Wednesday, May 27, 2009
To chronicle my adventures into the world of Mushing/Dog Carting for fun and for the dogs.
It was a very cold March day in Kentucky. I moved here in December after a long stint with a company that was finally failing after nearly eighty years, some of them as the number one manufacturer of realtime systems in the world. Long story short, I feared for my future, and rightly so it turns out, decided to make a new start of it. What made this cold day special as it was the day I met what I lovingly call my 4-pack.
Theirs was a tragic story; their loving master had died and left the dogs with his son. I don’t know for how long and didn’t ask, some things are better left unsaid. When I saw them alone and starving for attention I knew I could not leave them there, plus, I fell in love with Samantha and the boys. Samantha stayed at my side the whole time, and she was so loving, but the boys got out and she took off with them. Fortunately they made a lap of the neighborhood and came back to the house. I told the owner, I would be back for them the next week.
Saturday March 28 I got up bright and early and loaded my old husky G’kar in to the truck to go meet the new dogs. After the 1.5 hour drive, though, he would have none of it. Their first meeting was a disaster, but I paid the man for Samantha, the boys and one of the pups who later I named Freya and told him I’d be back in the morning for them.
Disaster struck Saturday afternoon though, as I was trying to accomplish some maintenance activity on our system at work, a non-critical system crashed. Knowing I was going to need help, I contacted my hubbie and had him fly our 20 year old son up to help with the dogs. His flight was delayed 1.5 hours, though and I ended up having to leave the OAM system half down overnight. Something I was terribly loathe to do.
Sunday March 29 we were up and on the road by 6am to pick up the dogs. Freya was the first and though it was difficult to catch and load her, we eventually were able to get her in to the crate. Then off to Harrodsburg to pick up the big dogs. It was pouring down rain and the dogs were terribly muddy. Fortunately I had some cargo blankets from the move and laid them out in the back of my expedition. Samantha stayed up front with us, she wouldn’t stay in the back with the boys, so we let her lay half on the folded down seat and half on the middle console cushion while she was lavished with attention. She was so funny, poking James and I with her nose and being delighted by my son’s ticklish squeal of laughter.
We swung by the Walmart to pick up supplies, extra leashes, extra food bowls, all the things I could think of that we would need before the 1.5 hour trip home. Altogether, with James’ flight, the dogs and the harnesses I bought for them, I ended up spending about $1k, but it was well worth it. Feeling happy, but worried about work, I drove home hoping my son would be able to cope with the dogs while I went in to work to fix the system. I had him put them in the room that would eventually become his in our new home, and take them out for a run every two hours, since we didn’t have the fence built yet.
But before we could get them all in, Freya got loose and ran off, proving that the 10x20' kennel enclosure I had put up to house them temporarily was completely inadequate. James couldn’t catch her and I had to leave. It was a terrible gut wrenching time, knowing that I had to go with a pup on the loose. I felt horrible inside, sure I would never see her again. She had such a bad beginning, torn from her mother at only three weeks old and kept in a stall in a barn with her siblings for five months, barely any human contact, she was almost feral. Terribly scared of people, she wouldn’t come even for food.
That was the beginning of a grueling 23 hours where I was working and unable to search for the pup, as she ran away from James and he had to deal with the other three adults so could not go after her. We searched up and down once I had four hours of sleep, but we could not find her. Sick in my heart that she had probably either been picked up or hit by a car, it was a terrible first few days. My husband drove up from North Carolina immediately to help care for the dogs and get the fence built more quickly. Without his help and the help of my son I would not have been able to rescue the dogs from their bad situation. James was frustrated, as Demon (who we had been told was Yukon) was very shy and kept slipping his collar and running. He wouldn’t come to James and he would have to wait until I could come and get the dog. Yukon too, kept getting loose, but he was much easier to catch, and fortunately since they were very social dogs, the neighbors didn’t mind the visitors to their dogs. Thank goodness for good and understanding neighbors!
My primary worry though, was that all huskies have a VERY strong hunting instinct, and many of my other neighbors had chickens. Not a good combination, plus we had a missing puppy. Every day I drove around looking for her, but could not find her. I asked all the neighbors if they had seen her, and no one had, until we got a lucky call that Thursday. One of the folks on the other side of the bend in the highway had found Freya! They had lured her in to a kennel with their dogs and heard that we were looking for a pup. They called us and thank goodness we were able to get her back! She was a bit lean, but otherwise in good condition still. Thanking the neighbors profusely we offered a reward, but they refused. Again, thank goodness for good neighbors! Anywhere else I have lived, I had not had such good people nearby. This was a real eye opener and another notch in a growing list of what I love about our new place.
After a week of running the dogs every two hours, and spending every free moment with them to help socialize them and get them to trust and love us, we finally had the fence finished. It was a joy to my heart to see them run! They played for hours, just running back and forth, chasing eachother around in the 1.5 acres of dog playground. After that small, less than a quarter acre lot, I’m sure it probably seemed a dog’s paradise. James and Jim were relieved to finally be able to clean the room and move James out of Jim’s room and in to his.
Samantha became situated in my room at night, and luckily by the end of the week she was out of heat and could run with the boys outside. She has always been a sweetheart, but her and G’kar, my eleven year old red Siberian would not get along. We tried for days to socialize them without much success, so had to keep them separated. G’kar at first didn’t want to get along with any of them, and it made life hard to rotate walking him and Valkrys with running the four pack. It took four weeks to finally allow G’kar to socialize with the boys with supervision, and another week after that before he would socialize with Samantha. They still look at each other and growl, so there will always be room for improvement.
One thing that made life easier was that we found a great place to shop for all our dog needs. In nearby Georgetown there is a Tractor Supply Company that carries high performance dog foods, dog treats, dog houses, etc. It was also with great pleasure I found that they had a pedal cart that would be a great dog-cart! With a large grin, I picked up the pedal cart, some horse leads for traces and gig line, and we had a makeshift training rig! Too bad the weather was not so cooperative. When it wasn’t raining hard enough to make hail, it was too hot to run. On the nice days, I ended up having to work as our site was going through a major upgrade, and my son did not feel comfortable, nor have enough experience to train the dogs himself. So it was many days later before we finally harnessed up Samantha to see how much she remembered of her earlier training.
For her first time back out, I trotted beside her, and James trotted beside the cart, ensuring it kept on track and was stopped when she stopped. The cart itself was pretty sturdy, and it had been a long time since she had pulled, so we didn’t push her, but let her set her own pace and watched for fatigue. She was very happy to be in harness again, but it didn’t take long for her to get tired, so I unhooked her and walked her back with the leash while James pushed the cart back. All that evening she stuck to me like glue and has become my shadow ever since whenever I step in to the house or go out back with the boys. Freya is still very shy and only allows herself to suffer through petting when we corner her. Not exactly the way I would like to earn a dog’s trust, but it soon becomes very clear that we will have to employ heavy human socialization in order to bring her around. At least being a puppy, she will quickly adapt to socialization with people rather than canines. Her first heat was not long after this decision, and the clincher on bringing her in to the house, house training and rigorous socializing with the bipeds. We would take her out front and on the leash to do her business as taking her out back was a struggle with the boys so eager to introduce her prematurely to motherhood.
I’m sure the first day was traumatic for the poor pup, but at least she had Samantha, G’kar and Valkrys in the house to ease her fears. After the second day, she no longer ran until backed into a corner to allow petting, but would sit with her head down, ears drooping and shoulders hunched as she was petted. The third day saw only the slightest flinch but soon had ears up and tail wagging. By the fourth day, she began to actively seek out my company, coming up and sitting or laying down next to me. By the fifth day, she was jumping on the side of the bed with Samantha to get her morning luvin’s. By the sixth day, she would let me pet her outside if there was no one else out there. By the second week, she now comes to me, and lays down for a belly rub regardless of who is around. She still has a ways to go, but this progress is tremendous and makes me very happy.
Another thing that has me very happy is Demon. He too has been very shy, but took to me immediately, I just seem to have that way with dogs most of the time. When we got him, he was skin and bones and looked like in another week, he may have starved to death. With his fluffy fur, you would have never known unless you spent time petting him. Something I'm sure had not been done in some time. Over the three weeks, he began to fill in and put some meat on his bones. With his ability to satisfy his hunger, his shyness began to recede until he is snuggling with James and I on a regular basis. He still is a bit shy of Jim, but will let Jim pet him if Jim is petting Yukon. He has become quite affectionate, and I call him my fuzzy teddy bear which was very quickly adapted to fozzy bear.
Leash training has been difficult, but as always, Samantha has taken right to it. She is a very smart dog that is overjoyed to please her new people. She is such a joy to be around, loves everyone and all the other dogs except G’kar… sigh…