The Paths We Share: Trail Running with Nathan & Turkey

The Paths We Share: Trail Running with Nathan & Turkey

  • Erin Swanson

Nathan Nee is an ER Veterinarian. He and his canine sidekick, Turkey, live for exploring the trails together. They've run, hiked, and camped through the mountains and switchbacks of Colorado, Utah, Canada, and Washington – to name a few. Here, Nathan shares how traversing these paths with Turkey has not only strengthened their bond, but helped him find his own path forward in life.

I work in veterinary emergency medicine. Every day, I help families say goodbye to their loved ones. In these moments of grief, the stories people share with me have a common theme: their dog helped them explore the world, through life’s many tumbles and joys, always moving forward together.

It is a reminder to me that there are paths that I can take with Turkey, now a 7-year-old mutt of unknown origin, to build that bond that has been so vital in finding a path forward in life.

A dog sits on a trail with a mountain view in the background.

It’s not just about escaping Seattle to run through the cedar and spruce forests, to feel the grit of rock and dust as we climb to new heights. Here in the foothills, valleys, and peaks of the Cascades, with every step, footprint and pawprint together, there is growth.

A dog stands on a rock by a mountain lake.

Around each bend of the trail, I can hear Turkey’s breath on the misty morning air. There is magic in how we pant together, though she is always a step ahead of me as we work our way up the switchbacks. When we stop for a break, I breathe deeply the same pine scented air that she so carefully sniffs, nose lifted up into the breeze.

A dog sits on the trail and takes a break while on a trail run with her human companion.

What all of this is, to me, is the gift of seeing the world with my dog. With Turkey, I am just as curious about what is around the next bend of the trail.

At the water’s edge, splashing into the creek, there’s the same thrill of seeing trout and salmon making their journeys upstream. As we run to the point of the horizon at sunset, we pause, breathless, the silhouette of a great, glacier-covered volcano looming in the distance.

A man and his dog stop and smile for the camera while on a trail run.

This bond that we share – it grows. It has always grown, from our very first hike, our very first trail run. Even when we’re both completely sapped, passed out and snoring in the tent, the bond is glowing, warm, bright as the north star on a moonless night.

A man and his dog walk together on a trail.

Greater minds have spilled much ink in defining the bond that we share with our dogs. For me, as I know it is for Turkey, it is a feeling. It does not need words. It is immutable and unspoken, unbound by dictionary definitions.

All I know is that when we run together, here in the lush rainforest valleys, up high on a mesa in the desert, across the rocky spine of the continent, we grow together – one footprint, one pawprint at a time.

For more from Nathan & Turkey, follow their journey at: @mountainsandthyme.

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