Once again I've returned to my place of employment in order to get some rest after a very busy "R&R". My time "off" was interrupted this time around with three days of annual job-related firearms training. Much of the remaining time was spent helping to place Martina Delp's dogs into appropriate foster and permanent homes, and a major project to refurbished my truck to make it function more appropriately as a dog truck as well as to help it out cosmetically.
I'm very pleased with how well the truck project worked out. At the start of the project my "dog truck" was serviceable, but not particularly efficient and certainly far from attractive.
Most of the work I did in this project was aimed at making the truck more functional for the way I do things with my dogs. For example, while hitching up my dogs I frequently "snub" the sled to the back of the truck. All winter long I found myself searching for a place to hang up harnesses, lines and clothing to no avail. I decided to solve that problem by mounting some heavy duty coat hooks onto the back of the dog box.
Because my dogs are consideraly larger than most racing types of sled dogs, loading and unloading is a tough job, made more difficult if a dog balks or resists being lifted into his or her compartment. The solution to that issue is to train the dogs to "walk the plank", using a ramp and allowing the dogs to load themselves. This has generally worked out well, but because the dogs are heavy has caused damage to the hinges on the 'foot boards'. The footboards are boards mounted at the base of the compartment doors that is lifted up to keep them securely closed even if the individual latches vibrate open.
To solve this issue, I mounted new footboards using six foot long piano hinges, and reinforced them with 2" X 4" blocks of wood mounted just below each door. To prevent banging my arms on the protruding blocks I mounted a thin strip of wood across them as a sort of guard rail.
To help ensure that the ramp can not slip off the footboard, dropping and possibly injuring a dog, I drilled and mounted small bolts through the top lip of the ramp, and then drilled corresponding "index holes" into the footboard at each compartment. Between the reinforcing blocks and the index pins I can be confident that the ramp will stay in place each and every time a dog walks the plank.
A dog sledding journey requires both dogs, and a sled. Sleds can be transported on top of the dog box but must be well secured to keep them from bounding about, or even falling off the truck. To help secure the sleds and keep them in their proper places I installed "sled rails" on top of the box, spaced so that the runners of my sleds fit perfectly between them. These are simply 2 X 4s, mounted lengthwise on top of the box. They are spaced so that I can carry a sled on each side of the box, with extra space in between them to secure additional gear, the loading ramp, or even a third sled if necessary.
To hold the tails of the sleds down when loaded, and to provide more space for storing and transporting gear, I fabricated a long wooden box that I mounted across the front of the sled rails. Finally, I gave the transformed the box a couple of coats of paint to make it look a little nicer. The modified dog box results in a truck that allows me to safely transport the Stardancer Historical Freight Dogs team wherever they need to go and do the things I need to do once we get there.
The paint was barely dry before I put the new rig to the test, transporting some of Martina Delp's dogs from her yard in Salcha to Mike and Kim Green's kennel, and others to Lynn Orbison's kennel, both in Two Rivers. I was very pleased with the results of my work.
Although I got a lot accomplished during this past R&R, it wasn't as much as I would have liked. My small, fuel efficient car is in the shop, and I learned that it needs a new engine rather than a simple repair. That is a large, unexpected expense that I was not well prepared to endure. The ground is still frozen enough that I was unable to start building a new fence around the kennel, so that project has also been delayed.