Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Day at the Dog Park: Freedom Park

We're running low on dog parks to visit in the city, and on weekends dog parks are clutch to get Harry tired without wearing ourselves out.  Back on a weekend when it was still warm and sunny Harry visited Freedom Park in Medford, NJ.  Although it's a bit of a drive for us Philadelphians, Freedom Park is definitely worth it.  Compared to our teensy urban dog parks, Freedom Park is like taking your pup to that farm in dog heaven, except you also get to go and he lives.  The dog park lies in the back of the park (yes, Freedom Park is a "people park" too) beyond the barbequing patio area and playgrounds.  We opened the gate to send Harry in which in hindsight was a mistake because he sprinted towards the dog party happening in the back of the park amongst the agility training puppy playground type fixtures. 

As this is the "all dogs go to heaven" dog park, there aren't any fences--because there are no fences in heaven!  An open field is surrounded by trees so if you do have the type of dog who likes to go exploring on his own (a cat-dog?) then be mindful.  Harry is the type that likes to get in all the other pooches' faces 24/7 until they start chasing him so I didn't have to watch the tree barriers for stray Harrys...but I did have to chase him around and pull him off the docile suburban dogs.  Several benches sit in the open plain area and the smart dogs show off their agility skills climbing up and down ramps and doing doggy see-saws.  The attempt to get Harry across a balance beam without jumping off failed multiple times.

A little ways behind the park is a small trail that takes you to a creek where you can let your dog swim, play water fetch, and get extremely dirty.  Harry hates water, as we learned when we took him rafting, but he loves trails and he yanked us throughout til we reached the end of the creek.  Part of the rules in the park are that your dog be on a leash at all times.  I don't see how that's plausible when playing water fetch, and I noticed that not all the dogs followed the rules, but the tail-waggers in violation were those well behaved docile suburban dogs of which Harry is a polar opposite.   

One day...I will conquer you, ramp.
We felt a little out of place with our wild animal whose pent up energy from being in a 1,000 square foot condo had to explode over the calm, gentle, golden retrievers of Medford but when you go to a dog park you already know you have something in common with everybody there:  love for all hairy, slobbering, cold nosed, fur-beasts.
Can we come back Mom?!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Harry Loves a Runner

It was a week ago that I along with 33,000 runners completed the Philadelphia Marathon.  19 miles of running bliss preceded 7.2 miles of sheer agony thanks to my left knee deciding it didn't want to run the race anymore.  Luckily, my friends and family surrounded the course and cheered me on in pertinent moments forcing me to put on a smile and keep pushing forward.  My fur baby walked me down to the starting line, which was bustling with runners, spectators, and surprisingly a few other dogs.  The excitement caught hold of Harry and jumping, pulling, and leash tugging ensued.  Thankfully, runners are pretty casual and everyone Harry ran into was happy about a little mutt pouncing on their thighs to wish them good luck.

For anybody considering Philadelphia as a marathon on their list, be warned that it is deceivingly hilly.  Beginning at mile 7, runners ascend 34th Street to a plateau, then begin to ascend the Girard Street Bridge.  Once over the bridge, more hills await up to the Please Touch Museum and then down to West River drive.  And that's only the first half!  Having done the half before, I knew what to expect, but I didn't realize how much more I'd feel the second part of the race.  However, the crowds and city support make the race extremely rewarding - it's hard to get bored during the Philadelphia Marathon.

Training for this marathon I often never ran alone.  I had a reliable training buddy (my marathon mate), but when we didn't run together, I ran with Harry!  Remember when I mentioned Harry had some serious running form?  Well apparently he has endurance too and can throw down 6 miles without being exhausted for the remainder of the day.  Harry kept me motivated during my weekly mileage when working 60 hour weeks left me tired and depressed.  His final nudge of support was walking me down to the starting line and he greeted me with enthusiasm at home when I finished.  

Now that we're entering the holiday season, it's time to say that I'm so thankful I have such wonderful family and friends and such an awesome dog.  I can't wait to do my next a year or so.  With the rate that Harry is growing, I'm pretty sure at that point he'll have an increased need for speed and possibly a new level of endurance.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Harry Helps

Hurricane Sandy didn't wreak havoc in Philadelphia.  Philadelphia is like Harry Potter in that the abundance of brotherly love protects us from evil...but also refrains from protecting us against gun violence.  It wasn't until after Sandy passed through that I realized how seriously it impacted the rest of the Northeast.  My New Yorker bestie had a flooded office and had to walk 5 miles to work since the subways were flooded and our favorite spots in Sea Isle and Avalon were severely damaged.  And then I saw the coverage of Staten Island, Long Island, and Northern Jersey beaches.  Facebook posts of orange stickers on homes deeming them condemned riddled my newsfeed.  And then the NYC Marathon was cancelled. 

Not that a marathon is the most important event during this disaster, but it woke me up to how serious the storm was.  Several of my friends had trained their butts off for 5-6 months for this race, the race of their lives, THE New York Marathon.  I knew how disappointed they felt, especially since bad weather had affected a friend's past marathon.  But it takes a special kind of person to turn that disappointment and frustration into something good.  The Monday after the marathon was cancelled I received an email inviting me to participate in and donate to the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Run hosted by a friend of mine who had qualified for the 2012 NYC Marathon.  She wanted to turn around the negative reactions to runners upset about missing their marathon into positive reactions to those same runners supporting the Hurricane Sandy victims. 

Within a week, she put together a small run and donation drive in front of the Please Touch Museum.  Her altruism attracted a Gatorade representative (via a mere tweet!) that brought race bags and of course, Gatorade, for all that ran and/or donated.  The boo and I brought our donations and our dog to participate.  Small but mighty, the event charged us with the endorphins from our 2.5 mile run and those feel good fuzzies that come from doing something good.  Most importantly, for me, it was a real life example of how anybody can make a difference.  Afterwards, the donations were delivered to the Plainsboro NJ Fire company, who then distributed them to the community of Bayshore.

Below are some beautiful photos from the event, taken by Ankur Khanna.  Check out more of his pics on his blog here.