It is a sunny spring day, puffy white clouds hang overhead, a gentle cool breeze is caressing your skin, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, the insects are chirping, and your trusted, and dare I say, faithful running partner is lazily jogging at your side, tongue out with his or her tail happily waging as you go for an early morning run.
You struggled out of bed to get the run in before work, but your dog was ready and eager to join you. Now the two of you are easily running down your favorite trail with your dog (red bandanna wrapped around his neck) easily and happily loping next to you.
That's the dream I have in my mind when I wake up and decide to take Happy for a run with me.
Happy, our 6-year-old Golden Retriever, does everything in her power to encourage that dream when I get up in the morning. She looks at me with those big brown eyes as if to say, "Let's go for that run you won't regret it!" To make her point, her tail is a flurry of back and forth activity that could shake the house to the ground.
She whimpers with joy and licks my face as I put on my running shoes. She almost jumps out of her skin when she sees me grab her leash, and she bolts straight out the door as I open it.
However, it is not long before my fantasy of running with the dog is shattered.
We head down the driveway together and make a left turn at the sidewalk and Happy immediately puts the brakes on hard, stops to sniff an especially interesting spot in the grass where some unknown animal defecated the night before, and decides that this is a great time and place to go for a hearty roll to really capture the true stink of this mystery smell.
I drag her from the stinky spot with all of my might, and we head down the road for about a minute or two until an even more sticky spot grabs her attention and eventually her fur.
Two minutes later she decides to do her duty, which, by the way, is a good thing as I have a poop bag ready and waiting to collect the unhappy Happy waste from my watchful neighbor's lawn.
Four minutes later she decides to do it again which, by the way, is a bad thing as I only have one poop bag that is already full to the brim with her previous duty. Of course, in all of the early morning tail wagging joy filled haste and excitement, I had forgotten to bring extra bags.
I now drag her sniffing and pawing from the scene of the foul crime before the homeowner pops out of his house to collect the morning paper only to find a steaming fresh pile of you know what glistening on his freshly manicured lawn.
For the next mile or so, or at least until I get to the garbage can in the local park, I must run with Happy's leash in one hand, and a warm and very stinky bag of swinging dog duty in the other hand.
All this time Happy is going her best to stop and sniff every urine covered bush and blade of grass along the path. I do my best to run and tug and pull on her leash to keep her moving forward, while at the same time keeping the toxic bag arm's distance from my nose.
Finally, I happily deposit the toxic bag into the garbage can, and now we're finally ready to really run. Believe it or not, but you could be the world's fastest athlete in the London marathon and you would still run a fifteen minute mile with Happy's leash in one hand and a fresh swinging bag of doggy do in the other.
With smelling, and rolling, and pooping, and peeing out of the way the run can truly begin. Somebody please cue the chirping birds, the fluffy clouds, the gentle breeze, and freaking blooming flowers already!
Except that of course Happy has other plans.
She just must, and there's really no way to put this politely, sniff the butt of every dog that comes our way and that includes that cute white poodle, and that frisky collie, and that big brown mystery dog that's always wet, and that old dog that I'm sure must have worms.
To Happy these butts present a world of mystery and wonder that never gets old, even as I pull and tug at her leash to keep her moving forward.
After about 15 minutes of this ritual we finally cross the railroad tracks and get on the gravel running path that runs along the small and newly swollen creek. I let Happy off the leash and with reckless abandon she plunges into the cold and fast moving water.
This is good, I think to myself at first, as it will hopefully wash away the stink from that mystery spot she just rolled in, but all too soon I realize that the strong current will soon take her to Nebraska. Unaware of the pending danger Happy laps at the fast moving water while swimming lazy circles as she rushes down stream.
I sprint after her and desperately and yell, "Happy come here girl!"
Who needs a track workout when you have a Golden Retriever on the fast boat to Nebraska?
She finally notices me after about a half a mile of going the wrong way down steam. She lazily paddles out of the water and immediately shakes half the content of the creek all over me. Now I'm out of breath, cold, and wet.
But I'm grateful because she's completely clean. That is until moments
later she finds a dead carcass of some long forgotten squirrel. With in a second she's upside down and rolling with all of her might in, around, on top of, the long deceased squirrel.
I yell at her to stop, but it is too late. She now smells like musty, wet, pee soaked, two week old rotting squirrel. She kinda smells like a dish of moldy broccoli forgotten in the microwave for two weeks. I know this smell well (don't ask). I promise you that is a smell you will never forget should you be unfortunately enough to savor it first hand.
We continue or run down the path. Unfortunately Happy (true to her name) is very happy indeed to meet any fellow runner, jogger, walker, or stroller with a proper doggy style nose in the crotch welcome. I, of course, discourage this not-so-formal doggy greeting style, but every-so-often she manages to get her nose into some other runner's business.
I turn red, apologize profusely, scold her more profusely, and run
away as fast as possible. I consider this my second speed workout of
That is until Happy spots a rabbit and decides to chase it...never mind that her path takes her right under the wheels of an approaching cyclist.
Once again I turn red, apologize even more profusely, scold her even more profusely, and run away even faster. I decide I better put her back on the leash before she gets us both arrested for crude and rude behavior with her wondering nose.
Back on the leash we start a new game of scratch and sniff, with her doing all of the scratching and sniffing, and me doing all of the huffing and tugging.
After about an hour of this my house is finally back in view. She spots home, her ears perk up, and she puts up a final might tug at her leash as she can see our destination. We sprint the last half mile like we were shot out of a cannon. Or to be more precise, she sprints while I hold on to the leash for my life as she pulls me like a wayward wagon.
When we get home she plops down on the carpet worn-out, stinky, wet, and completely content, while I go upstairs to take a shower, and daydream about the perfect run with the perfect dog.
As I come down stairs and see her snoring on her favorite rug I grudgingly conclude that it wasn't such a bad run after all. Perhaps tomorrow's run will be easier I ponder, with a smile on my face, as I head out the door to start my day.
"There's always tomorrow," I say to Happy as she snores he agreement!