Recently I volunteered my time at a sled dog race just to get me out of the house and with some folks and their dogs. It’s a great little gig and comes with a free lunch besides, a very good lunch. The weather cooperated this year. Not like last year when it was -10 and had a ridiculous wind chill factor that froze my knickers…and other things.
My job was to be a crossing guard of sorts. Positioned at an intersection where a snowmobile trail transected the race course, it was my duty to stop the snowmobiles when the teams were coming. Some of my friends had road crossings and stopped the cars when the sleds were going by. Nice way to spend the day.
In my area, I seldom get to see a ten dog team mushing down the trail and if you have never experienced that it is well worth your time. Those sled dogs are very focused on their work and they are truly in their element as they speed by you, smiling at the pure joy of running with that sled behind them, their musher encouraging them, telling them how fantastic they are, intersperse with commands of ‘gee’, ‘haw’ or ‘on by’. ‘Gee’ and ‘haw’ are left and right, but I can’t remember which is which and ‘on by’ means the dogs should keep moving past whatever or whomever might be along the trail.
I liked the quiet power of those dogs on a mission going by me…all I could hear was the sound of those pads hitting the ground, the heavy breathing of the team and the swish of the sled rails flying over the snow.
The experienced teams are all business and true sled dogs, but there were a few ‘lap’ dogs out there. One six dog team had a boxer in the mix and he had a totally different attitude. He was having fun running in his booties with his friends but he was looking at this and looking at that, sightseeing if you will, where his teammates were focused only on the trail. There was also a skijoring (a skier being pulled by a selected number of dogs) team of two Golden Retrievers and they were very much about saying ‘hi’ to whomever was near the trail…which probably made it hard to win, but they were having fun, all three smiling as they passed.
But to me, the most memorable team was a young girl, 7 years old or so, skijoring with her husky mix, Mirra. Slowly they came down the trail and I could hear her cooing to her dog, ‘Come on Mirra, let’s go’ and ‘good girl Mirra’ while Mirra intermittently pulled her mistress and smelled the side of the course. Ten feet passed me Mirra stopped for a potty break. ‘Ok Mirra, let’s go.’ Then another 10 yards up the slight incline in the trail, Mirra stopped the take a good rub in the snow and roll around. This didn’t bother the girl though. She just adjusted her hat and waited for Mirra to finish, then encouraged her again with sweet kissing commands. Individually, they were pretty cute, together they couldn’t help but put you into a diabetic coma.
Everyone was out having a great day, all with varying degrees of purpose.
Sometimes it’s nice to go see something different. Try something you haven’t tried before, shake up the weekend activities. Life is about experiences, not ribbons or prizes or how well you did the thing…it’s the fact that you did it. Go find something new to do with your companion, something that puts a smile on your face; you’ll both be winners.