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August 19, 2012

Opening Day 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mountain bike and mushing lines I had purchased had arrived.  With the harnesses that were already six months old, Tenaya’s was red and Dawn’s was blue, we were ready to go.  It was November 14, 1999, my first “Opening Day.”  Friday, August 17, 2012 was my 14th

Since moving to Montana, my seasons have always ended in March.  Though by that time I’m a little less enthusiastic about sledding, I still enjoy every time I’m on the runners.  What takes over is I start getting overwhelmed by all the tasks I put off during the winter.  With the resultant five month break, our normal opening day has everybody banging harnesses, throwing their bodies forward and up and down straining the lines which tie them to the locked down ATV. 

This year was a little different.  Unlike any other year, we trained during the spring and summer.  I now have a bunch of old farts, kind of like me, and we all benefit a lot by maintaining some amount of conditioning.  We did a pair of three week training sessions and our last runs were on July 5th.  So even though the dogs had only 11 hook-ups during those spring and summer sessions---22 for me---it was very different. 

One of the things that makes dogs special is they do not get bored.  If a dog really enjoys playing catch, either you or they will drop from exhaustion before they’ll think, ‘Hmm, I’m tired of this.’  The fact that we had been running recently meant the dogs weren’t as manic as on previous opening days, but that was a relative measure.  As soon as the dogs guessed we might be running, actually a few minutes before they were sure, the screams, yells, and excited prancing started in.  Otter and Vixen both turned 12 last winter, and they too were on top of their houses reminding me that I had to release them so they could join in. 

While the shortened hiatus had the dogs a little less manic, it didn’t benefit me the way one might expect.  I did have about as many glitches as opening days in years past. Nothing major, just minor mix-ups regarding which harnesses I needed for which runs.  If these glitches cost me ten minutes total, I’d be surprised. 

We pulled out of the yard on the first run at 7:20.  It had dropped to freezing that morning, so I knew I had time before it would be too warm to run the dogs.  The sun surmounted the mountains to the east, the Swan Range, just as we were heading out.

My favorite interview question for physicists was, “Why are sunrises red and the sky blue?”  The answer I was looking for was that blue light scatters more than red and that transmission of sunlight, like in a sunrise, is complementary to scattering of sunlight, like from the sky.  Understanding that complementarity was particularly important to understanding the technical problems we had to deal with using neutrons or x rays to examine items like suitcases for explosives or drugs.  I also think I liked the question because I enjoy the red and gold hues of sunrises as much as I do. The cool morning, 34 F as the first run ended, accentuated this. 

By the time the second team pulled in, 8:45, the temp had risen to 49 F.  Even with the short run in moderate temps that was mostly in the shade, Zappa seemed to have overheated a little.  I have to think he had a low level bug.  After he helped himself to water, I brought him to his house where he could and would lay in the shade.  This was well within the temperature and run length range he’s run recently with no issues, so a bug rings true. Everybody else looked great, most continuing to stand while I unhooked them from the line.

I finish putting everything away before 9:15.  Zappa is starting to recover.  By the time I start writing up the runs, he’s laying with his head on a couple of medium sized rocks he’s unearthed and located with this in mind.

Most years, I have a training schedule planned out prior to opening day.  With my goal of doing the Serum Run, this year is no exception.  All of which makes opening day what it is regardless of how long or not it has been since we last ran.  It is like opening day for baseball where every fan thinks their team has a chance---only the good stuff is crossing my mind.  The inevitable difficulties are beyond the horizon.   And with all the seasons most of my dogs have, perhaps it’s that way for them too, though I doubt it.  For them, it is just one more opportunity to do the work they love.  

   
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