Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Whole Lotta Livin' in a Very Short Time

Today I've returned to my place of employment after a very busy, and very productive two week "R&R". Reflecting on the past two weeks is almost like looking through a blur - the blur of motion.

We threw another of our dog training parties at Lynn Orbison's place on Saturday. With four mushers, two machines and the help of a very able handler we were able to exercise 48 dogs in about 5 hours, with teams running anywhere from 3 to 8 miles. Our big training parties leaves me with a deeper appreciation for just how much work those who manage larger race kennels face each and every day. At the end of my day, I only have to worry about feeding, massaging, watering, and tending to the emotional needs of only 8 dogs. Someone with a huge racing kennel has to cope with many more than that, and most do a masterful job of it. They deserve a tip of the hat.

I'm pleased that my own dogs were among those running 8 miles the other day. Dutchess, the "little leader" on loan from Manny and Tammi Rego's Rogue Summit Kennel brings with her an air of enthusiasm and attitude that seems to have renewed the vigor of the entire team. Tammi said she gets a chuckle when I refer to her as "little", because Dutchess is one of the larger dogs in her racing kennel, but when compared to my big village dogs she seems a tiny little thing.

Although I had intended to run dogs again on Monday (yesterday), I ended up spending much of the day at the veterinarian's clinic instead. Darling Daisy is being treated for a UTI, and two of my younger dogs have come down with a bit of a cough. When I delivered two dogs to board at Lynn O's place, I noticed another dog in her kennel has a similar cough. Our vet is far more concerned about my old leader's UTI than she is the coughing in the young dogs, which she feels will resolve on its own very quickly.

One of the reasons I keep a training log is so that I can see the improvements that the team earns through training and conditioning. When running dogs on a day to day basis the changes are sometimes so gradual that we don't actually recognize them, but when I go back just a week or two in the logs I can see that we've actually made some pretty darned impressive gains.

For example, when I started the two week "R&R", the dogs ran only four miles. As I finished the R&R they completed a series of three 8 mile runs at a faster pace and with fewer problems than ever before. Not only are they running further, they are also running faster maintaining a moving average of nearly 10 mph, as measured by GPS.

The yearling male Nels is turning into a bold, confident hard working dog while his twin sister Rose seems to be going into an adolescent fear period, sometimes referred to as adolescent shyness. This is interesting because earlier Rose was the more bold of the two pups. So long as we run her in the team next to reliable and confident older dogs that can set a good example she should regain her earlier confidence within a fairly short period of time.

As I'm learning more about Gump I find a lot that I admire in this old gentleman. He's obviously had a hard life, yet he's exceedingly personable with people, and in spite of his little spat with Daisy almost 2 weeks ago gets along well with the other dogs too. He has very nice house manners and like most of my other dogs he can honestly be called a working pet dog.

Unexpected veterinary expenses represented a bit of a financial hit, but it is one I can recover from and frankly it just doesn't matter - the dogs need whatever the dogs need and they really are my primary concern. I won't be missing any meals because of it, I'll just be cooking a few more at home rather than dashing off to the lodge or Mia's cafe' instead. I can easily live with that.

It seems the two week R&R went by in a flash, but it was one of the most satisfying that I've enjoyed in a long, long while.


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