That Husky Life

Adhara, or Addy*, is undeniably a beautiful dog.

Housewolf Queen
*Also Queen Fluffirusimus, First of Her Name, Sovereign of the Housewolves and the Snowdogs, Lady of the North and Protector of the Realm

She is also whip-smart, stubborn, independent, prone to mischief, and not above pulling things out of cupboards, the fridge, or off countertops. Or above pulling Fyre boots out of closets for nefarious purposes. Huskies are not doting retrievers, hanging on your every word. They’ll do what you ask if they see the reason for it, and if they don’t, be prepared to have a full-fledged conversation explaining why what you’re asking is important… and sometimes you will lose these arguments. There’s something almost uncannily human about those woos. Some huskies are big talkers; some are more the strong silent type; some are selectively vocal. It took Addy about three months to start talking to me, and since then she’s certainly had a lot to say, but it’s usually when it’s just the two of us. Neighbors and passersby on the street who mimic husky noises are met with stony silence and polite-but-aloof disregard. I’ve learned to smile apologetically, shrug my shoulders and say she’s a bit of a cat- aloof and independent. And if she’s aloof with most humans upon first meeting them, she’s a downright ice queen when it comes to most other dogs, including other huskies sometimes.

Ice Queen
Sorry sweetie, she ignores me too sometimes

Their thick double-coat is legendary for shedding and also gives them an ideal temperature range that is not quite comfortable for most humans. If you are horrified about the idea of dog fur literally everywhere, this is not the breed for you. If running on cold, dark, icy evenings/mornings means hitting the treadmill, this is also not the breed for you. However, if you melt above 80F and spend most of the summer trying to avoid heat while you dream of cooler days, then they make great adventure buddies for ten months of the year in the Northwest, and excellent reading/napping partners for the other two.

To put it visually

Perhaps no other breed has as many misconceptions, ranging from how closely related to wolves they are to how big they should be, to what environments they will and won’t do well in. Similar to their Clydesdale-cousins, Alaskan Malamutes, they are among the most genetically similar to wolves. THEY ARE NOT WOLVES. At least not anymore so than any other Canis lupus familiaris (domestic dog). They also tend to be smaller than most people seem to expect them to be. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me that Addy is “going to grow into those paws” or that she “must be mixed with something else?” when I tell people her actual age. Nope. Not a puppy, not a mix. And while she dreams of a romp in the snow year round, she does okay when it gets hot as long as we’re smart about it. That usually means shorter, infrequent runs in the summer to keep her mostly in shape or substituting walks for runs, and then making up for it when the cooler weather returns. If she seems not so enthused about exercise, I take her cue and leave her at home. I’ll take the twinge of guilt I feel over leaving her behind over the terrifying possibility of heat stroke and an emergency vet visit any day.

Huskies are high energy dogs, but they can do well in the city. While having a large yard makes any dog parent’s life easier, my experience with her is that she wants to be wherever I am, so if I’m outside sitting on a porch, she’s outside sitting on the porch at my feet, not making solitary loops. If I’m running, she’s running. The best way to get her to lose interest in a squirrel? Keep moving. The thought of being left behind is more than enough to send her chasing after me. It took me a year of trying to coax her away from trees to learn this.

The Early Days
“I got all day, Squirrel!” *human yelling in distance* “Correction: I’ve got five seconds until my human moves on and I tear off after her”

If I’m ordering a beer at our favorite brewery, she’s ordering the doggie equivalent…

Brewery Dog
“I’ll have a milkbone, please and thank you. Ma prefers Stouts, so a pint of that if you’ve got a good one, or an IPA if you don’t”

If there is one thing I can say emphatically about life with a husky, it’s that they will absolutely, 100% ruin other dogs for you. You’ll still love them all, and you’ll smile appreciatively while you watch a friend’s dog go through their routine of tricks. When I still had my first husky, Lucy, I remember after one particularly exasperating weekend watching a Great Dane out for a walk with their human and feeling just the slightest hint of jealousy at the pure dumb joy the dog had for seemingly everything. I found myself vowing that I was through with smart, stubborn, complicated dogs. Like so many similar vows, it was broken, but Addy finds ways to remind me why I made it. I’ve had it with getting ready in the morning and feeling completely batty because where are all of my left shoes?! WHY ARE THEY IN YOUR CRATE?! HOW DID YOU…what?! Why the left shoe, dog, why? Why did you pull the peanuts off the counter, pull the lid off, but not eat a single one? Wow, babe. You didn’t spill a single one on the floor. I’m kinda impressed. PLEASE DON’T TRY TO SMACK THE HISSING RACCOON IN THE FACE WHILE WE’RE RUNNING. 
Dogs don’t eat bananas…?

Bananas
No, we do not. Believe me human, no one is more disappointed that these are bananas than I am. Or that you caught me with them on the floor

 

Addy has also found several means to make me remember why I broke it. The combination of personality, comedic timing, and zest for life will win you over, and other breeds, for all of their qualities just don’t fit the bill afterwards. However, I can’t state emphatically enough how much this is not the breed for everyone. Perhaps no other breed so capably teaches you how to not take life so seriously… and requires almost infinite patience. It’s like living with a combination of a toddler, a cat, and wolf, and you never know where in that spectrum your furry companion is going to fall on a given day. But if you’re willing to put up with the occasional misplaced fruit, the constant reality of fur everywhere, and are willing to get your lazy bones out when it’s freezing, you will never find a better companion.

On Falling Short and Silver Linings

There’s a funny thing no one tells you about failure. It is the unsung hero of teaching you what you didn’t think you needed to learn. Sitting in a camp chair at Ollalie Meadows, whipping tears and trying to avoid eye contact with other runners coming through, I tried to graciously accept both my fate and delicious pierogies from Scott McCoubrey. It was hard to process a lot of what had happened in the last three hours. I had felt relaxed and strong coming through each of the aid stations, and despite being almost 50 miles into the race, my energy level hadn’t flagged yet. The prospect of not pushing through it hurt almost as much as the hotspots that had seemingly instantaneously erupted on my heels just a few hours before and turned my gait into a caricature of human motion. Deep in the infamous pain cave, my type-A brain screaming at me that at least we could do the respectable thing and get to Hyak, every time I shuffled my feet I was reminded of where it hurt. Four days later, it’s oddly comforting that things still hurt- it partially validates my choice to drop. I planned obsessively for the race and prepared myself not just physically but mentally for embracing the suck. It was in the script that at some point it would hurt and I would have to push through the lows to get to the greener pastures on the other side. Being so hobbled by blisters and biomechanical failures by the halfway point that I could barely navigate the technical terrain was not in the script.

 “If you want to make God laughtell him about your plans.” Woody Allen

Everything up to mile 38 flew by faster than I could have ever imagined. I spent miles running with familiar faces and getting acquainted with new ones . This is one of my favorite part of trail races- you meet someone, you share a few miles and in those moments you get a candid glimpse into their soul. Usually one or the other of you pulls ahead at an aid station and then maybe you find each other again, maybe you don’t. Each aid station was huge boost in morale, especially when I got to Tacoma Pass and I got to see my crew for the first time and my furball, who was predictably concerned about my sudden disappearance from the Easton Fire Station. Many people describe Sibes as humans in dog’s clothing, and after getting emphatically lectured on how very not okay it was that I ran off, it’s hard to not agree. Addy is among the most human-focused and perceptive dogs I’ve ever known, and she was all business as she navigated the orange ribbons from Tacoma Pass to Stampede Pass. When my crew picked me up from the aid station at Ollalie Meadows, she repeatedly checked to make sure I didn’t disappear again, a humorous process that involved her switching from leading the group to looping around to the back to stand in front of me. When she had reassured herself that I was indeed coming too, she would take the lead again- a cycle so like a doting mother that it was impossible not to laugh at it and start to feel human again.

 

It’s a disappointment and to some, a failure, but it doesn’t feel that way. Perhaps it’s because the rest of my running this year has been so good. I’ve run more miles than I ever felt was possible and have managed to avoid any major injury setbacks that kept me off running for more than a few days. I have no doubt that I will try another 100 miler and have spent the last few days making Yes/No Decision charts for several. Did I really need to see that Run Rabbit Run has cleared their waitlist? How wise is it to dive immediately into another 100 miler? How realistic is it to plan a trip to Colorado on the fly? Maybe the elevation will help slow my ass down and keep me from going out to fast? Why does this line of thinking seem like a slippery slope…and a profoundly silly idea?! Wait, what about Orcas?! Ooo… I have no doubt that I will have another go at Cascade Crest, despite spending a hot second at Ollalie Meadows never wanting to run that first 50 miles again. Some day I’ll find that wooden token from Blowout Mountain in my Salomon pack and the hunger will reawaken. When that day comes I don’t doubt this experience will prove a great boon.

There’s a disconnect between feeling fine energetically and feeling trashed from the knees down, and after targeting 50 miles a week for the entirety of 2018, losing that regular schedule of training is disorienting. The hell do you mean I’m not doing a long run on Saturday? How about 10-12 on the road and keep the hills to a minimum- it’ll be easy peasy! Then let’s find some hapless marathon or 50K to tear into… That urge to swing for fences is strong.  Maybe dust off some of those old road goals you have… Funnily enough, I do have something else on my calendar coming up. A particular race that I have “unfinished business” with, and considering that my favorite 50K is sold out and I have a whole extra five minutes to BQ, that pull is strong to go out and try to find a little bit of redemption on the road is strong. No script and no expectations this time though. Just a girl and her running shoes, and maybe a bit of an axe to grind.