This is what dog sledding looks like in this part of the world for all but maybe (if we’re lucky) a week out of the year. Notice the lack of white. Today it’s 50 degrees and not raining and I’m not at work — good enough, let’s GO!
I drag the dogs out of the house (okay, they drag me and be careful of the bottom step because it’s loose) and picket them in the driveway. (Use chain pickets, Nu-Nu and Misha saw through rope like it was wet pasta.)
Then harness them up. Straddle the dogs, tell them to stand, gather harness in one hand while holding onto dog with the other. Say “nose” and put the harness over the dog’s head. Say “foot” and run your hand down one of their front feet so they lift it and (hopefully) you slip it into the harness.
Then grab handfuls of ruff and work the harness down their neck. Then grab the tug line and let go of ruff and say “stretch out” and sometimes they actually do all that without getting the harness inside out.
Load dogs in the back of the truck for the 400 yard trip up the four-lane highway and across the crossover. Again use chains with snaplinks to secure dogs because rope is appetizer. (Four dogs in back and red dog Mark in cab, he thinks he has privileges — well, they ALL think they have privileges.)
Unload dogs at the Presbyterian church and make sure and point them in the right direction. Hook up Misha first because he’s at wheel — not because he’ll hold the lines taught — but because he has less of a chance of getting tangled.
Hook up Tosha last because she may be lead but she raises such a ruckus hooked in she gets the others going and they WILL get tangled.
Pray like ninety that they don’t notice the chicken farm on the right. Which of course means the roosters have a scuffle in the yard and I’ve got ten ears pricked in their direction. And no one is looking down towards the left which is where we want to go — Yes, we really do, dogs.
And we’re off! Until we get to the end of this chainlinked yard and the resident dog comes over the fence and jumps in the middle of my team. And then takes off at a dead run down the road with the owner yelling “What have you done to my danged dog!” And I yell back, “Nothing to what I’m going to do to him when I catch him!”
Because the owner’s a cousin, distantly, by marriage, and I went to school with her, so it’s not all that bad and the loose dog gets mine stretched out and going again. And I don’t have to cause a family incident that will get the whole clan gossiping after church.
So can anyone tell me why these stubborn, cantankerous anarchists insist on running on the left-hand side of the road? Doesn’t matter who is in lead, Tosha and Nu-Nu always swing to the left. If I put the truck on the right-hand side of the road, they just pull at an angle and it messes up my wheel dog, Misha.
We run on paved and graveled roads or back in the woods. This trip is on the old Dixie Highway (used to be the main north-south route between Knoxville and Chattanooga on the west side of the Tennessee River, now Watts Bar Lake). But it was replaced back in the ’30’s with Hwy 27. Now in the ’90’s, Hwy 27 is being expanded from a 2-lane highway to a 4-lane divided highway and all the lovely straight parts were replaced with sweeping curves (you have to avoid cemeteries around here unless you can get every living descendent to agree to move a body. Some of these tombstones date back to the 1700’s. So, it’s easier to move the road construction.)
So that’s what they look like from the front.
But the point is, traffic is on the new 4-lane or the leftover parts of the old 2-lane, and no one but locals and the nut with the dogs uses Old Dixie Highway.
And notice Misha at wheel (the back) is solo. That’s because no one will run with him. I don’t know why. Mark and he were buddies when they came here but Mark will lay down in the road or back out of his harness and refuse to pull or even run next to him if the necklines are fastened — unhook the neckline and Mark runs about 4 feet from Misha, no good in woods. I’ve watched Misha like a hawk, but I don’t see so much as a curled lip. Chief won’t run with Misha either — but Chief won’t run with Tosha or Nu-Nu, so that’s nothing startling. Tosha and Nu-Nu work pretty well at lead — they have the wonderful skill of holding the lines tight. Chief and Mark run behind lead at swing because they will run with each other and no one else. And lonely Misha at wheel in the back. Wait until Summer, my very dominant Malamute bitch, gets old enough to run, guess where she’s going?
I’m getting a dog cart. I’ve had it with running them on the truck. They are learning to run and hold the lines tight, but they aren’t learning to pull. Also the truck makes noise and can’t go in the woods. I’ve had a welder building a cart for over a year and I don’t have the patience of a saint. I have a sled, but for obvious reasons, it’s not a lot of use.
And they are exhausted after running from the north end of Roddy (our small community) all the way to the south end of Roddy, through Macedonia, down to St. Claire — a whopping total of 5 miles.
They are so exhausted, I felt sorry for them and let them ride home. Not in the front, guys.