Busted Axle Road
Chapter 20

Copyright© 1993, 2001, 2010

What with one thing and another, it was another week before Mark could get out with Cumulus for some serious training, even though he'd begun sooner.

He'd begun with trying to teach Cumulus the difference between "Gee" and "Haw" -- right and left, respectively, in animal driving, although Mark had to call down to a guy near Albany River who had a draft horse team to confirm it form himself. Mostly, the training at this point came when Mark and Cumulus went for their runs; Mark would yell "Haw! Haw!", then turn to the left, with Cumulus following, then follow it with "Gee! Gee!" and a right turn. Before very long, he had Cumulus turning on command, mostly proving to Mark that Cumulus was a smart dog. Or one so dumb that he didn't realize that ignoring Mark would mean less work.

This Saturday morning, warm and nice, Mark took an old tire from the Cessna -- probably one of the original tires, one that had been on the honeymoon, he realized when he thought about it -- and tied it to a rope leading from the harness he'd cobbled up for Cumulus. The dog wasn't too crazy about the idea, but the drag wasn't too bad on him, and they took it easy, running up and down the runway a couple of times, working on the commands a little. It took a bit of thinking and some work with a leash for Mark to get the dog started on the command, "Hike" -- in other words, get moving, but Cumulus got the idea fairly quickly. Mark didn't make it a long session, but realized he'd have to do it maybe two or three times a day, every day, for a while, just to reinforce those commands, and add about half a dozen others. It would take some patience, but he was a patient man, so that was no problem.

After a couple of trips up and down the runway, Mark decided that was enough for one session. He unhooked the tire from Cumulus and took the harness off, then gave him a quick pet and a treat.

They walked slowly up to the house. Cumulus hopped up on the couch on the porch for a nap; that had become his bed, since he much preferred it there than in the nest in the hanger. Mark went inside and poured himself a glass of tea as Jackie came out of the bathroom. "You thinking about taking a tow this afternoon?" she asked.

"I don't think so," Mark said. "It's calm out there, and it just looks as flat as a ballerina's chest. I don't even want to think about flying until I see some indication of thermals moving through. No point in wasting a turn."

"Then what are you going to do this afternoon? Train the dog some more?"

"No, the grass on the airstrip seems to be getting pretty long, so I thought I'd run the tractor up and down it," Mark said.

"You ought to go down and clean up Mike and Kirsten's yard," Jackie suggested. "Remember, he said he's just got that little push mower. It'll only take you half an hour or so."

"I suppose so," Mark said. "He's got enough on his mind, right now. The only thing is, I think we want to tie Cumulus up on the yard side of the house while I'm mowing. I don't want him chasing the tractor, and I don't want him sticking his nose in the mower."

"How'd it go this morning?"

"Pretty good," Mark said, draining his glass. "He's got Gee and Haw down pretty good, and is picking up on Hike and Whoa, and doesn't mind towing the tire around. I don't know if I can ask for much more at this stage."

"What's the next step? More dogs?" Jackie still wasn't very thrilled with the idea.

"No, actually, the next step is just to work on the commands some more, and try to find someone that really knows something about dog teams. I can only get so much out of books, and I want to talk to someone that knows what he's doing before I go much farther than that."

"I remember that guy out in the north Cascades that we visited, but I never have heard of anyone running dogs around here," Jackie commented.

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