Life has a funny way of turning out. When I was younger (much younger) I used to go to a nightclub on the Curragh called Nijinsky’s, now here I was, heading back to the Curragh for a night out. True to form, I came home plastered, but this time, it was in mud. The IFSS held a night rally on The Curragh on 23rd January and we headed off to run 3 teams. I went out in bikejore first with Tala, who has been injured for most of the season, this was only her 3rd run since recovering, so my intention was to take it steady. Tala however doesn’t understand that word, and we took off at speed. We eased off for the last mile, as her lack of fitness began to tell, but we both had a good time, and the great thing about bikejoring is that I could help her out when she began to flag, dog and human truly working together. My son then took the 2 dog team out, the first time he’s entered a rally in over 2 years, but it was okay, the dogs looked after him and took him round safely. As it was an oval circuit, with no trees anywhere we could see them on the opposite side of the race track – the dogs’ Head-Lites collars showed up so clearly, we could tell which team it was very clearly. I then went out with Team SA in 4 dog, still only running 3 at the moment, but again these short legged, big hearted dogs flew around. We came home with two 1st place and one 2nd place rosette, but the most important thing was that we all had a good time.
We went out for a few training runs on Saturday morning at the beautiful Lough Key Forest Park. I do wonder when my alarm goes off at 5am on a weekend morning why I chose a hobby that involves early mornings in the winter. I really should have chosen something that can be done in the middle of a warm summer’s day. It was worth the early start and drive in icy conditions though when we got there, and we ended up running in snow. Huskies, running in snow, yeay, finally. It didn’t last long, and they were just sporadic flurries but it still felt very special, and the dogs flew around in the cold, seeming to relish the conditions. It has been very hard for all dog teams to get proper fitness on their dogs this winter in Ireland, due to the mild temperatures and high humidity.
We trained with a friend who is currently a European and World Champion with her amazing dogs in bikejore, practising over-taking and passing, essential skills for racing. Having a fast team is one thing, having a safe team is quite another, being able to go past slower teams, or to allow faster teams to overtake is something that all dogs involved in sled dog sports should be happy doing, although sometimes it can be difficult to practise if you train alone. These skills are covered in the training sessions and classes that I run, which lead to happier and more confident dogs and humans.
I have been remiss in my last few blogs about introducing the team. Today we move onto Darcy, or Ninja as he is affectionately called. He came to us from A Dogs Life, having been taken out of a pound after he was found straying. He is IKC registered, and his microchip was still registered to his breeder, so I phoned him – weird coincidence that his surname turned out to be Darcy! Anyway, his response to my question about him taking Darcy back into his care, was “why should I?” This is why it is so important when buying a dog that it is from a reputable breeder, who will take back any dog they breed for the rest of the dog’s life. Darcy is another dog that has just never been adopted, he had a lot of interest, but unfortunately he likes to talk – a lot, and when he does, it sounds like a cross between a baby crying and a banshee. So it is very difficult for anyone with neighbours within half a mile to have him without complaints to the local council. He is a fabulous working dog, last year at a trek, his co-lead dog had to be unhooked from the team 2 miles out from the finish and taken back in a marshall’s van. Darcy stepped up to the mark and led the team home by himself. He is also a great back packing dog, loving his walks carrying his own provisions. Don’t let that fool you into thinking he isn’t a big old softie though, he is one of the dogs that has to sleep on my bed every night.