I fell asleep, dreaming about all these beautiful things that the next days promised.
The sweet melody of my alarm clock rang. It was 7:30 a.m., time to get up. It was above all time to greet and take care of my new colleagues.
Here I was, clothed in my three layers, ready to face the -15°C of this morning, although we were only mid-October, then I’m on my way to the kennel, less than 50 metres from the chalet.
As soon as I opened the door and put two feet on the terrace, 50 pairs of eyes were pointing at me and their impatience was soon to be felt: barking, yapping, jumping.
They were waiting for one thing: the moment when I would pass their harnesses to them, signal for them that the departure would be soon.
Among them, there was old Pinto, who would be turning 17 years old this year, a bark recognizable among all, and even if she could no longer run, her “will to go” hadn’t really left her.
Them there was Sweet, a name that must not be trusted when the time came for harnessing.
There was Filou, who dreamt of becoming a domestic dog rather than a sled dog. He pulled, yes, but more towards the ranch and less towards his friends.
There was Eagle, with a face of teddy bear, but 10 thousand times more energetic than a stuffed animal. He was the most hyperactive of the band; he was a handful.
There was also Atlin, who was missing his tail (it froze when he was a puppy).
Arkell, who is surly with other males, but affectionate with humans.
Devil, who played cat and mouse with me, impossible to approach, unless it was to bring him to the stake out.
Echo, who is a very good leader; timid but curious, her behaviour in the presence of stranger was funny to observe.
Willow, an enormous dog, is very good regardless of his place in the team. He’s offensive with his fellows and yet a great claimant of caresses.
Then there is Viking, who, once his bowl was finished, would take the bowl into his mouth, turn around, and just keep it in his mouth for as long as 10 minutes or more – until I would come to retrieve it.
And there were all the others…
Upon my arrival, I met these sled dogs – my 50 new co-workers. I had to learn their faces and names. My brain took five days to memorize the location of each nook and cranny and start to remember some features. After which time, Marcelle, Gilles and I proceeded to a nearly complete reshuffling of the kennel to better organize it and avoid useless steps during the training sessions.
Thus, all my efforts to memorize the dogs’ names were in vain; I had to start again from almost zero. It took me three more weeks to finally know them. Well, I still always have a little moment of doubt when I see Eole, Echo and Emerald, the three sisters who are all white!
All understood quickly that training was not for now, that there was a meal to attend to, first. Once satisfied, calm returned rapidly, the opportunity for me to spend a little time with each of them, and to savour the unique place in which I found myself. The quietness is however short lived, the silence broken as soon as I approached the harnesses…