Let‘s lead off the day with a lesson in expanding your word game mastery by covering some of the sled dog language! Part of embracing this experience and the sport stems from learning the lingo. Let’s look at defining some words this Friday morning! To start, as my son asked me before even leaving Texas, what is the word Iditarod? Aside from being a small city along the infamous trail, according to the Iditarod Trail Committee “the word comes from the Indian word HaIditarod which was the name for the river on which the town was built and means distant place." Now, piloting the trail ... the sled driver is properly called the "musher." The musher encourages the dogs on with a term “mush,” derived from French for “go” or “run”. Beyond barks and growls...these dogs understand and are controlled by words! No reins, no whips.... they lead the racing pack with verbal cues! This really lays out the extent of training and the relationship of respect between musher and their team! With no direct connection to guide them, the “lead“ dogs, who are placed at a distance furthest from the musher (the front of the pack), have to listen for words to guide them! The lead dogs (can be one or two) are the confidence builders, the pace setters and the trail masters as the lead the pack. “Gee” is their word for go right and “haw” is their “turn left please!” How many times do you have to repeat “sit” lol for your companion to respond, now imagine your cutie running with you in tote around precarious terrain and how essential and amazing it is that these pups listen during activity far ahead to directions for navigation! True teamwork and trust! Speaking of navigation control, there is a wheel on the sled team but not a steering wheel. There are “wheel”
dogs at the back of the pack closest to the sled. These real life “power wheels” take the work on of the sled weight when the sled team starts and help to take on its weight when on an incline! As I learn more about these powerful pup-partnerships here at the Iditarod, the word that comes to mind is impressive! Stay tuned for more on the dogs themselves!