Fall / Winter 2017

Fall / Winter 2017

Summer has come to a close and school has started up.  We are missing the sisters being away at school all day. Dog training season has began. Damon has started to put miles on the team after the temps dropped below 60 F degrees.  Tillie, our hunting dog, got to run with the team as long as she was having fun, but about a month into training, she started to slow.  Then she sat  down on a run, which in the mushing terms means, I quit.

Our old girl, Olive, still tries to hobble out to get hooked up, yet can’t even walk on her own most days.  But she still tries.

The team howls and howls to run.  They can’t wait to put on the miles. The amount of howling is almost ridiculous. They cry if Damon leaves in the dog truck without taking them with or for taking them for a run.  It’s really something to experience watching these dogs howl and howl to run.  It is so noisy before they run but the second that they start, it’s silent.

The training started at five miles at a time.  It increases no more than 10% a week to keep the team injury free. And  48 dogs started the training process.  Being in Minnesota, you would think that we would have plenty of snow to run on.  But no, it’s only been in mid-December that we have had enough snow to run the trails.  All the other training miles have had to be on the roads and with a 4 wheeler instead of a sled.  The gravel is really hard on paws, so Damon hasn’t been able to increase the miles like he wants. He’s only getting in 40-50 miles at a time. Crazy amount of miles to a newbie like me.  I can’t imagine going five miles with 18 dogs in front of me, in below 0 temps, on the back of a four-wheeler. Holy smokes, I got bored on the three-mile ride I took with them one day.

As the season has progressed there continues to be highs and lows.  Damon came home tonight excited to share that he put some of our young girl dogs up in lead for the first time and they were rock stars.  And you would never know it from their personality and size.  One is painfully timid.  The other surprise of the day was our “little sisters”.  They are two little girl dogs named Norma and Aurora.  Both are tiny and sweet, but they are some of the hardest working dogs on the team.  They keep the tempo fast and pull hard.  It’s been great watching them mature.

However, on the low side, the team had two cuts tonight.  Our Koyak just doesn’t seem to be pulling with intensity and Damon worries that he’s just not enjoying it.  It might be the roads/ four wheeler versus snow/ sled running. And he’s doing so-so, but they have to make seven cuts in the next week.  Also, our little Yettna seems to have hurt her shoulder.  I guess that it has something to do with running on the roads, but she probably won’t be healed before they leave for Montana.  It’s not worth pushing her too hard and ruining her experience or possibly hurting her for a longer period of time.  The next time they run and don’t put these two in, they are going to be heart broken.  The  mournful howl that follows sounds absolutely depressing.

So far it’s been the dog’s decision or an injury to cause the cut.  But now it’s the Musher who has to make the heartbreaking decision on who gets cut. The Musher takes into consideration the dog’s performance, health, and heart.  Like the little sisters, for instance, they are small but have lots of heart.  There are stronger dogs that do just fine, but heart and attitude carry more weight than size and strength.   A lot of decisions have to be made in the next four days.  I am not envious of those decisions that have to be made.

Well, for now, I better sign off.  I have another ten days of single parenting (not including the eight days before this), seven visitors coming for the weekend, packing up Damon and the dogs to leave for Montana a week before the race starts, and then packing up myself and the kids to leave for eight days in Montana.  I’m excited, but lots of work to be done.

Stay with me, I may need a hand to hold.

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