Archive for July, 2011

Doubling Down

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Alright enough stalling, let us reveal what the winter news is, could be, may be, etc. Let me explain. As some of you have noticed. Cole has signed up for the 2012 Iditarod (pic above is from the Idit startline). This is not the news in itself. The big news is…drumroll please….we MAY, and we can’t stress the word MAY enough, but we may attempt to do both the Iditarod and Yukon Quest in the same year this season.
I know this sounds crazy, and for two people who work and can’t be full-time mushers and who don’t use handlers, this is a crazy huge undertaking. But, we want to be able to have one “last blast” with the dogs this season. Cole and I sat down and talked about our goals for the kennel, what she wanted to do, what we thought the dogs could do.
Only 20 women in history have run both of this races individually (Cole being the 18th), and only two women have ever run them both in the same year. Cole, if she succeeded would be the third to ever do it, and who knows, maybe she could even improve on the existing records set by the two women to potentially become the highest placing woman to ever run both in the same year.
So with this being said, let me add that this is only a goal at this point, but if you’re going to do anything with dogs you need to have a goal and a long-term plan training and financial plan to get there.
To be frank, we can’t afford either of these 1,000-mile races at this point, but we’re hoping within the next few months a few sponsors may come through. Our best sponsor Kassik’s Brewery has agreed to come on board again, our families always do all they can, and occasionally some of our kennel friends make meaningful contributions that do go a long way. (Also, please remember when sending checks to make them out to Colleen or Joseph Robertia, not Rogues Gallery Kennel).
The first day of signup for Iditarod is always at the end of June, and they annually pull two mushers’ names out of a hat and give them their $3,000 entry fee back. We hoped it would be her, so we took a chance and signed up early (before we actually had the money), but we didn’t get it. Quest sign-up is in two weeks and they also give back one opening day musher’s entry. Maybe, hopefully, we’ll get that one.
Time will tell what will happen and if we’ll be able to do either or both of these races, but the dogs are in their prime so it’s now or never for our kennel. The level of physical activity required to train and run 1,000 miles is not something they can do forever and the dogs we have now are getting up there in age. Cyder and Keno are turning 9 and 10, and Penny, Goliath and the rest of the core guys are turning 7. We have a few three year olds coming up, but when they’re in their full prime the other dogs will be just coming out of theirs.
So what does all this mean for this winter. I honestly don’t know. Part of this blog is sharing our accomplishments, our tragedies, and at times like this…just kind of using it to work through problems by putting them out there.
Well anyway, that’s where we are this week… stressed, worried, frustrated. Stay tuned and we welcome anyone’s input, and we always welcome contributions, but please remember if you are considering supporting us, you are giving to our cause of educating people about what it means to be a responsible dog owner. We educate people everywhere we go: on races, in checkpoints, visiting school groups, and even just talking to people in the grocery store who happen to ask why we are covered in dog hair.
Whether we do these races or not, we’re going to continue to mush our dogs in winter, and swim, hike, free run, and play fetch with them in summer. Basically, we’re going to continue being the best sled dog owners we know how to be and hopeful inspire others to do the same, and if that is something you support, than we hope it inspires you to support us.

Running Sled Dogs 15-miles in July?!

Monday, July 25th, 2011

The dogs of Rogues Gallery Kennel are undeniably getting fit as fiddles. We have had a fantastic summer as far as weather goes, so the water in the pond where we train the dogs has been very warm, allowing us to exercise the dogs daily. On sunny days, we may only bring 6 or 7 dogs at a time, making two trips a day. This is safest since a lot of neighborhood people visit this community swimming hole, and the dogs get pretty rowdy down there. But on rainy days, we have figured out we have the place to ourselves so we can bring the whole kennel, as is clear by this picture above.
As with running the dogs, we split them into 12 dog teams and then have them follow one of us across. I really love this picture above, even if the rain made for a crummy exposures. Like running, we started small with the dogs, just a few laps back in June, but now that we are nearing the end of July we have built up to 16 laps with the dogs and we’re hoping to hit 20 laps by August.

This is itself great training for the dogs. Dog physiologists have figured out that one minute of swimming is equal to 4 minutes of running. Swimming across the pond and back takes the dogs just over three minutes, and we are doing 16 laps. So if the formula holds, then we are swimming our dogs for what would basically be an hour and a half run. Since the dogs run around 10 miles an hour, this means we are doing 15 mile runs every other day! Not bad training for July, a time when most other mushers either aren’t doing anything with their dogs or have them up on glaciers running just a few miles day. Hopefully caring for the needs or our dogs all summer will pay dividends in winter when we start racing anyone who didn’t give their dogs attention and excercise during the “off” season. All for today, but check back later this week. I’m going to try and make another post before the weekend talking about our winter plans with the dogs and kennel.

Above, Crumb treads some water. They dogs don’t seem to mind the rain a bit. Wet is wet to them and wet equals fun!

Waylon leads the way back across. He’s one of our largests dogs, so perhaps his long legs and huge feet give him an advantage. I think this is the only picture I got where you can count all 12 heads in one frame.

Meat and Potatoes

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Summer is starting to wane here in Alaska. We are officially past the summer solstice and the days are already growing shorter, so it won’t be long until we are officially training the dogs again. We have been swimming them and free running them at least every other day, so everyone should be limbered up and have their lungs on for the start of the pulling season.
In the meantime we have been busy trying to bang out as many chores as possible. Last summer we only had 13 dry days all summer, so with all the rain the only real project that got done was keeping up with building up the dog yard to ensure the gang stayed somewhat high and dry.
This summer we have had only 13 days of rain, so we have been able to get through a lot. We have felled a lot of trees along our exit trail from the kennel after having many close calls with moose on blind corners last winter. We still have some smoothing out to do as some fourwheeler traffic by others in spring really destroyed the trails behind our house. The sunny weather really has the grass growing here, and I mean like four feet tall, so keeping it cut around the dogs and cabin in case of a fire has been an ongoing and never ending chore.

We also took advantage of the warm weather to restain our cabin. This preserves the life of the wood and really makes the place look a little nicer, so after renting a scaffold and staining almost 12 hours a day for a week, we got the place finished. Here’s a picture of a handrail that has been stained compared to the one that hasn’t. Quite a difference, huh?
The great weather also has the garden just exploding at the seams. Our kennel friend Susan asked for a picture of some of our crops, so here you go. As you can see from the photo at the top of this blog, we don’t have potato plants we have potato BUSHES. We doubled the garden at the start of the planting season, which up here was around mid-May. We planted two types of potatoes, strawberries, two types of onions, rhubarb, carrots, spinach, cabbage, chives, and peas (which a snowshoe hare ate, gotta talk to Shagoo about guarding the garden better).

This week we also made the most out of a bad situation of an associate. A local distributor we sometimes buy our dog food from had a large freezer unit break down on him. He had an entire semi-trailer full of 50 pound blocks of beef. Fearing they would go rotten in the heat and he’d be stuck with a huge rancid mess, he put the word out to all area mushers that they could have for free whatever they could haul off. We scrambled and hauled two truckloads back to the house, then spent the next day and a half rearranging our freezer space to make it all fit, since we had been accumulating fishheads all summer long. We even ended up going to town and getting a new “scratch and dent special” chest freezer for cheap at a local store, which considering what we saved on the meat, it is basically like we got the freezer for free.

All of this meat will come in handy this winter since as some of you have figured out and I hinted at in the last post, Cole is likely going to return to the 1,000-mile race circuit this winter. She has already signed up for Iditarod (see pic above of her at Iditarod headquarters on the first day to sign up), and not to tease, but as I said in the last post, we’ll write more about this later. Sorry for the mystery, but all will become clear soon, we promise.

In other news, our new kennel helpers have been doing a great job. As you can see in the photo above where they are being walked, more than taking Squirrel and Ping for a walk, they are pretty tough and real go-getters when it comes to the dogs. The one on the left is Thera Mullet and the one of the right is her younger sister Ema. Their parents believe in teaching the girls about civic duty and contributing to the community. Last year they volunteered at the Food Bank and this summer they have been helping us exercise the dogs, brush them out, as well as assisting with other projects as they come up. Hopefully after the summer is over, they will take away (like we are always trying to impart on everyone we meet) exactly what it takes to be a caring and responsible dog owner. All for this week.