Here’s my Wolf Pack. Our Zeke on the left. Anya, the neighbor’s dog on the right. Zeke, a pure bred Hungarian bird hunting Vizsla. Anya, a rescue mix with herding in her DNA.
Zeke was acquired five years ago for hundreds (many) of dollars. (The King’s list of demands in dog selection included a sporting/running breed. It didn’t include acquiring someone else’s problems.) Anya was acquired from a shelter with no cash outlay. (*Hold this thought on dog profile differences.)
Trail running (and all running outside) has largely been suspended this winter season. Weekend exercise has taken the form of intermittent stabs on the elliptical machine in the attic…remote control in the right cup holder and water bottle in the left. Air temperature constant at 67F. No snow. No slush. No uneven surfaces. (And No Running Posts. Zero inspiration running on an elliptical.)
Weather warming this weekend. It was time to GET OUTSIDE. So, I prep. Ugg’s on. Strap Garmin on wrist. Grab iPhone. Earphones. Doggie treats. Two Dog leashes. Dog tags. Poop bags. Car keys. And stuff it all into a fanny pack. (Black manly style fanny pack.) Put on down coat. Pull on hat. (38F. Hat not needed but run will be arduous. No need to display thinning/receding and matted hair.) Jam running gloves in pocket. Grab Driver’s license and wallet and head out the door. (With the exception of dry food, ropes, crampons and ice axes, I’d be ready for climb up McKinley. Heavy load for a trail run in snow. Pulse quickens and I haven’t even left the car.)
We arrive at Mianus Park, 100 acres of woods and trails. I leash up the wolf pack to get to park entrance. There are two paths, I take the one less travelled, not for Frost’s rationale, but because I want to avoid the stalking game warden who hits up dog owners @ $98 per creature caught off leash.
I release the dogs off leash. I trudge up a steep incline. Anya, the Rescue Rabbit, always out front. Performing recon. Darts ahead. Circles. Loops back. Never tiring. Happy, confident creature.
Footing is treacherous. I’m picking up and laying down the Uggs with deliberation. The snow pack has turned to slush and ice. I slow the pace. The outer soles slide left and right on the rocks, roots, and hill, all tugging at groins. Yet, it is all seemingly holding together. (Still got it.)
We’re up over the hill and heading down. Pleased at having traversed the climb, I turn on my iPhone/iTunes. And rather than hitting a playlist, I live on the edge. I peck at “A” and let the tunes ride down in alphabetical order. (With 3,783 songs, I certainly won’t run out of alphabet.)
I sneak a peak at the pace. Sloooow but expected given conditions and track. 7/10’s of a mile in. I look behind me. No Zeke. Heart races as it has been 1/4 mile since I last saw him. I turn and scramble back up the hill. I’m gasping – - from both worry and the incline. I see Zeke up at the next peak. I bellow out “ZEKE COME” three times. He doesn’t move. The King is furious. (D*mn dog spends too much time with Susan. Trained as another Mama’s Boy. He’s conditioned to resist and do the opposite when the King makes his demands.)
My worry has flipped to anger. I turn off the music. (Phil Collins: Against All Odds)
I hoof it back up the hill. Grumbling. I can see that he’s slouched down. Has his “I’m scared look.” (Vizsla’s are highly sensitive. He knows I’m angry. So, I try to figure out what’s causing the fright. And take a deep breath.)
Then the culprit emerges. A woodpecker is banging on the trunk of a towering cottonwood overhead. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! The Pure Bred’s ears are down. His tail is tucked under. His hair standing up on end. Frozen in his tracks. (Oh, the cruel irony. Hungarian Pure Bred Bird Hunting Dog. Paralyzed by a woodpecker. Susan tells me that Vizsla’s become fearful as they age. REALLY? WHERE WAS THIS DISCLOSURE IN THE BUYER’S MANUAL?)
I pull the leash out of my pocket. Zeke growls. I tell him not to mess with me. I clip it on his collar. And, proceed to drag him down the trail. The Rescue Rabbit (free), happily prancing ahead.
The King and his Wolf Pack resume their run.
The Down Jacket is contributing to overheating. Between the stress of losing Zeke, the poor footing and the climbs, sweat is gushing from under the hat – - washing down my back and chest. I’m a mere 1.3 miles in (plus the double back) and wonder if this journey was meant to be. And between gulps of air…and my run-walk-run pace…I tune into the lyrics of the “A” alpha list…
- Against The Wind: Bob Seger…(No kidding.)
- (This) Ain’t No Love Guiding Me: David Gray…(Not on this run. Nothing about LOVE on this grind.)
- Ain’t No Other Man: Christina Aguilera…(Thanks for believing in me Christina)
- Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing: Michael McDonald…(No, two months on Elliptical is not a surrogate for the real thing)
- Ain’t Too Proud to Beg: The Temptations…(Correct. I’m close to begging here…)
- Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: The Temptations…(This mountain feels pretty damn high to me.)
- Ain’t No Sunshine: Al Jarreau…(I don’t think I’m getting enough oxygen. Forget Sun. It’s all looking misty and foggy.)
- The Air That I Breathe: Simply Red:…(I’m gulping all that I can.)
- Alive Again: Chicago…(Yes, but just hanging on here Lord, just hanging on.)
I pop open the hatch of the car. Anya hops into the car and peacefully settles in. Zeke – - tail curled between his legs, growls. He won’t get in. The King picks up his sporting pure bred dog, hoping no one is watching this spectacle, and places him gently on the passenger seat. I walk around to unlock the door and slump onto the car seat. Take off my hat. Wipe the sweat off my brow and head. Close my eyes. Take several deep breaths. Fire up the engine. And head home.
Time Check: 61 minutes. 5.1 miles.
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