If you haven’t guessed by now I have a bit of a soft spot for animals. Ok a huge spot. Like a gigantic coffee stain all over your carpet spot. And in case you are wondering I pulled that analogy not only from the immensity of my animal love, but my knowing just how big of a splash a 32-ouncer of iced coffee can make (ahem, Murf).
For as long as I can remember I’ve felt an incredible urge to take care of animals. It started innocently enough. Injured or stray cats, birds, and a baby rabbit here or there. I’m sure my mother was just thrilled the day I offered to take home the corn snakes from Montessori over spring break. And I can still see the look on my sister’s face when I thought my smallest anole got loose near her bedroom one summer afternoon. George, the leopard gecko. Countless lizards. Gus, Gus the emaciated kitten who “jumped” into our trunk after a county tournament at UIS. If there was an animal out there looking anywhere near needy, you better believe I was going to find some way to convince my family that we were the only ones in the entire city who could give this animal what they so obviously needed. Right then.
But it wasn’t until an early 90’s Christmas morning that I fell in love for the first time. Her name was Maggie and she was the most beautiful mutt I had ever seen. She sat whimpering in our kitchen, a big red bow perfectly contrasting her jet black fur. We had just finished opening presents and as soon as I spotted her I instantly forgot about the Fugees mixed tape I had just received and started bawling. I never thought I could love something so much so quickly. Her litter had been dumped off a truck on the side of the road. Someone no longer wanted her, but I couldn’t have imagined middle school without her.
And then there was Max. I still remember the man telling me that there were only two available puppies left when we got to the farm. One boy. One girl. As I picked up the little yellow lab and he wiggled in my arms, the man mentioned he was the runt of the litter. The thought that this guy would be left at the farm known as the runt no one wanted sealed the deal for me. I fell in love all over again. He was as perfect running alongside me in high school and as was when he patiently waited for me to throughout college, keeping my parents company in between visits.
I considered going into veterinary medicine for a period of time. I even had the privilege of job shadowing at the zoo in high school where I not only got to witness a female gibbon being implanted with birth control, but the wrath of the male gibbon as he decided to take out his frustration on a fellow student standing a bit too close to his cage. I eventually went a different route, but my love for animals hasn’t changed.
It took me a long time to decide I was ready for another dog after moving to Chicago. Well, I was ready, but I knew it just wasn’t fair to the animal if I wasn’t in a place both career and housing-wise where I could give him or her the life he or she deserved. I considered adoption. After all, there are thousands of homeless pets in the city and many of them need families more than those that are bred for it. Plus, they are free. But if you’ve read any of the preceding paragraphs you’ll know that the likelihood of me stopping at just one is slim to none. I volunteered and the guilt I felt was overwhelming. I considered fostering but I felt myself closer and closer to “dog lady” each day. I can’t stop at just one. What about the others? At the end of the day I decided I wanted to raise a pup from the start and after a lot of research and thought, I opted to get Finn.
And although sometimes (ok most of the time) I still feel guilty when I think about all of the other pets out there that are waiting to be loved, I decided to turn my guilt into action and sign up to run the Chicago Marathon as part of Team PAWS. I know I’m crazy, but it’s for a good cause, right? Please tell me I’m right.
This Sunday was the 13th Annual Zoetis Run for Their Lives 8K Run & 4K Dog-Friendly walk benefitting PAWS Chicago. My cousin’s girlfriend just so happens to be one of the folks in charge of the event, so it was a great way to raise money for a very worthy cause, spot some really cute pups and see just how much my running has rubbed off on Finn for his very first race. Ok, walk. Dogs weren’t allowed to run in the 8K and Finn is more of a walk a few miles and then take a nap kind of guy anyway. The timing was great as we had to run 8 miles on Saturday and I was feeling guilty leaving him at home on such a beautiful day. NOTE: there should be a dog-sitting service for those of us who run the lake path. Just two hours to complete your mileage and then you can pick up your dog and take him to the park, beach, wherever. Anyone interested? I know I’d pay for it.
I spent the majority of the time making mental notes at the adaptations for dog-friendly races vs. human races. Here’s what I learned:
- Even though your dog has no clue that he’s signed up for a 4K race at an unfamiliar location with nearly 2,000 other dogs that morning, he will undoubtedly bark and spin in excitement when you mention the phrase “ride in car” to him early in the morning. He will then settle into his spot between the seats as if the previous 5 minutes of barking and spinning never happened.
- Dogs are not nearly as interested in pre-race photos as their humans are. Especially not with strangers taking said photos.
- Always check out the free swag. If you do, you might discover that your local daycare facility will outfit you if you stop by their booth before the race. Thanks Tucker Pups!
- Just like human races, dogs dress up in all sorts of costumes to entertain the crowds. No they don’t. Their humans do and those poor pups are left to just sit there and get their photos taken the whole damn day by people like me.
And if you think that middle photo looks familiar, so did I. Just like those toys we used to have when we were little. But what was the name…
- Ever experienced ridiculous lines for the bathroom right before a race? Not here folks. You can pee wherever you want. Slowing down through a water station? Not a chance. Just help yourself to a tub of water right along the course route. Race photos? No need to worry about losing pace. There’s no timing in this race.
- Not all dogs are water dogs. Case in point.
I’m excited to be a part of TEAM PAWS this race season as I truly believe in what they do: Save Lives. If you are an animal lover like me or just want to support a great cause, I would ask that you consider donating to my page today, tomorrow or sometime before the Chicago Marathon on October 13, 2013. You can make a donation here.
Thank you for your consideration and have a wonderful week.