The air has started to turn crispy at night. The dogs are becoming extra excited in the cool mornings during playtime. I bought an ATV, a set of new harnesses, and am starting to evaluate, repair, and rebuild all of my ganglines and mushing equipment. Fall is most certainly in the air.
Why, then, am I so filled with dread?
Last season, I had two very traumatic incidents on the trail. In December, I fell off the sled and lost my dog team. We were five miles out and they ran all the way home, smiling and wagging their tails when a neighbor dropped me off. In February, Flounder was attacked by his teammates, and it took me over ten minutes to pull the fighting dogs apart. Flounder coated the inside of my sled bag and back seat of my truck with blood. He nearly lost his life, but pulled through.
I learned and moved on from both. I added another snowhook. I became hyper-aware of my footing on the sled to make sure I wouldn't lose it again. We worked on come-haw. I bought cable drop lines for every dog, to separate dogs and attach them to trees while on the trail if needed.
You'll never guess the one that sticks with me. PTSD is a bitch.
The one that ended well, that ended with dogs happy and tails wagging, is the one that haunts my nightmares still. Maybe it is because I was pretty deep in a depressive episode then. Maybe it is because I felt so helpless. Maybe it is because I have to use an out-and-back trail, as opposed to a loop, and if I lose the dogs on the "out", they are gone and able to run for hundreds of miles on the snowmobile trails I use. Every time I think about stepping back on a sled, my heart beats fast with anxiety and I feel clammy and weak. I am beyond terrified of losing them like that again. The feeling of the snowhook slipping out of my hand and losing control. Screaming Legend's name and watching the dogs disappear down the trail, oblivious giant smiles on their faces. It is incredible I was able to keep training for three whole months after that happened...with how I feel now, how the fuck did I do it?
I am very excited to train with an ATV now for the control it lends. And in my head, I know I could train on the ATV all season if I had to since my roads are dirt and allow ATV traffic. I am not sure how I am going to be able to step back on a sled once snow falls...but I guess that is a problem for later Melissa. I will probably start with 3 dogs on the sled, or go mush with a friend. Or most likely, both. I don't know how I can simultaneously be so excited about the races I am planning but so terrified to step back on the runners.
I guess we will tackle the challenges as they come.