The Summer Months
Being a dog musher, one must be a true fan of the winter months. Forty below zero has to be viewed as nothing more than a bump in the road rather than an all-out Los Angelos caliber traffic jam. We embrace the cold as dog mushers. Although, I find the concept of loving the cold hard for me to agree with. It is more what we can do in the cold that gives us the desire to be in it. For mushers, the opportunity to hook up a team of sled dogs and head out into pure wilderness surrounded by the silence of forty below and its pure clarity, is what draws most of us into a way of life that does not seem conventional to modern society. The cold is a season when we as dog mushers for a moment are allowed to venture on the same page as our canine athletes, who have inhabited the north for thousands of years and find a bond between the past and present.
I guess my point is the cold months are why we follow through with the tradition of dog mushing and all of the sleep deprivation, frozen finger tips, and frost nipped faces that accompany the season. It is when this season comes to a close and the snow pack melts off, frozen rivers break up, and the green vegetation pokes through what was previously dead barren ground that we as mushers strip away our parkas and bibs. It is this season that we take time to soak up the sun’s rays along with our dogs.
After bringing team Tukaway to my home state of New Hampshire for the summer we have been enjoying the warm weather to its full potential. With day time temperatures in the 70s and the nights dropping down into the 40s it has allowed us to do short training runs in the late evenings and early mornings. It is also a great time to let the dogs be the monsters that only they can be with wild free running experiences around the beautiful grounds of Mahoosuc Outdoors. It has been a blast! The experience of free running dogs in the north woods where they can tromp through mud and weave through tight spruce forests gives them an amazing natural playground where they can exercise their muscles and agility for the upcoming race season. We even have Ayla’s Pond on the property where they can take a dip and try out swimming! Which for sled dogs isn’t always something they chose to do… Willie ‘Jeep’ Nelson ran full speed into the pond only to realize the water would not hold his 80 pounds of weight and sank below his head! Watching a dog learn to swim for the first time is always hilarious. He paddled with all of his might with his two front paws splashing water all over the place. After making a fool of himself he soon realized he had two other paws that could help keep him level and propel himself back to land. Let’s just say, Willie is learning….
The summer is always a great time for the dogs to do some off leash socializing where than can chase each other around and play the canine version of tag. Imagine a fourth grade recess times a million as far as the energy that goes into saying, ‘”YOUR IT!” Watching our Alaskan Huskies twist and turn at full sprint really shows just how amazing these animals are. They cut with the ferocity of Barry Sanders weaving through a defensive line before breaking free. Little Cherokee is probably the hardest to catch. Her speed and her agility is so far unmatched. Yet Sahara currently holds the top end speed title. She still cannot catch Cherokee due to her quickness and sudden change of direction. Larry and Willie being the ‘boys’ of the bunch run with the agility of my Ford F-250 at times as they learn their strength and abilities of their bodies. Sometimes they falter and land on their faces, or just run into a parked tree…. When walking through the trails of Mahoosuc Outdoors, I imagine the cost of repairing my ACL if they were to collide with either of my legs. They are true dufuses! Comanche and Renegade are always there to please, as they play with their brothers and sisters. Both like to routinely check in when walking through the woods and make sure everything is okay.
Then there is Rubicon ‘Rubi.’ This little girl, who has a fire inside her to go in no other direction than forward when hooked up to the sled, has an off trail adventurous mentality during trail walks that makes me excited. She is always setting out on her own. She seems to be a little separate from the rest of the gang as she goes to explore new places rather than just run like idiots crashing into trees and stumbling in mud pits. She is on her own agenda. Of course, the other dogs pick up on this and sometimes she gets picked on for being the ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ of the bunch, but we love her for that. She has the princess values of her mother Teva. She knows she’s cute, and she is developing a calm personality that clicks into a full hard driving chaos when it is time to go to work, just like momma!
As for the adult dogs, they slink along in a much more relaxed manner. They circle around and smell the wildflowers as they come up throughout the summer season. I think this morning Skor took a number two on a pile of some of my favorite flowers known as ‘Indian Paint Brushes!’ Abby gets to run around at dinner time as she checks out what is happening in the woods. This morning while I was drinking my coffee next to the remnants of last night’s camp fire, the name sake of the kennel Tukdog, came flying out of the woods at a lighting speed which impressed me! I havn’t seen her near eleven year old legs move that fast in sometime. (Now I am not saying she is old, but this is a dog I have clocked at 35 mph in her prime!) She came sprinting by me soaked to the bone. She looked like she decided to take a dip in Ayla’s Pond this morning which is a quarter mile away. Knowing Tuk, she probably left camp to follow last night’s moose sent. We have been having a guest moose visiting dog camp for the past week during the night hours. Rubicon ‘Rubi’ has been waking us up every half hour to make sure we know that! For those wondering what Shorty has been up to in the summer months, well… He has found a nice spot under the back bumper of my Ford F-250. Shorty does not move much folks. I am not saying he can’t, for he did catch Steph’s speedster of a dog Kinley the other day playing, but most of a summer day the famous ‘Bumble’ spends laying around in the shade.
I love summer in New Hampshire. It is a beautiful season full of lighting bugs dancing in the dog yard at night and warm summer breezes blowing through The White Mountains. But occasionally the winds shift and a cold arctic wind blows down from the north. The bite to this air reminds us of our true reason for our team of dogs, to train for the upcoming race season and prepare ourselves for our own ‘Yukon Alone.’ The cold season with frosty furs, and frozen eyelashes, with the dancing auroras overhead is where we find comfort in our cabins after a long night’s run at forty below. It is here we witness the building of frost on the insides of our windows and the on the interior plates of our light sockets. We do love winter. We love it because it is the season of the dogs, when they can truly be all they can be.