Running with my 'dawgs'

Posted: Friday, December 18, 2009

One of my runner friends is sick. After pushing me up Perseverance Trail and back along the Flume Trail on a 4-mile trek, then out-sprinting me along a half-mile of traffic-congested streets, he went home, licked the spaces between his toes and fell ill. Some of my runner friends do that ... lick between their toes. But they're dogs. And dogs do that.

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

Winter outdoor care for our four-pawed partners should be similar to ours. If 4Paws, the term I'll use for the group of dogs I frequently run with, can run with me in the summer, then winter should be no exception.

I know Hootch's leash still works in winter, Oscar and Apollo still respond to voice commands, Hannah watches over young pup Lucy, Semmi still finds indiscreet areas to relieve himself, Flynn still bounces like a pinball, Elias is still brave, Nugget is still crazy, and the little fluff of some-type-of-canine-import Kumo (although ill-suited for winter) still loves the around-the-block walk.

Athletically-inclined, dogs workout a lot and need additional winter calories as it takes more energy to keep their body temperatures regulated. If I need a water bottle, chances are 4Paws will need extra beverages as well. His snow eating burns more energy to melt than is gained by the effort. But don't worry about kibble-flavored sports drinks as electrolytes are not needed for canines. Personally, I like to drop a few pounds to look good in the ol' red Santa jogging suit, but an extra pound or two of insulating weight is nice for active dogs, and they can shed that easily in the summer when the lakes thaw.

Just because I look like a running fashion statement, I make sure 4Paws is not an accessory. Dogs can wear an assortment of booties or coats or sweaters (nothing says Nike like a headband with a bone on it) suited for a variety of terrains and conditions. And not all dogs are built for cold-weather running, or for running mountains, hills, straight stretches and sometimes not for longer than the distance from the driveway to the fire hydrant on the corner.

If you are comfortable wearing shorts in the snow or if you need a face mask in the chill, chances are mister tongue breath will be just as comfortable or uncomfortable, depending on the conditions. Dogs will reach cold-tolerance limits at some temperature; if I can't jog without extreme cold-weather gear, 4Paws can't either (unless, of course, he's a breed like the Siberian, Malamute or the mix the Alaskan husky). Frostbite can affect your fingers and nose, so make sure shaggy ears, tails and feet aren't left outside for too long, either.

After an outing, I towel dry or blow dry wet paws and clean the hair between the toes. Antifreeze, which is highly toxic and poisonous, collects on driveways and roadways and thus on the paws (rocksalt too). Check paw pads for any cuts from ice, abrasions or skin discolorations caused by frostbite (red, gray, or whitish). Apply petroleum jelly to dry pads or cracks and, if the mood is right, give some deep pad tissue massage.

Also, be wary of too much holiday cheer inside, as well. Holly, mistletoe and poinsettias are poisonous, tinsel clogs the digestive system and alcoholic treats are poisonous.

And please, a puppy is not a toy or gift to be returned. They have feelings too. If giving the holiday cheer of canine love and affection, present it along with a matching toy, leash, bed and instruction manual as the recipient may not have had as many four-pawed friends as you.

Holidays are stressful times. 4Paws and I try to keep a normal schedule. Keep that in mind for your running friends, as well.

• Contact Klas Stolpe at

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