The Time We Drove a 24 Dog Team

After the winter storm, all our trails had been completely obliterated by the heavy, wet snow, so on the first sunny day all week, I decided to take the snowmachine out to break open some trails before guests arrived. Snowmachines and I have a rough history given that they tend to not start, break down, or get stuck and leave me to walk back home, cursing and berating the untrustworthy iron dog. Due to this, I normally just stick to dog power. This particular day, I opted for the snowmachine, and told Maliko to come rescue me with the dogs if I’m not back in a couple hours. Sure enough, I managed to get the machine stuck in knee-deep overflow just a mile out of camp. Since I was still within sight of camp, I hollered and waved my arms until Maliko took notice and came to the rescue. She hooked up a ten dog team and slowly slogged her way through the deep snow. We attached the ten dogs to the snowmachine, but as the dogs hit their harnesses with all their strength, it didn’t budge an inch. Ok Plan B.

We mushed back to camp, and I looked at all 25 happy excited dogs, begging to have a go at pulling the snowmachine out, screaming “Pick me, pick me!” So I said to Maliko, “Let’s take everybody.” My theory- hook up 18 dogs by their necklines, 6 by their tuglines, and 1 free running because I couldn’t leave one dog at camp by themselves. That’d just be mean. Maliko was immediately skeptical (rightfully so), but I figured we could hook everyone (except for six dogs) up by their necklines until we reached the snowmachine, then attach the tuglines. This should be enough of a handicap right? Wrong. We tied off the sled to the cable drop chains screwed into the lake ice, and as we were hooking up the last dog- POP! From my vantage point in the middle of the team, I remember seeing Maliko clinging to the side of the sled, dragging as a freight train of 24 dogs bulldozed their way past me. I launched for the sled, holding the stanchion just above Maliko until I realized that not only did I not have a firm grip, but I was pulling Maliko off with me, so I let go. Leaping up from the ground, I watched Maliko boldly hold on, getting whitewashed through the fresh powder for about 1/2 mile around the lake. She righted the sled, looked back at me running as fast as I could (which was painfully slow in the deep snow), and laughed.

Side note- normally, almost losing a dog team is no laughing matter. In fact I get very angry when people joke about losing their team. Dogs can be seriously injured when no one is controlling the sled, but in this instance, had we lost the team, they would have dutifully run the one mile around the lake to the machine where they would have balled up in overflow. The snow was too deep for them to have busted out on their own across the open country.

Once I finally made it to Maliko and the 24 dog team (25 if you count Katy Canine running loose in front), we looped them around the snowmachine, tied them off, gave the signal and out came the machine. Looking back, we probably only needed 16-18 dogs to get the job done, but where’s the fun in that? And now Maliko can say she single-handedly drove, and partially was drug, by a 24 dog team. And that’s the story.