New Snow

Finally. New Snow. Maybe four inches fell through the night. What a great sight with which to start the day.

I strapped on my YakTrax (, applied some Pam cooking spray on the girls' feet to keep the snow from balling between their pads, and off we went. (Lesson learned through hard experience: when the outside temperatures are between 20-35F, the snow is wet and tends to form hard, painful snowballs that stick to the fur between a dog's pads. My dogs hate wearing snow booties. Cooking spray has been the easiest, and most cost-effective, way for me to elimiate the problem.)

We ran up into the forest behind the house. "Up" is the operative word. Unrelenting up, until we turn around to enjoy the down. The road had been groomed for snowmobiles a couple of days ago, so I knew I wouldn't punch through more than the snow that had fallen last night. But even four inches of fresh, heavy snow makes for slow going, especially on such a long uphill pull. We usually go at least three miles up, sometimes four, before turning back for home. Today, it felt like I was running through deep sand, so we turned back after two miles of up.

Yet seeing the joy in the faces of my girls made the effort worthwhile. Anyone lucky enough to live with a dog who likes snow knows what it's like: the dogs, free of any restraints, romp, chase and play in snow in a way that's more spirited, impish, and joyful than any other time. A friend of long ago, who also had a malamute, referred to such play as "snow orgasms." Given how the girls tend to enjoy naps in the snow after these runs, it seems an apt description.

For the dogs, it isn't about the distance covered. They could care less, so long as they get to run and play, sniff and explore. No matter how far out we go, the moment we turn around - and they know we're headed home - is when all the stops are let out and they fly down the hill while wrestling, chomping on each other's necks, faking and feinting attacks. I call them back to me, and they both race full speed, side by side, right at me, delighting in the game of chicken I long ago learned to accept by standing still as they break apart at the last moment to streak by me, one on each side, as though I were a boulder in a fast moving stream of fur. They conserve their energy, on the way out, until they know the distance home; then they let loose. A good approach to any run or hike, for human or canine.

The wonderful thing about these early morning forays into the forest, after a snowfall, is seeing all the footprints that later are obliterated by the snowmachines: rabbit; chipmunk; deer and elk; coyote, fox and wolf. Occasionally, turkey prints - long, narrow three-pronged indentations. On even rarer occasions, a neighbor's llama or mule tracks. The rabbit and deer tracks, in particular, regularly cross the road, disappearing up a hillside or down a gully. The girls will sniff the tracks, follow them with their noses to the edge of the road, then off into the near distance with their eyes - and ears - always hoping to see the real thing.