Lessons from a Pooch, and Why We Have to Be Active

I share this journal entry from some years ago to illustrate a few points about physical activity, anxiety, feeling trapped, and what to do about it.  Skip to the punchline: you need to get off your butt and MOVE AROUND.  Exercise is about much, much, MUCH more than weight loss.  It’s for your quality of life, the length of your life.  Do it!

We’re proud pet parents of a German Shepherd mix of questionable history and indeterminate age, due to said questionable history.  He’s five-ish?  Maybe six?  His lineage is similarly up for discussion.  He looks like a German Shepherd, but he’s on the small side: about 65 pounds.  Folks at the dog park think he’s a girl.  Drives Mister crazy.  In the past, we’ve referred to him as our “fuzzy speed bump” and our “throw rug we have to feed.”  The guy is completely laconic and mellow.  To borrow a phrase of Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, he is “calm submissive” to such a degree that he spends 80% of his life rolled on his back, offering you his belly.

However, as I’ve described in another post, he has his moments in which he’s restless and even neurotic.  We walk him at least twice a day, at least 20 minutes at a time, and we get him out to the dog park regularly; however, I remember some time ago when it became clear to us that we weren’t doing enough.

Mister came home for lunch, as he did every day, to find the house in considerable disarray.  Dog had clawed at the Venetian blinds, tearing and bending them beyond repair.  He’d even dug at the carpet at the front door, pulling it up frantically.  My guess is that he saw a cat or squirrel outside and lost his tiny little cooped-up doggie mind.  He could only think, “I must get out of here, and I must get out of here now.”

Sound familiar to anyone?

So to address the anxiety, I started taking him running with me in the mornings.  The two of us cruise for three miles around where we live, rain or shine, in the early-early.  When he’s focused, he’s like a laser beam with ears back and tail up.  He hasn’t quite understood that running-time is not stop-and-sniff-stuff time, but he’s getting the hang of it.  I still have to watch him closely to make sure he doesn’t zig or zag across my path and trip me up.  But as I say, he’s improved greatly, and he’s a great companion.  Soon, we’ll be able to go longer distances.  Woman and beast, working as one.

When our runs are through, we’re both pretty tired.  He has some water and a bite to eat (sometimes lying down, yes!), and then flops into his familiar pose: fuzzy speed bump.  He’s spent and very happy.

I sympathize with him.  Anytime I’m cooped up, whether it’s in a car for a long trip or in my office for a long day, or these days in the house trying to decode the mysteries of a 7-month-old, I feel like I could claw the blinds and dig the carpet.  If I haven’t gotten any exercise, I feel like leaping out of my skin.  I get restless, crabby, jumpy, anxious.  Why should my critter feel differently?

What have we learned from Dog?  Start here:

Spend some time in action today – walking with purpose, riding a bike, climbing stairs, dancing in the kitchen, or whatever you choose.  Move around and work that tension out of your body and your mind.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re on four legs or two: you need to move.  And if you have a dog, well, he needs to move, too!

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