Duke Stephans is a Hound Shepard mix. At least that’s what the rescue labeled him. He was found in a box on the side of the road with his puppy siblings, so who knows his exact genealogy. I suspect the hound part of him is greyhound because of his lean gate and unbelievable speed.
During his first visit to the vet, she asked if I was a runner. My first instinct was: Um, flattered! How could she tell? When I proudly said yes, she breathed a sign of relief and said “Good, because Duke Stephans is going to be a runner. This dog will need to run.” I quickly realized her question wasn’t a compliment on my physique, but more of a request to become a runner or somewhat active for the sake of the dog’s physical and mental well being. To be fair when someone looks at me they don’t normally see runner–maybe carpool captain or karaoke enthusiast, but definitely not runner. I don’t blame her for the sigh of relief or the obvious undercurrent of doubt in her voice as she asked the question. She was only looking out for Duke Stephans. Lucky for him–I am a runner. Or so I thought.
The following day I leashed up Duke Stephans and took him with me on my neighborhood 2 mile loop. I went into the run knowing I may need to stop or walk back in case his young legs couldn’t take it. Five minutes into the run I started feeling pretty good about myself. My stride was long, lungs clear, feet light. I felt in the zone. I could already feel this being labeled as a “good run.” This run was about Duke Stephans not me and the by-product of my good deed was having a good vibe positive run. While patting myself on the back I looked down at my running partner only to notice he was not running! What I deemed a great (I know I said good but it was great) run, Mr. Duke Stephans deemed as a joke. He was giving maybe a little trot, speed walking at best. But running he was not. I was not fast enough to give this little guy the run he desired.
I sped up my pace only to see him not even change gears. Dogs are great for reminding you not to take yourself so seriously. When we finally reached home I was drenched in sweat and logged the best time on my Runkeeper app. He appreciated the walk.
Ego was somewhat hurt, but I was more motivated than anything else. I realized I just discovered an unknowing running coach in Duke Stephans. He gave me the goal to not only log miles but to get myself in the shape required to give him a proper run.
For now, I take him trail running or on the beach where it’s okay for him to run without being tethered to my slow self. As I slowly trod away he is able to run at his own pace. For every mile I log he must log 3 running back/forth and in/out of the paths. One day we will challenge each other side by side, but tomorrow he will lead the way.