We went to the Midwest Sled Dog Symposium in Curtis, Michigan, today where our retired sled dog, Swirl, was fussed over like a returning war hero by the people who raised, trained, raced, and ran him for seven years. One after the other described him as “the happiest dog we ever had” and scratched his back and his ears while he stood as he does, quiet and smiling.
The owner of the kennel sat down in front of me and said, “You’ve done everything right. He looks great, really fit, healthy.” And thus, my fears about his thin tail just evaporated (see last night’s post). Then was explained the reason why Swirl had become a touring dog instead of a racing one. On track to be an Iditarod dog, Swirl was taken to Oregon at the age of two to race. It was there it was determined he was a plenty fast runner but had a slow recovery time. A good sled dog will sleep four hours after running a long ways and then wake up ready for more. Not Swirl. So he became a working dog. And then a pet, which it appears was his plan all along.
Blair Braverman, Iditarod musher, author, and Twitter maven, was the keynote speaker at the conference along with her husband Quince Mountain. Blair described her missteps as a rookie in the 2019 Iditarod including her forgetting to pack any water in her drop bags – the supplies that are sent ahead to the race checkpoints. So she traded Costco cheesecakes for other mushers’ water and when she ran out of cheesecakes calculated that it would take three weeks for giardia to set in and the race would only take two weeks so she might as well just drink from streams which is what she did. I loved that.
I also loved that her husband, Quince Mountain, a military veteran, former cowboy, now dog musher, and, along with his wife, a former competitor on Naked and Afraid, is a trans man and there seemed not to be a single weird look or vibe or anything about that in this conference center in a little U.P. town where down the road a big Trump 2020 sign sat in a front yard. Of course, maybe folks drove off and talked amongst themselves but I don’t think so. I don’t think anybody cared and that was very cool. It was like, at last, something very good I lived to see. Of course that was my take as a spectator. Quince’s impression might have been completely different.
It couldn’t have been a better day.
Tomorrow I’ll be back to writing about anguish, death, self-doubt, and various forms of mayhem, my natural habitat. Dog day is done.