Cold streams soothe hot muscles

Most of us, after a hard work out, long for a hot shower or a soak in a hot tub.

But really, dogs know best: cold water promotes faster healing of tired muscles, reducing inflammation.

If there is any "wild water" on a given running route, the girls will take advantage of it. Of course, they drink at every opportunity, no matter how small the stream or how dirty they make it by walking through it as they lap and slurp. Being Malamutes, they won't swim. (Just as well - it would take days for their coats to dry naturally.) Yet they love to wade, cooling their toes - one of the few places on a dog's body where excess heat is dissipated, their tongues, mouths and noses being the others. Dogs don't sweat through their skin surfaces, like humans. During the summer months I constantly worry about the girls overheating. Our runs take place early in the morning, and on routes I know are in the trees (for shade) and have plenty of water.

After cooling their feet, the girls invariably do the Cold Toes Dance: a quick bit of shaking, prancing, playing and chasing, as though they've briefly been transported back to puppyhood. Watching, I always laugh out loud, which reinforces the Dance. A positive-feedback loop for us all. I'm reminded of that live-your-best-life admonition one often hears: dance, as if no one is watching. Or cares.

The hotter the air temperature, the deeper the girls will wade into a stream or lake. If it's truly hot, Maia will start dunking her neck, then her muzzle and face into the water, first dipping one side of her head forward through the water, then the other, rhythmically, as she slowly walks along the stream or lake bottom. I'm pretty sure she's doing her utmost to keep her ears dry. Smart girl.

Yesterday's run was later and warmer than I'd anticipated. We drove nearly an hour to access a lovely trail that, at 5500 feet, is now free of snow. There were still several downed trees to go around or over, but we had the trail and area to ourselves on a gorgeous sunny day. It was wonderful. Meadow loves to sail over downed trees. Scares the crap out of me sometimes - especially so soon after her knee injury - but the sheer joy on her face reminds me to keep quiet and let her have her fun. She's a show-off, through and through.

Maia takes the time to find a way around or under most of the downed trees; she jumps only when she has to. She and I have so much in common.

This particular trail head is very near a fast moving, churning river. While running a section near the river's bank, Maia stopped, ears and body alert to an unusual sound: boulders tumbling downriver, pushed by the furious spring flow. A deep, natural, rumbling forest sound.

Near the trail head parking area, the river has provided little side pools of relatively still water. At the end of our hour-long run, the girls made a bee-line to one of the bigger and deeper pools. Given the warmer-than-expected temperature, I wasn't surprised to see them both immediately wade in up to their bellies. This pleased me no end, because it washed away at least a portion of the dirt and mud that had accumulated on their undersides, meaning that less "trail matter" would eventually find its way onto my home's floors.

At one point during this end-of-the-run soak, Maia floated for the briefest of moments. I could see a look of concern shadow her face until she maneuvered back to a safe depth where her feet touched the bottom.

Around and around the clear, sun-dappled pool they waded, lapping up the sweet, cool water as they moved, looks of utter contentment on their faces.

I should have joined them, allowing the frigid water to massage my own tired leg muscles. But I'm a wimp.