Today I took out Team 2. The “untrained” ones.
OK, I know that most of you are thinking the obvious, “I thought that was yesterday’s team” but relatively speaking, yesterday’s team, Team 1, is a precision drill team next to this bunch of yahoos.
Yesterday I ran Tosha and Nu-Nu in lead. They have 8 years sledding between them, and 2 working eyes (OK, she’s STILL blind, but she listens to me!) The are somewhat gee-haw trained, but the big one is they know:
|Turn your butt around|
|And how to untangle themselves by dipping their noses above or below the tuglines (this is important to today’s story)|
Yesterday, at wheel were Summer and Tom T. Tom’s first run, but he’s running next to his momma who takes no crap off him and has run for 2 years already. After the first 100 yards the little darling Tom (said “little” darling outweighs his momma by 10 pounds and 2 inches at 10 months), by 100 yards, he’s got the idea, head down, tug tight, ears plastered.
And in the middle (being goof balls) were Bess (her 3rd run in her lifetime) and Singer (her second run in her lifetime). They weren’t a lot of help, but they didn’t get too tangled either because of my experienced leaders holding the lines tight and Summer behind them taking no crap off anyone..
That was yesterday. I was lulled into complacency. I wish I could blame my illness, but Sarcoidosis is a circulatory/autoimmune problem with no mention of insanity or delusional behavior in the literature.
Maybe they were setting me up. Dogs do that, you know. They are vengeful, sneaky little demons when they want something. It’s not beyond their capabilities to have a conference under the dogwoods…
Summer: “Calling this meeting to order —
hey, you, the ball-less midget, shut-up.”
John: “Hey, I remember when you were half my size, lard-butt –”
Summer: “And that was a looo-oong time ago, so unless you want me to sit on your head, shut-UP. No wonder mom always has a headache around you. Geez.”
Mark: “Easy, guys, did you hear anything?”
Summer: (In a whisper) “OK, if we want to pay her back for the Pizza Bone Incident–”
Bess: “They were HER bones. She doesn’t HAVE to give them to us.”
Nu-Nu: “Speak for yourself, red, I’m here to tell you she ENJOYED eating them in front of us. Ask Tosha.”
Tosha: “Don’t ask me, I’m blind, how would I know.”
Summer: “This is what we’re going to do: Bess, Singer, and Tom, you’re going to do exactly what I say in the morning. You’re going to run like professionals. So she thinks she can handle you guys the day after when she runs Mark and John in lead. That’s when we turn the hair grey.”
Singer: “But momma Summer…”
Summer: “Do what I say, kid, or I’ll convince the hoo-man mom Sidney to sell you to the gypsies. You’ll never see your hoo-man mom Tami again.”
Tom: “Do what she says, Singer, she means it! You don’t see Snowman or Winnona or Solo around here, do you!”
Echo: “I think you’re all nuts. I’m going to go jump a fence and play with Peanut next door.”
Summer: “NO. Don’t make her mad today. Save it until after we get her back — or I’m telling you, you little colorodo-red brat, I’ll make your life –”
Echo: “–A living hell, yadda-yadda-yadda, I’ve heard this before.”
Summer: “Come here, you little twerp–”
Echo: “Catch me if you can, lard butt.”
Mark: “And this is supposed to get us Pizza Bones next time?”
I digress. But I know they are perfectly capable of just such a conference. And the evidence from today makes me think this is EXACTLY what went on.
So we started out with John and Mark in lead. They’ve run 2 years each. Mark is an obedience dog and very eager to please. He can’t run solo lead yet, not enough self-confidence, but with a warm body next to him, he’ll go anywhere. And he knows Stay and Come from obedience training.
Echo and Bess behind. These two are my little dynamos. Echo is a screaming banshee in harness, leaping in the air, 4 feet off the ground 4 feet in the air. Bess is calmer, but still excitable.
At wheel I put Tom and Singer. On Sings first run, she was a little tentative, the team moved too fast for her at first and she got a little spooked. But she had on only a neck line, no tug line. Just along for the ride. The second run I put her in harness for real and she figured things out like a pro, ears down, tail down, that glorious rear drive giving for all she was worth. Then there was today — wait, I’m ahead of myself.
Tom and Singer and Bess had run the day before. So this was a run for Mark and John and Echo and some “training” — at least that was the proposed agenda before we got started. We’d go the 4 mile route and avoid horses and herds of chickens…
Sun Tsu, the Chinese General who wrote the Art of War, said that no battle plan lasts two minutes after contact with the enemy… The point is that the best laid plans of mice and men… In other words, sled dogs will screw you up every time.
The other thing I forgot from last year is that last year I had been running: Tosha and Nu-Nu, experienced leaders. Followed by John and Mark, experienced swingers <G>. With Misha RIP and Chief RIP bringing up the rear at wheel. All 6 would stand when told to. All 6 would let me get off the cart while talking to them, to correct a tugline or put a foot over the main line. But that was last year, and someone forgot to send the driver a bulletin…
I have six dogs hooked up to the cart, which is in turn hooked up to the 6″x6″ porch support. This is not normal. But for some reason, I didn’t park the truck in it’s normal place and therefore didn’t hook to the front of the truck. I mean the 6×6 runs from a concrete pad to under the porch. The pad has a metal rod running up out of it into the hole drilled into the post. I know, I built the danged thing. So that thing ain’t moving…
Thinking about it, it might move from the top, that’s just toe-nailed in. But it didn’t. I’m digressing again.
The problem is, that the 6×6 is 20 feet further south than the front of my truck. The driveway is an east-west driveway, so I just put a 90 degree turn in the first 2 feet of runway, I mean driveway, and I have 6 rocket propelled jet fighters hooked up by 3/8 inch rope back to the dog cart. I would normally just go over the grass, hey, why not, we’ll be airborne anyway. Except there is a young sapling and it is surrounded by gargantuan boulders to protect it from idiots backing into my yard (and rocket propelled dog carts). And this helpless little toothpick is right in the way.
OK, so I’ll unhook three of the dog’s tug lines and steer around the toothpick and then, when we get to the bottom of the driveway hill, we’ll hook everyone up. Sounds like a plan (oh, that word — see discussion of Chinese military philosophy above).
Things (should I mention this) did not go as planned.
After putting John and Mark in lead and then Echo and Bess at swing and going to get Tom and Singer — it’s just me, I have to bring them out 2 at a time. So I come out with two hyperactive 10-month-old Malamutes dragging my butt out the doorway…. and no dogs.
Cart is there. Dogs are…. Holy crap. They have gone south into what someone generously called the wildflower bed, but which is in fact a thorn-bush, sticker-bush, tangled up disaster across the front of my house and I have 4 sled dogs tangled into a seething pile in the middle. And oddly, Summer standing at the fence yelling at them harshly (see conference discussion above).
Turns out Echo — I’m sure it was Echo, because Bess is a sweetie — Echo turned her alligator jaws on the extra large gangline snap hook and in two see-saws back and forth, they were loose. She unsnapped the darned thing!!!! But somehow they were still here. I throw Tom and Singer back in the house and slam the door on their expectant little faces (the important part I missed in the excitement was that they were LOOSE in the basement).
I grabbed dogs and started dragging them, out of the briar patch. Had to cut the gangline twice to get the dogs out. How the HELL do they get that tangled. It was worse than a net and I built the danged thing, I KNOW it didn’t look like that when they started.
But I am D-termined to do this run. So I get my fid and my repair rope and I tie the dogs to the truck and fix it right there. So there! I also muzzle Echo. At which point I figured out she had a powerful influence on Bess. She must use threat or hypnosis because Bess turned around and delicately took the gangline snap hook in her jaws and mouthed it a moment until she got it just right and it opened and they were loose. And back in the briar patch after…. Adam the cat who is sitting on the fence going neener-neener-neener.
You have to understand it is 30 minutes past daybreak here, 8:00 a.m. and I haven’t had any caffeine yet. And this was all seeming perfectly normal to me. OK, got the dogs stretched out. Took the repair kit and tied a KNOT in a new safety line so that even if Echo makes Bess unhook the gangline again, there will be a ROPE and not AIR between the gangline and the cart.
Are we ready to go yet? I’m exhausted as if I’ve run them 5 miles on foot. So, hook the kids back up, tie the leaders to the truck I MOVE close enough to do so. Turn towards the house and realize I have left two Malamute puppies alone in the basement for 15 minutes. Unsupervised.
Burst into the basement and they are sitting at the door, at attention, with angelic grins on their faces. And Summer is sitting at the basement door leading to the kennels glaring at them. Could it be? Could Summer be helping me influence these two to goodness and obedience? Could she have momma-ed them into behaving? Well, not likely, I’m not that de-caffinated, but I also don’t want to know until we get back, so I grab the two angels (some angels fell, OK, I KNOW this), and hook them to the cart and tell everyone to STAY-STAY-STAY-STAY while I unhook my leaders and tell them to stretch out and pat heads and keep telling them stay as I reach for the cart handlebars.
Can anyone else see what I did wrong?
It’s not the helmet, I wear that before I hook the gang lines to the cart these days. It’s not the gloves, they are on FIRST. The “plan” was to unhook every other dog. I got a bit distracted from the plan by the Houdini act. So I… um, well, forgot to unhook every other dog. As my hand was going towards the T-bar in slow motion I had this brilliant insight: I had forgotten to unhook every other dog, I had a full compliment of rockets hooked up to this cart. I was about to die.
You don’t have time to think, OK. But if you’ve run your dogs more than twice, you’ll know that there is a unwritten contract drawn between dog and driver. When the last dog is hooked up, and the driver is saying Stay-Stay-Stay and headed back to the cart with a scared expression on her face, the dogs know that she is NOT going to change her mind and make them actually stay. In this situation Stay means Wait. And wait means I get to move real soon now. The contract is that the driver has 5 or 6 seconds max to get on board before they light this candle. There is no stopping the countdown. There is no re-negotiation. It’s a go. Despite what Houston thinks about it.
So, I said, “Oh, shit.” (Sorry, but that’s what I said.)
But if anyone has ever seen the video John Moyers took of us sledding last winter at our one and only snow, you’ll know that “Oh, shit” is what I normally say when the rocket lights up and we take off down the driveway. (Again, sorry, but it’s what I say and didn’t know it until I saw the tape.) So when the dogs heard “Oh, shit” they thought this was the moment they had been waiting for. They thought “oh, shit” meant lets go like our hair is on fire.
I grabbed the T-bar as they took off. My feet actually left the ground and I did a snap the whip kind of thing, but managed to bounce my feet off the ground and onto the cart (ever see the rodeo guy bounce his feet off the ground next to a running horse, then propel himself into the seat? It wasn’t like that. Ever see the rodeo clowns and the big brahma bulls, it was more like that.)
And the cart is headed straight for the boulder-protected toothpick. I closed my eyes. And steered hard left. And felt the cart leave the ground. And then gently kiss the ground and levitate back up as we sailed OVER the toothpick.
And I stomp the brakes, lock the wheels, and slow us down not one whit because, as we all know, class, brakes only work when the wheels are in contact with the ground.
I have 4 red Siberians whose bloodlines go right back to the racing stock in Alaska by way of Juroblyn, Solocha, Myla, Kansa, and Tyken Siberians <shameless plugs>. I have 2 seal Malamute puppies who have been threatened by their mother and who have the legs and power and angulation to keep up with rocket propelled Siberians <Snow Song and Wayeh Malamutes>. I have a death grip on the T-bar as we come down the driveway at a dead run, and then back up the driveway, and I yell “Turn HAW, Mark, Turn HAW.” And we do.
There is a moment on flat ground, when the dogs all lunge into their harnesses together, a moment of such power and energy that the sane person would realize she was in way over her head and sell the cart to her worst enemy, offer to deliver it if needed, who would slice up her gang lines and harnesses and burn them in the driveway, who would call her breeders and beg them to come get their infernal dogs now, who would call the AKC for a breeder referral on Pomeranians. Or Dachsies.
I, on the other hand, yelled, YEEEEEEEE-HAW!
(Which as we all know, is a turn command.)
(Continued in Part 2)