Thursday, December 16, 2004

Good Bookends

In the interim since my last post, I would describe my runs as two good "book ends" punctuated by two disasters. That is, good run, disaster, disaster, good run. A "good run" is a run where nothing goes wrong and we put some serious miles in. A "disater" is when things get so royally screwed up we don't leave the driveway.

Wednesday was my best run so far. I started out a bit discouraged but then things went really well. Linda was helping me so that was a real plus. I hooked up 5 dogs. My idea was too hook up two yearlings up front, Strider the big German shepherd mix, and Jack. Behind them I hooled up two lead dogs, Pumpkin and JJ. In wheel, basically along for the ride, was Doppler. The idea was to make the two lead dogs a little jealous, that they aren't in lead, and then when Strider begis to screw up a little out on the trail, like I knew he would, put the two lead dogs up front. This woukld be there chance to rise to the occasion, answer the call of duty, whatever.

Adding JJ to the team added some serious power, she is from tough "village dog" stock and her muscles are hardened from years of long distance racing, but I have yet to harness that power productively. We could feel it though, we left the dog yard like a shot out of a gun. The first turn at the barn went OK, then JJ tried to dogleg into the back yard like she always does. I was able to jump off the sled and correct her. We got going again and I grabbed the sled as it shot by just barely. The next tun at the driveaway went well, and we hit the trail probably doing about 20 mph. The sled was jumping all over the place, Linda and I each had a runner, but it was hard to hang on, so Linda jumped off. This amount of speed wouldn't last long but Linda wasn't aware of that yet.
Soon things slowed down a bit and right on schedule Strider began to screw up, sniffing trees and things like that, But I didn't fault him, this was part of the plan. Now it was JJ's turn to shine! I tied the sled off to a tree and managed to keep the line out. I then switched JJ into lead alongside Jack. But as soon as I did she tried her turning around crap again. I kept werestling her back the right way, but eventually gave up.
I said "JJ, if you want to go back home that bad just go." I unhooked her and let her walk right back to her house. We were only a half mile out at this point.
I then tried Pumpkin. Praying that it would work out. It did. Pumpkin really came into her own. When ended up going eight miles, our longest run of the year so far. It was great. We finally were a real sled dog team. The amazing thing though is Jack. He is only a yearling and is learning to lead his first season in harness, he pulled like an absolute animal the whole way.
He is smart too and is really catching on.

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We encountered a fallen tree across the trail. The trunk was about a foot in diameter and it was about six inches off the ground. I halted the team, and then jack just jumped right over the log, Pumpkin hesitating for a minute and then jumping right over as well. All the dogs were able to negotiate it. I was able to get the empty sled right over it and we were off.
Next came the poodle. This is really funny! The two track, turns into a gravel road at about the two mile mark, right there is a driveway. Smack dab in the middle of the road right across from the driveway stood a toy poodle puppy. The dogs sped up to a gallop, a look of horror came over the little poodle face and it shot down the driveway. Here is the best part: Pumpkin perfectly executed an "on bye" command and did not go down the driveway, averting total disaster. (and possibly a poodle sandwich) Good thing this was not one of those toy poodles with a Napolean complex that thinks he's ten feet tall.

It was a fast run down the gravel road, there are no deep tire ruts like on the "minimum maintenence" section of the trail. Then we came to where a county road crosses. That went well. Then I was back to "slolom sledding" as I balanced on one runner staying out of the deep tire ruts. We headeed into a wildlife managemant area. This a beautiful really scenic area but I was looking at the dog team, evaluating each member. Doppler is a beautiful dog, he is so graceful, everything moves like a well oiled machine, never a step out of place, I notice his tug goes slack though now and then, he is still developing a work ethic. He would probably do best on a super fast team, running with a lot of dogs. I will have to develop a way to challenge him with a small team.

Strider, is just a big ungainly brute. at 75 lbs he is way bigger than my other dogs. He has a fat fluffy bubble butt, narrow shoulders and kind of a long neck. He is kind of wedge shaped like a polar bear. He has all he can do to keep up when the team is going fast, but when things slow down a bit he pulls like a little trooper.

Jack is my Star so far. He is just a bundle of energy, almost impossible to hook up he is so hyper. But once in harness he just wants to go. He is just a natural. The mental pressure of learning how to be a lead dog doesn't seem to phase him. He is so hard headed I can correct him and he learns without getting his feelings hurt. He is a very hard headed dog. For some reason he is fast too. He is built like a little tank but is smooth and fast. Pumpkin and he seem to be a good pair in lead. Despite their similar wolf grey markings they are total opposites.

Pumpkin is just a very shy dog. Some alaskan huskies are just like that. But a harsh word will put her into a sulk and worse cause her to freeze up. So she needs positive reinforcement only.
She is also not very assertive toward other dogs, so I can't use her to straighten out disobediant JJ. But it seems to be going well with her and Jack. She also is pulling again, especially on the way back. I take advantage of this and stand on the runners without peddaling too much, giving all the dogs a chance to really pull.

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There is a nice loop inside the wildlife management area to turn around in. That went well, the whole run back went well.

So that was wednesday.

Today, there were two disasters where I didn't leave the yard. There was a bad tangle where Doppler got all tangled up in the gangline and I feard he would strangle, so I unhooked all the dogs and Jack , Strider and Doppler took off down the trail loose. I was able to find them up the trail a ways eating the gut pile. Its all gone now, so shouldn't be a distraction any longer.

The problem is this first stupid turn at my barn where the trail leading to the dog yard connects to my driveway. Pumpkin for the life of her cannot fathom to turn "haw" and head down the driveway. She balks and everything gets all tangled up. I had five dogs hooked up, and it became an enormous knotted mess. Then there is JJ pulling the Knotted mess toward my fenced in back yard, for all she is worth. Picture an optical illusion, where a person is walking a little lap dog down the street only the person is acting like they are being drug down the street by a St. Bernard. That will give you an idea of JJ's power.

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So then after gathering up all the loose dogs, I hook them up again, and JJ keeps jerking the entire sled back to her house while I am hooking the dogs up. The sled is tied to the truck at this point, facing down the trail. So she pulls it all the way back around and partiall under the truck, back toward her house yanking Pumpkin along with her. She had decided that she is done for the day I guess.

So then a third time, I try hooking the dogs up today, minus JJ. I hooked up Pumpkin, Jack, Doppler and Strider. Same problem with that first turn. For some reason once again Pumpkin won't haw, but instead drags the team out into my front yard. Then wraps the gangline around a bush. Again in frutration I try to fix this snarled mess, and never am able to leave the driveway.

So I get an idea. I park my car right by the barn, cutting off the way out into my yard, Then I move an old washing machine, my broken bike, a roto tiller, and my lawn mower., building a barrier, to hopefully steer the dogs in the right direction, away from the house and out onto my driveway.
I take a break, eat some Pumpkin pie, and watch a "Charlie Brown" Christmas special with my wife.

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So, then, I do some serious praying, and hook up, just Strider, Jack and Pumpkin, hoping for the best. So wouldn't you know it, Pumpkin sees this crude barrier there, haws, and then tries to make a haripin 180 degree turn after the lawn mower and into the yard. These dogs are anything but stupid. "Nice try." I said.
Luckily I was able to get the three dogs back onto the trail.

The run was much like the run yesturday. We came across a truck heading toward us out in the Wildlife preserve, But the dogs got over to the side and let it pass. I was actuall at that point wondering where to turn around without making it too long of a run just with the three dogs.

Jack solved the problem for me and tuned the whole team around to chase the truck. The truck soon hung a right, but I gave an "on bye" command and they listened. I would say over all we went 7 miles.


Anonymous Alaskan Malamutes said...

LOL, but isn't life always like that. BTW I have been trying to find a good alaskan malamute breed do you have any ideas? Nancy

March 31, 2006 at 6:54 PM  
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March 20, 2010 at 5:58 AM  

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