Friday, February 18, 2005
Sketches of Carlisle
Some mornings the yelping and barking of many dogs can be heard at Foss Farm. It's not the house pets that usually exercise there, or wild coyotes calling to others in their pack. It's the true working dogs in town, the sled dogs.
Dog teams have trained here since at least the 1940s. Bob Dennison of Stearns Street has the only team that remains now. In the sixties and seventies, three Carlisle School teachers who lived here had sled dog teams, including the school principal Peggy Grant. The school's "Husky Handbook," published each year with a list of all students and teachers, and the husky team mascot draw their name from that time.
Winter is a great time for them because they get to run. A good sled dog loves to run, and as with people on a job, being able to get along well with others is one of the most important assets. Most are mixed breeds of husky and hound lineage. Bob and his fellow mushers train here for races in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.
The bond between musher and dogs is strong. The dogs speak to him and he to the dogs and both understand. Like a group of athletes, they build affectionate relationships and team spirit together. Bob brings Trick, a favorite dog who has gone blind, down to practice. Even though he can't run with the team any more, he loves to be part of the excitement. The anticipation builds as the dogs are taken out of the truck one by one and attached to the sled in pairs. They bark and cry, listening for the command "Go!" when the lead dogs will leap forward.
We are far from Alaska and the Iditarod race that second-graders all over the country follow on the Internet in March. But the sled dogs are a link to the past, to a more rural time and place here. And some still seek adventure in the rugged winter weather from a sled traveling at the speed of flying dogs.
© 2005 The Carlisle Mosquito