Chicken Salad

The training has been really diverse the past few weeks and we have had to work harder than usual to get the guys conditioned, but the dogs have loved all the different areas. Oddly, this situation developed from a negative one, but if there’s one thing we’re good at its turning chicken $h!t into chicken salad.
Things started to go bad as we had a bit of a wet fall. Really, we’ve had worse, but we had more water when there were less mushers living here. Now there are many, and they’re all training multiple teams a day, so the trails can get pretty beat up from all the clawing of the dogs’ nails as they dig in to drive hard, not to mention the wheeler itself causes trenches when people run over the same trails, and the same part of that trail, too many times.
Some people are better than others, and for our part we try not to hit the same trails or the same part of the trail in two consecutive runs, and we NEVER come home the same way we go out. We always try to put together loops so the trails don’t get overworked.
Sadly, not all mushers have the same sense of intelligence or consideration and a few will run, out and back over the same sections of trail, sometimes even repeating the sections more than twice to add a few miles. The result of these mushers is the trails have turned into an 8-10 inch deep pudding that the dogs literally have to squish their way through.
What really sucks is the trails these messes are on are usual the easier option for the dogs, so we try to use them more often than the beach, which can really kick-up sand into the dogs eyes and mouths, and cause foot irritations if run too much. But this year, the dogs are coming home with just as much mud in the eyes and mouths as if we had been on the beach.
What’s really worrisome isn’t just that these trails aren’t maintained, so as bad as they are this year, they’ll be even worse next year, since they seem to be annually degrading. What worries us is that there is a push in our borough to ban all-terrain vehicles from driving in next to the road, where these trails are, because kids who like hot-dogging typically will go “mudding” in these sections making a mess.
Normally I would argue mushers only use the trails and don’t really abuse them, but this year that argument would be hard to make. If I was someone who liked walking on the trails in the evening with my spouse or the family dog and I saw the muddy mess mushers have made of it this year, I’d be angry too. So I would suspect in the near future we won’t even have these trails as a training option and we have other mushers to thank for screwing it up for us.
Anyway, with the trails being ruined, we have been on the beach more than usual the lats two weeks, and they’ve been doing great (as you can tell from the picture below of Wolf in lead going crazy).

But, as I said you can’t be down there for every run or it starts to become a detriment, so we have also been trucking the dogs to various locations and running them off the truck as in the picture at the top of this post. It’s more work and expense since we have to load up everything and drive to these locals, and then drive while we’re there (which is also a super boring way to mush), but the dogs have really been enjoying not being on the same trails over and over.
It has been much healthier for them than ingesting all the sand and mud, and since these trails aren’t muddy, we have been able to move at higher training speeds as well, which hopefully will pay off in the race season. There are also numerous hills in some of these locations, which ae never bad for the dogs to train on too.
All for this week. Keep your fingers crossed for snow. It’s been about 34-36 at night and 38 during the day, so hopefully it won’t be long now.

7 Responses to “Chicken Salad”

  1. Poppy Says:

    In Gary Paulsen’s book, Winterdance, he has a humourous chapter where he is expanding his team from a few dogs that pull his sled for trapping to a bigger team with dogs that will be racing. He starts out trying various selds, wagons, etc., adding weights, and whatever, but the bigger faster team is uncontrollable. He usually starts out of the yard, then finds the team 3 days later whereever they went after he fell off. Finally, he reads an article about training and the dogs are pulling a … truck! Nice picture.

  2. Kathy Says:

    I tried to count the number of dogs in the first picture…. Came up with 23… Am I anywhere close to the right number? Can’t imagine snow in October. Our first snow will be possibly late November. The dogs really look contented in the pictures. Thanks for sending them.

  3. Susan Says:

    So when I read the title, I thought the dogs had graduated from finding turkeys to finding chickens….

    Great pictures as usual. I can just imagine driving down the road in the opposite direction and seeing you guys …”what the hell is that?”

    Joseph, I know you are busy, busy, busy, but could you find time to update the Racers section? I seem to remember a description of Wolf from a long ago post, but I don’t think he has a bio. Seems to me he was very aloof and it took a long time for him to let even Cole get close to him. NOw he is running in lead? OR am I completely wrong about that?

  4. Joseph Robertia Says:

    Hi guys, to answer your questions, there are 30 dogs in that picture and yes we get a lot of wide-eyed looks from passersbye. As to update the bios, I’d love to, but other than the blog, updating any other part of the site involves using the web guru and is a lot of work. It may have to wait until March, since after that we will update every dog who finishes Quest or Iditarod, so everyone can know their accomplishments.

  5. Susan Says:

    Okay, no problem about updates. I found your story on Wolf and the Littles (Aug 27, 2010). What about Coolwhip… is she continuing to train without wheezing?


  6. Joseph Robertia Says:

    Hi Susan, Coolwhip is still training and doing great so far. She’s on the C team right now and has got about 500 miles under her belt for the season but so far, no problems with her breathing. We are hoping when the snow comes things continue to go well. The dogs “dip” snow by biting mouthfuls on the run to hydrate and stay cool. We are a little worried she could get water in her windpipe from doing this, but time will tell.

  7. Susan Says:

    That’s awesome news!

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