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A Tale of Two Huskies

October 27, 2013










Starting when I pulled him out of his crate at the Missoula airport, Shoshone has displayed a huge shy streak.  Where this came from, nobody knows.  I own his sister and dam, and they are both outgoing.  His sire, Quinn, is also a friendly outgoing dog. 

I have tried to deal with this----

“Dad, I hate desempitization.”

“Shone, that’s desensitization, and it’s good for you.”

“Whatever.  I hate it.”

Unfortunately, the seven years of trying hasn’t changed much of anything.  Of course, his dam, Otter, has never taken a treat from somebody’s hand, so Shone having an irrational stubborn streak surprises nobody.   The irony of this is once Shonie knows you, he’s one of the biggest cuddlers in the yard.  He took three months to accept me---that happened when we started training.  Once it did, I discovered Shone’s penchant for hugs.

Prudhoe probably wasn’t socialized as well as Shone---he was clearly insecure when he arrived---but that never affected his wanting to be with everybody.  He may have been unsure with people, but he’s always wanted to be close to them. 

From the time each arrived, one thing both dogs have shown was a great work ethic.  Shoshone ran lead for most of Race to the Sky, including a hard stretch in single lead at the end of the race.  It was his first season at Silly Lake and he was only two and a half at that time.   Prudhoe had the speed and stamina to lead, but his lack of confidence when he arrived kept him in the middle and back of the gangline.  There, he’s consistently been the best of my non-leaders. 

I finally put Prudhoe in lead on our second run this year.  I had thought about it last year, but I’ve heard way too many horror stories about making dogs lead before they were ready for it, so I waited.   As of now, Prudhoe has 29 miles in lead in seven hook-ups.  He’s even starting to get “line out”---holding his position and keeping the gangline stretched out---and doing it during hook-up when there are lots of distractions. He’s not a natural leader, but he’s not afraid and is learning.  He’s doing fine.

All of which is very important for my preparation for skijoring the trail.  With Zappa passing away, Shoshone and Prudhoe are my two top dogs.  This could change during the season, but barring injury, they’ll make the team going to Nome.  Shone is nine, but has distance experience under pressure---he and Tanner are the only dogs I own who have not missed a mile of racing since I was in Race to the Sky.  Shone has had a propensity for websplits, but that’s a very workable problem---booties prevent them.  At six, Prudhoe is the second youngest dog in my kennel. 

In harness, only Gaiya gives the two boys a run for their money.  She’s also the youngest dog I own, but she’s so much smaller than the other dogs that matching gaits while running could be problematic.  Still, I’m running her with these two all the time so everybody gets used to everybody else.  It may be a “game day” decision between Gaiya and one of Lolo and Jake.    

Prudhoe and Shone being on top of the ladder led to a scary conclusion, I had to start running them side by side.  The other thing both dogs share is they want to be top dog.  I don’t think they ever got into a fight, but I’m sure they’ve thought about it.  I ran them together four times, total, over the past three seasons.  My goal during those times was only to make sure it wouldn’t be catastrophic if I had to throw them across from each other. 

Sometimes our fears are realized.  Sometimes they’re not.  In this case, what became clear from their first side by side run on, was that they liked running with each other.  Some dogs mesh particularly well, and Shone and Prudhoe do.  Some of it is is gait and pace, but in this case, it looks to me like they’re enjoying they’re “partner’s” hard work.  Shone is somber in his work and Prudhoe is goofy, but both recognize what the other is doing, and in their minds, that’s more important than who’s in charge.  Even the tension of leading together hasn’t affected this---they’re satisfied doing their work.

Which leaves only the dropline and tent test.  My plan is to have the dogs sleep in one of my tent’s vestibules at night and be on a dropline together both inside the tent and outside of it, so they’re going to have to be right next to each other, even eat together, without the distraction of work.  This could be interesting.  Still, we’re off to a good start.

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