After a lot of thought and consideration -- I have decided to retire One Foot in Reality and leave it as an Archive. I will still monitor it to keep the trolls at bay, but will not be posting here any longer.

If you are looking for my new posts, please go to www.haroldlshaw.com .

Thank you for all they years of following One Foot In Reality.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Running, Dogs and Trails - Part 2

After a lot of thought I have decided to move some of best of my old posts from Aging Runnah and A Runnah’s Story blogs, primarily the old reviews, maybe a few of the better posts and race reports that I have written over the years. I have a feeling that at some point, my WordPress.com blogs are simply going to go away and I want to still be able to go back and read some of the stuff I wrote.

If you are reading this blog post, that is why it is has been re-posted here.

Originally posted on: November 29, 2011

In my Running, Dogs and Trail - Part 1, I discussed meeting dogs on the trail, when running or walking and offered up some observations and tips.

This post is from the other perspective having a dog with me, while walking or running on a trail and then encountering runners, hikers or walkers on trails.

Yes I have a dog and yes I walk him on trails and eventually plan to run with him on trails. However, unlike some of the characterizations in my first post, I would like to believe that I am fairly considerate of others who use the trail also.

Trail Rules for my Dog

These are the rules I try to follow when I walk my dog on a trail:

  • Don't leave dog poop on the trail, we carry bags with us to clean it up with. I know how I feel when I step in dog poop, it pisses me off.
  • I keep my dog on a leash at all times. Not because he is a vicious, but because I know that he will run, bark, jump up on people and not obey my commands well enough to be off the leash.

    Actually we use a double-system collar and harness - he can be a Houdini and escape just one of them. Bennie is a Jack Russell Terrier with an extremely short attention span, who is very inquisitive and with a mind of his own. Other dogs might mind better, but it is best to leash a dog when approaching stranger or when being overtaken by other trail users.
  • If possible I move off the trail when I see someone coming or catching up to us, warn them that my dog will probably bark and lunge at them, and allow them to go by, while holding onto my dog's collar and the other hand on his rump forcing him to sit-down.
  • If someone asks to pet my dog and I think it is okay (I have told some people I would prefer they didn't - just a feeling, but I go with them). I firmly have a hold of his collar and have my hand on his rump while he is sitting down and ask them to move in slowly to pet him, while I am talking calmly to Bennie.
  • I wait until the other people are at least 10 feet away before continuing our walk.

What Can the Runner/Walker Do

As a runner or walker what can you do to make this brief meeting both safe and enjoyable.

Just because you are panting and stomping your feet into the trail, doesn't mean that a dog or the owner know you are coming up behind them. If they are immersed in thought or looking off the trail at a gorgeous scene, looking at some other critter or otherwise occupied, they might not see or hear you coming towards them.

When you notice that they are not looking back at you and moving to leash or take a hold of their dog, there is a pretty good chance they do know you are there.

Warn Me You are There!

If that is the case and you suddenly are only yards away from them when the dog notices you, most people and their dogs will be startled and the dog(s) will probably bark and lunge at you.

The owner will have much more difficult time reacting appropriately to your presence.

Then you get pissed because the dog is barking and lunging at you, that you were slowed down, had to go around them or that in their state of surprise might have been said something rather unflattering to you.

So when running or hiking please warn people with dogs that you are coming up on them for your own safety, if you don't see or hear them getting their dogs ready for you to go past them.

Ask before attempting to touch or pet any dog, you might not like the results if you don't.

Don't Be an Ass

Really you don't need to be an ass, just because someone is on the trail with a dog. Most of the trails are public and open for all to enjoy appropriately.

If you start yelling at the owner, telling them to get to f#$* out of the way, acting all impatient and important, while they are trying to restrain or move their dog, it only makes the situation worse. The dog(s) will pick up on their stress level and start to get stressed as well, which will cause even more delays.

Most dog owners will not purposely delay you, but if you are acting like a jerk, it is much easier for them to be a jerk too.

Dogs Not on a Leash or Aggressive

If you see that a dog is not on a leash watch it carefully, if it starts moving towards you, or stops and starts growling or barking at you. Stop running and give the owner a chance to get their dog leashed or restrained before you start running by. At this point I recommend you go into a defensive posture and ask, then tell the owner to ensure that their dog is leashed if they haven't attempted to so by that time. It is okay to talk to the owner to find out what they are doing and which direction is best to get around them.

I don't care how fast you think you are, you are not going to outrun a dog, unless it is an ankle biter and then they run faster than you think, so don't just keep running.

If you keep running, the dog might think you are playing, attacking us or you will activate their hunting instincts and they will chase after you. None of which is what you or the owner want to have happen.

Yes I know that it is a pain in the ass to stop while the owner gets their dog under control, but if you do stop for a few seconds there will be less problems and issues for both of you and you will be able to start enjoying your run again sooner.

You wouldn't step in front of a car with a green light, you might get hurt.A dog growling and barking aggressively is definitely a red light and you need to stop running until the situation is safe to proceed.

Most dogs believe they are protecting their humans from you. For some reason you smell wrong to them? If that is the case take a defensive posture and wait to see what the dog and the dog's owner is doing, it is better to be a little patient than get bit. Then move on as soon possible.

Part of the Family

Dog owners do not consider their dogs to be vicious attack dogs, they are their family pets and a part of the family, a companion that they know and love.

The owners often honestly don't understand why you are intimidated, concerned or a little afraid of their sweet little Cujo - be aware of that. In their eyes, they see the sweet cuddly little furball that sits in their lap or by their feet, not the snarling, growling, red-eyed demon from hell that you see.

The reality is that

I understand that coming up on a dog while on a trail might be an inconvenience to you. You might have to break stride or having wait a minute while the owner gets their dog out of your way. Stop and think I am a runner also and the person you are meeting on the trail might be a runner too.

Ninety-five percent of the time, most people I have met on the trails are great and share my interests in being outside with or without my dog.

To that other five percent that thankfully I don't run into you very often. Get off your high horse, show a little patience and respect for others who you are sharing the trail with. You may be the center of your universe, but you are not the center of mine or my dog's.

Final thoughts

If you have are a dog owner on a trail - keep it on a leash when people are around (many times there are leash laws and dogs are required to be on a leash - just follow the laws in place) and then restrain your dog while the rest of us go by.

If you are a runner or hiker - show a little patience, while the owner is restraining or leashing a dog, so you can go by.

We all have the right to use the public multi-use trails around us for hiking, walking, trail running and yes even walking our dogs. However, we need to treat each other with respect when meeting each other on those trails.

Dog owners, what is your advice for runners or hikers who meet you on the trail that I didn't mention above.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Running, Dogs and Trails - Part 1

After a lot of thought I have decided to move some of best of my old posts from Aging Runnah and A Runnah’s Story blogs, primarily the old reviews, maybe a few of the better posts and race reports that I have written over the years. I have a feeling that at some point, my WordPress.com blogs are simply going to go away and I want to still be able to go back and read some of the stuff I wrote.

If you are reading this blog post, that is why it is has been re-posted here.

Originally posted on: November 28, 2011

Image by FlyinPhotography via Flickr

Yesterday I was out running a local trail system and had a dog encounter and to be very honest it bothered me - a lot. So I have decided to do a two-part series on Running, Dogs and Trails and this is the first one from the runner's perspective.

This is sort of an open letter to dog owners from a trail runner, hiker and walker about dogs and trails, with a few tips for when you encounter dogs on the trail.

I have been a dog owner, who runs with his dog on the trails quite often in the local area and I have been an avid trail runner, hiker, and trail walker for a long time. However, it seems that over the past few years some dog owner's attitudes towards other people who are sharing the trail with them and their dog(s) are changing and it is not a positive change.

Several times I/we have been on trails and suddenly hear and see a dog running free and coming towards us. We usually yell "Hello" to alert the dog's owners that someone else is on the trail.

At that point we invariably hear the famous words "Oh don't worry, my dog is friendly".

Oh really! 

Then why is your dog's body language aggressive, the fur on the nape of its neck is raised, it is growling at me and its lips are curled back so I can see its fangs - the damn thing looks more like Cujo than that "friendly" pet that the owner is talking about.

As the owner gets closer, the dog finally responds to multiple voice commands and runs back wagging its tail - saying "see I protected you from those strangers". You then get to hear all the excuses and apologies, but a dog is going to protect its humans from strangers, you are not part of their pack.

Yes 90% of the dogs I meet on trails are friendly and wouldn't hurt you, but sooner than later you will meet that dog that isn't friendly and is running loose and sees you and it starts towards you.

What do you do?

So what do you do when you suddenly come up on a dog like that?

Don't run away or keep running towards their owner(s), from what I have read and been told, this triggers the hunter instincts in a dog and by running you have signalled that you are prey or are afraid of it. 

Not a good thing for a strange dog to be thinking about you.

Personally, when I see a dog running loose on a trail - I immediately stop, stop my timing device, step off the trail, yell a hello to the owner and politely ask them to leash or hold their dog until I am by them. 

Then I wait to see what the dog's owners are doing and keep a really close watch on the dog, not moving any more than I have to, until we get things figured out. Loosing a little bit of time is a lot better than loosing a lot of time or having holes that bleed in my skin.

I do not crouch down and I do not try to maintain eye contact with the dog, but I definitely keep close track of what it is doing and am looking around for trees go up quickly or branches/rocks for other purposes.

I don't get all freaked out and yell and scream, but act calm and in control of the situation. Otherwise the situation can quickly get out of hand and bad things can happen that could have been avoided if you stay calm.

When trying to get the owners attention, I try not to sound pissed, peeved or anything other than friendly or neutral. 

However, if the dog has an aggressive posture or isn't stopping on my loud command to it to "STOP" or "SIT DOWN", I have been know to yell out "get your fucking dog - now" quite loudly as a kind of warning to them that I feel threatened by their dog. 

I only do this in situations where I feel very threatened by their dog and at that point I really don't care if I piss them off.

After all their dog is their responsibility and it is their responsibility to keep you safe from their dog on a public trail.

Position Yourself for Safety

When I first see a strange dog, I also stand sideways to the dog with my dominant hand back as a strange dog or human approaches, at this point in my life, I don't even think about it, I just do it automatically.

Example: I am left-handed, so I stand with my right arm exposed to the dog. If the dog does attack, this stance provides a good stable base, I will be harder to knock down and not expose myself unnecessarily (stomach, privates, etc.) to the dog. It also puts me in position to side kick the dog and fend it off with my right arm and attack with my left. Hopefully, this is just a precautionary position and not one that you have to defend yourself from.

While I am talking with the owners, I am watching to see if they have control of the dog, is the dog taking an aggressive stance and are they continuing to walk by you or motioning for you to go by them.

Be Nice!

It doesn't hurt to be friendly to other people on the trail, after all most of them are really out there to enjoy the freedoms of the trails, just like you are. They have brought their dog along to enjoy some freedom as well. So I am polite as possible and wait to see what they are doing, say our Hello's and start walking or running slowly again, ensuring that the dog is not coming after me.

Being nice even if they are not, helps to resolve a lot of problems before they get out of hand - don't get into a pissing contest out in the woods, nothing good will come of it. It is better to let it go and move on than stay in a situation that will have no winners.

Adamant about leashing

However, I am fairly adamant about the leash/restraining a dog until I go past, especially with the bigger dogs, when they haven't been responsive to the owners voice commands immediately. 

Sometimes you know when a dog is safe, other times you just can't tell, better to be safe than sorry.

Why am I adamant about asking someone put their dog on a leash. Especially when the owner says that the dog is so friendly?

First - most communities and States do have a leash law or that the dog must be under the person's control, the trails are public and I have as much right to be on the trail safely as the other people who have their dogs with them do.

Second - I don't trust dogs, I am not scared of dogs (I have been around them my whole life), but they can be unpredictable and I have been bitten a few times by those "friendly" dogs.

Third - I will defend myself and if the owner does nothing or very little to prevent their dog from doing it and it will be painful (probably for me more than anything), but a dog might get injured if it attacks me.
Pissing some people off

For some reason or other, a request to leash or hold their dog, seems to totally piss off some people. 

Unfortunately, I have been getting this response, a lot more lately than I used to? Well at least it seems that way too me.

They get their knickers all in a knot, become very curt and either have some unnecessary remark or glare at you like you are being completely unreasonable by asking that they leash or restrain their dog, until you have gone by.

I don't understand why, maybe it is the way I am asking or my voice tone is curt, or could it be that I am inconveniencing them by my being on the trail too? Who knows, maybe they have other issues and are taking out their anger on me, it doesn't really matter to me - that is their problem not mine.

However, when I request for someone to leash or restrain their dog I am doing it for my safety, not to inconvenience them or judge their dog as being violent. I have had to many bad experiences with unleashed and leashed dogs. 

Basically, I do not want to be bitten again.

The reality is that

Being attacked by a dog wandering on the trail probably won't happen, but at the same time aggressive dogs can really ruin your day out on the trail. They get the old adrenaline pumping and when the owners are unresponsive to your need to be safe, it pisses you off. It only takes a couple of seconds to snap a leash back on or hold your dog until someone goes by, that way we can all enjoy the trail together safely.

Dog owners if you see a runner or hiker/walker coming up and you have let your dogs run free on the trail, as a courtesy to others, please call your dog back and either leash or hold them until the runner/hiker/walker has gone by. That way we all can be civil to each other and enjoy being outside on the trails together.

It comes down to showing respect to others who share the trail with you.

I think what I said yesterday pretty much sums up my feelings on this issue:

I am a dog owner and I don't mind people having their dogs with them on trails, but just because a dog is friendly to people it knows, doesn't mean it will be to strangers it is meeting on a trail somewhere. 

Dogs are territorial and protective of their people. 

If they are on a public trail they either need to respond well to voice command or be on a leash. I hate it when I feel threatened by a dog especially one that is well over a 100 pounds and could put a bad hurtin on you if it decided to attack.

What are your experiences when meeting un-leashed dogs on trails? Any words of wisdsom or helpful hints that I missed that o.

Next post will be about obnoxious runners, hikers or walkers when I am walking my dog on trails.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Why Did I Leave Teaching? - Looking Back

After a lot of thought I have decided to move some of best of my old posts from Aging Runnah and A Runnah’s Story blogs, primarily the old reviews, maybe a few of the better posts and race reports that I have written over the years. I have a feeling that at some point, my WordPress.com blogs are simply going to go away and I want to still be able to go back and read some of the stuff I wrote.
If you are reading this blog post, that is why it is has been re-posted here.
Originally posted on: November 6, 2011Xcountry school photoWhat is the biggest difference that I have noticed since I left teaching on June 17, 2011,
How tired and drained I was - emotionally, mentally and physically. You know the feeiling of always being tired, Stressed and Out of Shape.
You just don't realize how beat down, tired, stressed out and out of shape that you are, when you are out there working. Putting in all those hours to have the money for the lifestyle you have chosen. When you are in the middle of the doing, you don't realize what the "rat race" takes out of you, it has become just the way it is.
For many years I combatted the tiredness and everything else, by exercising (mostly as a runner), which helped most of the time. I usually went to the gym or ran, but a fall off a roof in 2008 and in February 2010 a knee injury restricted my physical activity a great deal.
As the knee deteriorated, so did my health and desire to exercise - if something hurts (a lot) you just don't enjoy doing it.After going through the standards of care continuum over the course of the summer of 2010. The doctor originally diagnosed me with something really bad as far as knees go in September 2010. School had just started when I got the diagnosis, so I delayed surgery until May 2011, when I couldn't stand it anymore.
Yes I got fat (over 200 pounds on a spindly 5'7" frame) and didn't do a lot to working-out that last year, which didn't help matters at all.
Most days after getting home from work (I usually got there early and left late), I would sit in my easy chair, the dog would leap up and sit in my lap and we would fall asleep for 30-45 minutes until supper was ready.
After doing the dinner time chores I would sit down and watch sports channels for an hour or so then start working on whatever had been brought home from work, that needed to get done or planned for.
Then once I got all or at least most of the work that I had brought home done, I would then participate in #chats on subjects that I was interested in on Twitter or watch/participate in the numerous online webinars, all in the guise that these were making me better at my profession.I did this most nights, weekends, school breaks, when I should have been resting or recuperating. What all these extra hours I did I thought was making me more effective in my profession.
The truth is as I look back those activities were taking my down-time away from me and I was living my job 12-14 hours a day.  I was not giving myself time to rest.
All Jobs Have Stress
All jobs have stressful parts and after a while, constantly eating adrenaline burgers, does something to you. In my final year I always seemed to be sick a great deal more than in the past, having that constant headache or just feeling blaaahhhh all the time.
Add those to not being able to sleep after going to bed, tossing and turning thinking about what happened that day, dreading what was going to happen the next day or trying to think of a way to reach a student. Then getting up at 5:00 A.M., commuting 30 minutes to work, no matter how bad you felt most of the time and feeling guilty when you stayed home sick - because "you should have gone in."
My wife was starting to get worried about me, she was saying that I always had a "gray look" to go along with being tired all of the time. I kept pooh poohing her concerns, but looking back, however, they were signs of how stressed out and tired I was at the time, all the time.
TheWife had gone through her own battles with health and work. Due to some very similar circumstances she had retired in November 2009 and the difference in her was very evident and definitely positive. We talked a lot last spring about what was important in life to us and the kind of lifestyle that we wanted to live. After all the talking we decided to wait and see what the result of my surgery was in May before making any final decisions.
Luckily when the doctor got in there to look around at the knee, it was only some damaged cartilage and an easy repair job. It was a big relief, I still had my own knee! That helped make our decision a lot easier, if it had been more than a simple repair job, I would have stuck around for the medical benefits that I would have needed.
Based on everything that was going on, our conversations, the direction that my former profession was heading (which was vastly different than what I believe in) and how work was affecting my health, we decided to give full retirement for both of us a try.
Which meant there would be some of changes to our lifestyle based on a vastly reduced income, we would be going from above average in combined income to below poverty level in less than 2 years. Our saving grace was that we didn't have any bills, beyond the typical monthly expenses. No mortgage, no credit card balances, no car payments, a little bit of savings, none of what is part and parcel of the typical American consumer.
As you can tell TheWife is a very smart and frugal woman, otherwise we would not have been able to even think about retirement, much less be able to do it.
Resignation and Retirement
I submitted my resignation on June 1st and began to dream about what I would be doing in retirement.The last 17 days of teaching went by like a blur and I really don't remember a lot about those last few days, except that I was still recovering from my surgery, doing physical therapy and trying my best to leave on a high note and I had to tell my 7th graders that I wouldn't be coming back for their 8th grade year - which was kind of tough.
I must have done something right, there were two others who were retiring as educators and even though I was not retiring as an educator and had only been at the school for 2 years, they included me as the third person in the retirement celebrations.August 17th was the effective date of my resignation, but school let out on June 17th for summer break and that was when I effectively stopped working for someone else's clock and became retired.
It didn't mean because I retired that I sat on my ass and did nothing. That isn't and wouldn't be me, I was busier than ever and seemed to never have time to go many places or do things beyond the yard.  No I was very busy, but it was a different kind of busy than I was used to. I was in charge of my schedule, no clock to beat and freedom to choose what I did that day.
Remarkable Changes
The changes since that date are nothing less than remarkable!
While the knee is not 100% and probably never will be and I have accepted that, but hold out hope that the therapist was correct in telling me it would take 8-12 months to be able to run pain-free. I have begun to walk, hike and yes run again - a certain amount of sucking it up is necessary, but worth it. I am now running/jogging 2-3 miles 4-5 days a week - not very fast, but I am doing it.
I also have taken an interest in gardening, now that I have the time for it and doing a little meatball carpentry on the side.  These are activities that I enjoy and which get me outside much more than I was and I know that I am much healthier now.
I also have a secret weapon in the war to fitness, a Jack Russell Terrier called Bennie Bean, he is a 5 mile a day dog. If he doesn't walk 5 miles a day, he is just too full of energy to be around. Needless to say between TheWife, Stepdaughter #1 and myself he gets his 5 miles a day.
Almost 20 pounds have gone away in the past 5 months, without drastically changing how I eat (I was eating 80% healthy food before this - thanks to TheWife) - yes I know that I still eat too many things made with sugar and I like my chips (TheWife is a great cook and baker), but I don't over-indulge too often (keeping things reasonable is what I try for) and when I do pig-out, I don't stress out about it.
We don't eat a lot of processed food and our garden provides us with veggies and greens (still) and it is comforting to know what has been put on them. Basically, I just try to do a little better each day.
I no longer fall asleep, in the middle of every afternoon, like I did almost every day for the first 3 months I was home, when I would fall asleep for an hour or two and the afternoon would be gone. That tired all the time feeling is finally leaving me, but even after 5 months, there are some days that it comes back and I just have to stop and rest for a while. Thankfully those times are becoming fewer and fewer and farther in between instances.
Didn't Realize
I really didn't realize how run down and stressed out I had become, until I started to slow down, exercise more and get outside a lot more. No I read somewhere (I wish that I had kept it) that it takes 6-12 months after you stop working to get rid of the collective stress and tiredness you body bottles up inside. I didn't think that your body can "store" that crap, but after the past 5 months, I tend to believe it a lot more than I did before - not a true convert yet, but definitely gone from a disbeliever, to being a lot more open to the idea.
The Correct Decision
For us, the decision to retire has been the correct one.

We don't have the monthly retirement income that the "experts" say is enough, but we think it will be enough for us. If it isn't, then part-time jobs are easier to find than full-time ones with benefits, so I really believe that we will be just fine as long as there are no big ticket items that have to be gotten for a while.
The big question I have been asked is "Would I do it again?"
After all I had job security, was pretty well respected in my profession and making decent money. The answer comes to me very quickly. Yes I would do it again, the time was right and you know something. I haven't really thought all that much about going back to teaching or trying to find another position in education.
I don't really miss the stress and everything that goes along with teaching in today's classroom. If I did I really believe that that my health would be a lot worse than it is right now and how stressed out I would be feeling - not worth it to me, I like being healthy.
That is simply because I am enjoying the life that I have right now too much and time is much more my own than it has ever been, but that is a different post.
For me retirement was the correct choice.
We all age and will die, but how we live is our choice.
By the way, the other day.
TheWife was commenting that I no longer have that gray pallor about me and I just look more healthy.  So I guess this retirement thing is working.
Now if I could only look like George Clooney, naw I am very happy with who I am - warts and all.