As I’ve mentioned in previous diary entries, this year for the first time in many years, the dogs and I took a break from running. It’s been just about 6 weeks since I last hooked up a team. We’ve all enjoyed the break, but the last week has found me glancing at the thermometer in the mornings and the level of destruction in the dog yard, in the form of destroyed water buckets and giant holes being dug had also stepped up - so the signs were there that we were all getting itchy feet!
Last night Mark was working a night shift, so there was no need to set an alarm, yet I woke up right at 5 am, the perfect time to head out and run dogs. A quick glance outside (my fancy bedside indoor/outdoor weather station ‘bit the biscuit’ early this week) to see the thermometer reading 1C and I was pulling on sweats and a sweatshirt and heading out the door.
The dog yard wasn’t sure what was up until the garage door opened and I backed the quad out, then they went WILD. The young dogs are funny to watch, ‘cause they really aren’t entirely sure why they are getting so excited – but they follow the lead of the veterans, who were going insane.
My team for the morning was a nice mix of veterans and some of the up and coming 2 year olds.
Originally I had Tess in there instead of Kara, but Kara has been evicted from the house while
Jumper is in with her pups and she is not happy about it. She looked so excited at the prospect of a run I just couldn’t disappoint her!
Anyway, I got the quad tied off, the lines strung out and started gathering dogs. I bring the dogs over the to the ‘ready chain’ in the order they are going to run, so first up was Moses. My sensible, serious Moses had transformed into a screaming, leaping lunatic. I struggled to get him to quiet down enough that I could undo his chain. Goodness!
Next was Jr, who shares his daddy Grover’s serious approach to his work in harness. He clawed frantically at me as I stepped into his area and leapt up into my face screaming at the top of his lungs. Maybe 6 weeks off wasn’t such a good idea….
As I brought each dog over I became more and more grateful for the baggy sweats and sweatshirt I had put on – it seemed to be protecting me from actually bleeding, although I was getting covered in scratches and bruises. All the dogs were simply insane.
Normally, once I select the 14 dogs I’m running, everyone settles down. The dogs left in the yard quietly watch me and the lucky ones selected to run smugly wag their tails and strut at the end of their drop chain as I work my way though putting harnesses on. Of course, that was not to be today – everyone keep screaming and barking as I worked. Each dog took about as much work to get a harness on as Barq normally does – and that’s a lot. Even though it was still cool out, sweat was running down my back by the time I got the 14th dog harnessed.
As I moved them onto the gangline, everyone proved that contrary to my belief, they had not earlier been screaming at top volume. I swear they were making as much noise as all 1500 dogs do at the start of Iditarod – and those of you that have hooked up with me before know that is not normal for my team.
As I finally hopped on the quad and pulled the quick release, I wondered if I should have written Mark a ‘good bye note’ before I left. I hoped if I died, which I was thinking was a serious possibility; he’d know that I loved him.
We shot out of the yard like the team was in hot pursuit of something edible. I could hear the protesting howls of the dogs left in the kennel quickly fade into the background before the beautiful quiet of a cool summer morning in the woods swallowed us up.
For all the insanity and chaos at hook-up, the dogs were remarkably well behaved once we got going. Sure they fussed every time I stopped, but they minded their manners and I even managed to hop off and undo a couple tangles without them trying to head down the trail without me. Moses and Jr were almost flawless, despite the fact that they were often plowing through tall grass that no traffic had been on for ages (much like break trail in the winter).
We did 4 ˝ miles before pulling back into the yard. All of us were grinning when we got back. The vacation was nice – but I guess we were all ready for it to be over.