Archive for August, 2011

My Leaders are Gone!!!

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011


The energy of the kennel has been crazy lately, but I’m starting to wonder if there is such a thing as the dogs being a little too excited to mush. I’ll fill you in one this morning’s run and you be the judge.
The temperature averages have been running about 6-8 degrees warmer than usual for this time of year, so we have been getting up even earlier than usual to maximize running the dogs at the coolest time of day. This morning we got up at 5:30 a.m. and basically just put on our warm clothes and boots, and poured a cup of coffee (we set the timer to be brewed right when we wake up), then went out the door. The sun wasn’t even up yet, but there was already some residual light starting to show and the mercury was hanging around 41 degrees.
On the agenda was running two teams, I’d hook-up and lead with one and Cole would hook-up her own and follow right behind me. We began harnessing and plugging dogs into the gangline. I had about 5 dogs in and Cole had three in and was going for the fourth. In lead she had Ghost and Ibn: two dogs we got from the pound years ago that are both great leader, but have little to no recall (especially in Ghost’s case) when off leash, so we are always very careful to not let them go when moving them up to the gangline.
Right behind them Cole had plugged in a dog that is new to our kennel this season. His name is Elim (see pic at top) and he actually belongs to a friend of ours who used to be a handler for several different mushers in the neighborhood. She acquired Elim when he was a pup and has annually trained him in the team with the dogs of whoever she worked for. This season she has decided to get a real job at a veterinary clinic rather than running dogs for other people, but she wanted to ensure Elim could run since he loves it, so she asked if we would train him for the winter and we agreed.
Since fall training has only been ongoing for a few weeks, we are still learning Elim’s personality and his strengths and weakness. He’s run in a few different positions so far and always done well. We caught him chewing his neckline once, but quickly scolded him for it and haven’t had a problem since.
Really excited dogs will sometimes chew whatever is close to them, and this CAN NOT be tolerated in a dog team because of the potential for danger. Chewing a neckline clean through is only a minor inconvenience, but dogs that are not taught that chewing is unacceptable can also chew tuglines and ganglines. This is very serious because depending where in the team the chewy dog is, they can set a bunch of dogs free without a musher, but since the loose dogs are still tethered to each other, they can tangle and dogs potentially be strangled.
Cable can be used to prevent this, but then in a full-team or multiple-team tangle, the cable can’t be cut quickly with a knife like our rope lines, so we avoid cable and do our best to train all our dogs not to chew.
Anyway, back to the story, this morning Cole put Elim in swing position (right behind the leaders) and then went to get the other dog that would run next to him. About this time I heard the already barking and excited yard suddenly change to a near hysterical pitch. I stopped going for the next dog in my team and looked up. I saw all the dogs looking down our exit trail. Since moose are a perpetual concern here and a mom and two calves have been hanging around a lot lately, I thought perhaps they has made an early morning visit. I was about to ask Cole what she thought when she looked up noticed something VERY wrong with her team.
“My leaders are gone!” she screamed. The rest of her gangline was there, along with Elim, but in front of Elim were two half-sections of tuglines. He had chewed right through them in a matter of seconds and the leaders had taken off on the run without us!
Only two dogs tethered to each other reduced the chances of a tangle, but there are several road crossing on our regular route, so we feared they could be hit by someone on their way to work. Also, Ghost tends to run, run, run and never look back, so for all we knew, she was on her way to Nome and dragging Ibn with her.
Adding to the dilemma, Dunkel was going to run in that team, and he usually just hangs out until it is his time to be plugged in, but when he saw those two leave the yard, he thought the game was afoot. He left with them.
So, long story short, I grabbed Elim out of Cole’s team, while she detached her gangline from the wheeler, then she took off after the dogs, hoping to find them somewhere on our regular route. Fortunately, about 2 ½ miles into the route, she caught up to them (still lopping at full speed) and was able to cut them off and attach all three of them directly to her wheeler in a fan-hitch set up, using spare tuglines we always leave on the wheeler for emergencies such as these.
We were happy to have everyone back safe and sound and had a good laugh that only 10 minutes into the day we had already had a major fiasco (I hadn’t even sipped my coffee yet), but that tends to be life sled dogs. I mean to be honest, I think most mushers would agree, the best mushers in the sport aren’t the ones with the fastest or strongest dogs, the mushers who are the best are the ones who excel at overcoming adversity, so hopefully in that sense, this morning’s run will make us better mushers down the trail.
All for this week, other than to say thank you to all the generous people who have come forward to support us recently, and we hope the sponsorship keeps on coming so we can get to and through the upcoming season. Please see our post “Ways to Help with Yukon Quest and Iditarod,” to see what we still need help with, and remember monetary donations are always great for offsetting: race entry fees, gas to get to and from the races, and of course perpetual dog food and veterinary bills.

It…Has…BEGUN!!!

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011


As you can tell from this picture above of Buliwyf, it’s that time of year again, and the dogs couldn’t be happier to be running again. Well, saying “again” is kind of misleading, because as we’ve been writing about for months, the dogs have actually been free-running every other day all summer long, it’s just that now that the mercury has started to drop, they’re back to being in harness and pulling the fourwheeler.
We have several favorite times of year. Of course the first snowfall is always a great day to be a musher, but that’s a long way off still. However, this time of year is also an awesome time because the dogs really get the best of both worlds in terms of exercise. In the early morning the temperatures are around 45, so we hook the dogs up and have them pull the wheeler for a few miles while it is still cool, but then as the sun comes out, it gets much warmer, so in the late afternoon we also are still swimming the dogs (see below, as you can tell we’re being wimpy though, and have gone to wearing our wetsuits).

I can’t stress enough how much this cross-training does for the dogs strength, cardiovascular stamina and flexibility which lends to injury prevention later in the year. The dogs absolutely love it and it really accelerates their fitness, as is again evident by the picture of Buliwyf (aka Bully). Look at not only how jacked he is, but how ripped he is in his chest, shoulders and biceps. This is typically how buff the dogs look later in the season, not just a few weeks into the training season.

Also, it is definitely worth noting that Coolwhip (above) has been doing fantastic this season. Regular blog readers will remember that Coolwhip came to us as a “wheezer,” which meant she had laryngeal paralysis, or in simple terms, her throat muscles didn’t work to open and close properly. If she exerted herself, her throat couldn’t open to allow more air in as she needed to breathe heavier, so she would just pass out. Exercising her was thus very dangerous to her well being. Last summer she was part of a study that aimed to correct her condition and she received throat surgery, but her post-operation recovery prevented her from training last season.
This season she started with the rest of the gang and has been doing so, so much better than even we thought possible. She has always been one of the most hyper dogs in the yard, so we hoped she would be a natural to running in the team and she has taken to it like a fish to water.
We’re still monitoring her closely, since we don’t want to overdo it, but considering this is one of the warmest times of year, she has not been having any troubles breathing. On all breaks and as soon as we get back to the yard, we check her tongue and gum color. Pink means everything is great, while blue, gray or purple would mean not enough oxygen is getting in. As you can tell from the pic above taken seconds after she finished a run last week, her tongue is as pink as salmon meat.

Speaking of meat, we have continued to get donations and sponsorship to help us get to and through the Quest and/or Iditarod. Above is a picture of one of the more unusual items we have received recently. The dogs loved them though, so hey, beggars can’t be choosers. We are also very grateful to long time kennel supporters Susan and Martha for their recent gear contributions to the upcoming season! Both the collars and headlamp arrived today.(Anyone interested in helping, check out the blog entry below this one to see what we still need).

We also got another new addition this week. As some of you know, two years ago our Boston Terrier of 14 years, Snickers, passed away. Cole and I were crushed and we have been looking for another Boston to add to the family, but we wanted to adopt one, since there are so many dogs out there in need of good homes. We went through a few rescue sites, but as soon as they heard we lived in Alaska or owned 40 dogs, they stopped returning our emails. Last week a friend tipped us off that this 9-month old (above) needed a home as he wasn’t working out with his local owner. We sprang into action and wha-lah, the little guy is now part of the Rogues clan and fitting in great with the other dogs. We’ll keep you updated on his antics and what we name him. All for this week.

Ways to Help with Iditarod and Yukon Quest

Monday, August 8th, 2011


Well, we made it offical. Cole signed up for the Yukon Quest on Saturday. She is now slated to run both the Iditarod and Yukon Quest races in the same season and hopefully we will get enough support and sponsorship to make it to both of these starting AND finishing lines. Since we mentioned what the kennel goals were this year, several of you have asked what you can do to help so we made a VERY detailed list. Sorry it’s so long, but you asked. Ha ha.
What we’d like to do is as someone decides they’d like to help with something, let us know and we can remove it from the list and put your name or your organizations name up (if you wish, we respect anonymity) to let people know of your contribution and so no two people are helping with the same item. You can also post your intention to purchase something in the comments section. Also, this is just a gear list, but we always need cash too to pay for dogfood, races entry fees (Idit is $3,000 and Quest is $1,500) and gas to get to the races. We will repost this list at least once a month. Thanks in advance for all your support. We literally can’t do this without you!
There are a few things we need every year. Some of this can be purchased at almost any sporting good or hardware store, while other items can only be found at specific mushing gear manufacturers.
Common gear:
Running in a place where the sun only shines 6 hours a day, we go through batteries like most people change their underpants. We use them in our headlamps and GPS trackers. We specifically use LITHIUM AA-sized batteries, and we can use as many as people are willing to send. It is not uncommon for us to go through 100-200 of these in a season.

We can never get enough chemical handwarmers and the bigger the size the better, such as the large Grabber brand MEGAWARMER 12+ hour ones. When it is minus 40 we may even use a couple of these in each mitten, rather than just one. We typically go through many boxes of these a season.

We also need WOOL SOCKS. You can never have too many of these, since we tend to change them out at every checkpoint to keep our feet warm and dry. We wear a men’s size 9-10.

Specific Mushing gear:
We need several “Distance Harnesses” from Mountain Ridge at www.mtnridge.com or by calling them at 866-DOG-BOOT. They are sized by the color of their tug loop and we need 5 of the blue loops, 5 of the yellow loops, 2 of the white loops and 2 of the purple loops. Please be sure if you order one or more of these that you order them with the “standard weight 5000lb” webbing and we typically use blue or pink, but will take red. These are $22.50 each. Harnesses have been purchased by an anyonymous donor. Thank you very much!!!

Mountain Ridge also makes “Padded Collars” HAVE BEEN PURCHASED BY SUSAN M. THANKS SUSAN!!!.

While on the Mountain Ridge site, under the “Health Care” tab, we also use the Web Med ($13) and Wed Med with antibiotics ($9.50). These ointments help prevent splits in the dogs’ feet and help treat the paw wounds if they get any.

From Kipmik Products, which only does orders via the phone (not internet yet), we get all our racing booties. Some people make and send us booties and we always welcome, however we have found that Kipmik’s booties are the most consistently dependable. Their phone number is 907-563-0041 and if you get John, tell him who you’re ordering for. He knows us well and would likely be happy to hear from someone supporting our kennel.
We need roughly 1,500 Large, 500 Medium and 500 extra large, any of the stretch Velcro varieties will work.

From Cold Spot Feeds, which can be found at www.coldspotfeeds.com or by calling 907-457-8555, we need “QCR plastic which is found under the tab “Sled Parts and Runner Items.” This plastic is what we use under the runners, or skis of the sled, making the pulling easier on the dogs. We tend to change it out every 100 miles, so we can go through a lot in training and racing 1,000 miles. Rolls of this plastic are $25.95 each and we need as many as we can get. They always get used. The exact plastic we need is the ¼ x 1 ¼ x 8’ in BLACK, and to make things easier the SKU# is 10668.

Cold Spot Feeds also sells ALGYVAL, which we use to massage the dogs wrists and legs at checkpoints. This can be found under the “Dog Care and Supplements” tab and the “Foot and Leg Care” subtab. A few bottles of this would go a long way. It costs $36.95 a bottle and the SKU# is 11520. (Kipmik also sells Agyval, for anyone already placing a bootie order with them.)

The headlamps we use are the Princeton Tech Apex Extreme, and ONE HAS BEEN PURCHASED BY MARTHA IN JUNEAU. THANKS MARTHA!!!