Winter is the easy part of being a musher, the dogs are running every day, so their exercise and mental stimulation is taken care of, but summer is another story. Some mushers, literally will do nothing more than feed and clean up after their dogs from the time Iditarod ends, until the next training season begins, but every summer we try hard to enrich the lives of our dogs in a multitude of ways. Year round exercise and interaction isn’t an option, it’s a responsibility when you commit to having this many dogs, and one we take seriously. Typically we do a lot of free running, hiking and swimming but this year we’ve also tried something new: we taught the dogs how to play fetch.
It is nothing short of AMAZING how well the dogs have taken to this (as evident from the pic above of, from left to right: Boo, Shagoo, Wolf, Cyder and Klause). Labradors, terriers and a few other breeds take to fetching like a duck takes to water, but huskies are not known for being particularly easy to train with these types of tasks. However, our guys have been naturals.
Of course, some dogs are better than others. Some are great at running down the Cuz (thanks again Susan) and catching it, but they aren’t so keen to bring it back, but many of them have figured out the game, and that if they do bring it back, we’ll throw it again.
So far the dogs the most enthusiastic about it are Squirrel, Zoom Cyder, Wolf, Crumb, Rowdy, Boo, Waylon and Chuba Bubba. The dogs that are the least into it are Nuk (no surprise there, she has such a one track mind), Zoya (she gets it and runs into the woods to chew it) and Keno (he had no interest in it at all for some reason).
It’s super fun to play with them, but also its great exercise at a time when sled dogs tend to do the least. Fetch is fantastic because it involves so much quick sprinting, and sudden pivoting and turning that it has to be good for all their joints, ligaments and tendons. These are critical areas of concern in winter and often lead to most of our training and racing ailments when no built up properly, so the ability to strengthen and stretch these parts of the dogs all through the summer should be a real benefit once we do start having them pull again. Even with all the sprinting and swimming they do in the warm weather months, the fetch seems to be more akin to a human playing tennis. It’s just totally different muscles groups.
Anyway, we just wanted to share this with everyone. As seems to all too often be the case with sleds dogs, people assume they can’t or won’t do things, when in reality they’ve actually never been given the proper opportunity to try. O.K. onto the pics of the all good times.
Above: Boo catches the Cuz in mid air. You can see from the dirt his feet are kicking up, what a short stop he made. In the background are Shagoo and Brick (way back there).
Even Shagoo, our house dog and resident trouble maker, got in on the act. She loved it, but because of her bad throat she couldn’t retrieve too many times. See next pic for Shagoo gasping for air in the background.
Squirrel may be the very best at fetch. We’re starting to think she likes retrieving more than pulling a sled. She will bring the Cuz back for an hour straight.
When not playing fetch, we’re still stretching the dogs out and expanding their lungs by having them sprint after ( or more typically we’re sprinting after them) on the beach or some of the trails in the area, such as this dusty pic of Zoya, Goliath, Screamer, and you can barely see her through the dust cloud, Penny inthe back.
At the end of the day Dunkel’s face says “Man, I’m more tired than if it were winter.”
Archive for May, 2011
This week we thought we would use the blog to help a dog in need. A friend of ours who rescues huskies and has dozens of her own, recently ended up with this sweet one year old pup she is currently calling Keira. While huskies can be converted to great house pets with some work, this dog appears to be a mixed breed, possibly of Labrador and Rottweiler, so it would make the adaptation to living on someone’s couch with ease.
Keira has an ebony-colored coat, with a beautiful bronze on her neck, muzzle and eye brows. Our friend said this dog get along great with her other pets. She has let her run around with her huskies and they all got along great, and Keira comes when called.
She is young, spayed and current on all her vaccines. She knows sit and down and is currently being crate trained as well. This dog needs a home, so please consider adding her to you family, or calling other dog friendly folks who may be interested, but like we recommend with all pets, if you come forward, make sure you can give her a home for life.
If you are interested or want more information, contact our friend Ashley by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can message us here on the blog. I promise to check it more than my usual once a week while we all work hard to find this dog a good home.
Here is Keira doing what all pups do best…playing and having fun.
Well, she did it. Tatika (above) made it into another warm weather season. We had our doubts for a while there, but I think winter ended just in time. The warm rays of the sun, and the easier shuffling around without all the snow down, had really got Tatika on the mend. We are SO happy to see her doing well again. She still has off days here and there, but we have been taking her to the beach for nightly walks, which she loves, and the exercise, as well as all the stimulation from the different sights and smells, really seems to do her good. Not sure how many more days she has in her, but for now she is still with us, and that we are thankful for.
Cole also had a birthday party late last month (she turned 21…AGAIN). As usual, we invited all our best friends to the party. Below is a picture of about half of them. It was all we could fit into the frame despite multiple attempts to fit them all in. We considered outselves lucky none of the guys running through the kitchen knocked the camera off its tripod when this was taken.
We had a relatively quick break-up this year, but still all the damness was not without casualties. It seems that every year all the moisture, combined with the time of year the dogs are blowing-out their old, winter coats, causes a dog or two to develop some time of itchy skin. Usually it’s Pong, who has one of the thickests coats in the kennel, but this year Yodel got the itch. At breakfast she was fine, but by dinner time she had licked all the hair or her hind limbs, so we had to start her on medication and put her in an e-collar for a week. NO dogs like wearing this thing, and she was no exception. She moped around all week.
Spring also means a call from the local canneries and fish processors, who are trying to make room in their freezers for all the fresh fish that is about to come in. We usually get thousands of pounds of salmon heads, which are nutritious and REALLY help out with the food bills for the summer, since they are free to us. HOwever, a new company has started up in this area and they now take all the salmon heads from four of the five processors. They grind and boil them down to extract fish oil from them for the vitamin market. This has been a blow for us. We got a lot of salmon this year, but we fear it may be the last year. Insted we may have to turn to cod heads (below), which the dogs eat and enjoy, but they really aren’t as nutritious as the salmon heads.
As has become a summer tradition, feral pheasants (below) have also started to make occassional appearances in the yard, which creates tons of hub-bub for the dogs. Shagoo used to be a pheasant assasin extrordinaire, but as she has been slowing down with age, and her throat reinjured after the cold air fiasco in the CB300, she can’t quite keep her breath to run them down anymore. Twice already this year she has treed the pheasant, but thencouldn’t flush it again to catch it. The treed pheasant is quite comical to watch. It will angrily cluck at all the dogs below, and each time it makes a noise, it is like a squeeky toy to the dogs. The whole gang below (usually Shagoo, jeeves and Dunkel are the most into it) will begin barking and attempting to climb the tree, ripping at the bark with their paws.