Monday, October 4, 2010

Saturday Show and New Lead Dog in Training!

Long before I should have been up on Saturday, I had packed up the grooming stuff, dog dishes, water, food, show clothes, shoes and dog treats while a frantic Princess kept wondering why I kept forgetting her every time I went through the front door. Howl-whining in frustration, she had the whole house up at o'dark-thirty. She was quite relieved when I grabbed her leash on the final forray out the door, and pranced around to the truck with a massive grin on her face. She was so pretty with her fur all fluffed up from the groomer! She was stoked as we left the house at 4am.

We were barely down the road an hour when Princess decided she had been in the truck long enough and that she was sure we were there. She whined a lot, making me think she had to go potty. Not so... She ran around sniffing everything for close to fifteen minutes before I put her back in the truck, grabbed a cup of coffee from the convenience store, and got back on the road.

Disappointed we were not actually at a place where there were dogs and people, Princess sighed and curled up in the passenger seat and fell asleep. She did not whine again until about thirty minutes out of Murphreesboro, so I pulled over in a rest area and walked her around. Only took about a minute for her to find a suitable spot to pee.

We arrived on site at about 7:45am local time (we went from eastern to central time along the road) and found a nice convenient parking spot. As soon as we pulled up, Princess was ecstatic! She could see lots and lots of people and dogs! We were where she wanted to be, and she couldn't wait to get out of the truck! I took her for a walk around the grassy area, and let her meet a few people and wag her tail at a few dogs before putting her in the crate so I could sign us in. I then walked her around so that she would get used to the people and dogs prior to our ring time and hopefully wind her down a bit.

I found Judy right after picking up the number from the ring steward, and she invited me to crate Princess by her dogs. She was nice enough to hold on to Princess for me while I ran to get her crate. We had about fifteen minutes to spare after getting her crate set up, just enough time to grab her blanket and get ring side. The ring was packed dirt, so I wanted something to keep her from getting dirty. Princess loves to roll in dirt, and I'm sure that would not help her score.

Princess was ecstatic to be in the center of so many people and dogs. She's such a wonderfully social little girl and nothing rattles her, not even an aggressive dog five feet away. She completely ignores them in favor of the dogs that want to play. It's tough to keep a ten month old pup from playing with other puppies at times, but Princess is a very good little girl, and if I tell her no, she pouts for a minute, but is good.

In the ring she did fantastic! This was the first show where she didn't crab-walk, but trotted nicely beside me with a loose lead. She was completely still when I told her to stay stacked! And she was happy to be touched by the judge, didn't shy one bit. I'm so proud of her! She's a winner in my book! She got a ribbon for our class, but not the group. She loves the crowds, and loved meeting lots of people. She's a funny little girl and plays shy when she thinks she can get some food out of it, but is downright outgoing at other times.

She was ok with being crated next to Logan, at least for a while as I met with the folks of the Middle Tennessee Siberian Husky Club. They were some really friendly and great people. After their meeting, they shared pizza with all the Siberian exhibitors. We shared stories and socialized a bit until Princess decided she wasn't close enough to the center of the entertainment. I brought her out for some social time too, and she loved every minute.

With a five hour drive ahead of us though, I had to cut short our visit and say goodbyes. Overall Princess and I had a great time, and we thank the folks of the GMKC for the show and especially the MTSHC for their excellent hospitality and warm friendship. Hope to see you all again next show season (for us)!

The weather has changed, and the cold brings fall training leading on to the race season! This is what puts fire in the veins of myself and the dogs! We live for this! Running dogs has been the greatest experience ever in my book.

The only thing that was close for me was riding hunter-jumper class with horses, but those horses weren't my companions. I loved them and they liked me, but they weren't mine, not like these dogs.

It's different when you live with a pack. Eleven dogs share our house, our land and socialize freely with us and each-other. We are the best of friends, and they are my companions and I their protector and provider.

When we run, it is as a team and something extraordinary happens. It is like being of one mind, and you really get to know what these dogs are all about. It is primitive, joyful, exhuberance, an unabashed love of running, chasing that imaginary prey, being one with the pack. It is timeless, a glimpse of the world before mankind, a glimpse of the silence, the cold and the snow, it is the hunt and the anticipation of a full belly and the warmth of companionship, the safety of the pack with a strong leader and protector. It is a feeling, a oneness that you'll never forget. It is like awakening a long dormant part of you that longs to be free. This feeling of oneness, of freedom and taste of the wild is like an addiction you crave, for it is life in all its gritty realism, not the fantastical unnatural world humanity has made. It's like finding a piece of your soul that has been missing all along, and you never knew you were missing it until you experience the wholeness of yourself. This is what it felt like to run the race team Sunday.

Since the weather was cooperative and in the 40's, I let the family sleep in until the dogs couldn't wait any longer and let me know in no uncertain terms that it was time to run! So, I went outside and put new gas in the ATV. It took about 7 kicks this time, but it fired up without having to be clutch started. So I let it warm up a bit before backing it up to the top of the drive in preparation of hooking up the dogs. I then let it run a bit more before turning it off and putting it in gear to help hold the dogs while hooking them up.

I then picked out the harnesses for the race team and rousted Jim and James to help hook up. Yukon had been dancing around the house for a couple of hours, but as soon as I picked up the harnesses, he started to bounce as well as jump and dance. Now I don't know about you, but a bouncing, dancing 65 pound incredibly athletic husky is an amazing sight! That Yukon can piroette in mid-air with such grace and style to miss the electronics, the TV trays, the chairs, counters and most amazing of all, all the other dancing puppies is simply astounding! He can clear five foot dividers with limitless ease, and yet has never once attempted to jump a fence. The strange dichotemy confronts me every time he does 'the happy dance'.

And yet this expression of pure joy is such a loveable aspect of Yukon's character. More and more he is loosening up and expressing his playfulness, which warms my heart. It only now begins to show me how much of a shell he had put around himself before I picked him up out of his situation. His happy howl is probably the cutest howl ever, his little "Oh!"

James started putting the dogs outside that we weren't taking as I harnessed up Yukon, Freya, Buck and Bandit and put their leashes on. Yukon is a very well mannered dog, so he's always the first one out, mostly to make it easy on Jim who holds them after I hook them up until the team is ready to go. Next is Buck, who is tough to control, but since he too is in wheel it is easier on Jim to keep the two dogs together. Bandit and Freya come out together, because once they are both hooked in, there is no stopping the team.

Hookup went pretty smooth this time and thanks to Jim, who has been teaching Buck and Yukon to keep lined out while waiting for the other dogs. As soon as Freya and Bandit were ready, we took off like a shot! I wish we had a speedometer on that ATV! I got the engine cranked and running within the first hundred yards, but let the team pull down hill. Bandit and Freya executed a perfect "Haw" at the bridge, and I applied a little power up the hill to help keep momentum. At the turn off by the mini-railroad, both Bandit and Freya did a sharp Gee on command, flawlessly.

We went all the way down to the donkey farm (about 1.75 miles) before I asked Freya to come around. She was reluctant to turn around, and wanted to keep going. Maybe next weekend we'll try the 5 mile loop, but I need to remember to grab the squirter to keep loose dogs away from the team. With a 3 point turn, we were headed back to the house, loping the whole way. Back by the mini-railroad, Freya and Bandit did another flawless Haw, and down to the bridge, it was Bandit that kept the team on course with a tight Gee, where it was obvious that Freya again wanted to go down the hunter's path. One slight tug on the neckline from Bandit though, put those thoughts out of her mind, and it was race up the hill to home.

One of our fastest and best runs yet!

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