Sunday, August 30, 2009

First Training Run '09

And we're off!

Crisp and clear, 52 degrees, cool weather forecast for the rest of the week, so I decided - "Let the season begin!"

The dogs knew it, could sense the change in the air. When we have cool days, they've been looking at me like, "Well?" We all knew it was time.

Two dogs are not a lot, but they're what I've got - for now. Which one to hook up first? The other one will throw a fit. Hmm, as I did last Spring, start with Alice, because her fits are worse. Of course, she tangles herself up before I even get Nicky harnessed - first tangle of the year and we're not even hooked up yet!

But eventually, both are harnessed, hooked to the tuglines and the neckline in tact.

"Line out!" I command. (Suggest?) They respond!

So far, so good. I snap their picture, like the first day of school, and climb aboard the quad. Man, do I like this view:

"Ready, guys? Let's go!" We take off, and immediately go off the trail.

Now, these are sprint dogs, and not "Gee Haw" leaders, so I know that we'll struggle as we learn the new trail. This trail goes around our acreage, across the yard, around the garden, a couple of loops through the trees and tall grass, until it straightens out for a nice long stretch through the cornfield waterway. A full loop is 1.33 miles. Today's goal: complete a loop!

Where the trail is obvious, we run. When it opens up to the yard, they stray off the trail. Alice runs on the left and pushes against Nicky's shoulder, and pushes him off the trail, towards the dog yard. I stop a lot, pull them over to the trail, love 'em up, jump on the quad as I tell them to "Hike!" We take off, and run anywhere from 5 feet to 100 feet down the trail. It's exhilarating when we're moving - we start to air it out just a bit to stretch our legs, but there are areas that take excrutiatingly long to get through: the big loop through the East Lawn is only slightly worn down and although marked with flags, we have trouble finding our way. But, eventually we make it all the way back, with much more success on the return run. The doggers do great with all the intersections, and Alice actually pulls Nick the right way on occasion! I'm so proud!

One lap and we're finished. I could go more, but they're both straining towards their houses. Ok, it's the first day, we're done. Water all around. Easy unhook, time for breakfast. Life as a sled dog is eating, sleeping, running.

Fall is here, dogs are running, life is good!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

These Dogs Have Zip!

Summer doldrums. Yet, there is a feeling in the air, Fall is just around the corner. The daylight is getting shorter and the air is cooler – sometimes. Those sled dogs can sense it and they want to run!
Alice can be trusted to free run around the farm. She doesn’t run off and she comes when she’s called. After she runs for a while, she is ready to be back on her chain again. Nicky is another story. He totally ignores us. He refuses to even return to the part of the yard that we are at. The last time he was free, he went onto the road and into a field. He just cannot be trusted.
So last night I put Nicky on the zip line and let Alice free. Usually whichever one isn’t on the zip line whines the entire time, so I thought this way they’ll both get to run around. But Nicky was jealous and he wanted to free run, too! He ended up pacing and running back and forth along the line, which is actually the intended use. Normally he just sniffs around the trees and bushes and doesn’t exercise. So they both burned off some of that pent-up sled dog energy. I think it was quite the success!
Now, come on cool weather, we want to hook up that quad and hit the trail!