Back to Sledding
Couldn't Wait - First Big Puppy Team
Tomorrow might not come. The sun dropped below the ridges at 7 pm. I hooked up the fledgling Team B (4 6mo puppies & 2 retired old farts) and what the heck, we were OUTA HERE!
(Click on thumbnail for larger version -- Sam & Ruth
at wheel, Kate & River at swing, Nu & John at lead)
Nu and John like to go along the grassy side of the highway. It's much easier on their arthritic joints. And except for a little incident last winter when they were loaned to a friend (who amazingly even after reconstructive knee surgery thanks in small part to my dogs is STILL a friend), they know how to listen to direction and stay off the gravel and asphalt.
So here we are tooling across the hay field and we need to take an easy right towards the highway. And Nu and John kept going straight. To be fair, that's where the road was. But what they don't understand is the road deadends where a house used to be.
(Click on thumbnail for larger version)
You might remember the story of how Nu got to be a leader. He is an insecure dog for the most part, and highly UNsocialized, and has a reputation (deserved) of being a butt biter. He also doesn't really have the confidence to be a lead dog, but he got the job by default one day when the then-leader, Tosha, had what I thought was a stroke (grandmal seizure, but I didn't know that THEN) -- which seizure/stroke landed her under the entire team and me up against a tree at 15 mph instead of running the metal-runnered sled over top of my team. One bruised collar bone and one broken handlebar later, and Tosha was in the sled bag and NOT happy about it either. And Nu was the default leader.
Maybe because of the way he was thrust into the job, maybe because he was the first dog I tried to train (Tosha knew everything from the womb), and maybe because he has ALWAYS done things a little backwards, when you give Nu a command, even at a flat-out run, he looks over his shoulder to get visual conformation of the command.
(Click on thumbnail for larger version)
So I pointed. And he turned. Only it was getting dark by now and I hadn't thought to bring doggie headlamps. And maybe John needs prescription goggles or something. But for the first time EVER, Nu and John split a tree.
By that I mean one went on one side... And yes, one went on the other. Being necklined (collar to collar) and tuglined (harness to main line) back to the same gangline, the neckline snapped (what it was supposed to do). But the gangline didn't (which it was supposed to not do). So we all came to an abrupt halt.
However. Since this is a puppy team, we weren't going very fast. <smile> In fact we were barely going. So what could have been a major collision, ended up being a minor fender bender. (Do you have to ASK why I use car crash analogies? This is ME.)
Meanwhile, the puppies are GREAT. The Siberians put their heads down and WORK. The Malamutes put their heads up and chew on each other's ears. Mmm, note to self: Self, reconsider positions on puppy team.
But even the goofy Mala-girls figure it out and actually, well, pull <G>.
So I straightened the leaders out on the SAME side of the telephone pole. And I tell everyone what a good job they are doing. And I hook the leaders back up with the spare neckline I happened to have on me. And away we go.
We went all the way to the Church and back in the grass -- about 2 miles. And of course we went down and through every ditch between here and there. And don't kid yourself that you can't learn from your friend's mistakes (see part above about reconstructive knee surgery). That puppy team learned right off that when the leaders dipped DOWN into a ditch, mom was going to say Easy! And hit the brakes gently (ot not gently as the case may be). After 8 riprap-lined ditches they were doing it on their own. It does a momma proud.
Now, on the way out, I mentioned the Mala-girls were busy chewing on each other's ears. And the Siber-kids were head down and working for a living. Well, as soon as we turned for home, that switched. Very oddly. Apparently the Mala-girls' chew-on-ears button is only engaged when they are pointed South. And the Siber-kids only when pointed North. And the Siber-kids have a work button that only engages when headed South, and the Mala-girls when headed North.
Do I care? Not that much. It's something to work on later. I was SO PROUD of Nu and John for getting us there and back unscathed (save one neckline). And even more proud that they LISTENED to commands and followed them. And the pups had a grand time -- except that one point when Sam ended up with 3 feet tied in the gangline like a roped calf (How? How should I know? I was just watching, I can't tell you how it happened -- magic, I guess.) But no harm, no foul.
(Click on thumbnail for larger version - Going Home)
And they are all 6 sacked out in the living room panting and too tired to do anything but -- HEY, get out of the trash. You're not supposed to be in that! Hey, you give me that! NOT the Paulsen book! I haven't finished that chapter! YOU! Let that go...