I'm sitting here at my desk, red-faced from the wind, slightly out of
breath, wearing the inner layers of my sweat-stained winter running garb. There
was a time when I wouldn't have left the house to exercise on a January day
like today -- temps in the teens, winds out of the north. After all, I have a
treadmill and a weight bench in the basement. I have options.
But I also have an Irish wolfhound.
The Mid-Morning Whine
I am blessed with a job that allows me to work at home most days. Rather than
reluctantly dragging my power-suit and panty-hose-clad self to an office at the
toll of 8 a.m. (which I did for years), today I trundle downstairs in my robe
and turn on the computer in my home office sometime between 6:30 and 7 a.m. The
result is that I start work earlier, get more done, and am in a significantly
But Type A personalities will find a way to create stress even in the most
ideal working conditions. Sometimes I get so involved in the project at hand
that I forget to refill my coffee cup or take a stretch break for hours. That
is, until I hear a soft whine coming from the couch behind me.
Regular as clockwork, at 10:30 each morning, my Irish wolfhound, Finnegan,
reminds me that it's time to get in touch with my physical self. It's time to
Of Wolves And Wolfhounds
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes rocked the bestseller list in 1992 with "Women Who
Run with the Wolves." In this groundbreaking collection of myths, stories, and
essays, the Jungian analyst Estes claimed that "a healthy woman is much
like a wolf." Her basic premise was that we women need to strip away the
trappings of civilization and get in touch with our primitive roots. Modern
women have, according to Estes, become so far removed from the earth's natural
cycles that we have no idea what our bodies, minds, or spirits need.
I don't know about running with wolves, but I'm here to tell you that
running with a wolfhound is a guaranteed way to get in touch with everything
Why I Love My Wolfhound
Despite his enormous size (the Irish wolfhound is the tallest breed of dog) and
rangy, athletic build (the deep-chested, narrow-waisted physique of a coursing
hound), Finnegan is easy to run with. Unlike greyhounds, wolfhounds don't need
an enormous amount of exercise, nor do they run at breakneck speed. If they
aren't in hot pursuit of the wolves they were bred to track and kill, they are
content to jog along at, well, at the speed of a moderately fit, middle-aged
women. I like that in a dog.
Like most giant breeds (Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Great Pyranees, and the
like), Irish wolfhounds are incredibly gentle and laid back. When you're taller
than the average full-grown man's inseam, you don't have to be mean or
aggressive to make your point. The result is that my jogging companion protects
me from unwanted company by his very presence, while being docile and easy to
manage at the same time.
But the best thing about my wolfhound is that he doesn't let me forget that
I'm an animal. I may have a mortgage to pay, groceries to buy, a 90-page
document to edit, and eight loads of laundry to fold, but I also need to
respect the call of the wild and get the heck outdoors for some exercise on a
regular basis. Whether it's a 75-degree day in June or a sub-freezing January
morning, you'll find me hitting the trail, running with the wolfhound.
Sally O'Neal Coates lives, writes, and runs with her wolfhound in southeastern
Washington State. She writes weekly for Sportsmansguide.com.