My coach is an animal

“A good coach can change a game.

A great coach can change a life.”

John Wooden, legendary basketball coach

Once upon a time I had a dog who liked to chase cars. When he finally caught one, it took him two and a half weeks to bury it in the back yard.

Rim Shot!

But seriously, folks. Dogs have a lot of talent. They help hunters find their prey, offer special aid to folks with disabilities and when necessary bite the unwelcome intruder. The comic Groucho Marx made this observation, “Outside of a dog, man’s best friend is a book. Inside a dog it’s too dark to read.”

Believe it or not the study of dogs can offer a marathon runner like me some valuable training advice. For example, have you ever heard the expression, “Every dog has his day.” It means everyone will have good luck at some point in their lives. Well that’s good news but here’s the catch when it comes to running. You have to train. That’s the secret to having a lucky day. Golfer Gary Player said it best, “The harder you work the luckier you get.” So get a training plan, get a coach, get some shoes, and get busy.

And about those shoes I just mentioned. I found this proverb from across the sea in Portugal. “If you don’t have a dog, you hunt with a cat.” It means do the best you can with what you have. Abebe Bikila from Ethiopia won the Olympic Marathon in 1960 and again in 1964. And guess what. He ran barefoot. That’s right, no shoes. Bob Weiland, who lost both his legs while serving as a medic in Vietnam, has run marathons and triathlons using just his hands to swing himself across the finish line. So if the dog ate your running shoes, so what. You can still run.

One of the most important qualities for a runner is tenacity, the ability to just plain hang in there when the going gets tough. Dogs can help a runner understand how important this is. Mark Twain said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, it’s the size of the fight in the dog that does.” And there is a Japanese proverb that goes like this, “The dog that wags its tail won’t be beaten.”    

I heard a story about a blind man who walked into a store and picked up his seeing eye dog by the tail. He spun the dog around his head several times.

A store clerk said to him, “May I help you?”

The blind man said, “No thank you. I’m just looking around.”

Out there on the running trail, look around, smile, and say hello to everyone you meet. In dog language that means, “Bark Less, Wag More.” I’ve gotta go now.

I’m dog tired.

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“Lots of people talk to animals…not very many listen, though….that’s the problem.”

Benjamin Hoff, author