“White Pang”

In Uncategorized on March 15, 2011 at 4:14 am

Mort, the dog closest to my sled this weekend.

I’ve been reading Jack London’s White Fang for the last few weeks. In the midst of it, and in the midst of enjoying winter so much this year, I took a notion to book a dog sledding adventure. Knowing there was a place near to Tom’s folks, in Owen Sound, I took to the net where I discovered Singing Dog Adventures!

It was amazing! That’s all I can say. One minute I’m reading White Fang, the next I’m IN a Jack London novel!

When we got to the farm we rolled down our windows and the sound of  dog song welcomed us. We signed our wavers in the charming log home and set off in the trailer after a verbal rundown on how to drive a sled of dogs! I’m so fortunate that I have experience communicating with animals, as well as being in charge of powerful beasts, but without any reins I was a little dubious of the control I’d have. I’m glad to say these amazing animal were so intelligent and so well voice-trained it felt fine once we were going.

My “coach” and the “alpha dog” of the pack named Richard was a really cool man and rode in the sled with me, while I stood and drove the five-dog team most of the way (with lots of verbal queues for the dogs coming from Richard who I did my best to emulate). Tom was  about twenty feet behind with another coach, at the helm of his own five-dog sled going through the amazing snowy woods near Red Bay, which is near to Wiarton/Owen Sound. The snow wasn’t too fast (which is good for me as a beginner because the thought of going 25 KMs an hour on a dog sled scared me a little!) and we mostly jogged through the woods with the odd spirited gallop up or down a  hill or around a thrilling bend. It was exciting when they really got going and every so often when they felt tired you’d jump off the sled and jog behind in the snow to give the dogs a break.  (All this I did and never even mentioned I’d had a lung transplant! )

Rounding a bend up a hill! Weeee!!!!

It was fun using your voice to tell the team they were doing well, to encourage them to keep going, to turn right (Gee) or left (ha).  Sometimes you asked them to “Whoa” as you put the foot brake on. Those smart little Siberian beasts could really understand English. I lost count of how many words they seemed to understand with the coach, their master, helping me to “mush” (ironically the one word we didn’t use!)

I must admit that once we’d helped harness up all ten STRONG dogs, run them for over two and a half hours, and un hitched them all, I was well and truly done. I mean TIRED!  That night my knee (the one which I tore about 14 months ago) was QUITE sore from all the leaning around corners and jarring it got riding on the sledge runners over bumps and around corners. Like I say, certainly our horse-balance came in very handy but I had NO idea it would be THAT PHYSICAL!

In the end it is no exaggeration to say that it was the experience of a lifetime.  Those smart dogs seemed so utterly fulfilled in their life. So happy!  It was inspirational. I felt like I got to know them each a little bit over the course of the afternoon, calling encouragements & directions to them each by name. I mean, although I think I did a good job, I’m pretty sure having their master in chief sitting in my sleigh really made them focus! Seeing the bond between the dogs and their master was a beautiful thing.

And now, here is a little video of Tom driving his team through a stream after having stopped to water them. Talk about seizing the day!

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