Today we went for our first run of the 2009-2010 season and on our new sled! I wanted to go sledding and Cobey was wondering which patch of dirt we would choose. We ended up going up towards Roaring Lion at the suggestion of a few of the members of the Bitterroot Mushers. The snow was thin and upon arrival I, too, wondered how the sled would handle it. But we put our trust in the more experienced mushers there claiming it was good to go, so we unloaded the dogs and sled and prepared the way. After getting the dogs in the traces, Cobey set off first and boy you should have seen them go…nowhere. This was also the first time we let our dogs do it all instead of borrowing a more experienced dog, often lead dog, from another musher. Our “sled dogs” were more interested in what had been wandering the sides of the road than running. It took some prodding, many utterances of “leave it” and “on by,” and a lead dog switch (from Kona to Blue) before Cobey was on his way up the road.
Our huskies have never been in excellent pulling shape and especially not right now at the beginning of the sled season, so he only went half a mile or so before turning back to give me a chance. I got on the sled, and once again, it took some coaxing before the dogs ran as a team. Once they did, I realized some things we have trained these dogs to do as companions do not bode well for dog sledding. When we are on walks along roads the dogs have been trained to “stay in the yard”, which often in cases of forest service roads means hug the ditch. And wouldn’t you know it; today they decide to be the well trained huskies we occasionally see and run on the very edge of the road, if not in the ditch at times. It was very frustrating for sledding and even more frustrating because you struggled not to be mad at them for they were achieving what they’d been trained to do. We are hoping as the snow level gets deeper, snow berms build up, and roads appear more like trails that the dogs will run down the middle and leave the technical mushing for the more experienced.
Other than a few minor difficulties of getting the dogs running up the road and not off it, today’s run was rather successful, especially it being their first without an experienced dog. Keep checking our blog for more adventures this season with our team of three Siberians, a guy and a pregnant lady.