Lightning was an amazing leader for my team for many years. I still remember putting her in lead as a young yearling for the first time - I was struggling to find female leaders to run that day. I had a smaller team out with a bunch of females in season running at the front. I couldn't chance putting any of my male leaders up in lead but most of my regular female leaders were not running well up there. In desperation I decided to try Lightning up with whichever other girl I had in lead that day and she took right to it, focused and fast and a natural-born leader.
From that day forward she ran in lead quite frequently, often leading my race teams. Despite being a pretty small female (I often called her 'little peanut') she could keep pace even with the tallest male leaders. Her petite stature made her less tired than other dogs in distance races. She would be the first one awake and sitting up at a checkpoint, ready to go again. She rarely, if ever, got injured or dropped from a race.
Lightning was a sweetheart and I loved having her inside the house as she was well behaved and very affectionate. I was looking forward to having her retire into the house someday. She was still running in harness and only semi-retired in fall of 2019 when I decided to take my team out to Michigan for the season to finish my Iditarod qualifiers. For the months I was in Michigan I loaned her out to a musher friend, Peggy Grass, to run lead with Peggy's team of retirees that season. Peggy & her husband Joel pretty quickly made Lightning a house dog and fell in love with her, and when I returned to NH that spring they seemed bummed at the thought of sending her back. After much thought I decided that letting Lightning stay in a home where she would run regularly was probably a happier retirement for her than becoming a couch potato at my house, even though I'd miss her terribly.
For her last few years living with Peggy & Joel, I got to see Lightning occasionally and she even came to spend a week with me when the Grasses were on vacation. She was spoiled and well loved in her retirement home, and continued to run in harness right up until the last few months when her rear legs began to decline.
Lightning lives on in many children and grandchildren, in my kennel and in others. Run free, sweet sweet girl!