Free Wheel-in’ Pip

Sometimes when you get a new hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. And when your hammer is canicrossing and you’ve already gotten two dogs in the household involved, the third dog can start to look suspiciously like a fuzzy 16d flat head. So obviously the logical thing for any sane and normal person to do is throw a harness on him and see what he’s got.

It turned out that Pip didn’t have much:

Although he did seem to light a fire under Squash, which was something, and his jaunty trot seemed to indicate he was enjoying himself, which was something else, Pip didn’t really seem to Care For pulling. Pip doesn’t really Care For a lot of things, so this wasn’t exactly a surprise. And it was perfectly ok with me – I already had one puppy and one adult dog who were discovering their inner sled dogs while I discovered my inner musher, so I was content to let Pip just be a Pip dog.

I didn’t think any more about it until months later when I was scootering with Squash and Maisy. They were really coming along and I had moved our operation from the neighborhood to the trails at a nearby state park and one day as I was enjoying the scenery I randomly thought to myself: You know, Pip would really love this place. And really, if he wasn’t in the lead he wouldn’t necessarily have to pull so much as just keep up with the others, and they’d all have fun and get exercise together.  BRILLIANT.

So I hopped back on the internet, navigated the Forest of Lines once more, and figured out what I needed for a  three dog set up.  A few clicks and a short wait later I was the proud owner of my very own four dog gangline complete with a Y-leader section, two necklines, two tuglines, and a shockline.  Heck, I was proud just to even know what the hell those things were and how to attach them to my dogs in a meaningful way.  And even MORE proud that I knew that Squash and Maisy would be the lead dogs and Pip would be in the wheel position. The things you learn when you have dogs and take up new endeavors with them.

So anyway, out we went, just canicrossing around the block at first. I was in no way ready to hook all 3 dogs up to the scooter, and it had snowed and become treacherously icy by the time I had ordered and received the gangline anyway.

As you can see, I think it went pretty well. Tangling was kept to a minimum, I only slipped on the ice once, and everyone seemed to have fun (including me, which is sort of essential).

The only problem was that obviously we had finally gotten some winter weather. So I knew I probably wouldn’t be scootering with all 3 this year. At first I was mildly disappointed, but this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Because although my scooter is able to handle the small amount of snow we’ve had so far, after only a single snow scooter trip (earlier this week) the state park where we mush officially groomed their trails and designated my favorite scootering trails for skiing only, no dogs. So back to canicross on the winter walking paths it was, and now everyone could play!

So I went out this morning with all 3 dogs, and honestly it started out as a total clusterf#%@. Within probably 30 or 40 feet of the car Squash and Maisy were distracted by Pip and by being on a longer line than they were used to, Pip decided he Didn’t Care For the neckline and moped along in tragic woe, Squash took advantage of the fact that we were going painfully slowly to pee on the world, Maisy desperately tried to keep things moving forward, and everyone became hopelessly tangled.

Fortunately, perhaps due to some subconscious premonition of disaster, I had brought my normal canicross/scooter line along “just in case” something went awry. I marched everyone back to the car, swapped out the lines, and decided to try just attaching Pip directly to my skijor belt by a regular leash. Three deep breaths,  and we gave it another try.

That’s when we really started cooking with gas. Pip was much happier – the return of the jaunty trot!

I was very proud of them. Although by the end, my wheel started to run out of gas…

So I suppose there must be some lessons to take away from this day. Mostly, I think it’s to not abruptly change something like three hundred different things about your usual routine all at once and expect your dogs to perform exactly like they normally do.  Also, I think maybe you can never have too many backup lines in the trunk or be too willing to change your strategy on the fly. And lastly, it’s possible that a wheel isn’t a wheel isn’t a wheel. Some dogs might take to wheeldom like they were born with steel rims, while others need to start out somewhat more… freewheeling. As long as mushing isn’t an occupation or competitive or some other serious business for you… say, if you’re a wee mush baby and you’re only out there with your mismatched, cobbled together, not-very-huskyish team for the company and the fun of enjoying the fresh air and exercise together… it’s probably not worth getting bent out of shape over a Pip being a Pip for awhile. Or really, forever, if he never decides he Cares For the neckline.

Epilogue: if you like the sounds of heavy breathing and crunching snow (and who doesn’t), this video is for you!

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