This week the Jumbo/Shrimp Team and I have been exploring running at night. Not dusk but full darkness. I was really starting to enjoy the serenity of rolling through the night with only my headlamp pointing off to whatever I happened to be looking at.
It’s quiet except for an occasional car to deal with. For the most part there are no people out walking their dogs. This is a big plus when you don’t want interference of un-socialized critters (pet dogs) trying to eat the team.
I was actually starting to relax from my normal anxiety of possibly having to deal with this sort of annoying and potentially dangerous encounters. I mean who wants a vet bill? My job is to try to keep all of us as safe as possible. Sure, the dark has some other risks but anytime you run you have those.
At night even the squirrels seem to be out of sight, tucked away in their tree rat nest far above us. We have lots of woods along the road and few street lights. It is in fact pretty damn dark. Have no fear… the huskies can see well enough to keep us straight and level as we glide through the dark.
My preoccupation with dogs and suicidal squirrels made me forget one other critter that comes out at night. I was quickly brought out of my blissful moment.
In a flash a large shape bounded across the road in front of us. I could make out the outline of a nice big doe. The dogs sure didn’t miss it and the 240 pounds of me and trike suddenly went to warp speed as Cooper exercised his excitement into overdrive.
Not wanting to be outdone, Nikki had her ears down flat and legs pumping just as hard as they could. We were headed for the ditch across the road and probably into the woods If control was not regained in about 2 more seconds.
A combination of disc brakes and yelling “On BYE!” slowly brought the trike out of a three-wheel drift. It was much like an inner tube being towed behind a boat taking a corner. The deer was long gone through the woods and the dogs may have decided pulling me through the woods would also put them out of the chase.
It was a repeat lesson of a couple of summers ago. The lesson is you can never relax completely when you are running. To top it off we met a couple of midnight skulkers walking their dogs. No flash lights, or reflective coatings. But I was tipped off each time by my dogs sudden burst of pulling. Sure, enough they would come into my little circle of light as we raced upon them.
They cowered on the side of the road.
Their dogs are freaked out as this Flying Dutchmen of flesh and steel goes by. The only thing they see is the red flashing tail light as we disappear into the darkness. I chuckle at the faces that flashed past me. Open mouths, as they tightly hold their dogs leash and collar, and watch this madness appear and disappear before they really can comprehend it.
I hope we left them with good stories to tell when they got back home.
Too bad I wasn’t wearing the video camera. Maybe tonight there will be more fun afoot.
I dabble in painting. Yes at the age of 60 I’m not to old to learn and try new things. For without new adventures and tribulations what am I? Dead would be a good response. I’m not dead until they cremate me. In the meantime I’m going to keep exploring new things and pushing the boundaries put upon me.
Say I can’t do something and I’ll do my best to prove you wrong. That is called attitude and motivation. That is what life is about, reaching out past what you think was possible. Taking some risk and going for it.
So I paint, and show it to the world. I grow and I learn for this is what life was meant to be. I’m not done yet with this life.
We only go around once, and I want to get everything I can out of this life I was given.
You have an idea? Go for it or forever hold you peace.
Running the owl hoot trail is a saying from the American old West. Its what outlaws called what they did. You run at night, to avoid all those unpleasant bullets wanting to put you into an early grave.
I guess in this neighborhood I’m a bit of an outlaw myself. We run, and avoid the unleashed, and walking dogs/people with no socialization skills. We run free of interference and I give these dogs what they love. We run silent, and fast.
I have a headlight and tail light on the bike. I have a headlamp on my head over a stocking cap. I’m dressed in all black and my dogs are black and white.
There is no barking, there is only the sound of pads on the asphalt and the occasional jingle of brass hardware that attaches them to this 3-wheeled implement of destruction. We are stealth, special forces of the husky clan.
We fear not the cars, or the trail because we are trained for it. We eat up ground at an amazing pace. To a husky this night time adventure is what they live for. Something new and something special.
I want my dogs to have that adventure, to live as free as I can let them, before they leave this world.
It’s special because we do it together. We take the risks as a team, and that just adds to the excitement.
We run, and when we get back home we are ecstatic because we get to run another day or night.
We ran the Owl Hoot trail one more time with no injuries to the team or me.
This is what we do to break the boredom of a civilized life. We do it with no harm to any other living being…. we run.
This is a true tale about the road to understanding a Siberian. I can’t speak for everyone, because our trails and dogs are not all the same. Even so, I think there are some common things that happen as you start out with one of these old souls.
The first part of my journey was falling in love with how a Siberian looks. Not hard to do at all because it was one of the most beautiful creatures nature has ever produced. Not only do they have beautiful colors and markings…it’s the eyes that get me.
They eyes are the window to the soul. These huskies have the most enticing eyes. Eyes not only of color, but those that exude intelligence. They are in some ways the eyes of the wolf.
Burning into you, examining everything around them, and looking deep into your own gaze… with a judgmental and questioning glow.
The total package is mesmerizing, and why I think so many people just grab them up. Grab them up without a clue as to what that exterior conceals.
Behind those looks is a dog from ancient times. A dog with a long history of surviving. Encoded into their DNA by the bones of relatives lost along some frozen trail in the middle of nowhere.
Do not let the age of your husky fool you. They have wisdom beyond their days. And it is compressed into the short life they are given, that in many ways is a good thing…a survival thing.
For a new owner of the husky breed, the first thing that happens is you bring home this puppy and they seem to be perfect loving little dogs. They might chew a bit more than other dogs, might take some extra work to potty train but they are docile and loving.
I remember this part very well. I kept thinking what’s the big deal? Why do all these books say you just brought home the devil? My little husky pup is no different from any other dog I’ve owned.
This manner of thinking was quickly turned inside out. As my puppy grew, so did his appetite for new things. Chewing, digging, being stubborn where just a few of them. The only time he was happy was on a walk…and I walked a thousand miles his first year. Truly one thousand miles on foot with my pup. Rain, snow, heat, we did it all no matter what.
I quickly learned that this “Dog” was some kind of engine designed to go forever like the energizer bunny. Insatiable, and when not walking, or chewing, he was a digging machine. Mix this with a lack of trust on their part. Obtaining husky trust takes a very long time. Two years was the magic number for both of my dogs.
Just like human children the husky has a puberty time to go through. During this time, you think that everything you taught them was suddenly forgotten…but it wasn’t.
This is the hardest time for a new husky owner. This is the time when you have to find the patience of a saint, and the wisdom of an oracle.
This is the time when the husky suddenly realizes what he is and flexes his might.
Supercharged on hormones, he will test all boundaries. He will test you to see if you truly are worthy of being his partner.
Being the bringer of food is not enough for a husky. Most dogs will love the food provider…not so much a husky if you lack the ability to provide what else they need.
He will test his status in the household or in the pack. He wants to climb in status, much like anyone of us does. The big difference is he has a unique set of tools, fang and claw. Able to destroy our man-made treasures like they are nothing.
Material items are of no concern unless they provide one of the three basic needs. Shelter, food, adventure, and more adventure.
To be honest,shelter and food are not so important to a husky.
A husky has built-in shelter in his coat, and the ability to go far on very little food. Ah, but adventure is a huge thing! The husky wants to see the whole world, and wants you to see it with him. For what good is adventure unless you can share it with your pack?
Compared to these Siberians we are clumsy and slow. We don’t have 4- leg drive, claws, and energy to burn. They do and then some, but you know what? For whatever reason there is a bond between them and us.
It came from all those years in the dark ages when huskies and man first became partners. They did it so both could survive. They have not forgotten that, it’s part of them as much as anything else or they would not even bother with us.
The secret to a happy life with a husky is to understand their past. Just like you would consider the journey of any man before you lay judgement on them. You have to walk in those shoes, face those terrible moments of fear and hardship to honestly judge.
The Siberian retains all of the knowledge of his kin. It is locked away in a little part of their brains but emerges from time to time. One thing is for certain…it will not be denied when it comes out.
The many lessons from the past are in them.
Running to get to where the trail ends, no matter if they have food or shelter, no matter what the goal is…the husky will get there or die trying. It matters not if that goal is important or not…it is the goal…and the journey is the pay-off. The journey is what they live for…. good or bad it makes life exciting!
I have learned that working my dogs is the key to their hearts and minds. We run, we train, in all types of whether. I endure the elements just like them even though I’m not made for it. Somehow, I think they know this. They provide when I cannot, they pick up the slack in the dark, or in a storm when I am just dead weight with a loud voice.
We bond as a team. Each has strong points and weak ones. I keep them safe, and run them not into danger. They provide the muscle, and they will go the distance when others fail.
And when it’s all done… and the goal has been reached.
They cuddle up with me and we sleep soundly in the company of each other’s warmth and security…. until tomorrow.
Then we try it again, for each day of life is fleeting, and we need to live in the moment for there may not be a next one.
And this is the dog you have brought into your home. This is a creature like no other dog you have known before.
This is the Siberian Husky.
When you run dogs, eventually you will run in the dark. This is the time that you find out if all the hours of training have paid off. It is one of the times that you have to let go of your control and have trust in your dogs.
They see and hear better than we do at all times, and especially at night. Night is the time when you put your trust in them like they put in you for all of their needs. This is when you become a real team, capable of running day or night…good or bad weather be damned.
This is what it’s all about. This is true teamwork…this is trust.
There are a few things in life that cannot be duplicated by computers or anything else. One of those is to have a relationship with one or more of the Siberian People.
Yes, they are dogs, but they are also like no other dog you have ever seen. I could type all day the words that come to mind but that would not do justice to them.
Furry and full of old world knowledge they are ambassadors of a better life for you and them. They do not speak our language, but they speak volumes of information if you learn how to see it. It is subtle and requires a trained eye. It takes time to understand what they are trying to tell you. But believe me, they have much to tell if you bother to study them.
You have to know them as you would your spouse. You have to live with them to have this intimate knowledge of how they run, and how they act in any given situation. I watch the gait and I can tell if it is normal or if pain is involved. I know my dogs so well that I can tell if they are having a bad day or if it is something physical.
They may not speak words, but they speak in body language and attitude. They give signs of their current status and health. But you cannot know this unless you study them. You have to immerse yourself into the husky. That’s when you begin to understand them, as more than a dog.
For all this trouble what do you get? You get a partnership that equals no other. You get undying trust and affection if you bother to do your part. You see they are not objects that you own, they are huskies and that encompasses many things.
They are family, workers, lovers of life, and lovers of their masters or should I say partners. They are unique in the dog world. A long history of surviving what should not have been survived. They did it because they had to, and because they loved their partners more than their own short lives.
This is the essence of a husky, this is what they are but few ever spend the time to find that out.
That beautiful exterior hides many secrets you can find.
A true team or partnership between man and dog is the run. To run with the huskies is something that cannot be put into words. It is the culmination of work, struggle, and determination. When it all comes together it is beautiful. It is the payoff for keeping the faith. It is another world that few have ever found.
It’s real, not some virtual reality. They let us into their world if we are worthy. Go find that and you will forever be changed.
What’s that you say? I never heard of it before, are they some kind of designer breed?
No, it is in fact the original line of dogs conjured up by one of the greatest sled dog drivers known. His name was Leonhard Seppala and he and his dogs ran the Nome serum run in 1925. His kennel of dogs produced Balto, Togo, Fritz and many others.
To the average husky owner none of this means much. They love their husky and that is how it should be. But do you know that your husky laying on the couch or eating it depending on their mood is a descendant as well?
All Siberians share common genes with the original 20-30 dogs bread by Seppala. They have been bred over and over again but the DNA remains locked into the originals. Seppalas are a breed apart even though their cousins now inherit most of the world. The true line of Seppalas is one of history and different traits.
The Seppala is easier to train and they work like no other dog. The work is strong in this group if you are into a sled dog. They are more into the family, and less into fighting everything on four legs they encounter. They are faster and work harder than a normal Siberian.
For many years a few dedicated individuals strived hard and gave up much to keep the original line pure. There were some speed bumps, but for the most part they still exist in varying percentage based on pedigrees that date back to the original foundation dogs bred by Seppala.
These dogs are in fact the baseline of your very own husky and if you could trace your dog back to the first generation you would find Togo or Fritz as a sire. We all come from somewhere, and Siberians of modern-day come from Seppalas original line.
This is fact and cannot be disputed. The pedigrees tell the tale of over 100 years since they began. Many people these days want to change history because they have some problem with it. They want to tear down statues, remove plaques, and any other thing that they don’t happen to agree with.
Like a husky I prefer to live in the moment, accept history as real, and move on. Why dwell in the past when the future is now?
The Seppalas have faced many problems. Most of them caused by humans who wanted fame and glory above the fate of these animals. The individuals fought for control and how to direct them into the future. The end result is they are now almost extinct. Few remain in the high percentage of DNA but they don’t care. They are dogs first and our BS doesn’t matter to them.
There are in fact a few of us owners left who have picked up the gauntlet left on the ground. We are doing our best to keep the line going. However, depleted it is…they are the true blood that started it all. That is important and they are great working dogs. They deserve to have us try and save them because they are royalty.
The Seppalas can only be saved by us. They saved lives in 1925 and gave their all to do it. I don’t think it’s asking too much to return the favor they bestowed on us dumb humans. If you want to have another husky why not have one of royal blood? One who was born as a direct descendant of those original dogs?
We few have given a lot to obtain them and breed them. But they will not endure without people willing to own them. If you want to save something…all I ask is you consider your next husky is a Seppala. You won’t be disappointed.
Keep the dream alive.