On most trail runs, Meadow wears her bit of defensive dressing: an orange vest.
It is taking on a life of its own, one full of wild rides and near misses.
My May 11, 2007 post includes a photo of the holes ripped in the vest after Meadow chased an elk through the brush.
This photo shows it hanging from the nub of a branch on a downed tree Meadow went under during yesterday's run.
These dead, burned, fallen trees are a nightmare for me. The branch nubs are usually sharp and unforgiving if you hit them; the scars on the my legs are proof. Worse, though, is watching the girls try to jump over these trail obstacles. Our first summer here, they assumed the downed trees were like those back home in western WA, where the trees were alive when they fell and the branches still have some flex and give. Last summer, running on a trail littered with these burned, dead trees, Meadow leaped without looking and was surprised to discover a second downed tree on the far side of her jump, extending the distance needed to clear the entire mess. She barely cleared them both (she's an awesome jumper), as I watched in horror, listening to the loud crack! as her body hit a branch, breaking it off. I had visions of a skewered dog in the middle of the wilderness with no one to help us.
It's not an unreasonable fear.
A friend's dog sustained exactly such an injury a few years ago. Randy was running trails near Sun Valley with his lab and Aussie. The Aussie ran ahead, then returned, limping and distressed. The dog had a six inch long and very sharp dead tree branch embedded in his chest wall. Eight miles from the trail head, Randy - a tough ex-cop - cradled the 60 pound dog and started carrying him back to the car, trying to not disturb the branch for fear the dog would bleed out. After a mile, realizing he couldn't continue carrying the dog, Randy put him down; the dog managed to walk out on his own. Randy showed me the shard of tree limb surgically removed from the dog's rib cage. Scary. That is one very lucky dog.
So now I urge the girls to go around these deadfalls. Maia easily complies - jumping aggravates her shoulders. Meadow always debates it, though, loving to jump but now better understanding the risk. I think the only reason she went under this particular tree, leaving her vest for me to collect, is because we were nearly back to the car and she was tired.