Monday, June 29, 2009

Riley and the Flying Squirrels

*Addie and Riley-they look too precious to be fierce!  

Goodbye June!  The first entry on my walking log is June 3rd.  I can hardly believe there is already one month behind me and only 116 days till the main event!  This week I was thrilled to receive 6 donations made to the Komen Foundation in support of my efforts.  Special thanks to the Connolly family from Connecticut, my sorority sister and long time confidante Angie “Hooch” and partner Kim in North Carolina, and a wonderful collection of colleagues from USC including Viki Fecas, Dottie Weigel, and Karen Pettus.  I also want to recognize the Gurkin Family (who welcomed their +1, precious Clementine, just last week) for putting me over the $1000 mark giving me just the motivation I needed for the long weekend walks. 

Thanks also to Katie and Adrienne, two friends and co-workers who joined me on my Thursday night 5-mile trek.  I may have bribed them with dinner and a bit of vino but they were champs hiking in the heat and through the sand-my first “off road” adventure. 

It is summertime, which, in the Latino household, means a stream of visitors-mostly of the canine variety.  Many of my friends take advantage of the summer months to squeeze in a family vacation and since Riley loves a play date, Camp Jenn is wide open!   Joplin kicked things off arriving on Memorial Day weekend and staying until the first weekend in June when I returned her to Raleigh and picked up Addie.  Addie had a two-week stay that ended the third weekend of June when I returned her to Raleigh and picked Joplin up for Round 2!  She will go home the weekend of July 17th just in time for the arrival of Cookie, who has a reservation beginning July 23rd.  The revolving door of doggies means lots of fun for Riley and a variety of walking partners for me!

I typically drag Riley-well, she drags me-and whoever else comes running when I pick up a leash, for the first 3 miles of my walk.  This is a win-win situation since they get the exercise they need and it gives me a stretch break/pit stop part way through my walk.   We knock out the first 3 miles; return home, tongues dragging the ground (theirs and mine); throw a few ice cubes in their water bowl; a quick drink of water for me; and I’m back out to finish my walk. 

If only it was that easy!  Those of you who know Riley know that she has the strength of an ox!  She is 75lbs of pure muscle.  I’m certain she could tow an 18-wheeler out of 10 feet of mud with the right incentive dangled before her.  And, nothing gets her going like--a SQUIRREL! 

Riley and all of her friends seem to share my hatred of the neighborhood sprinklers (see last week’s blog) and when we they see a spray up ahead, she dodges the water with the agility of a chameleon (Wikipedia says that the most agile animal in the world is a chameleon-I would have guessed a cheetah or fox).  But see a squirrel and same dog that spends hours laying on the AC vent in the house, moving only to allow her opposite side a turn at the personal cooling system, is off from 1.5-60 miles per hour in less than 1 second!  It is my biggest fear, and my loudest warning, that she will one day drag my precious dog sitter, Spencer, (who weighs 100 lbs dripping wet) to his death!  My notes for him always include, “Enjoy your walks, and remember to HANG ON!”

After two years of walking Riley, I have developed a survival strategy-I work diligently to see the squirrel first! I am much like a super sleuth, scanning the environment with every step as we approach a wooded area…scan left, scan right, scan high, scan in the shrubs (Mission Impossible theme song playing in my head).  This is the only way I can win!  Grandma Linda got Riley a leash with two hand loops, one close to her collar, and if I see one of these frisky critters first, I grab the lower loop, plant my feet firmly on the pavement-all weight on my heels, and hold on for dear life while she barks and lurches forward with a furry-fury!  This usually goes on for 5-10 seconds until the squirrel finds refuge in a tall tree and, feeling defeated, Riley returns to her sloth like pace, forging ahead on the sidewalk.

When traveling with two dogs, this is further complicated by the extra leash. I am sure I look like a marionette puppet operator.  (This is not what I meant by my childhood dream of joining the Von Trapp family Lonely Goatherd production). With an extra dog on our walk, I often end up straddling a tree, one arm stretched out to the far left, one to the right, and the dogs impossibly tangled together somewhere in the middle.  I notice that some of my neighbors linger outside, pretending to tend to their flowerbeds or sweep the front porch in hopes that “that girl with all the dogs” will come by and give them a show!  Every once in a while I catch a glimpse of someone peeking out of their dining room window.  I’m sure they have a video camera poised and waiting for me to walk by.  One day I will see myself on the “Funny Videos” show (Go-Go always called them the “Funny Videos” show whether it was the Bob Sagat version, the new AFV, or the Animal Planet edition) in the “Animals Misbehaving at Human’s Expense” segment. 

On our Saturday morning walk this week there were 4 squirrel “episodes.”  The chaos of the final sighting ended in Riley and Joplin successfully dragging me, heels firmly planted, using every muscle in my arms and back to hold on, for at least 6 inches.  The bottom of my shoes, my precious training kicks, have a worn area from the friction of the pavement against rubber.  I’m certain that smoke flew from beneath my feet.  After that, we went straight home and I finished the walk solo.    

I’m sure that this will somehow prepare me for the 60-miles that are ahead of us in October.  When Kim, Jenn, and Meredith try to keep a pace that is beyond what I prefer to walk, I have full intentions of hooking them to a nylon leash and pulling back with a hearty “Whoa!” 

I wish you all a great week.  Enjoy your walks, and remember to HANG ON!



This weeks total miles= 20  Total steps= 41,525

Total miles so far=69  Total steps= 145, 441

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