Somewhat out of the blue, I came home with a puppy last weekend. While it may have seemed spur of the moment, there was quite a bit of thought behind the scenes. Let me explain.
A large portion of this blog has revolved around Dexter's struggle as part of my little team. He was two-years-old when I first introduced him to mushing. He had some good runs, especially when I added Denali to the mix. He ran fast at races, but mostly to catch up to other dogs. Passing was never something he could master. He was used to wrestling other dogs at the dog park, not ignoring them while running down a trail.
I kept harnessing him up, though. I added Knox to the team, and eventually, the huskies were running faster. Dex would start each run with the same enthusiasm as the others, but it faded. He wanted to pull over to sniff and to pee. Aside from needing breaks, he still kept up, so I wasn't too concerned that he was no longer pulling his weight (literally).
When Denali and Knox hit their stride, I stopped running Dexter in races. I feared ruining someone else's run with his shenanigans. This put me back in the 2-dog bikejor class. Races were never really my thing, so I didn't mind.
Eventually, Dexter started to show signs that his mushing days were numbered. I was OK with bikejor for races, but I really preferred the rig and sled for our recreational runs. I knew I'd need at least one more dog if I wanted to continue mushing, so Willow joined us last summer.
Something I didn't expect happened. When Willow was old enough to run with the team, Dexter was still going. For the first time in five years of mushing, I had my own 4-dog team. I loved every second of it. Running in pairs seemed to balance out all the issues and kept the dogs focused. Shit. I was in trouble now.
That brings us to the start of the 2016-2017 season. Just a few runs in, Dexter was pumping the brakes. He would not run. I had to leave him in the van. I was heartbroken, though not surprised. He ended up having some sore pads, but even after they healed, it became clear that his running days were really, truly ending.