Tuesday, November 22, 2011

'Rollin', rollin', rollin' . . .

THREE BLUE EYES is closing in on 100 miles of training!

We logged another 8 miles this morning on run #16 of this season, and team is looking mighty fine.

A couple memorable moments of late:

Image by PMarkman
Now, Chris and Claire and, well, just about everyone I've told, think I must have been hallucinating. But if the pups could talk, I bet they'd back me up. So a couple weeks back, I decided we should have an adventure. We took a route we'd never taken before and the sun had not yet come up and it was overcast. We were passing by a farm house and a wooded area just beyond it. Suddenly the pups got very interested in something happening to our left. So interested, they started to veer off in that direction. I was still trying to get my "quad legs" but managed to look up and, I swear it, I saw a donkey with a big donkey head charging toward us. Fortunately, it swerved before it got to the road. (Images of Midsummer Night's Dream flashed through my head.) I'm thinking there must have been a fence, because I can't imagine what else would have stopped the beast. But the dogs thought that it was pretty exciting, and it took every bit of "know how" (which wasn't much at that time) to bark out "on by" commands and adjust our speed enough to discourage any kind of encounter. A few minutes later, I realized we were headed toward an intersection with a blacktop road with traffic. I had to do an "about face," which in mushing terms is a "come haw" on a narrow little country road, but I'll be darned if we didn't succeed. And that was that adventure!

Image by fuzzysaurus
Sheesh! What is up with the crazy loose dogs that seem to materialize out of nowhere. I remember as a kid, that was one of those things that worried me when I road my bike. Fortunately, I do not recollect any serious encounters then. But THREE BLUE EYES seems to be a magnet for them on our training runs. I am SO proud of these pups and grateful to Rita Wehseler for the extraordinary training she's done with them, because they are incredibly friendly, non-aggressive, and responsive dogs. They have yet to engage with these loose mongrels, even when one was nipping at Lydia's behind, as it was today. They stayed focused and kept on running. The three Rottweilers or Chocolate Labs (or whatever big burly brown dog breeds they were) that were barking and running in a field towards us, also today, had me a little worried, but once again, the team showed its ability to "take the high road" and not engage in the shenanigans.

Miss Penya (foreground)
So, Rita warned me that at some point, Penya would test me, that such a phenomenon is typical when a rookie driver enters the scene. It was hard to imagine happening, because Penya is such an awesome lead dog. And I'm still not sure she actually tested me so much as I may have confused her. But for about 10 days, Penya seemed to get strong-willed about directions. On one run, we hadn't even gone half a mile when we came to a stop sign and she tried to "come haw." I wanted her to go straight, but she kept trying to turn the team around. Soon after, when I wanted her to go straight ahead, she kept trying to take the team "haw." But it feels like we reached a "meeting of the minds" during the past few runs. I've been chattering less while we're running and am using more boisterous, clearer sounding commands, and while it may take a second for her to process, she's getting it right now. I think I'm figuring out my timing a little better, too.

We had our first wonderful run with snow falling on Saturday. Unfortunately, it wasn't just falling. It was aiming. At my eyes. I felt like mini-frozen projectiles had honed in on my corneas! No matter what I tried, I could not fend them off, and at times I had one eye or the other closed. And then there were the times I had to close both eyes at the same time, at which point I stopped the team. It was SO cold I could barely feel my fingers, which is OK as long as they're frozen in a position that allows us to use a little bit of gas. But I really can't run with my eyes shut. Just seems foolish (though I suspect my strong-willed Penya could find the way home!). So, it's time to break out the ski goggles and face the facts (such as they are through amber-tinted lenses).

Lydia ("Lids") and Ginsberg
I now have two screamers on the team. That would be Elias (whose screams I can handle) and Ginsberg (whose screams are nothing short of horrific). When they're in harness, the screaming is all about "Let's get going!!!!" Unfortunately, Ginsberg (big Mama's boy) also screams in the dog yard when I'm out of his sight. It's been funny, though, to watch him imitate his teammates. He's attempting some mild jumping, encouraged no doubt by Greyling's amazing feats of levitation. For as shy as that girl is when she's not in harness, she's a wild one when she's ready to get going. I love watching her lithe beautiful form extend vertically, as if the higher she jumps the sooner we'll take off. The pups find all this excitement contagious, and after we stop for a water break, they're slamming into their harnesses, screaming, and jumping to get going way faster than I can hop back on the 4-wheeler.

I can't wait till there's enough snow to hop on the sled. So please, everyone, do a little snow dance for us. (Or I'll post a video of all the screaming-Ha!)
Greyling's full extension

Now, to get a feel for what it's like to blast off from the dog yard with 6 fast sled dogs attached to a 1-ton 4-wheeler, here's a little video footage that Randy was kind enough to shoot on Saturday:

Happy Trails and Happy Thanksgiving!

1 comment:

  1. Maybe they could bark out Jingle Bells! Handsome and cute jumpers and jolly screamers in their visible orange. We had to have a law passed after dogs attacked a seeing eye dog a few years back! Happy Thanksgiving!