The One that Got Away

I've been mushing for a few years now. I started with just Dexter and a bike in the winter of 2010/2011. I had a few opportunities to run him with borrowed dogs, and together, we learned the basics.

The following winter, I was able to run Dexter and Denali together. Knox joined the team towards the end of the 2011/2012 season, and from then on I've been running the trio every late fall through early spring.

A lot has happened out on the many miles of trails we've seen. A lot has gone wrong. I've had my bike fall apart mid race. We've tangled with other teams and encountered dozens of loose dogs. I've flown over the handlebars of a bike and tipped a rig while riding with my sister. The dogs have chased after various small animals (including a small dog on a leash). My tires deflated or popped countless times. Numerous cell phones were lost in snow, but later recovered.

Yet somehow, I had never lost the team. That may have been the only thing that hadn't gone wrong yet. I've been dragged on a sideways sled and I've stood on the rig's brake while the dogs continued to drag it, but I never lost them completely.

Well, there's always time for a new learning experience, right?

Shortly after the above photo was taken, the dogs decided to take off while I wasn't standing on the platform of the rig. 

Like I said, I've been running these dogs for a few years now. I'm pretty in tune with their behavior. I can tell when they're listening to some critter off in the brush. I know when they need a break. And usually, I don't bother anchoring my quick release during our water breaks. Throwing the brake on the rig is usually plenty, and the dogs know the drill. They're good about waiting when I stop for photos or to take off layers, too.

I have been a little more laid back on our more recent runs. I've been making them wait a little bit longer, and I've been stopping more to give Dexter treats (which have helped him stay motivated).

I guess Denali and Knox had enough, though. We were stopped for water and I was walking back to the rig after dropping a biscuit for Dex. Before I realized what was happening, the dogs were zooming down the trail -- right behind me. I chased after them, yelling, "WHOA!" and hoping they would stay within sight. 

Thankfully, they didn't go far. After their initial dash, the rig started to run off course and I could see Dex pumping the brakes. Once he stopped and turned around, the others did, too. They kind of had this, "Oh shit" look on their faces when I finally caught up to them. 

Even though they clearly had more steam in them, we had to turn back around at this point to collect the abandoned water bowls. So, a situation that happens to many mushers finally happened to me. Luckily, my team is relatively slow and I've got at least one clingy dog to hold the others back.

In the future, I think I'll be using my quick release.