Walking Behind My Dog

October is the time for both Doll and I to get a little exercise

By Rob Breeding

I’m not in the best of shape right now. Neither is my dog. That’s not her fault of course. A dog’s workout schedule is beyond its control. But if I’m out of shape, that likely means Doll is suffering the same fate.

Were both competing against an ominous foe: Father Time. I’m in my mid-50s, with fewer 50s birthdays remaining than those I’ve already celebrated. Doll is now 8, and the old dog’s years calculation suggests we’re roughly the same age.

We’re increasingly drawn to the same couch-bound activities. She also seems to love watching Liverpool soccer matches on the telly, though she rarely looks up at the screen and I’m pretty sure she’s clueless about the offside rule.

For the first three years of her life Doll bounced around the house like a pinball. I used to keep a full bowl of kibble in the kitchen, and refilled it whenever I found it empty. When I cooked bacon, I poured the drippings over her chow so I could be certain she was getting enough to eat.

Still, that dog was a wisp for most of her life. It appeared a good, stiff wind might knock her over.

I’ve never had that problem, and it’s only gotten worse with age. I’ve gained 10 pounds for every decade since I graduated high school. When I was younger I was just filling out. But at some point filling out morphs into getting chubby and I fear I crossed that rubicon long ago.

I’m not trying to body shame myself, or my now-much-thicker bird dog for that matter. But there are drawbacks to weight gain of more consequence than just having to buy a bigger pair of jeans.

Last weekend Doll and I managed to fit in our first hunt of the season. We were out on the prairie, chasing grouse. It was hot – too hot for dogs, really, but we tried to beat the heat with an early start.

I learned early in the hunt that it was a good thing this was flat prairie rather than the steep slopes of our favored chukar grounds. Doll hunted fine for awhile, but out on open flat stuff I expect her to cast far and wide. For every mile of walking I do, I’m guessing she covers about 10.

Not this day.

There were a combination of factors at play. It was hot. I haven’t been getting her out regularly for the kind of exercise she’s accustomed to. And, in the back of my mind, I realized Doll is getting a little older and it’s inevitable she’ll slow down at some point.

That’s not a thought I wish to dwell on.

I was hunting with Papa Bill and his vizsla Levi, and it was telling the way the pair worked. A few years ago Doll was always the outside dog, and Levi, still gaining his chops, worked in close. Those roles were reversed last weekend, however, though in the heat neither dog was getting out as far as would have been useful.

We might have walked by quite a few birds that lingered out beyond the fairly unambitious casts of our bird dogs. We did put up one bird that flushed wild and out of range. Then the heat began to take its toll and we made our way for the truck. Everyone was too pooped for an afternoon swing through another field.

All is not lost. October is the time for both Doll and I to get a little exercise, regain our form as well as our girlish figures, and get back our hunting prowess in time for the cooler weather of November.

After all, the English soccer season runs well into spring. We can regain our spot on the couch once hunting season ends.

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