Tuesday, September 28, 2010

ATV Second Run

Sunday morning was another perfect morning for running dogs, so eagerly I dressed, fed the dogs, gave them treats and medicine, fed myself, had coffee, and waited for dawn (it is a bit dangerous riding around here while it's dark, and the dogs get me up at 4:30 am every morning irrespectful of the weekend). By the dim twilight between dawn and the time the sun actually climbs above the mountain ridge I uncovered the ATV and again began the ritual of trying to start the infernal machine.

This session ended with another careen down the hill towards the stream, dumping the clutch and applying the gas, only this time I was wisened up to its tricks and did not let it stall out! I kept the engine reving relentlessly (and probably annoying my neighbors, but well...). I zipped up to the top of the hill and let it run for a bit to warm up before shutting it back down, locking the brakes and going for gangline and dogs.

With the gangline in place, I rousted Jim and James to help with the dogs as I began harnessing up the dogs of choice. This morning was the race team, but since Buck had run yesterday I wasn't sure about putting him in harness until his exhuberance overwhelmed me (read as knocked me over and began giving me a husky face bath whining exicitedly). So, knowing that tired huskies tend not to get into trouble, and Bucky did more than his fair share of that, I harnessed him up with a grin and put his leash on (I leash up the dogs that are going on the run to make it easier to separate them from those not going. The dogs not going are shuffled one by one out to the back yard where they won't interfere or try to get out while taking the running dogs out to the gangline).

Jame began herding puppies and dogs outside besides the ones I've named for Sunday's run, Freya and Bandit for lead, Yukon and Buck in wheel. The dogs put outside began to howl and whine in disappointment, which was also quite noisy. Jim grabbed up a bunch of the cheap hot dogs that we buy for training the dogs, and chopped them up quickly and stuck them in his pocket so he could help control the team while I put them in position and hooked them up. First out was Yukon. He's always pretty mild and easy to control, so it only makes sense to have him out first. Jim got him lined out and ready in no time. Next out was Buck, who is a bit less easy to control, but being in wheel would make it easier on Jim to hold the two rear dogs than one front and one rear. Jim finally got him lined out and sitting calmly until I came out with Bandit. Bandit and Buck is a chemical mixture that is volatile in the extreme, so Jim yelled before I got up the hill to have James bring out Freya at the same time to minimize exposure to Buck and Bandit's wild antics to get going.

I still had to stop prior to climbing aboard to try to talk some sense into Buck that was screaming and biting at his neckline to get going, but he hardly heard a word I said... While talking to him, Freya and Bandit had enough of standing around and both leaped forward dragging the riderless ATV with all 4 tires locked up... scrambling and holding on to the gangline, I leapt back to the seat and jumped on before the team began dragging it further. Several kicks later and I just let the dogs pull the ATV in neutral with no engine, and man did they pull! We flew down the slight incline to the bridge as I tried to dump the clutch and start the ATV to no avail. They pulled the ATV up the next hill and around the corner without the engine. On the slight downhill there, I tried another clutch start, no good, but this didn't bother the team in the slightest! They continued to race on down the road, picking up speed again.

For the third time, I tried to clutch start the ATV without luck, only this time it stopped the team, as there was not enough incline to keep rolling. This is when the car came by, so in retrospect it was a good time to stop since Freya didn't want to Gee Over since she was already on her half of the road...I jumped off and pulled tight on the gangline to be sure she didn't turn in front of the car. The man driving was amazed at the sight of the quad being pulled by three rather large siberians and one medium sized one.

"That's quite an outfit!" He yelled out the window with a grin.
"Thanks!" I replied, not sure what else to say as he politely drove past slowly.

Freya decided since he was driving so slow that she was supposed to follow him, so she came around haw right behind the car. Since we had already hit the .75 mile mark and they had been pulling hard the whole way, I decided it would be ok to shorten the run time and turn around. If I had the engine fired up, I would have kept the team going, but at that point, they had been moving me and the ATV by sheer dog muscle and determination!

Keeping the gangline tight up against my thigh I hoped would keep it from getting wrapped around the tire axle again while I manhandled the ATV turn around. Not so! Despite my best efforts, the gangline decided it liked being wound around in the tire axle... But this time it was by far easier to unwind as the carabiners did not get bound up in the hub of the wheel.

Then, there was something on the side of the road that Yukon simply had to have, and of course, Freya and Bandit were curious what would distract the usually stoic Yukon, so they balled up and started digging in the dirt...

This reminded me of several colorful bits of language I hadn't used Saturday as I untangled them and got Freya pointed to the house. But by the time I got back on the ATV, the interesting patch of dirt had them in a ball again... Two more repetitions of this behavior and Freya finally figured she had frustrated me enough for one day and did as I asked and kept the team lined out and ready to head back.

On the slope down to the bridge, I tried again to start the ATV... nadda. I knew the run uphill was going to be a bear, and I was probably going to have to help push the heavy monstrocity uphill, so I jumped on the kick start five times before it finally roared to life... figures... So for the last two tenths of a mile, the dogs did not have to pull...

All in all though, I was very proud of them and amazed at how the team did in this new configuration! Yukon pulled much harder in wheel than he generally does in lead after the initial rush, Buck was as solid as ever, pulling his heart out and not stopping unless the whole team stopped. Bandit was great! He was not distracted by anything until Freya was, and he was quickly learning the routine and commands from her. He will be an awesome leader as well as an amazing powerhouse runner! Freya, as always was beyond amazing up until she decided that whatever Yukon was in to was even more fun than running. But again, that girl is definitely the star of the team!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The new ATV First Run.

(pic to come) Friday we bought a used ATV to run the dogs with since my pedal cart burned out a tire and I had to finally admit that it was much too small to be safe anymore with the race team. With it I've learned a couple of new things about myself and my dog team. #1 I'm really not as young as I used to be, but I still know how to have fun! #2 My race team is a LOT stronger than I originally imagined! Other things I've learned will be more entertaining as I tell you what happened.

Saturday bright and early it was boardering on 50 degrees, and I was eager to try out this new toy, but also cautious. I put on a sweatshirt and uncovered my new prize. Flipping out the kick start and thumbing the choke to max, I attempted to start the ATV.

An obvious sput of the engine was all I received for my trouble. More determined, I jumped on the start pedal with all of my weight! It sputted again, but still nothing. I started jumping up and down like a monkey on crack, but as stubborn as I was, it was even moreso. Sweating and puffing I sat on the seat, trying to figure out how this thing liked to be started. I tried putting the choke back off, I tried giving it gas while kicking, I tried putting it on the reserve tank... still nothing.

Determined not to let a machine get the better of me, I began rolling it down the hill towards the stream. Halfway down, I popped the clutch and the engine sputtered then caught to my delight. I suddenly realized how close the stream was to my perilous course though, and strained to change the direction, barely missing the line of saplings and briars. Congratulating myself, I spun the ATV around and started back up the hill about a foot before it died.

There was all manner of colorful metaphors running around in my brain at that moment. So, I jumped and I jumped on the kickstart again and again. At that point in time anger had replaced stubbornness, and I was going to make that sucker start no matter what! So I slowly turned it around jumping on the kick start to make it move. (It was a bit heavy to push uphill) Facing back towards the stream, I managed to get it rolling again and popped the clutch. This time it roared immediately to life, and I gassed it hard to be sure it wouldn't sputter out. The trees mocked me.

I got them back by smacking their branches with my forehead, but I was moving and I'd be damned before I let that ATV quit on me again! Hoping the neighbors weren't watching and having the hillbilly entertainment of their life, I climbed back up the hill powered by the 250cc engine. I spun it around in a 160 degree arc as if I was a pro, and shut it down so I could hook up the dogs.

The gangline I had was set up for 4 dogs, but I had an extension somewhere that would hold two more dogs, so I searched and searched and scrabbled through mounds of ropes and junk you collect in sheds that somehow multiplies and has little junk piles of its own, but could not find the extension. I searched through my closet, the front closet, laundry room, and the bits of mushing gear whereever I stashed them last. No extender.... No way was I going down to the bee and spider infested barn that early in the morning. I needed more coffee....

With a sigh I realized I was only going to run 4 dogs, and since this was the first time with the ATV, I thought it would be a good idea to take the slow team. With the brilliance of a two day old planarian, I thought it might be grand to give Princess a try at lead, so hooked her up next to Samantha. Ace had not yet been on the team, so I was determined to give her the chance, so hooked her up in wheel. To have some kind of pulling power, and because Buck is always so full of energy and I wanted to tire him out, he went next to Ace. So, I had 3 rookies and a so-so leader on a 4 dog team. I thought everything would be ok after I got going, but the problem was, getting going.

This time the ATV started up, but the puppies tangled themselves irreparably. So I stopped the engine, got off and unhooked them one by one, untangled the gang and tug lines, got back on, and by the time I got the start pedal out, they were tangled again. This happened about 4 times before I finally manged to get the ATV started again before they tangled up. Princess was so eager to get moving, she pulled Samantha along for the first quarter mile, and I think Samantha was lulled into a false sense of security which was broken by a quick dart to the side of the road where a deer carcass lie in abject temptation. It was a smell Princess could not resist and the other puppies dutily followed their leader.

Despite the many hours of show training, Princess is still a dog that wants to roll in dead things. She proved this to me Saturday.

Several more colorful metaphors later I had them back moving, for a couple hundred yards when Princess found something else interesting off the side of the road and tried to drag the team up the side of the mountain. So, I straightened the team out again, but by the time we hit the three-quarter mile mark, I gave up and removed Princess from lead and put Bucky up front.

I also figured it was a good point to turn around at... This proved to be one of the worst come arounds in the history of sled dogs. Something yummy was hiding just over the burm of the side of the road, and the team kept coming back my way to check it out as I was trying to simultaneously urge them towards the house and 'manhandle' the ATV to turn it around. I ended up with the gangline wrapped securely around the front axle at least three times, and trying to pull the dogs away from the oncoming pickup truck. I'm sure wild tales are floating around the town of Stamping Ground as I type this. The old couple passed me with eyes as big as saucers and toothy grins as they waved in child-like glee. I'm not entirely sure that was a good thing, but I smiled and waved back as I tried not to use more colorful language at the hopelessly fouled gangline.

I'm not sure how long it took for me to unhook the line from the axle, but it was long enough for my son to walk lazily down to where I was cussing and ask me what was wrong. He held the dogs still so that I could pull the final bit off from the hub. We then proceded to untangle the dogs again, and I started up the ATV. Buck and Samantha still wanted to roll in the dead thing, and instead of going homeward, turned right smack around and proceded to tangle the gangline again. James helped me straighten them out once more and I asked him to start them off by walking them about a hundred yards down the road. So much more slowly than I would ever want a team to walk, we started out again.

James caught up with me again at the next place that Buck wanted to stop... Samantha put up a cursory resistance, but soon gave in to his interest. At that point in time, all I could do was laugh or cry. I opted for the former, and Jamed and I straightened out the lines and got the team going again. On the far side of the bridge, Buck and Samantha decided it was time for a bathroom break and headed off into the field to sniff for appropriate places. James and I coaxed them back on to the road and finally got them back to the house.

My Leader Freya

My leader Freya taking a well deserved nap! I love this dog! She has gone from almost feral puppy removed from her mother at 3 weeks and kept in a barn until she was 5 months old. This is where I found and fell in love with her despite the fact she wouldn't come near me. I felt bad for her, and had to take her out of that situation. I agonized over losing her for the first week she came home with me, she slipped her collar and ran away. I thought I'd never see her again when a neighbor a couple farms down had lured her in to a kennel with her other dog and called me! She had been on her own for almost 7 days!

We got her back home, and it took months just to get her to allow me to pet her without having to corner her. It took even longer for her to finally come to me for petting and love, but I never gave up on her. At ten months, she saw me take the other three dogs on a run, and she jumped at the fence screaming to go too! I gave in the next weekend and she let me know, she wanted it more than she wanted anything else in life! Within two months, she was leading the team with an enthusiasm, intelligence and exhuberance I could barely have imagined!

Today she is almost a different dog. She is loving, and loyal enough to bring tears to my eyes. The only time she got loose she readily came back to me as soon as I called her. Her attitude and excitement to lead and run the team knows no bounds.

She gave us a litter of pups of which, two now are on the race team, one of them ran lead with her Sunday and convinced me he is of the same calibur as his mother. Thank you Freya! My dreams would still just be dreams without you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

September 23rd When the Mood Strikes

Sometimes I wax poetic. I know it is a flaw of mine, but it's been with me since childhood.

Ode to my Demon Elvis

From the winds you came to me
Heart of the wild, soul of the free
The pain in your eyes no mystery
The person you loved left you in misery

With hopeful regard you came to my home
Trusted as I gave you a place to roam
Without a word you became my best friend
My staunch supporter until the very end

Your only wish was to see me smile
And to run mile after mile
Grateful for the food in your bowl
Your gentle love made me whole

Spirit of the wolf, singing to me
Speaking of our bond beyond eternity
You connect deeply with my inner child
And I join you in your call of the wild

Our howls lift gently with the wind
Timeless, ageless; without end
Ancestors hear our hallowed call
Around the fires of late fall

They join in our song of ages
Through history’s uncharted pages
A song before records began
When the first wolf came to the camp of man

Monday, September 20, 2010

Took the race team out Saturday and wow! Buck did great with the team!
He and Bandit were screaming to go, and according to Jim, they got a little snappy because we didn't get moving fast enough. Well, the attitude is great, the snappy, not so much, so will be working with those two, on that. It may be they were biting at the neck line in excitement, but still sounds like some obedience work is needed.
We went to the 1.25 mile mark (the donkey farm) and back for 2.5 miles the fastest yet! Only one problem on the way, Bandit stepped over the gangline, so I had to stop before he got rubbed by the line under the armpit. On the way back, Freya decided that she wanted to go through the hunting grounds behind us and turned off on the trail regardless of my 'Gee'... she's normally an awesome leader and does everything flawlessly. Don't know what wild hair got in to her Saturday. This caused me to lock up the breaks and burn out my right rear tire trying to stop the team. The tire popped, and went flat immediately, as I told Freya to 'come around Gee'.
She executed a perfect 130 degree turn onto the road home that time. Just goes to show you they sometimes have a mind of their own about where they want to go. Guess she thought she'd bring home the venison. So, for the last .25 miles I half ran, half rode leaning sideways up the hill home. But what a rush! I have my race team, and they are incredible!
Sunday was no run as now I have to either replace my right rear tier or get a new rig. The small pedal cart has done a great job for a year and a half, but it's time to graduate to a rig I can race with.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Last night we managed to make it to the class. Princess was full of energy and rearing to go (she didn't get her prior to class walk to calm her down), which generally means she was a bit unruly at first. This of course had me a bit flustered, so was probably giving her some wrong clues until corrected by our instructor.

Princess wore herself and me out, but once she was settled enough not to gallop every time I started out, she did great! She knows her stuff, and is getting much better about being touched by other people for reasons other than petting (judges checking her bite, her structure and whatnot). She loves to get petted and freely gives kisses, but isn't so fond of being poked and prodded. She sometimes tries to shrink away from unwanted contact. She started doing it yesterday, but a quick correction and a couple minutes with our instructor and she stopped shying away.

She really is a great pup, and judging by her reaction in harness will make an even greater sled dog! I have no doubt she is probably one of the most intelligent dogs I've had, and after having great intellects like Susie and Valkrys, that's saying a whole lot! She is at least as smart as Freya, and far less of a wild child. She is going to be a tremendous leader if she chooses to lead.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September 14th Weekend Run

Saturday I hooked up Samantha and Moon in lead with Princess and Buck in wheel to the pedal cart. Since Samantha doesn't like the x-back harnesses and is slower than the race team, this turned out to be a good match for Princess and Buck's first run and Moon's second. She kept a good steady slow lope that was easy for the puppies to keep up with and still pull on their harnesses. The pups and Samantha had a blast, almost as much fun as I did! Princess was whining to get going, and as soon as she is done with her show career, she's definitely moving up to the race team. In the meantime Buck will get his shot on the fast team this coming weekend hopefully (weather and time allowing).
Sunday I took out Freya and Yukon in lead with Demon and Bandit. WOW! What a team! Bandit is as frisky and eager to get moving as Freya, but thankfully more controllable! He had no problems keeping the pace with Freya and Yukon! What a powerhouse runner! Demon, on the other hand, was having definite trouble keeping up. He's a great dog and a strong puller, he just doesn't have the fast build. By the 3/4 mile mark, I halted the team to unhook Demon's tug line and let him just run along. He barely kept up, poor guy, so he is going on the puppy team for now. In a way that is a bit of a relief, as he is so shy he would be a lot of trouble taking to a race and I'm not sure I would be able to recover him should he ever get loose in an unfamiliar area.
The race team now consists of Freya, Yukon and Bandit with a possible inclusion of Buck. One thing is clear, though, as fast as they ran, they wore their pads slightly, so it is time to get booties for them. They are ready to hit up the circuit this year! So I'm planning on attending one or two non-pro events to see how they do and get them some experience before hitting the real competition. Their progress is so exciting! I wish I had a radar to clock our speed, cause man did we fly!
Trying to plan out what events to attend, though is a real kicker. The budget is the main constraint, and none of them are very near to where I live. So it's going to be tough.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September 8th PhD And I don't mean the degree...

The whole house was quiet, just a lot of sleeping dogs and I. Jim and James went to visit Jim's parents, and this is what we did while he was gone. (Yes Buck was really sleeping in that position lol). The week of the 30th was spent gettin all my work caught up and getting ready for the Blue Grass Classic. I had meant to go to class on Tuesday, but ended up with a massive headache.
The show started on the 2nd, and we arrived there bright and early.

Believe it or not, Princess was really enjoying herself although it is hard to tell in this pic. She doesn't like me messing with her back legs...

Yes, that was a dogshow, no, me wear a dress? Preposterous! Oh wait...

Princess and I had a great time, met some wonderful people and dogs, and got some more experience. Princess was so cute, every day as soon as she saw me finish my shower and get dressed, she would run from me to the door and whine until we left for the show. 5 days of primping, showing, and hanging out. She is such a pretty girl! We didn't win any majors, but got blue ribbons for her class, and it was great experience.

Princess LOVED all the attention and just had to be in the center of things all the time. If I took her out of the central tent she would whine unless we met up with some people or did something fun. She's such an attention hound! When she thought she could get away with it, she'd play shy hoping to get a treat. If it was for sure she wasn't going to get one, she was miss social.

Unfortunately though, when I got back to work, those days I missed caught up with me.