Friday, September 23, 2011

Tight tugs on the first run!

Miss Penya showed me how amazing it is to have an extraordinary lead dog

Claire and I hooked up 3 members of THREE BLUE EYES (Penya, Colt, and Elias) and 2 WOLFMOON dogs (Little T and Dutchess) for our first training run of the season early Thursday morning. Before the snow falls, in order to get the team trained and in tip-top shape, mushers often use a 4-wheeler/ATV to simulate the sled. That's what we did. It was our first chance to see how my new team performed. Lids and Greyling, who were spayed 3 weeks ago, didn't go on this run but will get a chance to run this weekend. (Lids loudly declared her displeasure at being left behind!)

It took me longer to harness everyone than I'd like, but Claire encouraged me not to rush so I can communicate calmness and confidence to the dogs. Excellent idea. And she guided me through the process of unhooking and unharnessing the team in a manner that keeps the line tight, keeps the leaders on their toes, and prevents the harnesses from getting chewed up. Claire is SO patient with me--such a fantastic mentor.

I am very proud of my pups. These are no-nonsense sled dogs who give 100%. One way to see if they're "honest dogs" (team members who don't slack off by letting others do the work) is to look at the tug lines, which attach the dog's harness to the gang line/dog line, which is the line that runs down the middle of the team. (Neck lines also attach the dog's collar to the gang line and help the dogs stay even with each other.)

Here's a nice illustration from Jersey Sands Sled Dog Association that shows the positions that dogs  and includes labels of the different kinds of lines.

I am happy to report that the pups kept their tugs tight and the run was delightful. All honest dogs.

Penya, my main lead dog, just blew me away with her dedication to doing her job right, ability to focus, and calm demeanor. Whenever we stopped to take a break, she just laid right down wherever she was. That's certainly one way to lower your center of gravity and keep your team lined out nice and tight. What a smart girl! Catch a break and do your job at the same time. Claire said Penya would teach me a lot -- and that is so true.

Here are the positions everyone had on this run:

PENYA + LITTLE T     [lead position, the dogs out front]
COLT + DUTCHESS   [swing position, the dogs right behind the leaders]
ELIAS                               [wheel position, right in front of the 4-wheeler]

CLAIRE                          [driver]
ME                                     [behind driver]

I hope that provides a frame of reference for seeing this awesome team in the video:

On Saturday, I'll be removing stitches from Greyling and Lids and administering shots and worm medications.


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