Exercise is a priority in my life. Yoga, hiking, lifting weights, I do it all and try to be consistent. Sometimes I can be a bit pompous. Like yep, I can totally take that class and be AMAZING. So, when I tried something new and we did lunges, holding weights, back and forth across the gym floor multiple times, I wasn’t worried. My legs felt kind of funny at the end of the class, but I hike all the time. I knew I would be fine!
Well, I couldn’t climb stairs, or sit on the toilet or really do anything comfortably that involved using my legs for ten days.
I’ve made the same mistake with new dogs. When I brought Kinsey home at seven months old, we went out on the wash every day. Within a week she started to limp. I should’ve gradually exposed her to the hard packed rocks and dirt of the wash. I didn’t, and her pads became raw and sore.
So, when I saw a man out hiking with three dogs, I tried to stay humble and remember my own poor choices.
While two of his dogs were fine, the third lay sprawled on the ground, panting and unable to lift his head. He had a bit of blood running down his front leg and the tips of his ears had been gnawed on by flies.
I stopped to help, and while I would like to say I didn’t give him any advice, I can’t. I’m a teacher after all, so I told the owner that even though it wasn’t hot out, he should carry water for his dogs. I showed him my backpack, and everything I bring along. I got my Nalgene bottle out and poured water into the collapsible dish I carry. But, the dog couldn’t lift his head. The man began to pour the water in the dog’s mouth. I disagreed with this, but I managed to keep my mouth closed.
As we waited for the dog to recover, the man told me that the dog was only eighteen months old. He’d gotten him from a friend that couldn’t keep him. He said that he should build up his endurance before he took him out again. I agreed. I told him to let the dog rest until it could get up on its own because dogs can die from exhaustion. At this point, the dog was able to lift his head and finish a bowl of water. So, I collected my dish, and said good bye. As I turned back to check on the man and his dog, I watched him tug on the dog’s cable collar/leash contraption until the dog stood up. Then they disappeared around a bend in the trail.
While the entire situation upset me, the fact that the man forced his dog up made me angry. I stewed about it for the rest of my hike, and over the next couple of days. As I thought about it more, and talked to friends about what had happened, I realized that the man was embarrassed. He didn’t want me to look back and see him sitting there with his out of shape neglected dog. His other two dogs were fine, and before he started the hike he had no idea the new dog was in such terrible physical condition. He liked dogs. He simply made a mistake.
Please, if you adopt a dog or have a puppy and want him to get into shape, remember:
Dogs are like people. Their muscles get sore! So, gradually increase exercise.
Dogs under a year old should not go on long leashed hikes/runs/bike rides. Their bones are soft and may bruise.
If your dog is leashed, it’s harder for him to self regulate. So, keep an eye on him! If he starts to slow down, or his tongue is hanging out, take a break. Find a spot of shade. Offer him some water. (I’m very much against biking with a dog on a leash. I’ve read articles, and seen gizmos in support of it. But, I think it’s dangerous for both the biker and the dog.)
If a dog collapses, his tongue is out and he can’t lift his head, do not force him to move. Wait until he can get up on his own. Offer him water, but do not pour it down his throat! He could choke!
Finally, carry lots and lots of water and a dish!