Tag Archives: Pets

Running on my nerves

I’ll keep this post short and sweet. I know I say that at the beginning of most of my posts and then ramble on and on and on but I’m going to really try to give it my all.

Speaking of giving my all, my first full marathon is rapidly approaching. If you need me to be more specific it’s knocking on my door in just over one week.

bank of america chicago marathon countdown clock

The time continues to tick down as I write this. Even more as you read it. Can you tell I’m a little nervous?

Well I am. For a number of reasons.

1) My body hates me. My IT Band continues to resist any and all treatment, getting angrier by the day. I picture it to look like one of those mucous men when the medicine is administered on the mucinex commercial. Real Happy. 

what’s the big idea?

2) I haven’t run any sort of distance in weeks. I feel like I am losing months of training as each day passes. I visualized this point several months ago. If I’m being honest part of me even wondered if I wouldn’t be able to race so I could attend the wedding of my friends when I found both were on the same weekend. But as the miles passed, I realized how much I wanted to complete this goal. And now I am scared I might not be able to.

3) I’m bringing in the big guns and throwing a complete wrench in my routine. Ice treatments. Rest. Stretching. More rest. Stim machines and something I try to generally avoid, medicine. All of these changes so close to race day are really contributing to my nerves. I’m not exactly a good “rester.” I feel like I should be picturing the course and all I can think about is whether my leg will hold up for mile 1.

But as much as I’m filled with doubt and nerves as to whether my body will hold up for the longest run I’ll likely ever do, I am determined.

1) Determined to do anything and everything needed to make sure I am ready when that gun goes off. For the last several weeks, I’ve been receiving emails nearly everyday with information about the race, packet pickup, pasta feeds, security updates and well-wishes. I must admit I’ve been avoiding them for the most part, but starting today I’m focusing on making the best of a bad situation and trying to enjoy each moment. Kind of like this guy.

2) Determined to do this for those who can’t. My knee hurts when I run. That sucks, but it’s nothing compared to the struggles and pain that others are going through on a daily basis. And it’s likely nothing compared to what thousands of other runners are going to push through next Sunday. I am blessed and I am trying to focus on that over the next week.

3) Determined to do this for TEAM PAWS. A very worthy cause that is even closer to my heart after going through a recent health scare with my pup, Finn. Pets become family. They tug at your heartstrings like watching Homeward Bound on a rainy Sunday. They deserve a chance at life. A chance for a family who loves them.

So as the countdown clock ticks away, I ask that you consider donating to PAWS Chicago and supporting me next weekend. Donations for the marathon close this Sunday, October 6th. And regardless of my finish in the race, your contribution will support the lives of pets who need it most.


Thank you for your consideration!

Running for their lives

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.

paws chicago

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:

    1. 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.

      greater swiss mountain dog

      I’m so excited I can hardly stand it guys. Seriously.

    2. Dogs are not nearly as interested in pre-race photos as their humans are. Especially not with strangers taking said photos.

      paws chicago run for their lives swiss mountain dog

      got one, oh there’s another dog, got one

    3. 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!
      tucker pups paws chicago race greater swiss mountain dog
    4. 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.
      dogs in costume
      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…

      that’s right go go my walkin’ pup

    5. 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.
      greater swiss mountain dog race running for their lives chicago
    6. Not all dogs are water dogs. Case in point.

Finn visits the lake from Sarah Murphy on Vimeo.

  • All races should end in a well-deserved nap.
    tired greater swiss mountain dog

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.

Positive Reinforcement

On January 9th, my rapidly-growing swissy, Finn reached his 6-month mark. For those of you unfamiliar with the Greater Swiss Mountain dog, the breed tends to gain around 10 pounds per month over their first year. They are big dogs. They also are known for their love for weight-pulling. And while I hope to increase my weight-lifting in 2013, I’ve accepted the fact that my pup will be stronger than me in no time.


wasn’t I so cute and tiny?


look ma, 6 months!

I grew up with dogs, but between soccer games, basketball practice, volleyball matches, and the occasional ‘I’m going out with my friends, gosh!’ my mom always ended up with the responsibility of training the dog. (Thank you by the way) When I finally decided to get Finn after years of hold-out, I resolved to be patient and diligent in teaching him the basic skills (and fun tricks) we both needed to live as congenial roommates. I researched online, bought a ton of books and really tried to put myself in his paws position before I reacted to a situation. And I have to say, it works. Starting with this concept from the get-go will make your life and training easier. Plus, it’s kind of fun too.

I didn’t realize I was doing it at the time, but the basic skills I worked on with Finn in those early weeks seem to have paid off. Now at 6 months, he sits, lays and heels on cue–Progress! But because he picked up the basics fairly easily, I figured he he could only benefit from further training. Oh that and within the last three weeks he’s ingested a 5 inch rawhide bone whole, approximately 5-7 small wooden stamps (don’t worry I finished my Christmas gift tags first), and a plethora of paper products.

So after a brief vacation at Nana and Papoo(ch)’s house over the holidays where he ran free in the backyard, dined on Christmas prime rib (Thanks Dad?) , and snuggled on the couch to his heart’s content, I decided to enroll Mr. Finn and I in the canine manners class that our Vet recommended.


The class we signed up for emphasizes foundation skills (targeting, self-control, attention, etc) to reinforce behaviors that dogs either do well naturally or teach them new ones. It’s offered through Animal Behavior Training Concepts and its fascinating. Positively reinforce good behaviors? There’s a concept! And while the class itself is about working with your dog, I was reminded how much these concepts can be applied to our interactions with people as well.

Let’s get serious, most of the time the people need the training more than the pups. I find the human-canine relationship fascinating. Even before I got Finn, I had an ever-growing mental photo album of people who look like their pets (start taking notice-they do!). And living in the city with close proximity to the lake path and a popular dog park around the corner has only added to it.

I think we could all benefit from the lessons learned in our manners orientation this week. Take a step back. Remove distractions. Observe the situation and wait for an offering of the behavior you want to see. And when it does happen, reinforce it positively. Chances are you’ll see it again.

Have a good week everyone!