Sunday, September 10, 2006

Dog teams and leaf peepers

So I started fall training today. I ran two teams, the first with eight dogs and the second with 10. I ran mostly yearlings so it was pretty crazy, especially leaving the yard. These are the yearlings of Ken and Gwen that I will train and race with this winter.
Bully, Strider and Sister (my dogs) also ran in harness today and did really well. Bull hasn't run since he was injured on the Yukon Quest this past February (that's why I got him for free) so I was really proud of him for keeping up with the young ones. We only did a three-mile loop and went really slow. When training young dogs, it's important to make their first runs short and fun with lots of breaks and encouragement. Otherwise, if you push them too hard at a young age (or ever, actually), you can sour them on running with the team. All the yearlings did really well today, they pulled hard and were happy the entire time. With one exception. A young, clunky goofball named Luke. He's really adorable and kind of a weirdo...maybe that's why I like him so much. Anyway, a minute or so after leaving the yard, Luke decided he didn't want to run. So he just stopped. But the rest of the team of course wanted to keep going. They dragged him for a second or so, before I stopped the team and went up to see what was the matter. Nothing was wrong with him; he just didn't want to go. I loved him up for a minute, gave the rest of the dogs some pets and then tried again. Nope. Luke was not going to run. I stopped the team again and went up to Luke, unhooked him and took off his harness. I was going to continue the run with one less dog, but I looked around and realized that Axel, an old (11years old), retired and quite rotund boy was following behind the team. I called him over and put Luke's harness on him. He immediately started wagging his tail so I hooked him up. What a pinch runner he was. Axel had a great time and pulled harder than any other dog on the team. He obviously won't accept retirement lying down. So we were off again. Luke followed the team and occasionally would leap into the middle of the group causing big tangles and one fight. Near the end of the short jaunt, I decided to give Luke another chance. I unhooked and unharnessed Axel and put Luke back in. Same result. I stopped yet again and let him run home loose.
Other than Luke, all the dogs were great. I'm sure Luke will come around with some extra attention, but if he still doesn't want to run, he'll make a nice pet for someone.
I'll continue training with the four-wheeler about every other day until the snow flies and then the dogs will come to our property where they'll live for the winter. Our new property butts up against the Alaska Dog Mushers' Association trails so I can leave on a sled right from my own yard. If today was any indication, it's going to be a good season.

A beautiful day for running dogs.

Taking a break for water at the local watering hole. In lead are the old reliables Oreo on the left and Alikat on the right.

My boys. Bully on the far left and Strider checking out the trail ahead on the far right.

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