Early Fall Training

Filed under: Uncategorized — iditalearn2010 @ 10:08 am


Does any athlete automatically know how to do his or her sport? Even the most gifted of athletes train regularly and rigorously for their sport.

If you are into any kind of activity, from piano to football, from figure skating to sewing, you already know that it takes practice and training to be good at what you do.

So, what does it take for dogs to train for the Iditarod?

Find some answers!
PBS–Making of a Sled Dog


by Gary Paulsen

Up at four forty five in the morning and outside.

Cold, eighteen degrees, raining softly which turns to ice on your face and mud beneath your feet. A sip of hot tea, and to work.

The four wheeler tied back to a post in the ground and a gangline which can take sixteen dogs out in front next to two picket lines, one on either side, and then bring the bundle of harnesses outside….

Insane noise, pandemonium as the dogs see the harnesses and know they are to run.

Then, one dog at a time, taken from his circle, harnessed, brought down to the picket sliding as the dog screams and pulls us through the mud, often on our faces, until, at last, all sixteen dogs are on the picket next to the gangline.

Then breakfast for the dogs who will run. Some kibble, more meat, fresh beef, a little heart, and luke warm water which they devour like wolves, still on the picket, then a moment, just a moment of peace to scrape the ice off the four wheeler seat and start the motor and turn on the headlights and adjust the headlights on our heads, which have been knocked sideways by jumping dogs.

And the peace ends.

The first dog, not leader but just in back, called point or first swing, is taken from the picket and put into the gangline, then another, coming back towards the four wheeler, then another set and another and the noise is now so deafening we can only communicate with hand signals…

One dog left. The leader. Leo, who will run this team, signals for me to hook up the leader as he moves to the four wheeler and climbs on and now with the noise there is something new.

The leader fills the team, not just physically but mentally, emotionally, gives them team-life and they start lunging in unison, hitting so hard the four wheeler, all seven hundred and fifty pounds of it, leaves the ground as if it was alive and Leo hangs on as I pop the quick-release and in a second, two, he is gone into the dark rain….

Now the song. The rest of the kennel is sad they did not go and they sing the come-back song trying to get them to turn and come home to take them with the team….

But they are gone. Into the dark and rain, down ten miles of trails through the forest, ten point eight miles to be exact, careening around corners, flying, literally, through puddles and across swamp, the dogs running as they have run forever, as they would want to run forever, coursing, hunting, and the machine and Leo only along for the ride….

One hour, a little less and they come roaring back into the kennel, mud completely covering Leo and the fourwheeler only his smiling teeth white in the mud.


Then another snack for the dogs and they go back to their houses…

Then a pause.

A deep breath.

A sip of tea.

Then the second team….

And the third…

And then it’s a new morning at four o’clock and it all starts again….

Early Fall Training.

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