The First Sled Dog Run of the Season

Tunnel Day 1

The first run of the season is exciting for both musher and team.

When the temperatures start to dip and there is a slight bite in the air, the atmosphere in the kennel changes. The dogs can feel the change in the air and anticipation sets in.

Dryland training for mushers generally starts when the temperatures dip below 50 as long as the humidity isn’t high. Training can start with very short runs if the temps are in the 40’s. But overall, mushers and dogs prefer temperatures in the 30’s. Actually the dogs would prefer temperatures below zero but that doesn’t happen in the fall in Central Maine.

So the day after I arrived at Jaye’s, Mother Nature treated us to an early morning temperature of 36.
We were going to be able to run the dogs in the morning. It would be the first run of the season.

Preparations

Jaye's Dog Truck

Jaye’s Dog Truck

Jaye started to prepare things the night before. She drove the dog truck into the fenced yard near the kennel where the loading would take place. The dogs went ballistic thinking they were going for a run! There were jugs of water to be filled, lines and harnesses to be checked. All of this was done while the dogs cheered in the background. You’d think the Patriots had just won the Super Bowl!

Team Board

Then Jaye had to go to her board and decide which dogs would get to run on the first run of the season and which ones would have to stay behind. Talk about agony! She must have changed the names half a dozen times. She finally decided on running a 20 dog string because she would only have the time to do one run rather than run 2 smaller teams.

Smelling Salts for the Handler

My jaw dropped.

Not wanting to appear phased by this news I tried to keep a blank expression on my face while in my head I was thinking…

20 DOGS?????!!!!

ALL AT THE SAME TIME??????????????

ARE YOU KIDDING ME????!!!!!!

HOLY MOLY!!!
(I’m typing HOLY MOLY but I was thinking something else!)

I started to wonder what I had signed up for.

But instead I merely replied, “20 dogs. Wow. That’ll be interesting. =) ”

For a musher used to running 4 dogs this seemed … well this seemed….

You see, at first glance Jaye Foucher looks like a mild mannered reporter for the Daily Planet.
No wait that’s Clark Kent.

Mild Mannered Jaye

Mild Mannered Jaye

I mean Jaye looks like a mild mannered Sibe lover. She’s dotes over her dogs,snuggles with them, raises her voice an octave when she talks to them. She’s smitten by her dogs.

But don’t let that innocent smile fool you. There’s mischief in them there eyes!

Jaye in Carharts Ready to Git 'er Done

Jaye in Carharts Ready to Git ‘er Done

Put her in a pair of Carharts and she transforms into a feisty curly red haired human look alike for Disney’s Merida in the film Brave. She is the Scottish Princess who, whether armed with a bow and arrow or a sword, she goes around getting things done!

Jaye’s reasoning for running 20 dogs was that there would be 3 of us sitting on her Arctic Cat ATV. That would give the dogs about 1,000 pounds to pull and she wanted to go nice and slow and easy and let them burn off some of their pent up energy.

Sounds reasonable to moi!

When all was ready Jaye said we would load up the dog truck at 5:30AM and if I thought I’d seen chaos and frenzy at feeding time, wait till I experienced the loading of the dogs into the truck, the unloading at the trail head and the hook up onto the line. All I could say was “Holy Moly!”

So I set my alarm for 4:45AM and when it went off the next morning I found myself facing my first dilemma. How do I get out of bed and get ready without a light on?!! Jaye had said that when the first light went on in the house the dogs would erupt! I had set my alarm a bit earlier to make sure I had the time to get myself ready and tend to my own dogs. So I tried to fumble in the darkness in my room shading the light from my cell phone because my room looks out onto one of the dog pens. After stumbling around for 15 minutes I heard Jaye moving upstairs and when her light went on the sleeping dogs awoke!!!!

At 5:15 Ken Williams arrived to lend a hand and after a cup of fortitude, the three of us went into the Lion’s Den!

The ensuing minutes saw Ken and I standing next to the dog truck as Jaye opened the gate to the first pen and she let 8 dogs out. Let me tell you that the song “Who let the dogs out?” doesn’t hold a candle to Jaye Foucher letting her first set of dogs out into the loading area on the first day of dryland training season.

As Jaye yelled directions over the din, Ken and I nabbed the hyper dogs running high speed circles around the truck and we hoisted them up into their individual boxes. Smaller ones going on the top level, larger ones going on the bottom. Some dogs were “self loaders”, that is they literally leaped up into the truck by themselves and all Ken and I had to do was steady their butts and gently push them into their boxes. Some of the heavier dogs who were not eager to jump up had to be lifted up and put into the boxes. I was extremely grateful to have Ken’s help with that task because lifting a 50 pound dog up above my shoulders all while he was wiggling, and howling was something I had not been able to prepare myself for at the West Ocean City Fitness Gym.

Once the first group was loaded we repeated with the second group and within minutes, all the dogs were in their boxes, the truck backed out of the loading area and the trailer with ATV attached and we were on our way!

I was ready for a nap but unfortunately we still had more work to do!!

Next up. Holding on as the dogs have their first run.

Until then!

Happy Trails!

9 Comments
  1. LOL. That put a smile on my face reliving that first morning. It was definitely an eye opener for someone who only had 1 pet husky that I trained not to pull let alone a team of working huskies. Of course now I’m trying to retrain her to pull me lol.

  2. Sounds like fun!!!

  3. You make me laugh out loud. I can just picture each scene as you describe it and yet I am jealous. What a fabulous experience. Keep up the journals. I love every one!!
    Margy

    • Glad you like them Margy. I’m enjoying the experience and the feedback. =)

  4. Thank you for writing this–it was so much fun to read!

  5. I’m glad I am living this through you. Loving it

  6. You are having a great adventure Linda. Thanks for taking me along through your writing!

  7. Linda – I have never been labeled as a couch potato and can put in some really full days, but I always feel like such a slug when I read your journals. Would like to know what you eat to keep your energy level so high! Looking forward to your reactions to the run with a 20-dog team – going around corners must be quite an adventure.

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