There’s a chill down my spine, but the weather’s fine, I smell winter on his breath
I smell winter………………… © The Housemartins
Somehow over a month has passed since I shared some of my wit (cough) and wisdom (cough, cough), but never fear, dear readers ( I’m not boasting, as I do know that more than one person reads this – at least occasionally), here’s a few thoughts on the last 4 weeks or so.
At the end of October we were still in the thrall of our first snowfall, which unlike last year, stayed around and was added to a couple of times so that we actually had a pretty good, consistent snow base. As sensible as we are, we managed to resist the lure of the sled and continue to train using the atv, because even with a small team, I had serious doubts about how well a hook would hold, so we just enjoyed the pretty backdrops and the dogs enjoyed the softer footing afforded by the snow.
The snows made the bumpy trails a good bit smoother, especially after they had been groomed. I was very conscious of not wishing to screw up the trail with the atv but the base was firm enough that we never left any wheel tracks or ruts. We were running 2 teams each day, 10 dogs in each team – The Boys and The Girls – with a couple of incorrectly gendered dogs in each team. Seven and Ciara made it onto The Boys’ team and Tasker became an honorary “Girl”
Training has been going reasonably well, we’re slowly managing to get some kind of consistency from the dogs, the good leaders are starting to show up again and the marginal ones are being noted too. As ever we have been taking it slowly (one day we’ll maybe stop babying our dogs, but I doubt it) and only now are we starting to get to explore the trails outwith our fairly immediate neighbourhood. This has been good for the dogs – they like going new places and so far, we have managed not to get lost. We have also met a lot more teams this year – and every single one of them has been heading towards us. We’ve had a good pass ( I remember that one), a few messy passes and a couple that required intervention to prevent a huge tangle. Head on passing is something that we used to be able to do well – we got a lot of practice in New Hampshire and our dogs were very well behaved. In the intervening 5 years, they seem to have forgotten their manners and like to go visit.
We’ve done some training on this, running both our teams together, but it seems that strangers’ teams hold a greater fascination than the consequences. Training work will continue and any help is appreciated.
16 November saw the sled broken free from the dust and cobwebs in the garage and put to use for the first time this season. I put together a 4 dog team of Avery and Ruby as leaders with Cuchi and Lightfoot at wheel. I stuck a 50# bag of dogfood in the sled and basically got the heck trashed out of me by those 4 dogs. They ran that run, finally freed of the weight of the atv, like I wasn’t back there standing on the dragmat with all my considerable weight and pleading with them to go just a little bit slower. To complicate matters, it was getting dark and I had left my headtorch at home and those of you who know me, know how much I love running at night. For those of you that don’t know – it’s not very high on my list of things I like to do.
To make it even more interesting – although I’m not sure that’s really the right word – the trail was a little, umm, well, bumpy is being kind. There was a stretch where I’m sure the sled was in the air more than it was on the ground. The dogs obviously mistook my girly screams of discomfort and panic for encouragement and praise – we came in faster than we went out and I had to go and have a lie down and a stiff drink. The girls just wanted to run around the yard chasing each other.
There are some benefits to having short term memory loss – and it showed the next day when I took some of the boys out on the sled. Sensible head -yes – go in daylight. Not so sensible head – 4 girls were fast and strong so lets take boys and lets go crazy and throw another one in there too. That run and the couple of other sled runs are a blurred memory of jarring, bouncing sleds, deep breaths, death grips and very, very tired leg muscles from balancing and absorbing shocks.
Looking back at my training log from last year, I saw that I didn’t get on a sled until 4 December. Now, I can see why. In order to get all the dogs trained, and in safety, until it snows some more, I wimped out and went back to the 4wheeler.
Quiz, who has been showing a lot of promise, ended up going into lead after Oscar had one of his “I’m in charge” moments.