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Many have asked, but this picture should answer why we have taken the year off from racing. Not to be confused with taking the year off completely. The dogs have still been going regularly, just not doing as long a runs as we normally would be doing, and to behonest, they’ve been loving it. Every hook-up they’re still acting as frenzied as the were in Auguest when training began. It’s been a fun year for all of us, and we are looking forward to having another little musher in the family, due sometime around the end of April. All for now.
With winter half -over, I guess an update is long overdue. This winter has been weird, even by Alaskan standards. November was one of the coldest months on record. I wasn’t particularly brutal on any one night, but it was just consistently minus 20 for weeks and weeks. Then in December we got some good snow, but it was quickly followed by rain, and as I write this it is 36 and raining for about the fifth day in a row.
With last season being so tough on the dogs we’ve decided to take this year and have some fun. We’re always focused on making sure the dogs continue, year after year, to enjoy mushing, so we try not to just pack miles onto them every season. Instead of lots of training and camping trips, we’ve been doing loads of tours, and we may not even race at all the ways things are going. We’ll just keep working on putting away money to pay off last year and putting away for next year.
Sharing the dogs with others is always fun though and so far this seasons we’ve given rides to lots of Alaskans and Lower 48ers, including some from as far away as Texas. We’ve even given a sled ride to a pair of Aussie, which on the day they came out it was minus 20 for the entire ride….a little colder than it gets “Down Under,” I’m sure.
A few of you have asked about the “Born to Run” book. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows our luck is not the best. We were supposed to receive a copy of the book about two months ago, but it got lost in the mail. I was following the tracking number, and it just stopped moving and never started again. Apparently it got lost somewhere in the Christmas boom that moves through the Post Office.
We contacted Albert and he sent out another one, and fingers crossed, it should be here soon. I’ve seen one copy of the book in the Anchorage Museum and it looked AMAZING. I was pressed for time so didn’t get to flip through the whole book, but in the few pages I scanned I did see Butterscotch, Waylon (although he looks very scruffy since we was blowing his coat at the time of the picture), Cyder and probably the best shot of Penny I’ve ever seen. Hope to get the book and see who else is in it.
Well, all for now, enjoy some of these tour pictures which range in temperature from 20 below to 40 above. See if you can tell by our gear which ones were taken on which days.
Above, Dunkel says “I like doing tours!”
Bully’s face in this one cracks me up.
It’s been about a month since we got our first snow fall, but there’s still barely two inches on the ground. Like the title of this post says though, we go to sleds as soon as they can slide.
I think this is one of the big differences between us and a lot of other mushers, especially around these parts. Some folks like to wait until there is enough snow for the trail to be perfect, smooth and so safe a crash is almost totally avoidable. However, where is the fun in that?!
We got into dogs for adventure and its bad enough that at this point we’ve run nearly every trail in this area. There’s not a lot of new, unexpected things to encounter, but there can still be a lot of adventure in early season sledding even on a trail you know.
For one thing, the dogs are super jazzed to be on a new trail, since where we sled is not where we train with fourwheelers. So the first day you take that trail for the year, the dogs immediately shift into high gear whether you want them to or not.
Secondly, they’re used to pulling 500 pounds of fourwheeler on sand, so going to a 25 pound sled slidding on ice is super easy for them. We try to weight it down with bags of dog food, but its still way esier on them which they love too.
Third, early season sledding means a lot of the bumps and tussucks haven’t filled in yet, so it is REAL active mushing. Your not just standing there like in the middle of winter, right now you’re ACTIVELY driving a sled, leaning left and right, muscling the sled around obstacles not covered by snow, etc. It’s a great time to have fun and the sled handling skills prepare you for the worst a race could through at you.
Same goes for the dogs. This kind of traing is similar to the conditions they’d see in the Farewell Burn of Iditarod or on jumbling ice rivers, so its good for them to learn to take uneven steps and understand certain obstacles and how to navigate them. Early season sledding can ctually prevent injuries later in the season.
As stated, being the first one out for the season means you never know what to expect. We get a lot of wind storms here, so you never know where you might find a blown down tree across the trail. On our first few runs we always carry a chainsaw and an axe, and on our first run this year we almost neded them.
We were coming around a tight corner on an ice covered swamp where the snow had blown off. I could see around the corner, but luckily my leaders saw a huge tree down in the trail and instead of deciding to jump it, which they often will do (which can cause problems if the sled snags on it), my leader that day was Buliwyf who is just an absolutely amazingly talented leader. He read the situation and could have jumped it and instead he ran about 10 feet to the left, then without being called geed right back onto the trail after we hd ogtten around it. We never even had time to call out commands. He was done before we even realized what he had done. It ws awesome to witness, and I’m glad that after 10 years of doing this, we can still be surprised AND impressed by our dogs abilities.
Another perk of early season sledding, you’re not yet following a trail. The dogs are putting one in, so they learn lot about leading and how to think in lead.
Also, going out of the yard on two inches, rather than trucking the dogs 50 miles to 4-6 inches in the hills means we’re saving tons of gas money, which is always good when you’ve got more than 40 mouths to feed.
But by far the best part of early season sledding is being out there alone with the dogs. In a few weeks it will be impossible to run the 30 mile loops we’ve been doing without seeing seven other teams daily, so the solitude right now is something we don’t take for granted.
Hope you enjoyed the pic of this sunset. If you look close you can see there is no trail in front of the leaders, they way it should be. In mushing, if not in life, its always better to set your own path, rather than waiting for someone else to do it and then following there’s.
Hi all. Wow has it been a long time since we made a post. Sometimes life just gets in the way, ya know.
Fall is always a busy time, despite all the usual work we not only begin training the dogs, but we are in a race to get everything that needs doing done before winter comes. Some of it is non-dog related, like cleaning out the chimney and splitting wood, which Shagoo always helps with, at least by keeping me company.
But, a lot of it is related to the kennel, like making sure all the dog houses are still water proof and ensuring that all the spots they live in will be high enough that they’ll be dry come break-up in a few months, when all the snow (hopefully) melts.
Adding to the usual work, we had some insane fall storms here. You might have heard about them on the national news. We had weeks on constant rain, which caused massive flooding and even a few roads to wash out. We’re down to one route to town, and it’s the long way.
Anyway, with all the rain we were getting more than the usual amount of sand deliver and we were spreading it with every waking moment to keep the dogs on high ground. It was a constant battle.
This week the sun has returned again, and we have been enjoying the blue skies and all the golden leaves clinging to the trees when we do our early morning or late evening dog runs. So far they have been doing pretty well. The only setback we’ve had is that the trails we run on are often easement for the power company. Well, every few years they come through and take a chipper to all the trees along the trail.
It’s been a while since they’ve done it, so some of the trees were getting to be about 5- feet tall. This made a lot of wood chips and splinters when they chipped them all, and these splinters have coated our trails.
Sadly three of the dogs (Goliath, Wolf and Screamer) have come up with pokes in their feet as a result. One of them was really bad. Screamer had one that must have gone through the bottom of her foot and came out the top. It looks really painful, so she is already off and taking antibiotics to keep it from getting infected. We’ve also been doing our best to apply topical antibiotics, but she is terrible about not licking it off.
As the warm weather is nearing the end, we have also pulled up the last of the garden, which is powered by dog compost. We had another great hual this year, thousands of carrots and potatoes, and enough other vegetables, such as beets, three species of onions, cabbage, collards, turnips to share with several friends in the community.
The dog runs have been going well, other than the splinters. As usual we are working on bringing out the best in each dog, so we have been running a lot of new, young dogs in lead. One run this past week went well minus one exception. Cole was in Anchorage for a conference, so I was running all the teams myself for a few days. I decide to put Boo up front with two other leaders, to help him learn the ropes. He’s been doing very well in a pair, so I wanted to see what he could do on his own, since when we run triple lead, we typical don’t run a neck line on the third dog.
The first few miles went great, Rather than turning around or taking the wrong direction on gee or haw calls, Boo was doing great, but then from down the beach I could see a young couple playing with two 6 month old Labrador pups. I should have known this would be too much for Boo, but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.
The people did actually grab their dogs to help, but then they all just sat down right in the middle of the trail, rather than stepping a few yards back. This is common as a lot of people who don’t mush think we have a lot more control over the teams than we do. We can control general direction, but it is not precision steering.
Anyway, Boo got by the pups and people fine, and we were about jhalf a team length past them, when one of the pups bark. Boo immediately turned around and since he wasn’t attached at the neck to the other leaders, he was able to start running backwards. This confused the leaders, who then with Boos momentum to the side, made kind of a turn behind the people.
Suddenly the couple and their pups were literally surrounded by a 16 dog tangle. They could have helped, even if they knew how to. So they just cowered in fear over their pups in case anyone decided to bite. Not our guys though. Half the team was still chopping at the bit to go and so they started trying to pull and jump around, the other half, like Boo, were content to just try and lick the people and sniff their dogs.
After about 5 minutes and a lot of embarrassment, I was able to get it all straightened out and moving the right direction. From now on, Boo will have a neck line until he is a little more seasoned.
On a final note, we would like to thank Amy Greg of Lonestar-Alaskan Enterprises in Texas for sending up a load of the home made treats she makes for dogs. These things smell and look good enough for humans to eat, especially the peanutbutter and jelly treats and the chicken nuggets. Thanks a bunch for thinking of us Amy. The dogs LOVED them. If you need our endorsement, you’ve got it, and I hope a lot of people reading this will order some and try them out for themselves.
All for now.
This summer, like those of the past, I’ve really come to realize that some ofthe dogs really do love swimming more than they love running. This is great for two reason: one is we get to give them yearround exercise and enrichment; and two, if we did ever have to relocate to the Lower 48 for some reason, I do think as long as we secured a property with a lot of land and a large lake, the dogs could make it. Anyway, all for these week, mostly pics, not a lot of writing. Top pic is Chuba-bubba, looking gorgeous as he crosses the pond in the late afternoon light of a summer day this past week.
I know this above shot if pretty soft, but I don’t care. I love this image of Metoo and Dunkel diving in with reckless abandon.
Metoo coming in for a landing in the deep end.
The two hams running in from the shallow end of the pond.
Even our house dog Jeeves loves getting in on the swimming action.
Well, it’s about that time of year again, time to starting conditioning the dogs again. Actually, it’s still sort of in the quasi-time between summer and fall, so we are actually still free running and swimming the dogs, but also beginning to have them pull the fourwheelers around the neighborhood for short distances.
Excitedly, Susan MacRae (and her granddaughter) came up for a kennel visit and joined us for our first run of the season. This was kind of a treat, since Susan was our Iditarider during the 2010 Iditarod. Since she was there for what was basically our last run of the season that year, it was neat to show her how the season actually starts.
We ran three teams and every lead dog, such as Rolo and Six above, did great. All the leaders we used all led like they hadn’t had any time off at all. In fact the only negative were that the dogs were so excited to be pulling again, two of them – Squirrel and Klause — very naughtily chewed on their harnesses while waiting to get under way.
Susan also tends to spoil the dogs in the kennel from wherever she is, and visiting was no exception. She brought up a whole new batch of Cuz chew-toys, one of the dogs personal favorites. She also brought up a huge pile of dog treat from our kennel friend Amy Gregg, who used to live here in Alaska, but transplanted down to Texas about a year ago. The dogs have loved all the treats they’ve tried so far, and we have been careful to hide them when we’re not home to ensure Shagoo doesn’t help herself to them as she did to a big batch of red velvet cupcakes this past week.
We are also thankful for Susan’s amazing quilting skills. She made us pillow with a picture of our beloved Tatika on each side. We miss her every day, but things like this allow us to still see her around the house daily, even if just in memory, and we are thankful to be reminded of her.
All for this week. Look for more frequent updates as the season starts to really get rolling.
Living up to the popular bumper sticker “Owner of world’s most expensive free dog,” Shagoo has mined our bank account once again, in this, her fifth surgery. Fortunately, while her veterinary work drained our bank account, all three of the tumors she had removed proved to be non-cancerous, so that is great news. We had her on antibotics for two weeks prior to the surgery, but when the lupms didn’t repond, the vets said “get her in quickly.”
We’re still glad they came off, even if it wasn’t life or death. The ones on her head and back were starting to really bother her. She was itching them regularly, so it was only a matter of time before they got infected and caused more problems. The one near her tail was also getting large, and we feared it could inhibit her abililty to use the bathroom properly. Having already recieved two surgeries for her “wheezer” condition, we were the most worried about her being under anesthesia, but she pulled through great and with the incision stapled, rather than just sewn, not even her immediate return to high activity (despite our best efforts to keep her calm) have affected her surgery sites. Hopefully she’ll be fully recovered soon. All for this week.
Guess who made the cover of the next issue of Mushinig magazine….BUTTERSCOTCH! We’re pretty excited. This is only the second time in 10 years one of our dogs have made the cover of the magazine, and ast time, wile it was a cool shot of the dog breaking trail, it was all their behinds. Nice to see a face this time around.
All for now, I’ll try to do a longer post soon. I’m in town today, brught Shagoo in to the veterinarian for surgery. Notjhing major (hopefully). She just had some old lumps that were starting to grow and get a little wierd. The vets thought it would be a good idea to get them off, rather than waiting and risking them turning into something nasty, or potentially deadly. Have to get back soon to pick her up, she panicks at the vets and her “wheezer” conditions complicates things, so they typically tend to send her home as soon as they safely can.
More soon. Enjoy summer wile it lasts.
Lots of pictures this week, but few words. Been busy swimming and hiking with the gang. Here’s a few images. Enjoy.
I like the way it looks when several of them leave long ripples across the surface and they swiftly swimming from one shore to the other side.
Goliath has figured out how to cheat. He’ll swim across, but then bound back on the shore. It’s still good excercise though.
As soon as the dogs see us in our swimming suits, the begin going nuts, much like Ghost here.
And of course at the pond, there is no end to the splashing when Dunkel and Metoo are involved.