IS THAT FOR TRAINING THE DOGS OR THE MUSHER?
Finally, after 6 months of waiting, and several weeks of teasing weather, we have a cool morning and all my gear is in place. Oh, those words I've longed to say:
"Time to run the dogs!!!!"
Last season, I had four dogs and a puppy. With two additional dogs, plus the pup being a year-and-a-half, I am ready to run seven dogs. Should be interesting!
Hooked up and looking good!
After the usual hijinks of harnessing and hooking up, the team appeared to be ready to go. Alice was already standing backwards with her harness half-over her head, and the new boys were getting hopelessly tangled, but all of that was expected. Usually we get moving and then stop for a quick untangle.
After I unhooked the leaders, Ellen and Nick, from the "line-out tire", mayhem ensued. They turned and ran the other way, around the trailer towards the garage. This pulled the rest of the team sideways, across the fire pit and under the rear of the trailer. I pulled them back to the front of the team, commanded "Line out!" and ran back to the quad. Same issue.
"Now what?" I wondered. It is true we were running out of our yard on a new trail, and in the past, we ran off the opposite side of the farm, so it could be they were thinking they needed to go over there. Or, it could be that Nick wanted to check out the kitties in the garage, as he does when allowed to run free in our yard.
"Line out!" Hmm, this is getting ridiculous! And dangerous - the new brothers, Logan and Nucky, had shown me at the CopperDog race last year that they were adept at tangling themselves - up and over like the Russian tumblers on Ed Sullivan! (Yes - I really AM that old!) In fact, they were so incredibly tangled with Maggie and Browning in wheel, that the four of them were basically hooked together side-by-side. Oh, now Alice is chewing at her harness.
So, I unravel as best as I can (in other words, enough to at least get them in line), and try once more. This time, Nick decides maybe he should toss in the towel, and he pulls the entire team through the gate into the dogyard! Poor Biscuit, who was the only one left in the yard, was surrounded by the team! Over him and around him, lines a twisting! As I untangled and attempted to get them back in front of the quad, I realized he was actually hooked in to a line!
Time for a New Plan.
Alice was done. She has always exhibited this behavior and indeed, that's the reason for seven dogs when intending to race six. And now she was attempting to free herself by eating the gangline. No brainer, she's sitting this one out. That brought the stress level down a bit. Now, what to do about the "leaders"? Ellen was starting to balk, most likely from my swearing at Nick, and she was backing out of her harness. Join your friend Alice back in the yard, E! Now for Mr. Nick. He was out of his head, bouncing around and dragging the team back and forth. Timeout for you, Mister!
Maggie and Browning in Lead
I had noticed that Maggie and Browning both leaned in their harnesses and tried to pull in the right direction every time I called it. And the young brothers seemed to be attempting to do the same. What was there to lose?
Logan and Nucky in Wheel
I tied off Browning to a tree, and untangled the rest of them (by now, they had rolled through weeds, which were woven into the lines). I removed one section of tugs, so we were down to a six-dog line. I put the brothers in the back in wheel position, and hooked Maggie and Browning in lead. "Line out!" Well what do you know? They DID! Untie from the tree, unhook the quad, give the command, "Hike!" and we started moving in the right direction!
Maggie seemed to understand "Gee" and "Haw". Browning would look around and try each way until he was pointed the right way and I could yell,"Yep!" We were off like a shot!
Across the yard, through some trees and onto the edge of the field. The leaders seemed to know what they were looking for. Across the waterway to the edge of the timber. Point of no return - we were either heading into the woods and down a steep hill, or turning back. The dogs were still fresh, we had barely started. I know I'll have to run and help push the quad back up the hill - so what??? "Hike!" and away we go!
Nice and easy down the big hill. Up and down, and around corners. Smart puppy looking back for guidance. We stop at the bottom. It's the first run, we're staying under two miles, they seem good but I know its uphill all the way back. "Oh, please, Daddy!" they implore. OK, let's go farther.
At the next stop, I know we need to turn back. Turning around by hand on a narrow trail is never easy, and these are my (so-called) "B Team", so it could get rough. Or, they would just do it easily, with a minimal amount of tangles. Hooray! Line out, turn the quad around, only minor difficulties. As we head back, the leaders take the wrong trail. "Gee!" I command. "Maggie! Bruno! GEEEE!!!" They look at me like I'm stupid. I lock down and get off and start to run up front, I'll have to pull them over to the correct trail. Huh, look at that - what I "thought" was the correct trail is just some tire tracks - my leaders were right the whole time! Um, never mind, here we go.
The hill was tough - I walked, we stopped several times, but we made it. Across the waterway to the edge of the muddy field. Uphill, muddy and not much of a "trail". With several stops, and much running by me, we eventually returned home.
Wow! I don't know about the dogs, but the MUSHER sure learned a few things!
Happy little team after the run