Tuesday, January 22, 2013

If it were always easy....

If dog mushing was always as easy as I suspect I make it seem, everyone would be doing it.  Today was one of those days that remind me that it ISN'T always easy, but once the challenges have been faced and either overcome or endured, the payoff makes it worth the effort.

I had planned to run a team of 8 dogs this afternoon, and planned to go further than we actually did.  I made up a team with the idea of giving all the intact dogs a run without the distraction of Cassiopeia, who is nearing ovulation and is a major distraction in the yard.  I wanted to give Orion a good run beside Just, as Orion is learning his job as leader in leaps and bounds and Just is the best teacher in the kennel.  Vladimir, though just a yearling and not yet obviously sexually mature (he doesn't lift his leg routinely), is nonetheless intact, so he went on the team, running next to Animosh, another smaller yearling.

Grace and Selene usually run well next to each other, so I decided to put them in swing and in a massive case of cerebral flatulence I thought I wanted two big males, Aumaruq and Denali, in wheel. 

Well....  Orion is a wildly exuberant dog on hook up, and prone to chewing equipment.  Everyone was excited and half-crazy, so hook up was essentially a train wreck.  I hooked up Orion first, and fastened his neckline to a length of chain I use to help the leaders hold the gang-line taught.  That worked only until he chewed through the neckline.  Although he continued to face forward and hold out the line, I still had to replace the neckline.  While I was doing that Amazing Grace got her harness badly twisted around a drop chain, and got some skin pinched in it which didn't help her mood at all.  That took a lot of time to correct.  Next, Vladimir got tangled in his harness badly enough I had to completely remove it, untangle it and then put it back on the squirmy little guy and as I was fixing that Aumruq and Denali got tangled together in their harnesses and ended up in a fight.  Breaking it up was very difficult as they were silent and very serious about it.  In the process, the only harness I have that fits Aumaruq was shredded, so I had to put him back on his post.  One of the other of those guys would have had to stay behind anyway, because it truly was one of those really bad "death grip" type dog fights.

I shrugged into my coat as quickly as I could and didn't even try to zip it up (mistake), but finally got my 7 dog team out on the trail.  Vlad got into a bit of a tugline tangle as we launched, but fixed it himself.  From that point on the team was reasonably well behaved and ran well. 

I had originally planned to go to the ponds and back via the Dead Martin trail, but after all the mess at hook up I had second thoughts.  Just is an older dog and Orion set a pretty fast pace.  They had some difficulty getting the sled up the steep hill, and with only one dog in swing turning into trees close to the trail was a real problem as Denali couldn't control the nose of the sled by himself on those tight turns.  Instead, I decided to use the borough cross-over trail from the Money Trail to the Ridge trail and just get my team home in one piece. 

We had a head-on pass with another team just before the turn off to the powerline ROW and our own feeder trail.  Although my dogs stopped, they kept the gangline tight and the pass went smoothly enough.  Once home I was even able to talk Just and Orion into taking the team up the length of the hook-up chain. 

It was a beautiful day under clear skies, with the sun high enough to brighten up our winter world.  Everything ended on a positive note, but I think in the future I'll be less shy about asking my handler to help while I'm trying to launch teams with so many young and exuberant dogs.

As I say, once we got moving the dogs worked really well, and I was able to get some nice video.  I added the song "Great Day for a Sled Dog Ride" to the vid, and I hope you enjoy watching it.

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