Archive for April, 2008

Where to hang it

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

This past weekend was Colleen’s birthday, so while she was in Seward competing in a triathalon (which she placed first in her division – the winning streak continues), Joseph snuck to out to finalize a purchase that had been weeks in the making. He had made secret plans with Colleen’s mom and dad, and brother and sister-in-law to get a collage made to celebrate Cole’s win in the Chatanika 200 back in March. Working with a local frame shop we were able to put together a picture with: her race bib, a photo of her crossing the finish line, some of the gold coins she recieved for the win, and an article from the paper about her accomplishment. It turned out really nice (see below), so nice in fact that now we’re not sure where to hang it where a dog can’t knock it down in our tiny 16′ x 16′ cabin.

Breaking up is hard to do

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Ugh! Break up is such a tough time of year for sled dogs. As the snow melts, sleds are no longer an option, but the ground hasn’t thawed yet, so there are just huge puddles of standing water and pockets of mud all around the yard and out on the trail. Every year at this time, for a few weeks, we have to get pretty creative to keep the dogs mentally and physically stimulated. Normally we would still be trucking to the Caribou Hills 2-3 times a week, but with diesel as more than $4 a gallon, we just can’t afford it this year. We can’t get down to the beach yet either because the road is still too icy, and the trails won’t be suitable for a fourwheeler for at least another week or two. Instead we have mostly been free running the dogs around the yard. We’ll let two or three off at a time and they’ll run around and play, making everyone jealous until its their turn. We also finally butchered a moose we got in fall that sat in the freezer all winter, so the dogs have been enjoying lots of fresh bones. We also bring several dogs in the house for a little bit of play afterwork, but often they do more loafing on the furniture than anything (see picture). Hopefully things will dry up soon, and we can get back to putting in some short puppy runs with the wheeler in the a.m. before work, splicing older dogs into the team just to keep them running a little as well. We’ll probably head back to our canine physical therapist for some underwater treadmill session too, just as soon as we pay off all these veterinary expenses we’ve accrued the last few weeks.

Like father, like son

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Kawlijah and Seeker, our pups from this past summer, are doing great. For us, training puppies from scratch and seeing them develop throughout the season, and from year to year, is one of the most rewarding aspects of keeping sled dogs. A lot of folks like to spend money by buying proven dogs from other mushers, but to us there is just something special about running and racing a dogteam you built from the ground up, which is why we have harness broke and trained every puppy in our kennel and most of the older dogs from the pound. We only have a few exceptions like Cyder and Karma, and a couple of old retirees we’ve take in.
After months of socialization, basic training and free running, we began working with Kawlijah and Seeker in the dog team on a regular basis back in January. They took to pulling immediately, and within a dozen runs both were leading for short stretches. Over the weeks they have continued to learn and have began putting on some muscles. Both already have a fantastic build with good body proportions. Kawlijah is the spitting image of his dad, Crazy Horse, only he is actually a little larger than his papa and doesn’t have the blue eyes (see photo). He is also an exremely harddriver like his dad. Kawlijah’s only problem is he’s a bit of a bully and won’t back down from more senior dogs in the kennel, mostly other males. We don’t tolerate any aggression in our kennel, and all of our other males get along great, so this will be something we focus on teaching him throughout the summer months.
Seeker looks like her Aunt Penny in pelage, but is larger than Aunt Nuk and is already showing signs of leading like her mom Oaky. Seeker has led several 12-dog runs, leaving the yard with no problem, and looked like a pro the whole way out and back. She is already very smart, and much more serious than her brother while on runs. She may have more brains, while he got more brawn.
We are excited to see what the future holds for these two up-and-comers.

Fun Run

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

We and several other mushers from the local area decided to get together this past weekend and have a fun run with our dogs in the Caribou Hills. There is still tons of snow at this elevation, several feet at least, with more falling on us on Sunday. We invited Cole’s brother and his kids to join us, so we each took an 8-dog team out. It was a little slow going due to how soft and thick the snow was, but we ended up getting pretty far out and having a lot of fun. Afterward we got a bonfire going and sat around eating burgers, bratwursts and drinking some beers. A good time was had by all. here are a few photos of our teams caravaning through a section of old burn in the hills.

Not quite spring yet

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Just when we thought winter was over, we woke up to three inches of fresh powder this morning. This is good news because we have been focusing most of our efforts on running our little pups, now that the racing season is over, but the trail conditions were becoming very poor.
Kawlijah and Seeker have been doing great, often leading the entire 4-mile course that we run them on. The adults need to go further, so we have been trucking them up to the Caribou Hills a couple of times a week. At this higher elevation there is still several feet of snow (as evident by these photos). Unfortunately, the day’s are so long at this time of year, the dogs struggle with the heat. Low to mid 30’s may be comfortable for the musher, but the dogs don’t like it much.
As to our veterinary problems, we have now x-rayed four dogs. As stated Yodel is done being a sled dog and will likely have to have a surgery to replace her hip. Hildy has also been diagnosed with mild to moderate displasia, but they have to send the x-rays to an orthopedic specialist in Anchorage to determine if it will be to her detriment to continue running her. Fortunately, Brick and Waylon both had perfect hips. This is especially good news in the case of Waylon. Yodel and him were the two strongest dogs in that litter. It would have been a shame to loose them both. Yeti is scheduled for x-rays tomorrow. We’ll keep you posted.