Of Mice and Men

Yes, ok,  I know it’s been more than a month since this was last updated.

Yes, I agree that’s not really regularly enough to count as being a “proper blog”  – (if the definition of such a thing exists! )

Anyway,  a belated Happy New Year ( oh and Merry Christmas too, seeing as I’m being tardy with my felicitations). I’d love to say there’s been lots happening here but sadly I would be misspeaking if I were to say so…….

The last entry had me babbling enthusiastically about the dogs, how well they were performing, how great the cold and snow have been, how good it was to have the team regularly running up to 9 miles. Mentally and physically they, and I, were in pretty good shape. Our first race was a month away – we were only a couple miles short of race distance and things were looking rosy.

My dog truck is a Mercedes Sprinter van, typical of the type of vehicle used by many dog teams in the UK. It’s only 5 years old, done 150 000 miles and according to “urban legend # 327” should be good for another 150 000 before it thinks about having a rest. Obviously, nobody has told my van any of this. Over the preceding few weeks, it has been getting  exceedingly temperamental. Refusing to start if it considered it was too cold. Drinking gallons of coolant with seemingly no visible reason why. And worst crime of all – providing a home for a family of mice.  This latter failing was discovered in October, following one of my rare tidy ups ( ok, I was looking for my fid kit which I could have sworn was somewhere in that van.) The discovery of a couple of wrist wraps with what appeared to be chew marks right down the centre of them, combined with the numerous holes in a fleece blanket, a glove which seemed to be less waterproof than it should be due to a gaping hole in the palm, and the subsequent identification of mysterious black “things” all over the passenger footwell as being mice poo – these all served  to confirm what I had fleetingly suspected when I had noticed engine bay insulation was disappearing – this noticed during the frequent coolant top ups.

My dogs resting in their truck
My dogs resting in their truck

I’m all for live and let live. I’m sure mice do actually have a purpose and they’re not the worst varmints I can think of , by a long way. However, I’m not having them eating my dog food and I’m not having them living in my dog truck. War was called for.  I cleared a space (not as easy as you might think) in the truck and set a couple of traps, baited with peanut butter and waited. In the morning, success – that’s 2 less mice in the world. I repeated this process the next night, catching another mouse. And again, and again, and again…………………  The final tally was 9  – quite how 9 pesky mice came to be living in my truck baffles me, but I haven’t caught any in weeks and I’m hopeful that word has got out that Hotel Sprinter is closed to unwelcome visitors.

However, my van troubles don’t end there.  I was scheduled to return home early in December from training at the Croft as we had tickets to see Runrig in concert on 5 December.  The morning I was due to head south, the van refused to start, again, and I had to get the breakdown service out to get it going. Once home, I arranged to have it looked at by a local garage the following week.  Of course, the van wouldn’t start to get it there, so it had to be tow started.  At the garage, much humming and hawwing, poking and prodding, – the upshot being a replaced diesel pressure switch and advice that there was water in the engine. Now, that bit I could have told him – and actually already had. I left with his sage words ringing in my ears ” if it won’t start tomorrow, it needs major work and I’m not doing it” – I think he needs a customer relations course.

With the van happily back in my hands, I planned on heading north to resume training – and reckoned a quick trip to Dog Sport Scotland’s trails down at Ae Forest would make a nice change before hitting the Highlands again. The next day, I loaded the dogs, hitched the trailer with the atv and jumped into the van – and jumped out moments later, muttering veiled and not so veiled deprecations on the entire Mercedes Benz design and production staff, mechanics generally and my guy specifically.  The dogs seemed none too impressed either, getting unloaded without getting a run.  The earliest I could get the van booked in to be looked at was the following week.  Of course, the day before that was due to happen, I hurt my back again. It’s an intermittent thing that seems to flare up for no good reason, but when it does, boy, do I go down fast. Unable to move, never mind drive, the non-starting van was suddenly not an issue and so delay heaps upon delay.  By the time Christmas came around, I was feeling much better and tried to rearrange an appointment to get the van into the garage again. Due to the holidays (and we take New Year as a holiday seriously here in Scotland) the first date I could get was 5 January.

So, now the van has been in there a week, and all they can tell me so far is what is NOT wrong with it.

So, it’s the middle of winter, the dogs have been idle for 5 weeks now, there’s no clue as to when my truck is going to be back on the road, my training schedule is goosed, and I’m in serious doubt about being able to field a team for a race I’m helping to co-organise in the middle of February.

Just to cheer myself up, I’m going to include a couple of photos from those happier times, when all was well with me, my dogs, my van and my plans.

As the Bard says,  “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, gang aft agley”

Wink and Teague leading on a local trail from the Croft
Wink and Teague leading on a local trail from the Croft
Ruya and Teague leading in the snow at Deer Park
Ruya and Teague leading in the snow at Deer Park

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