Monday, 13 December 2004

December 13, 2004 Rites of Passage

I thought it was just a right of passage of Canadian children – but apparently I was wrong.

The mystery started a few weeks ago when Marcus (the wonderful young man that shovels our dog yard 5 days a week for us) brought to my attention some blood in one of the puppy pens. There was not enough to cause any of the puppies problems, but enough that I expected to find a hole in someone’s ear or such. Marcus and I checked all ‘The Spots’ over and could find nothing. The puppies playfully bounced at our feet, with no one complaining of any injuries or pain. We eventually scratched them on the head and shrugged our shoulders.

Over the next while similar spots of blood were occasionally appearing in various puppy pens. I had some suspicions, but could prove nothing – until the other morning….

I was walking towards the ‘Power’ puppies pen and the 4 pups where jostling and pushing each other for the spot closest to the gate when it happened – little Tesla (probably at the prompting of her evil brothers) touched her tongue to the gate latch. It instantly stuck solid to the frozen metal. I was unable to do anything to help her – heck I couldn’t even open the latch as she was stuck to it – and besides, being raised in cold Canadian winters has taught me that when you do stupid things like this, short of someone having a cup of hot chocolate in hand, you are pretty much on your own. After a few agonizing moments and with a small splash of blood into the snow, Tes popped free. Hopefully, one time will be enough to teach each of the puppies their lesson. It is for most children – not that I’m admitting to anything….

Speaking of Marcus, some of you may not have heard me mention him before, but he has been working for us for, I think, going on three years now. During the summers he usually shovels the yard 3 days a week or so and now, thanks in part to the fact that he is in his senior year of high school and therefore gets out a little early and that he got his driver’s license this past summer, he is working everyday but Tuesday and Thursday. Not a glamorous job and it doesn’t pay a lot, but it is a huge help to us and puts a little gas money in his pocket.

Right after I got home from Minnesota I asked him if he would be interested in learning to drive a dog team. I expected the rather standard, teenage ‘Yeah sure’ answer, but instead got an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. Since then he has been anxiously watching the sky waiting for snow. We haven’t had a lot and you still can’t plant a snow hook, but yesterday I let him take out a couple teams with me along on a 4 wheeler for safety. His first team consisted of Kaylinn and Nik in lead with Mannie in behind them. 

Probably not a good team for him as Kaylinn and Marcus have never really seen eye to eye. She is absolutely not scared of him and doesn’t dislike him, but she does feel the need to comment on most everything he does, and barks orders at him whenever he is down in her section of the yard. I think it is actually amusing, as her bark is really not a ‘stay away’ or an ‘I’m annoyed’ bark – she is nagging him, but it kind of drives Marcus nuts. The run went well, despite the personality conflict and Marcus quickly agreed when I asked if he wanted to take out another team. This time I loaned him Smiley for lead, with Butch and Kluane in wheel. He pronounced the experience ‘Awesome’ and was pushing me to commit to the next time he could take the dogs out. For now, until he is more experienced and there is enough snow that he can safely hook a team down with a snow hook, he is restricted to running when we are home, but I’m sure over the course of the winter he will be able to run small teams on his own. 

He’s happy, I’m happy and the seniors are happy – win, win, win!!!

After Marcus headed home, I ran back into the house, grabbed lunch and then headed out to get a run in. I did 30 miles with a 14 dog team and all I can say is – extraordinary. I had Kara in lead with Sprite and they were incredible. Sprite is developing into quite the dog. Everyone that sees her work in harness lately comments on how well she ‘wears a harness’ and how she drives into it. I agree, she is one of those dogs that makes the hair on my arms stand up. For 30 miles she looked like a seasoned leader, but when I got back into the yard her inexperience showed as she just couldn’t be convinced to stay up front or hold the line out. She is so busy and full of herself, she sometimes has trouble controlling her effervescence (heck, she is a ‘soda pup’), but that was easy to forgive. It is dogs, runs and days like this that make the work so worthwhile!


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