I am able to find inspiration, guidance, and wisdom from my other interests that, I believe, enhance my abilities as a dog trainer and a musher.
As some of you may be aware, alittle more then a year ago I started taking some yoga classes from my friend Gabi, who, along with her husband, Martin, runs Athabasca Yoga. I gotta say, purely from a physical standpoint, every musher should try this. Mushers abuse their bodies horribly and I know mine has benefited GREATLY from yoga. I'm certainly far from a pro at the whole thing. My creaky, abused body pops and groans it's way through class but every month my body gets a bit more 'bendy' and the popping and groaning seems alittle less.
I even had a list of exercises in my 'trail book' that I tried to do in every checkpoint or on every break I took on Iditarod last year. They really made a difference (thank you again Gabi!!!)
Anyway, the last few months I've been taking an hour and half long 'intermediate' class every Monday night.
Gabi is forever reminding us that it is not about comparing yourself against what the person next to you can do. We are all built different and have our own issues. It's about improving and stretching your own abilities. Good message.
The past few weeks running dogs I've been running Wifi in lead a fair amount. He's an 'interesting' dog. He's a REALLY good leader. He will take the team by all kinds of distractions without issue, knows his commands, and sets a darn nice pace but STOP and a whole 'nother side of Wifi comes out. His A.D.D. side. Seriously, I'm sure he actually has A.D.D. When stopped he spins, he rolls, he vibrates, he darts off the trail, into the woods, etc, etc.
|Wifi off in the woods, while See lines out the team.|
Yesterday he put in a simply brilliant run in lead and then while we were putting the team away he drove me crazy as he 'spun out'. As always, I kept putting him back where I wanted him and made him stand up front on his own for a full minute before unharnessing. His eyes were wide and crazy. He seemed to be trying but just could not stay still.
|Wifi in front of a 16 dog team on a great run yesterday.|
This morning as I was feeding dogs I was contemplating Wifi and where I wanted 'to go' with him. I completely believe having a nice, well disciplined team. I believe in training dogs, not just 'running dogs' (in fact, that is a concept I speak about a lot when talking to other mushers) - but I also believe that every dog is an individual. I want my team to be a group of unique individuals pulling together towards a common goal - not an army of clones.
As I was thinking about all this I kept going back to my yoga class from last night. It occurred to me that I shouldn't be comparing Wifi to my other leaders. He is "built different and has his own issues'. I need to recognize and appreciate him for what he is and help him grow within his own limits.
He has come a long way over the years and he really is a leader that most would kill to own, but he is not a robot. He is a individual - a unique, slightly crazy individual.
Don't get me wrong - just like I don't make excuses for my body, I'm not making excuses for Wifi - I'm just recognizing him for what he is. I will continue to push him to 'grow' but I will also think about what is important and critical for the safety and success of the team and balance that with Wifi's 'needs'.
The light in me sees the light in you Wifi - even if your light is a flashing disco ball.