My running coach told me about the advantages of adding speed training to my running regimen. Last week, however, I got a speed workout I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
Here’s the set-up.
Lindy and I have a great rescue puppy named Sasha. She is our happy fur daughter. Well, even though she is barely two years old, Sasha is already a mom (courtesy of growing up on the streets of Compton before being rescued).
One of Sasha’s puppies, “Wasabi” (great name isn’t it), belongs to a friend of ours who is going through a rough patch. And she asked us to care for Wasabi for a few weeks. Wasabi is rather skittish right now and in need of some serious TLC.
So last Thursday morning I was outside walking Sasha and Wasabi prior to my run (so I was already decked out in my running garb). Whilst the puppies were “taking care of business” I paused to talk to one of our neighbors and their puppy. Needless to say, our collective dogs became one big tangled playful mess around our legs. After a few seconds I looked down to commence “Operation Untangle-ment.”
I saw Sasha, but when I looked at the end of Wasabi’s leash, her harness was sitting there …empty.
She had wiggled out of her harness (turns out her owner had accidentally given us one for a bigger dog) and was sitting 5 feet away… totally loose.
I slowly turned to Wasabi, hoping I could cajole her to come over to me so I could get hold of her. I called her name.
And then she realized that she was free. And took off running.
Cue the chase music as I tossed Sasha’s leash to our neighbor and took off sprinting.
This was the fartlek to end all fartleks.
But that apparently wasn’t enough excitement for Wasabi as she decided to turn and run across the major LA street we live next to. And like the terrified idiot that I am I followed, doing a LARP (live action role playing) version of Frogger, dodging traffic to a rousing chorus of honking horns.
Now I know that there was no way in hell that I could outrun Wasabi, but I figured at least I could keep her in sight and hope she turned into a driveway or cornered herself.
After four blocks of motoring as fast as I could, I realized I was just running a race I couldn’t win. Wasabi was apparently comfortable just running in a straight line and getting further and further ahead. And I was fartleked out.
Time for a desperate change of plan.
I turned and re-fartleked, running back to our condo building. I dialed Lindy on the phone as I grabbed Sasha from our neighbor. I told Lindy what had happened (in between gasping for breath/trying not to vomit) and that I needed her help.
I hopped into my SUV (with Sasha riding shotgun) and headed off in hot pursuit of our AWOL woof-woof. With no firm idea where she went other than a direction, I started cruising up and down the streets, asking every person I saw if they had seen a black blur of fur run by.
Fortunately, several people in the neighborhood had seen the dashing doggy and directed me where to go. I finally caught sight of Wasabi and followed her (like T.J. Hooker chasing a wayward perp).
And then I saw it.
Wasabi was running full tilt toward a huge intersection full of cars and that darn doggy had no intention of stopping. And I was utterly helpless to do damn thing. I realized that I was very possibly about to see this puppy get hit by a car. I can’t remember the last time I was so scared.
Well, the angels must have been watching because that little doggy got across the main road without a scratch.
I laid on my horn non-stop to get everyone’s attention and went through the redlight. I’m sure my driving would have made my insurance agent’s heart skip a beat.
I finally managed to catch up to Wasabi, who was still hightailing it down the sidewalk. I figured I’d try another tactic. I drove a few hundred yards ahead of her, slammed on my breaks and jumped out of my SUV, hoping to snag her as she ran by.
Apparently that dog is not only fast, but she’s also nimble, as she cut like an NFL running back and blew by me (I want that dog on my fantasy football team this fall).
I got back in my SUV and continued pursuit. Fortunately, after about a mile and a half of non-stop running, pooch was starting to tire a little. She ran down a side street and into a subdivision. I followed her in my car, hoping she’d stop for a breather. After what seemed an eternity, she finally ran into someone’s driveway and hid under a car (another good samaritan pointed her out).
I hopped out of my SUV and ran up the driveway and then dropped onto my stomach. Under the car I could see Wasabi panting heavily, but also looking like she was getting ready for another round of sprinting. I didn’t have another fartlek in me.
I crawled on my stomach around to the side of the car, calling her name the whole time. Fortunately Wasabi didn’t move too much. I tried to keep her calm, saying her name and how happy I was to see her. I angled into position. And rolled the dice.
I thrust myself under the car, stretching as far as I could and managed to grab a handful of puppy. I carefully pulled her out from under the car and onto my belly as I laid on my back exhausted and relieved to the point of tears.
It was the conclusion of perhaps the longest twenty five minutes I have ever experienced.
I have never hugged a dog for as long as I did on that person’s driveway.
I climbed back in my SUV and told Lindy that I had the puppy. Oh, I forgot to mention that I had Lindy on speakerphone for the entire car portion of the chase. Perhaps the only thing worse than what I experienced, was her having to hear this whole mess play out on my speakerphone.
On the way home, I found our neighbor and thanked her profusely for her help. She was another angel on our side. And I wish I could thank all of strangers who helped me out by directing me to Wasabi.
Needless to say, we drove to Petco shortly after and bought that dog a brand new and properly fitting harness. We checked that it fit snuggly. And double checked. And triple checked.
I’m still amazed at how lucky I was.
In the week since Wasabi’s impromptu sprint session, I’ve spoken to several friends of mine who have dogs. It seems a large number of them have been participants in escaped doggy dashes of their own.
There’s a funny follow-up to my puppy run. We spoke to Wasabi’s owner about what happened (playing down a few of the details). She felt bad about giving us the wrong harness and stated how happy she was that we were the ones present when this happened. And later that night she wrote us asking if we’d adopt Wasabi permanently.
So now we’ve got our new fur child (and Sasha is thrilled to have her puppy living with her). And I couldn’t be happier. After all, Wasabi is clearly a runner too.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go check that harness again.