Sunday, 3 December 2006

December 3, 2006 Training Tidbits

It’s 5 am and all is still dark and quiet here at the kennel, so I thought I’d take a moment to fire off a diary entry!

In about 30 minutes or so, others (Mark, Matt, Fly, Chester and the rest of the yard) will begin stirring. Everyone will be demanding breakfast – some politely and others (like Chester and Mark) not so politely!

Dogs, of course, come first (although Mark and I do sneak in a cup of coffee – and Matt a cup of tea before we head out) and we will busy ourselves filling buckets of soup and kibble (just the main string gets kibble – all get soup though). Yesterday morning it was –40 again and while the younger dogs jump out of their houses and start barking the instant we walk outside, most of the older dogs stay in their warm straw beds until we actually begin feeding. I laughed so hard at Surge yesterday – he slept in until I was two dogs away from feeding him, then one paw stretched out of his house, slowly followed by another, then his nose. He stretched, sneezed twice and just slid backwards back into his house like a turtle. Apparently he wasn’t thrilled with the temperature. I laughed and called his name and he popped back out with a resigned look on his face. Breakfast in bed is not an option!

Everyone is doing very well. Newt is walking on all 4s again (although he is still confined to the smaller kennel so he doesn’t re-injure anything). Casey and Finnegan are fat and sassy. No one, including Sprite (who is still with them so they can all cuddle on the really cold nights), comes between Finn and a food bowl.

Chester is doing very well too. Well enough, in fact, that it lulls you into thinking he might actually be beating this ‘thing’. We know better though and we just make sure to enjoy the wonderful gift of time we have with him. He’s quite the character, yet very polite and well mannered in the house – well, unless it involves food.

Training is going well. The dogs are spunky and sassy. Yesterday I had Jinx and Olena in lead on a 30-mile run and Mark had Snickers and Dasher. Those girls all get along fine, but they are severely competitive with each other - seriously. It’s a hoot. Mark’s team got held up crossing the highway and I got a ways ahead. I could see those girls just driving into their harnesses to catch up with my team, which was already moving at a good clip. As Mark’s team pulled up to pass, Olena and Jinx looked over their shoulders and said ‘Not without working for it’ and hit the speed button. The entire run was one set of leaders trying to outdo and pass the other. It was a very good run!

Youngsters Watt, Charge and Tess are something else. All three are as hard to put away after a run as they are to hook up. They buck, stomp their feet and jump until one of us comes over and wrestles a harness off them. Once back on their chains, they pace and tell tales of the run to anyone that will listen. Despite having 800 miles of training on them already, I don’t think I’ve come close to stressing any of the three.

Q is turning into a top-notch leader. He’s serious and focused. Earlier in the season he was a methodical, but ‘slower’ leader. It was like he wanted to take his time and get everything ‘just right’. I let him do his thing and sure enough, now that the confidence is coming, so is the speed.
I see many of the things I loved so much about his Dad (Grover) in him. He put in such a nice performance in lead the other day, it about broke my heart - he reminded me so much of Grover. It’s still a fairly painful thing. In time I know he’ll just make me smile.

Eeek and Barq are both really coming into their own. Run after run they are just solid and dependable. Both are big, strong dogs that will be a real asset to the team this season.

Draco, at 9, continues to have one of the best training seasons of his life. I swear there is no way you could pick him out as the most senior member of my training pool. He looks great.

Oops – I’ve dilly-dallied too long and everyone is up and about! More later….

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