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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Remembering Zulu

Zulu's last trip to the BWCA where he was in lead was three and a half years ago, when he was ten years old. I had planned to have Klaus, who was only a young upstart at this time, be the leader on this trip but when he showed such an over exuberance, darting back and forth, back and forth like a herding dog on the lake, my patience quickly ran out and I placed the faithful Zulu, who had been waiting ever so patiently in point position, up in lead. He was sooooo happy, he rolled on his back and smiled for me.

Zulu was known for his wide mouth smiles.

A journal excerpt, February 2004.

The Rocks

I am heading towards the portion of the run we so affectionately call “THE ROCKS”. I stop to wrap a long piece of rope around one runner to help slow me down before I reach the beginning of the daunting rocky moguls. I’m all set. Rope around runner. Drag pad in place. Heavy duty steel brake ready and waiting. We begin the descent. Down the rocks we go!

But wait…. There’s a problem! Now the sled is on its side and I am hanging on to the brake bar, sliding down the rocks, behind the sled, on my stomach. After much struggle, I finally righted the sled. As soon as I thought all was well, I find myself on my stomach again, skiing down the rocks AND my drag pad is caught up in my heavy duty steel brake. I can’t even lean on the brake with my elbow to try and slow us down. The dogs don’t seem to hear all of the commotion. If they can, they really don’t seem to care that they can’t see me and there is a strange looking object swishing along attached to the sled. All they want to do is run and run pretty darn fast for a bunch of freight dogs that must pretend they like to go slow because they sure aren’t now!

So I know that at the bottom of “THE ROCKS”, which is possibly 400 more feet, there is a “T” in the trail and I had planned to take a left. So I am yelling to Zulu, who, keep in mind, can’t see me, “Haw! Haw! Zulu, Haw!!!” “Well”, I can imagine him thinking, “I guess she is still with us, I don’t know where but I can tell she’s in trouble.”

So we get down to the bottom of the hill and just about to the “T”, and remember, I had originally decided to go left so I again, shout “HAW!” as I am cruising behind the sled on my stomach, hanging on for dear life. (Because the first rule of dog mushing is NEVER LOSE YOUR TEAM.). Zulu takes a quick right at the “T”. “What?!” I say to myself. “Zulu is disobeying me?!” I set aside the fact that I now had arms that are at least several inches longer than they once were, from being dragged and the fact that I had large amounts of snow packed in my hood and around my head, to discuss with myself how upset I was that I had just been dissed by my ever so sweet and usually obedient leader.

I knew I said “Haw” and I believe I said it at least 25 times. (After a while, it become “blah, blah, blah, blah” to my infamous leader) Well, the second I ended the dialogue with myself, the sled got caught up on a tree like is does EVERY time we take a right in this section. Perfect! I now have time to get up, untangle my brake pad and plant myself firmly on the back of the runners, not even remembering the anger I had seconds earlier knowing that Zulu had just disobeyed me. Disobeyed me? He did indeed but that wonderfully intuitive leader of mine KNEW that I was in trouble and he KNEW that every time we take a right the sled gets caught up in a tree. So, that is why he disobeyed me because the second I got myself untangled, he looked back at me as if to say, “You alright now, mom?” and took an immediate left or the original HAW I had asked of him and didn’t even skip a beat.

Talk about the bond between dog and (wo)man…….

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