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Trust Me, You Don’t have to Plan

What My Sled Dogs Taught Me About Planning for the Unknown

The New York Times | Resilience | by Blair Braverman | September 23, 2020

Working with them in the wilderness means negotiating countless shifting variables. Sounds a lot like the world we’re living in.

I used to be a dedicated planner. I knew what I’d do every day, weeks in advance. Having a plan made me feel confident and safe. And then I got into long-distance dog sledding, and I discovered that the only thing worse than not having a plan was the stress of having one and constantly breaking it. Working with dogs in the wilderness means negotiating countless shifting variables: snow and wind, wild animals, open water, broken equipment, each dog’s needs and changing mood. I learned that plans, when I made them, were nothing but a sketch; the only thing I needed to count on was that the dogs and I would make decisions along the way….But resting early, anticipating your dogs’ needs, does something even more important than that: It builds trust. A sled dog learns that by the time she’s hungry, her musher has already prepared a meal; by the time she’s tired, she has a warm bed. If she’s cold, you have a coat or blanket for her; if she’s thirsty, you have water. And it’s this security, this trust, that lets her pour herself into the journey, give the trail everything she has without worrying about what comes next. You can’t make a sled dog run 100 miles. But if she knows you’ve got her back, she’ll run because she wants to, because she burns to, and she’ll bring you along for the ride.

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