I had known what I needed to do for a long time. The answers I needed were right there inside of me. I had written running plans and hired trainers to write plans for me. I spent so much time planning that my husband actually called me out saying, “I think you spend more time planning than actually running.” I thank him for his honesty.
I once fell asleep sitting up on the couch with a perfectly un-spilled drink in my hand watching YouTube videos about running form. Sunrise, sunset, repeat, repeat again. I didn’t know why I wanted to run. I knew that I didn’t feel well, I was always tired, often sick, and stressed out. Just riding along in my life day by day. I was busier than I would have liked. I wasn’t unhappy, just not my best. I knew that in order to feel better and find the better version of myself I would have to change so many things. I wouldn’t be able to continue eating like crap, I would need to learn to be mindful, have self- control, self- motivation and consistency. It could not be part time or on and off. It had to be a commitment. It sounded exhausting. I was afraid to take the first step because I couldn’t turn back once I did. I needed to find the will from someplace unseen to get there every day. It wouldn’t be easy but it would be worth it. I needed to train my mind first and my body would follow. I was not running away from anything but running to it.
Leaving my safe place on a cold day.
I could sit here in my safe place in the comfort of my home, the warmth and glass of wine waiting on the table. I could look out the window into the night listening to drops of freezing rain pattering on to the glass. I realize my morning run will be icy and wonder if I will miss it. The chill of the window is reaching towards me, taunting me, “What are you going to do? Why do you want this?”
I don’t have words to explain it. I put on my shoes and start to pace back and forth, put on my hat and then coat, continuing to pace. My husband gives me a strange look as if to say “What are you doing?” My dogs already know before I do. “Why not just run on a treadmill?” someone asked.
Because I am still training my mind and tomorrow I may have an excuse.
Moments out of the door I have an ice-cream headache and think I am probably crazy for doing this. As my body warms I think of the soup waiting on the stove. My nose begins to drip in anticipation and starts to freeze. Next time I will wear a scarf.
A friend of mine once told me to pay attention to the things you are jealous of; they could reveal something to yourself about the inner longings of your heart.
I don’t consider myself to be a jealous person at all; however, I have more than a few times looked longingly out of my window to watch people run. I didn’t really know I wanted to run at first. I had put the idea of it out of my mind after my son was born three years ago. By then I had run a few 5k’s and continued running into my 8 month of pregnancy until one morning my hips just said “Enough.” I got out of bed to do a nice pregnant side fall and then I was unable to stand or walk for a short while. My plans to bounce right back up after his birth were met by days and nights of chronic hip pain. A year of chiropractor visits and hearing words like, “You are going to need to hold off returning to martial arts, and possibly find a new activity.” Or the dreaded “If you really want to get better then you probably shouldn’t run. Try biking.” I eventually gave up on seeing the chiropractor as I was not seeing much improvement. The only advice I did listen to in the cloud of words of coming from those with good intentions was about me maybe having muscle imbalances and to try stretching and yoga. I chose to hear what I wanted and thankfully it has been working for me so far. It has now been three years and I am doing just fine getting thrown around in martial arts class and also training for a half marathon. The thing that made me jealous though I realize now was never just people who could run or those with endurance, speed and beautiful form. It was their mind I was jealous of. That the person I saw out my window had just won a battle of the mind that I had been fighting on a daily basis. That person had it been me, was able to silence all of the thoughts and noise in their head, all of the words giving them reasons to stay inside or procrastinate until time ran out. Words from others and words upon tens of thousands from themselves. Their mind was trained that day to just go. That is what I am inspired by. I am usually the girl at the aid stations. I will stand outside in 0 degree weather all day to watch people run an ultra-marathon. I honestly love it and have had to hold back tears on an occasion or two watching a complete stranger cross my checkpoint. I wonder what their story is and how much doubt did they have to overcome. How many words did they have to silence not only during the race but every time they went out to train? How did they train their mind to just go? I have no idea where I will be another year from now; however, I know one thing. Every time I get out there to just go run I am winning a daily battle. I am laughing inside at everyone who told me not to and I am winning against my own negative thoughts. Every time I win it gets easier to win again, every time I win the negative voices get farther and farther away.
This is my foster failure, former Human Remains Detection Dog and beautiful brindle boxer renamed to Bruno. His story is about how a mouthy challenging as hell foster dog found a way into our hearts, landed an unexpected home and later surprised us all by becoming a non-traditional breed of dog training in Search and Rescue. We gave him a home but in no way did that compare to the amount of learning we would be forced to do while trying to understand what made this stubborn dog tick.
There he was, this stunningly handsome brindle boxer, fully intact and standing on his hind legs likes a wild stallion, while the rescue volunteer was trying to hang on to his leash and get him to relieve himself. I had put in my application to become a dog foster parent with the Boxer Rescue not long before getting a call for a somewhat un-socialized boxer who was great with kids. Not much else was known about him except that his owners did not have time for a dog. I half expected my first dog fostering experience to be a somewhat fun, slightly challenging way to refresh my dog training skills while waiting for my future Search and Rescue Dog to be born. I was confident I could put in some work to rehabilitate this boxer and send him on his way to happily ever after with his new adoptive forever family. I had no idea what I was getting myself into or how much I was actually going to learn from him. My husband had his chance to tell me I was making a mistake by agreeing to become a foster mom but he wasn’t really sure how he felt, other than, this might be a bad idea. Still he wasn’t certain enough to tell me no. So I continued on, going forward.
After arriving at our exchange location and observing the dog for a minute it was obvious he hadn’t had much, if any training. when I got out of the car to approach the volunteer I was careful not to glance back at my husband for fear he would sense the doubt I was beginning to have or show the disapproval in his eyes that I am sure was there after quickly observing the dog we were about to take home. After a brief conversation and introduction from the volunteer, she looked me over quickly and handed me the leash saying “Here you go, this is Cujo.” I did my best to calmly and confidently convince the dog named Cujo in that second that I wasn’t a complete idiot but he quickly tested my bullshit by looking me directly in the eyes to bark and growl. “Oh by the way,” the volunteer called back as she was returning to her car “he likes to talk a lot but I think he might actually be a sweat heart under all of that…Good luck.”
Once arriving home Cujo made his presence well known by marking his territory on every single object he could in my house. My furniture, walls and carpets were quickly saturated by his urine and then by dark colored diarrhea as his anxiety built. It took a lot of scrubbing and eventually a professional carpet shampooing to get everything clean again. We went through three dog crates that weekend before finding one that could contain him. Each time he would break free and then run up to me full speed wagging his short tail fiercely and barking his head off obsessively as if to say “Bring on the next challenge, I have seen it all!”
To make matters worse we discovered very soon that Cujo, was uncertain of men. I was already concerned my husband might have been planning my demise at this time but within a couple of days as Cujo was trying to understand our family dynamics he decided that my husband picking up to hold our children or kindly touch me should warrant more extreme barking his head off. I have had many dogs in my life however never one this vocal and it brought me a lot of concern that maybe I was not equipped enough to handle him.
I messaged the owner of the rescue organization and explained what was going on; she had no idea that Cujo was going to have these kinds of issues and offered to have him removed immediately. I hesitated after a long discussion with my husband about what we should do. My husband once again being so much more patient than anyone I have ever known, gave the decision to me. I couldn’t help wonder if there was maybe a reason that I ended up with this dog. Maybe this dog would teach me more than I would teach him. I wasn’t ready to give up and I am thankful I did not.
One of every parent’s worst fears is having their child wander off and get lost. I can hardly imagine what my grandparents were going through the day they discovered their 4 year old granddaughter had gone missing. This is the story of an early childhood experience, which lead to my love and trust in dogs and why I later found myself training as a Search and Rescue K9 handler.
Saturday morning meant I would spend the day with my grandparents and my grandpa would pour pancakes into shapes of different animals, which I would devour while sneaking tidbits under the table for their cat Alice. After breakfast I would immediately want to go outside to play with the dog. I was an only child before the ages of tech and gadgets so I had to rely on my imagination to entertain myself. I had a lot of practice doing that. My grandmother was very much aware of this, which is why at first she didn’t pay much attention to me when I started begging her to let me go outside to find “the cabin out there” assuming that I had either made up something pretend or was going outside to play in the dog house again where they had more than a few times tried to convince me I was not allowed to sleep in at night. She answered “sure, just stay with the dog”. That was kind of a thing for our family during those decades. To assume someone is always safe as long as they are with their dog. This time however, that theory became very true. The cabin I was talking about finding was actually a real place I had heard existed deep in the woods.
Beyond excited that grandma had given her approval I stuffed the rest of my breakfast into my mouth and quickly ran outside to find Nathan and tell her all about the adventure planned for our day. Nathan, was a female coyote mixed with German Shepherd Dog my grandparents kept as a very loyal and protective pet.
With the spring air on our faces we set out leaving the safety of grandma and grandpa’s property, crossing a field, a gravel road, another field and into the woods. We spent the entire day trekking up and over and though the woods in sort of a zig zag everywhere pattern. Eventually it didn’t matter what we were looking for anymore. We were surrounded by the beauty of birds singing their songs, rabbits chasing through the brush, deer silently watching and then running full speed away from Nathan, wild flowers beginning to emerge and a stream bank full of marshy water from the spring weather’s melting of South Dakota snow. We followed the stream for quite a while until a very fast moving Big Sioux River emerged. It was there that I stood somewhat frightened of water from a near drowning experience I previously had. I froze my gaze ahead of me to the East across that huge beast of a river and knew my path had ended. I turned my head back to look at Nathan and saw in the West that the sky was turning orange. That was when I had the realization that I had no idea where I was and that the night was coming. Nathan who had been following close behind me the entire time sensed a fear coming from me and she closely studied my face as I started to get the sting of a single tear and in just a few shaky words I looked at her and said “Nathan I want to go home.” She instantly, and calmly turned around and started heading West looking back at me one time as if to say “This is the way we need to go now.” and I followed her the entire way home in a straight line like the crow flies. We arrived just in time for dinner and to have my grandfather call off the sheriff.
It was my deep connection to Nathan, and other dogs during my childhood that lead me to want to train Search and Rescue dogs. Part of me is still just a little girl playing in the woods with my dog. First looking for myself and now also for others.