HINSDALE – As an expert in fitness, Khaki wanted to make sure her best friend, Cindy Rodkin, was getting the most out of her wall squat. She did what any good canine workout partner would do – placed her paws on her owner’s thighs to add resistance.
“It distracts you from how much it hurts your legs,” said Rodkin, laughing.
Rodkin, a Clarendon Hills resident, is one of the original members of K9 Fit Club, an exercise club where dogs and their owners lose weight and get healthy.
It all takes place near the corner of East Hinsdale and South Garfield avenues in Hinsdale, where painted paws lead to the entrance of a 100-year-old red barn. Inside K9 Fit Club, enthusiastic dogs and humans go through a variety of exercises together.
Tricia Montgomery of Hinsdale, who founded the club in 2012, knows exactly what each person looking for healthy motivation is going through. She was diagnosed with morbid obesity, along with her dog, Louie, years ago.
“I was overweight pretty much all throughout my childhood,” Montgomery said. “I basically went to the veterinarian and he said to me, ‘You know, you’re killing yourself and you’re killing your dog,’ without really saying that.”
Montgomery took his more subtle advice to heart and started a diet and exercise plan. She lost more than 130 pounds, and Louie lived a long and healthier life.
After realizing how much her dog helped in her weight loss journey, Montgomery wanted to give back to others in the same way. By exercising with her furry best friend, it didn’t seem like a chore – rather, a distraction from the fatigue and pain.
“When you’re working out with your dog, you’re sweating, you’re working out like crazy,” she said. “You don’t even think about that because your dog is there beside you and he’s taking that pain away.”
K9 Fit Club has several classes to choose from – including “Bow Wow Bootcamp” and “Tai Chi Wa Wa” – but each person and their dog is assessed to see what programs work best for the pair. This also includes training the dog to do basic commands.
Lance Houia of Hinsdale, director of training, said it’s the mental aspect people have the hardest time getting over when it comes to losing weight.
“We can come up with a thousand excuses to not work out, but how many excuses can you think of to work out?” Houia said.
Houia said a pet is a person’s biggest “emotional barometer.”
“Your dog, he doesn’t judge you,” Houia said. “He loves you unconditionally. He doesn’t care what you look like.”
Aside from improving fitness, the program also serves as a great benefit to dogs by improving discipline and behavior. Members do lunges while the pups obediently walk by their side, and the dogs release their energy running around cones.
“It’s been great for Khaki because she used to bark through the whole hour of class,” Rodkin said. “Now, she’s really learning what we do here and that she should be quiet.”
The club’s members vary in age from the young to the elderly. While Montgomery finds her work incredibly rewarding, she also remains disturbed by the obesity epidemic.
“We’ve made obesity one and the same in our dogs,” she said. “We get people a new leash on life, and it’s changing lives, one dog at a time.”