Sunday, November 1, the trip to Missoula was long but uneventful. This trip would be a paradox. I was coming to learn how to drive a dogsled, but was bringing a push scooter to build up my legs and save my knees; Doug wanted me jogging six miles but didn’t think my knees would be up to it. I was met at the airport by Melanie, Doug was hunting. He would regale us with stories of the trip tomorrow, when he returned. We stopped at Wal-Mart to get some groceries and I grabbed a sandwich to eat on the way to the ranch. When we got there it was too late to visit the dog yard, so I unpacked the car and made myself to home. I was glad Doug was gone and would not be back until tomorrow night. It would give me a chance to ease back in to the routine without the up tempo he always set.
Monday, November 2, I spent the morning in the dog yard getting reacquainted. I learned the names of all the yearlings: Nona, Princess, Bigwig, Dandelion, Penny, Silver, Bluebell, Cobra, Fiver, Lola, Beth, T-Bone, Bonzo, Captain and Tennille. I would be working with these dogs this week, teaching them to sit, stay and come on the short leash and them a long line. This would help me get to know them and get them used to following my commands. It would also help Doug select the ones he wanted to keep. The afternoon was spent fixing up the place and doing chores.
Tuesday, November 3, I spent the whole day in the yard, working with the dogs, spending extra time with the shy ones, getting them to come to me. I also had a break through with Doug and Melanie. Prior to this, Melanie always fed the dogs and I scooped poop. But, she would be gone all day and Doug would be busy around the ranch. The feeding was entrusted to me. Melanie had showed me how to mix the dog food and gauge how much each dog should get. I felt like I had been promoted to dog handler. That was no small feat, much like Harry Potter dabbling in the dark arts. This was one of the subtleties between kennels (what to feed, how much and how often). I wanted the merit badge in animal husbandry, but settled for the satisfaction that they had trusted me to do it. I also learned how to operate some machinery around the place, after Doug’s gentle ribbing when things would not start.