Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Scootering in Maple Valley

Today, while vacationing in Seattle I met up with Daphne Lewis and Donna Morton from the Dogs Love to Run email list that I'm on. While we've conversed via email, we've never met in person.

Arriving at the trail head

Daphne and Donna were kind enough to invite me to go dog scootering with them. So after a brief mistake on my part (wrong McDonalds), I finally met up with Daphne, Donna and their pups. Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the trail. Now for those of you who don't run in the Pacific Northwest or have never visiting the PNW, this is a gorgeous part of the country. As some of you know, I was raised in Seattle and lived her for 18 years before leaving to go to college at the University of Michigan. I returned for another two years after graduating to get my law degree from UDub (that's slang for University of Washington). The trails were nothing short of gorgeous and there was a huge variety of trails to choose from with plenty of opportunities for gee, haw, on by training on various looping trails.

Donna with Brett and Donna with Ellie and Rogue

Starting out, I borrowed Donna's DSK (disc brake model) Diggler dog scooter and Donna's Alaskan Husky, Holly.

Holly and the Dog Scooter (note she is pointing the wrong direction down the trail)

Holly is an awesome little Alaskan Husky with a fair amount of hound in her judging by her appearance. She is mostly black with a little white and nice blue eyes. And she's very sweet.
She ran great as a lead (and only) dog with a wonderful understanding of gee, haw, and on by. In fact, every time we would go through an intersection with another trail, her little head would come up and she would clearly be asking, "Ok lady, so which way are we going here?" Holly's only short coming (which is also an asset in a way) is that she is incredibly busy (all the best sled dogs are) and she constantly wants to go. Constantly wanting to go, for Holly, translates to not a lot of desire to line out. Having a strong desire to stay in motion, Holly does lots of circling back when stopped. (Somehow, however, she manages to do it without getting tangled, though, which is nice). But with this eager to please little lady is a great all around sled dog.
Brett demonstrates line out

The DSK is a very nice dog scooter with disk brakes and a 20 inch back wheel. The foot board is wide enough to accommodate two (at least my two) feet placed side by side and once I figured out where to put my feet, it was quite a comfortable ride. It did take me about a half a mile to figure out how I wanted to place my feet. After I got the hang of balancing and became comfortable with the brakes and the handling abilities of the dog scooter, I LOVED this scooter. It was nicely balanced, handled very well and had plenty of braking power. I think I could probably run two of my hard charging Maryland Sled Dog Adventures Siberian Husky sled dogs on this scooter. This scooter is also tall enough to comfortably accommodate Eric's six foot height.

As we headed out, I had Alaskan Husky, Holly, hooked to Donna's Diggler DSK scooter. Daphne had Chinook (and all around Love Bug), Brett, on her Alpha Dawg dog scooter while Donna was bikejoring with her Chinook pup, Rogue, and her other female Chinook, Ellie. After about a mile out with several stops to water the dogs and take photos, we turned the dogs around (come haw) and headed back to the vehicles. Since the dogs had not run recently, it was warm and humid (mid 50s) and this was Rogue's first run, we wanted to keep the run short and positive. As we headed home we let the dogs run loose down to the creek and cool off (don't try this with the Maryland Sled Dog Adventures dogs; never off leash except when fenced our dogs would have been half way to Portland if we cut them loose to swim). After passing three Weimaraners out for a walk, we arrived back at the vehicles and the trail head. Approaching the trail head, I bravely decided to scooter down the steep hill that lead back to the trail head with Holly pulling like a little demon. As we headed down the steep hill, the DSK handled the rocks, ruts and exposed roots with nary a second thought.
Brett and Daphne

After a water break and rest back and the vehicles (plus of course a lot of talk of dogs since this is what dog drivers do when they get together), Daphne and I headed out for some biking and dog scootering with Brett while Donna headed off to a meeting. Hooking Brett to Daphne's Alpha Dawg (16 inch back wheel; also available with a 20 inch back wheel), I rode the dog scooter with Brett while Daphne road her bike. Heading back out the narrow gauge rail trail we had just run, we turned off on to a single track.

Scootering with Brett

At about a mile out, we paused to rest and give Brett some water, handing the camera off to Daphne, I (not so intelligently) decided this would be a good place to take some photos. I also, not so smartly, decided to hold on to the poly eth scooter line while Daphne headed down the trail. Not happy that Mom had ridden off and thinking he had been released to run when Daphne called out from down the trail that she was ready (Daphne's go word is "pull" but it's often proceeded with the word "ready) for the photo shoot to begin. (in Mushing Boot Camp parlance, "ready" along with words such as "ok" is a verbal tick; a word that is not the go word but that the dog driver inadvertently speaks each time he or she gives the "go" word. The dogs become accustomed to hearing this verbal tick and come to associate it with the command. Inadvertently using these verbal ticks in conversation can result in the dog(s) thinking it is time to head out down the trail). In any event, having not yet dropped the line, I was left with a small rope burn and a reminder of why I don't grab onto poly eth lines when they are moving. Ouch! In any event, we did get some good photos as we scootered
down the trail so the small rope burn was probably worth it.

Continuing down the single track, the Alpha Dawg handled the trail like a champ. Moving over the rocks and tree roots. Just as we approached our "gee" turn, Brett almost "on byed" a loose dog but I was two seconds too late with the "gee" command (not knowing where I was headed) so Brett decided a bit of socialization was in order. As soon as I gave the "gee" command, however, Brett made his gee turn and we came out on a nice wide dirt road in a lovely pine grove. As we rounded the corner into the pine grove, I think the temperature dropped by about 5 degrees. Heading down hill, we eventually reached Brett's favorite swimming hole. Cutting him loose, Brett (and Daphne) enjoyed a nice game of fetch with a giant stick as Daphne and I chatted. We also met a nice little Corgi and her dog friends out for a walk, a golden, and a boxer, all who stopped to swim in the nice little swimming hole right off the trail.

Brett retrieves his stick

Another dog out for a walk dropped by to swim

Brett cools off in his swimming hole

Brett swimming with his stick

Bringing the dogs back around, we headed back to the cars the way we had come with Brett maintaining a nice steady trot, despite the warming afternoon temps.

Both the DSK and the Alpha Dawg dog scooters handled great. Both easily passed over the ruts, rocks and roots littering the trails. Neither bogged down in the patches of deeper gravel that we went through. The Alpha Dawg handled a wash board rough section of trail (although I did feel as if I had double vision from the vibrations at one point). The only issue I had with either scooter is that because of their height from the ground and my short legs, both are a little harder to pedal than the rigs and dog sleds that I am used it. I thought the DSK was slightly harder to pedal than the Alpha Dawg and seemed a bit higher off the ground although Daphne thought that both were about the same height.

All told, I enjoyed dog scootering so much (and it's such a different feeling from bikejoring) that I think we will soon be investing in a dog scooter.