Descending into Autumn

July is behind us, along with the peak of the summer’s heat. We’re on the descent now, trending downward into the cooler days of autumn. I feel it, the dogs feel it, and the energy build up is palpable. The dogs have been less satisfied to sunbath and lounge. The dog-den couch has suffered several de-stuffings and re-stuffings as a result.

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Last weekend, I managed to coordinate a mini-getaway with friends. I’m grateful to be back on the east coast, where I can drive my dogs down to Jersey if I need to travel, but spending just a night away is harder to plan. I don’t have anyone local I trust to watch the dogs. Thankfully, my parents like visiting (and escaping the NJ 90°F heat) and agreed to dog-sit up here for me. I was able to venture east for the first overnight camping trip I’ve had in a long awhile.

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Before heading out to camp, I was feeling particularly guilty. I’d be missing the first 50°F morning of the season. (The general rule for mushing is “below 50°F and the temperature plus humidity should not exceed 100”) As I was preparing for my parents’ arrival, a cold front swept through, bringing with it a chilly wind and cold drizzle. It was still too warm for our typical fall training, but a quick 1/2 mile jaunt around the trails I’ve been mowing wouldn’t hurt.

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The dogs were ecstatic, as they tend to be when they see the harnesses come out. They were so happy to lope around the property, winding through the wildflowers and grass three times their height. The mowed trails are slightly different from what we ran last season and you could see the excitement in their body language. By the end of the run, the older dogs were satisfied. The younger dogs would’ve happily kept going, but I wouldn’t risk them overheating. More soon, babes.

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As summer inches into fall, there will be more travel—a bachelorette in Texas, a wedding in Washington, and visits to New Jersey to see old friends. In the meantime, I’ve prepped my mountain bike for bikejoring runs in the mornings and evenings. I plan to take each dog out, solo and in pairs, to help reinforce commands and get them ready for the season ahead. Laika is nearly 7-months-old, and I’ll start her off with some easy canicross runs in the adjustable puppy x-back harness before trying her out on a small team.

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Late summer feels like being a kid on Christmas Eve. Mushing season is Christmas morning.

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