Rob's Blog Archive

December 29, 2013

The Boys










Sima and Tok had just passed eighteen months when I brought them to Silly Lake.  At that time, everybody picked Sima to be the better sled dog---Tok did have mental issues.  Beyond that, Tok’s trot was never smooth.  Then, during our first season, he looked around after a run and said, “Hey wait a second, I’m not tired.”  Both have been solid, but over their careers Tok ended up being the better of the two. 

Along with the issues Tok initially had with running hard, he also seemed to need a lot of reassurance when out of harness.  For this, he turned to his littermate----I’d do something he didn’t understand and Tok would look at Sima for a clue regarding what to do.  Sima would just tell him, “He’s playing, Tok.  Either play with him or ignore him.”  In time, Tok figured out that I do try and play with my dogs and has even developed games of his own. 

While Tok ended up the better sled dog, Sima has always been a favorite of visitors.  Along with being a good looking white dog, he is very affectionate to one and all. 

When young, particularly, he also seemed to have presence.  Based on this, I tried him in lead.  He did lead without a lot of difficulty, but his body language told me he didn’t like it.  As near as I could tell, he wanted to be closer to me, and lead wasn’t going to hack it.  So, I acceded to his being close to me and for six straight seasons, he and Tok were my favorite pair at wheel.  What I saw instinctively, that they just did better there than other dogs, actually was that they pulled the sled clear of problems, and they had a good notion of what was and what was not a problem. 

The sixth year, the one after I ran in the Iditarod, they surprised me by easily making the 12 dog team I ran at Flathead.  The previous three years, I had trained for distance races and never really got to see the dogs lope.  As seven year olds, their lopes had them at six and seven on my rating ladder.  Flathead ended up being the only race we did that year.  We did, however, beat a couple of decent teams of Alaskans, something I am proud of.  The boys ran at wheel both days.    

I did what might well end up being my last race the next year, the eight dog class at Flathead.  By that time I had started seeing just a hair of hesitation in the boys’ work.  They had turned eight during the fall.  With six great seasons, I knew that hesitation came from their bodies, not their minds. 

Time moves on and like all of us, our dogs get older.  At last season’s start, I doubted Sima would run at all.  Fortunately, carprofen let him do what he enjoyed.  Tok still hesitated, but not badly.  This season started with hopes for both boys.  Running a B team meant they could do their job----or not.  For them, actually for anybody over eight, I’m just running them for their own pleasure and I don’t care if they pull or not.  As long as they’re enjoying the exercise---they will

“neckline,” pull back on the line between their collars and the main line if they don’t----I’m happy.  I did run Sima ten times and Tok has actually only missed two of the B-Team runs, but I’m sure Sima won’t run any more and have doubts Tok will either. 

Right now, we’re on a second stint of having both of them spend most of the time indoors.  Actually, they’re making pretty good house dogs.  With each other for company, they really don’t miss the yard much.  I’d add that over the many days they’ve been inside, Tok started to urinate once, I swatted him lightly, said no, and put him outside.  There, he started in again and got a good boy.  Sima has yet to besmirch the interior of my house at all.   The configuration of the yards hasn’t changed since I had Dawn and Tenaya, so all I do is open the door to the mudroom and they take care of themselves. 

With all this, there remains a funny part.  Tok, the dog who still wants to play “home free” during yard time by having me chase him until he’s under the deck, is getting confused when I try and play with him while he’s inside the house.  He’s turned to Sima for advice, sometimes even hiding behind him as he asks what to do, never mind that Tok is in much better shape than his brother.  And with this, Sima looks up and once again says, “He’s playing, Tok.  Either play with him or ignore him.”

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