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The Loyalty of a Lead Dog

February 4th, 2009, 01:01 PM
You hear the stories of lead dogs doing impressive things for the musher a lot. The most popular of course being Balto and his heroic trek across the the tundra to bring serum to the sick village of Nome in Alaska. As a musher, you put a lot of faith and trust into your lead dog. Its up to him whether or not you take the right turns, or you keep moving forward. The relationship you have with your lead dog is unlike any other. Me and my lead dog Ronan have this special relationship. His loyalty is fierce and I know I can rely on him.

This loyalty was shown to me again this past weekend when we were at a race. It was the second day of the race and we were all pretty eager to get things going before the snow melted too much from the unusually warm weather. My turn in the starting shoot and everyone was on their game! One of the time keepers held my brake for me so I could visit with the dogs. I gave OC a rub behind the ears, Skel a pat on the head then went to Ronan. Crouching in front of him with his head in my hands he looked at me with that impish look he always gets when we are about to run. Excitement radiates from him as he anticipates the count down of the clock to our release. A smile curled my lips and I put my forehead against his. "Lets do this" I whispered but before I could finish the phrase he licked my nose as if to say "Lets just hurry up and go!" One more pat for each dog just as the race marshal called 30 seconds to release.

30....25....20....15....10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 - HIIIIIIIIKE!!!!

We exploded out of that starting chute so fast the front of my sled lifted off the ground. "This is going to be a great ride!"...And then it happened. Just after the first bend in the trail so I was out of sight of the race marshal and time keepers, and anyone else that could've helped, we had a bit of a hiccup and before I knew it Skel and Ronan were going at it. Thinking it was just a scrap I yelled at them to keep going. Ronan hesitated but with Skel still snarling and snapping at him he had no choice but to keep fighting.

I ran to them to get them apart but both were locked on to the other with no intentions of letting go. If I tried to pull them apart they would shred each other in the process. Everyone always says don't get involved in a dog fight because you'll only end up getting hurt. But there was my boy, the one who had never let me down, who I could rely on to bring me safely back to the truck when I got lost in a snowstorm, the one who puts up with some crazy ideas I come up with (like dressing him all silly for the Santa Claus Parade), with half his muzzle in another dog's mouth and another dog's face in his mouth. Needless to say I got involved. I managed to get them to release each other and that split second they were apart I tackled Ronan into the snow and kept Skel away. At this point help arrived.

Everyone each took a dog and walked back to the truck. I watched as someone led Ronan down the trail ahead of me. Blood dripping from a gaping wound on the side of his muzzle. But he still walked with his tail held high the way he always does. A flag letting everyone know that he is and will always be the proud lead dog.

Back at the truck it was discovered that Ronan also had a pretty nasty puncture under his chin and would need to go to the emergency vet. It was also discovered that I had a pretty good puncture on my arm too and also needed to go to emergency. Brushing off requests for me to sit and be still I shuffled over to where Ronan stood next to the dog box. Seeing me approaching his tail wagged slowly the way it always does when he sees me. His ears folded back and he wiggled and wormed around anticipating a good ear scratch or a rub down. As I reached my hand towards him his sensitive nose picked up the scent of blood on my hands. Before I could even touch him he began washing my hands with his tongue. Every lick he took I could see the flesh around the tear move around and I knew it had to be painful for him. But he never so much as whimpered as he continued to clean my hands. The vet tech came to examine him and even as she poked and prodded at him he never whined or flinched.

Eight long hours later, I was bandaged and Ronan was stitched. When the vet brought him out for me to take home, he walked out with that same high tail, albeit a little groggy. He came over to me, looked straight into my eyes, licked my chin, then turned around and sat between my legs like he always does so he can keep watch, like an injured soldier who refuses to stand down from his guard.

"C'mon Ronan, lets go home"

Ronan at Apsley last year

February 4th, 2009, 01:09 PM
Awwww.. What a touching story! Its amazing what dogs will do for their people. :cloud9:

Sorry to hear you both got injured though.

Was this Skels first time racing with you?? Are the dogs okay with each other now??

February 4th, 2009, 01:12 PM
OC Spirit, sooo sorry to hear poor Ronan got hurt. but i'm glad to hear that he was such a good boy and listened to you, then worried about your booboo..Speedy recovery handsome boy.:2huggers:

February 4th, 2009, 01:16 PM
Babymomma, we had raced the Saturday without any troubles and had been running the whole season up till now. I sent Skel back home, there's no way the two could peacefully run together anymore and if Ronan ever got out of the kennel we would have another big bloody fight on our hands.

February 4th, 2009, 01:31 PM
Omg, this story had me bawling :cry: (ok, I am pms but still :D). I am glad both dogs are going to be okay and I'm sorry things didn't work out with Skel :sad:. I guess there were so over stimulated that they just erupted. Unfortunately that passion is the nature of the sport I would think so you definately need a team without tension. Hugs to all of you although I'm pretty sure hugs from anyone but mom is beneath handsome Ronan ;).

Gail P
February 4th, 2009, 01:31 PM
I'm so sorry to hear things turned out like that and Ronan got hurt. From your previous posts it sounded like Skel was going to work out well for you. Hope Ronan recovers quickly.

February 4th, 2009, 01:39 PM
That is really too bad, you seemed quite excited with the addition of Skel to your fold.

Hope the both of you heal quickly :)

February 4th, 2009, 09:47 PM
:sad: I'm so sorry this happened :sad: :2huggers:

Was Skel injured as well? how's he doing?

:goodvibes: for a speedy recovery for Ronan

:goodvibes: for a speedy recovery for you

How are both Ronan & you doing now?

Dog fights are horrible and scary & I know how it is stepping between two & getting bit in the process of breaking them up - I still have the scars on my arm 5 years later they've faded significantly though, would I do it again - absolutely - you do it to protect your dogs.

:grouphug: :goodvibes:

February 4th, 2009, 11:43 PM
Chris and Gail, I was very excited and things were going very well, better than expected even! But I guess things just werent meant to be.

Growler, Skel had some cuts but nothing major. I sent him home already with my mentor and he won't be coming back. I dont need that sort of tension on my team or in my yard. It wouldnt be fair to the dogs if they keep scrapping. He was just here on trial as is.

February 5th, 2009, 07:26 AM
Your story brought tears to my eyes :cry:, what a wonderful dog, Ronan is. :cloud9:

February 5th, 2009, 09:19 AM
What a beautiful story!

Gail P
February 5th, 2009, 09:24 AM
Oops, I should have been wishing you a speedy recovery as well as Ronan! :sorry: :o Are the two of you going to be recovered in time to enter some of the other races?

February 5th, 2009, 10:27 AM
:goodvibes: for a speedy recovery your dog is beautiful i'm glad you didn't get seriously hurt and its great to have the loyalty of such a brave dog

February 5th, 2009, 04:11 PM
Thanks for the well wishes!

Gail, I'm out for the season but more than likely Ronan will be running at Haliburton, Cannington and Apsley

Gail P
February 5th, 2009, 09:27 PM
Sorry to hear that. Must have been a nasty bite you took.