Happy screams and squeals come from the little dogs… they have no idea what they are doing but they are very excited! My puppies love attention and all they know is that instead of telling them to leave the big dogs alone as they are harnessed and hooked up to the line, it’s their turn! Their little butts are wiggling with excitement and they can’t stop licking my face as I bend over and put the harness over their heads and show them what I want them to do with their front legs. Wiggles and more wiggles and lots of kisses come from these little kids! As I hook up their neck line to their collars and then pull back on their harnesses to attach their tugs to the gangline, they instinctively pull forward and start jumping! Just like they have seen the big dogs do it! Now as I hook them up to another young wiggling bundle of fur, they get more excited and start trying to play a little, but they are more excited to move forward! A little bit of praise to keep them in a forward motion and not wrestling with their neighbor reinforces what they really want to do!
Now as I quickly walk back to the ATV and try and get them moving forward as soon as possible a lot of high squeaky praises come out of my mouth! The retired leaders surge forward in their finest hour! They know exactly what to do and they don’t care they are dragging a team of half-grown screaming barking puppies just learning to run in harness! To them it’s the Iditarod and they are racing down the trail as the breakneck speed of 8 mph J. My poor race leader is now attached to a screaming 5 month old puppy that is SOOOO excited that he can barely control itself and keeps telling him how great it is being a sled dog, he ignores the pup and keeps moving forward as he should.
Along the trail we go, the first 100 yards is the worst, one trips and falls and is drug for a moment on her side, she jumps up and is raring to go again! Jumping instead of running, their feet are in the air more than they are on the ground. Fighting and fretting with their neighbors trying to understand exactly what they are doing. Pulling backwards against the neck line and then surging forward learning how to balance in a harness and understanding they have to move forward. Little feet running then trotting then running then pacing, then leaping in the air with excitement! Barking and whining comes out of their mouths while they are jumping against the harness, not in pain or displeasure but with PURE EXCITEMENT and JOY! Bounding down the trail and bouncing off their neighbor testing the limits of their tethers, then learning how to move within the limits and head down and working as hard as their little legs will go.
I stop to check on them and they are still wiggling! Happy tails and happy mouths! Barking and banging in their harnesses to go! They want more! I use my voice commands to show them the big dog commands and to listen to me. We move down the trail again, this time we turn to the right and after a short jaunt into a huge puddle that my leaders go right into! They know its break time! However puppies do not understand and there is a little bit of a tangle as they put on the brakes and buck and rear as their feet get wet. After a moment they stop and start to drink the muddy water! Oh how good that was! Then stopped and standing in the water I give them all a bit of personal praise. Yep I’ll get in the water with them to make this a positive experience for them! Happy tails and hanging tongues! After a bit away we go! Same enthusiasm as when we left the yard. Snack break a little further down the trail. WOW we get treats too! This is amazing!
As we pull back into the yard after 3 miles (which I had options to make it shorter if needed), all puppies were standing and still happy in harness. As I take them off one by one and give them lots of love and rubs showing them what I want from their little legs taking their harnesses off. I get lots of kisses and they are still wiggling but with a little bit more control than when the harness went on. Back to their house they go and I’m on to the next.
Me giggling the whole time! How can I not be! These little fruitloops are hilarious! They are so excited to be big sled dogs and so instinctual happy doing their new job!! Singing praises to those little balls of energy that finally have a purpose in their lives! I have specifically bred them to do this for me! I have picked their mother and their father picking the traits I like best and hopefully complimenting each other making better next generations. They are bred to perform and they are bred to excel at this sport like their mother and father before them! The instinctual performance that is happening before me is what is making me giggle! This performance is making me happy and looking forward to watching these “kids” grow up and move from the amazing Puppy Power team to my race team where they will perform at their highest potential and compete against some of the most amazing athletes I’ve ever seen. Joining the elite group of competitors to race across Alaska in some of the most competitive and difficult races in the world. That’s what they have been bred for and that is where I hope that I can take them!