Training Season Comes. And Not a Moment Too Soon.

Image Hosted by

Boy, is it nice to get out again.

Sorting through the giant knot of harnesses that I had just pulled out of the equipment box, along with everything else that had become tangled – extra ganglines, tug lines, a spare drop line, snowhook – those sorts of things, I thought to myself that training season is less about training the dogs and more about re-training the musher. To better explain, let’s examine the first run of the season.

The drop line was stretched from the front of the truck to the back, each space filled with an excited, barking and lunging dog. For some reason, though it stretched taut between the front and back last season, the drop line didn’t even reach between the two anchor points now, seemingly having shrunk over the summer despite being made of aircraft cable; a material not normally associated with shrinkage. I had to fasten the line to the truck with a spare neckline. My routine is to drop the dogs (which, to the uninitiated, means to let the dogs out of their box and hook them to the line, the ‘drop line’ I just mentioned,) so they can have a pee and/or a poop before I harness them. While they are doing this, I hook up the gangline to the sled, or in this case, the four-wheeler, tie off the sled or four-wheeler so it doesn’t take off on me when I hook the dogs up, and I sort out the harnesses. All the while, I continually glance back at the dogs to see if there is a poop to pick up or a loose dog running around because amid all the excitement it’s hard to tell when a dog is loose – the dogs are already barking at a fever pitch as it is, especially in the early part of the season.

Looking over my shoulder to see if there is a poop or a loose dog, I see there is. A poop, not a loose dog. I walk over to the trailer for the shovel and find that I have left it leaning up against the wall of the shed at home. Now I have to rummage through what equipment and junk may lie in my truck to find something suitable to scoop up the crap because I hate the dogs stepping in it, especially when they jump all over you when it comes time to harness. The poop suitably dealt with, I return to rigging the four-wheeler. Where did I put that carabiner? Did I even bring it? What am I going to use to attach the gangline to the four-wheeler now? I improvise. I mean, I have to: what else am I going to do?

Image Hosted by

Ruby (far) and Fable (near)

And now, here I am, holding a big knot of harnesses with one hand and scratching my head with the other. Did the ones with the blue pulls go on the big dogs or the small dogs? Two different harnesses have brown pulls – which ones were the large and which were the mediums again? This one has Eddy’s name on it, but he’s not running today so will it fit another dog? Jinx chewed through this one last year; how’d it end up in the usable harness pile? I’m running nine dogs today and even in a pile of thirty harnesses, I can’t find enough to fit the dogs. They’re there, of course, but I have to re-fit some of the dogs once or twice to find the proper ones.

So: gangline more or less attached, dogs harnessed – just barely – cardboard poop-scooper suitably dealt with, I lead the dogs to the line, one-by-one. Of course they are excited and they jump around but they manage to hold their place and, for the most part, not interfere with their neighbour. My last dog is led to the line and hooked up, I call out to the team: “READY?” and they all snap to attention, eyes forward and straining against the tied off four-wheeler. I reach behind me to pull on the quick release that has, to this point, held us in place only to find that I have tied it too far for me to reach from the seat of the four-wheeler. Getting off to pull it would be stupid because I’d be left at the truck while my team disappeared down the road. Have I mentioned that our four-wheeler doesn’t have any brakes? I remember my knife. I can see it in my mind, sitting on the table back at the house, so cutting the line is out. I’m left with one option: hook my one foot on the front rack of the four-wheeler and lean wa-a-a-y back to pull the quick release. The dogs will lurch forward, of this I am sure, and I will have to maintain my precarious grip as best I can until I can slide forward and better grab the handlebars of the four-wheeler.

I stretch as far as I can, my toes just barely grabbing the bar, and my fingers not quite reaching enough to pull the release. I skootch a bit further. It’s one or the other: my toes grabbing or my fingers grabbing but it’s obvious both won’t grab at the same time. If I don’t pull that release, we are not going anywhere and all of the fuss up to this point would be for nothing. I make a mini-lunge for the release and grab it as quickly as I can. It pops, the four-wheeler lurches forward and feels like it’s approaching escape velocity before I can even turn around. We bounce over rocks and ruts but I am eventually able to right myself and gain control.

The rest of the run was perfection. Well, almost. A few minor corrections for running too close to the middle of the trail and a missed turn but all in all, a definitely respectable run. When we are back at the truck and the dogs have had their water, I look at them; they are already breathing normally and all seem to want to go again. I think then about myself: unorganised and unprepared. Who then, really, is this training season for?

Image Hosted by

Dora (near) and Leedia (far)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: