Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Blue Ridge Challenge

Jim, I, Bandit, Yukon, Princess and Bucky headed out early Saturday morning for Abbingdon Virginia. We had hoped to make it for the Serum Run re-enactment, but time was against us, and we arrived after the end. We got checked in to the hotel, ate lunch and discussed what to do next as the flyer didn't mention the location of the dinner and I hadn't brought my laptop to check the location. Fortunately we ran in to Alice and family, so we got directions from them. Turns out it was less than a block away.

The dinner was in a place called the Harbor House in Abbingdon, and the back room had been reserved for the event. Jim and I had the shrimp, and Alice put on a great presentation of her beginnings, interest in Sled Dogs and the time she spent at a racing Kennel in Minnesota. Afterwards, Bill did the auction for the benefit of the rescue. I've been to a few auctions before, but never were they entertaining. Bill had most of us in stitches very quickly, and the night went rather quickly. I stepped out once in a while to check on the dogs and make sure they were doing ok.

On the fourth trip out to the truck, Princess had somehow wrapped herself in the seat belt. Thank goodness I went to check on her! I took her and Bucky for a walk, and all day Bucky had not gone pee or poop and I was getting worried about him. When I put them back in the truck, I took out Bandit and Yukon. The auction had only a few items left, but I really wanted to get to a place where Bucky would feel comfortable enough to at least pee. So we left, but again when I walked Bucky he would not pee.

Jim suggested maybe I put him on a longer lead, so I tied a rope to his leash, and we walked again. After another 15 minutes out in the cold, he finally peed, and peed, and peed, and ... well you get the idea. With some relief I took him back and put princess on the long rope and leash. She didn't need it, but had fun running around and around me. Next was Bandit. After he ran around and around, he finally was sniffing at some bushes around the building in the back of the motel when I realized he was no longer pulling on the rope! The rope had come undone and he was running loose! With my heart in my throat and a highway too close, I first called to him and sank to my knees (this usually gets the dogs to come to me), but Bandit ignored me. Fear rising, I ran into the briars in the dark night chasing a mostly black dog.

No matter what I called out to him, he kept running, but fortunately there was a fence. When he hit that, he turned around, and went the other way across the hill. Desperate I finally called out to him "Whoa! Bandit, WHOA! Come around!" To my utter astonnishment, he stopped in his tracks and came directly to me(in hindsight I should not have been so astonnished, but I was sick that I was about to lose him). I praised him profusely and petted him, relieved that he came back. We redid the rope so there was no way it could come undone, and I took out Yukon on the long lead.

When I came back I checked my legs to find I had really gone through the worst of the briars. Long scratches, deep punctures and lots of smeared blood made Jim freak out until I told him it wasn't as bad as it looked. He wanted me to take a shower to rinse off, but I told him that would make it worse. Last thing I wanted was soap in all those scratches until they had scabbed over. Finally I caved in and wiped off the smeared blood with a hot washcloth and was immediately sorry. By the time I finished, though, it was time to go to sleep, and sleep I did.

The pups got me up a bit later than normal, 6am instead of 5, so I took them each out for a walk, and by the time I got back, Jim was up. He went and picked me up some breakfast (a large waffle) and coffee while I showered and got ready. While I packed up everything, he ate his breakfast and we checked out of the hotel.

We followed the map to Iron Horse Campground, and after the scare I was a bit worried to note the trail ran paralell to the highway. Without Freya I was unsure if Bandit would obey commands well enough to keep him and the team safe and away from the highway on a sled. My inexperience with a sled could have spelled disaster for my dogs as it offered little control in the advent they took off in that direction. So I decided not to race with the sled and put my dogs at risk. Instead, I loaned the sled to Kelly so that she could race with her German Shepherd Bakko. To get the dogs exercise, I hooked them up to the cart and opted to run behind the racers and help out if anyone got stuck on the trail or were in need of assistance. I had a 2 mile walkie-talkie and a cell phone on me, and have been certified in CPR and First Aid.

It was quite fun, and we quickly caught up to Rodney while on the dirt, but as soon as we hit the deeper snow, the cart bogged down and Rodney picked up speed on his sled. Through it all Bandit was fabulous, listened and obeyed every command, including "Haw over" to go around the left side of a post, and Gee over to go right around another. When we approached the road crossing and there was traffic I told him "Easy, Bandit" and immediately he turned to look at me and slowed down. When the cars passed and the Sheriff stopped traffic for us, I told him "Hike up and On By!" and he shot across the road to the trail on the other side. I was tremendously pleased!

We came up on the crowd by the end, and Bandit's shy-ness caused him to slow, but I encouraged him with "Hike up Good boy!" and he shot past to the finish line where I reported there was no one on the trail. I guided them to the side of the trail to wait for Jim who was driving from Iron Horse to Damascus where we finished. I hugged and doted on Bandit for doing so well and was sorry I hadn't had enough faith in his training to run the sled, but really it was not the venue to try out. If something had happened, I'd never forgive myself. I was very proud how well he did though, and he proved to me once again, he was born to lead!

While I was hugging him and waiting, the local news team noticed I was the only one with dogs still out and in harness, and the only one on a wheeled rig. So I made the evening newscast, just wish I had a copy of it as I was still on the road home when it aired, and they didn't post that segment on their website. Ah well.

The journey home was broken up by stopping at the Tennessee Valley RV center. One day we will do these events in style. Bucky again did not pee or poop until we got him home. I'm keeping my eye on him to make sure he didn't do himself an injury holding it for so long.

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