Three summers ago, I refused to dump gallons of freezing cold water on my head, never mind that doing so meant I was somehow raising money to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
FACT: Most of the money raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge went to pay medical bills for participants suffering from hypothermia and pneumonia.
But I would rather stand beneath a melting glacier wearing nothing but a Speedo than make a second attempt at the latest viral craze, one that redefines the phrase “dog days of summer.”
I’m referring to the “Squat Your Dog” Challenge, also known as “entertainment for people who have grown bored with fidget spinners.”
Rarely a day goes by when my Facebook and Instagram feeds do not contain at least one video of someone holding their terrified-looking pooch in front of their body or, worse, straddling the back of their neck, and then engaging in numerous squats. The idea, apparently, is to build core muscles while traumatizing your animal to the point of therapy. As the owners smile, giggle and tone themselves, the dogs look as if they would rather be anywhere else, kennels, veterinary waiting rooms and flea conventions included.
At first, I thought squatting my dog would be a pleasant alternative to another exercise program I have begrudgingly started: a twice weekly, one-hour torture session called BODYPUMP (beware of any exercise program in all caps). The weights I balance on my shoulder blades and hoist over my head are made of hardened rubber, not cuddly fur, and none appear likely to lick my face following the workout. Hence my willingness to try dog squatting.
Attired in running shorts and one of my many Cubs World Series Champs T-shirts, I scoured the house for my Cockapoo, Macie, eventually finding her slumbering peacefully near a laundry basket.
“Let’s go Macie,” I said. “Time to get fit!”
She yawned and stuck her rear leg in her ear, something I will never be able to do, even after a dozen BODYPUMP classes.
Depending on how many table scraps she finds on the floor following dinner, Macie weighs between 25 and 27 pounds. “A comfortable weight,” I theorized, even though I’d seen videos of petite women squatting German Shepherds. And yes, that was a very disturbing sentence to type.
I hoisted Macie behind my head and attempted to place her between my shoulder blades. Her nails found my neck.
“She’s freaking out, Dad,” said my daughter, who I had recruited to video the routine.
So was I.
I held Macie in front of my chest, a move demonstrated by Ryan Seacrest with Kelly Ripa’s dog, Chewy, during a recent episode of their morning lovefest. That sequence ended with “Uncle Ry-Ry,” Ripa’s name for Seacrest while Chewy was on set, sprawled on the studio floor after attempting half a squat. Chewy scurried out of frame, eventually returning for a belly rub.
Macie was a tad more open to the “hold your dog in your outstretched arms” maneuver, allowing me to do four or five deep knee bends before pleading, via her twitching body, to be released from the exercise session. Her efforts netted her a dog biscuit. I got a kale smoothie.
For the record, dogs can be wonderful exercise companions; I’ve witnessed numerous canines happily running alongside their masters on jogging trails and bike paths. They also make great pillows after one returns, exhausted, from the local gym. But the words “dog,” “squat” and “challenge” go together about as comfortably as “truthful,” “open minded” and “Trump.” Dogs were not born to be barbells. Period. Macie now flees whenever I approach her, particularly when I’m wearing Cubs attire. I, a man, am no longer her best friend.
Although I’m sure she’d be willing to dump a bucket of frigid water on my head. And then lick my face.