On Tuesday afternoon after my now-famous washer incident I headed to Wasilla to work on my new book about harnessing the power within and grab a quick lunch at Krazy Moose Subs. As a wise editor once told me 1000 words a day keeps an editor at bay! I had just sat down to write and enjoy the most kick-butt-humongous-best subs on the planet a Pastrami and cheese when a new friend of mine that lives right around the corner from my house asked me if I wanted to run dogs at 6:30 on a Facebook message.
I replied with an enthusiastic, “sure!” and she said I needed to wear ‘mud clothes’.
I finished up my errands and headed over to her house at 6:30 sharp and she introduced me to all of her dogs. I then helped harness the 10-dog Siberian Husky team up and met quite a bit of resistance since this is the first time I had been around them. We got them all hooked up, sans a couple wrong harnesses (I didn’t know whose was whose of course) and jumped on the ATV.
We took off down the drive at a moderate pace holding the dogs back since this was their first run of the season. The weather was cool, probably about 50-55 degrees (F) and we had a spit of rain earlier in the afternoon. The gravel packed road was firm.
About 3/4 of a mile or so from the kennel the dogs stopped right at the corner of my road (a dead end) and refused to listen to the command GEE. We sat on the ATV for a few moments and the dogs refused to budge so I jumped off the quad to go move the team over. At that moment the only “bad apple” in what seems to be “mushing capital of the world” came out and started video taping. I have already heard stories about this guy’s dislike of sled dogs and how he wants to enforce the HOA rules that have not been changed since 1974.
The leaders finally listened and we headed off. We were keeping the ATV at a slow 5 mph to start the training season and begin conditioning of this older team. The dogs were pulling very well and the line was tight.
As we headed over to the next ‘neighborhood’ my friend pointed out all of the mushers in the area. I had no idea there were so many. There are several mushers that have run or still run the Iditarod, a few recreational teams and a sprinkle of sprint dog yards.
We stopped the team on a flat stretch of road and I jumped off and gave each of the dogs a salmon steak treat and let them catch their breath. We circled around and one of the dogs found a puddle that he just had to lay down in and even had our picture taken by a passer-by.
We pulled back into the dog yard at about 7:45 and feed the dogs before we put them away a mixture of peak powder (I am not sure of the name brand she uses but it is like gatorade or a recovery drink) and kibble and the dogs ate well. We unharnessed them all and put them back on their tie outs. They all looked good and began to relax on top of or in their dog houses.
We talked dogs for the next half hour or so and I was very interested in the Serum Run. The Serum run is not a race–more like a stage trip with camping and host housing, it follows the trail of the life-saving serum run that was used to deliver the medicine to the people in Nome and partly what the Iditarod commemorates. Last year 13 mushers participated and it sounded like a great time!
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and truly received an education in Alaskan mushing. They do things a lot differently than I am used to. First I have always used kennels, not tie outs, I have always used a cart (sometimes insanely with 12-dogs) and I have never seen so many mushers living within earshot of each other. In Colorado you have to drive hours to find snow and I would venture to guess that there are not as many mushers in the whole state as there are here within 50 miles.
I had left Raegan out of the crate to see how she would do, but I did remember to put up the remote controls and other potential chew “toys” and arrived home to her greeting me at the door. What a treat!
Tomorrow: Raegan to the Vet and is a Coffee Shack in our Future?
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Robert Forto is the host of The Dog Works Radio Show and is the training director of Alaska Dog Works. Robert Forto can be reached through his website at www.alaskadogworks.com