So, that was humbling. But back to mushing. As chronicled elsewhere, my original 3-dog plans had to be shuffled around a little but it seemed we had found our sweet spot. I thought everyone was happy and all was well.
But they weren’t. And all wasn’t. At first I thought I was imagining things, but it seemed Maisy was a little off. Then as I reviewed video and pictures I realized Maisy definitely didn’t seem as confident in harness and had a lot of slack in her line. In retrospect, she also wasn’t as excited to load up in the car and wasn’t even that relaxed on our water breaks.
Physically, I couldn’t find anything wrong. So I started to wonder if maybe she just wasn’t that into it anymore. And if she wasn’t that into it anymore, was it time to retire her? Intellectually I know the day will come when each of the dogs in turn retires. But mushing has become almost a defining feature for Maisy. Since her serendipitous start, it’s become what she loves best and what she does best. There are days I’ve been pretty sure she’d rather mush than eat. So the idea that she wasn’t enjoying herself anymore was actually fairly heartbreaking.
I never want to force my dogs to keep doing things they hate for my sake, but I decided to learn the lesson learned from rearranging the dogs’ positions and experiment a little bit before throwing in the towel.
The common denominator turned out to be that 3 dogs = tight, tense, mopey Maisy and 2 dogs = happy, enthusiastic, loose Maisy. I don’t know exactly why, but I have some ideas. It might just be that she doesn’t like how the different setup feels; she doesn’t like change. It might be that I have to do a LOT more micromanaging and disentangling with three dogs. Maisy is a very soft dog. Heavy sighs hurt her feelings. And with three, there are more opportunities for heavy sighs.
In any case, I’m fine with running two at a time. It will actually give me a lot of flexibility with what days each dog is exercised and allow me to incorporate mushing more easily into days when Toast and Squash have classes in the evenings without feeling like I’m overworking them. Nobody will get too used to running next to or in front of or behind anyone else.
So once again, Maisy’s exceptional leader skills have come into play. She’s just leading ME this time instead of a couple of unruly boys.