Today's lesson: naps are good. Naps are necessary. Play hard, rest hard.

Early this morning, we drive north 30 miles and 2000 ft lower in elevation to run on dirt. We meet a friend and his husky, Pixie. This particular trail is about all that's available - reliably snow free - during the winter months. Lucky for us, it's gorgeous. The trail is single track, a bit technical (rocks to trip one up, twisting, hilly), and follows a river up through steep canyons. The walls are now the brown of bare dirt and winter's sleeping grass, made even more dramatic by gashes of rock outcroppings and caves. The stream is fast and full, with ice and snow clinging to its edges and boulders despite the boisterous flow. It sings, making conversation difficult. But that's OK. I like listening only to my breathing and the sounds of nature.

We usually go to a bridge crossing the river at 4.2 miles, then turn back, but today we go to another bridge, five miles, up before retracing our steps. Sometimes we spot elk on a high, far ridge top; often, as today, we hear birds singing. If we're early enough, the place is ours and ours alone. It's a slice of heaven, for people and dogs.

Heading out, Meadow finds treasure. First, the well-cleaned leg bone of some deer or elk. She happily shows it to me, then drops it when I ask. I toss it off the steep hillside. A bit later, she finds an even bigger trophy: another portion of game carcass, both leg bones this time, still connected by the knee cap. She's so proud! The huntress! I give her just enough attention to make her happy but not make her think I like such hunting. Her nose is amazing. Maia is more focused on the running - she almost always assumes lead position, and is most happy when we turn back for the car, for she knows exactly where we're going and where the destination is. She might get distracted by small critters - squirrels, voles - but easily ignores the carcasses we all-too-frequently pass and instead focuses on getting us home (to the car). Meadow is the wheel dog - she brings up the rear, protects our back, and thus has the freedom to find these delectable bits of treasure after Maia and I pass them by.

When it's just the three of us running, I think of us as The Malamute Sandwich. I'm in the middle.

Pixie is a ballerina. My girls are, well, more like sumo wrestlers - amazingly adroit for their size, but steady and purposeful. Pixie is delightful to watch: she dashes, prances, flies and leaps through the air, covering at least three times the ground as the rest of us. She's shy and submissive, so if she finds one of my girls in her path as she's racing to and fro on this narrow trail, she simply leaps over them. She's 42 lbs to their 80-85 lbs. She reminds me why huskies, and not malamutes, are used as sled dogs in the Iditarod.

After the run and the drive home, the girls curl up in the snow of the yard. This is their prelude to power napping. I shower, eat lunch, then grab my current novel, Wild Geese Calling by Steward Edward White (1940). They come inside and find their favorite places to snooze. I get into bed and read until I can no longer keep my eyes open. This is a blissful way to spend a Saturday. Watch any dog after they've run or played for a couple of hours: they nap. I learn much from my dogs, and I've learned that a nap after a run is the reward the body craves. Who am I to deny myself?

I grew up with Midwestern parents who felt that napping was a sign of laziness. It was strongly discouraged. I still feel some guilt when napping, but I've become adroit at ignoring those inner voices. Napping feels so good, and at my age (50) it's necessary for recovery after hard workouts. It also allows me some amazing dreams. I love naps. So do the girls. They're experts. I simply aspire to be as good as them.

Aside: Wild Geese Calling was given to me by my friend Kelly. We've been friends since she moved next door when we were 13 years old. What a gift - her friendship, and the book. It's the tale of a young couple exploring life and the wild, remote world of Seattle and Alaska in the gold rush era. A malamute plays a key role, as does the wilderness. The female character is full of adventure and desire to explore. I'm amazed a writer in the 1940s painted such a strong female character. Kelly knows me, and my love of dogs (malamutes in particular); I'm grateful she shared this wonderful book with me.
Rebecca WallicknapsComment