The Saratoga Sun -

By Joe Elder 

Dogged New Year’s Resolutions

 


This column was supposed to be about New Year’s resolutions, but it is probably going to end up going to the dogs. Either way, much has already been written about both subjects.

I am disorganized when it comes to New Years’s resolutions. I’ve never started a positive change on Jan. 1 and stuck with it much longer than a week.

Most of my positive initiatives have come at random points during the year, sparked by a challenge or an insightful conversation. I started running 10 years ago after a friendly wager with a buddy over who could run the farthest.

We never settled the bet, but I kept running and I’ve kept the habit, more or less, over the years.

I’ve got a sack of imperfections I carry around with me and I do consider dumping at least some of them out on Jan. 1. But, before I do, one of Mark Twain’s witticisms always comes to mind:

“Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever.”

So, why bother? In spite of my cynicism surrounding resolutions, I am happy in January.

I haven’t yet pinned down the source of my mid-winter elation.

In Wyoming, where I’ve spent most of my Januarys, it is dark, cold and windy. Here, spring is a crapshoot and summer is a long way off.

As humans, we tend to like new things and my happiness could come from the arbitrary clean of a new calendar. Nothing but 12 empty months waiting to be penciled in with life.

Or, it could come from the knowledge that the top half of the planet is tilting back toward the sun, shaving off slivers of darkness one day at a time.

It could be that I enjoy running in the cold pitch of morning at 4:50 a.m. when the last echoes of the previous day have gone helling off to the other side of the world.

The only movement at that hour is silent columns of chimney smoke, gray on black in the streelight glow, lifting upwards. Or deer, stepping down the alley, disturbed by a dog let out for some early morning business.

Peaceful as that hour is, it is still hard to crawl out of bed and layer up for a run. This year, I’ve got a five-month old lab to come along with me. Like me she’s an early riser, but she never talks herself into going back to sleep.

An unknown person once said, “Many people look forward to the new year for a new start on old habits.”

The lab and I are learning to run together. I am restarting an old habit I let slip away when I moved to Saratoga and Nala (she looked like the lion cub in the movie Lion King and my three-year-old daughter loved the name - you know how that goes) is rapidly acquiring a new habit.

When she was younger, she wasn’t fond of walks or runs of any sort. She’d plant her feet and tuck her head and make me drag her out the door and across the street. In the past few weeks though, she has discovered the joy of running.

Little does she know, another joy awaits her when the ice melts. Right now, I’m grateful she is unaware.

There is a lot of preparation involved with winter running. You have to select the right combination of layers to stay warm enough, but not overheat. I intend, but never do this the night before.

This results in a comedy of errors in the minutes before 5 a.m. My brain is slow at that hour and I do things in the wrong order.

Nala knows what the plan is and her warm up routine consists of running circles, sliding into walls and knocking things over with her tail. She grabs a sock or a glove and carries it to the door and tries, with her wet nose, to help me tie my shoes.

To not wake anyone, I whisper-shout at her to calm her down, but it doesn’t work. She thinks I am encouraging her.

This process feels like it takes an hour, but its usually only ten minutes from bed to door. Once underway, we slip into a zone known only to those who run with dogs. She does her thing and I do mine, but we check in on each other. She has a fondness for deer poop and I half-heartedly urge her to move on from the snacks. On long hills when I slow and begin blowing like a buffalo, she gets behind me and noses my calves.

Somehow, I knew this column would go to the dogs. Back to resolutions: I didn’t make any this year.

But if I had to make one, I would keep it simple and steal one of Benjamin Franklin’s resolutions.

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.” Or dog.

 

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