Man’s Best Friend

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I took my 9-month-old puppy for her first mountain bike ride, and for once in her life she was worn out.

However, I worried about her the rest of the day, even though every one else in the house was grateful for her unusual tranquility. There was no chewing on the kids’ toys, no wrestling the cat down from her feeding station, no pouncing on the 3-year-old.

According to veterinarians, it’s best to ease a dog into being a riding buddy. Just like us, they’ve got to build muscle, stamina, and callused feet. That said, I took Jojo to the woods for the last several months just to get her used to staying with me and being around bikes. I have to admit that chasing an 8-year-old while the 3-year-old whines and then refuses to ride is difficult when being distracted by a hyper puppy who wants to attack and lick the face of every passerby.

“JOJO! COME!”

“Mamaaaaaa!!! I don’t wanna ride this STUPID bike!”

“Mom! Mom! MOM! Did you SEE that jump I just made?

“Come on, Wyatt! Pleeeeeease don’t make me carry you, your bike, my bike and the prancing puppy’s leash!”

Somehow through all that she figured out she was supposed to stay with us.

I streamlined on the next several forays to the woods, leaving behind the bikes and one child. Unlike my last dog, who would wander away and be lost for days, Jojo comes every time I call her, no matter how fast the squirrel was getting away.

My next step was taking her running. She stayed with me, and of course outran me, scampering into the woods after every chipmunk. In fact, she ran circles around me as I panted along suffering.

A few months ago she was afraid to get into the truck with us. As soon as she associated the truck with going to the woods, it was on. Every time I packed the children up, she would jump in and refuse to get out.

It was time to take her on a real ride.

She bounded happily along as we took off, knowing immediately that she was to stay with the pack. She repeatedly ran ahead and circled back around as I wondered how much of that she’d be doing by the end of our ride. I was surprised, actually.

We avoided the fire roads so as to save her virgin paws as much as possible. She loped joyfully (although I realize it’s difficult to lope without joy) and especially perked up on the rolling parts where she was able to really run. Our energy levels were drastically different by the top of the climb.  I checked her paws, and they looked great. It wouldn’t be a long ride, but even this 45 minutes was further than she had been. I fed her treats and made her rest until we were ready to descend.

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