There is a Zen thing with the dogs - feeding, cleaning, harnessing, running - it seems to make sense that their happiness depends on me, and my happiness depends on them.
The simple, daily act of caring for them is a routine, a ritual, that is soothing and familiar. In it, I find a calm feeling of balance.
There is nothing dirty, or gross, with them. (Well, maybe their breath! “BBID” – Bad Breath In Dogs!) As a new parent learns the joys of baby poop and vomit, so, too, the musher learns the intimate details of his dog’s waste. We learn to recognize subtle changes in texture and color. The poop, it speaks to me!
And then, the running. There is something about the early morning...it is quiet, calm and peaceful. The weather is cool, but not cold yet. Mist is in the air, and fog over the river. Birds are singing, dogs are barking. They want to run. They know that I know they want to. I try not to talk to them and get them excited, which they quickly learn means we ARE going to run!
Hooking up can be an adventure, as the dogs tremble with excitement and can hardly contain themselves. (Or can NOT, in Alice’s case!) But once we are in motion, the dogs change. They RUN! They were born to run, bred to run, they have it in their genes, from generations of ancestors, they are runners.
Muscles rippling, bodies in synch, we go. We go. We don’t like to stop. They look at me with that inquisitive look dogs have, the “What the devil?” look. Alice gets nervous, Nick just stands there, slowly wagging his tail, waiting to go. Oh sure, I can give them some loving attention, but that is not what they are wanting. They want me to ask them “Are you ready?” The answer, as always, is “YES!”
And we’re off, down the trail, through the landscape, moving, enjoying, loving life and each other.
Nature, peace, love, happiness - what a sport!