Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Full Moon

Dew glittered in the gloomy illumination of a full moon this morning.  The calm silence of pre-dawn was about to be broken as the dogs nudged me out of bed.  All excited, they knew it was cool enough to be a running day.  Ten quivering furry bodies scurried to and fro in my room, voicing their need to run in excited whines and howls.  Zena was still in my son's room, enjoying her bond with him as she enjoys the privacy of his room.  Yukon kept standing on his hind legs, gently trying to place his front paws on my chest, reminding me of his presence and eagerness to be the one chosen to run.  Princess danced and howl-whined as she kept jumping like popcorn from a hot pan, making sure her eyes met mine on an even level.  Sleepily I picked up the purple tug and white tug harnesses which excited Yukon all the more.  He knew the purple tug was for him! 
It only remained to figure out who to take with him.  Moony and Freya both needed exercise, but Moony was still getting used to running with the team, and would slow Yukon down.  Freya was the obvious choice, so I harnessed her up when she came inside.  One by one, I escorted the other dogs out the back door, much to their disappointment.  Princess howled and whined, scratching at the door in desperation.  Sorry girl, not today.

As I got the bike out, I could hear the dogs in the yard pleading with me to reconsider my choices, but there was little time to console them.  Ensuring the bike was in working condition still (after yesterday's escapades, this was a necessity), I leaned it up against the truck so I could go get Yukon and Freya.  Silvery light illuminated the field of my sideyard, giving each blade of grass a metallic sheen.  The treeline was a mass of black lumpy shapes from which the songs of insects and night birds issued into the pre-dawn.  The smell of early fall, of leaves beginning to rot, of fresh cold dew, of scraped loam and cut grass each left an impression on my olfactory perceptions.  As the dogs pulled through my spearmint bed, the smell brought a smile to my face.  There is nothing that speaks to me of home and comfort more than fresh mint.  Every place I go, I plant a mint garden for mint tea, for animal control (most wild animals hate mint and steer well clear of it), and to help ease my husband's chronic digestive issues, but mostly because I love the smell.  Its clear cold scent is light, airy, wintery, and full of life and passion.  It is a tradition I hope to keep all of my days.

Out on the side of the road, Freya whined and jumped and pulled despite my attempts to keep her under control.  She is incredibly strong, and if she wanted to, she could have dragged me down the road on my butt solo, but fortunately she was sort of listening even if she didn't want to.  I put the clip on light on her collar, attached the neckline between her and Yukon (Yukon tends to drift, so I make sure he stays close in case I have to pull them off the road to let cars by), hooked up both of their tugs.  To Freya this was the sign to start pulling, and I grit my teeth and held on as I tried to get their leashes unhooked as fast as possible. 

With that done, I slowly let out the gangline until it was tight and I was hanging on to the handlebars.  Easing the bike into the middle of the road, I felt for the pedal, stood on it and off we went.  Freya was like freight train, blasting down the trail, her legs a blur in the bobbing light attached to her collar. Yukon seemed to float just above the surface of the earth, his back hardly seeming to move, just hovering while paws flashed beneath.  Their running was pure poetry, legs in graceful rhythm, paws striking the ground in sync.  It is a wonder to behold when two or more dogs run as one.  To be a part of such beautiful symmetry is beyond words.  They run for me, and because they can run with me.  It is a part of their soul, a game that is not a game, but the very essence of their being, an essence they share gladly with me, wanting me to be a part of something greater than any of us.  Unlike the younger dogs, the elders relish the connection, being a part of a team that works together in the joy of exhilleration.  The feeling is so different, so satisfying, and I know that the young ones will eventually honor the teamwork as much as their elders and not just the chance to run.  It is a moment I look forward to.

The sounds of the night are drowned in the wind and sounds of exertion.  The scree of the brakes is harsh in my ears, a sacrelidge in the pristine temple of the night, but necessary to keep Freya's energy from discouraging the older Yukon.  The lamp on the handlebars stabs out into the dark, illuminating the way we must go, as the moon slips behind the trees and blackness swallows us.  The road around the mountain is always in shadow, even on the brightest day.  My eyes and ears strain to pick up sights and sounds ahead as we approach the blind curve.  Hearing nothing, we are through it before thought, and up the slight rise.  The trees break revealing a hollowed out shell of a mobilehome, its skeleton bleached in the pale moonlight.  Across from it on our left is a small meadow crisscrossed with fresh deer trails, but no sign of movement. 

We fly on, down the hill to the intersection where we vere right with a quick "Gee".  Off to the left a small road leads through a meadow where another mobile home's carcass stands exposed, the blackened ash from the fire still taints the air and colors the remains with a sooty brush.  By it a rugged trail leads up the side of the mountain, crosses the ridgeline and heads in to one of the wonders of Scott County, the mini-railroad.  All this we leave behind us as our path lies along the road west and not south.  The trees close thickly overhead, and no light filters down.  To the right looms the old barn, and Freya slows only a moment to see if I will ask her to turn around here.  Happily she runs past and picks up speed again.  Yukon is beginning to slack off on his tug, he has not been able to keep up his activity over the summer, having been neutered one month ago.  Though the wound is long healed, he has not yet gotten back in to shape. 

Seeing this, I call the halt and ask Freya to come around.  With only a longing glance back towards the west, she pulls Yukon around to face east and home.  In an instant we are off, and Yukon is not as enthusiastic as he was when we started.  His tug is slack, and he is a half a pace behind Freya.  I hold Freya back a bit, but it only makes Yukon slow more and his tug is still slack.  "Hike up Yukon!" He puts a little more effort in to it.  When we reach the mini-train turn off, I see lights coming down the road, so pull the dogs close as I shuffle off the left hand side of the road.  The car slows way down, and I can feel the eyes even in the dark.  The sheer wonder and amazement to see sled dogs and a bicycle and not knowing what the heck we are doing.  I smile and wave as they pass, and they speed up as if it is contagious.  Slowly I let the gangline back out, and we are off at a better pace this time, Yukon leaning in to his tug again. 

By the time we reach the blind curve the neighbor's dogs are in full cry again, and Yukon perks up, hoping to get in some social time.  Freya is not interested in socializing, she is interested in the joy of running, and all of her focus and strength is in that one sole purpose.  I slow them as we approach the house, and call them to a halt so I can pick up the leashes on the side of the road.  I walk them down to the mint garden, tell them "whoa" and lay the bike down.  As quickly as possible, I hook up their leashes, unhook the neckline and take off their tugs.  They nearly drag me to the door in anticipation of their reward, and I smile as I let them in.  They rush for the water bowl, drinking to ease their thirst and cool their heat as I open the freezer.  Excitedly Freya dances at my side until I hand her a meat patty.  Yukon bounds up to me to claim his, and they scatter to their dark corners to consume their snacks with relish.  The dogs outside clamour for some, howling and whining, but in vain, for they know the rewards only come after being chosen for the joy of running. 

While they are eating, I remove the leash, light and harness from Freya.  She licks my hand and goes back to the job of polishing off her snack.  Yukon is finished by the time I get to him, so I remove his leash and harness and check his feet.  A good rubdown has his tail wagging and as I rub his belly, he licks my face.  As Freya finishes, I check her feet and rub her down.  She wiggles excitedly, constantly trying to lick my face and show her love for me.  She is so affectionate now, and I smile as I remember the puppy that I had to back in to a corner just to allow me to pet her as she cringed.  My little feral girl is now a happy well adjusted dog who loves our family unconditionally, but is still reserved around strangers.  One day, she will not cringe from the chute, and my heart will burst with pride in how far she has come, even as I celebrate her progress so far.

The rest of the dogs thunder in as I open the door, trying to be the first one in to check for scraps and maybe beg for a handout.  With some disappointment they find nothing of the meat patties, but are happy the bones are still lying around and waiting.  They whirl around the house in excitement, hoping against hope they will get to go next.  Failing that, they jump and tussel with one another, and bug me for attention which I gladly give as much as I'm able before I set about the morning chores.

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