Monday, February 2, 2009

Good Neighbors

One of the benefits of having lots of friends in a wide variety of places is that I frequently have guests in my little home. Whether it's another musher visiting from a remote bush village, my favorite canine behaviorist from Kentucky, or a family member those guests need a comfortable place to sleep.

For years I've made do with a pretty decent camp cot, but finally it was time to bite the bullet and buy a real piece of furniture. To that end I enlisted the aid of my friend Lynn Orbison, who is the only person I know in the area who has a pickup that is not fully encumbered by a dog box. Lynn came by to pick me up, and we were off to town to do some furniture buying.

Our trip was waylaid for a bit, though. Just over the hill from the house there were three or four cars on the side of the road, and as we drew near we saw an 8 dog team and sled. When we stopped to inquire about the situation we were told that the dogs had been trotting along down the roadway with no musher, just dogs and sled moving along at a normal traveling pace. Those wonderful bystanders didn't just stand around. Recognizing the dangers of dogs on a pretty high speed highway, they were able to stop the team and tip the sled onto it's side, burying a snowhook in the process. Beyond that, they weren't quite sure what to do.

The dogs were tired enough to rest easily, which was probably a good thing from our perspective. Lynn went up to the leaders looking for some identification. She found a phone number scratched into a rabies tag on the lead dog's collar. We dialed the number and were connected to a phone in a bush village. Once we learned the name of the musher it we were able to formulate plan A.

The musher is a Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race musher, who is staying with a local friend while training his dogs for the race. We weren't all that far from the friend's place, so Lynn caught a ride with another passing dog driver while I stayed behind to mind the team. I gave each dog a reasonably thorough examination, and about the time I determined they were all free of any signficant injuries Lynn and her driver returned. The musher had left with another team to get on the trails to try to find the lost dogs. We had been asked if we could mush the team back to their temporary home, and with a powerline right of way alongside the highway, it seemed an easy enough proposition.

Lynn was more properly dressed for mushing than I, so she got on the runners, Randy (the driver Lynn had recruited) and I helped guide the team to the proper "trail", and they were off, breaking out trail through knee-deep snow. I grabbed Lynn's truck and followed her up to the proper kennel, where we were able to turn the team over to their familiar handlers. No harm was done that I know of.

The title of today's blog post has nothing to do with Lynn and I. We did what I would hope any dog musher would do upon encountering a lost team. Today's blog entry is dedicated to the anonymous strangers who saved the day.

Neither Lynn nor I recognized any of the bystanders who had stopped and cared for the team, so most likely none of them were dog mushers. They are everyday people, probably with little knowledge of the sport, mushing technology or how to handle and manage a team of dogs. They were just folks driving down the road perhaps to a Superbowl party or maybe home from a church function. Upon encountering an unusual situation on the highway they recognized the need for action and took it, without concern for their own convenience. It was apparent that they were prepared to stay with them as long is took for someone with more knowlege to come along to help. Those are the good neighbors to whom this blog entry is dedicated.

I don't know who you guys are, but if you happen to stumble across this blog I just want to say thank you. Even though we didn't learn your names it was truly a honor to make your acquaintance, and if you ever see me please step up and introduce yourself. I'd love to buy you your choice of a cup of really good coffee or a pint of really good beer.

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