And Then There Were Three

I’ve been meaning to write about Knox’s first run with the big dogs in my usual trail entry format, but I got delayed – and now we’re already three runs into his “career”. I decided I should write a little recap of each, before any more time passes and I forget the details.

Our first three dog run was on Friday, March 2nd. Since Knox is right around 6-months-old and seemed more than ready to join the team, I decided it was time. My rig is still in need of a new bearing, so I had to resort to a 3-dog bikejor. Not the best idea and certainly not something I will do once the rig is fixed, but I wanted to give him a practice run before the Pine Barrens.

Our first run went pretty well. Denali ran in single lead with Dexter and Knox behind her in wheel. Knox did fantastic… he pulled hard and slammed into his harness like he was bred to do it (which I’m fairly certain he wasn’t). Dexter also did well – he was more focused and went into “chase” mode with Denali in front of him. Denali – my sweet, oh-so-perfect Denali – was less than perfect in single lead. I didn’t realize how much Dexter grounded her. It wasn’t a catastrophe or anything. She ran like a yearling (which she is), and not the incredibly focused girlie she usually is. Her commands were a little fuzzy and she turned around to mess with Knox halfway through the run.

Towards the end of Knox’s first run, we came upon a fleeing cat. Because we can’t have a single run without some sort of animal darting away from us. My bike brakes were working, but didn’t do any good. The wheels slid, until I managed to swing up against a tree and hold the team back.

The second run was flawless. We went to the Pine Barrens, where there are rarely any animals near the trail. The freshly laid scent of other teams also helps my guys stay focused. All three did great, although Denali couldn’t understand why we had to turn back after just over a mile – she wanted to run our usual four mile trail. I didn’t want to push Knox too hard, so we only did 2.4 miles with the team. I took Denali out again later and repeated the same trail, so she could get her fix.

This morning was Knox’s third run and probably the worst thus far. As soon as we took off, I realized something wasn’t right. The duct tape job I constructed on the front brake had ripped apart. I thought about turning back, seeing as three dogs + only a rear brake might = suicide… but I had my helmet on, so god damn it, we kept going!

First test was a squirrel that darted by Denali. In double lead with Dexter, she gets excited for squirrels, but I can usually call her off. She then channels her ‘need-to-chase’ urge into pulling extra hard. In single lead, she loses her focus and tries to chase. I had to swing against a tree and wait for her to cool off.

Dexter and Knox did very well. Denali obeyed most of my commands, but she wasn’t as quick and sharp with them as usual. Towards the end of the woods loop, something caught her eye and she hopped off the path and into the high, dead brush. While she was goofing off, Dexter took the opportunity to roll around. Knox just whined and slammed into his harness, trying to get the team to keep going – nice try, little one! I had to dismount and pull Denali into the right direction. The remainder of the run home was mostly uneventful. She was a little better with the commands, but still a bit unruly.

All in all, they’re doing fine. This minor setback is just a dose of reality. For the most part, Denali has been unusually great in harness. Asking her to lead without Dexter by her side is a big step for a puppy still a few days shy of a year old. AJ plans to take her running every day and I’ll be doing more single lead practice with her. I’m sure we’ll work out the kinks as time goes on.

Someday in the distant, but hopefully not too distant future, a fourth dog will even out the team and solidify their flow. Dexter and Knox can be the powerhouses in wheel and maybe another Sibersong lady will balance Denali out in lead. Someday!

Jessica Kizmann

Dog musher, New Jersey.

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