Mushing at the end of the season

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Last weekend I finally got to mush some dogs! Man, it was cool! I can see how people think it’s “addictive”. For about a half hour, I didn’t worry about anything except leaning the sled on curves, shouting “gee” and “haw” at the appropriate turning times, listening to the enthusiastic pants and scrabbling feet of the dogs, hearing the sled runners scrape the snow, watching the gangline and tuglines of the dogs, and trying to anticipate any problems (there were none; the dogs know the trail *really* well, and took care of me) on a bright blue sunny day in almost-spring. It was already too warm; about 20 degrees. I didn’t dump the sled! I was ready and prepared to hang on whatever should happen, (like, getting banged into a tree) but nothing did. I think recreational mushing is the way to go. It’s not “the toughest sled dog race in the world“, πŸ˜› but it is fun. It’s also a way to spend a LOT of money. Nevertheless, my co-worker asked if I wanted some dogs. Ohhhh no, I said. That’s how it *starts*. πŸ˜› AND, until I get my own place, I don’t want to strain the generosity and good will of my very kind landlords. It’s hard enough to find some place to rent in this town with *one* dog, let alone a whole passle! πŸ˜€ Not promising anything later, though, after said mythical house is purchased. (Out of my mythical millions, ya know.)

Anyone who has seen any mushing events in person like the start of the Yukon Quest or the Open North American here in Fairbanks could never say these dogs are forced to race. If you could see the yips and howls and jumps and big doggy grins of anticipation, and the way the handlers have to hold the dogs down with their body weight, six and seven handlers at a time, you would never ask that again. If you could see how the mushers run down the line and pet and encourage all the dogs before and after the race, and attend to every dog’s needs, whether it’s a paw and shoulder massage, ointment for sore pads, snacks, or encouragement, at the cost of their own meal, health and sleep, you would never ask that again. It’s sheer chaos at the start, with the din of announcers, mushers, handlers, families, dog trucks and dogs all mixed in at once. But, once the announcer counts down to the start, with the spectators help, and the whole sum of humanity cheers the musher off with whoops and muffled clapping in big fur and double fleece mitts, the dogs settle down into a fine sewing machine precision, the harnesses, tuglines, ganglines, sled and bootied dog feet all working in concert to propel the whole schmeer off down the trail, or down the river. My friend Rob took some cool pics here. Come and see a race in person. You’ll be convinced, too. (The News Miner posted a good article on this from the Idaho Press Tribune here.)

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