Did I mention that my husband has boundless amounts of energy? Oh yes, that has previously been discussed. Well in the midst of building our yurt by hand, going to school part time, working full time in the Emergency Room, and being an intentional and hands on parent, he has come into an amazing opportunity which has taken up another portion of his time. If you know Damon, you know he loves dogs. If he had a past life, he must have been a dog. (He would totally take that as a compliment).
Many years ago Damon started skijoring. He loves to ski and loves dogs, so when you put them together you get skijoring. Skijoring is skiing behind a dog that is pulling you. It’s fast and scary if you ask me. Then skijoring started to morph into dog sledding. He started out with our pound “puppy” and his hunting dog tied together and taught them to pull together. He would groom his own trails with some kind of polk groomer he pulled behind himself. And so on and so on.
About 2 years ago, his dad told him about this lady that has run the Iditarod for many years that recently moved to the area. She has a number of dogs and trains her dogs here. Well that sure peaked his interest. He also found out that she and he work at the same hospital. He looked her up and sent her a email... a few times. They now joke that Damon had to stalk her for a while before they finally got to meet up. And.... My husband will never be the same.
Again, long story short, Damon started to train and learn the dogsledding ropes. Damon has learned fast and she remarks on his ability to not only manage all that goes on with the dogs, but his ability to read the dogs and their needs.
I am new to the dog mushing world and am in complete awe. Just hooking up 8-16 dogs at a time is an insane chore. You have to know all your dogs so well. Some dogs fight with each other, some chew lines, some need to be in back, some in front, some are in lead.... Etc. And it looks like complete chaos when they are lining up. All the dogs are barking and lunging, they get tangled in their lines and you have to undo them, then they do it again... You have to yell into someone's ear to even be heard.
The issues don’t stop there. Being stopped is one of the biggest issues in dogsledding. If you are stopped, problems arise. Dogs get tangled, dogs get confused about what they should do. They need to be moving in one direction. Mushers have great stories of all the things that can go wrong when you tie 16 very energetic dogs together. Think if you gave 16 children all their Halloween candy, tied them together and told them that they were going to go to Disney World. You would have a mess on your hands. But this is what mushers deal with every time they leave.
Damon assisted last year in her preparation for Iditarod 2016. Training started in the fall (under 50 F) and they started training around 32 dogs. Training runs started at 5 miles and ended at 100 mile increments. The two of them and 24 dogs made trips out to Montana for training and races. Then they made the long haul through Canada to Alaska for the Iditarod. They again did more training and Damon was able to ride with her in the Ceremonial Start in Downtown Anchorage.
The 2016 Iditarod was her last year competing in large races as such. She is looking to downsize her team and Damon is looking to start his. Well isn’t that ironic. We now have 8 pups along with our other two dogs. We will be getting a few yearlings and experienced dogs in the next little while.
10 dogs and 3 kiddos, sounds simple enough. Stay with me, I might need a hand to hold.