Saturday, December 27, 2008

13 Dec 08

This could be titled: 1. Eat Moose, can 10,000 wolves be wrong. 2. Those that have and those that will and everyone eventually will. 3. God loves sled dogs.

Earlier in Oct, I had a run in with the same cow moose twice in a two week period. Each time I had a different set of leaders and almost lost them. For those doing math in public, I would have had 4 leaders stomped.

The plan is to take the 14 dogs on the sled with no weight in order to have a positive experience for all and make up for the 11 Dec run. Bogey is nursing a sore wrist and Apollo is still recovering from a front shoulder injury, so they will stay at home.

The first 5 and half miles go great. As we round the northeast end of Clunie Lake I plan to take a right and run on Ft. Richardson’s training areas. The roads aren’t plowed and we can go longer distance without repeating the same trail. Running 14 dogs makes the gangline quite long and as you come around a bend you can’t always see your front end of the team. This holds true in this case. Coming off the lake Bear and Luna take the Gee and all seems well. They round the bend and start to charge up the small hill to the connecting road. As the sled rounds the turn I see a moose coming down the middle of the gangline even with my leaders. Her ears are back and at any one time only two feet are on the ground. The other two are kicking in all directions. She comes down the middle of the gangline passed the first 5 sets of dogs and then steps about 2 feet off to the right of the team. At this point I get the hooks planted and fire a warning shot. The goal was to get everyone to stop moving and let the situation dissipate. The moose remained two feet off the right side of the dogs between the fifth and sixth set and was staring right at me. When it appears that everyone is calm, the moose puts her ears back and then takes off back across the top of the sixth set of dogs, which happen to be Lasar and Hawkeye. Both boys hit the ground and do their best to get out of the way. At this point I lowered the gun and fired in the direction of the moose. The moose didn’t flinch as I fired and didn’t run off as if she had been hit, so I thought I’d missed. She stopped about 10 feet off the left side of the team between the wheel dogs and the sled and looking right at me.

After a couple of seconds, it appeared she wasn’t going to come back, so I double check my snow hooks and then go forward to check the team for injuries. There are no physical injuries, but now I am worried about internal injuries. Everyone seems fine. I go to the back of the sled to ascertain whether I did hit the moose or not. I am about four feet behind the sled looking at the moose and then Mushing Rule #2 comes to mind. Never get out of position of your sled in case the dogs pop the snow hooks. I realized I have violated rule #2 and think about securing the sled to a tree. I try to get a quick look at the moose and see if I did hit her. No blood on the snow, no red blood on a very dark brown hide. Maybe I missed. Then, I hear the sound of 2 snow hooks being drug through the snow. For those that have ever been in a car accident you are familiar with the sound metal on metal makes and the associated shudder you have when you hear it. There is also a sound when you hear your snow hooks being drug through the snow and the associated pop when the dogs get enough power to break them loose.

Thus I hear the sound and make the dive at the sled hoping to catch any part of it. After the slow motion dive and coming up empty I hear the hooks pop and off they go. I chase after them yelling “woe”, but to no avail. If it’s any consolation, a couple of them did look back at me.
Now I am concerned about my team. Although we have trained out here before, it’s anyone’s guess where they may end up. They are heading toward the main road that links the ranges to the back side of Fort Richardson. Although it is a Saturday, there is still the chance of some road traffic as well as the team getting tangled in the gangline or tuglines and hurting themselves. We won’t talk about the two wolf packs that roam out there.

My first thought is to call Karl and see if he can help find the team. I worked with Karl for 8 and half years before he retired and was hired on to work the back ranges where I train. Karl is a great friend and was our dog sitter back when we only had four dogs. Needless to say Karl knows the area where the team is approximately at and is quick to drop everything and make a run out. I then call the Military Police desk and explain to them what happened and ask if the conservation officer is on duty and if he were in a position to help. I get a call back and the conservation officer is working his way toward me. I then call Mary, who is coming back from watching the Sheep Mountain Race, with Jill, and picking up my new sled. They are about 45 minutes away from Fort Richardson, but would get there as fast as they could.

Approximately half hour later, I get a call from Karl and he has the team. Apparently an individual driving out in the area saw the driverless team stopped and went over and stood on the brake. The team was perfectly lined out. Karl shows up and the guy explains what happened. Karl assured him he did the right thing and knows who the team belongs too. At this point, the dogs see Karl and get excited to come over and say hi that they tangled themselves into a big knot. At this point, I am still walking and am about 5 miles away. I see a small truck approach and pass me and then it turns around. I flag them down and hitch a ride. I show up and Karl, the conservation officer and the guy who found the team are all there. I start untangling the knot and everyone looks ok. I thank everyone and then get the team moving back toward the truck.

I want to get the team home and further check them for injuries.

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