Night Time Run

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Image of Long Story Short Award - Fall 2020
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Glacier's purple spotted tongue, common to the Malamute Breed, displayed a joyousness that few humans dare to dream of.

But in this moment I dared. We were a team after all. And like a team we trained together. Ate together. Traveled together. We were a family too. A pack of wild winter wolves trekking through the bitter cold snow covered mountains. I held the reigns of the dog sled as my winter waterproof boots were planted on the wooden rails. My gloved hands steering the team like the rudder of a boat.

Glacier, a malamute and husky mix, maybe 6 years old at most was in his prime. Already an muscular adult dog when rescued from the shelter in Northeast Pennsylvania, he had proven himself to be the horsepower the team needed. Next to him was Rebel. Rebel was also a husky mix and looked like Glacier's younger leaner sibling. Rebel was struggling to stay focused. For Glacier it was easy. Run. Run in a straight line as fast and you can until something forced you to move right or left. But for Rebel it was harder. Also a rescue, Rebel had experienced a harder life until he joined the team. He was easily distracted and still didn't trust others. He was desperate for attention and confirmation that he wasn't going to be abandoned again. He was a work in progress. No dog was ever abandoned from this team, this family. Some day Rebel would learn that.

In front of Glacier and Rebel were Ice and Ninja. Ninja was the 2nd most muscular of the team behind Glacier. He was a mix of Akita and Husky but all black. Hence the name. The Akita was Sasha, his mother, and one of my first dogs. Sasha wasn't supposed to be pregnant. But one evening there he was. Hanging onto a nipple and trying to get his overly energetic mother to let him nurse. I held that pup in my hands the first day he was born. Next to him was Ice. Ice looked at you with two cold blue eyes. A female that was gifted to me by another musher she was the perfect example of a husky. And in the front, all alone, was Phoebe. A female Husky with one big brown eye and one cold blue one. This too was a common trait of the Husky Breed. She was an older dog, but experienced and smart. Not the strongest, but the most focused. She was a natural leader.

Moving down hill past the Agnes rock outcropping, we bore a hard left turn and began the ascent up the long incline. The wind swept across the white plains polishing the fallen snow like a sheet of glass. The full moon and clear sky provided ample light to see. When reflected off that snow covered field the light was almost as much a daytime. Only a full field of stars above reminded me it was the middle of the night.

Most dog teams love the downhill or the flats but my team loved the ascent. Glacier and Ninja especially. They dug into the climb like a truck dropping into a lower gear. We barely slowed down in speed as they started putting out immense torque into each gallop. Ninja lowered his head to bit up a mouthful of fluffy snow. It's a handy trick all sled dogs instinctively know that allows them to stay hydrated during the run.

It was nights like these that I know what they are thinking. The joy they feel from the run. They beauty of the frozen country before us. In that wintery wonderland of solitude and ice and snow, we never felt more connected. Time slowed down and we felt the grandeur of the adventure and at the same time fully focused on every part of our task. There was no more alive feeling that this. And we knew it, felt it. As we topped the incline we began the short flats that led back to our wilderness cabin. About half way we could see a light ahead. The lantern we left outside by the rear porch was still glowing and signaling us home like our very own North star.

As we got closer the team began to slow. The full out galloping made into vigorous trotting. Finally we could see the cabin clearly. The spruce wreath hanging on the front door was always a welcomed sight. Finally at a crawl the team came to a rest a few feet from the big front window. Both foot and paw now on the front yard I began to return to reality. Still in my winter boots, I held Glacier's leash. The other dogs one by one disappeared back into my memory. The vision of a wilderness cabin transformed into my little brick ranch house. The snow and stars remained though.

Although all of my furry family made that night time run with me.....we were never able to do it all together at the same time. Not outside my imagination. Phoebe was my first dog. Sasha then her pup Ninja. Rebel followed next. As one passed to old age, the next became the newest member of the family and my house mate. Rebel learned he would never be abandoned. Ninja ran with me every day of his life. Glacier still runs in a straight line. And in experiencing the dream of that night time run....we stay a team. A family.