Friday, November 4, 2011


So, when we got back from that run, I was satisfied as to how things had transpired. It had only been a short flat three miler but the “snot noses” had finally grasped what was expected of them. They had kept their tug lines tight for most of the way and amazingly enough had found a zone of comfort and enjoyment in doing this stuff…

Although I was somewhat impressed by my young yearlings that morning, I was even more proud of the “Old Guard”. These old veterans had showed the new prospects how things were supposed to be done and that was something that could not be easily taught by a “human”. But still, this crew did look funny standing there at the truck waiting for their “treats”. I just could not stop wondering as to where I would go with all these “shrimps”. Except for “Big Boy Vince”, the new recruits looked kind of out of place as far as I was concerned. After all, these young girls tipping the scale at maybe 42 lbs were miniscule compared to the “Baisley Mob” who were mastodons at an average of 73 lbs. But it wasn’t their fault that they were so tiny and on the encouraging side, where they lacked in power and strength, they made up for in speed and enthusiasm.

There was most truth to that statement when you looked at “Kameo” that day. With her muddy white face, oddly paired with the biggest dog in the kennel, she had no fear whatsoever of the “Kid”. Normally, he would usually be the type to try and intimidate his running partner but this little playful black and white Siberian had won his heart. She would lick his face, drop down to roll on her “I’m so cute” side, bite his ankles and even jump on his back for a piggyback ride. To lose his temper with her did not solve anything and besides, the big bruiser kind of liked his new running partner. So for the last month, they had been challenging each other down the trail. Where he would pull hard, she would try to pull harder. Where he would run, she would try to outrun him. To see “Kameo” now sporting the new nickname of “Gino’s little Camaro” work so hard reminded me of when the “Kid” and “Vixen” came into this old musher’s life…


Way back then, six years ago, when I woke up that morning, I was really glad to see that the rain had finally stopped. For those last two days, you might say, I was getting a bit discouraged. One didn’t have to see it on the news to be able to determine that it had been quite the storm. The river in front of the cottages had swollen up and this for over a good two feet. Where did all this rain come from, I had wondered. It wasn’t normal for this time of the year. But then again, I realized while brushing my teeth that I always said the same thing as October brought on these heavy rainfalls every year and this without fail.

That morning, I walked to the mud room and started putting my boots on. My faithful companion, Mosqua, didn’t have to be told what was going on. He was there sitting still like a statue by the door, just sitting there waiting for the words to come out of my mouth. So I got up and said “Let’s go buddy, let’s go feed the kids. I barely had the chance to open the door and he was out. It never stopped to amaze me to see him run out that door. He was like a sprint racer coming out of the starting block. All out and in a straight line. So down the road we headed, out to the barn now baptized by my wife, as the “Howl-A-Day Inn”. Like all mornings, he was going to win this race as it usually took me a while to get the stiffness out of my arthritis riddled legs. Anyway, we couldn’t sneak up on the dogs and were met at the barn by a symphony of jumping and howling.

Mr. Tibbs, a white Siberian Seppala and veteran of the pack, was not the barking type. Rather he was the cool dude who sang his good morning greetings and this till you let him loose after scratching his belly. He had become a beautiful dog over the past year and had accustomed himself to his new surroundings. To see how he kept his kennel clean, it was like he could really appreciate the upgraded accommodations. Tibbs was a dog that had spent three hard years on the racing circuit, having under his belt over 4000 miles. He was hard core and only knew four things in life. He ate then did his business. He ran and then went to sleep. That’s it, that’s all. When I met up with him, that past January, I noticed immediately that this guy had the heart of a lion. Unfortunately, the way I saw things, he had been kept underfed on purpose and was feeling the blunt of it. I had commented to his then owner how beautiful I thought this dog was to which he had replied, “You want him, take the fucking thing! The way he performed today, he’s on his way to becoming coyote bait. The price is right, “free” complete with harness”. Since I had to decide there and then, I took a chance and plunged head first into this world of racing sleddogs. The gamble had paid off. With tender loving care and a good diet, the dog had healed properly and was showing me what a real racer was all about. At five years old, this guy really knew his stuff and worked extra hard every time we went out. I was glad to have him on board.

His neighbor Maggie, the black Malamute/Canadian Eskimo cross, was still young and rather over enthusiastic. It would take a few minutes for her to settle down. Experience had proven that one was better to wait before opening her pen as one could be easily knocked over by this over sized lap dog. It wasn’t her fault. By the age of six months, when I rescued her, I was to be her fourth master. She had started her life as a cute pet to a teacher that had brought her south from Iqaluit. From there, it had been down hill all the way. When I found her, she was spending her entire days in a crowded 4 x 8 enclosure, being dominated by an oversexed 125 pounds male Malamute. It had taken a lot of time and patience but now she seemed to have gotten used to the idea that this was to be her forever home. She still had a few bad habits but the loyalty that she showed towards me made up for these downfalls. So, I would have to brace myself, open the door and let her jump up on her hind legs. This was the ritual. She would put her front legs over my shoulders and now I would have to hug her, whispering in her right ear that she was my favorite. I don’t think she knew what was being said but anyway… it seemed to keep her happy.

Then came the turn for the twins, Vixen and the “Kid”, two Husky/German Shepard mixes that I had found in December of the previous year, in the middle of the boonies of eastern Quebec. In the past, I had driven through that area many of times and had seen the parents. The mother, a pure bred quiet black German Shepard and the father, a large black and white Husky had always made me take notice and wonder what the off springs would look like if these two gorgeous animals ever matched. To my astonished surprise, this had happened that fall and now mother had given birth in a shed struggling to keep her eleven pups fed. I talked to the discouraged owner, offered to take a couple of the puppies off her hands and she gladly accepted. Not being able to decide which one to pick, I told them that the first two little guys that were to come to me would be going home with me to New-Brunswick. It was like they knew a good thing when they saw one. Vixen crawled over her brothers and sisters to come towards me while the “Kid” just plowed through the bunch. After an exhausting 12 foot race, the choice had been made. These two little black and beige “tikes” would be adopted. Now here they were, 10 months old, full of piss and vinegar and almost outweighing my 70 pound Mosqua. Seeing Vixen’s enthusiastic smile was always a welcoming sight and confirmed why I woke up early every morning to feed these dogs. She was affectionate. Never overly exited but always there for you to scratch her underbelly, she was most lovable. What was nice about her was that she had learned early enough not to leave the immediate area and would never wander off. The “Kid”, well, he was in a league of his own. Over the summer, he had showed me what the definition of an “Alpha dominant” male was, always testing himself and his surroundings. He wasn’t scared of anything. He challenged Tibbs and took on Mosqua. Although these clashes had always been noisy and alarming, they never had been for real. The other two dogs seemed to realize that he was still a young punk of a puppy who needed to explore and express himself. Now, when he took on old Billy the goat, this was to be another story. For a period of time this summer, he would go into the goats coral and chase them around. This would always end up with him facing down the ram who would always challenge the “Kid”. Billy would rise on his back legs, shake his horn and charge at the dog. Meanwhile, the “Kid” would run circles around him, barking and trying to nib at the ram’s hind leg. Although this seemed to always end up as a stalemate, Billy did not see the “Kid” as an overly excited puppy but rather as a real and present danger. As for the “Kid”, he always seemed to end up coming out of the coral with a cocky attitude as if he had won some prize fight. We had gotten used to the annoying barking but always hoped that he would get over this bad habit. One day, however, there was to be the final showdown. While I was preparing their food, I heard the “Kid” again edging the goat on. You could tell that Billy was in prime form and was not impressed. Up on his hind legs, he took his attack position, aimed then rammed at the dog. This time, he struck hard and solid sending the dog hurling into the fence. The “Kid” had been stopped dead in his track and was trying to catch his breath. The ram was going to write the final chapter to this daily saga and rammed the dog again, again really connecting and pinning him to the fence. The way the whole fence line shook, I was sure that the “Kid” was dead. Knowing that he had delivered the ultimate blow, Billy backed off and went back to his daily business of eating grass. As for the “Kid”, it took him at least two minutes to recover from this well placed “knock-out” punch. Eventually, he managed to get up, shook the marbles out of his head and staggered out of the coral. He had just realized that you eventually always meet your match and that the thing with the horns was not to be reckoned with. This was just one of the many lessons of life he had learned over the summer. Now, he seemed to be very mature for his young age and had somewhat settled down. He would not run to you for affection but never missed an opportunity to greet people but this according to his own agenda. After raising them all this time, these two pups had grown up to be members of our family. Seeing them here and now made me realize one thing. They had provided us with numerous good moments over the summer and a lifestyle that was unbelievably gratifying. Anyway I opened their doors and out they came greeted by Maggie as they went out the barn door.

Last but not least, it was “JR’s” turn to come out. Mr. Tibb’s son who was a souvenir left behind by “Tibbs” when he departed the previous owner’s kennel. As I had been impressed by the father, the man had thought that I might be interested in the son. The genetics had potential and besides he was snow white like his father. When I first met up with the pup, it had been hard not to fall in love with him. Six weeks old, both ears standing straight up and ice blue eyes. Although the quiet one of the bunch, you could tell that “JR” was going to be special. Just don’t know what it was but he didn’t prove me wrong. He was now seven months old, the quiet reserved type who had been a pleasure to raise. His first time in harness with the pack the previous month had showed the potential in the little guy. Like a trooper, 25 feet in the training session, he was pulling on that tug line as if he had been doing it for years. So now here they were outside, the “mob”, all jumping at each other, I guess, glad to see each other and saying Good Morning. This was alright as it gave them time to relieve themselves while I prepared their meals. When the food was ready, I banged the feed cup against the bottom of a metal bowl and called out for them to come for breakfast. This to them was one of the highlights of their day. Wherever they were, they stopped doing whatever and made a mad dash to the barn. Although looking like total chaos to see them rush, it was impressive to see them all go to their own bowl and this without ever a miss. It was a good thing because Maggie did not and would not tolerate anybody feeding in her bowl. The water had been tested and the results had been instant and drastic. Although not dominant, Maggie was very territorial about her area and did not tolerate anybody invading her space, eating her food. That was now a respected protocol and everybody was eating out of their own bowl. Everybody, except “JR” - He still figured that if he went and inspected the other dogs bowls when they were finished, he might find some leftovers. I guess he never yet realized that like him, they were all hungry sleddogs that emptied their bowl like it was their last meal. Anyway, the mob had been fed and after giving them time to digest, we would be going on a training session...

Yeah, there they were then also “rookies” and here they are now of all things, teaching others.
= -)

To be continued…

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