Sunday, 27 January 2008

January 27, 2008 Hard Work & Laughs

(By Colleen Hovind)
It's been almost two weeks since Anna and I returned from our trip with Karen and the 24 dogs to Montana.  You can't begin to imagine what happens when three women travel together in a dog truck for the better part of two weeks.

I thought what I'd do is share some snip-its from our trip.  This is by no stretch a neatly woven tale but rather "tales from behind the dog truck". 

Karen and Her Brother, Jim

Our first stop on the trip was in Calgary.  Karen's brother Jim escorted us to the hotel through the booming town of Calgary during rush hour.  It occurred to me that Jim's car was quite a contrast to his sister's choice of transportation - a hot little sports car that can travel faster than the speed of light versus a huge dog truck.  Hmmm!!!  As we stopped at a red light behind Jim, Karen considered turning on the "moose" lights and blinding him but opted instead to inch up ever so close behind Jim's car just to make her brother a bit nervous.  Sibling rivalry is alive and well for sure!!!

A Cold Night in Whitefish

Karen's diary entry on the Flathead Race mentions the warm temperatures we experienced.  If I can speak for Anna, I bet she would not use the word "warm" to describe her first night's sleep in Whitefish.  Her recollection is sure to be somewhat distorted since hypothermia has a way of playing games with one's sense of reality.  Poor Anna being young and not holding an ounce of body fat, almost succumbed to the sub-zero temperatures in our hotel room the first night.  Anna woke the next morning to say she darn near froze to death, while Karen's side of the story is that she sleeps better with a window open so that she can be more aware of her dogs if they fuss in the dog truck.  How can you argue with that?  Let's just say that the rest of the trip Anna made darn sure there was a surplus of extra blankets in the room.  Brrrrrrrrr!!!

Kara Saves our Lives

Karen also mentions in her diary entry that we had a "hairy" drive back down the mountain to Whitefish once the race was finished.  I truly believe that Kara was the driving force behind saving the day.  I thought hard about whether I dare share my thoughts on this, but have decided to jump in knowing that Kara will make me pay on many levels.  As you may recall, Karen's post reads "while we didn't hit the ditch, we slid into a guard rail".  While the guardrail did indeed save our behinds, the fact that Kara's box was on the driver's side is what really made the difference.  You see, Anna and I, having loaded and unloaded the team many times during our trip, soon realized that "little" Kara had perhaps gained a few pounds over Christmas and (dare I say it) had transformed into somewhat of a Chunky Monkey.  Okay, so maybe she had just a few extra pounds on her girth, but nonetheless her presence on the driver's side of the truck played a big part in "holding" the truck from gaining further momentum as we met the guardrail.  All kidding aside, it will go down as one of the top five "almost" moments in my life.  Another I will look forward to adding to the list is when Kara makes me pay for sharing this story.  Kara, the reference to needing a crane to lift you into your box was uncalled for.  My most sincere apologies.

The Art of "Loading and Unloading" a Dog Box

Well, if it's an art I certainly have not yet mastered it.  I pride myself on always handling dogs with the utmost respect and care.  It is with great angst that I must admit I suck at loading a dog box.  The bottom boxes aren't bad, but the top boxes???  While none of the dogs are harmed when I load them, I think it is safe to say that I have not yet finessed the technique.  The saving grace is that I know Karen, Anna and likely anyone else who witnesses my struggle, gets a good laugh - and I am always up for humour.  And if loading isn't bad enough, I seem to be missing the brain capacity to remember which dog goes in which box.  Some of you may have seen the flattering photo that Karen posted of me sporting a gift from Nahanni - a scratch from my nose down to my lip.  Beautiful I say, just beautiful.  As Nahanni will attest to, it was when I tried to load her in the wrong box that she felt it necessary to correct me with the now famous NAAAA-hanni karate kick with her hind foot.  Being a sucker for punishment, the rest of the trip I insisted that I load Nahanni so that I could right the wrong so to speak.  By the last day of our trip, I do recall Anna and I agreeing that my "loading form" had improved with at least a few of the dogs.  Anna managed to dodge any injuries until we were loading the remaining 12 dogs at Seeley Lake after Karen had left the start.  It seems Jinx had a bone to pick with Anna and took it out on her eyeball.  No major damage but a nail to the eyeball is never pleasant.  In hindsight, one has to wonder if perhaps Kara paid off Nahanni and Jinx to do her dirty work as a way of getting back at Anna and me for our tasteless comments about her weight.  Seems pretty clear to me now that I think about it.

Scooge Defined

As with any profession, over time a few words crop into one's vocabulary that seem to "stick" and are used repeatedly while working in your chosen field.  Handling dogs is no exception, and so enters our first word of the North Wapiti dictionary of handling terms.  "Scooge", (sounds like Ebenezer Scrooge, without the "r").  Its definition is all encompassing and refers to any type of revolting thing one might encounter as a dog handler, and you guessed it usually relates to something that originates within a dog.  To elaborate on its definition would not only be distasteful but may limit your use of the word.  So please, use the word freely in your everyday lives with your animals and think of Anna and me fondly every time you use it . SCOOGE!!!

Great People and New Friends

First off, I have to say that having a chance again this year to take a winter trip with Karen was another windfall for me.  Karen and I have become friends over the years and it is certainly a relationship that I honour dearly and never take for granted.  So Karen, thank you for letting me share your world.

Next on the list is Anna, who I met a few times while at North Wapiti.  By the end of trip, we had spent pretty much every moment of two weeks together with lots of laughs and hard work.  Despite the age difference (Anna celebrated her 19th birthday while on the road - Anna, now EVERYONE knows), we had a blast together but also knew when to buckle down and get to work.  There may have been a couple of times that Karen would have loved to disown us but she resisted the temptation (or we stayed in the truck so she couldn't drive off without us).  Thanks for your patience, Karen.

Best of all, I finally got to meet Karen's Mom which was a pleasure.  Morna, you are a gem.  She gets a certain twinkle in her eye when she talks about her kids - definitely a proud Mom and for good reason.

Then of course there is Marlene and Doug Daniels from Belgrade, Montana and Barbara and Jim Watt from Missoula, Montana.  As Karen mentioned in her post, these people are very special.  I had a wonderful time getting to know them and was blown away by their generosity and hospitality.  Thank you, thank you.

In closing, I have one last thing to share.  Remember that horrible saying "blondes have more fun"?  Well, I firmly believe that "handlers have more fun", right Anna?  Ohhhhhhhh, Penny, I think we might need t-shirts!!!  

Colleen Hovind

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