One Man and Somebody Else’s Dog
I tend to run alone, and on the very rare occasions when I do run with others, they’re usually either human or from Bedfordshire. But today I was asked if I would walk my Sister-in-law’s dog while she’s away on holiday, and I jumped at the chance. It was nice to have an excuse for an impromptu run, and it would also be a rare treat to be seen out in public with someone slightly smaller and furrier than me.
I imagined it’d go something like this: I’d lace up my trail shoes and the two of us would go for a carefree steady-paced run, following the river for a few miles and seeing where it took us. He’d quickly realise that I was the alpha of the pack, and would dutifully lope along beside me, matching my pace as I led the way. We’d leap over fallen branches and respond intuitively to whatever twists and dips the trail put in our way. Six legs, one mind. An hour later I’d return him home exhausted and panting, his doggy brain full of admiration and respect for his new human chum.
Foster had a slightly different plan.
We’d taken a grand total of two steps from the front door when my arm was very nearly yanked out of the socket, and I found myself hurtling down the road in the slipstream of the furry torpedo I’d foolishly tethered myself to. I learned very quickly that, if Foster the super-speedy labradoodle1 was anything to go by, dogs were great for interval training. For the entire duration of the run, we only had two speeds: Legging it so fast that my eyelids started turning inside out, or stopping dead in our tracks to sniff something probably-unpleasant. I thought about letting him off the leash for a while, but I soon decided against it; while I didn’t know how good his recall was2, I knew exactly how my luck worked. It was pretty much a certainty that if I did let him loose, I’d end up spending the next few hours desperately hunting around the countryside with an empty dog lead, before finally admitting defeat and heading off to the pet shop where I’d buy whatever animal was the closest to Foster in size and shape, and try to disguise it as him . I was damned if I’d spend another evening painting a llama, so the dog stayed firmly on his lead.
Luckily for me, most of the river trail was quite narrow, forcing us to run single-file, so as long as I started off in front I could at least pretend I was I charge. I just had to ignore the wet nose impatiently nudging the backs of my knees every other step.
When I returned him home a few miles later, Foster’s fuzzy little face had no sign of the tongue-lolling exhaustion I’d anticipated. Instead there was just an expression that said “So… when am I going for my proper walk then?”
1 If they every decide to move away from the dark, gritty tone of the latest Batman movies, “Foster the Super-Speedy Labradoodle” would be a brilliant name for the villain. 2 As in how obediently he’d come back to me when I called, not as in “Hey Foster, what did you have for breakfast on the last Tuesday in February?”3 3 I’m guessing dog food. Or socks. Probably socks.