No Dog Left Behind

Molly’s First Ski Trip

by Danielle Hanna

Snow scene

It would just make sense, the first time you try cross-country skiing, to maybe leave your new dog at home, right?

Nope.

When I brought Molly home from the shelter three years ago, I adopted her with the promise that she was going to be my constant companion. We were so much like each other. In our prime, athletic, adventurous, and head-over-paws in love with each other. Plus she gives me THAT look anytime I so much as SUGGEST I’m going somewhere without her.

“But I thought I was your furever dog?” she cries with her head drooping and her eyes sad.

But I had a problem. No, two problems. First, I didn’t know what the dickens I was doing on a pair of skis, and second Molly didn’t know what the dickens she was doing with a human on a pair of skis.

It would have been so easy to let her off the leash. Then she could run and play and I could concentrate on the five-foot boards strapped to my feet. However, at that time Molly was my new dog and we were still perfecting certain niceties like “come” and “stay.” So off-leash really wasn’t an option.

But her leash wasn’t an option, either. At four feet long, I would have choked her with every swing of the ski poles. Under those conditions, Molly would have quickly understood skiing to be a form of punishment–and would never have gone skiing with me again.

There had to be another option. I wasn’t leaving her behind. She was my adventure dog. My furever companion.

I eyed her thirty-foot leash. Great tool for long-distance training. We’d been using it to begin teaching her off-leash walking. She could roam up to thirty feet … but if she didn’t come back when I called, I could reel her in. A literal safety-rope to show her I really meant “come” when I said “come.”

But would I be able to wrangle a thirty-foot line with sticks strapped to both my hands and feet? I saw visions of Molly running circles around me, wrapping me up mummy-style, and giving one final jerk to lay me out in the snow with my ski tips pointing toward the sky.

I didn’t have any faith that the thirty-foot lead would work any better than the other options. But it was the only option. I wasn’t leaving my adventure dog behind.

I put on my ski shoes, grabbed my scarf and mittens, and headed out the door with Molly to our favorite park.

At the head of the trail, I switched Molly from her four-foot leash to the thirty-foot. Played out the line. Shook out the tangles. Took a moment to envision how hopelessly tangled it was about to become around my legs. I stepped into my skis and locked the clamps down over my shoes. Planted my ski poles. Focused my gaze over the horizon. Reviewed my strategy one last time.

Plan A: Roll with the punches. Plan B: Roll with the punches.

“Let’s go!” I said to Molly.

She was off like a shot. Me a little less industriously, trying to find the elusive swing and glide that looked so easy in my head. After ungracefully stepping over my own skis several times, I fell into something resembling a cadence.

In two minutes flat, though still stiff and awkward, I realized I was having fun. I felt the snow rushing beneath my skis. I was gliding over the drifts twice as fast as I could have tromped through them in a pair of boots. The world was white and crisp and energizing.

Suddenly Molly zagged across my path. Like a thirty-foot snake, the leash slithered in front of me. I grit my teeth. My skis slid uncontrollably toward the black line. How did you stop these things? In a matter of seconds, that rope would be across my ankles, and in a brilliant moment of slapstick comedy, I’d be flying head-first into the snow.

Swooooosh.

My skis glided gracefully over the lead line.

Well THAT was easy.

Molly jogged in front of me again, bringing the line with her.

Swooooosh.

Another graceful pass. This was beginning to resemble a scientific principle.

Swooooosh.

I relaxed. I had somehow envisioned the need to stop every time Molly crossed in front of me and adjust the lead. It never occurred to me that I’d be able to ski right over the top of it.

That was a triumphant day. Molly had a blast. I learned to cross-country ski. And we started a tradition we’ve honored ever since. No matter what new thing we’re trying … we’re going to do it together.

So … where can we find a kayak?

Pawnotes from Molly

Molly in the snowWhen my girl and I go walking, we see a lot of dogs sitting in little chain link dog runs, barking at us and everything else that goes by. And I often wonder, Why aren’t they with their humans? Don’t their humans ever take them on adventures?

My girl says most dogs don’t get to go on adventures cuz they don’t have manners and their humans get frustrated with them. So the humans go have their adventures and the dogs end up with something called a “sitter” or a “boarding kennel,” and basically get to go out to pee, then come back inside.

I don’t know how I got so lucky, getting ‘dopted by MY girl!

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