I came in the house, stripped the dogs of harnesses AND collars in front of the washing machine, strip myself, and then decide to take a nap against the side of the machine while it runs. I’ll go upstairs and get the muddy rascals off the bed (where else would they go) as soon as I find the energy to do more than breathe.
It’s been a heck of a day dog sledding. I never did find that other shoe, even after I went back to the mud bog. It started simply enough.
I decide on a lark to go uphill behind the house. Discovered that every other tree on the place has fallen across the trail. All of them knobby pines (I hate pine trees).
I go swooshing (I love that word, swoosh) down the trail, still slushy and wet and leaves enough that the dogs go like crazy. Yippee!
Close call, a deadfall, but it’s okay. “If that’s the worse that happens to us today…” I said blithely.
I find out the power lines have been mowed and the dogs don’t HAVE to stick to the trails anymore. And don’t. Despite the sheer drop that only looks like a good place to run to a crazy lead dog who may be retired any second now. (Hear that, you danged Sibermutt, Tosha?)
I get that pop in the upper back my Chiropractor has been working on for at least two months. Ah, relief.
I decide half way through to send an email about the sturdiness and flexibility of my wonderful sled to its local builders. This is FUN!
My team starts down a hill I wouldn’t walk down and for some reason I get off the brake and ride the runners and Wa-hoo! at the top of my lungs and I FLY down that slope and the dogs are running flat out and this is a good day.
And then they head straight for Camp Creek, which isn’t creek-sized with the snowmelt. And I’ve built up enough of a head of steam that no matter how hard I stand on that brake, I’m not going to be able to stop until….
I am hip deep in the creek and the dogs are wet and muddy and splashing each other and climbing into my lap — okay I am sitting down.
But I have dry clothes with me, I am ME, okay, I know better. Clean dry clothes from the skin out. Line the dogs up, wave at that nice guy at the edge of the woods with his hands over his mouth and LAUGHING at me. Hope like shout that he doesn’t FOLLOW us. After he picks himself up off the ground, that is.
The team starts up without me and I look over my shoulder to grab the sled handlebar as it flies past (very confidently, after all) and I forget the first rule of dog sledding in woods. Dog drivers who don’t look where they are going run into trees.
I decide to repaint the sign on the back of the sled FROM “Sleddog Rescue, Alaskan Malamutes & Siberian Huskies, and the phone no.” TO something I can’t write on the internet because my mother will find out. (Along the lines of “XXXX, you, Sidney.”) Because that’s the view I get most of the day.
I discover, with a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, what that funny noise (bang, drag, drag, bang) really means. (Sled — around the corner from me by now — tips over with a bang, drags, drags, dang it drags, then bang as it hits something else just as I come around the corner and rights itself, reduces drag, gives the dogs an easier pull and they speed up.)
I learn to read sign on wet trails. Mmm, they left the trail here and went around the deadfall (something they never manage to do when I’m on the runners). Here’s where they actually stopped and dug under the exposed roots. Here’s where they decided I was too close and they’d better keep going.
Here’s where they got stuck, as evidenced by the fact that they are still here. LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO MY SLED!
I decide 3/4 of the way through and 4 miles from the house to write the wonderful folks who built my sled and BEG them to repair what I just broke.
WAIT does NOT sound like HIKE no matter what the lead dog tells me later with innocent eyes. DOWN doesn’t either. Or COME BACK, or GEE BACK, or FINE, KEEP GOING BECAUSE I’LL CATCH YOU EVENTUALLY, YOU DANG DOG! YOU CAN RUN BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE! (Dang, but she can run.)
Second rule of sledding in woods: If there is a deadfall anywhere within a square mile it will be on the trail you are on right after a sharp blind turn on a downhill trail.
Inexplicably my lead dogs decides to take a gee turn at the very top of a long uphill climb at the saddle of two knobs. Silly me, standing with my hands on my knees, sucking wind. I should have known that straight-up bank that was absolutely bald with mud was the trail. Not the flat, downhill, graveled tractor road directly in front of us. Go figure. (Dang dogs — yes, I know it was you, Tosha, 8-years-old this year and still Queen of Everything!)
The dogs learn to drink from snow as they travel and I am so proud of this simple little thing, I plan on calling my breeder and sharing this little sleddog tidbit, until one of them gives you a kiss. Horse POOP!
The 6-month-old pup does great with a neckline and no tugline (too young yet to put load on her hips, and we’ll be going SLOW, right? Right?) She got in there and did that old sleddog thing, head down, tail flat, ACTING like she was pulling. Wooing at every rest stop, rolling over in the tuglines and swatting everyone with those great big muddy paws! Singing in the distance, encouraging the leaddogs to “Take a chance, go for it, girl, mom LOVES chasing us, ought to hear her back there! She’s telling us to GO! Go! Go to ???? Where exactly is that place she keeps mentioning?” [Oh, okay, back on topic.]
Did I mention the tangles? The dogs all ignoring the mess they’ve made of my ganglines. Who me? Not me, Mama. Don’t look and don’t tell.
The 10-year-old Misha picks a fight with the 6-month-old because she won’t quit PLAYING with him. Put Chief back there with Misha because Mark and Summer can’t HELP but play instead of pull. Serious dogfight erupts. Chief knows Misha is king, but he tries that old, shoulder shove anyway. Misha kicks his butt anyway, same as always, gets tangled in the lines. I’m trying to keep Nu-Nu and Tosha from going back and KILLING someone. Summer and Mark look at each other and start gnawing on each other’s ears, ignoring the rest of us. That is until I go face first in loamy, black, wood’s mud UNDER a pair of fighting dogs who suddenly decide to stop fighting (thank-you, Lord) and put their tongues in my ears. (I nearly suffocated on mud in shock — you try it sometime, 40 degrees and face down in mud and then slimy, drooly, WARM, muscular tongues snake into your earlobes!)
Then, then, as I struggle up out of the mud like a ticked-off Mama bear, is when they give me that look: Fight? What fight? We weren’t fighting. We were just communicating. Passionately.
Why the heck am I out here? I’m out of film and muddy and half choked to death and aggravated.
Lead dogs find a trail I didn’t know about (lived here 20 years now and thought I knew them all). I’m too beat to argue with them at this point. And it’s beautiful, top of the knob, overlooks the lake and the hills in the distance, the ridge behind us, gray clouds hanging low, snow-slush left over on the leaves and the trunks of trees, dogs panting, and I remember why.