Sled Dogs without Snow

Sled Dogs without Snow

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

Sled Dogs without Snow

One summer day my dogs and I were hiking along, making our way through the Cleveland Metro parks, when we came to a picnic area. Off to our left I saw several Port-O-Lets—those portable toilets shaped like telephone booths—and noticed that one was being used in a very unusual fashion.

Parked next to this particular Port-O-Let was a cart. It looked like some sort of sled-training cart with wheels used when there is no snow, but that was pure speculation on my part. In any case, the cart was not the unusual part. What was truly unusual were the four Siberian husky/Alaskan malamute–type dogs in harnesses, all hooked to one gang line that went directly into the door of the Port-O-Let, making it appear that they were out on a Port-O-Let/sled-riding mission. I can only assume there was no way to anchor the cart and the dogs while taking care of business, so the cart driver got the brilliant idea to just take the gang line into the Port-O-Let and hold on to the dogs while using the facilities.

Perhaps you’re thinking the same thing I was thinking when I saw this little setup. I began fishing in my pack for my digital camera to take a picture of the “Port-O-Let-pulling team” when my dogs started yanking on their leashes, almost toppling me over. I looked around to see what in blazes had set them off.

It was a squirrel that had decided to stop in the middle of the wide-open field to my left, pick up a nut and chew on it. The problem was that my three dogs and the four Port-O-Let-anchored sled dogs were hanging out in the very same field. So far the potty chain gang hadn’t seen the squirrel, but it was only a matter of time as my dogs were doing the if-we-weren’t-on-this-leash-we-would-kick-that-squirrel’s-butt dance with increasing intensity.

Sure enough, within seconds, the potty-pullers’ heads all snapped in the direction of my dogs, then in the direction of the squirrel. They appeared to have the same idea as my pack, who were still straining vigorously at their leashes. At that point, my dogs saw the sled dogs spot the squirrel, and some sort of dog tribal-hunting, nonverbal communication thing happened: every one of the seven dogs on either end of the field realized that it was a race to see which of the two groups could get to the squirrel first. My dogs redoubled their pulling efforts, and the four-dog sled team reacted as one, barking furiously and lunging full steam for the squirrel.

The dogs’ motion caused the Port-O-Let to spin about thirty degrees and rock like the dickens. Luckily it didn’t tip over, just teetered back and forth a time or two, then righted itself. But nothing was going to stop the sled team in their pursuit of the squirrel. They gave another huge yank. The Port-O-Let spun yet again, and from inside the green tower of potty privacy came a human screech, finally piercing through the dogs’ din. The screech had the immediate effect of slowing the port-o-pullers down, and they settled into a nervous stand.

Unfortunately, at this point, the squirrel realized that my dogs weren’t going to get him, and the port-o-pullers couldn’t get him, so he started doing some kind of nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-you-can’t-get-me dance, once more infuriating the port-o-pullers and driving my dogs crazy.

If you’ve ever wondered why dogsleds are built long and low to the ground, as opposed to square and tall— like, say, the shape of a Port-O-Let—you needn’t wonder any longer whether this is a design flaw. When the pulling and barking started up again, the Port-O-Let did its best to stay upright, rocking heavily back and forth. The dogs, sensing victory, forgot completely about the squirrel and started timing their pulls with the rocking. They gave one last enormous tug and yanked the Port-O-Let over. Toppling the tall green box seemed to give the dog team a sense of satisfaction; they immediately stopped pulling after the Port-O-Let crashed to the ground. The squirrel had finally gone, and with the dogs quiet, I could now hear a series of cusswords coming from the fallen Port-O-Let.

I figured I’d better head over that way and see if I could help. Sadly, the Port-O-Let had landed facedown, meaning the door was now the bottom—against the ground. I tied my dogs to a tree and ventured closer. I asked if the occupant of the tipped Port-O-Let was okay. A woman’s voice said yes—actually, she used far more colorful language, but for the purpose of this story, we’ll just say she said yes.

The Port-O-Let hadn’t fared as well. You could tell it was badly hurt because there was a lot of blue fluid leaking from it. I told the woman that I would have to roll the Port-O-Let on its side so we could try opening the door, and that she should find something to hang on to. A couple of good shoves later, the Port-O-Let rolled 90 degrees, exposing the door. The door opened and out crawled Mama Smurf. The poor woman was covered in the blue “blood” of the dying Port-O-Let.

Her dogs came running over and decided she needed a bath, which did not make her at all happy. At this point, she suddenly realized she had skipped Step 10 in the bathroom process—pull your pants up—and with a yelp, she quickly disappeared back into the Port-O-Let to finish. When she reappeared, she was in absolutely no mood to talk about her ride on the wild side (I didn’t blame her), so I told her the short version of what happened outside the Port-O-Let.

I helped her hook her dogs up to the cart, and off she went, glowing blue as she drove down the path and back into the Metro park woods. I had to laugh imagining the reactions of all the other people walking serenely through the park as they were passed by an irate Smurf and her merry band of blue-tongued dogs.

Dave Wiley

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