It was the winter of 2011 and my aging pack of nine sled dogs had slowed down. The yard was quieter, life overall was no longer the chaotic craziness I had adapted to over the last 13 years of having my own small team.
The dogs had become increasingly content to just hang out in the cabin and relax and keep warm. A short walk here, a longer walk or skijor there, add some dog cookies or frozen fish to the mix and they were completely satisfied.
I adjusted to this new norm quite quickly.
The extent of our running at that time was hooking up a couple of my old reliable 11-year-old “youngsters” who still loved skijoring for a few miles with me. They were super-calm and waited patiently if I fell, they rarely screeched and never ever dragged me into trees or onto sketchy trails. It was bliss.
But excitement was also one of the draws that brought me to the sport. I loved the chaos of some runs and I got adrenaline highs when we had a great run, went down a steep hill or chased other teams in races.
Fast forward to June 2012.
Four new squiggly, furry beings came into my life.
The breeding was not planned, daddy just wanted a good time one night. He jumped a few gates and 10-foot high fencing to get to the little lady in heat.
I’d never had an accidental breeding and I never wanted too many dogs (14 was enough at my highest count).
So I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to keep these guys, and realized that I really missed training and running dogs. I missed getting out there regularly, just going out and exploring with the dogs. Not knowing where you were going, or how far was one of the joys I got from running dogs.
I missed having a team come together and work as one. I missed seeing the joy and excitement on the dogs’ faces when hooking them up, and the quiet that followed once we got going.
And most of all I missed the excitement, the high I got.
So, I decided to keep the little guys. I knew this decision was approximately a 14-year commitment, but what the heck. You only live once and I’m not going anywhere. I (by that, I mean we) still have a lot of the Yukon to explore.
Now, it must be told that the mother and father are not known as the greatest sled dogs, but they are without a doubt a couple of the happiest, most fun and hyper dogs I’ve ever had.
However, instead of looking at them as mentally stunted, I prefer to look at them as always enjoying life. They get the most out of every day by having fun and maintaining a happy demeanour all the time.
Sure, they may run into walls, each other and me (repeatedly), they may get their heads stuck in dog cookie containers and walk around like an astronaut until someone notices, they may feast on frozen poo and throw it around like a toy, but they are my happy and simple dogs.
As the due date for the pups approached, I got more excited and giddy. I have to admit, I was nervous too: how would my life change? How would the other dogs react to a whack of new dogs? New puppies? What was I doing?
The doubt set in, until these little bundles of joy arrived. And that’s when I knew it was going to be one heck of a ride.
And you know what? All four of them are awesome. In their own ways of course – yes, a couple take after mom and dad, but the other two are so on top of things and so in tune with me that I have found myself questioning their lineage a few times.
For the record, no other dogs were upset/hurt in the making of these little beings. Sure, the old guys are sometimes annoyed by them, ok, they are often annoyed by them, but the pups now have manners thanks to the old farts.
This winter is going to be an exciting ride, as we work on training these young guys. We’ll be navigating through the entertaining and rewarding process of harness-training with the goal of entering a few of the local races later this winter.