Bookends of sunshine on a winter day

We Seattleites who have flexible schedules try to never let a clear, sunny winter day go to waste. Today was such a day and I made hay.

Shy Bear Trail, Cougar Mountain
Dogs have so many wonderful traits. One is their unbridled happiness at the idea of playing, regardless how early in  the day. Finn and I awake at oh-dark-thirty. As I dress for running, Finn dances around me, tagging my running tights with his nose in approval. Driving toward Cougar Mountain, we join the early commuters on the freeway for a few   miles. At Cougar, we're the first car in the parking lot. 

Finn whimpers with anticipation as I finish getting ready to run.

It's 30F, the first real cold run of the season. I bundle up, mitts over my gloves to keep my hands warm, cap over my headband to insulate my head, vest over my thick, sweat-wicking shirt. I love these conditions when running, crisply cold, the frozen leaves crunching underfoot. Finn does too.

We start running about twenty minutes after sunrise. A mile or two later, the low winter sun finally rises enough to  stream through the trees, lighting our trails and occasionally blinding me when heading south. 

The solitude and scenery is invigorating.

Finn and I wind our way around the park. Other than birds and squirrels, we have it to ourselves, or so it seems. Heading back toward the car, Finn suddenly stops to smell something. I stop, too - I learned long ago that you see the most interesting things in the forest if you follow your dog's lead, whether that's their nose, ears or eyes. To my considerable surprise, Finn shows me the complete rib cage of an animal that must have originally been about Finn's size.

Finn next to the rib cage he found along the trail.

The bones are pretty fresh; even I can smell them, two feet away, despite the cold air. I swear they weren't there when Finn and I ran past this same spot an hour ago. Finn would have noticed it, even if I didn't. That tells me that we interrupted some forest critter in the process of moving it for later consumption. 

But...what critter? Coyote? Cougar? Given the rib cage's size, it has to be a fairly large animal.

Taking a photo of Finn next to the bones, it occurs to me that we might be under surveillance by the animal that brought it here. I quickly put the camera away and suggest to Finn that we move along.

As Finn and I finish our run, I think about all the times the girls and I came upon animal bones in the forests of Idaho. Usually they were old, completely cleaned of meat and sinew. Still, the girls could smell and find them, often several feet off our path. What noses they had! Maia would first claim the bone; as eldest dog, Meadow deferred to her. But Maia rarely truly wanted the bone; it was more about asserting her position in the hierarchy. Meadow would wait for Maia to drop the bone, then happily pounce on it, prancing with the bone in her mouth as if she'd found the Holy Grail and Maia pretending she had no longer had any interest it. Meadow frequently carried a found bone all the way back to the car, at which point I'd toss it away, fearing that if I brought it home, it might cause arguments between the girls. Meadow always accepted that; I think the idea of carrying it proudly in her mouth appealed to her most.

I also remember the time, soon after adding Finn to our pack, that friends and I, and all four of our dogs, ran in the forest in Idaho, coming upon dog treasure: elk feet. Here's that 2008 post

Happy memories of the girls.

Back home our evening stroll, Finn and I are treated to a gorgeous sunset, highlighting the Seattle skyline in the distance.

Clear winter skies mean cold temperatures. I bundle up against the chill, just as I did this morning. A perfect bookend to a perfect winter day that started with a sunrise - watching the sunset with my boy, Finn (playing lifeguard at Juanita Beach).

It's a joy to have reached a place where my thoughts of the girls are happy memories, moving past the harsh pain of early grief. They're always with me.
Rebecca WallickComment