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Run Forrest, Run!

March 4, 2011 - John Stack
I first met Forrest when I came home from work in Sept 2000 when the kids had picked out a new dog for us. We had got him at the pound. They figured he was about 18 months old, and was found as a stray. The kids immediately liked him, and he liked them. He even got along with our cat. What I didn’t know was that he would be the best running companion I’ve ever had.

I used to run from Trudeau Road down Old Lake Colby Road. In this short mile and a half, we would encounter no less than 10 houses with dogs out on chains. Nine out of ten would bark at us. Some would strain at their chains. Some would jump on their fence. Some would just bark. But right from the start, Forrest hardly gave them a glance. I don’t remember him barking back once ever while we ran around town. He never tried to pull away and chase cats or squirrels. (Like Snoopy, he never caught a rabbit).

For the vast majority of my running in the last 10 plus years, Forrest ran with me. He was good on-leash. He would run just ahead of me, to the left. Always. Always with the exact same amount of tension on the chain. He wasn’t one to let the leash go slack, but didn’t really pull, although I admit to using him to help pull me up some hills. He ran as fast or as slow as I wanted. He would start getting antsy when I would change into my shorts and a T-shirt. I realized after a while to NOT TOUCH the leash until I was headed right out the door. Touching the leash would send him into an excitable frenzy not matched by any 5 year old on Christmas morning!

His support was best on trail runs. Often, I would run alone, out on the Fish Pond truck trail, or the horse trails on Axton Landing . These were 4-5 mile runs- one way, out in the middle of nowhere. It was extremely rare for me to run here without Forrest. What could he have done if something happened to me? I don’t know. Lick my face? But I always felt much better with him there. Usually, he stayed just ahead of me, maybe 10 yards. I always tried to keep him in my eyesight. Often he would run up ahead, run back past me (never realizing what the term single-track meant on the trail). At the end of a 5 mile trail run, he has easily ran 6-8 miles. He ran the same all the time. When I increased my runs to 8,10, 12 miles he would start out for 6 or so miles normally. Then, as we still had a while to go, he would end up running right with me, so as to not to double his own mileage. But shortly would adapt until he could easily outdistance me at any time. He was my most reliable training partner I ever had, not complaining about heat, flies, cold or rain.

Out on the trail would be the only time when he might get mixed up with other dogs. Most of the time, Forrest would just have a sniff fest with the other dogs. Sometimes the other dogs weren’t so friendly. In areas where I might see people, I would carry a leash with me to get him by other dogs. Sometimes, other dogs would follow us, and we would do what we could to get the other dog back to their owners.

Forrest was low maintenance on the road or trail. A quick ‘Forrest!’ on the trail would send him running back towards me, or he would stop until I caught up. On leash, a short ‘over’ would bring him right back over to the left. He would get confused if for some reason I was on the right side of the road and not the left! At home, Forrest would always at least try to sleep with one of us. He would sleep with my son until I went to bed. Then he would stand by my bed until I said ‘OK’ and he would jump up on his side of the bed.

I rarely ran with Forrest in races. Not everybody likes dogs in a race, and they can be a nuisance if other dogs are there. I did run the Ice Palace Fun Run with Forrest for the first time this year. Everyone there seemed to like him, and people I passed, or people who passed me would slow down and pet him. I even got a warning from a volunteer that I was using a PED – A Performance Enhancing Dog.

I last took Forrest for a run last Thursday. He had a fun 5 mile run. It was cold, and again got some salt in his paw. I rubbed it out as I have learned to do over the years. The cold didn’t bother him, the unmelted salt would. He started coughing the next day. He had never been sick a day in his life and I figured he’d be over the cold after the weekend. He wasn’t better after the weekend. For the first time, he didn’t bound out the door to go to the bathroom, or up the stairs afterwards. I went running Tuesday, and for the first time, had to leave Forrest home. In the last year, I don’t think I ever ran with my friend Phil without Forrest with us. As I stopped at Phil’s, he was calling ‘ How ya doing Forrest’ and he wasn’t there for the first time. Forrest wasn’t happy about not running. My son took him to the vet on Wednesday. The news was bad. Lung cancer. Now is the time I have to act like an adult. He’s hardly eating (except some of my mother’s home made galumpkis).

I took Forrest out for a last run last night. He wanted to run. He barely made it from Phil’s house to mine, less than ¾ of a mile. Next week is a week I dread more than any I ever had. The vet gave him 5 days to 2 weeks. Luckily, my kids and those that love him will be able to see him this weekend. I’m glad all dogs go to heaven…


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