We had a blast, my sled dogs and I. We built houses, hauled firewood, tore around in the woods and on the bike paths in town, went to friends' houses, and sat around during long, boring summers in Alaska.
I built a summer cart for them, though, which had wheels instead of runners. On Fridays when I'd come home from work, I'd blow off steam by hooking myself to the cart with all 10 dogs and seeing what would happen. Kind of like being the tail of a comet. The summer cart was front half Hodaka motorcycle, back half lumberyard dolly. It didn't have a brake, but what good would one have done? Bored dogs in the summer can pull a locomotive.
The first couple of miles I'd be ricocheting off trees, flying over bumps, emptying small ponds. The dogs did everything but laugh out loud. When we got back they'd settle down for another week of lying about their doghouses, but they'd do their dog-best to say thanks.
Summer was cabin-building season. My wife, Kerry, and I chose a spot a mile from the end of the road. We cut logs from the surrounding woods, then peeled off the bark so they'd slide over the mossy ground. We tied one end of the log to the cart and off we'd go.
We insulated the roof with sod, cut from the ground in the fall using a tired chain saw. The slabs of sod were loaded into the sled and hauled down to the house just in time for winter. (It took two layers: The first one furry side down, the second one furry side up.) Every spring, there were flowers on the roof a month earlier than in the garden. We lived in that 14-foot square cabin for three years before Robin was born.
In the winter I would haul firewood with the dog team. We'd wander the forest looking for standing dead spruce. If I planned ahead there would be seasoned birch stacked about, which burned much longer. The snow was deeper in the woods, so a bigger team was necessary for a full sled of firewood. But man, what a ride when we hit the trails on our way back!
In the spring and fall, when there was no snow, but the creek was frozen, I took just my dog Stamp with me. We'd glide along on the glare ice, gracefully snapping off any poor saplings that had stuck their heads through the surface. Then I'd cut dead trees by the creek and we'd walk them back to the cabin.
Sometimes I'd play with Stamp. I'd get off the sled and run alongside him, or run and jump and slide ahead of him. I'd go to the edge of the creek where you could find unfrozen water and splash around - a worrisome sound to a sled dog on ice. Mostly, though, we'd walk back side by side, with 400 pounds of wood sliding effortlessly behind him in the sled.
Kerry and I love where we live now, but there isn't much snow - and no dog mushing. I spend all my money on my kids, so there's no more car racing either. I feel like a sled dog in summer. The kid stuff is rewarding, for sure - that's why we made the move. The ballet and music here are great. But I'm still feeling a little chained to my doghouse, waiting for snow.
I bought a fast motorcycle, though, and every Friday after work, to blow off steam ...