Julie Dahl walks six to seven days a week for three miles. She felt it was time to transition from the physical taxation she’d experienced running to a less strenuous workout. Running provided a cardiovascular challenge, so Dahl upped her frequency walking, trying to match the exertion she’d needed to run. This change could have been difficult, but because she wasn’t feeling the impact so intensely to her body, and she was able to bring along a canine companion, there were perks to the new routine Julie and her dog Shadow explored together.
The adventure begins in the quiet of the morning, before most people are awake. Julie finds she rarely sees other people, as there are only a couple of other runners who wake shortly after 4:30 a.m. to get going outdoors. Shadow amps her motivation for this daily morning routine, as when Dahl has had other commitments that interfere with the workout, Shadow will give her a look like it’s time to go every single time she walks in front of the door. Shadow has also kept them moving in the colder months because of his enjoyment of the cooler temps and snow.
Having access to nearby lakes means Shadow can playfully skim over the iced over waters and allow Julie to keep clocking miles. She finds the lake is a big part of her winter route because of sidewalks not being cleared that early and the streets are dangerous with traffic and varied layers of ice. Dahl’s Yaktrax Ice Cleats allow her to keep a good pace and not worry about slipping. Yet, the dropping temperatures usually mean finding winter mittens that can withstand fifteen degrees below and putting the running gloves away. Further, for light rain she’s supplied with rain gear and is only stopped with a very strong and cold wind chill where frostbite is a risk.
“He forgets he’s an old dog,” Dahl shares as she relays his antics of running across the lake in one direction, then bolting back the other way. After a good go at that, Shadow rolls around, brushing his back in the snow to cool off.
With four different routes they walk, each three to four miles long, Shadow quickly became adept at navigating the various paths. Dahl felt after a while that she wanted to give Shadow the freedom to walk off-leash. She describes this time as Shadow “training her to trust him.” As they’d walk, Dahl would drop the leash on the ground, feeling comfortable that she could grab it if Shadow diverted from the route. After a short time, Julie and Shadow could both walk freely side by side.
Now their goal is to progressively increase the pace and quality of the workout.
Dahl feels like she has a “Runner’s Mentality” when it comes to watching the clock and her heart rate, wearing a GPS watch for her distance and pace. Shadow has the highest level of distraction in the first mile, as he may stop and sniff three or four times. Julie’s whistle gets him back on track as they trek on. Her enjoyment from being outside is never through earbuds or listening to music but from the sights and sounds of her surroundings. Dahl has seen deer near wooded areas; heard splashing as they came up from the lake once, has seen a fox and recently the Blood Moon.
Shadow is known in their neighborhood as a “great dog,” and doesn’t have an invisible fence. He rarely goes into another yard; the only exception being for an occasional squirrel chase. They always find he returns and Julie appreciates how when they travel to visit family and stay in new territory that Shadow will remain in their yard, even without a fence in different surroundings.
Dahl is thankful for Shadow’s good health at 12 years, as he’s only had eye surgery and is a healthy dog. She’s contemplated finding another pet canine that could benefit from learning from Shadow’s maturity. Shadow was adopted around two years of age, and as Adoption Days come up at the animal shelter, Dahl’s watching for what could provide for a good addition to the family. Yet there’s another part of her that knows that Shadow’s charm is unparalleled, as they’ve experienced this amazing adventure and companionship together. After their walk and receiving his treat, Shadow enjoys some down time relaxing sprawled out on a snowbank. In the winters of Midwest, these enjoyable moments of winter are truly cherished.