Thursday, December 6, 2007

Back on the Trail - After a Fashion

Having been rather ill the past couple of days, I was pleased to wake up feeling at least half-human this morning. The dogs REALLY needed to run today, and I felt the need to run them, so by golly that's what we did.

Daisy has been down due to shoulder injury. She got the OK from our vet to run again Monday, but of course then I came down ill, so today was her first chance to get out in a full week.

I first planned to hook her up in a two dog team with Kia, the Alaskan Husky / Malamute mix that I dropped from my team earlier in the season (the Politician's Tropy Wife). Kia was excited to go up until the moment she saw Daisy, and then the big girl was nothing but growls and snarls and pure piss-off. Discretion being the better part of valor, I chose Lynn O’s “Fame” as an alternative running mate for my Darling Daisy, pulling an ultra-light sprint sled. We did a solid three miles, taking a kind of roundabout route in Swenson’s field. Both dogs seemed to have a wonderful time, and Daisy is moving around just fine after her foray. I think she will probably catch up to the team in pretty short order.

Good thing too. Today we increased the mileage to 9.5. Max speed was 12.2 mph, moving average speed was 9.5 and our overall average speed was 8.3. Keep in mind that is inaccurately low as I turned on the GPS while in process of hooking up dogs. Temperature -5 (F) at start, 0 (F) at finish.

Today’s team was:

Dutchess & Ende (Lynn’s dog)

Seamus & Grace / then Nels

Gump & Nels / then Grace

Sheenjek & Rose

Dutchess and Ende were marvelous little lead dogs for the first 8 miles – then Swanny scerewed up. I figured I’d come home via Wilbur Rd to the store and back down the winter trail (along the highway) to return. That would have added 2 miles to the initial 8. Ende had other ideas. She wanted to go home and when Ende wants to go home there ain’t nothin’ to do but – well, take her home.

Getting her to take a “gee” at the ball field was difficult, but Dutchess is game and she succeeded in getting Ende to make the turn, for all of 15 feet. Then Ende tried diving “haw” to another trail. In the process she dragged the whole team around, causing a big tangle in swing. Poor Seamus found himself on the ground, upside down and half backward and when Ende was finally satisfied the poor yellow guy was more out of his harness than in.

While I was busy getting Seamus back in his harness properly, Ende took the opportunity to turn the whole team 180 degrees, pointing exactly back the way we had come. I finally took that as a “hint”. In order to get the machine turned around I had to horse the back end of it manually (it’s a VERY heavy machine), and just about the time it was lined up the lead dogs decided they’d had enough of this waiting around stuff, and started dragging the machine (with the brakes locked) and me hangin’ off the back of it down the road. I was finally able to regain the saddle, START the engine, and head them toward the house.

Ende is an older dog and by golly, when she wants to go home I’m not going to force the issue. In my mind she’s earned the right to assert her will and I see no reason to force her to do more than she thinks is fun. Although I have to admit I think she thought dragging the machine and I down the road was probably a lot of fun.

Grace was reasonable with Seamus for a bit more than half the run, but when she realized that this big yellow dog would not scotch back at her, she started being a real pest about it. It was to a point where Seamus was lagging behind in order to avoid her mouthing at him, so I stopped the team and put her beside Gump, and moved Nels up to swing. When we started out again she made about one attempt to mess with Gump – the bigger dog merely lifted his lip, and that was the end of Grace being a pest. Had she continued I had every intention of pulling her back into wheel beside Sheenjek.

My wheel dogs were the best behaved of the whole team today. Both of them pulled hard the entire run and Rose seemed to be having a delightful time running beside her big buddy.

The darned wolves are still being a problem in the area. One of our neighbors lost a pet dog to them night before last, and last night they were hanging around a good friends sled dog yard. We NEED snow so these guys can go back to eating moose and hares and other normal wolf-bait.

I wasn't a total slug during my illness. Yesterday I took the time to fully rig my new sled. All I need now is enough snow, and I'll be tooling the woods in proper historically authentic fashion.

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