The inevitable slowdown

AThike 013 300x224 The inevitable slowdown

The kids and Connor at the top of the AT hike last year

Yesterday we drove west to the Appalachian Trail to do a family hike. We did this same five-mileish hike last Memorial Day weekend and really enjoyed it, so I thought it would be fun to go back. Now, when I say family hike, I include our 13-year old whippet, Connor. He has always loved to hike with us and I can’t think of a time when I’ve left him behind.

Connor, as you might expect, has always been a beautiful runner. He used to be my running partner, too, until about six or seven years ago, when he made it clear he didn’t want to go along anymore. Walking and hiking, however, have continued to be a regular part of the routine. For some reason, the day before our hike this weekend, I questioned whether or not we should bring Connor. There hasn’t been any real incident that would make me feel this way, it’s just that he’s been slowing down of late.

IMG 0540 224x300 The inevitable slowdown

Hard to watch him get old

My gut instinct was on. We didn’t get very far into the hike when Connor really started dragging. At the first rocky ascent we came to, he planted his feet and refused to go on. I started coaxing him and gently pulling on the leash, and then came a kick to the gut–his hips gave out. He just kind of fell down into a hopeless heap and started shaking–he was clearly as scared by this as we were. Mr. Zippy picked up Connor and carried him for a while and when we got to more level ground, set him down again. We led him to a nearby spring and tried to get him to drink (it was pretty hot on top of it all) and then decided that we’d better just head back down–we didn’t want to push him at all.

I can’t know for sure, but I suspect we’re entering new territory here with Connor, where likely he won’t be joining us for anything other than short walks. Thinking about this today, I applied it to humans and running and how eventually, whether we like it or not, our bodies will ultimately limit us. That will be a bitter pill to swallow, for sure. In spite of it, though, I still firmly believe that those of us who remain active and eat healthy diets will lead a much better quality of life than those that choose to live otherwise. You use or it you lose it–I buy in.

Until that day when my body says “not so fast,” or “time to walk instead of run,” I’m going to enjoy every step. How about you?  

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  1. I hope you will have plenty good walks still with Connor. As you say we have to accept it as part of life. I’ve seen how my dad who was a great ultra runner miss the time out there and the preparation for ultra races. He is now 82 but he chose the active life and can still walk/run 10km with ease. He is very healthy and the lifestyle he chose clearly was the right one.
    Johann recently posted..Foto FridayMy Profile

  2. Wishing you and Connor plenty of good hikes together.
    I am hoping to beat that age thing but ever so often I wonder if it’s possible that some of us just have bodies that deal with aging better. Then I silence those thoughts as I try to persuade my stiff from the night muscles and tendons to start working.
    Ewa recently posted..Bay to Breakers race report you don’t want to missMy Profile

  3. Poor Connor. I know how hard it is when your beloved dog grows old and can’t do the things he used to do. Been there.

    You’re so right to enjoy every step now that we can still run. Going to keep that in mind on days the run doesn’t go that easy.
    Fran recently posted..Monday May 28, 2012: The Mishmash EditionMy Profile

  4. Always sad when our pets get old. Our vet calls one of our dogs grandma now that she’s older and has slowed down considerably. Maybe it’s time for Connor to sit on the porch and listen to the radio like a grandpa.

  5. It’s tough when our pets get old for sure! However, you are right, enjoy every step while you can, even if the steps are shorter and slower then they used to be!
    Robin recently posted..Toronto Women’s Half MarathonMy Profile

  6. Awww poor guy. Makes me sad. We have 2 furbabies and it really is hard to watch them age. But maybe we can learn something from them huh?
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..Leaving the Beach & 8′sMy Profile

  7. I remember when our dog Sheema stopped going on our long explorations, it was hard, but part of the life cycle we all go through. Our pets battle it hard, but also know better than we do sometimes when it is just time to say enough is enough.

    As for fighting the aging process, I plan to fight it every step of the way! I may not eat perfectly, but we eat well and our activity levels remain high. I tend agree with my Great Grandmother Bertha – Aging happens – getting old is a choice.

    Harold recently posted..AVR – Week In Review 5/27/12My Profile

  8. I’m so sorry. I know how hard it is when our pets start to slow down. I too hope that you and Conner have many many wonderful walks ahead of you. That aging thing is tricky and definitely starting to rear it’s head, making its appearance in small ways. But I am so with you – I’m enjoying every single step until I can’t.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Scenes from my weekend – Memorial DayMy Profile

  9. Poor Connor, poor you! My black lab just turned 12 so I do know the heartache of watching our pet age… Hugs to you.
    SassyModernMom recently posted..Counting My BlessingsMy Profile

  10. My cats turn 14 this August, so I understand (even though they have never been my running partners!).
    I think the aging process has given me a different take on running. When I was younger, I was really competitive. Now, while many people would frown upon my thinking, I am just out there to finish and enjoy myself. I want to stay healthy and not get hurt (to the best of my ability). I greatly admire runners like yourself, that are much faster than I am and that want to continue to get faster. It’s just not for me. I am trying to avoid the hereditary heart attacks and the advancement of problems that have already been diagnosed. And still enjoy my runs/races!
    Heather @ Bake, Run, Live recently posted..Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Challah BreadMy Profile

  11. Bla now I’m crying. Ox
    Fueled by Spite recently posted..NakedMy Profile

  12. ug this makes me so sad. I have an 11 year old dog and while she doesn’t run with me (toy poodle) it’s still so hard to watch her get old. She is my child! I dread the day i start “feeling” my age!
    Heather Montgomery recently posted..You Leak What You LoveMy Profile

  13. Aw this made me sad.. poor connor :( It is true though – sooner or later we all will slow down. This thought of “slowing down” has been on my mind this past quarter of college. Every wednesday I work at an assistant living community’s fitness center. Every day I work there I think to myself – I do NOT want to get old – i do not want to be like these people. Although, getting “old” is bound to happen, I have a lot of control over my aging process. I can choose to eat healthy foods and exercise and keep my mind alert. The human body is an amazing thing.
    Elisabeth @ CHAARG recently posted..Food Friday: Q!My Profile

  14. Oh :-( That just made my heart break in way too many pieces. My husky was my running partner for far too short of a time. Her shoulder gives out now way before she wants to stop. It is so so so sad.
    Julie recently posted..It’s Not All Hard WorkMy Profile

  15. What a lovely post! I was just thinking the other day about how I (hopefully) have so many more running years in me, and how that’s one of the great things about running. It’s so much more sustainable than, say, football.
    Laura recently posted..My mom called me a salmonMy Profile

  16. I’m sorry to hear :( Connor sounds like he has been an amazing companion and still has some enjoyable walks left though.
    Kristy (@KrisRunTri) recently posted..Thoughts Post ClevelandMy Profile

  17. That’s so difficult to watch our friends slow down because they have to, not want to. You seem to be in tune with his needs, and I’m sure his doggy heart appreciates it. I’m ok with slowing myself down eventually, just not right now.:)
    Yo Momma Runs recently posted..XTERRA Oak Mountain 21K, May 20, 2012My Profile

  18. Kristen says:

    Poor Connor! It is hard to watch our pets get older. I agree with you – I’m going to keep moving as long as my body lets me.

  19. poor Connor :(
    and sadly I remember when one of my dogs went from being my running partner to my walking buddy to his not being able to even do that…
    You are totally in touch with his needs though and that’s way cool/loving! <3
    Tara Burner recently posted..Going All The WayMy Profile

  20. It’s so sad when pets start to slow down. We’re never quite ready for it. I know I’m not going to be ready for the day that I have to give up running. And I’m hoping it’s a long way off.
    Char recently posted..Let’s Run Away and Join a CircusMy Profile

  21. I’m expecting the end with our second dog any day now. His brother went quickly at the end of last year, which was both good and bad. Never easy to lose a pet.
    Kovas – Midwest Multisport Life recently posted..Week 4: The North Face Endurance 50K TrainingMy Profile

  22. My heart goes out to you and your family. Our pets are such a huge roll in our lives.

    And I agree….use it or lose it. I ain’t losing it (physically anyway) until the ground opens up and the box drops in. Even then they better bury me in an aero position.
    Jason @ Cook Train Eat Race recently posted..Ironman Texas – Lessons LearnedMy Profile

  23. Oh, I’m sorry that Connor was not able to enjoy the family hike. It must be hard to see him getting older. He looks and sounds like a great dog, so I hope you have many more years together – even if you have to take it easier on the old fella. :)
    marlene recently posted..Welland Half Iron Training – Week 4My Profile

  24. What a sweet-looking dog! My family has Abby, a golden retreiver, who is also 13 and it is so sad to see her get more and more sluggish. She too has accompanied me on some runs in college.

    Might as well enjoy every step-long or short-, that’s what I think we’re intended to do.
    Adrienne recently posted..Keep Austin AwesomeMy Profile

  25. It’s sad to see them slow down and realize they aren’t the young, agile dogs we have known for so many years. Even if he can’t go far anymore, a short walk will likely still make his day as he slows down.
    abbi recently posted..Heat FailMy Profile

  26. Oh, no- poor Connor! It’s so hard to watch the slowing down process, whether in our families or animals. Like you, I plan to keep going as long as I can, if that means switching to walking, or other low-impact activities, that’s fine. My body is happier in motion! My mom and grandma are not runners, but they are very active, hard-working women, and have remained strong and “young” into their older years.
    Laura recently posted..Too-hot-to-race Astros 10k recapMy Profile

  27. Awww Connor! What an adorable little guy. I love him already. I’m sorry to hear he isn’t feeling as spry as he once was! Just keep giving him lots of love and he will be happy, I’m sure :)
    Kara recently posted..Morning HIIT and Funny Blog Search TermsMy Profile

  28. We had our dogs out yesterday for about 8 hours (some in the car, some on the trails, as we finalized pieces of the 24-hour race we’re designing). They’re 9 and 5 years old, so not aging yet, but the sun was enough that even though we were being careful and taking it really easy with them, by the end, they elected to lie down in a creek rather than join us for the final ascent.
    Abby @ Have Dental Floss, WIll Travel recently posted..The Longest of DaysMy Profile

  29. fun, family hike but oh that breaks my heart…his poor legs gave out. We have an 11yr old yellow lab and she’s not quite the dog she used to be. Her hips are bad, she has definitely slowed down a bit and we’re dreading the days of her running for her ball or short walks are even too much…makes me sad for Connor!
    marissa recently posted..some pain and Wellspring…My Profile

  30. That sounds like a nice Memorial Day ritual!
    Poor, poor Connor. That makes my heart hurt. Hopefully he still can enjoy plenty of flat, shorter walks with you and the family.
    Abby @ Change of Pace recently posted..Another long weekend awayMy Profile

  31. It’s always sad, the slow down of our beloved pets. Making it to at least 13 years is great, at least you know he will have lived a full life whenever his days reach the end. Hopefully he still has more time! Regarding our own bodies, I think we have to adapt to the stage of life we are in. When we discover that we can no longer continue one form of fitness, we can adapt to new directions. If running eventually becomes out of the question, many of us can look to more swimming as it is lower impact. I also am planning/hoping that yoga can really become part of a great fitness routine as I get older myself. :-)
    Christina recently posted..Indy 500 favorite win, running and travel plans, and this humidity blowsMy Profile

  32. Even after my body says “not so fast” – if it hasn’t already, I will continue to enjoy each step!
    Jamoosh recently posted..Trails, Bloggers, and Beers–Oh My!My Profile

  33. What a beautiful dog he is!! My neighbor and I have always taken her chocolate lab to run with us when we go on trails and she has gotten a bad hip and not been able to come lately (even though she wants too). Sad!!! I am sorry you have to watch him grow old… definitely a bitter sweet part of having pets.

    And amen… I am going to enjoy every step as long as my body lets me. :)
    Erin Henderson recently posted..Bye bye glutenMy Profile

  34. Yes, we will all inevitably have to slow down…but it’s all relative to where we began! I’m sure Conner is in fabulous shape compared to other dogs his age – as will we be still moving and shaking well in to our 70′s (80′s!?) to the surprise of our sedentary counterparts. :)
    Andrea recently posted..Happy Memorial DayMy Profile

  35. The thought of a pet getting older makes me so sad – enjoy all those walks with Connor!

    And I completely agree with you on the move it or lose it! My FIL is still sailing and skiing at the spry age of 86 and I love it – he’s my role model :)
    Michelle @ Running with Attitude recently posted..Holiday Weekend Round-Up – On the MendMy Profile

  36. :( awww, poor guy.

  37. Poor little guy! You know how I feel about whippets–it’s hard to watch these little athletes slow down. I’m with you–I intend to use it or lose it, too…..
    Terzah recently posted..Impossible to Be SadMy Profile

  38. Oh sweet little Connor, he’s living a great long life if he’s 13 and just now showing he’s not up for hikes anymore. He’s a lucky pup to have such a great family to take care of him :) Dogs are just the best. The best.
    Erin recently posted..#WhatshouldwecallgradschoolMy Profile

  39. Poor Connor, but I’m sure he can still enjoy shorter walks and time with the family. It is hard to watch the family pet, a loved member of the family, get older but all the great years we have with them – the pet and us are fortunate to have found each other.
    Joanne recently posted..FOFF Mashed Sweet PotatoesMy Profile

  40. Poor Connor :( As for me I will run until I can’t anymore which I am sure the same thing dogs do, but ultimately We all will have to listen to our bodies sooner or later.
    Toni Church recently posted..Welcome To Summer Virtual 5K/10K Registration is Open!!!!My Profile

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