Friday, January 13, 2012

A day on the trail

My only priority activity yesterday was to run dogs, and I'm paying a bit of price for that today in the form of lower back pain.  No worries, with a bit of care it will pass within a couple of days, but meanwhile it's looking like an ibuprofen breakfast.

I ran Aumaruq (the dog formerly known as Thor) on the first team yesterday, and that was a lot of fun and very informative. 

The original line up for that team was;
Just & Capella (lead)
Selene & Aumaruq (swing)
Amazing Grace (single team)
Beau & Seamus (wheel)

That was plan "A", but I had to create a plan "B" to accommodate Selene, who has come into season and has the interest of all of the males in the kennel, even those who were neutered at a very young age.  Since Aumaruq is intact he needed to be switched out.  I ended up hooking up this configuration:

Just & Capella (lead)
Selene & Beau
Amazing Grace
Seamus & Aumaruq

The original configuration was intended to have 11 month old Aumaruq well ahead of the sled, as many young dogs get quite nervous about the thing sliding along right behind their butts.  No such concern for the big puppy, though.  He did exactly as Jay Cadzow desribed - he pulled hard and ran straight ahead.  There was a bit of confusion when he and Seamus switched sides of the gang-line during start up, but they got things sorted out quickly.

The team faced and overcame some pretty good challenges.  A fair amount of snow has fallen over the past week, so they had to break out the feeder trail and power-line segment, about half a mile or so, before they could really stretch out and run.  Even with the flat-bedded toboggan sled and a light-weight passenger it was challenging work, but the team was up for the challenge and did quite well.

Once on the main trail they were able to stretch out and show some speed.  They wanted to maintain that speed over much of the Swamp Trail, which is a windy trail with a few pretty narrow spots, so it makes for a fun ride.  Going up the hill on the other side of the Swamp was a physical work-out for the dogs but they trudged up it without any serious issues, and then it was back to breaking out a trail in soft powder for the run down Rod and Julie's feeder trail and their long driveway.

Even more challenging was the "haw" back onto the powerline Right of Way and onto the new leg of our own feeder trail.  Again it was some tough going, but the dogs proved even tougher and got the job done in good fashion.

Here are some video clips from Aumaruq's first Stardancer run.

The second team was in some regards more challenging, because of the behavior of the dogs.  That team consisted of;
Orion & Cassiopeia (lead)
Midnight's Son & Denali (swing)
Innoko (single team)
Nels & Rose (wheel)

Innoko is NOT well behaved toward other males, and it is causing issues that I may not be willing to manage much longer.  Midnight was so worried about the dog behind him that he spun around in his harness during the launch, resulting in a major tangle and Midnight being dragged a few feet.  Getting the team stopped, and then trying to keep them stopped, was a problem in the deep, soft snow.  Even with hooks planted and my passenger standing on the brake they were able to drag the rig forward quite a ways.

Most of the team worked very well, and their max speed (now on a broken out trail) was a bit higher than that of the first, with an average speed that was nearly the same.  That's pretty good considering that Innoko was slack-lining much of the time.  That's something I've not seen with him before.

The next major issue occurred almost immediately after we crossed the driveway on our way back to the yard.  Innoko's collar was very loose, and when his tugged slacked, the neckline jerked the collar over his head.  Freed of the restraint of a neck line, he immediately spun around and started fighting Nels.  He and Nels have had issues before and things weren't looking good at all.  It took a bit to get a hook down and get Trish up on the brake so I could deal with the dogs.  Wading through soft, nearly waist deep snow was difficult, and getting Innoko off of Nels, who was down on his back and being mauled required a lot of force and effort.  I finally got them separated and Innoko again restrained, and then checked over Nels.  He didn't have a mark on him, for which I was VERY grateful.  Unfortunately, the battery on my digital video recorder had died a mile or two before the fight, so I don't have any video of that event to share.

Once I got the team home I realized that at some point during the run I twisted wrong or something, and tweaked my lower back.  Lower back pain if a familiar friend to most experienced paramedics, but this is the first time in over a year that I've had to deal with it.  Last night my supper included 600 mg of ibuprofen, and this morning my breakfast included 400 mg.  It was severe enough that I asked my handler to feed the team last night.  This morning I feel confident I can manage the kennel chores without aggravating the injury, but it is nonetheless a vexation that I'm hoping can be remedied in short order with some thoughtful care.

Meanwhile, Innoko's future in the Stardancer kennel is very much in question.  If he continues to run with a slack tug line, I'll be seeking a pet home for him.  A "sled dog" who doesn't want to pull isn't a sled dog.  He is such a love muffin toward humans and such a beautiful big dog that he would adapt to life as a pet very quickly.  If he decides to regain the work ethic he's demonstrated before I'll consider continuing his training until I can find a more suitable team for him to run in.  At this point the decision is his to make and it won't take more than a couple more runs for me to determine what it is.

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