Saturday, 24 March 2012


Whenever folks meet the dogs, one of the first questions asked is 'Who is your leader?'. The truth is that almost all of the dogs lead .... under certain circumstances, that is. One of my jobs, as the 'thinking' member of the team, is to know what those circumstances are for which dogs and when to put them up front.

For example, Jinx is my number 1 storm leader. Put me in a storm, especially one where the wind has blown the trail in and you will almost always find her in front of the team. I don't have to steer her, I just put her up front and hang on. She definitely understands the trail markers we are following and she has an uncanny ability to find a trail, with or without the markers.
She does, however, hate training and is not at all a good leader then - or during what she considers 'everyday, boring' racing.

Now Q, her brother, is another story. Q likes to set his own pace, which is normally a bit below the speed I want to travel - and totally shuts me out when I look to speed him up.
He is great and dependable though later in races when the speed has dropped down a bit.

Smartie is a great up and coming leader. Her biggest strength right now is that she is FEARLESS. Snowmachines, crowds.......nothing worries her.

Bang is a good leader that definitely pushes the pace, but she is not much of a 'Gee/Haw' leader. Put her on a trail where she can just go along without having to make decisions and you are laughing. Try and use her to park in a checkpoint and everyone around you is laughing!!!!

Tess has been a good, steady but not inspiring leader for the last few seasons. Starting on the Don Bowers 200 this year, she seemed to be telling me that she was up for more responsibility.
She HATES crowds though and especially screaming children

See is a terrific leader. Crack on commands and sets a great pace. One of my best. She is prone to injury though and gets stressed if there is 'too much' pressure put on her.

 Wifi is another good, solid leader. Not the most reliable on commands, but good enough to get us by.


Of course, there are always circumstances which arise that shift the whole playing field, like when you start Iditarod with 7 of your girls in 'season'.

For this race that meant that the boys were relegated to the back of the team (if they were up front, they all kept looking over their shoulder to make sure the girls were still with us) and the girls alone bore the burden of leadership.

I started the Iditarod with See and Jinx in lead, but Jinx said 'Been there, done that, have the t-shirt' to that and was quickly out for Bang. That combination worked well.

Going over Rainy Pass this year I had Tess in lead with Smartie but as the weather deteriorated, I put Jinx up front with Smartie and that was a great combination. Jinx's reliability, combined with Smart's fearlessness was perfect for the challenging terrain of the Dalzel Gorge!!

For the challenging trail out of Rohn though, I opted for my most experienced and reliable front end girls - Tess and Jinx.

It was mostly those two all the way to Cripple and partway to Ruby where I put Tess up front on her own. She LOVED that and did a super job on that trail.

For most of the rest of the race it was either Jinx and Tess or Tess in single lead in front of the team. Jinx did most of the work across Norton Sound, with Tess obviously being a good student on the ins and outs of storm leading, as she lead us through the infamous 'BlowHole' on her own.

Coming into Nome mushers, including myself, like to give the honor of leading the team under the burled arch to the dogs that were the most significant leaders over the entire journey. I so wanted to give that honor to Tess in single lead, she really earned that, but the fact is she doesn't like crowds, so I knew she wasn't going to take us down front street in Nome. I put Jinx up front with her and hoped for the best but even that wasn't to be.

As we started up the ramp off the sea ice behind the Subway a couple kids on the sidelines started to squeal and clap. Tess stopped dead in her tracks and refused to take the team forward. I was so disappointed.

Smartie was quickly pressed into duty and didn't even blink at the cars and crowds coming into town. She's going to be quite the lead dog down the road!!!


cris said...

It's very interesting to know their characters especially in specific situations.

Excellent work Tess, can see shades of Olena in you :)

A coincidence on storm leader Jinx as she was played by Halle Berry on the James Bond movie and as Storm in X-Men, out of topic but it just made me think

Smartie seems as cool as his dad

ummm... are Bang and Irving similar?

SAY said...

Loved this. Great to learn about the personalities of the dogs.

Rascal said...

I hope your dear Trampie will step it up, but why do I fear that will either take a lot of time or not happen?

thecrazysheeplady said...

Very interesting - thanks!

Khyra And Sometimes Her Mom said...

I'm sure Kara and Snickers were smiling ;-)

Carolyn said...

I'm with Tess. I don't like screaming children either!

I have so enjoyed watching the Iditarod through these blog posts!