Pick-up Dogs How Two Rescue Dogs Save the West from Being Won

Running with dogs

When I adopted Lupe, my border collie/flat-coated retriever mix, I started running. After I read Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, I became a runner. Running doesn’t come naturally for me. I’m a top heavy swimmer who prefers to hike. But I’ve learned to love running. Lupe is addicted to running. If she doesn’t run, she goes bananas. There are days when I’ve hiked close to 15 miles and I estimate that she ran over 50. And she begged for more. After my longest run that I did with her, a daunting 18 miles, we came back to our house, and I collapsed. Lupe then proceeded to sprint in pursuit of a squirrel. And again, she begged for more. Lupe was born to run. I wasn’t. And I’m OK with that. But I’ve learned a lot about running thanks to Lupe. Running is less about talent and natural disposition and more about pure heart. Yesterday, when I ran the Bellingham Bay Half Marathon I saw a lot of heart. A little person, who came up only to my waist, was running neck and neck with me on mile 13. There were many people lots older than me and running much faster. When I ran the Whidbey Island half marathon, I saw a man with a prosthetic leg running a great race.

Before a race, I size up people, looking at their physique, deciding who will be faster than me and who won’t be. What surprises me is how wrong I am, because there are some who I assume will be much faster than I am, and they’re not. And there are others, who are either overweight or short-legged that I assume I’ll beat. But it’s not about physique either. Anybody can real fast for a mile or two. And those with the good physique can dominate a quick mile over an overweight, short-legged office secretary looking type or a dough-belly like me. But it doesn’t matter how you do in a mile or two. What matters is if you can keep up your pace for 13 miles. And that’s not easy. Lupe’s like that. She’s tremendously under-sized for her breed. But she’s tougher than nails. And she can keep going when others have long ago given up.

What also strikes out to me about a race is how people come out in full force. People show up to give high fives. They cheer on people they’ve never met. It’s rather amazing the support people give to strangers.

Dogs also support strangers. When Marcos, my Lab/greyhound, goes into psychiatric facilities he gives love to people he’s never met before. He doesn’t have to love them, but he does. His selflessness always amazes me. And those are the lessons that therapy dogs, whether they are certified or not, can teach us: how to live with heart, how size doesn’t matter, and how far true love can take you.


Pick-Up Dogs is an adventure road trip story about the healing powers of dogs. Click here to buy the book

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