Urban Mushing- FAIL

When I left the woods today I knew three things for certain:

  1. Whiskey would NEVER just trot along side me on a bike.
  2. I was going to have to figure out (again) how to get him into the bathtub.
  3. My camera was broke.

I also was pretty certain about three other things, but not entirely certain…:

  1. I was pretty sure my left hand was not supposed to look like that.
  2. I would never be able to sew that rip in my pants up properly… I think.
  3. 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!

This was the least amount of snow we saw on the trail the entire time. It did have fist and feet sized rocks though. The rest of the trail was almost entirely covered.

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.

My attempt to capture the rip. Not sure how visible it is... But it got worse.

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.

I’m trying.

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.

Ow. Always the journalist. I don't even get up before taking a picture of my crash.

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.

    Still prone from the crash I look behind me to see Whiskey trying to get a drink.

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.

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13 Responses to Urban Mushing- FAIL

  1. Tammy Johnson says:

    I have never tried to ride a bike while letting a dog pull me. But, I imagine it would be exactly as you’ve explained. SCARY AS HELL!!! 1) Please get a helmet 2) a chin guard, mouth guard, knee and elbow pads are also not a bad idea 3) Definetly get a new camera so we can continue to get new pictures of your adventures. It makes it easier if you know what your shooting.

    • Tammy Johnson says:

      Btw…I love the sunglasses Whiskey is sporting in the picture above.

      • Gina V says:

        Tammy I LOVE that you think that is Whiskey!!!! That is a random picture I found of a wooly coated husky on google images search to show an example of what one looks like! (because of the ongoing debate by people about Whiskeys husky heritage)
        I picked the one with sunglasses so there’d be no prejudice for blue eyes over brown. Awesome that you thought it was him!

  2. Wendy says:

    I thought that dog was Whiskey too! The resemblance is uncanny. But ugh, sounds like you had a rough day. It doesn’t sound like an easy task to train a dog to bike mush. I’m glad you weren’t hurt worse than you were. You do need to invest in a helmet, as well as the other protection that Tammy pointed out.

    • Gina V says:

      LOL I will probably get a helmet but I don’t know about the other gear. You guys would have me out there in a suit of armor if you could! You’ll make great moms 🙂

  3. Jennifer says:

    Well, all I can say is thank GOD you guys made it out of there alive! It’s a memory that I’m sure will last forever. It’s nice to see your fearless attitude towards trying new things with such an enthusiastic pet 😉

    Oh and btw, if you REALLY want to know his true background, go here: http://www.wisdompanel.com/

    • Gina V says:

      TY so much for that link. Have you used this company before? What have you heard from others about them?

      • Jennifer says:

        The vet clinic I worked at before having Gavin always reccomended them. There were several clients there that used this company and were happy with the results. It’s really cool to see ALL the different breeds in a mixed breed dog. The test results would show what different breeds the dog was made of then show what percent of the dog was from that breed. Really cool stuff!

  4. Jennie says:

    How awesome .. you are braver than me! I didn’t want to drive on ice, and yet you go biking on it! WHOA (lol)

    I think Whiskey is beautiful, and thought this website might be informative for you http://www.huskycolors.com/wooly.html

    Keep up the good work .. MUSH!

  5. mcdermcar says:

    I feel your pain. We’ve been teaching our Alaskan Malamute Kodi how to Bikejor and have a few narrow escapes, especially when other dogs are involved! Keep it up . . . . .except maybe not on snow/ice!!, it’s really good fun when it goes right….!!

    • Gina V says:

      I can’t *wait* for colder weather again so we can do more bikejoring. Whiskey gets way overheated in the summer with his long coat. Thanks for the words of encouragement! Are you by chance in the south? I’ve been desperately hoping to meet any other bikejorers around Alabama. The closest group I’ve found is in GA, too far away to be part of. Good luck training Kodi! I’ll be following along on your blog! 🙂

  6. Snowman says:

    You’ve probably already done this, but get a BTL, Walky Dog or Springer and you can have a blast with Whiskey on your bike. If you can ski, take a skijoring class and learn the commands (there are only about six of them, and “On By!” is the most important) and then you’ll have real fun. Go-go dogs pick up on this really quickly; soon people will step out of your way as you go by and give you big smiles. I do bikejoring and skijoring with my Pointer/Lab mix and we have lots of fun. My kids can drive her through the woods for miles, and all you hear trying to catch them is lots of laughing. And we’ve only been doing this for two years! Happy Trails!

    • Gina V says:

      Snowman! Thanks for the comment 🙂 We’ve been doing “training” this winter here and learning commands. We’ve got a proper harness and line now that attaches to the front of the bike. The dog actually (despite his determination to pull in previous attempts last year) has now decided he’s not so sure about this “pulling” thing. He’s been running beside me more than anything, but I’m not giving up as this is our first season actually working on commands. He’s improved a lot and it may simply be a trust or endurance thing… maybe he’ll get stronger and feel more confident pulling and get better at trusting that we wont have an epic fail again lol. If you have any tips on blogs/webpages/groups I’d love to know about them! I’m *completely* alone in this activity here where I live (B’ham Alabama).

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