Archive for February, 2011

Cole’s Goodbye To Bashful

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Goodbye my dear old friend
Holding you in my arms
As you take one last breath
I beg for peace to take hold
And comfort your body
I owe you as much
As you gave to us…
the howl of 100 winds
To inspire the team
The strength of a horse
To move us forward
The loyalty of a dog
To keep our faith
Thank you old friend
For perseverance and triumphs
For silly-hearts and stoic moments
For howling at the world…and at life
I will miss you.

R.I.P. Red Bashful

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

The specter of death has returned to the kennel, and this time we were forced to say good bye to our beloved Bashful. Unlike last year at this time when we lost several dogs to untimely deaths, Bashful had lived a full life, particularly for a sled dog. He was 14 going on 15, which is amazing in some ways since he was not nearly as fit as his brothers and sister in the golden years. Yet he outlived all of his seven litter mates, named after the Seven Dwarfs from the Disney franchise.
Doc was his brother. They came to us as retirees when they were about 9 years old. Cole had worked with them both when she was a handler, before we started our own kennel. After we had starting getting our own dogs we offered to take the two of them when they ceased being race dogs for the musher who owned them. We said goodbye to Doc last summer after he succumbed to stomach cancer. Their sister Sneezy, another member of Cole’s race team in her earlier handler days, stayed with the musher. We heard she died at the beginning of winter.
Bashful was always a good boy, a big strong dog in his younger days, and if I have one regret from Bashful’s life it was never getting to see him as a puppy. He was part of Cole’s first winning race team. He never led for the other musher who owned him, but Colleen was able to bring the best out in him and he led for us many times in his late years. We even put together an all old man team for one of the smaller races a few years ago and Bashful led the way with another old dog who belonged to a friend of ours. He also helped us teach many of our younger dogs how to “line out” when we’re hooking up dogs or after we’ve returned to the yard from a run.
Bashful was also a red dog, which all of our red dogs are special to us since this color pattern is so rare and often shunned by other mushers due to being linked to hard-headedness in some dogs. He also clearly had some strong hound dog in his lineage. He looked the part, but sounded it even more. We could pick out his deep howl with no problem even when all 40 dogs were singing together. And perhaps it was his age, but the other dogs seemed to look to him to start the evening chorus after dinner.
Bashful also had beautiful eyes, and other than his sweet personality, I think it is not seeing his sensitive eyes daily that I will miss most about his passing. They were a light powdery blue, but unlike a lot of our other blue-eyed dogs, he had black, rather than pink, skin surrounding them. It made his eyes standout even more than they already did against his rusty red coat color. They could look right through you.
If there was a mean bone in his body, we never saw it. We routinely let him free while we cleaned the dog yard or did other chores. He would visit his friends, check in on the ladies nearing their spring heat cycle, and occasionally collect old shoes and bones which he thought we didn’t know he was stashing under a tree not far from his dog box. Bashful was always sweet to Snickers when she was alive, too, even though he could have probably eaten her in one bite. And even on his final day this part of his character showed through as he had an interaction with our cat.
He had been living in the house for several days, since it has been minus 10-20 outside and we didn’t want to complicate his condition. We hoped with some TLC, he might find himself on the mend and make it a few more months to see another warm summer day. We had him set up in front of the wood stove on a big, soft egg crate and blanket He had been resting for days, eating a little fish and meat here and there, and shuffling over to the water bowl when he got thirsty.
Bashful had never seen a cat, so we were worried that he could try to hurt our kitty, but on one of his water breaks, the cat ran over to him before we could intervene. They stood nose to nose and Bashful’s eyes got wide and his silly little half-curled potatochip-looking ears went up as best they could. He had been so tired and weak he was barely making it to the waterbowl, but he took a deep sniff of the kitty and then found the strength to wag his tail very quickly in small little snaps. While we knew he wasn’t long for this world, it was so warming to see such an old dog still experiencing something new – and enjoying it – on his last day on Earth.
A few hours after that incident, Bashful seemed to take a turn for the worst. He began losing his ability to stand up, and his breathing became labored. We sat with him for his last hours, petting him and telling him how special he had always been. Even Tatika, our old German shepherd who herself had a seizure on Saturday, came over and laid with her head on Bashful. Perhaps it was her animal perception of his condition, or perhaps it was her reading our suffering, but she seemed to sense he was starting to go and need to be by his side too, as a member of our family.
Bashful died peacefully in Cole’s arms, in the warmth and comfort of the house, and in the home where he had always been loved the most. Good bye Bashful, please say hello to Snickers, Kawlijah and all our other friends when you see them.

Bashful showing his hound side. He would howl before every run and after every meal.

Bashful excited to go before the start of an “old man” race.

Bashful, and his all white brother Doc, take their first step from the starting line of an “old man” race. I believe this was the last race both of them every ran.

Good-bye old friend. We’ll miss your companionship.

Big Snow, Big Moose

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

We got a bit of snow this week, close to a foot in 24 hours. Needless to say it has been great for running the dogs. We finally have all the trails in from the kennel, about 40-50 miles worth. It’s just to bad this snow didn’t come a couple of days ago during the race, might have been a totally different outcome. Our dogs tend to have incredible cardio and muscle stamina when it comes to breaking trail from all of the plowing we do in the early season. Had we got this amount during the T-200, perhaps the team would have done even better than fourth.
Oh well, can’t wish on what might have been. Instead we have been saddle up with all the work that comes with this much snow. The steps, the banister of which you can see in the foreground of this picture, have to be shoveled non-stop so Tatika, our geriatric German shepherd, can get in and out of the house. The dogs houses also had to be dug out so they continue to insulate with maximum efficiency, and of course the driveway was getting plowed as much as twice a day.
Still, it was beautiful to see so much snow on the trail, the trees and everywhere else. For a few days, we were finally living in quintissential Alaska. The only problem is now the deep snow has once again driven moose onto the dog trails and into the kennel. See pictures at the bottom of a moose getting a little too close for comfort. We’ve been keeping the firearms ready, but luckily this mose has not been threatening the dogs, just coming in to munch some saplings, then leaving. Hopefully it’ll stay that way.
Anyhoo, all for now, Enjoy the pics.

Here’s another shot of the dog truck. Look at how much snow is on the rearview mirror.

Who’s ready to cut some meat? Our saw completely buried.

When the snow gets deep I get out our homemade plow. I use the fourwheeler to pull an angled pallet that I’ve screwed a makeshift plow to the front of. It works pretty well and sure beats paying $80 to have someone else come plow it.

Zoom, one of our largest dogs, seems so small compared to this huge moose.

Seeker and the moose locks eyes. Lets hope tensions don’t rise beyond this stare down.

Colleen Robertia Wins T-200 Humanitarian and Sportsmanship Awards

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Cole with her awards.

Just a quick post with lots of pics. Usually after a big race weekend we hit a bit of post race depression, it’s hard to go back to work after three day of fun, excitment, anxiety, adrenaline, etc. However, we got a bit of great news last night at the T-200 finishing banquet that makes it impossible not to be happy.
In addition to placing 4th overall in the race, Cole was honored to recieve the Humanitarian Award, which is presented by the race veterinarians to the musher who took the best care of their dogs through the race.
During the speech of why Cole was the recipient, they said in addition to her dog care, she had the best looking team at the finish line (see pic above [by Will Morrow] of them still steaming their way into the finish chute, Penny and Zoom leading the way) with several dogs still hammering their harness and barking to keep on going. This is a real honor to recieve this award and it means more to us than any placement in the race ever could. But to be fair, the award should have gone to Metoo, Quigley and Zoom, for I’m sure their tireless antics helped the veterinarians make their final decision.
For her award win, Cole recieve a beautiful engraved plaque with a photo of a sled dog on it(which I’ll edit this post later and add a photo of her with it. We got home too late last night to take a pic and she had to work early this morning). She also recieved a fur ruff to add to her parka to keep her warm in blowing snow storms, so she can continue to take great care of her dogs.
Winning one award is always special, but Cole was also humbled to win the Sportsmanship Award as well last night. This award is chosen by the other mushers in the race, and goes to a musher with a positive attitude who helps other mushers out. We never heard exactely what it was that earned Cole the award, but she was happy throughout the race, cheered for the Jr T and T-100 mushers when they went by on passes, and helped park a few of the T-200 teams when they came in, so maybe some or all of this lent to a few votes.
For the award, Cole recieved a monetary prize, which as someone guessed in the comments on my last post, will get added to her race winning to help pay for the huge repair bill we accrued when the dog truck broke down twice earlier this season. That’s the sad irony of this sport, even when you win, you don’t break even, but we don’t do this to get rich, we do it becuase e love spending time outdoors ith the dogs.
I wanted to mention a few other quick things. For anyone who didn’t read Amy’s entry in the “comments” of the last post, please do. Cole and I have been doing this for a while so we sometimes forget how things look through the eyes of a beginner. Amy wrote a beautiful and eloquent journal of her experiences this past weekend, and it gives great insight into so many things I would never have thought to mention. PLease check it out.
Also, Amy, I forgot to mention in the last post, the loaf of super nutritious and delicous bread you gave Cole went a long way after the race. Cole was so, so tired after running for two days without rest, she came home too tired to make anything, too tired to even get out of her cold, wet mushing clothes. She just collapsed on the couch, and began to munch on the bread until she fell asleep. We had several of the racers in the house that night too, so below is a pic of her and Penny eating together just before they fell asleep. Our house dog Jeeves is also nosing his way in to make sure he isn’t missing out on anything too good.

O.K. all for now. Check back later today or tonight and I’ll add some pics of Cole’s award and her new ruff. thanks again to everyone who supports us and RGK. We couldn’t do this without your positive thoughts and comments. Oh, and for those who were worried about Buliwyf. He’s doing great. Yesterday we ran al lthe dogs who didn’t race and he was jumping around and doing his best to try and get to the team. He seems back to normal, but we’ll be conservative and still give him a week off from running just to be sure.
O.K. That’s it for real this time. Here’s several pics people have sent us from throughout the race:

Metoo doing her best impression of a Mexican jumping bean in the starting chute. That is Cole’s sister-in-law unsuccesfully attempting to hold Metoo on the ground.

Another shot of Metoo going wild. This time Cole tries to calm her down, while Penny says “Get this maniac away frm me!” It’s hard to imagine Metoo is such an amazing sled dog, and yet she has lived in our house and slept in our bed every day since she was about 4 months old.