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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ready? Let's Go! by Claire Hendry

Claire runs a team with the ATV

        “READY, LET’S GO!”  The sudden explosion of movement forces me back on the ATV, bringing my feet off my carefully chosen spots, rocking my body backwards and immediately silencing my whir of apprehensive, even nervously excited thoughts. The sort of thoughts one might expect when one relocates thousands of miles away from home, away from family and friends, away from a student filled city with pubs and clubs on almost every given street, to live and run dogs in the heart of the North Woods; the famous Minnesotan Wilderness. ‘Am I going to like this?’ I think as I plonk down on the ATV with the dogs attached to the front for the first time. ‘I hope I like this. Oh, what if I don’t like this? I’m not exactly an adrenaline junky… I mean, I cried when I tried to ski every time I went for 5 years. Gah, this better not make me cry, that would be embarrassing. Phew, just chill out Claire. Breathe. Okay, don’t breathe that hard you’re going to look as if you’ve escaped an asylum or something. Breathe in. Is this a good place for my feet? There’s not any other place for them so it better be. Why do I have such big feet! Breathe Out. Am I holding on tight enough? Oh, yeah, I’m starting to lose blood flow to my fingers, probably tight enough. Breathe in. Oh my… okay Linda is getting ready to go. Breathe out. She’s asked me if I’m set to leave…. Breathe in. You know what? I’ve never wanted to do anything more.’ Breathe out. “I’m set”.

        I wish I could describe to you, in sufficient detail, the feelings, the sights, the sounds and the smells of my first fall training run through those woods but I’m afraid my writing skills aren’t anywhere near proficient enough to do so. If they were perhaps I could tell you about how the icy air, which might seem bitter and cruel to others, seemed to welcome me and paint my face with fresh clean kisses. Perhaps, I would be able to share with you the quiet in my mind as I watched a sea of the richest, fullest green unravel before me, interrupted only by shocks of white and black birch. Perhaps I could explain to you the sense of weightlessness my heart achieved as we would jump and spring over rock and stump, or the thrill of evading the sweet smelling slap of a low hanging balsam branch. Perhaps I would find the words to explain the marvel of seeing the team of gorgeous creatures before me, effortlessly and elegantly crisscrossing the lumps and bumps that would probably cause me to break a bone if I ran above a mere trot. Or how humbling it is to be able to witness them in full stride, fulfilling the task they were bred for, still meeting their side of the agreement that was forged thousands of years ago when humans and dogs first worked together, seeing this relationship still benefit both beasts and be carried on from the bare roots. Perhaps I could describe how joyous it is to stop and walk out to praise each dog, their big spooling tongues and wide open mouths like giant grins to expel the heat, making them look like they’re all bursting with laughter at some secret joke. Or perhaps I would be able to thank the people at Points Unknown for giving me this chance to be here, nestled in the quiet embrace of the wood, for filling my heart with the sort of unrivalled love you can only feel for the selfless, loyal creatures that dogs are, or for filling my brain with more than I have ever learnt before, allowing my body to grow stronger and my soul fuller. Yes, perhaps if I could only put it into words you would be closer to knowing just how my first fall training run went. Alas, the metaphors and alliteration and writing techniques I learnt so begrudgingly in high school do not quite match the feeling you can only get from this incredible experience. Perhaps you’ll have to come try it yourself?

“Woah!”. The run was over, we were back at the kennels. Linda jumps off. “How was that?” she asks smiling. I grin, but how could I explain all those feelings? “Good!” I reply, overjoyed at now being able to answer my own initial question: yes, I am very much going to like this.

By Claire Hendry

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