That time Piper met a Porcupine…

Flashback to last Saturday morning. Matt and I are sitting next to an older man in the Emergency Vet’s waiting room watching a nature show on TV. A porcupine appears onscreen and the man says “Have you ever seen a dog that came face to face with a porcupine?? OUCH!” Oh yes, I tell him. In fact, that’s exactly why we’re here!!!

Piper, or Porcupipe, as she may be called from now on, BIT A PORCUPINE on Friday afternoon. Piper is fine and no, I don’t think that she learned not to mess with porcupines in the future!! We were on a hike as part of our annual sojourn to the Hunting Camp, aka Globe Run Rod and Gun Club, a private wilderness retreat located in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.  As is always the case at Camp, all dogs run free and daily activities include swimming in the lake, hiking, and logging some quality time in the rocking chairs on the front porch. But this year was a liiiittle different, thanks to Piper’s prickly new friend.

After a morning at the lake, Friday afternoon found six of us on a hike, venturing into the state forest lands that border the Hunting Camp. We had just turned onto the abandoned and overgrown remnants of McCool Road when I heard Matt yelling “Piper, NO!! Piper, OFF!!!!” Seconds later, Piper emerged (obediently!) from the forest and heeled next to Matt on the trail and Matt hurriedly explained that he’d seen Piper harassing what looked like a porcupine several feet off the trail. At first we didn’t think Piper had come in contact with the spiky beast, especially since we hadn’t heard any reaction from her, but soon enough we realized that her little face resembled a pin cushion, with tiny quills poking out of her lips, gums, tongue, and mouth. Poor Piper!!

Matt quickly set about extracting the quills with his fingers. Piper, still preoccupied with the porky 20 feet off the trail, was seemingly oblivious and put up little fight while Matt performed his grisly task. After several minutes of plucking Miss Piper was almost good as new, with just a few quills remaining in her mouth. We hiked the 2 miles back to camp and tried to get cell service to call the vet. (Oh yeah, did I mention that we have no cell service and no internet access at the Hunting Camp?!)

After a brief, staticky phone call with the vet we determined that Piper didn’t require immediate medical attention since she was very comfortable (actually rather proud of herself, if you ask me) and eating normally. We stuck around at Camp long enough to enjoy a big dinner with our family, then drove home late Friday night so we could get Piper checked out the next morning.

Unfortunately, the ER vet was unable to remove the two broken quills from Piper’s mouth, but she explained that they should work themselves out over time. A few hours and $227 later we headed home with a woozy pup and a two week supply of antibiotics. Piper is now completely back to her wild, normal self and shouldn’t have any long term effects from her porcupine incident. Thank goodness!

Our trip to the Hunting Camp may have been cut short this year, but I still took a ton of photos in the single day we were there. Here are a few of my favorites. Enjoy!

Piper’s PR at the St. Agnes 5K

Today Piper earned herself a new 5K record of 22:43! That time came within 5 seconds of my own personal best, which I set on a PR-friendly, point-to-point net downhill course in December. With that in mind, I’m going to consider today’s finish at the St. Agnes 5K my own new “loop course” personal best as well, albeit with an asterisk next to it for *Piper-assisted.  😄

post-race-selfie

As the asterisk indicates, I do know that at least some of our speedy time can be attributed to the fact that Piper sets a grueling pace and pulls me forward just a little bit throughout the entire race. (Except when we passed a cat in the first mile, then she pulled left!) Piper is a very serious running buddy who never lunges at other dogs, never veers off course, and never, ever stops to sniff or pee during a run. Once we’re moving Piper rarely breaks out of her rapid-fire trot stride; all she wants to do is go, go, GO!!

annie-piper-st-agnes

Here we are near the halfway point. Piper’s tongue is making a rare appearance. (Photo credit: St. Agnes 5K)

So about the race… As is usually the case, I wanted to avoid running the first mile too quickly.  I mentally set a goal of 7:40 and began the race with Piper at my side, way out to the left of the field (the first turn is a right). Piper snorted and urged me forward but I kept our speed to a comfortable jog and let other runners and lots of kids move out in front of us. We cruised down a hill and along a flat section of road before my watch beeped a 7:19 first split. Too fast! But it felt SO EASY!

I’ve started many past races too quickly and, after seeing the first mile split, justified my actions by thinking “maybe today will be the day that I go out really fast and actually maintain it for a 5K!!” Until today, however, every time I’ve thought this I’ve been dead wrong.  Instead of magically maintaining a too-fast first mile pace I end up struggling through a painful second and third mile and later kick myself for blowing it at the start. But not today… today I actually DID maintain that pace AND got even faster as the race went on!

Piper and I cruised through some uphill and downhill during mile 2, and soon I was smiling to myself as my watch beeped a 7:18 second mile split.  I joyfully took a break from my near-constant commentary of “heel!” and “Piper, WAIT!” to tell Piper she was a good girl. Then we blasted into mile 3. At this point I knew that we were likely on pace to beat my previous “loop” 5K PR of 23:17, but I didn’t think that I could realistically manage to run any faster than a 7:18 third mile.

st-agnes-5k-stats-17_

But run faster we did! Piper and I somehow sped up, passed two guys on a long straightaway, and powered into the final incline up Market Street to the finish line. With the end of the race in sight my Garmin notified me that we had covered our third mile in an unbelievable 7:13 (7:13!!!) and that gave me the oomph to push up the hill and cross the finish line. As I bent over to catch my breath I looked at Piper and realized that she wasn’t even panting. What a show off! 😄

Pipe and I cooled down together, then she got to meet lots of little kids and happily accepted many pets and hugs in exchange for her hard work on the race course. Our 22:43 finish time put us 34th overall and 8th female (well, 9th for me, technically speaking) and I belatedly realized that I also won my age group. Cool! Most of all, I am just thrilled to have had such a great experience with my lovely pup this morning and I look forward to many more runs (and hopefully more races if the weather stays cold!) together this spring.

post-race

Miles since last post: 268.9
Days since last post: 76
2016 Miles: 1578.8
2017 MILES: 229

Past Races:
• February ’17:
 Pickle Road Run 5K (2/18)
• December ’16:
Jingle Elf 2M (12/2), Brian’s Run 5M (12/11), DE Downhill 5K (12/18) [5K PR]
• November ’16:
Trinity 5K (11/5), 7 Summits Turkey Trot (11/24)
• October ’16:
Run for the House 5K (10/1), True Blue 5K (10/16), Boo Run 5K (10/29)
• August ’16:
Cure4Cam Rustin (8/18)
• June ’16: Media 5 Miler (6/17), Cure4Cam (6/20)
• May ’16:
Media Mile (5/7) [1M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/13), Turtle Trot Trail 5K (5/15), Elwyn Max 5K (5/21)
• April ’16:
Evolve IP 5K (4/2), Empower the Children 5K (4/17), Haverford Twilight Run (4/23) [5K PR Tie]
• March ’16:
 St. Agnes 5K (3/5), 3-2-1 Loop 10K (3/12) [10K PR], Pickle Run (3/19)
• February ’16:
Pickle with Piper (2/20)
• January ’16:
Pickle Trail Run (1/30)
• December ’15: Jingle Elf Run (12/3) [2M PR], Brian’s Run (12/5) [5M PR], Reindeer Romp 5K (12/13)
• November ’15:
Trinity 5K (11/7), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/26) [5K PR]
• October ’15:
BAAR 5K (10/3), Double OyVey 10K (10/25) [10K PR], Boo Run 5K (10/31)
• September ’15: Run-A-Muck Trail 5K (9/19)
• August ’15:
Boxcar Mile (8/13), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/27)
• June ’15: Media 5 Mile (6/19)
• May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
• April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11) [10K PR], Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26) [5K PR]
• March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
• February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
• January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
• December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5) [2M PR]Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7) [5M PR], Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
• November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [5K PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
• October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
• September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
• August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [5K PR]
• July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18) [5M PR]
• June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
• May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [5K PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
• April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3), Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
• March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
• February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
• January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
• December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [5K PR]
• November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
• October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [5K PR]
• September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
• The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Review: Hurtta Extreme Warmer Dog Jacket

Hurtta Extreme Warmer Dog Jacket

In December Piper won an Instagram contest to become an official reviewer for the new Extreme Warmer jacket from Hurtta, a Finnish company that produces functional, high-quality dog clothing and equipment. Piper is one of those dogs that loves being outside no matter how cold, windy, or snowy the weather might be, so this jacket was especially intriguing to me since it would provide significantly better coverage and warmth than the horse blanket-style coats that Piper already owns.

Per the terms of the contest, I happily agreed to share a few photos of Piper in her Extreme Warmer jacket (like I need an excuse to take pictures of Piper!!) and write an honest review of the product after several weeks of testing. After reading my review, if you have any questions about the Extreme Warmer please feel free to ask me in the comments. You can also check out Hurtta North America’s complete product listing and details here: https://www.hurtta247.com/extreme-warmer

white-out-hurtta2

Piper’s Extreme Warmer arrived just after Christmas.  Right out of the box I was immediately impressed by the fabric and construction. This jacket has much more in common with a human’s winter parka than the lightweight dog coats I was familiar with.  The Extreme Warmer has a soft, foil-like inner layer to reflect Piper’s body heat inwards and a waterproof outer shell to protect her from wind and snow. Like a human jacket, the Extreme Warmer also has reflective details for visibility at night.

SIZE AND FIT

The Extreme Warmer is sized based on a dog’s back length. Piper measures 22.5″ from the base of her neck to the base of her tail so we opted for size 55 cm / 22″. Fine-tuning the fit of the Extreme Warmer is accomplished with several cinches and an adjustable belly strap. Piper’s tail is usually up when she’s romping around the yard and I was pleased to find a bungee adjustment on the back of the Extreme Warmer that allowed me to tailor the length of the jacket so that it ended exactly at the base of Piper’s tail. Getting the fit just right took a few tries – Piper came in with rubs on the front of her legs after the first wear because we hadn’t tightened one of the neck bungees enough – but after some final adjustments the Extreme Warmer fits perfectly, doesn’t rub, and is easy to put on and take off.

sass-mouf

EXTRA FEATURES

In addition to its parka-like technical fabrics, the Extreme Warmer has a few other features that set it apart from other dog coats I’ve owned in the past. First, this jacket has a large flap that goes between Piper’s front legs and covers her whole chest and rib cage area. The Extreme Warmer also does an especially good job of covering Piper’s hind end, thanks to generous flaps of layered fabric and two soft leg straps that her hind legs fit through. And don’t worry… all of this rear end coverage does not make the Extreme Warmer susceptible to getting peed or pooped on. The design is such that the jacket somehow stays perfectly out of the way when Piper is doing her business. (Thank goodness!)

The most exciting and undoubtably most entertaining feature of the Extreme Warmer is the jacket’s snood*, which provides maximum coverage of Piper’s neck and, if the weather warrants, even her ears. This adjustable inner hood can be kept loose and nearly out of sight for warmer winter days, but I love that I have the option to cinch it up if Piper’s going to be spending time outside in really cold weather. Piper doesn’t seem to mind the snood nearly as much as I thought she might; I think she must realize that it does actually keep her head and ears extra toasty.

dr-seuss

*No matter how many times I see the official pronunciation of snood online (/snuːd/), I will always pronounce it like the colorful puzzle game that Matt and I were addicted to in college. Plus, “snewd” sounds cuter and slightly more ridiculous, which seems like a better fit for this jacket feature.

PERFORMANCE

The Extreme Warmer absolutely lives up to its claim of being extremely warm. I always run my hand over Piper’s fur when she comes inside and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that her back, neck and chest are always warm to the touch after she’s been wearing her Hurtta.

In addition to its excellent cold weather performance, I also love that this jacket allows full range of motion and stays on securely. Thanks to all of the adjustments and straps, Piper can gallop around the yard at top speed without me worrying that the Extreme Warmer will start sliding around or loosen. Piper’s velcro-closure coats, on the other hand, can come detached if she runs or plays too roughly in them.

galloping

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, I am extremely impressed by Hurtta’s Extreme Warmer. It is stylish, high quality, and very warm. Knowing that Piper is outside with her Extreme Warmer on gives me peace of mind, especially on those cold evenings when Piper gets the zoomies and refuses to come inside when I call her. If she’s going to spend an extra few minutes out in the cold at least she’s doing it with a full parka on!

Plus, the snood is really, really cute…

snood-dog

I received Piper’s Extreme Warmer for free from Hurtta North America in exchange for my fair and honest review. I have to admit though, that after seeing how warm it keeps Piper I would gladly pay for it! The Extreme Warmer is available for purchase in the US/Canada from Hurtta North America and around the world; just visit Hurtta’s web site to find a local retailer.

winter-wonderland

The End of Blog-Crastination

Is it possible that I haven’t blogged since September? Yup. And the worst part is, the longer I wait to compose a new post, the harder it becomes to get motivated to actually sit down and write! Case in point: I have now run seven (SEVEN!) races since my last race recap. I’m a stickler for chronological recaps, and knowing that I need to reminisce all the way back to a mediocre race in early October before I can regale you with tales about my first California race (in San Diego!!) and my most recent 5K with Piper makes it that much harder to buckle down and get the writing done.

But today I’m putting an end to my blog-crastination! I am ignoring all of those accumulated races and turning to my favorite four-legged friend for inspiration. So without further ado, here’s a selection of photos (in chronological order) of Piper doing her thing from May thru December. Enjoy!

Did you make it through all of those photos? (Thanks!😉) Which is your favorite? I’m partial to Piper in her orange goggles. 🤓

Bradford Pear Down

Guess what? On Sunday Piper finally mastered “headstand.” We’ve been working on this trick for months and I’m SO proud of her!928 Headstand Piper

Oh wait, just kidding. Nope, the real truth is that a violent windstorm uprooted a perfectly healthy, beautiful tree on Saturday night, leaving a white wall of flowers and a giant sideways stump in our yard. Boo! 😣

943 The tree, Piper and Matt

And if you’re still trying to wrap your head around the first photo, maybe this will help:

699 Checking out the fallen tree

On Saturday night a storm front swept across southeastern Pennsylvania, bringing heavy rains and 45-60 mpg wind gusts. Despite the wind our power stayed on and Matt and I went to bed, blissfully unaware of the damage happening outside. We woke up early Sunday morning, looked out the window and BAM!! WHITE FLOWERS EVERYWHERE. Our Bradford Pear tree had tipped over on its side, taking a sizable chunk of lawn along with it.

649 Matt and the Tree

Piper was initially wary of the changed landscape, but she has quickly realized that the tree’s new position means she is MUCH closer to the birds and squirrels that hang out in it.  She’s been keeping a close eye on it ever since.

1008 Fallen Tree

Here’s what the tree looked like in its glory, back in 2014.  RIP, Bradford Pear Tree.

Bradford Pear in its former glory

Matt and I are getting estimates for the tree’s removal now. In the meantime, I’m sure Piper will keep herself very busy watching over the fallen white blossoms.  Like most outdoor activities, it’s a job that she’s taking very seriously!

1041 Piper and her fallen tree

Piper, Pickles, and Peanut Butter (Recap of the March Pickle Run!)

Hello my name is Piper and I like to lick pickles.

Hello my name is Piper and I like to lick pickles.

On Saturday Piper joined me for the March Pickle Run in Ridley Creek State Park. Like last month’s pickle, this was a 5K prediction run on a paved out-and-back course. In February I conservatively guessed that Piper and I would finish in 24:30 but then we crushed the course in 23:47. This month I was more aggressive and entered 23:30 as our expected finish time.

Piper and I lined up towards the front of the pack (last month we started too far back and had a challenging time weaving through the crowds) and crossed the start line at 10AM. My game plan was to run the first mile very conservatively — maybe in 7:45 like my 10K last week — but of course there are no watches allowed in the Pickle Run so I don’t have any idea how long the first mile lasted. All I know is that I felt really comfortable and very happy to have Piper trotting along at my side.

After the first mile I realized that Piper and I were in third place. Over the next quarter mile we picked up our pace and steadily gained ground before passing the man in front of us. With that task complete, I suddenly remembered that the organizers of the Pickle Run hide “pickles” (cucumbers with pipe-cleaner arms and googley eyes) around the course for runners to find during the race. I once glimpsed a pickle during a race last year but have never claimed one for myself… until Saturday! About a minute after I started searching I spotted a pickle nestled in the brush about 10 feet off the path. I let out a little squeal of excitement, and, much to Piper’s confusion, swerved off the road to claim my prize. The pickle collection went smoothly and Piper and I were back on the course in seconds.

Last month when Piper and I hit the uphill climb at the turnaround point Piper lagged behind and seemed a little tired. This month the weather was much cooler (40°) and together we powered up the hill with the race leader just barely in sight. After about a half mile of running with the pickle in my right hand I finally looked down at it and realized that it had a big smiling “mouth” made out of sprinkles and peanut butter.  The sprinkles were starting to melt onto my palm but all I could think was how much Piper was going to love the peanut butter when we finished!

Pickle Stats Mar16

I would have loved to know our split for the final mile because it felt FAST.  We gained ground on the leader and I was strong and in control. Piper heeled perfectly by my side, trotting at a rapid clip with her mouth firmly closed… I guess we still weren’t moving fast enough to exert Piper in 40° weather! Before I knew it we were turning onto the narrow path that twisted up to the finish line. I watched the leader cross the line about 15 seconds ahead of us and then we sprinted through the finish.

Our official chip time was 23:36 — 11 seconds faster than last month and a new course record for me. Plus we found a pickle!!! I scooped off some of the peanut butter around the pickle’s pom-pom “nose” and fed it to Piper right after we finished. 😄

After the pickle run

Running with Piper is bringing me such joy. She is well-behaved, makes other runners smile, and I truly feel like I have a companion out there on the course with me. Plus she’s always good for a laugh… Piper may or may not have stuck her entire head under the stall next to me in the ladies’ restroom just to say hi to our neighbor right before the race. Whoops!

As we watched the post-race awards Piper waited patiently beside me, taking the occasional lick of pickle “hair” (more peanut butter and sprinkles) and making a big to-do of licking her lips and nose very thoroughly after each taste. Our finish time was only 6 seconds off my prediction, so we won a second pickle in addition to the one we found on course. Double treats for Piper!! Exactly the prize she deserved for her new 5K PR.

656 Piper Pickle_

Miles since last post: 18.5
Days since last post: 4
2016 MILES: 394.3

Past Races:
• March ’16: St. Agnes 5K (3/5), 3-2-1 Loop 10K (3/12) [10K PR]
• February ’16:
Pickle with Piper (2/20)
• January ’16:
Pickle Trail Run (1/30)
• December ’15: Jingle Elf Run (12/3) [2M PR], Brian’s Run (12/5) [5M PR], Reindeer Romp 5K (12/13)
• November ’15:
Trinity 5K (11/7), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/26) [5K PR]
• October ’15:
BAAR 5K (10/3), Double OyVey 10K (10/25) [10K PR], Boo Run 5K (10/31)
• September ’15: Run-A-Muck Trail 5K (9/19)
• August ’15:
Boxcar Mile (8/13), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/27)
• June ’15: Media 5 Mile (6/19)
• May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
• April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11) [10K PR], Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26) [5K PR]
• March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
• February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
• January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
• December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5) [2M PR]Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7) [5M PR], Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
• November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [5K PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
• October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
• September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
• August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [5K PR]
• July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18) [5M PR]
• June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
• May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [5K PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
• April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3), Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
• March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
• February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
• January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
• December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [5K PR]
• November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
• October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [5K PR]
• September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
• The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Piper’s First Pickle

Hello, I'm Piper, and I'm a runner!

It took Piper a week to take her post-race selfie… not bad for a dog!

Piper has been galloping around the yard for months, but this winter her joints finally matured enough for her to go on an official road run with me. Yay, running buddy! But unfortunately inviting an energetic German Shorthair to go jogging with you is far easier said than done. Piper and I went on a short jaunt over the holidays and she pulled me all over the road until my hips were out of alignment and I started seriously second-guessing how fun it would be to have a four-legged running partner.

Fed up with being – quite literally – jerked around, I purchased a “Gentle Leader” head collar for Piper in late December. The gentle leader works by redirecting a dog’s forward motion and turning their head back towards you when they pull. It only took Piper a few minutes to figure this out and I was thrilled to find that my wild, lunging beast was quickly transformed into a tiny, prancing racehorse who seemed to be perpetually trotting towards an imaginary starting line with a short, bouncy, energetic stride. Splendid!

Gentle Leader

As soon as I determined that the Gentle Leader was our go-to headgear for running, I starting looking at running leash options. If I gave Piper too much room to roam, she’d turn back into the beast and pull until the Gentle Leader left rub marks on her face — not good! Throughout January I experimented with tying knots in a long bungee waist leash to shorten it and keep Piper under control. We enjoyed a few positive runs together with the knotted leash so in February I decided it was time to invest in some new equipment… namely a short bungee leash and a padded running belt for me that the leash could attach to.

My new gear arrived in mid-February. I was so excited to try it that I immediately took Piper out on a mile and a half trial run on a blustery 25° afternoon before happily proclaiming that the belt-leash-gentle-leader combo was a success. Piper was officially jogging at my side without pulling (much), and the leash attached to my waist, allowing me to use my arms to run rather than hold Piper. Perfect!

Piper had her racing debut at The Pickle Run on February 20th. I contacted the organizers in advance and they said that dogs were allowed as long as we started towards the back of the pack. Like all Pickle Runs, this was a prediction run, so I estimated that we’d finish in 24:30, significantly slower than my course-best time of 23:42, but still hopefully a respectable first 5K time for little Pipe.

013 Annie and Piper cropped

The start ended up being the hardest part of the race. Typically at a Pickle Run I position myself in the first 3-4 rows behind the start line, but Piper and I began behind at least 100 people. We spent the first half mile dodging and weaving around other participants (which is not easy to do with a prancing, snorting racehorse attached to your hip!) and finally got some breathing room near where the trail runners turned right to follow their muddy off-road course.

Piper and I stayed on the road and steadily gained ground on the runners ahead of us. At the halfway turnaround I realized that we were sitting in 5th or 6th, but at that very moment Piper seemed to lose some steam. I forgot to mention earlier that the weather was a freakishly warm 60° (in February!) so this was the hottest run that Piper had ever been on. I was very aware of that fact as she seemed to lag behind me going up a hill. Piper continued panting (and snorting, and grunting, as usual!) so we slowed down a bit for what was maybe the 1.5-2.0 mile section of the race.

Smiling for the camera mid-race

Piper knows exactly where the camera is.

With about a mile to go Piper spotted Matt standing on the side of the path taking pictures. She immediately perked up, smiled for the camera, and then took over setting the pace for the final stretch of the race. We FLEW through that last mile (I would LOVE know our split, but no watches are allowed in a Pickle Run!). Before I knew it Piper and I were zooming across the finish line. As we crossed I turned to look at the clock… we finished in under 24 minutes!!

January Pickle Run Stats_

Together Piper and I ended up 4th overall with a chip time of 23:47. That’s just 5 seconds off my course best time!!! I still can’t believe Piper and I ran that fast, especially with the tricky start and slow turnaround up the hill. WOW!

I’m really excited to see what Piper and I can do in other races this winter and spring. Next up we have the March Pickle Run on the same course as February’s Pickle. I’m thinking we should start a little closer to the front of the pack since it seemed like we caused more disruptions weaving for a half mile than we would have if we had just started with people running a similar pace. We’ll keep practicing together (just did 5 miles today!!) and hopefully we’ll have as much fun in March as we did in February!

DSC_0048 Pickle Run (2-20-16)

Links to our running gear:
Gentle Leader Dog Head Collar
Spindrift Daisy Runner Belt
Mongrel Bungee Leash Extension

Miles since last post: 115.8
Days since last post: 24
2016 MILES: 291.2

Past Races:
• January ’16: Pickle Trail Run (1/30)
• December ’15: Jingle Elf Run (12/3) [2M PR], Brian’s Run (12/5) [5M PR], Reindeer Romp 5K (12/13)
• November ’15:
Trinity 5K (11/7), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/26) [5K PR]
• October ’15:
BAAR 5K (10/3), Double OyVey 10K (10/25) [10K PR], Boo Run 5K (10/31)
• September ’15: Run-A-Muck Trail 5K (9/19)
• August ’15:
Boxcar Mile (8/13), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/27)
• June ’15: Media 5 Mile (6/19)
• May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
• April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11) [10K PR], Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26) [5K PR]
• March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
• February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
• January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
• December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5) [2M PR]Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7) [5M PR], Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
• November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [5K PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
• October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
• September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
• August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [5K PR]
• July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18) [5M PR]
• June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
• May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [5K PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
• April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3), Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
• March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
• February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
• January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
• December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [5K PR]
• November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
• October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [5K PR]
• September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
• The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)