I am a confirmed couch potato! I like nothing better than curling up on the sofa with a quilt, a book and a cup of something hot by my elbow. Can’t say I’m exactly PROUD of preferring a life with little physical activity, but I’m definitely NOT ashamed of being an introvert who needs privacy at home to recharge my batteries! For some reason, I always thought that recharging was best done from a reclining position on the couch!
For years as an adult I’d lived with cats, who approve and support the introvert lifestyle — as long as THEIR introvert is properly trained as warm-blooded furniture! Not that I didn’t LOVE dogs and want one, but my job was in the theatre and that means long hours away from home. Two cats can keep each other company and be happy to snuggle with their human when she finally drags in, but a dog or even two dogs — not so much!
Finally, I adopted Kita, in spite of the scheduling issues because I realized that my aging body needed motivation to pry it off the couch cushions! I couldn’t keep to a walking schedule all on my own, but would have to get moving in order to exercise my puppy! And it worked! Though I had to re-arrange schedules at the theater and come home between activities, Kita got a good 45 minutes of exercise in the morning (even in the dead of Winter when that meant setting forth in the dark before dawn) and 45 minutes to an hour every evening. And the couch potato did, too!
At least the evening “walk” always started out as aerobic, but in my neighborhood, EVERYBODY took their dog to the park after work. It wasn’t unusual for the humans to stand around socializing and let their dogs frisk about, socializing on their own. The neighbors encouraged me to let Kita off leash so she could have fun with the other dogs and I couldn’t resist! Yep, Kita had fun, but after she organized and lead break-away adventures in the woods a couple of times, they stopped suggesting that! (Kita was far more independent than most 6-9 month old puppies and still doesn’t have a rock-solid recall because of that trait. But that’s another subject.) Still, she got a good measure of movement, and compared to the pre-Kita days, I’d added quite a bit of activity to my day! Until Kita was over a year old, it was no problem getting her enough walks and play-dates to keep in shape. Then we moved.
Foolishly, I thought that we’d get MORE activity in a semi-rural area. It wasn’t until we were all unpacked that I realized a couple of things — out here there are no sidewalks or streetlights. In addition, the road we live on may be only two-lanes, but is one of the only connecting roads between two communities and a college, so I don’t feel safe walking on the shoulder even in daylight. With the leash-laws (by township ordinance, even CATS have to be on-leash) and Kita’s Recall being iffy, I couldn’t safely bend the rules and let her romp in the wild land behind our house even if I was scrambling around with her. We have 2/3 of an acre fenced in behind the house, but a dog doesn’t exercise herself. And even if she did, that doesn’t exercise ME!
This is where I started to really envy those folks with high-fetch-drive dogs. Romping and throwing ball or Frisbee with Kita would have gone a long way to keeping us both off the couch. After a year or so of intermittent walks at parks we had to drive to. Short walks along the same “safe” backstreet. Running around our yard which got to be a more than a bit boring without the ball-or-Frisbee component, I broke down and adopted a companion animal for Kita – Rilka. (It’s her picture I use as my blog avatar!)
That solved the dog’s exercise requirements — for about a year. The girls would play and chase each other around the small barn, and we’d all walk a couple of times a week, so with yard-work I was doing OK, too. Then, as these things happen, the girls played less, and we walked less, too. It all happened so gradually that I didn’t recognize the increasingly frequent doggie break-outs as the symptom of what they were – two still young, lively dogs weren’t getting enough exercise!
By break-outs, I mean literally and figuratively! The girls would break out their own fun with “boredom” chewing, garbage exploration and digging inside and outside the house. On the literal side, Rilka was an escape artist and Kita no slouch, neither. They took many, many opportunities to slip under the chain link, or enlarge a gopher hole under the privacy fence, or punch out a screen in a window, to get out and chase furry critters all over the area. (I wanted smart dogs and they are – they thought of ways to break out faster than I could think of what they might be thinking of!) Considering how busy the street out front is, it was fairly miraculous that they stayed safe – except for tapeworm from eating little furry creatures, scratches, burrs, and Kita blowing a knee – for nearly 4 years. But it eventually killed Rilka who was hit by a car.
They say hind-sight is always 20-20. I now see that I let my “couch potato” inclinations take over and — not to put too fine a point on it –neglected my dogs and myself. Even if I found our only safe walking route boring, the dogs didn’t – the smells were always new and interesting. There was always time, and walking in the pre-light before dawn always revealed wonderful wildlife. No, I just failed to do the duty I got a dog to force myself into in the first place.
Since then DRAMA DOG TRAINING activities — boarding, daycare and classes – are making sure both Kita and I keep moving, Even though she’s now, at 9 years, considered a “senior,” Kita plays more and more with the client doggies! If we don’t have dogs that exercise each other, Kita and I take one dog at a time for walks, so we’re doing pretty good there, too!
And it’s kind of amazing that I’ve discovered even an introvert’s batteries get recharged all the better with a little physical activity! After a good walk, I’m more creative, relaxed and refreshed that if I sat down with a book and cup of tea! The benefits to me are great, but to my dog, they can’t even be measured. It’s my job to keep us from “couch-potato-hood” and I wish I’d lived up to my responsibilities in time so that my sweet Rilka might still be here with us. But I can point to myself as a bad example and assure clients that exercise DOES make a huge difference in a dog’s behavior and “bad” habits as well as her health — and theirs!