Monday, January 10, 2011

Trialing in Winter...

So here's a good does winter trialing differ from summer trialing?

Well for the most part - everything is a little harder in the winter...trudging through snow and ice to potty dogs from a hotel room isn't exactly an ideal situation. Especially if you aren't on the first floor (when the situation allows, I generally let my boys out one at a time on flexis to potty on the grass strip right outside first floor rooms for their last pre-bedtime outing).

What else?
I'm much less likely to drive down the morning of the first day of the trial. Getting somewhere for 7:45am (or earlier) from VT (and over mountains) in the dark and the weather can be daunting if not dangerous. Our road crews do a really good job keeping roads safe - but lets face it - the interstate conditions at 5am on a Saturday isn't the same as pre-commute conditions 7am on a Tuesday. It's much easier for me to arrange an extra day of house-sitter and leave Friday evening after work.

This past weekend I went down to NH on Friday to attend a Julie Daniels workshop at AK9C - weather was clear with a forecast of a Nor'Easter coming up the coast early Saturday morning. The forecast changed to 3-6 inches - starting around 2am. Knowing I had to be at the trial site for 6:45 (to setup a crate and for the 7:15 walk through) I didn't really sleep much at all Friday night - repeatedly getting up at 2am (no snow), 3am (no snow), 3:30am (no snow), check the radar, 4am (no snow), 4:30am (still no snow and at this point I might as well get up and get ready to go...Ultimately we got a few flurries, no accumulation (in Amherst) and some gusty winds.

On the way home however - we left the trial site at 8pm (two judge one ring trial) for a normally 2.75 hour drive home only to hit driving snow, high winds, black ice and partial white-out conditions about 60 miles from home - making that 2.75 hour drive take about 4 hours...the good news is once we got close to home the roads magically cleared.

Getting stuck.
Murphy modeling a 30" snowfall.
I'm sort of a planner. I'm a packer and an over-planner. I can't help it. In the winter I ALWAYS plan to have to spend an extra night at my destination - at least 2 more meals for the boys (and medications) and at least 1 extra change of clothes for me. Sure, I could buy dog food or extra clothes where ever I'm stuck - but if it's bad enough that I don't want to drive home - it's probably bad enough that I don't need to go hunting for bits of ground-up turkey. So far I've never gotten stuck - there was one trial I had an AWFUL drive home (and arrived to 30" of snow in my driveway).

This past weekend I packed four 2lb bricks of Oma's Pride for the weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday and that "magic" extra meal in the event that we were still on the road Monday). I thawed two of them (Friday and Saturday) before putting them in the meat cooler with the two completely frozen bricks (2lbs thaws in my fridge in about 8 hours)...As it turns out my thawed bricks actually got partially re-frozen on the journey down to NH - (sigh).

Keeping dogs warm
I think it's a lot easier to keep dogs warm than it is to keep a dog cool. Even on the coldest day of the year, if there's sun vehicles ought to stay in the 30's if they start warm. Two average sized hairy dogs ought to be able to maintain the temperature of the space. I travel with dog jackets to keep muscles warm and I'll add down blankets to their crates. I've never had ice in water bowls during the day. Colder temperatures generally mean that dogs can hang in cars while their people run into dinner too.

Never underestimate the need for boots
I find this especially true because I'm spoiled with a fenced in yard. Both my dogs are phenomenal on the road - super easy to walk and potty, very used to being on the road, unaffected by vast quantities of special treats (Woo's standard Q cheeseburger) - but honestly in the winter I don't spend a lot of time out in the elements. I live in Vermont and I own mittens (but not a hat or a proper winter coat) - I do suck it up and make sure that I have real boots - warm, waterproof and with good tread. Sheerling lined fashion statements will not help you maintain upright posture in an icy parking lot - even if they match your eyes.

Bonus lesson:
I ended up in a room with a roll-in shower this weekend. Unfortunately I learned that this arrangement is wholly inappropriate for golden retrievers who a) LIKE baths, b) have boundary issues and c) want to include me in their wrestling romps....I'll let you folks connect the dots for that tid-bit.

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