distance. I wondered if I would ever be able to get any faster than a 34 minute 5k.
Now that we were running, I started seeking out parks and trails away from the streets and as a result I discovered many great parks and trails that I previously had no idea were there. I met other runners, made new friends and found workout partners. On the weekends I made time to drive a little farther and visit state parks to run and hike half the day with my canine companion. Maybe I would have studied more if I had not had a dog, but I would have missed out on consistently getting out, staying in shape, meeting other like-minded people, experiencing all the different parks, lakes, trails, and camping spots and maybe best of all, watching my dog fall sound asleep with a smile.
Moving back to Colorado, Scooter and I continued to run, hike, swim, or walk on a daily basis. I also started doing longer runs on my own, joined a weekly group run and worked for a health club. From the connections made through running and fitness, my work slowly morphed into a livelihood centered around running, wellness and the outdoors. Looking back, itâ€™s funny because I donâ€™t know that I would have been involved in many of these things had my path not been altered a few degrees just by having a dog.
So, if you struggle with having a consistent fitness program, get a dog. They will be a daily inspiration or obligation for you to get out and be active. Of course, you have to promise not to just put them in the back yard for their exercise but commit to joining them every day for a walk no matter what the weather, mood, or social calendar holds. The days turn into months, then years, and before you know it you have a 10-year streak of daily exercise.
I had to say goodbye to my best friend last year on Thanksgiving morning but I still think of her everyday and smile (or sometimes cry), thankful for her influence on my life and the rewards I continue to enjoy. Happy Birthday to my favorite workout partner, who was never late, never complained, loved all weather, and visibly expressed that every outing was the best one yet!