I try to shut out the anguished cries from the back of the Durango as I make my way up the canyon. I can’t go any faster; the canyon is narrow and winding and a favorite of runners and cyclists. There’s nothing I can do to get there faster. But Clayton’s cries grow in volume and distress until they cannot be ignored.
“It’s okay buddy,” I attempt, “we’re almost there.”
This only serves to bring the most agonized cry of all.
“Shut up!! We’re almost there!”
No, I’m not heartless. No, I’m not racing to a veterinarian’s office. Clayton’s anguish is a result of the LONG, LONG, LOOOONNNNNG drive to the trail. Actually, it’s only about 8 miles, but in dog miles that’s about 218.
Clayton has been a trail runner for almost two years. He doesn’t get to run as much as he wants to because many of our local trails are in a watershed where dogs aren’t allowed. He has logged 237 miles so far. Okay, let me rephrase that. I have logged 237 miles while he is running with me, but his runs are quite different from mine. On a map, my run might be a curvy line, following a trail. This same run for Clayton would look like a heart rhythm continuously crossing the line of my run. He probably runs three times as far as I do.
Clayton has his own pack. He carries his own water and treats, but he has been known to eat an energy chew. He seldom drinks from the stream that runs trailside at the beginning of our runs, but he does lie down belly first on the muddy stream bottom and absorbs water in this way. This is generally immediately followed by rushing to my side and shaking vigorously. He does this to ensure that we look like we just completed an intense mud run.
I am too slow for him. There is a reason my blog is called The Trail Snail. He tries to be polite and not show how much I hold him back, but sometimes it is obvious. Like when he lies on the side of the trail and waits for me. Sometimes I get the dog equivalent of “Are you serious? You’re walking again?” followed by an eyeroll. The only time I feel vindicated is on a steep hill. He constantly tries to steer me downhill and takes lots of little naps.
Clayton is a doofus. I’m sorry to have to say this, but it is true. Twice he has misjudged his trail-cross and knocked me down. When we encountered a coyote, a mere thirty feet away, he didn’t even know. Sometimes, when the forest is eerily quiet, he gets nervous and stays so close to me he steps on my feet. His recovery food of choice is potato chips.
Clayton is not my only running buddy, but he is by far the hairiest. He is the only one that never complains (except about the LOOONNNG drive).
And he is the only one considerate enough to bring me a leg from a deer carcass.