I’m Dying Here

Up at 6 am and decided that the weather was never going to drop into the 50s like I have waited for (Tennessee) so I was going to do something about the dogs not getting harness time and me not getting in shape. See if you put dogs and harnesses into an exercise program, it is not technically work. It is technically fun. And if it’s fun then I can haul my wide summer butt out of bed without complaint — right

Rebel & Sam

Brandi and Rebel are show kennel rehomes. I have wanted Rebel for years and Brandi is my Bess’ sister, whom I adore, so what’s not to love? They get along with everything and from everything I know of their kin they are going to be excellent sleddogs.

So… hooked them both into harness for almost the first time in their life, but surely the first time in their life with a team mate, put a neckline between their TUG lines, wrapped a wide leather 6′ leash around my aforementioned wide summer butt and then hooked it to the neckline. This is short enough, depending on the circumference of your butt, to be able to do foot corrections when they slow up. Well, these two never slowed up. They are harness bangers with the best of them. The problem, however with being on a 6′ leash — minus the circumference of my butt — is that when these novice harness bangers get frustrated with not GOING at Sled Dog Mach 5 is that one of them – OK, Brandi – one of them will spin in a circle and dart AROUND the only obstacle to freedom, which to a novice sled dog maniac like her is, well, I guess, me.

Rope Burns.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Anyone who knows me knows that when I run the dogs I look like Mad Maxine. I wear long pants, long sleeves, heavy boots, leather padded bikers gloves, and a helmet. I am prepared. And I have learned the hard way to wear each of these items when I am running the dogs. But I wasn’t technically “running” the dogs. We were going for a walk. Walks in 65 degree weather in the balmy Southern climes take place in — you guessed it — shorts. Shorts offer no protection whatsoever when Sled Dog Mach 5 takes place in a circle around your legs.

Bess & Brandi.

Lay on the ground and whimper here for a moment and the dogs, being great dogs besides wanna-be Mach 5 club members, will come back and paint your face with dog slobber. Which in dog-ese means “Get up or we put our tongues in your ears next ” — which as we all know is NOT as much fun as it should be.

Get up and complete the 1-mile dirt track loop and come back. And grin for joy, while ignoring the sting in the back of the knees, because these two are banging the harnesses all the way UP the hill. <Big dopey grin here.> Joy is a sublime thing. You hold it in your hands and cradle it to the skin of your face like a newborn and you close your eyes and just enjoy.

However. I am not satisfied with that and it’s not yet daylight. So I hook up almost-6mo Ruth & Sam, and I do it with not a little anticipation. These 2 are sibs out of Bess and Jazz — both kin to Rebel and Brandi. And Bess and Jazz are my 2 most enthusiastic workers, in running and weightpulling harnesses. They are also good at their jobs. Bess is the one voted most likely to pull a mountain if she’d use all FOUR feet. But using only 2 feet gets her 18% so who’s complaining? And Jazz has the same wonderful work ethic — Go-Go-GO! So I hook up their kids.

The power of 2 almost 6-month-olds is not the same power as a 3yo and 7yo (Brandi & Rebel). The enthusiasm is the same. The noise is pretty unbelievable. And the sucker who has already done this mile once today might actually let them have a little fun by forgetting this is her second trip.


So we wave as we see brother Vet head to work and he flashes his lights and I thank God everything is going well because he thinks I’m pretty nuts anyway. And I am happy as a clam as he goes out of sight and I am not watching my step on the rough patches of ground. And of course I misstepped and look down to catch my balance AND DID CATCH MY BALANCE, thank you. But in doing so I did miss the sight, whatever it was, that so enthralled the babies and made them head for the hills — which are 90 degrees away from the direction of travel. And yes, 2 almost-6mos can play crack the whip with an unwary mom. And yes, the babies can come back and play a tapdance on your chest while you lay there with the wind knocked out of you in a flat field with no telephone poles, no trees, and no rampaging beaver. Go figure. But thank God Matt was already out of sight and no one witnessed this little escapade. Except that trucker on the side of the road who is bent over double and laughing as I wave feebly from the ground.

River & Kate
River & Kate

But, to remind you, I am out here because of the extra padding on my wide summer posterior. And the padding apparently comes in handy elsewhere because I wasn’t hurt. Cool.

Well, except for the rope burns on the backs of my knees. But some spray stuff out of a can I carried with me but it made me yip and jump in circles and then everything went numb so I think I’m gonna live.

Get back home and am still pleased as punch with the little demons. So I hook up the OTHER 2 babies River and Kate, 5.5mos. And unrelated to all the other dogs. And ignore the shaking in my knees and spray the backs of my knees again (no, it didn’t occur to me to put on pants, where were YOU when I needed advice?). And off we go.

River & Kate

River is a harness banger. Kate is an intellectual, a thinker, and a nature lover. I know this from their practice pulling an empty plastic sled down and up the driveway. Kate will run-run-run until she sees something more interesting — like gravel. Or the wind blows a leaf. Or one of those little protein things that floats in your eyes and makes a dark spot, until one of them floats around in front and then she’ll stop and tilt her head and watch it. Heck, I don’t know what goes on in her head when she does this but it’s funny as hell to my friends.

So I am anticipating that River will do her duty and haul me and Kate around the 1-mile dirt loop. Well… (It wouldn’t be a story if it went as anticipated, now would it?) Turns out that when you put Kate in harness NEXT to someone that the Sled Dog Mach 5 button is pushed and one should hold on to one’s seat — take your pick here, chair or hiney. She also switches OFF Sled Dog Mach 5 without going through gears. Just Blazing speed or stand still. Which means that River whips around in a short circle with Kate at the pivot point and mom leaps them both because she was at a fast downhill walk. But mom is hooked to their tuglines and there is not enough leash, no matter how narrow your butt is, to actually get all the way OVER them. So we all sprawl in a heap and gasp for breath.

River & Kate

OK. Untangle all of us. Keep the puppies from licking the backs of your knees and the spray stuff out of a can you didn’t check for puppy poisoning potential. Line us all out again and take off. Kate, having had her fun for the day decides to just, well, work. River has always wanted to work and she’s having a blast go-go-GOing. And mom comes back to the house completely WHIPPED. (And grinning.)

Happy Trails!
SHS 10/3/02

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