When Cricket was a puppy, I tried to teach her how to use the treadmill, and she managed to stay on for two minutes at the lowest speed. But the next time she changed her mind. She scratched at the treadmill with her paw, and then rested her head on the side and made puppy dog eyes at me while I walked by myself.
Cricket has a lot of nervous energy to work through every day and when we don’t get her out walking enough, or exercising enough, she uses it up by barking and by attacking her dog bed and racing around the apartment and generally being a menace.
When the weather is good, I can push myself to take the dogs for a long walk once a day, but in the heat, it’s impossible. So Cricket has taken to bringing me her tug toy when she’s getting antsy.
She loves her tug toy. She holds on with her teeth and I lift her in the air and she dangles, and growls, over and over and over again. Once my shoulders are too tired for dangling, we move on to the floor exercises. First we do the back and forths, and then we do side to sides, and then we do circles in one direction and then the other. If I can get her to let go at all, I will throw the tug toy for her, but she is much better at catching the toy than I am at throwing it, so she finds this frustrating.
Butterfly cannot play tug, maybe because her teeth aren’t strong enough, or maybe it’s just not a game she understands, but she wants to play too. So while I am pulling and pushing Cricket’s tug toy with one hand, I am scratching Butterfly’s head with the other, and getting licked to death.
When we can’t find the tug toy (because Cricket likes to hide things), I get out the chicken treats and we go through the commands Cricket remembers from training class. We start slow and then speed up until it feels like an old time Jane Fonda workout. Up! Down! Sit! Turn! Down! Sit! Up! Turn! Until she’s tired, or she’s finished three chicken treats, whichever comes first.
Butterfly has been learning the basic steps to this routine, but Cricket is not happy with having to slow down while her sister learns the steps.
(“Turn” is code for a pirouette on her back feet and it is cricket’s favorite move. Butterfly can manage a quarter turn so far, and she is very proud of herself.)
The problem with Cricket’s workouts is that they are completely dependent on my participation. She can’t put in a DVD and do a workout on her own. She’s not a self starter. If I put her out in the yard on a long lead, she will sit in the shade and chew sticks.
Sometimes, if I’ve really worn her out, she’ll be calm enough to do her old stretch routine, the one we came up with together after her first knee surgery many years ago. Of course there are leg stretches, for her quads and hamstrings, and then some massage at the hips and waist, because she does a lot of jumping and twisting. And then I rotate her ears and massage her neck and jaw, because barking builds a lot of tension. But her favorite stretch is when she stands on her back feet and I hold her arms up just a little above her shoulders. She breathes deeply and almost sighs with relief.
And maybe, if I’m lucky, she’ll wait half an hour before she brings me the tug toy again.