Weeknote: my first fun run with Pippin

Pippin's my teammate: running with a dog in front of you adds an interesting component to cross-country running.

Weeknote: my first fun run with Pippin
Several dogs, already attached to their sleds, are behind me, in the background of this photo that Leif took on the morning of March 3, 2024, during a CEB workshop on dog harness sports. I'm adjusting Pippin's canicross harness at the start line.
Took me forever to get this weeknote out because I'm buried in studying for a biology midterm that is scaring my pants off (not in a fun way!) this coming Monday. Enjoy, and forgive the slight timey-wimey silliness as the original was written over most of past Sunday.

The horrible weather of the last few weeks has caused the snow to vanish: the skijoring workshop at the CEB this Sunday had to be changed into a canicross outing. The conditions were decent enough for the sleds, lucky ducks. I'd really like to try those sprint sleds next year!

Behind the sleds, Pippin and I wait for the first start.

Pippin was, at first, pretty intimidated by the other dogs and especially the new people, and there was a lot of barking and noise before the start. Thankfully, his shyness was conquered by his love of running, he really loves to move. Once we were all moving, the presence of the other dog teams produced a noticeable "pack" effect, with Pippin managing to run for kilometres without becoming distracted by his very powerful nose. (The only time he suddenly veered off into the woods was when he saw a rabbit—I forgive him completely since the critter really surprised me too!)

When Pippin saw Leif standing at the finish line, he suddenly became extremely motivated to pull forward... and eventually right in front of the sled towards Leif taking this photo...

I've almost always preferred being a solo athlete: as a young athlete, I avoided team sports as much as possible, the noticeable exception being sailing. Now, Pip's my teammate, and running with a dog in front of you means you have to devote a great deal of attention on your teammate. It adds an interesting component to cross-country running: is the puppy trotting or running with ease? How's his concentration? Are there other teams ahead or behind to avoid? You cannot be a team without a two-way communication channel: but any kind of understanding between dog and human has to be built up over time and practice. Since Pippin is still so young, I also want to avoid pushing him too far too fast. But today, in a completely new environment, surrounded by dogs and strangers, Pippin was so happy to run with me — we completely a circuit once and then watched the others race. His motivation is incredible, frankly.

Also, we met another French Brittany dog!

The other Brittany was completely adorable: same smile as Pip, and loves to be scratched behind the cheeks in the exact same place. And I could not stop giggling at the size difference. Pippin is turning his hobbity name into quite the ironic statement.
After the run, I was so warm I took off all my layers.
We took a break after one circuit to drink water and watch the sleds take off to tackle the course a few more times.

Since Pippin's entered our household and especially since I started my UQÀM course in January, I'm spending necessarily less time working out and dancing ballet. So it was a ton of fun to get out there and run an icy 5k with Pippin, and have the experience go so well. We were really warmly received at the CEB as well, and a few other participants even helped us dig out our little Fiat from an icy snowbank (ah, the reality of driving a tiny car in the Québec countryside.)

Leif took this photo of Pippin and I playing on the floor of our living room on the 27th of February, 2024. I've also been having a lot of chronic pain this February, but thankfully Pip's always happy to play with me however I can show up.

With a February of Welcome-To-Nightvale-worthy weather, chronic pain, and frustration with my bio class in the rearview mirror, I have a March tornado brewing to look forward to.

A few things:

  • Biology midterm and a project due (I hate exams so much);
  • Pippin, Leif and myself are starting a weekly Rally-O class!;
  • Because I need to really pile on the challenges, I'm also participating in my ballet studio's #DéfiAllezHop2024 challenge — I'm afraid of échappées on pointe, so I'm going to finally conquer them this March!

And, every day, I continue to work on my communication and rapport with Pippin (in addition to reading Force-Free Gundog Training by Jo Laurens, I'm also taking a mini retrieving by Liza Rader of Focus Dogs). Unfortunately, outside of sporting contexts, Pippin has developed a real anxiety around unknown men we meet on the street, the predictable result of bad experiences with entitled gross dudes. Leif and I have been working hard from the start to give Pippin a sense of security when he's with us, at home or out in the world. We'll rebuild his confidence, but it takes time and a whole lot of patience.

On the books side of things, I also devoured Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale this February. The novel was a wonderful breath of polar wind after all my reading about dogs, biology and cults that has been keeping me busy lately. In a much less magical but equally interesting genre, I also finished a second reread of Sarah Berman's Don't Call It A Cult about the cult/MLM NXIVM.

Okay, I just looked at my watch: it's late, I'm almost out of tisane (thyme, pine, mint, and a few other plants that tickle my nostrils but can't quite identify right now) and it's time for bed. Wishing you a great start to March, and catch you next time.

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