Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Strix Nebulosa!

I went on a 12 miler today. The logging road got covered with snow and the loggers were gone. So I figured I would take five of the dogs out on a 12 miler on the usual route I had been using before I built my training course. I have really been proud of Doppler and Jack. They have been learning so well. I thought I would reward them and myself with a nice long run, giving us a chance to see some scenerey. It was a beautiful clear day today.

I hooked Jack and Doppler first and they held the line out, standing in place like little troopers, while I went and hooked the other three dogs up one at a time. I put Cruiser in point right behind the leaders, there by himself. Next I hooked up JJ and Ruger in Wheel. They are a really good pair in wheel, steady seasoned hard pulling veterans.

As we took off I was fiddling with the snow hook and not paying attention, and Doppler and Jack hung a right onto the training trail through the pine plantatation, as far as they knew it was just another training run. So I called "Good Gee" not letting on that I was goofing off and not paying attention (It's good for an officer to maintain an a good example to the troops).
I figured we would run a few loops of the training trail to brush up on commands since the dogs hadn't been run over the weekend. They executed very well. There was hesitation on one turn but after I stood on the break a few seconds they soon sorted things out and were off in the right direction.

Then we took off up the logging road. I had 80 lbs of salt in the sled and stood on the runners up the hill. I wanted to give them a good work out. Everyone was working really hard and running smoothly. I am impressed with cruise especially, he is always pulling his butt of and straining in harness. Great work ethic for a yearling.

Well we crossed the intersection, and headed into the Wildlife management area after passing through a section of snowless gravel (wreaking havoc on my runners).

Doppler did somthing that really annoyed me. He tried to dart off the trail after a snowshoe hare. But at the sound of my voice he stopped that foolishness. A little farther down the trail, I noticed Doppler wasn't the only would be predator looking out for game, On a branch above the trail we saw a Strix Nebulosa! Great Grey Owl!
What an awesome sight! It was enormous. The largest Owl in North America, bigger than a great horned owl! It looked bigger than a bald Eagle in the Body. It turned its hear around 180 degrees following our trajectory as we passed under it and down the trail. It had a magnificent presence about it. These are Super predators and very rare. I was really blessed to see one out here.

The dogs picked up on my excitement and sped down the trail. They didn't miss any turns and part of the trail was blown over. We hadn't been here in a month, and part of the trail runs adjacent to an open feild was totally obliterated by drifting snow. It apeared as though I was asking them to head out into an open field. Jack hesitated at first, but Doppler charged right a head orienting self as if by memory. I was very impressed. We ran about a mile of this obliterated trail through the open feild and then came to the familiar opening in the trees, there we picked up a snow mobile track carved into deep snow on the dirt road. WE then followed that to the main gravel road and then I guided the leaders into a 360 at the intersection and then headed back the same way.

The only criticism I have with Doppler at this point is that he slacked off with the pulling on the way back at times when the going got slow, but he seems to have some really amazing trail sense. He also seems very in tuned with his environment. At times some coyote tracks would come onto the trail and Doppler would be very interested in their scent, but when they veered off into the woods he knew enough to jeep moving ahead.

When we got back, Doppler and Jack still wanted to turn off into my pine plantation and run some more loops around the training trail. They did this just as we were approaching the dog yard even though I called out "on by" Ruger and JJ would have none of this and but the breaks on and helped stop them so I could face them the right way. Even though they had missed the last turn on a nearly perfect run I was impressed with their boundless energy and enthusiasm.

It is a good feeling reaping the fruit of our labor this winter with an nearly seamless run on a beautiful day. What my two leaders need now is some conditioning and hardening of muscles, basically just miles on the trail and I think we will be ready to race mid distance next year. With some goof fall training and some more reinforcement of commands and some new training situations we will be ready. I also want to go on some winter camping trips.


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