Remembering Rupert

I have found that there are things in life that a person realizes can happen, but you never ever expect them to happen to you.  These are things like dying in a freak roller coaster accident, winning the Powerball, or contracting a rare, fatal tropical disease while honeymooning in Fiji.  These things do happen, but it never crosses my mind that they can happen to me because they are fluke events, right?

On Monday night I got to live one of those “it will never happen to me” fluke moments, but not the good kind like the Powerball.  No, this was that really tragic moment when you watch (seemingly in slow motion) as your 8 month old puppy darts into the street after a cat as you stand helplessly in the yard with his leash in your hand.

And it was a total fluke, but that doesn’t make me feel much better.

I was leashing the dogs in the front yard, and, as usual, I put Oswald’s leash on first and turned around to put Rupert’s on.  For some reason, one of the gates was open slightly and when I looked up he was standing on the other side of the fence looking at me with his tail wagging.  No big deal.  But then, as I started to call him back, a cat with the world’s worst timing decided to scamper across the street and pure hound instinct flooded Rupert’s body- he was in full chase mode. Usually this wouldn’t have been a big deal, as this was late in the evening and our street is quiet at that time, but my sweet puppy managed to dart directly in front of the only car that had driven down the street in a ten minute period.

That was his last chase.

Once the feeling of disbelief faded the feeling of emptiness set in pretty quickly  That was followed quickly by feelings of guilt and unfairness.

If I’d taken them for their walk earlier would this have happened?

If I’d paid more attention and noticed the gate would that have prevented it?

And how is it that I see other dogs wandering loose all the time in the neighborhood and nothing happens to them?

Why was is it my sweet, happy, loving puppy that was just getting going with life the one that was there in that exact moment?

I’m a great dog owner, so why did this happen to me?

Why, why, why, why, why?  The why’s could go on forever. Over the last few days I’ve come to realize that there is no answer to the why’s, that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and it isn’t fair when they do.  It’s just a fluke thing.

My little buddy had a great life.  Based on my teaching schedule (summer’s off!) and now my career change (applying for nursing school), I have literally spent all but two weeks at home with him since we rescued him from the levee when he was 7 weeks old.  I watched him blossom into the most playful and loving dog that aimed to please me all the time and loved to spend his days going for runs and chewing sticks.

The night before he died my Dad was in town and we had gone to visit some friends for dinner. Rupert came along so he could play with their black lab, Bud, and he also had a blast rolling in the remains of the fish that the guys had caught earlier that day.  Then we took him to our local pub where he cruised around making friends and finally learned how to sit still on a bar stool.  It was, unknowingly, a pretty perfect last night.

Since his death, I’ve been amazed at how many people reached out to me about him.  He had such a way about him that he could even win over people that weren’t “dog people”. I’ve had other people that have never met him tell me that through seeing pictures on Facebook and reading the blog they still felt like they knew him well.  He was loved by so many. I’ve had other dogs before, but this dog really was extra special.

I planned on spending a good 14 or so years with Rupert, but I’m still grateful for the 6 months I got.  I will miss him as my running partner, my canine shadow, my comic relief, and my cuddler. He was my sidekick in every sense of the word.

I know from experience that time heals all, and it will, but for now there is a big hound-sized hole in my heart.  And it sucks.  I can only hope that he found a big levee up in the sky and he’s currently trotting off into the sunset.

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My Dog is an Addict

I’ve come to realize that I’m terrible at splitting time between my two dogs.  Or at least I think I am.  I wrote last week about feeling guilty about leaving Oswald at home when I take Rupert running (catch up here if you missed it), so I think I’ve subconsciously given Oswald more “blog time” than I have to Rupert recently.  But don’t worry, Rupert is still very much around and he’s still taking me for runs almost every day.

He’s not quite a year old yet, so we aren’t running super long distances, but my vet told me that as long as he was dictating the pace and the distances that taking him for jogs was fine.  He also usually runs off leash so he really spends more time frolicking in the grass and swimming in various ditches than he does hard core pavement pounding.

So I thought, “Great!  A way to burn off a little energy and get some training in at the same time.”

I thought wrong.

I have created a monster in my sweet, little running buddy- I’ve created a running addict.

Most runners have a running friend that is obsessed with running.  Like really obsessed. The friend that won’t go for beers on Friday night because they need to log a casual 17 miles on Saturday morning, even when they aren’t training. Or the friend that runs 8 miles before they come to work at 8 am “just to get the day started”.  Don’t get me wrong, I wish I was a running addict.  Instead, I’m the person that goes for beers on Friday night and then bails on her long run the next day, but not Rupert.  Rupert is a fool for running.

I guess it makes sense that he likes to run based on his breeding.  As I wrote about it an earlier post, hounds are natural run dogs that were bred for trailing.  Running is in his genes.  And really, I glad am that Rupert is starting to find healthy ways to channel his energy, because otherwise he defaults to his second favorite hobby- destruction.

Rupert destruction

Thankfully he generally only destroys his own toys (which, according the photo above, have money inside of them?), but sometimes he moves on to other things.

rupert stick

Like chewing really, really big sticks that he insists on dragging home from the levee.

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Or destroying indestructible dogs beds.

So I’ve resigned myself to supporting this running habit he seems to have developed if it means the destruction habit gets put on the back burner.  And I suppose it keeps me in shape, and it is nice to have a coach that pushes me to keep pace with him.  Plus, he has a really nice way of telling me “good job” when we’re finished.

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So I’ll keep going for as long as I can keep up with him, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever be up for a casual 17 miles on Saturday morning.

Evening Jog

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Last Friday evening Rupert and I went for a quick 3 mile jog.  There wasn’t anything too notable about the run, expect that it really is more enjoyable to have a four-legged running partner.  I am starting to think that Rupert might be interested in being a triathlete when he grows up, however.  He loves to go from a mid-run swim in the river and gets really excited whenever he sees a cyclist.  Once I get this half-marathon out of the way next month, maybe we’ll switch our training focus.  Who know!

Canine Binky?

rupert pacifier

 

Yesterday afternoon, after a long walk, Rupert passed out on my bed.  This has recently become his preferred spot for afternoon siestas, but yesterday he did something new.  His new collar is a little big on him, so consequently there is a lot of excess leather at the end.  Yesterday, he took to chewing the end of his collar as he fell asleep and then passed out with the collar still in his mouth.

All I can think of is I might have struck gold on this- the collar acts like a canine pacifier, which means if he’s chewing that, he won’t chew my shoes (he just finished on pair #3….).  I’m thinking about rubbing some bacon grease on the collar just to encourage him along… just kidding.  But in the mean time, it makes for a cute picture.  🙂

The Invisible Gremlin

This is just a quick Rupert update.  I took him out to Lake Pontchartrain on Monday morning to have some off-leash training time and let him go for a swim.  Oswald wasn’t feeling very well that morning, so we left him at home and took the opportunity to have a good one-on-one training session.

Sitting by the lake

Sitting by the lake

Rupert did really well, and was actually better behaved with the off-leash commands when he was solo than he does when Oswald is around.  He wasn’t so sure about the waves on the lake, but he got used to them.  He did, however, get quite concerned half-way through the walk back through a field and began barking at what I can only assume was an invisible gremlin (after I mistook it for some imaginary birds).  I have some video of him protecting me from said gremlin:

Not only was his obsession with said gremlin kind of hilarious, but also his stance while doing so.  Apparently the most effective way to ward off invisible gremlins is to jump up on one’s hind legs like a prairie dog and bark.  Who knew!?  Here is a video of the prairie dog stance.

Hounds like us, Baby we were born to run!

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Mid-run cool off swim

Rupert was apparently quite jealous that Oswald had his own blog section, so I relented and included a section for Rupert-themed blogs as well.  There will be many blogs about Rupert in general, mostly concerning training, but this particular section is dedicated to something both Rupert and I love- running.

Now, I feel as though I should preface this blog post by stating that you should check with your vet before beginning a running regimen with your dog, especially younger dogs.  It is generally recommended that young dogs do not partake in a specific running regimen with their owners, as they need to wait for their bones to fully develop and their growth plates to ossify.  Bones in larger breed dogs usually take longer to ossify, so it is usually good to wait until your dog is at least 1- 1 1/2 years old before you start a running program with them.

Based on (our best estimations of) Rupert’s breeding, he is a Black-and-Tan Coonhound or Beagle/Hound mix.  Both Coonhounds and Beagles were originally bred to run after various furry creatures that their owners were hunting, such as rabbits, foxes, coons, deer, etc.  These dogs are able to run for miles and miles while tracking an animal, so running is certainly in their genetics.  This running-based breeding can actually cause behavioral issues for them when they are in a family home environment and are not exercised enough (but that’s for another post).  These breeds can be great running partners for owners, if done properly.

Rupert is currently almost 6 months old, which most people would agree is too young to start a specific running program with him.  However, if given the freedom to run at his own pace, light runs can be used to burn some excess puppy energy and provide good training opportunities.  Until Rupert reaches full size, he won’t be accompanying be on runs more than about 1.5 miles, but until them I will take him on my shorter runs.  This is a typical run for him and I:

  • Walk to the levee (bike path by the Mississippi River) on leash.
  • Once we reach the levee, I make Rupert sit,  let him off leash, and make him wait for my command to continue on.
  • I carry his leash with me and tell him to “come” as I start at a light jog down the path.
  • Rupert is happy to trot along side me, but is also able to stop and sniff patches of grass or chase a bird or two as he sees fit.  This also allows him to vary his pace and have moments of stopping and sprinting which he naturally does when he plays/runs off leash anyway.
  • Once we reach the bridge, we stop, have a swim (him, not I), and then jog back the same way.

I consider these runs our training runs.  It is a great way to re-enforce the off-leash training that I have been doing with Rupert, but also get him accustomed to running with me. Many times during the run I will call him back to me, give him a treat, and then send him off again.  Other times, I will call him back to me and then just stop without warning, at which point he is also to stop and sit down.  This not only keeps him on his toes and focused on me while he’s having fun, but is also necessary for times when we encounter the occasional cyclist and I need to move him off to the side.  I do not consider this a stressful running regimen for him, as he runs at the pace he would normally run at when he is left off-leash and we are not covering a longer distance than our normal walks.  This length also gives us just enough time for a good training session, but then we finish before it gets redundant for him.

Once he is fully grown, I will take him on longer runs (luckily the levee path follows the river for miles!), but for now I/ we are enjoying our short training runs.   It’s a good training session that wears him out and gets me moving also.  I have begun training for a half marathon in October, but unfortunately most of my training runs will be far too long for Rupert.  However, I think by this time next year he will probably be my #1 training partner.

Do you run with your dog?  Have you ever completed a race with you dog?  I’d love to hear your stories and tips!