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18 May 2012

Journey 2012-Part 2

In the world of big journeys youngsters Blimey, Proper and Max (siblings not yet two years old) learnt to pace themselves and rest when given the chance during the working day. As a team my dogs thrive on routine. After our work-day they knew to expect food and water and without a care in the world they rested knowing that the following day they would be refreshed and raring to go again all excited about what might be around the next corner.

My dogs rest during a break             Photo: Gary Rolfe
Note above Petzl Spirit snap gate carabiners leading from the traces to my dogs' harnesses. I make all my own traces using hollow-weave rope from Snowpaw with 3 mm aircraft cable running through the middle.

          When the dogs rest we rested too          Photo: Gary Rolfe
Young Proper eventually grasped the run-rest-run-rest concept after weeks of never wanting to stop pulling at full-tilt. For their own sakes I had to curb their manic desire to never stop running. In the early days of the journey Proper also developed the vile habit of chewing anything in radius of his trace, including Geezer.

                            Proper learnt to rest             Photo: Gary Rolfe
Geezer was a wise choice to partner Proper. Size and strength-wise they were well matched. Geezer is not overly dominant and more tolerant than most, important qualities coupled beside a raw rowdy youngster. Geezer kept Proper out of trouble most of the time as the spirit flowed. Inevitably fur did fly once in a while but all tails (what I call their mood indicators) remained up, strong and scythe-like.

                    Calm and confident Geezer       Photo: Gary Rolfe
Proper beside Spitz would have meant bloodshed. Spitz (at ten years old) was my oldest dog by far on this journey. Spitz is dominant and without tolerance. He will start a fight. And he will finish it. Spitz despises physical and mental weakness. His standards are simple to understand: if you are good enough you live, unsatisfactory you die.

                                                 Spitz                   Photo: Gary Rolfe
This journey distance was a good one for the youngsters to learn more about what they are capable of and to give me a good look at their progress and abilities, by that I mean their talent to mimic commands I expect of Loads my main lead dog.

Blimey and Max ran together and were almost faultless throughout the entire journey. They were boisterous and occasionally chewed but so what. They banged hard into their harnesses everyday and never gave me any indication that they would sooner be anywhere else but be part of the lucky 13. The litter has come a long way since their first adventure outside and The Chase.

No. Pairing relatively inexperienced youngsters beside Spitz would have resulted in different ones returning. In case you are wondering, the honour of running beside Spitz went to Yogi.

Only 56,000 people live in Greenland. Above Greenland’s Arctic Circle (66ยบ 33’) there are 25,000 Greenland Dogs: more dogs than people. Nowhere else in the world are there so many working dogs. Working Greenland Dogs live and run as a pack and that is governed by hierarchy, the dynamics of which are determined by fighting. I've written more on that topic here.

I like running siblings alongside each other because they tend to square one another up without fuss and emit encouraging mannerisms to each other that to me appears that they are cheering each other on. This subtle trait requires a keen eye to observe. In addition to the pairing of Blimey and Max, Mikkey ran beside his brother Cracker and Shocker ran beside his twin Treatment.

                                        Treatment                 Photo: Gary Rolfe

                                            Shocker                  Photo: Gary Rolfe
Loads led the team throughout. He runs alone because that is the way he wants it. His drive and focus to lead from the front is fierce. There is an air about Loads that tells you that no dog is as capable or his equal. To run another beside him would either dilute or degrade what astonishing skills he has. He cares for nothing but to lead.

                                                Loads                 Photo: Gary Rolfe
Loads set the tone for my entire team and from it they fed off his pace, drive and determination resulting in a magnificent 13 dogs hell-bent on taking care of business. I kept discipline but it was Loads who brought out the instinct in all my dogs to do what it is they desire most, and that is to pull hard. Very hard.

Journey 2012 - Part 3 will follow soon.....

For more about Gary and his dogs go to www.garyrolfe.com

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