Living in the country means that I come into frequent contact with wildlife during my runs. I don’t mind at all – that’s one of the reasons my husband and I chose a home in the country. We love animals, and having them around us genuinely makes us happy. Animals tend to be better runners than us human animals, so I sometimes pick up some four-legged running buddies on my route.
On my run today I had quite a few running companions. The first part of my route goes by some homes with quite a few off the leash dogs. I know them well, and they know me. All-in-all there’s about six of them, and they all join together in one big pack and bark at me. Two of them are huge and they always sneak up on me and start barking ferociously when they’re exactly two feet behind me. I’m convinced they do this just to mess with my head and when I scream in terror I’m pretty sure they’re laughing at me. They are completely friendly afterwards, but I tend to look for them now. The other dogs just run up and playfully follow me for awhile. I bring dog treats on my run so that I stay on their good sides, so for the most part they like me. There is one stuck-up cocker spaniel who still barks angrily at me, but I’ll win her over in time.
Not two kilometers after the dogs (who usually stop following me after awhile) is the world’s friendliest cat. He always runs up to me, miauwing loudly, then lies down and ecstatically rolls in the grass while I scratch his ears. Every time I try to run away he runs in front of me and tries to trip me, so I feel obligated to spend more time with him. Eventually I break away, but the cat is an expert in emotional manipulation and I always feel bad when I look back and see his sad kitty face.
As I go onto a different road I enter into farm country. This means cows. Oh, the cows. A friend of mine grew up on a cow farm, and she once told me that cows are some of the friendliest animals out there. Cows are playful, too. I once saw an entire herd chase around a plastic grocery bag, and when it got caught in the fence they all gathered around it excitedly, stamping their feet in anticipation. They looked like they were watching the superbowl. The first time I ran by a cow field I noticed right away that they noticed me. In fact, several heads looked up. Calves stopped feeding, and other cows froze in place. Every cow in the field was now watching me like I was the most interesting thing in the world. Suddenly, they all charged and started running with me. Cows are way faster than they look. It was terrifying. They were all running with me, and I was convinced they were going to break through the fence and trample me. The second they reached the fence they stopped, and continued to stare at me for a minute. Once I was convinced that I wasn’t going to be trampled I turned around and continued to run normally. When I looked back they had all returned to feeding as if nothing had happened. Since that first encounter I have almost always caused stampedes every time I run by a cow field. I kind of look forward to it now. Today I ran by at least three cow fields, and out of the three two herds stampeded. Not bad.
Although cows are my favorite I do run into other animals along the way. Today there were some snooty alpacas who just gave me a nasty side-eye when I ran by them. Sometimes I see racoons, and a few times I’ve seen bald eagles. My encounters with animals aren’t always positive. There was the dog that bit me, the angry chihuahuas that I’m convinced will murder me if they ever escape from their trailer, and the time I nearly petted a skunk that I had mistaken for a cat (it was dark out). Despite these encounters I usually enjoy a little company on those long, monotonous runs.