When I left the woods today I knew three things for certain:
- Whiskey would NEVER just trot along side me on a bike.
- I was going to have to figure out (again) how to get him into the bathtub.
- My camera was broke.
I also was pretty certain about three other things, but not entirely certain…:
- I was pretty sure my left hand was not supposed to look like that.
- I would never be able to sew that rip in my pants up properly… I think.
- I might need to invest in a helmet.
So there is a lot of conversation every time we meet someone about Whiskey’s heritage. They want to know if he’s a husky. I always feel guilty saying 100% he is because so many people think he’s not 100% and because I really don’t know. However, I do meet some holdouts (who I love) on the trail who are certain he’s a husky and who say that people around here just aren’t used to the actual variety in color patterns, and fur length that can occur in breeding. For instance, you can google “wooly husky images” to see many like this one:
Also, I know if he had blue eyes (even though the breed standard is for blue OR brown eyes) there would be even less of an issue. People have a strict stereotype of a husky in their head, and it’s based on a limited number of dogs they’ve seen without really understanding the variety of the breed. The best comment we’ve ever gotten was recently from an older couple who have raised and trained malamutes all their lives. They said people are distracted by a color marking and coat length they are not used to (yes uh huh) and perhaps by wanting blue eyes instead of brown and can’t see that our dog has the stance, height, weight, body (neck, back, tail, etc.) that you’d expect in the breed standard, and that they thought he was purebreed. I don’t really give a flying flip about being able to prove to anyone his genetic heritage. What I do care about is understanding my dog and educating myself on his particular traits and behaviors unique to his breed. If he had another dogs ancestry in there no matter how slight the heritage, I’d love to read up on it so I could see if he also fit that mold. But let me be clear…in the woods this dog is 110freaking% sled dog. If you don’t believe me I’ll be glad to hook him up to your bike and see how he does with you. This dog took off like a bat out of hell and I did good not to fall more than the one time I did!
Lucky for me and Whiskey, the only thing that seems to be permanently damaged (other than pride) is my camera. Which is dead. My left ribs feel a little sore/bruised and my left hand’s first finger has a weird feeling to it. I hold the leash in my left hand so I account for the pain perhaps by holding onto the leash too tight as I fell and it hitting awkwardly. It looks a little funny but I can use it (evidenced by this post) so we’ll see if it keeps getting better.
So here’s the rundown of Operation Urban Mushing Fail.
We arrive at the trail and we start out with some general light running of Whiskey mostly along side the bike for the first tiny bit. But he keeps going back and forth in front of the bike and causing me stress and lots of braking and so I keep stopping- trying to correct him. He wants to be on the right hand side (that’s the side he walks on, on the street) but I hold the leash in my left hand (almost without exception) so that means the leash runs across the top of the tire. Not.Good.
So after a few episodes of OMG WE ARE GOING TO DIE! when the leash gets caught in the wheel I give up and learn to hold it above the wheel with my right hand while still holding the loop in my left hand. It seems we are both creatures of extreme habit and cannot change.
Then I realize my pants keep getting caught in … something… I’ve no idea what and get shredded to pieces. I have no idea how to prevent this except to have skinnier legs. Or skinnier pant legs. Neither of which I have at the moment so they get ripped to pieces.
Then I begin to think ominously:
Whose freaking bright idea was it to get the BIKE onto SNOW and ICE and let him PULL ME? Why couldn’t I just go to the dog park like I had originally planned?! Ice. Husky. Bike. Bad idea dog owner.
Because see the snow is still there on most of the trail and there are lots of ice patches. Some as long as 15 to 20 feet and spanning the entire trail. We do not break through the ice. We skid over the ice.
There are lots of places where I have to stop and correct him to sit, wait. I realized pretty early on that he wants to pull. I can’t keep him from doing this so I gave up and decided we would work on the commands easy and whoa. Only I realize too late that as a child of the generation that said “Whoa duuuude…” for almost every thing that required an exclamation I find myself saying Whoa. WHOA! Whoa???? for almost every time he takes off at full speed and I think I’m going to die. Or I think what he’s doing is really cool. He’s learned that whoa does not indeed mean stop. It means WTF was that?! or Holy Crap I’m Going To Die! or That was the coolest thing ever! It hardly ever means “stop.” So a mile down the trail I try to fix this and began issuing gurgling whurph… or whaaaughhhh or wahhhaaaa noises that make me sound like I possibly don’t speak English as a first language. Anything to stop saying whoa so he can learn it to be the very important, dare I say it now that I’ve faced it head on, life saving command it was meant to be.
Really I am.
So then I begin to work on Easy. Which is supposed to mean slow down. Only Whiskey seems to have gotten this mixed up with Hike! which means go, or with the kissing sounds which mean speed up. So when I yell Easy! as if I’m praying to some foreign mushing god that’s going to save me from imminent trail death Whiskey picks up maddening speed and I find myself yelling whoa for real. Only he doesn’t know this one any more.
How things got this bad I’m not really sure. I abandon the bike after I almost leave it involuntarily and Whiskey tries eating snow because he’s thirsty. I feel horribly guilty. We decide to go back and I decide to walk it. My legs are spagetti and I almost fall down. I haven’t ridden a bike like that, that far, in a very very long time. I decide there’s no way I can walk it all the way back so I get back on the bike and we are getting the hang of how to wait for the go command and I’m happy!
And then I fall off and break my camera. We fell because of a slick patch of ice about 15 feet long over a mudpuddle where the bike looses its grip somehow and spins. I find myself backwards, looking up at the sky. I don’t even know if Whiskey’s been hurt but I suddenly see him over me licking my face. I laugh and tell him I’m okay. I decide to take a picture of the bike only to find my camera is smashed. The screen is gone. I snap some pictures anyway despite only seeing funny colored lines across the screen. Maybe they’ll be there in the memory I think. They are! But there’s no way to ever see what I’m taking a picture of or change any of the fancy settings unless I get a new camera.
I’ve learned a valuable lesson, I think to myself as I lay there in an icy mud puddle, watching my dog try to get water out of the snow he’s licking by my side.
- You should never try to carry expensive cameras and phones with you when doing outdoor sports of this nature. Never.
- You should buy a helmet, stupid.
We get up and limp a few hundred feet before I say hell with it and get back on the bike, letting him pull me helter skelter me yelling at the top of my lungs guttural whaaaa whoooo wuuuugh noises all the way back to the car. I’m glad I don’t have to peddle since my legs can barely move and since my ribs are hurting. Oh, and my hand… Then I realize as I load him up that he’s got icicles and icy red clay hanging from his thick underbelly fur. I begin to imagine our last wrestling match with the tub. How to get 65lbs of ugh into the tub? Not easily. With bruised ribs and hand? Jeeze. But somehow we manage. I don’t relent because I don’t want him to associate the tub with panic (Cesar would be proud) and I maintain an upbeat tone and don’t make a big deal of it even as I see my brave ball of fur reduced to wide eyed fear as I trap him in the bathroom.
I realize now we’ve got a monster on our hands who loves to pull and I promise him as I hose him down in the tub we are both in (clothes fully on, soaking wet together) that we are going to start biking a lot, and getting serious about this urban mushing thing. And I tell him what a good husky he is for being such a good puller and how stupid it was for thinking he’d just jog along side me like a putz when he could be pulling like a champ. Does he understand me? I don’t know, but I think he gets the gist.