Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reflecting on October Activities

I'm back at my place of employment, working two weeks on night shift. There isn't a lot happening here on the job, so I have plenty of time to reflect on the activities of my two-week R&R.

Although brief, I very much enjoyed my visit in Kentucky. The weather was hot, but not brutally so. It's a shame to see that beautiful country in such drought conditions, but even though it is as dry as a popcorn fart, it is still beautiful country and populated by some of the finest people I've ever chanced to meet. My first visit to Cumberland Falls certainly won't be my last. There is something haunting about that land - something that calls to me.

Of course when I returned home it was time to get into fall sled-dog training full-tilt-boogie, and I feel like we were able to get a really good start on the training season. I really enjoyed spending time with the newest recruit for the team - Gump. Gump is a very distinguished 'gentleman' of a dog. He's a bit behind in terms of physical conditioning and his mental skills are also a bit rusty, but I have a really good feeling about him. Gump is in the team pictured below, the brownish colored dog in the wheel position, nearest the four wheeler.

The Hedlund Husky twins continue to be incredibly impressive sled dogs. They are both highly motivated and generally well behaved for such young dogs. Rose has even run in lead a couple of different times, and her performance at the front of the team is nothing short of astounding. She likes being up front and I think so long as I bring her along carefully and gradually she will become a stellar leader. The picture on the left shows Rose standing next to her co-leader, Lynn Orbison's dog Ende.

Nels, in the wheel position nearest the four wheeler in the picture, runs as though he never missed a training day. His surgery was apparently a complete success and he is a hard working young dog.

Daisy (black with mask) and Seamus (fawn colored dog) are standing in the swing position. Seamus is still the team's cheerleader and social flutterby. Though he is no longer the kid of the crew, his behavior is still that of a young, happy-go-lucky dog.

Daisy's monthly Adequan injections seem to have a huge impact on her ability to recover after running. I haven't noticed her becoming nearly so stiff and sore as after her first run of the season. I've been able to bump her mileage up along with everyone else in the team so I'm much more confident I can keep her healthy and happy for the season.

Sheenjek, the tallest dog in the picture, is a blue collar sort of dog. He gives an honest days work for his kibble and is ready to socialize at the end of his day. Kia, the yearling Alaskan husky / malemute mix, is also coming along, though she had a psychological set back the other day. I was planning on running her with Chinook, my St Bernard mix, on the Sacco cart. Chinook became excessively rude, snapping and snarling at her until she was cowering in fear. She was able to recover well enough to enjoy a short run with another of Lynn's dogs, but I think it will be months before I'm able to work with her on the cart again.

Of course there is much more to life than just running sled dogs. I finally got my little runabout car back. It has been in the shop for the past 8 months for a new motor and some other repairs. It's a 2004 Toyota Rav-4 that I inherited when my wife died. I affectionately refer to it as my motorized roller-skate. It's a very small little car, but it gives me almost 30 miles per gallon of gasoline and with the price of fuel being absolutely outrageous I'm very happy to have it back up and running.

As I left for my place of employment I dropped my truck off with a different and hopefully more timely mechanic. It is producing a strange vibration when in four wheel drive and a fuel intake heater fried itself a month or two ago. I need the truck to function perfectly through the winter dog mushing season but couldn't put it into the shop until I had other transportation. While he has the truck I'm also having him install some new moose lights (flood lights) and a C.B. radio.

So, my October R&R was very productive. I feel like I made good use of my time.

Here are the training log entries for the last sled dog training runs we made before I returned to work:

10/12/07 2.6 miles on four-wheeler. Cold, clear day. Hard packed trails. Fast start (about 14 mph) then steady 8 to 10 mph for remainder.

Daisy Ende*

Sheenjek Rose

Gump Nels

Kia Seamus

Gump and Sheenjek were potty mouthed just prior to hookup (while moving Sheenjek past Gump to the line). Sheenjek ‘corrected’ Rose for some indiscretion or another, but wasn’t overly harsh about it. Once settled in everyone behaved very nicely.

Passed a truck head-on on P.V. road and the dogs handled it just fine overall. Kia shied away from it some, but not too severely.

Gump likes to trot, and doesn’t seem interested in breaking into a lope even at the faster start speed. He pulled well the whole trip, though was tired at the end of it all.

Kia slack lining after about ½ way point. She needs to move up into the team and perhaps run with a chain broom added to her rig.

10/14/07 Fourwheeler, warm nearly thawing weather.

Lynn Orbison and I ran three teams and attempted a cart run with two of my dogs today.

The first team was composed primarily of Lynn’s racing sprint dogs, including young Amazing Grace, who continues to be an amazing little dog. We gave her a turn up in lead, beside Lynn’s venerable veteran Ice, and she did a marvelous job running up front, maintaining a fast lope throughout her turn. It was very fun to see her working so well up front.

The 'Musical Leaders' run: 3 Miles, 12 to 14 mph to start, 8 to 10 mph to finish. Most of the dogs on this team were my own.

We decided at first to give Daisy a break from leader duties, so the initial configuration was;

Gump Ende*

Rose Daisy

Molly/Karma* Sheenjek

Nels Seamus

On hook up, Sheenjek was a bit potty mouth with Molly/Karma, but quickly corrected when asked to do so. Once we got started Gump wasn’t paying nearly enough attention to his duties as leader and it was evident within 2/10 of a mile that he needs to work in the team for a while to get his head back together, so we changed leaders so the team looked like;

Daisy Ende*

Gump Rose

Molly/Karma* Sheenjek

Nels Seamus

That worked out better, but Daisy apparently had decided that she really wanted the break from leader duty, and was missing her directional cues, trying to lead us down the wrong trails or missing her turns. We ran them in this configuration for quite a while, but then decided to change the team once again by giving one of the yearlings a shot up front.

Rose Ende*

Daisy Seamus

Molly/Karma* Sheenjek

Gump Nels

Rose did a delightful job up front, running enthusiastically and apparently paying attention as Ende guided her through the directional changes. Gump worked much better at wheel, even though he was clearly getting tired. The other dogs all did their part giving us a great effort as we finished the run. The star of the show was the little yearling Hedlund husky dog up front.

Attempted Cart Run

Kia Chinook

When we attempted to run these two dogs on the Sacco cart, Chinook attacked Kia at the very begging, and was very brutal about it. We removed him, but Kia was so spooked by it that she wouldn’t make any attempt at all to run on the cart. We finally put her with Lynn's Calypso on the four wheeler for a very short run that ended positively for her. Meanwhile, Chinook stayed behind and didn’t run at all.

Chinook is clearly a solo-worker, but it is a shame that Kia didn’t get to have a fun experience on the cart. We are back at square one as far as she and the Sacco cart are concerned.

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