Friday, November 9, 2007

Dutchess as Teacher Today.

“Those who can – do.

Those who no longer can do, teach.

Those who can’t teach become administrators.”

Well, Dutchess doesn’t have to worry about being stuck behind a desk anytime soon. I took her out today for a run with my gang, plus Amazing Grace, a dog that Lynn Orbison and I are training for a mutual friend.

At the start of the run I put Dutchess in lead beside one of my yearling Hedlund huskies (aka “The Twins”). Nels is the bolder of the two yearling pups. I had my Darling Daisy and Nels’ sister, Rose at swing. Gump and Amazing Grace in team, and my megamutt Sheenjek beside Seamus, my Anatolian Shepherd Dog mix in wheel.

Grace was unusually well behaved as I harnessed her this morning. I made it a point to be very laid back about setting up, harnessing, &c and it seemed to have an effect on Grace. As soon as she figured out I had no intention of chasing her around her pen she came up to me, gently put her paws on my chest, and actually helped me get the harness on her. I then put her on a spare post near the gang line while I harnessed the rest of the crew, and she waited quite patiently there (more or less) and didn’t get crazy until she saw me moving dogs to the gang line.

Dutchess and Nels led us off on a fast start – though not so fast as on sleds the other day. We headed down Pleasant Valley Rd at a good clip, and I then I throttled them back as we were passing Paw Print Path, headed toward Swenson’s field. They took the ‘gee’ followed very shortly by a ‘haw’ very nicely. No problems on the by-pass around Rick’s yard nor the rest of the edge of his field. We turned ‘gee’ onto baseline, and Nels was starting to mess around like a puppy, dipping snow and being kind of a pain, so I decided it was time to swap leaders.

Here is where things were kind of interesting. I got Nels unhooked from lead, and as I was trying to hook up Grace little Dutchess tried turning the team around. She did that two or three times before she was willing to line out again. I finished the dog swap and we took off down the trail, and I had no more difficulty at all.

We followed baseline out past Aliy Zirkle and Allen Moore's place and circled the big field there. Grace ran very well beside Dutchess for the most part. Once in a while she’d try to scotch at Dutchess, but little hard driving Dutchess just kept trucking on. Of course with Grace distracted, that caused her neck line to jerk a bit, at which point she got her little brain right back into the game. Dutchess just ignored the younger dogs puppy-antics and kept on a truckin’.

Dutchess loves to lope along, even while the rest of team is just trotting. It’s really interesting to watch from the four wheeler. That is a little dog who has places to go, and by golly she’s going there even if she has to drag the whole team behind her. Which she more or less had to do when we had a head-on pass with another team. That team was sticking to the left side of the trail, so Dutchess led my guys to the left as well. Only problem is, most of the dogs on the right side of the gangline are young dogs that wanted to visit. We didn’t get hung up or tangled, but it wasn’t the most graceful pass we’ve ever made either.

Nonetheless Dutchess go everyone straightened out again without too much headache. We took the little cut-off trail by the pond on the way back (the gate is open now), and then straight up Pleasant Valley and back to the yard. The team even had enough “oomph” left to give us a sprint home. Dutchess led them right up to the truck, ignoring the distractions of the yard dogs going off.

I couldn’t have been more proud of those two dogs. Dutchess the old pro did a wonderful job, and young Grace is coming along very nicely. I do think we need to run Grace with some faster teams over the next couple of training runs, though. I don’t think we want her to get in the habit of just trotting along at 10 mph. When we launched from rest stop switching leaders, Grace met Dutchess’ lope stride for stride. They looked GREAT together.

Mileage of today's run was 8.1 miles, with a moving average speed of 9.9 according to my GPS receiver.

Here’s a pic I took of the team on our way back up Pleasant Valley Rd toward Lynn’s.

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