Spring Training

Well, it certainly feels like I’m in the middle of spring training.

This week’s updates to my mileage weren’t nearly as dramatic as what I got in last week. Part of that was the weather (yucky), but part of it was also that I got to go see live hockey twice this week. Twice. Since it takes me about an hour-and-a-half to get to the arena, that didn’t leave me a ton of time to hit the trail between spring raindrops. In any case, my belt is one notch tighter this week than it has been in months. Victory.

When Beau was a young man it wasn’t uncommon for me to cover about 50 miles a week with him, either while carrying our packs or with him running alongside my bike. Since it’s been a few years since I needed to do that, I forgot a bit of what it was like to have a young working breed dog with young working breed dog exercise requirements. Ranger quickly reminded me of that when I went out with him for four miles and he was still fresh when we got in.

When I ran Beau off the side of my bike I used a bungee leash to control him. A few years back I lost my favorite bungee leash (a Granite Gear Absorber) after a hike, and I don’t like using a regular leash for this activity. To be completely open about it, it’s probably not safe to use even a bungee leash for this activity because it keeps me from having both hands on my handlebars/brakes.

Enter the 1-Running Dog Bike Tow Leash. It’s a semi-flexible leash that attaches to my bike low on the rear wheel. It flexes to allow Ranger to get close to the side of my bike, but not so close that he gets tangled up in the wheels or the pedals. It also allows him to drop in behind the back tire as needed. Because it has a low attachment point, my center of gravity stays lower. This makes it very hard for Ranger to pull me off balance while he’s running, even if he sees something he wants to chase and lunges after it.

The BTL was simple to attach to my bike—no tools and very little time—and so to start I went out with Beau. I decided to test it with a dog who knows how to run next to a bike. Beau did very well with it, not pulling me over or getting jerked around, so off I went with Ranger. We did about 2.5 miles, including a trip through the family campground where a dog on a tie-out barked at Ranger, but the little man couldn’t go visit or pull me off balance. Awesome. We’ll definitely be using this more in the future.

Beau is feeling better this week, so I think he was just tired or feeling funky last weekend.

My REI order came, and Serenity has a nav system! (My Jeep is now dubbed “Serenity” because I liked her the first moment I saw her, and she never runs quite right, but at least she lets me know when she’s not feeling well). Since I’m going on more and more road trips to unfamiliar areas, a GPS will be a very helpful tool. Something else I got for the dogs was flashing red LED lights to attach to their collars. This is super helpful with Ranger who will often disappear when I turn him loose to play in the woods. It will also be nice when I’m out in low-light conditions. One more thing that came was a new bungee leash.

Ranger and Beau visited with my friend Katy’s dog Maimie and had a blast. Beau played nice, but didn’t have the energy (or at least not the same interest in play) of a young dog–Maimie is about the same age as Ranger. The young dogs played nonstop for hours. Ranger is now recuperating on my couch. Before going home Katy set me up with some of her home made beer and home cooking, which was much appreciated.

I’ve got a few more things to gather up and straighten up before hitting the road in about a week-and-a-half. I’m very excited to visit with friends from all over the world, and have some fun with the dogs before gearing up for the summer.

I got Ranger’s certificate for his 8th place UKC Top Ten ranking. I have a little over 14 weeks to get him ready. Don’t laugh—I think that far out some times. That means lots of hiking, biking, and pulling for the wee fella. Even if he doesn’t win anything at Premier, I won’t be able to say it was from lack of preparation.

As of yesterday, March 27, 2010, the Journal has been live for 9 years.