Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Two steps forward, one step back

This past weekend was filled with dog sledding.  Like most our weekends in the winter months.  Saturday I met the other members of the mushing club at the Lost Trail Gibbons Pass Road (where our upcoming race is held) to run the 6 dog course.  I ran with 8 of the dogs Tank, Flier, Okie, Isis, Buck, Buzz, Whip and Jig.  I couldn’t decide yet whom would be racing but I had decided I wouldn’t be racing Tensaw or Paluk so Sonya took them with Sepp.  Sonya, again, will be running 3 ByDog Siberians with her dog Sepp in the 4 dog category at the Darby Dog Derby.

The run went well.  The course was BEAUTIFUL!  We had a rather rough pass with one skier (of the many we came across). For whatever reason, Tank was terrified of this one guy and WOULDN’T pass him.  So I had to put Okie in lead with Flier to get by him.  Once we were up the trail, I switched him back.  

I am considering putting Flier and Tank in lead for the race (they are SO fast but not as reliable to keep a team out of trouble as Okie).  They were flying! The 14 mile run went very smoothly and the course is beautiful.  

Sunday was a different matter.  I pride myself in having good dogs and making friends on the trail so it was a rather disappointing run Sunday.  I took my friend Veronica to Skalkaho with the team.  Again, I had Flier and Tank in lead with Okie and Paluk, two very solid and experienced lead dogs, in swing. Our first few passes; a family (coincidentally friends of ours) and snowmobiles, went very smoothly.  Soon we came upon a skier rounding a corner, I figured we’d be fine until I saw the little dog following her.  Very little dog. I immediately was very nervous about the situation, the worst reaction.  I gave them a firm “on by.” And at first it appeared they would leave it alone. But when he dog decided to run away, the chase was on. Flier got to the dog and pounced on it.  The dog started screaming and the skier dove on him giving Flier a few elbows all the while.  I quickly hooked down the team, apologized as best I could and lined my team out.  Of course it’s always easy to analyze a situation after the fact and it’s important to do so, but I wish I was quicker on my feet and had these thoughts when first confronted with the situation.  (1) I should have stopped my team at first sight of the small dog knowing full well I had inexperienced leaders up front and run up to hold my team out. (2) I should have taken the time to talk with the skiers to smooth out the situation afterwards and check that their dog was okay but they were as eager to get away from us as their dog was. These things are definitely lessons learned.  I was very surprised by Flier’s reaction to the dog (especially when he got to it). He would have been the last dog I would ever think would do such a thing and I feel terrible.

I was very happy with Okie and Paluk who kept a bad situation from being worse. The puppies as well were very excited about the little dog but because Okie and Paluk held their ground being the good lead dogs they are, it kept any other dogs from being able to go to the dog.  Good girls!

On the off chance the skiers I encountered Sunday are reading this. I apologize.  I have learned from this experience and will work to improve my team and my handling of these situations. I hope your dog is okay and please do not hold this against mushers. Most encounters with dog teams go smoothly and happily.

Other than that failed pass, the team had a good run.  We went 6.5 miles and had a good time.  

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