Monday, January 28, 2008

Playing Hooky and Puppy Portraits

Friday was an absolutely gorgeous day. There was almost a foot of new snow on the ground and the sun was out. I absolutely couldn't stand it anymore and had to leave work early so I could try to take the dogs out for a little run!

In typical Leslie-fashion, things couldn't go off without a hitch. I had the brilliant idea of, since there was so much snow on the ungroomed trails, using the Tim White toboggan sled for the nice new powder. About 100 yards into my run, I realized my grave error in judgement when I noticed the snow piling up, and up, and up on the snowmachine drag that serves as my drag pad between the runners. (For those who are not familiar with sled design, the drag pad drags on the ground between your runners and it helps you to steer and to slow the sled gently without having to use your actual brake, which is prong-shaped and tends to stop you suddenly as well as rut the trail.) Well, that's not such a bad thing, I thought, as I kicked the snow away. What will a little snow hurt? Just about that time, we ground to a halt in the middle of the trail. What the...??? I looked down to find that the drag pad was wedged between my runners underneath the footpads (where you stand) and it was being held up tightly by a huge pile of snow.

I suppose that now would be a great time to tell you that my drag was a last-minute accessory last year! Lexi and I kinda rigged something up and threw it on there and it's not really "designed" to fit my sled. In fact, the drag is just barely narrow enough to fit between the runners. It is, apparently, NOT narrow enough to fit both between the runners and between the foot pads on top of the runners, which overhang the runners on each side. As we were sledding, the increasing amount of loose powder was steadily piling up underneath the drag mat and was pushing the mat up against the bottom of the footpad until the amount of drag increased so much that we just STOPPED. Hmm. The fact that the drag was tightly wedged underneath the footpads did not make it very easy to remove the snow from underneath it...I ended up kicking the brake up with my foot and kicking the drag mat and...still no luck in dislodging the snow. My dogs were ready to go but we sure weren't going anywhere. Finally I could kick enough snow free that we could get started again and then we would slow to a stop after a few hundred feet. This happened over and over again until finally I got sick of it and I kicked the drag mat to the right and stood on it on top of my right runner, so that it was totally out of the way and I was riding without a drag.

Now, I am not a great sled driver so this was really taking a leap of faith for me but I did manage to finish the six mile run just fine, even with a few passes. Nobody crashed into my sled (which they did the last time I was out -- oh joy!) but I did manage to break it all by myself. As we pulled into the staging area, Zed decided to hang a right and go over to another musher's truck. I kept telling him "haw" but as someone once pointed out to me, sometimes it is difficult to convince Zed that you know better when he thinks that HE knows better. We kept going back and forth with each-other, with me hopping off of the sled and going up and pulling him over to the left and with him going back to the right by the time I would get back to the sled. This happened at least a dozen times but I was very patient with him -- I do not want my leader to lose trust in me because I got frustrated with him. Dogs do not understand losing your temper -- they just think you've gone certifiably nuts and they think they'd better avoid you from now on because you're unpredictable.

Finally Zed decided that what I meant was that we were heading back out onto the trail so he did a complete 180 and turned the sled all the way around!! I almost flipped. When he did this, the UMHW plastic bed of my toboggan cracked beacuse my snowhook line was putting a lot of pressure on it (I think it is getting brittle from age). I heard the noise and saw a piece of the front of the bed snap off. All I could think was "I hope the snowhooks hold!!" because if Zed had popped them loose, off and away down the trail the team would have gone without me. On about the fifteenth try, I did get him headed in the right direction and we finished driving over to the truck. Believe it or not, the dog got a frozen hamburger patty for being such a little pipsqueak. The sled is still useable but it don't look purty. :)

Sunday we went over to Bonnie's to get some puppy pictures. Boy, those critters are growing by the day!! Boudreaux weighed in at 960 grams yesterday! They are looking more and more like dogs and less like sled rats, thankfully. The occasional brown spot from Zed is making its appearance and it's nice to see a little bit of their daddy in them. Below we have the latest pics --

Boudreaux. Look how dark his nose is now!

Gumbo with nose spots!

File' has such a pretty face

Puppy butts

I didn't get a good picture of Tasso so we will have to put an extra one up next time!! Poor Tasso. She is such a cutie. She loves to nurse upside down (I have no idea why??)

Happy Monday!


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