Sled dogs are synonymous with winter. What most people don’t realize is that mushing is a year-round event. Fall is for dry land training—either with a cart or an ATV—to prepare the dogs for the season ahead. Winter is when (weather/climate permitting) most races are held and mushers switch to sled runs. Spring is for learning: training puppies on slow, short runs and giving young dogs a chance to lead in front of small teams.
Summer is considered the “off-season”, but that just means the dogs are not running. There is no summer vacation for the musher. While the trails disappear under a living blanket of green, mushers are preparing. Gear needs to be fixed or replaced. Holes in the dog yard need to be filled. If you have them, dog houses need to be cleaned, repaired, and re-painted. The dog truck needs maintenance. Some kennels raise litters during the summer. Caring for six tiny new team members is far from time off. The existing team also needs exercise and mental stimulation to get through the warm months, when mushing isn’t an option.
The off-season might be the busiest time of the year.
This summer is especially busy for team Blue Eyes, as we are preparing to move across the country… again. I’m pre-approved for a mortgage and started house hunting online, but there’s only so much you can do from 3,000 miles away. The properties seem promising, but there’s a long way to go before we’re finally home (for real, this time).
As a project manager by trade and a planner by compulsion, I’ve laid out about a dozen check lists for what needs to get done in the next few months. I’m putting myself through the gauntlet of annual doctor visits while I’m stationary. The dogs are getting their annual vaccinations, too. The dog van and SUV both need to be cleaned and serviced for the cross-country trek (the SUV also needs some repairs). I have to sort through all my belongings (again) and sell or donate what I don’t need (two big moves really helps reduce clutter). Everything I’m keeping will be stored in an enclosed trailer until I have a permanent home to put it in. I have to carefully decide what I'll need until then and live out of a duffle bag.
I have about a dozen accounts to update and then update again when I buy a house. I’ll need to switch health insurance plans. And adjust my car insurance. When I’m finally a citizen of New York state, I’ll need a new license and to update all my vehicle registrations. And dog registrations. There’s so much to think about.
Our road trip east has already been planned and dog-friendly hotels are booked along the way. Once we’re back, we’ll be staying with my parents (in the garage? glamorous) and at the Pawling house, which puts us closer to the upstate NY houses I want to see. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the home-buying process goes smoothly and we’re able to close before winter. I need to put up a dog yard and play yard, if I can swing it, before the snow falls.
The future is taking shape, even though the finish line seem so far away.