Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dare to Name the Monster

It's an anxiety thing.  Some say that if you can dare to name the monster feeding your fears that monster will fade away into nothingness.  Others claim if you give it a name it will show up in fully physical and powerful form.  Either way is pure superstition, yet....

Yesterday I named the monster when I wrote " it will only take a few days of above freezing temperatures to force us off the trails."  After posting my blog entry I fed and scooped after the dogs, and took off for town where I spent only 20 minutes or so closing on the home improvement loan for the handler's cabin.  Since that errand required less time than I had planned, I figured I could use that gift of a couple of hours to run some dogs.

I distinctly remember the time/temperature sign at the bank reading 17 degrees (F).  It took no more than 40 minutes to return to the house.  I had noticed that frost was coming up through the pavement, usually a sign of warming temperatures (and very slick roads).  When I got home it felt unusually warm to me and when I checked the thermometer on the deck it read 34 degrees, and that in the shade. 

By the time I prepared and ate a meal the sun was higher in the sky, and the thermometer read 46.  I washed my dishes, tidied up my living area and took one more look - it was 50 degrees.  Water was flowing off the roof, running off from the melting snow.  On the back side of the house large chunks of snow sloughed completely off the roof.  The monster of high temperatures was here, rearing it's head to demand it's presence be heeded.

When I checked on the dogs they didn't bother to react to my presence.  All were sprawled out in the sun, soaking in the rays.  Some were on top of their houses, some stretched out in their circles or pens, and a couple were even sleeping in the shade of their houses.  Not a single one indicated any desire to do anything more than they were already doing. 

Although a couple are starting to shed, most of my dogs are still wearing their full winter coats.  Dogs don't shed heat very efficiently at all and it's much easier for them to overheat than it is for them to become too cold.  Running huskies and other northern-breed sled dogs in such warm temperatures as yesterday, especially before they've had a chance to acclimate to the higher temperatures, is just begging for heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.  

I'll be able to run dogs for a few days, and I have every intention of doing so.  It will be small teams, and we will be running carefully with a close eye on those dogs most likely to overheat.  We won't be setting speed records by any stretch, as it will requires lots of "cool off" breaks. If the weather forecast is reasonably accurate I'm confident that I can get in a few little runs before the trails turn to slushy soup.  The current forecast claims we could get up to an inch of snow in scattered snow showers today, and there is a "chance of snow" Saturday afternoon and evening.   That will help preserve the trails a little bit longer.

Nonetheless I think this R&R will probably be the last R&R that I'll be able to run the dogs with sleds.  I need to be searching for a used four-wheeler to replace the one that died last fall.  With a four-wheeler I can probably train dogs through April and Maybe into the first part of May. 

As the dogs shed their winter coats and become acclimated to the warmth I can safely take them for short little training runs any time the temperature is less than 50 degrees.  I have permission from the people who purchased the next door property from the former owner's estate to use their long driveway to train dogs using the Sacco cart, and though such runs won't do much for conditioning they are excellent for training running behaviors such as "gee", "haw" and "whoa". 

Once the Monster is fully awakened, and it won't be long now, we will start the long, sloppy process of break-up.  With so little snow on the ground I'd guess that break-up will be more accurately described as "melt down".  That may be good news for the Yukon River villages that were so devastated by record breaking floods and ice jam damage last year. 

Meanwhile, there are other monsters lurking just beyond the seasonal changes.  With so little snow we need lots of rain to prevent the monster of wildfires and the choking smoke they produce here in the valley.  It will require lots of rain to keep those monsters under some semblance of control.  If praying for rain works as well as does praying for snow I'm afraid I hold out little hope. 

The big weather monster of the year is the little boy - El Nino out in the Pacific Ocean.  I'm sure folks in the Lower-48 are as tired of El Nino's weather pattern as are we.  It's time for that little boy to grow up and leave home so the rest of us can get back to some sort of weather-related normalcy. 


1 comment:

  1. Swanny, I would have gladly sent you any and all snow we recieved this year in Missouri. We are melting, but now under a flood watch for this weekend when we may get some thunderstormes. If I recall, we have had the 5th snowest winter in the last 100 plus years of keeping a records here. You can have the white stuff and be more than welcome to it.