Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day of Rest???

I'm afraid my R&R from work is winding down, which means I'm changing gears mentally, if not physically.  After feeding this morning I did some domestic chores around the house, and rewrapped the drive bow of one of my toboggan sleds.  I used 200lb test, braided nylon Tuna fishing line for that job, as that's what I happened to have on hand.  The braided line offers a bit more grip than bare wood, helps reinforce the laminated hickory of which that sled is built, and looks pretty decent as well, in an old-timey sort of way.  Historically tarred marline would likely have been used for the same purpose.

Of course the big event of the day was training sled dogs.  I ran two teams again, with 6 dogs hooked up to an 8-dog gang line.  That gives me plenty of control, allows me to run a couple of dogs in single positions which I think is sometimes helpful, but mostly running two teams of 6 allows me to give every sound adult dog in the yard a chance to run and pull.  Running smaller teams also gives me a chance to work with my leaders-in-training, which is very important because I have so many LITs.

Just ran in single lead position again today, and the improvement in his performance is remarkable.  Today I ran Cassiopeia up front beside Rose, and both of them did an excellent job.  Overall it was a fun afternoon out on the trail.

Here are the entries from my training journal for today, along with some video highlights of our runs.

Date, Day, &c:
Sunday, Oct. 9th.  Noonish
Mileage & Speed (M = Measured , ~ = Approximate): 
~ 1.5 m.  Speed not measured
Route, Trail & Terrain Conditions: 
Boyce - Stricker Dr Loop.  Dry dirt
Partly cloudy sky.  43 degrees F at start
Denali & Capella
Orion and Nels
I tried a racy style X-back harness on Orion hoping it will lessen his tendancy to chew up his gear and maybe help him match his effort to that of the team.  I did catch him with his teeth on it, but distracted him and then hooked him into the gang line to distract him.  That worked regarding the harness chewing.  I think he is still working too hard even in this harness which has a pull point considerably higher on his back than the wheel dog harnesses he's been wearing.

Launch was easy and strong and I slipped the machine into Neutral as we passed Ted's yard.  The dogs hauled the machine all the way to the base of the hill before I had to put it in gear. 

At the top Just broke right instead of "haw", but corrected very quickly so I can't complain.  Much better than past runs.  I took a second lap around the loop, and had to bring Just back several times again to convince him to go "gee".  Nonetheless it wasn't as difficult as yesterday, so again it's an improvement. 

Coasted down the hill heavy on the brake to keep the speed about 10 to 12 mph.  I stopped the team just before the tough hump in the trail and let them gain some enthusiasm.  Darned if Orion wasn't jumping up in the air wanting to go.

I asked Just to take a "haw" down the powerline rather than going past to the other trail.   He took that with a bit of hesitation, but not enough hesitation to stop the machine.   Back in the yard he took the team straight to the drop line without any problem or deviation at all.

Date, Day, &c:
Sunday, Oct. 10, ~ 1 PM
Mileage & Speed (M = Measured , ~ = Approximate): 
1.5 miles.  Speed not measured.
Route, Trail & Terrain Conditions: 
Boyce - Stricker Dr loop.  Dry dirt
Partly cloudy.  43 degrees F.
Cassiopeia & Rose
Midnight Son & Amazing Grace
Some difficulty getting Rose and Cassie to line out in the direction of the gate, and they hesitated when I gave them the "alright" cue to run.  Once pulling they did fine, hitting powerline trail and the Boyce-Stricker drive no problem. 

Grace pulled well out of line as we ran past Ted's yard, but not enough to deviate her team mates.  This team wasn't as strong as the first when I shifted into neutral to climb the slight rise to the base of the hill.  Grace snarked at Midnight as though it was his fault, but I only saw her do it that one time the whole run.  She did pull out of line a couple more times during the run, though.

I called for a gee to go around the loop, and Rose and Cassie responded to that very nicely.  In the loop Midnight got on the wrong side of the gangline, but Grace didn't shy away from him to get out of line.  At the top of the hill I stopped and fixed that situation before coasting down in neutral.

While coasting on the downhill Grace took off to the side to check stuff out three or four times.  She got back in line when I called her by name, but we lost power as a result of her dinking around.  Enough so that I had to put the machine into gear to help them over the little hump in the trail and then slipped it back into neutral.

No problems going past Ted's yard and they went straight ahead past the powerline when I cued them to do so.  Rose had to push Cassie into the haw onto the return trail, but Cassie was very good about responding to the hint.  Climbing up the slight incline the team slowed nearly to a stop, but not quite.  They took the hint and pulled harder to get us to the yard. 

Rose and Cassie took us straight to the hook-up line once in the yard without any issues at all.

I'll be working night shift through my next tour of duty, which is my favorite.  On day shift the job is so busy I can barely find time to breathe.  At night the routine is broken up a bit more as I make my regular rounds, catch up on administrative duties that tend to fall by the wayside during the hectic pace of day shift, and so forth.  I may even have some opportunities to attempt to photograph the northern lights.  That would be cool.

As the R&R winds down, I feel like I've accomplished quite a bit this time around.  We are well stocked with straw and dog food, the kennel is in pretty good shape, the machinery is all serviced and ready to roll and all that truly remains is for some stinking snow to fall and the creeks and rivers to freeze up.  Once Potlatch Creek freezes hard enough to support the weight of the four wheeler we can safely extend our training runs considerably. 

At the end of this tour of duty I'll be spending a week in Kentucky, doing my last clinical rotation for the year.  I'm sure I'll enjoy the nicer weather and the good company down there.  In all truth, though, I'm like a high strung horse chomping at the bit, waiting for the opportunity to run these dogs through the woods.  After all, if The Diety had intended these dogs to pull around a four-wheeler, He (or She) would have named them four-wheeler dogs rather than sled dogs.

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