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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fall Training 2008; First Run of the Season!

Loading the dogs to a September sunrise

Klaus with Zala and Sweet Pea behind

Zala and Sweet Pea

Icoa and son, Ilu

First Team out

Second Team ready to go!

Zodiak next to McKenzie

Six dog Hedlund Husky team

Oken and Phoenix

Zodiak and McKenzie

The leader girls, Journey and Tuloon

We awoke dark and early this morning and began loading the dogs at 6:30AM. The temperature was perfect for the first day of training at 40 degrees F. I was anxious to put the Tuloon/Bazil puppies in with the team this year, having done so well with their short "fun" runs over the winter, I was hopeful they would be excellent. These pups will be one year old the end of the month!

Another exciting anticipation was McKenzie's first run with the team. He arrived to Minnesota from Alaska in April and has spent the summer getting used to his new home, new musher and new team and had yet to be put in harness.

In addition, this was the first fall training run of the season for our new handler Kimberley, who traveled from Australia with her two dog team to join us for the season. She caught a glimpse of the routine and soon will be working with her own team that she will be using for our winter adventures at Gunflint Lodge.

First Team:

Lead - Klaus
Point - Sweet Pea and puppy Zala
Wheel - Ilu and Icoa

They got right back into the swing of things and acted as though they had only been on vacation for a few short days when in reality, they have been enjoying their "time off" since March 31st!

Zala, being tinier than everyone else, got under the gangline a few times but quickly returned to her side after being prompted. Pretty darn good for her first run in the "big dog" team!

Sweet Pea and Klaus are the veterans at 6 years old and didn't miss a beat, however, making the "haw come" back home, Klaus got a bit confused as a new trail had been added at our usual turn-around spot. The command eventually sunk in and back to the truck we went.

Ilu and Icoa did their typical "Bonnie and Clyde" comedy routine at hook-up and pulled steady the entire run.

Second team:

Tuloon and Journey in Lead
Phoenix and Oken in Point
McKenzie and Zodiak in Wheel

I underestimated the power of this team and we found ourselves hanging on to the cart rather tightly as I stood with both feet on the brake to slow them down. Yikes! I think we'll put some of the "puppy power" on the other team next time!

Tuloon had been co-pilot for Klaus last year. This season, she will be the main leader and part-time mentor to Journey during our training sessions. Tuloon was as anxious as ever to go. Last year at this time she was three weeks away from giving birth to the puppies so when Fall training came around, she had to sit out until the very end, once the pups were weened.

Journey still shows great promise as a leader and it's straight ahead she goes.

Phoenix was his calm predictable self, pulling harder than ever. He was placed next to Oken, one of the puppies, to show the "little" guy how it's done.

Oken was a bit concerned at hook-up, sitting down and backing up but once we got going, he settled into a nice trot. He moves well and pulls well and appears to be a natural.

McKenzie went from being a mild mannered, soft spoken boy to a wild man! It began when the dogs were loaded in the truck. He new exactly what was happening even though he had never gone through our routine before. He whined and paced and couldn't sit still. At hook-up I saw something oddly familiar. Journey, McKenzie's daughter, did the same thing last year when I first hooked her up. He winds up and then lunges into his harness and each time he winds up, he pulls the dogs in front of him back by his neck line. When he lunged forward, it was with so much force that he moved the cart with its brakes locked and earth brake engaged, all by himself. He did soon calm down after a stern but quiet discussion about hook-up manners. Journey, with what we know now seems to have been a behavior passed down from her dad, did soon calm down, as well, and off we went.

Zodiak, the third Tuloon/Bazil pup in the team this year, pulled his heart out and just like Oken, moves well, although his gait was a bit more puppy-like for the first couple of miles until he settled into the pace.

All in all, the first runs of the season were successful. There was a bit of sadness, however, as three of our dogs have retired and this is the first season they have not been with us on our first run of the season. Zulu, my magnificent leader is now 12 years old. He rested comfortably in his crate filled with comforters and in the house while we ran. He spends his days roaming the fenced-in back yard and most evenings he is in the house. Tukisi 9 and Isis 10, both diagnosed with hypothyroidism, slowed down a lot last season and will be getting a lot of special one on one time doing canicross hikes or scootering this fall. To avoid having their hearts broken when the other dogs were being loaded, they were placed in crates out of sight until our return.

On our return, we made a stop at the vet to weigh everyone. The little peanut, Zala, weighed in at a very light 42lbs while our largest dog, Ilu, was 77lbs. All other boys are 70lbs+- and the remaining girls are around 50lbs+-, except for Sweet Pea who weighed in at 59lbs.

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