Paws For Thought

EVER WON­DERED WHY THE ONLY AN­I­MAL PEO­PLE RUN WITH IS THE DOG?

Runner's World South Africa - - THE NORTHERN RUNNER - BY LISA ABDELLAH

lisa abdellah is a badass run­ner in the morn­ing, a free­lance jour­nal­ist by day, and at night she likes to think she’s a wine con­nois­seur.

HOW MANY STEPS DOES A HAMSTER HAVE TO TAKE PER MINUTE, TO KEEP UP WITH A HU­MAN BE­ING?

DOWN THE AGES, the most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in his­tory have con­trib­uted to a strin­gent process of trial and er­ror to se­lect the ideal run­ning com­pan­ion from the an­i­mal king­dom.

First to the pasta party was Charles Dar­win: English nat­u­ral­ist, and the chap who came up with the the­ory that hu­mans are de­scended from apes. Iron­i­cally, Dar­win stunted the evo­lu­tion of one an­i­mal in par­tic­u­lar when he tried run­ning with his pet hamster, Harry.

At the time, Harry seemed the most ob­vi­ous choice to Dar­win, since the puffy-cheeked pet spent much of his time sprint­ing fren­ziedly on a squeaky plas­tic wheel.

Dar­win re­moved Harry from his wheel and placed him in­side a plas­tic ball (among Dar­win’s lesser-known ac­com­plish­ments is the in­ven­tion of the hamster ball – shortly after he in­vented plas­tic), to which he tied a long piece of string. Then he set the ball down on the floor and tied the other end of the string around his own waist.

“Stop! Think!” Harry pleaded with him. “If the ideal ca­dence of a hu­man run­ner is 180 steps per minute, and hu­man legs are 3 500 times longer than a hamster’s, how many steps does a hamster have to take per minute in or­der to keep up with a hu­man?”

The sad truth? Con­sid­er­ably more steps than a hamster’s legs can han­dle. As Dar­win – not un­der­stand­ing a word Harry had said – be­gan to run, faster and faster, sparks flew from Harry’s tiny paws. Un­til... boom!

Harry was no more – a tragic vic­tim of poor hamster-hu­man com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Same thing hap­pened to French un­der­sea ex­plorer Jacques Cousteau. Took a gold­fish in a bowl for a run; all he was left with was an empty bowl and a dead fish.

Ever hear the story of Queen Vic­to­ria’s cat, Pe­tu­nia? The pussy that was par­tial to park­our?

Queen V was known for hold­ing lav­ish balls in a grand hall at Buck­ing­ham Palace. She would be too busy quaffing Dom Pérignon and telling dirty jokes to no­tice Pe­tu­nia tee­ter­ing along the edge of the buf­fet ta­ble, swing­ing from the crys­tal chan­de­lier by one claw, or tum­bling gym­nas­ti­cally down V’s vel­vet cur­tains.

Un­til the first (and last) time the Queen took Pe­tu­nia out for a run. It was three days be­fore a palace grounds­man, rak­ing leaves, heard rustling from above. It turned out the fear­less fe­line had dragged Queen V up a tree and left her there!

ONE GI­ANT LEAP FOR MANKIND

The last fa­mous in­flu­encer to at­tempt a run with any an­i­mal other than a dog was space pi­o­neer Neil Arm­strong. He had a par­rot called Bob. After his moon walk, Arm­strong could do no wrong, and so he at­tempted to make his­tory again – this time, by ty­ing a piece of string around Bob’s an­kle and tak­ing him out for a run.

It’s no se­cret: par­rots love to talk. Yap, yap, blah, blah, on and on and on. And they have no qualms about di­vulging your most em­bar­rass­ing se­crets. Bob was no ex­cep­tion. “NASA faked the whole thing,” he squawked.

“Shut up!” shouted Arm­strong. “They filmed it in a cel­lar.” “Shut up!”

“It was a con­spir­acy.”

You get the pic­ture. Was any­one re­ally sur­prised when Arm­strong cut his run short, and Bob mys­te­ri­ously dis­ap­peared shortly there­after?

The celebrity who – fi­nally – dis­cov­ered that dogs make ideal run­ning com­pan­ions was Hol­ly­wood ac­tor Chan­ning Ta­tum. Though Ta­tum by no means in­vented evo­lu­tion or walked on the moon, he will go down as the hunki­est man in his­tory – call me, Chan­ning! – after play­ing a male strip­per called Magic Mike in the movie of the same name.

The first time Ta­tum saw his res­cue pit­bull mix Lulu, she was on a busy street, bark­ing at ran­dom peo­ple and chas­ing her own tail. Lulu was so ex­cited to see Ta­tum, she bounded up to him and tried to lick him to death. Cue a match made in heaven, and cheesy pa­parazzi snaps of the A-list duo jog­ging through New York’s Cen­tral Park.

You see, much like Ta­tum – er, that is, Ta­tum’s char­ac­ter Magic Mike – dogs are bred to look good, and not for their brains. They need daily ex­er­cise, they’re built to run for ages, and they love com­pan­ion­ship.

And they’re dumb enough to fol­low you – wher­ever you may run.

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