It's been almost two weeks since Anna and I
returned from our trip with Karen and the 24 dogs to Montana.
You can't begin to imagine what happens when three women travel
together in a dog truck for the better part of two weeks.
I thought what I'd do is share some snip-its from our trip.
This is by no stretch a neatly woven tale but rather "tales from
behind the dog truck".
Karen and Her Brother, Jim
Our first stop on the trip was in Calgary. Karen's brother Jim
escorted us to the hotel through the booming town of Calgary
during rush hour. It occurred to me that Jim's car was quite a
contrast to his sister's choice of transportation - a hot little
sports car that can travel faster than the speed of light versus
a huge dog truck. Hmmm!!! As we stopped at a red light behind
Jim, Karen considered turning on the "moose" lights and blinding
him but opted instead to inch up ever so close behind Jim's car
just to make her brother a bit nervous. Sibling rivalry is
alive and well for sure!!!
A Cold Night in Whitefish
Karen's diary entry on the Flathead Race mentions the warm
temperatures we experienced. If I can speak for Anna, I bet she
would not use the word "warm" to describe her first night's
sleep in Whitefish. Her recollection is sure to be somewhat
distorted since hypothermia has a way of playing games with
one's sense of reality. Poor Anna being young and not holding
an ounce of body fat, almost succumbed to the sub-zero
temperatures in our hotel room the first night. Anna woke the
next morning to say she darn near froze to death, while Karen's
side of the story is that she sleeps better with a window open
so that she can be more aware of her dogs if they fuss in the
dog truck. How can you argue with that? Let's just say that
the rest of the trip Anna made darn sure there was a surplus of
extra blankets in the room. Brrrrrrrrr!!!
Kara Saves our Lives
Karen also mentions in her diary entry that we had a "hairy"
drive back down the mountain to Whitefish once the race was
finished. I truly believe that Kara was the driving force
behind saving the day. I thought hard about whether I dare
share my thoughts on this, but have decided to jump in knowing
that Kara will make me pay on many levels. As you may recall,
Karen's post reads "while we didn't hit the ditch, we slid into
a guard rail". While the guardrail did indeed save our behinds,
the fact that Kara's box was on the driver's side is what really
made the difference. You see, Anna and I, having loaded and
unloaded the team many times during our trip, soon realized that
"little" Kara had perhaps gained a few pounds over Christmas and
(dare I say it) had transformed into somewhat of a Chunky
Monkey. Okay, so maybe she had just a few extra pounds on her
girth, but nonetheless her presence on the driver's side of the
truck played a big part in "holding" the truck from gaining
further momentum as we met the guardrail. All kidding aside, it
will go down as one of the top five "almost" moments in my
life. Another I will look forward to adding to the list is when
Kara makes me pay for sharing this story. Kara, the reference
to needing a crane to lift you into your box was uncalled for.
My most sincere apologies.
The Art of "Loading and Unloading" a Dog Box
Well, if it's an art I certainly have not yet mastered it. I
pride myself on always handling dogs with the utmost respect and
care. It is with great angst that I must admit I suck at
loading a dog box. The bottom boxes aren't bad, but the top
boxes??? While none of the dogs are harmed when I load them, I
think it is safe to say that I have not yet finessed the
technique. The saving grace is that I know Karen, Anna and
likely anyone else who witnesses my struggle, gets a good laugh
- and I am always up for humour. And if loading isn't bad
enough, I seem to be missing the brain capacity to remember
which dog goes in which box. Some of you may have seen the
flattering photo that Karen posted of me sporting a gift from
Nahanni - a scratch from my nose down to my lip. Beautiful I
say, just beautiful. As Nahanni will attest to, it was when I
tried to load her in the wrong box that she felt it necessary to
correct me with the now famous NAAAA-hanni karate kick with her
hind foot. Being a sucker for punishment, the rest of the trip
I insisted that I load Nahanni so that I could right the wrong
so to speak. By the last day of our trip, I do recall Anna and
I agreeing that my "loading form" had improved with at least a
few of the dogs. Anna managed to dodge any injuries until we
were loading the remaining 12 dogs at Seeley Lake after Karen
had left the start. It seems Jinx had a bone to pick with Anna
and took it out on her eyeball. No major damage but a nail to
the eyeball is never pleasant. In hindsight, one has to wonder
if perhaps Kara paid off Nahanni and Jinx to do her dirty work
as a way of getting back at Anna and me for our tasteless
comments about her weight. Seems pretty clear to me now that I
think about it.
As with any profession, over time a few words crop into one's
vocabulary that seem to "stick" and are used repeatedly while
working in your chosen field. Handling dogs is no exception,
and so enters our first word of the North Wapiti dictionary of
handling terms. "Scooge", (sounds like Ebenezer Scrooge,
without the "r"). Its definition is all encompassing and refers
to any type of revolting thing one might encounter as a dog
handler, and you guessed it usually relates to something that
originates within a dog. To elaborate on its definition would
not only be distasteful but may limit your use of the word. So
please, use the word freely in your everyday lives with your
animals and think of Anna and me fondly every time you use it .
Great People and New Friends
First off, I have to say that having a chance again this year to
take a winter trip with Karen was another windfall for me.
Karen and I have become friends over the years and it is
certainly a relationship that I honour dearly and never take for
granted. So Karen, thank you for letting me share your world.
Next on the list is Anna, who I met a few times while at North
Wapiti. By the end of trip, we had spent pretty much every
moment of two weeks together with lots of laughs and hard work.
Despite the age difference (Anna celebrated her 19th birthday
while on the road - Anna, now EVERYONE knows), we had a blast
together but also knew when to buckle down and get to work.
There may have been a couple of times that Karen would have
loved to disown us but she resisted the temptation (or we stayed
in the truck so she couldn't drive off without us). Thanks for
your patience, Karen.
Best of all, I finally got to meet Karen's Mom which was a
pleasure. Morna, you are a gem. She gets a certain twinkle in
her eye when she talks about her kids - definitely a proud Mom
and for good reason.
Then of course there is Marlene and Doug Daniels from Belgrade,
Montana and Barbara and Jim Watt from Missoula, Montana. As
Karen mentioned in her post, these people are very special. I
had a wonderful time getting to know them and was blown away by
their generosity and hospitality. Thank you, thank you.
In closing, I have one last thing to share. Remember that
horrible saying "blondes have more fun"? Well, I firmly believe
that "handlers have more fun", right Anna? Ohhhhhhhh, Penny, I
think we might need t-shirts!!!