Joe St. Marie, owner of By the Dozen Dog Sledding in Jericho, Vt., has a suggestion: Hitch a couple of his huskies to a scooter and let ’em rip.
These aren’t just any ole scooters: These are Diggler DSKs, the mountain bikes of scooters, with fat, luggy wheels; bike-like handlebars with disc brake levers at your fingertips; and a roomy platform for a stable stance for those moments when the terra isn’t so firma.
These aren’t just any ole dogs, either: These pups are born and bred to haul assorted vehicles, and you, over the river and through the woods, at a pretty good clip.
A chorus of howls from the back of Joe’s pick-up truck signals that it’s time to go and the dogs know it. But only four of them are coming along for this ride — two for me and two for Joe – and they all know that, too, which only intensifies the wailing.
The dogs are surprisingly calm as we slip them into their harnesses. But once they’re hitched to the scooters, you understand the wisdom of outfitting these souped-up vehicles with disc brakes: That’s a force of nature you’re attempting to control. Good luck with that.
We’re off like a shot, cruising along a farm track that cuts through Boyden Farm in Cambridge, where Joe runs most of his scooter rides.
“This is ridiculous!” I think, with a grin plastered across my face. And it is. And before I have time to contemplate the inverse relationship of fun and logic, the dogs (and therefore the scooter and I) are veering off the track towards an enticing flock of Canada geese. Joe whistles them back in line and we continue rolling through the field and along the banks of the Lamoille River.
On steep hills, we hop off the scooters and run alongside to give the dogs a break. Today, the ground happens to be a bit soupy in spots, so we look like mud-pie Jackson Pollocks by the time we pull back up to the truck after a good, 45-minute run.
By the Dozen uses 9 Siberian huskies and one border collie to pull sleds during snow season, and scooters and a 4-wheel cart when the ground is bare.
You can bring your own dog to see if it has the right stuff for pulling. Joe teams it up with a one of his seasoned dogs, who sets the pace for the newbie.
Sometimes Joe enters one of his dogs in a “canicross” race (more info here, too), where a dog is hitched to a human runner. The dogs are trained to run at the human’s pace, but with slight, steady pull that propels the human to a new personal best.
As for me, I’ll stock up on locally grown vintages from next-door Boyden Valley Winery, so I can toast the winners as they cross the finish line. Somebody has to do it.