My New Running Partner


Her name is Ruby.  She has red hair, freckles, and is very cute.  Ruby loves to run with me, no matter when or where I go. If I'm not careful, she'll even kiss me on my lips.

Jeanne doesn't mind when we run together, if fact she encourages it. As you can tell by the attached photos, Ruby is not human. She is our  4 month old red Australian Cattle Dog or "Heeler."

We lost our beloved Jake, a red/blue heeler in December. Our hearts were deeply saddened, but it was time. He was twelve. The last six months he was failing from liver failure.

At the very end, I could see the frustration and embarrassment in his eyes for us having to help him with even the most basic activities, like getting up to go to the bathroom. This was a dog who in his prime could jump into the back of a pick-up truck with the tail gate up. He would unquestioningly take on any opponent I told him to, four legged or otherwise. When I was away on business, I knew my family was safe with him sleeping at the foot of their bed.

Fortunately, Jake passed quietly in his sleep. We never had to take that one last trip to the veterinarian. 

I'm sure the feeling of helplessness and loss of control is the same with humans. Getting old sucks.   

Australian Cattle Dogs were developed to herd large wild aggressive cattle in Australia.  Weighing about 30 – 60 lbs, they are a mid-sized breed; neither too small or too large.  They are known to be highly intelligent and fearless in the face of danger. They are fiercely loyal to those they love.

They also have a stubborn independent streak, useful when working in the outback away from the direction of their master. Ruby definitely has inherited this type of personality. Because of this, Australian Cattle Dogs require  firm but understanding training. They are not for people unable to be the "alpha" of the dog/people pack. Timid personalities should get another breed.

As one acquaintance told me: "A heeler will be the best dog you've ever owned, or the worst…. there is no middle ground." I think that's true.   

Bred to be able to jog tirelessly for hours at a time droving cattle, they are perfect for people with active lifestyles. Jake used to love when we'd go horseback riding or packing up in the mountains. When I look at Ruby, I see many of the mannerisms we used to love in Jake. It makes me sad and miss him; but happy that we have another in our lives.

I have had only a very few dogs whom I could speak English to like another human and have them understand most of what I was saying. Maybe not every word, but at least the meaning. I'd tell Jake what I wanted. Most of the time he had an idea of what I was asking. If he didn't understand, I'd show him and then he knew forever.

I hope Ruby will turn out that way also.

You know you have a true running partner when they watch videos of ultramarathons with you. Even my family won't do that unless I make them (and I've an extremely understanding family).

I've had many dogs look at the TV before. Perhaps they were curious about other animals or dogs. This usually lasted only a few minutes before boredom set in and they moved on to something else. 

 As I sat and watched a video about the Massanutten 100 mile trail ultramarathon in Virginia, Ruby laid on my lap and watched the entire movie intently. She was very interested in the parts that had humans running. I've never had a dog watch an entire movie with me.  

We've just started doing some short runs together. Keeping her hydrated is one concern. Whenever I have ridden horses, worked cattle or run with dogs, I make sure we pass near a cattle water tank or stream to drink and cool off. Working dogs are so driven and focused on the task at hand that if you don't stop and remind them to drink, they quite literally may go until they drop.  

However, in the arid Black Hills sometimes good water can be hard to find. As you can see in the video above, the water in my Camelback will  hydrate both of us!

It'll be nice to have a friend come run with me. There are mountain lions here. Having another pair of eyes and a sensitive nose to watch my back is reassuring. Although there hven't been any mountain lion attacks on humans here unlike California, I don't want to be the first. 

So far, we've only gone on 3 to 5 mile runs. She is still a pup and her joints, bones and connective tissue have not fully developed. Soon, she will join me on 10, 20 and even 30 mile runs. I won't be able to keep up with her then.

She's a good dog!

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3 responses

  1. Oh golly, Ruby is adorable. Yo uhave to meet my friend Jim, he Marathons, and has several cattle dogs which do agility with him and his sweet wife….

    July 27, 2009 at 6:48 am

  2. Well, thanks and yes, she is adorable.
    If Jim ever has an inkling to run a ultramarathon, he should look us up. Lean Horse is offering a 50-kilometer this year in addition to the 50 mile and 100 mile.

    July 27, 2009 at 8:12 pm

  3. Kellie

    Thanks for this post! My heart aches for your loss of Jake – even this many years later I’m sure his spirit is still fresh in your hearts. I hope Ruby is the partner you were looking for! I was searching for runner partners & Blue Heelers as we are looking for our next addition. We currently have a Heeler/Border Collie who is helping me embark on my quest to become an Ultrarunner! We did 20 miles last weekend and what a gem he was. The longest either of us have ever run. He said he would train with me for my first 50k that’s in 2 months and I am so grateful for him.

    Glad to see other Ultra’s have ACD running partners! 🙂

    August 17, 2015 at 5:48 pm

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