Archive for September, 2008

Night Life

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

The days continue to grow shorter as we get closer to winter. We are now losing more than five minutes of light per day. As a result, much of our time spent in the dog yard is in the darkness, since we typically run, feed and clean before work, or later in the evening after work, once the sun has already gone done. Last year we got tired of doing everything under the dim glow of our headlamps, so this year we wired some lights to the dog yard. Joseph did the work with the help of a friend back in August, but we have only just begun to use the lights. They have helped immensely, particularly at this time of year, before the snow is down, when it can be difficult to see a harness or other gear on the dark ground.
In other news, training continues to go well, despite more rain…much more. We even had a couple of head on passes this week and all went smoothl, even the teams with yearlings in them or with youngsters in lead. We are continueing to split our runs between our woods trails and the beach trail. The beach can make them strong, but too much too soon and the sand can actually wear down their feet, and their morale since it is harder pulling in the sand. The woods trails are easier on them, but very flooded and slippery right now with all the rain. Also, everyone else that mushs in the neighborhood (except Dean) is using the woods, so sometimes it’s nice to use the beach to get away from all the traffic.
Zoom is doing well and enjoying her time on the couch. Although we put a plastic bag over her cast and put her out in the dog yard at night, so she doesn’t get too acclimated to the warmth of the cabin.

A Step In The Wrong Direction

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

With a recent string of bud luck, this season is off to a bad start, with Zoom being the latest casualty. Zoom, for those who don’t know, is one of the best all around dogs in the kennel, if not the best dog in the kennel. She is huge, powerful, loves to pull, never tires, eats great and has good coat and good feet. She’s finished every race she has ever started and until now has never been injured.
Unfortunatley on Wednesday, she must have taken a bad step on a training run. We saw her go off her gait about halfway through the run, and when we got back to the yard, her right rear foot was very puffy and tender to the touch. By the next morning it was worse, so we brought her to the vet. X-rays revealed she had broken her middle toe, a major weight-baring digit.
She is now in a cast and will be off from running for the next six weeks. This is a major amount of training to miss, but we hope it won’t be too much. Fortunately, Zoom swam with us almost every other day all summer and she has been fall training for about six weeks, so she is in fairly good shape, both strength and cardiovascular wise. We’re hoping to give her about three weeks off total, and then start swimming her in the tank at “Gone To The Dogs,” our canine rehabilitator/conditioner’s place down the street. Then a few weeks later we’ll start her back on small runs.
If any dog can miss a few weeks of training and still bounce back, its a superstar like Zoom. If she doesn’t bounce back, it may mean we won’t be able to compete in the Yukon Quest this year. One of the sad realities of having a small/rescue kennel is that while we have 30 dogs total, most of them are not capable of running 1,000 miles. We knew signing up for the Quest that we would likely only have around 12 dogs (if we didn’t have any injuries during the season) that could realistically start and finish the race. Still, we would start with the mandatory maximum of 14 dogs, but we would go into it knowing that at least two or three dogs of those 14, would be dogs that could only give about 200 to 300 miles before having to be dropped. With so few “core” dogs, we can’t really leave anyone behind that is a “core” dog, and Zoom is definetly one of those.
We have had several local mushers come forward and offer us dogs for the Quest, even before Zoom was hurt. But to be honest, we are not running the Quest for the experience of mushing across Alaska and Canada, we signed up to mush OUR dogs across Alaska and Canada, and that’s important to us. Our dogs are our firends, our family, and who we want to attempt this race with. So if we can’t field a team of our own dogs with a high likelihood of making it to the finsih line, we will likely withdraw and attempt the race another year. Hopefully it won’t come to that, though. We just have to wait a few weeks and see how Zoom heals, and hope that no one else gets hurt this training season. Wish us luck.

Enough with the rain already!

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Following our sorry excuse for a summer, the fall rains have come early this season, flooding our dog yard and dog trails without mercy. The dog yard is the real dissapointment becuase we likely still have months more rain ahead of us, and we hate seeing the guys squish around so early. Tough feet are essential to success in mushing, and I gotta believe months of standing around in mud isn’t going to be good for anybody. The flooded trails don’t really bother us, though. The water keeps the dogs cool, and they learn to charge through huge puddles and streams, hopefully good trainingg for getting them through open water later in the season. Here are a few photos from the past week. The first is one of our puddle crossing that’s about 75 feet wide. It’s tough to tell who is smiling more, Cole or Ibn. The second photo is after we have dropped down onto the beach for a few miles. The third image is Goliath getting a drink while up on a dirt road without puddles. We train all the dogs to drink from water bottles during the warm fall months.

Keep an open mind

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

The title of this post is directed at any city slickers reading this week’s blog, because what I’m about to explain will seem gross, but here me out. Attached to this post is a beautiful photo of just a few of the succulent vegetables we are growing this season. We pulled and picked just enough for one night’s dinner, but will soon harvest the whole garden, probably in about a week or two when we usually get our first frost. In addition to the pictures veggies, we also grow some fruits (strawberries and several varieties of raspberries), rhubarb (which Cole has been putting into pies all summer long fattening us up), and we grow several spices that we put into homemade sauces and dips, although the fresh cilantro is excellent with blackbeans and in Mexican cuisine, too.
O.K. so here’s the wierd part. All of these grown goodies came by way of compost, which we make ourselves from our dog’s poop. I know, I know, it sounds disgusting, but think about it, all compost and fertilizer is made of manure of some kind, just typically cow, chicken or even bat poop. Also, I can assure you that by the time we were done composting dog poop, it is rich, earthy, and doesn’t stink or bare a resemblence to what it once was at all.
Typically dog poop, and all other carnivore poop, is not used for compost, but since we know exactly what goes into our dogs, and since we know they are wormed regularly to be parastie free, we feel good about using it. We have been composting for three years now, and have never been dissapointed by the results. In fact, with Alaska’s sandy and acidic soil, I don’t think our vegetables would be half the size they are without it.

Fall Training

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Despite temperatures that are still a bit warm, we have been able to get in a few short runs this past week. Recent rain has helped cool things down by providing lots of puddles for the dogs to splash through, but it sure makes for a muddy mess by the end, as evident by this picture of Hildy. Swimming is likely done for another season, but we were able to keep with it until Labor Day, several weeks longer than in past years. We’ll miss our nightly dips.
We also had our veterinarian out this past week to get everybody up to date on their rabies and distemper/parvo vaccinations. Now we should be set for the upcoming race season, with the exception of a kennel cough vaccination, which we’ll likely do a little closer to the Quest to reduce the possibility of the dogs getting sick during that race.