Long time readers may have noticed we haven't been reporting on any dog sledding adventures. There's a good reason, we haven't had enough snow. We are used to having at least a foot or two, yet this year has been quite lacking.
Last night we finally had just enough snow on the road and I've been itching go out one last time. Ice and rain is in the forecast, it was now or never.
I decided to keep the run to the end of our road and back, which is about a half of a mile. This helps me mentally as the chances of traffic, dogs or people is next to nil. This also keeps the dogs in a contained area that I can handle, as I was nervous. Running two dogs is my limit as there are no brakes on our homemade sled which means using my body weight to help slow them down.
Chance and Blaze took off out the gate and I have no idea how I even manage to get on the sled. They were both cruising, adrenal pumping, when I look up to see three whitetail deer standing in the middle of the road. I swear they were having a stare down with the dogs! The deer finally scooted off as the dogs were hurling towards them while I took my first body slam of the ride making sure they didn't follow the deer down the path. I was laughing so hard, I don't know how I even held on to the sled. I don't actually know if Chance and Blaze were planning on following the deer, but I wasn't taking any chances!
When we reached the stop sign, I gave the turn around signal. They complied fairly smoothly with a little coaxing and we headed back down the road. About half way through I realized two things: The work I have done with Chance walking and using sled commands, stop, Gee (right), Haw (left) and turn around were starting to sink in while he was sledding. Second, when I called Chance's name before the command, I found he was listening and responding. Since we are all beginners at this, that may not seem like a lot but it was like hitting a milestone for me. The light bulb went off when I spoke to the dog whom I needed to execute. What a difference! And when you're working at the speed of two sled dogs, both quite powerful by themselves, it is difficult to think that quickly sometimes in a moment of panic. Sort of like when you learning to drive and hit the accelerator instead of the brake. So this was huge on my part.
We went up and down the road three times. I was completely impressed with Chance and Blaze and myself. Even more so because it has been over two months since the last time we went out and I learn something new every time.
There was a sense of teamwork this time by putting my trust and commands in Chance. A bonding with Chance, that was by voice alone. Something was catching on for both of us, I could feel it start to click about half way through the run. Which meant I wasn't handling the entire weight of the ride on my shoulders, literally. I was able to rely on Chance to take some of the responsibility and he did beautifully for his first time doing that.
And let's not forget Blaze. Blaze was following Chance. Something clicked for her when he started to take control and she also caught on. My little crazy Blaze was giving up control to Chance and she did fantastic! We were all starting to work together and it was one of my best rides with them yet.
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