I'm finally home from my training week in Kentucky, and celebrated by taking nearly all of the dogs out on their first runs of the season.
These initial runs of the season are very short, only a mile and a quarter. That's because the power-line right of way that provides access to the trail system isn't passable until it's frozen hard. I did test it yesterday, trying to run the four-wheeler over the trail we use when returning to the yard during winter. After nearly drowning the poor four wheeler in a fen and having to use the tractor to extricate it, I decided that might not be such a good idea.
So - plan B. Even though we can't go very far we can go far enough to help the dogs remember how to behave during handling and on the trail. For a couple of the pups, especially Friday, it is initial training. For the older dogs it's a refresher course. I refer to these little runs as "head runs", as the primary goal is training their brains rather than their bodies. That will come later when we have better access to the trails. Don't forget that these runs are as much a refresher course for the mushers as they are for the dogs.
I prefer to run small teams during this early season training. Fewer dogs presents fewer opportunities for problems and mishaps, and makes it easier to correct those problems that do occur.
Our first team of the day included;
Orion & Rose (lead)
Chetan & Midnight's Son (swing/team)
Seamus & Beau (wheel)
Orion is a big, exuberant boy and he was a handful when time to harness and hook him into the line. He had forgotten the route to get out of the yard when running on the machine, but Trish ran up and helped him find the gate. After that there were no issues at all. Here's a pic I shot of this team while we were out and about. Don't forget you can click on the photo to get a larger view.
|First team of the day. Trish on the four-wheeler.|
The second team team consisted of:
Cassiopeia and Capella (lead)
Amazing Grace and Maggie (swing/team)
Denali and Thowra (wheel)
Maggie is a little racing-type husky that Trish rescued as a stray two winters ago. The poor little girl had nearly starved to death and was badly injured having been apparently hit by a car. She ran happily with teams last year. Over the course of the summer we frequently let Maggie and Grace free-run together in the yard and they were amazing to watch. Even when a large group of dogs were playing they sought each other out and played "chase me" back and forth. They often ran side-by-side matching each others strides.
After watching that all summer, I really wanted to run those two girls side by side. It was really fun doing so. Grace is frequently snarky with running mates, but not so with Maggie. They got along famously, and worked well together.
This whole team worked hard during their run yesterday. Denali is a very experienced racing dog and though he is aging he doesn't let that slow him down at all. Thowra is a yearling but he's quite a large male and the way he worked makes him a good choice for the wheel position.
|Second team of the day.|
The third team of the day included the following dogs:
Just and Nels (lead)
Selene and Friday (swing/team)
Aumaruq and Animosh (wheel)
|Third team of the day.|
Just is our oldest, most reliable and generally most well behaved leader. Although he is aging his body seems to be in good shape and he's always willing. He's my first choice for leading puppy teams and I suspect he'll be doing quite a few little "puppy runs" this year.
Nels is a good "back-up" trail leader, but he doesn't have the drive I look for in a natural leader. He's one of those dogs who gets the job done but he doesn't revel in the role as do the naturals in the yard.
Friday is barely a yearling, and yesterday was only his second run with a team ever. That made for a wild wrestling match while getting him into harness and onto the line, but once he felt that tug line tighten he was all business. It was really a rather amazing transformation.
The only thing Friday didn't like about the run was the water puddles. While the other dogs just trotted through, he leaped over them giving us his best impression of a gazelle. I decided he probably should learn that water puddles are nothing to worry about, so on our way back to the yard I stopped the team for a break in a way that put Friday right in the middle of one.
That poor kid pushed Selene completely off the trail trying to stay out of the water. He was truly afraid of the puddle, as though he feared some massive, puppy-eating puddle monster might gobble him down if he so much as got his pads wet. That surprised me, because puddles in the dog yard don't phase him in the least.
I walked up and coaxed him over into the puddle. Once he figured out it wasn't very deep he didn't give it a second thought. He relaxed quickly and even drank a bit of it. He still tried to avoid running through puddles during the remainder of the run, but wasn't nearly so wild about it when he had little choice. I think I need to find some wetter trails for him to run on before freeze up.
The combination of jet-lag and the days activities left me feeling pretty wiped out by the time we got all of the dogs settled in, fed, watered and scooped for the night. I wasn't the only one feeling a bit tired by the end of it all. Here is a photo of Midnight's Sun completely sacked out on top of his house with Chetan chillin' out beneath him.
|Midnight's Son sound asleep while Chetan just chills out for a while.|