The Perils of Running Dogs you don't know !

By Brian & Kate O'Donoghue

Arleigh Reynolds hooks up his own team, (LNAC 1997, photo by J-M)

... a funny story you might pass along. Some years ago, my old kennel partner, Tim Mowry, mushed a Redington team in the Moose Creek 300. It was his first mid-distance race and he left the starting line clutching a sheet of paper with recomendations for placement of the dogs in the team. Well, his leader flaked. Tim lost the sheet of paper and by trial and error, and great frustration, he finally found a burly old wheel dog in the team willing to run out front.

Redington's chief handler at the time, a guy named Dwane, was startled when he saw Tim arrive at a checkpoint late in the race. "What are you doing with Martin in lead?" he cried. "Martin is blind!" We've gotten a lot of laughs out of that true story through the years. I'm sure Martin was following the scent of the dozens of teams ahead of The Mowth. Leader "potential" is the sport's Holy Grail.


Lost A Team ?!!

By A. Piranah

The first time I lost a team was in 1979, a five dog team. Several teams and drivers were on this 3 mile loop trail with LOTS of options, including getting onto a paved road. As I was about to zig zag thru a fence row that we were parallel to, about 1/2 mile from the finish, my supercharged team slammed me silly into a tree cutting thru the fence row at high speed. When I recovered, they were gone. I ran back to the truck, but no team. Another driver and I started driving around on the trails (illegal activity, I might add) looking for this team. Neither of us could find it. On my second lap in the truck, I glanced into the woods about 1/8 mile from the holding area. There was my team, resting in the forest, caught on a tree. They had gone into a blind trail and continued into the woods (toward the truck, I might add) and then just waited patiently while we scurried all over looking for them.

I've lost a dog team with/and a wife three different times. The first was a "last run of the season" SIXTEEN dog team with my wife and I on a 100 pound rig. Usually she would get off and run to the leaders to correct a wrong turn. This day, I took pity on her and I ran up. I turned the team and as the rig went by, it was up on the wall of the ravine type trail at about 45 degrees and I knew that if I grabbed it, I would dump it, so I let it go by yelling to my wife to stand on the brake. It was a steep downhill. When she got to the flats, she was well ahead of me and scared to death, standing on the brake. I wasn't getting any closer, but was tiring, so I kept yelling to her to lay down the rig. She finally succeeded, losing her grip in the process, and down the stretch they went!

She headed back to get a car and I continued after the dogs. About a mile and a half down the trail, I could hear them ahead, and as I rounded a curve, there they were, aimed right at me. All EIGHTEEN of them. All standing, no tangles. Apparently, two loose hounds were in the woods, my leaders went in after them, they all circled a tree and started back toward me until the rig ran into the tree. As I ran the team back toward the house, I had a head-on with my wife in her (different trail, just as illegal) car, and met her back at the house.

The next time I turned her loose with a big team was on a sled. She would run interference ahead of me on an ATV. When we passed an airport runway, it would be drifted over two or three feet. She would go into the drift as far as she could then I would drop a snowhook into the luggage rack and the dogs would pull her thru, then she would pass us and continue running interference. This particular day, she really hit the drift hard, determined to get thru the 100 or so feet of it. She ended up (down) in a culvert ditch. I got the hook on the ATV and tied off.

She and the dogs could not get the ATV out of the ditch, so we traded places. I got "under" the ATV and started rocking and pushing. Next thing I know, I hear my wife yell and off she goes with my 20 dog team leaving me in the ditch with the ATV. The adrenalin flowed and I got it out of the ditch and out of the drift (all of this with a spectator watching from his pick-up). All I could think of was how scared my wife had been a few years earlier with 16 as I raced after her on the ATV. I caught sight of her as she neared the top of a long steep hill that ended in a "T" intersection. I yelled for her to put the hook into the luggage rack and her response was, "No, I'll take them around the turn." She rode the sled around this sharp, fast turn and for about another 3/4 mile before she would give me back the team. Her explanation? The sixteen were heading to God only knows where, and the twenty were heading toward the truck (about six miles away) and she knew they would go the right way.

So, you would think that after that, she would have proved herself. No way. on 27 January 1994, we had hooked 24 and she was behind me in the dog truck. There was a similar, if slightly smaller arrangement on the trail about 8 minutes ahead of us. This trail was five miles out, a four mile loop, and five miles back. The trucks would wait at the start of the loop, because the loop was not plowed or drivable. Both trucks had to get to the truck turnaround while both teams were in the loop (about a 14 minute window) because the trail was plowed one vehicle wide. Also, the plowed part was EXTREMELY fast. I had gone no more than a mile when I needed to stop because a point dog had a leg over her neckline and was causing a bit of an accordion (VERY hard to slow 24 on almost not quite ice downhill). I hooked the pipe on the front of the truck and started running the 113 feet to the leaders (I do school kid demos and know this kind of stuff). As expected, the point dog cleared herself before I could get there so I turned to run back to the sled. There was my wife, standing behind what we refer to as the second wheelers (last swing) pulling on the gangline. As I ran toward her yelling "Why are you out of the truck, I came to realise that RIP the line-biting wheel dog had done his thing and the two wheel dogs, Loon and Rip were fast becoming LOOOOON and RIIIIIIP! Once again, I turned to run back to the leaders, this time to "circle the wagons" that is, to bring the front of the team to the back and create a big non-neck-breaking tangle. I got about four steps in that direction when I heard the neckline snaps pop. DOWN THE STRETCH THEY WENT!

With my wife hanging on, body surfing behind twenty-two dogs. I grabbed the two remaining dogs, tossed them into the truck, threw the sled over the snow bank (about ten feet high, lots of snow) and started after them in the truck at about forty-five MPH on this (almost) icy forest road. One mistake and I would be stuck. Too slow and I would not be able to follow. I had them in sight within half a mile, They were approaching the top of a long hill (same trail, different hill). I had to admire them all. There was (most of) my team running hard, shoulder to shoulder on the extreme right side of the trail. And there was my wife, shooting up a nice rooster tail behind them!

There was just enough room to pass, which I did, tooting the horn to keep them over. I pulled a couple hundred feet ahead and stopped and jumped out.

My wife had let go as soon as I was past and the dogs surrounded the truck. My wife was up and headed toward the truck, brushing snow off her arms and pulling her sleeves back down. Our next problem was the other team, headed our way with a truck behind it!

Quickly, we loaded all 24 dogs into the truck. I raced down the trail another mile to the only decent turnaround space before the loop and headed back toward the start, finally, at a more leisurely pace, stopping to pick up the sled. My wife's only comment - " My wrists WERE getting cold, but I knew you would come, I just hoped I could hold on until you got here. I was glad it wasn't you being dragged, because I don't think I could have driven the truck like you did."

This is probably the end of the saga, since I no longer run teams that big. What could she possibly have done with 26 dogs, anyway? (I took two guys along on that adventure).


(Author Unknown)


We have identified a new disease, probably caused by a virus among sled dog-owning people. It apparently has been in existence for a considerable time, but only recently has anyone identified this disease, and begun to study it. We call it the Acquired Canine Obsessive Syndrome (ACOS). At first, ACOS was originally considered to be psychological in nature, but after two young researchers here suddenly decided to become racers, we realized that we were dealing with an infectious agent. Epidemiologists here have identified threestages of this disease and typical symptoms, and they are:

A. You have early symptoms (Stage I) if:

1. You think that any race within 500 miles is near by. 

2. You begin to enjoy getting up at 3 a.m. in the morning to train and feed dogs. 

3. It is fun to spend several hours checking dog's feet anduntangeling harnesses. 

4. You think you're being frugal if you spend less than $5,000 dollarsa year on race entries.

 5. You can't remember what it was like to have just one dog.

 B. You definitely have the disease (Stage II) if:

 1. Your most important factor when buying a truck is how many dog boxes you can build to fit on it.

 2. When you look for a house, the first thing you think of is how many dogs you can kennel on the property.

 3. Your dog food bill is higher than your family's.

 4. You spend as much on veterinarians as on doctors.

 5. You have no money because of racing dogs.

 6. You have to buy more than one vehicle a year, because you keep burning out the 7-year or 70,000-mile warranty going to races.

 7. Your have more pictures of the team than of your family.

 8. Your idea of a fun vacation is to hit a race circuit.

 9. Most of your conversations revolve around the dogs and trail conditions.

 C. You are a terminal case (Stage III) if: 

1. You wake up in the morning and find out that you put the kids inthe kennels and the dogs in the beds last night.

 2. You know each dog's name and pedigree, but can't figure out who that stranger in the house is; it turns out to be your kennel partner. 

3. Your neighbors keep insisting that those kids running around your house bothering the dogs are yours.

 4. You cash in the kid's college trust fund to campaign the dogs. 

5. You've been on the road racing dogs so long that you can't remember where you live.

 6. Your family tells you "It's either the dogs or us;" you choose the dogs. 

Do you have this dreaded disease? Well, there is hope. In the course of our research, we have found that most cases seem to stop at Stage II, and remain chronic. We, with great difficulty, managed to acquire several Stage III ACOS patients. They are currently in our isolation wards, where we are studying them to gain a better understanding of this disease. It is a sad sight, seeinq these formerly vibrant people as they shuffle around their rooms making odd hand motions (as if harnessing dogs or untangeling lines), and making clicking and whistling noises. Merely saying the word "Iditarod, Quest, Rondy or Canmore" can send them into an uncontrollable frenzy. Unfortunately, there isn't much hope for these cases, but with time and research to further understand this disease, we hope to come up with a cure. We are now attempting to isolate the causative agent, and may be able to develop a vaccine in the future. An interesting sidelight of this disease seems to be that exposure at an early age has an immunizing effect. Several people afflicted with ACOS at Stage II and Stage III have close family members (children, husbands, wives) who have absolutely no disease. It is thought by some of our researchers that this may be due to environmental effects, to an age-related immune function, or to the fact that those at these stages of the disease tend not to associate with their close family members possibly due to the memory deficit induced by the disease - that is, in that they don't remember that they have close family members! 

What can you do to prevent this disease? Until a cure is found, prevention is the measure. Avoid kennels advertising "proven racing stock," since it may be that dogs are carriers of the disease. Leave town on those days that the local newspapers inform you of a race in the area. If you inadvertently come into contact with an ACOS-afflicted person, leave as soon as possible (they do tend to cling), and thoroughly shower, preferably with germicidal soap.

If you are living with an ACOS-afflicted person, take comfort that, if youhaven't succumbed yet, you are probably safe.

Shared by Anne Page, modified by Charlene LaBelle


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