Paws up, who likes working out alone? Workout partners or friends training together is a common sight in any gym, even more so in a university setting. Personally, I prefer strength training on my own for the most part. Although, there is a lot of good that comes from having a partner on heavy deadlift day. Some activities are just better with someone else. Sometimes, that someone else doesn’t even have to be human. Over the past several weeks, more hikes and family bike rides have replaced the steady diet of strength training that used to be my norm. The extra family time with my wife and three boys has been great, but perhaps most greatly benefited Ginger, our 11-year-old German shorthaired pointer.
Ginger was a somewhat mutual anniversary gift to each other, but more a gift to me, on our first anniversary. I never had a dog growing up. Like many young married couples, we decided to test run our imaginary parenting skills on a puppy. My wife and I quickly discovered that Ginger was not an inside dog. At 3 months old, she could take three steps and hurdle the couch. The little two-bedroom home that we rented at the time proved to be not much more than an glorified kennel for her.
Throughout the years Ginger has been a great family pet. Unlike many pets, I have proven to be her reluctant running partner rather than her being mine. I am not a fan of running; she will run until she passes out from exhaustion. Ginger is also an escape artist and quickly learned how to open the latch on an unlocked gate. I am certain that she ran me more because of this than I ever intentionally ran with her.
In her younger days Ginger had the athleticism to easy clear a chain-link fence, although she never did jump one. I guess she decided to work smarter rather than work harder. There is probably a lesson in that. As frustrating as this COVID-19 time is, the smarter we are now with social distancing, better hygiene and greater concern for the health and well-being of others around us, the easier this time will be and the sooner it will be over. It is better to be smart and have this struggle for a few months than to be hardheaded and have it last a few years.
Like all creatures, Ginger’s health has deteriorated over that last few years. With the birth over our third son in 2018, having the time to give her the attention and exercise she needs has been a challenge. She has developed arthritis in her hips and a heart murmur that makes it sound like she has a smoker’s cough. Health problems become more common in all creatures as they age, and family dogs are no exception. However, even in the older years, exercise can create positive change. Arthritis in the hips makes the stairs difficult in dogs and humans, but over the last few weeks as walks have become daily occurrences instead of once or twice a week, her movement and gait have improved. These daily walks have benefitted our entire family, as the older boys ride bikes while my wife and I hike with the toddler in a pack or stroller.
In this time of fear and uncertainty, it can be easy to be far too concerned with the quantity of the days that we have rather than the quality of those days. Given her age and health problems, Ginger’s days are drawing toward a close. Just because the times may sometimes feel like the end is near is not a reason to stop living. Rather than counting the days of quarantine or the days a family member may have left, let us make the days count. An old dog may not learn new tricks, but a little exercise will breathe some life into that pup at heart.