When I was 20, my dad and I, along with much of the rest of the Boy Scout troop I was part of, went to Alaska to visit an assistant scoutmaster* who had invited us—it’s not like the few dozen or so of us were showing up unannounced.
We went during the summer, so it was sunny outside nearly 24 hours a day, which is a little unnerving at midnight. Nonetheless it was a fun, unforgettable trip.
While we were there we got to see a whole farm full of sled dogs who participated in races like the Iditarod and pulled contestants around for days at a time in the snow and wind of Alaska. The dogs were some of the finest, toughest athletes on earth, and they seemed more like wolves—horses, even—than huskies. It took eight or 10 huskies to pull a human contestant and the sled full of supplies.
Lately Katniss and I have been jogging together since the weather has gotten cooler, and I’m reminded of those sled dogs—but not because it’s cool outside like Alaska was or the sun is setting so early these days like an Alaskan fall. Unfortunately in this scenario, I’m the sled dog instead of Katniss taking on that role since she’s a dog and all.
Jogging with Katniss mainly involves me pulling her along while she tries to stop and sniff things or squat to pee. She’s in front of me one minute, crossing my running path often enough that she’s nearly killed us both, and behind me the next minute, slowing my pace to nearly walking speed. There’s more start-and-stop activity during 100 feet of one of our jogs than in an entire day of notoriously bad Austin traffic. Have you forgotten your training, little gal?
Don’t get me wrong, once she gets going and is free of distractions, Katniss is a really good running buddy for the quarter-mile or so that she can focus and simply jog/prance. She likes to run in the grass, not on the sidewalk, probably because it’s easier on her little feet. And when we’re jogging, if she poops, she poops; it’s the one time I don’t pick up her “treasures,” which makes me feel like a huge hypocrite. Sorry, neighbors.
For their conditioning I’ve seen NFL players sprint pulling small sleds with weights attached to them or with small parachutes tied to their backs in an effort to increase resistance and make them more explosive come game time, when the players are free of said resistance. I’ve decided Katniss is my bit of resistance, even though she seems more than willing to tear around the neighborhood with me and I’m not training for anything.
Unfortunately, having to run a little slower also makes me feel fat and slow—husky, if you will.
*The guy we went to visit, Jack, was one of the greatest human beings to ever live. If I remember correctly, the Air Force paid for his education—he was both a physician and a pharmacist—so eventually he was transferred to a base in Alaska, hence our visit. Jack saw me through some tough spots as I grew up, and I’m pretty sure a couple of the guys from our troop became doctors themselves because of Jack’s influence. He always had time for us, he always seemed to put us first, and I always sort of felt like we were Jack’s sons, even though we weren’t that much younger than him. The next time I saw Jack was at his funeral. He died about a year and a half after our visit, almost exactly 14 years ago, and he was about the same age I am now. I miss you, brother, and I think about you every day.