Running the dog is what we call getting the dog some exercise during the summer months because his workout regime has been similar to an average college student on spring break.
He has been basking in the shade of the Cinzano umbrella and aside from stealing radishes from the garden, healthy living hasnít been part of the vocabulary.
Itís been a long time since those days of shed hunting, months ago, plowing through snow to get to places where the antlers should be but arenít. And that spring field event where the dog made a fool of you for even suggesting he had the manners for the genteel endeavor of bird dogging under the microscope is long gone too.
Itís high summer and time to nudge the dog into shape so he can ladle up a pheasant without his tongue dragging on the ground as if he finished a three-rounder in the octagon.
So we run the dog.
There are a variety of ways to accomplish this. Finding a stretch of gravel, preferably where the motorist and dog owner can scope the landscape for a mile ahead to ensure no trains, other cars, and absolutely no domestic animals will dampen the pleasantness of this workout. Other animals besides your dog on this stretch of plantation could result in a fracas or an AWOL pointer, which will forever sour you on exercise. Just drop the dog out the door, drive and watch him disappear in the rear view mirror as you search for a country station or hair band radio on the digital soundbox under the dashboard.
The dog gets plumb tuckered out and you can take him home and place him back in the shade where he will sleep until you do it again tomorrow.
Taking the dog for a mountain hike is another option. The possibility he will disappear, this time into the underbrush, and perhaps not appear again until you get back to the car where you find him lying underneath in the shade, his tongue again hanging out, huffing for breath with a grin on his face like he escaped a pack of wolves is real.
Thereís no point in reprimanding him for busting away. Itís too late, and heís satisfied and tired and will sleep in the shade of the back porch until tomorrow.
The last option, and maybe the most preferable, is to actually run with the dog in a field or some place where you can keep an eye on each other. It guarantees he will hear your commands and cannot pretend otherwise.
This workout is more strenuous and requires a pair of sneakers and a place where, again, no other animals lurk. A path is desirable but not necessary.
The dog stays relatively near because he finds the company of a human a pleasant and amusing distraction. He grins and drools as he sees the humanís tongue flopping and flapping. He watches gaily as the human stumbles, huffs, wheezes, slobbers and generally acts like a dog thatís been basking too high on the hog.
I prefer this latter option despite its initial punishment.
Itís a bonding experience, especially afterward when you fight the pooch for the water dish and he eyes your dribble in the bowl with disdain.
I had a friend who never exercised his dog and barely worked with it, except for the real McCoy when he took the mongrel afield where it outhunted and retrieved the many better breeds he was fortunate to outshine.
Just a natural bird dog I guess, my friend would sigh, not letting on that his dogís great grandparents a few times removed were from dingo stock, and the paternal side had African non-stop long-distance walkers in its bloodline somewhere, maybe a little Mexican red wolf too, all mixed up with a slim-tailed soft-mouth pointer.
I am still attempting to decipher what made that dog so cost-effective.
My friend let it wallow on the couch in August under the air conditioner, fed it Milk Bones from the big box and even had the TV on so it could watch reruns of Dogs With Jobs and the Littlest Hobo while lying on its back with a sleepy grin and a back leg scratching a wall.
One of these days Iíll get to the bottom of that, because my pal ainít telling.
Until then, summer is for running the dog, which I will get to tomorrow. Or the next day. Sometime real soon. Before pheasant season, anyhow.
In the meantime, I noticed weíre out of Milk Bones.
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Coeur díAlene Press writer Ralph Bartholdt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org