My best friend and running buddy is Sam. Sam is a 100lb St. Bernard/Belgian Malinois mix and lives his life as my big, furry shadow. He follows me everywhere I go and is never more than a foot or two away from me. Right now he’s snoring behind me as I type at my computer.
Sam can’t go on really long runs now. He has serious hip dysplasia and tops out at about 4 miles, max, but he’s my companion on early morning runs in the dark. He loves to run and will whine like a little kid as I get dressed and lace up my running shoes. On days I don’t run, he throws a little tantrum, throwing himself on the floor with a huff.
Of course, it’s nice to have enthusiastic company for my shorter weekday runs. I can’t always count on my teens being enthusiastic when it’s dark, cold, or damp out, but…there’s more to it, of course.
Sam is there to protect me. He’s a big furry deterrent should anyone be looking for a victim.
Few people know this about me, but I once was in an abusive relationship. It wasn’t dramatic, but it was enough that if a friend grabs my shoulder unexpectedly, my first response, before thinking, is to swing a punch. It was enough that I’m wary of strangers, particularly men I don’t know. It was enough that when we finally were in a place where we could get a dog…I wanted one that was big, not cute. I wanted a dog that was loyal and protective. I trained Sam in schutzhund, a dog sport that is similar to police dog work, when he was a pup. He wasn’t great at it and I didn’t have the time to take him for a title, but it helped him become better at following commands and bonded him closely to me.
He’s one of the reasons I feel comfortable running alone in the dark in a city. With him by my side, I feel more confident and safer.
He also helps me feel safer when my husband can’t be home and it’s dark out and I hear a strange noise. Sam will follow me to check things out, his ears pricked and ready and my breathing will slow and my heart will stop pounding. To Sam, it’s just part of his life, following Mommy around as he does. Then, when I go to bed, Sam is invariably sprawled across the foot of my bed. I sacrifice some foot room for him and he in turn always faces the door, even in his sleep watchful.
Bred to herd sheep and watch over them, protecting them from wolves and sheep thieves, Sam’s protectiveness is a part of what he is, bred into him over generations. He can’t help it. He can’t help barking when strangers approach our home or being suspicious of them. He can’t help being a bit antisocial when people want to pet him. He’s all business with anyone who isn’t family, unlike a gregarious lab or golden retriever. His instincts tell him to always be on guard and always be ready for danger.
Sam has eased our minds so many times. He’s accompanied our children on walks when we weren’t sure they should be out alone. He’s come with me on my morning runs, and he watches over our home whether we’re there or not.
I have no doubts as we run together that he’d keep me safe if needed, but the best thing about him is his sheer size and look usually mean it’s not necessary. Bad guys usually look for the weakest in the herd when they look for victims…and while I might qualify if I was alone, having Sam helps push me out of that category.
He’s also a great cuddler and his joy at running helps keep me going when I’m tired.
What more could I ask in my most loyal running buddy?