Bad me. I haven’t posted in several months again. I should be posting more often now that mushing season is over and running/Team in Training is gearing up. In the meantime…
Today was the 12th annual Mush for Kids, hosted by the Alaska Children’s Trust. It’s a good event for raising awareness about sled dogs and mushing, dog etiquette, and an organization that works to prevent child abuse and neglect in Alaska. I’ve participated in this fun community event for the past several years. Usually I help with the free dog sled rides by handling dogs while sleds are being loaded or unloaded with passengers. I don’t actually give the rides; my dogs can’t deal with stopping and starting and going around this little trail. As one might expect, there’s always a HUGE line of people waiting to get rides. I also usually bring Piper and Koidern to walk along the line getting pets from kids to help pass their time in line. Piper and Koidern love getting pets and are really good around the kids. It’s also a good opportunity to encourage kids to respect the dogs and use good manners around them. For example, if a kid comes up and asks if they may pet the dog instead of just barging up to it, I try to reward that behavior by thanking the kid for asking first.
As part of the event, some local dentists provide toothbrushes to give out to kids. There’s been a dog who walks around wearing a backpack full of toothbrushes. This year, the dog’s owner decided he was too old to do this job and asked some other mushers if they wanted to use a rescue dog for this task. It’s a bit much of a task to ask just any shelter (or former shelter) dog, because the dog needs to be very tolerant of children and crowds of people. I offered Piper for the job; she was adopted from the animal shelter and a veteran of this event.
Today Piper became “Piper the Toothbrush Dog.” She was a bit worried about it at first. She’s never worn a backpack before. And she didn’t walk around with me. There was another volunteer recruited to walk the toothbrush dog. Sarah loves dogs and learned quickly. Shortly after I left them on their own, Piper rebelled and didn’t want to walk around. It didn’t help that the backpack was a little big on her.
I readjusted the pack, gave Sarah a bag of bribes (a.k.a. Yummy Chummies dog treats), and suggested they try again. This time Piper got the hang of things.
Piper and Sarah walked around the event for a few hours until they ran out of toothbrushes. Piper got lots of pets and attention, and I hear she may have gotten a treat or two.
While Piper did her job, I helped hold dogs while sleds were emptied of their passengers at the dog sled rides until Carol came to relieve me. Then Koidern and I walked along the line allowing people to meet and pet a real sled dog. After a while I gave Koidern a break and took her sister, Kluane, out to give Carol a break.
It was a perfect day for this event: sunny and just warm enough for the people while staying cool enough for the dogs and trail. As thing in the dog lot wound down, Carol and I took our two matching dogs out and chatted with one of the organizers. Kluane and Koidern both belonged to our training partner, Bonnie, until she decided that they didn’t fit with her kennel. Kluane fit with Carol, Koidern fit with me, and they both keep coming back to train at Bonnie’s. Besides loving attention and pets, they both love to give hugs.