I Hate Red Dogs

I really hate the red ones. Especially the red ones who go deaf. But only go deaf when they have dumped you off the cart when they went over a ditch. A ditch, mind you, that they have gone over a hundred times since September. OK, maybe not a hundred. Closer to 95 times.

It all started innocently enough this morning at 4:30. That’s when the chorus started from the kitchen. My crates are double stacked there in lieu of things like dining room tables and chairs and china cabinets. These numbskulls know that we don’t get up until 5:30 — AT THE EARLIEST. And preferably an hour after that. But at 4:30 this morning they were in full volume.

Now I have a little house. And it’s an unusual open floor plan for a 60-year-old house. The door that should have been in the wall between the kitchen and living room wasn’t there — instead a 6′ opening/arch in it’s place. And the living room opened to the front bedroom (now dog stuff storage). And the stairs leading upstairs are in that bedroom which leads to the loft where I sleep. So there is one solid wood door between me and the Vienna Choir Boys downstairs. Only I left that door open last night like an idiot and the noise funneled upstairs like smoke. In other words LOUDLY.

Well, being the normally proud mom of sled dogs, I understand things like un-scheduled choruses in the early hours. But my dogs, being MY dogs, understand they might get yelled at for such behavior. Yelling “Knock it off!” did nothing to stop the chorus. It seemed to egg them on. Weird enough, because I have a voice like a Marine Drill Sergeant who is unusually displeased with his recruits.

But I also had time to think (blearily) as I stomped downstairs and through the dog stuff storage room (and managed not to stumble over anything). And I realized that we hadn’t run in nearly 2 weeks.

This being the South, our Autumns are either warm and wet or cold and dry. And that varies from day to day. We had a week of warm and wet. Followed on the heels of the Knoxville Cluster Dog Show. So I spent better than a week getting ready for a dog show, going to a 5-day dog show, and recovering from a 5-day dog show. Except for the 3 girls who went with me, the rest of them had been pretty much neglected.

So as I stood in the kitchen in the pitch black, I had a moment of sanity before I found the light cord from the ceiling fan. And for that moment, I felt a little ashamed.

OK, let’s not put too fine a point on it. These are “merely” dogs. They are not my children. I didn’t have labor pains to deliver them. They are not cursed with teenaged angst. They do not get acne. Or date sexual deviants. And I won’t have to mortgage the house to send them to college. And they will not move away from home and forget to call unless they need money. No, they do something much worse. They die before you.

So having this tornado of thoughts in the nanosecond before the lights came on, which by the way turning on lights shuts them up instantly, having these thoughts, I just looked at them and said a terrible, misguided, ill-thought-out phrase, “Wanna go for a run?”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I will be paying for that little slip for a long time. Years in the future, they will have forgotten Sit, and Come, and Hush. But they will remember, despite 3000 days straight were it doesn’t work, they will remember that singing in the night, means mom takes them on a night run.

Color me stupid. Because no one with half an ounce of brains will EVER reward bad behavior with that Mecca of dog events — a night run.

So I harnessed up 6 of the little demons, uh, I mean dogs. And I got out the headlamp, and we took off.

Have I forgotten to mention that this is the first run ever where we decided to run without a neckline on the leaders? See, we’ve had this discussion on a couple of lists and it’s an idea that’s been brewing in the back of my feeble brain. And this was the first run we’ve had since the idea started percolating. And of course everyone knows that when you are going to upset the routine of your leaders-in-training, you should do it on a night run… No? You mean I’m the only one who thinks that?

Well, everything went perfectly.

No kidding. Everything was fine. We took off down the driveway like a rocket. We made our turns to stay on the grassy shoulder. The temps were in the upper 30’s. The dogs were having a grand time. And we did about 3 miles when they dumped me off the cart.

Now, I didn’t say I was the one who thought things went perfectly. Because I didn’t exactly plan on taking a branch across the face and hands and loosing my grip on the cart. But THEY, the little ingrates, THEY thought it was perfect because any 6-dog team can outrun a human who is blinded with tears from pine tree whiplash and out of breath from landing on her backside.

I’ll just stop here and say thank you, God, and thank you, manufacturers of bike helmets. My head thunked pretty hard on the dirt path, but no damage thanks to the helmet. Well, no more damage than is required to think you can run 2 Malamutes and 4 puppies in the dark after 2 weeks of being cooped up. But I digress.

So the nice thing about woods trails and leaders without necklines, is that eventually they will split a tree and one dog will go on one side and one dog on the other side. And being leaders-in-training it shouldn’t take that long. Right? Those ingrates made it 2 more miles, that’s MILES, before I caught up with them. And only then because they treed a hunter.

I’m being nice. He didn’t have permission to hunt and it wasn’t his property. But it scared the hell out of him to have 6 dogs with reflective harnesses suddenly appear out of nowhere and surround his tree and try to CLIMB it. And it took me long enough to find him that I’m sure he was having some ill-advised thoughts. But, even for a poacher, he wasn’t dumb enough to shoot the hounds from hell. He did, however, get a stern lecture from me and the scare of his life, because I said a truly mean thing to him. “Want a ride?”

A mile later, we had to pry his fingers loose and he was white-faced, and I gave him another stern lecture about poaching on “patrolled” land as he scrambled into his truck and locked the doors.

<G> OK, I was feeling smug. And cocky. And congratulating myself on a job well done. And when we got back to the house it was just daylight. So I unhooked the Malamute & puppy team and hooked up the Siberian team. The red Siberian team with a token dilute black/white.

It was daylight, but I kept my reflective vets and headlamp and harnessed them up. And we took off down the driveway. And since we had such success with the no-neckline-on-leaders routine, we did it again. But the Siberians are LEARNING to be leaders, the Malamutes have 1 leader between them.

So we took the Haw turn at the base of the driveway onto the grassy shoulder — took it at speed mind you. And we got over the first big dip. Dip in the ground. Not dip driving the cart. And we were flying across the hayfields as the grayness was easing into daylight and the cold was rushing passed and the dogs were stretched out and flying.

Across the next driveway and back into the hayfield. And split the telephone pole.

I just stood there and glared at them. Teeth clenched. There is one freaking telephone pole in a 26-acer hay field and they split it. Took a couple of calming breaths. Stalked to my leaders. Who are wrapped completely and sitting on each other. Grinning at me and wagging their tails. Shake my head, because suddenly it’s just silliness on their part, not a plot to drive my blood pressure up. I rub everyone’s head, untangle them, stretch them out. And went the wrong way around the telephone pole to grab the cart.

I say the wrong way because if I had gone the OTHER way around, when the team took off, I might have had a prayer of grabbing a firm hold on the cart as it rushed passed. Despite the calls of STAY, WHOA, STAY! Which of course were ignored by the redheads.

So I ran right into the telephone pole and bounced off (natural padded) and grabbed as they streaked passed. But didn’t quite get on when we came up on The Ditch. You have to put that thing in capital letters. It deserves to be a proper noun. Going over it prepared is simple. You say “E-Z” and apply the brakes and the dogs slow down, dip in, then lunge up the other side. You steer around the big rocks and over the nice flat rock. And you bend your knees to absorb the impact and everything is AOK.

Or you have one hand on the steering bar and one foot on the platform and the dogs steer AT SPEED towards the largest rocks — which they leap over — at speed. And the cart JOLTS as it hits. Just enough of a jolt to jolt my sorry self off the cart. Now I am not hurt. I am fast working on mad. And worry. But not hurt. So I start jogging after them. As they travel down the grassy shoulder. Ignoring all calls to red heads. Apparently there is a bubble of space-time continuum that forms around run away sled dogs teams. This non-standard universe warps sound waves until calls for “WHOA, BESS!” sound something like “Run for your life!” Or “There’s a cookie in it for you if you loose mom.”

So I am jogging down the bike path next to the highway, and see them stop. Can it be? Are they listening to my gasping calls of “Stay, Bess! Stay, Jazz!” Heck no, they are conferring amongst themselves and they go UP the grassy shoulder, UP the bank, and come SCREAMING down the other side, and the cart flips! Gotcha! I think. I’ll get you now. And of course they are going slow enough that I am within 50 feet, when they hit another ditch and the cart rights itself and they are really flying now.

And I know that I am passed the point of going back to get my truck. And I am trying to flag someone down. And no one is stopping.

Sure enough the dogs leave the grassy shoulder and hit the asphalt. And I am having nightmare flashes of what happens if they make their customary turn across traffic — but make it without someone to look for traffic and tell them WHEN. But somehow they discuss it amongst themselves and they ON-BY when they should. I’m sure it had nothing to do with me yelling On By. My influence on them was reduced to a wolf herding horses. RUN-AWAY!

And then two things happen. A woman pulls over and says, “GET IN!” All excited and red-faced and high-voiced. And a truck pulls crosses the medium and stops in front of my team.

So I climb into the woman’s truck and I am praying the truck guy will catch my team. And of course the hooligans stop for him. They even were sitting when I got there. I thanked everyone profusely and they explained that they were moving from Minnesota to Georgia and they were talking on their two-way radios when the wife (Delores) says, “You are not going to believe what I am seeing.” And husband (John) says, “I see it, I see it, go get her. I’ll get the team.”

The MacNahams said it made their day, and I told them I’d sell them a red team real cheap and they just laughed thinking I was being funny. And of course the rest of the run went flawlessly. All 8 miles of it — because I for darned sure wanted them tired when they got home. And of course 20 minutes later they are playing rip-roaring games in the back yard.

Seriously, I’ll sell cheap. If you’ve got Blue Cross and Aflac, you’ll love these guys. Anyone crazy enough to take me up on the offer..? Guess not, I think I’m stuck with them.

Happy Trails!
SHS 11/7/02

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