Archive for September, 2011

Don’t Panic

Monday, September 26th, 2011


Despite the picture above everyone is o.k., but we did have a trip to the veterinarian’s office this week. As you can see from the x-ray above, Ibn has a sizeable lump on the joint of his rear leg. Mr. Ibn decided after years of running on the same trail to, suddenly and for who knows what reason, dive out to run around a tree he has literally run passed hundreds of times. Anyway, long story short, he banged up his leg when his lines caught on the tree and slingshot him back around it. The vet said he is fine, despite the lump, so he just needs a few days off to let it heal completely. He is a very faithful dog that always gives it his all, and we’re glad he’s been a part of our lives here and thankful that his recent diagnosis was something not to worry about… wew.

Needless to say, the x-rays were an unexpected expense. What else is new when you own 40 dogs. Despite this financial setback, we did have a financial gain this week too. A local cattle farmer friend of ours butchered five cows to put away the beef for winter. He called us and let us take all the fat and organ meat from the cows, which amounted to several hundred pounds of free dog food. We spent the weekend cutting up most of it to freeze for the racing season, while some of it we rendered to feed out now. Needless to say the dogs loved this hearty stew.

The dogs are getting stronger with each and every run. They’re finishing looking like they started. I think temperature is holding us back more than the distance they could go. It has still been pretty warm and humid, but luckily we have had a lot of rainy days too, so the puddles have been helping keep the dogs cool. Sadly, the rainy weather means not too many pictures this week. Just the above one of Wolf at the end of a run, catching his breath and drinking a sip of water.

The little Boston terrier is fitting in well. As you can tell from the above picture, he has bonded to Cole quickly. He came with the name Diesel, which we weren’t really excited about. We tried to change it, but he’s been unresponsive to anything other than the name he knows, so I guess Diesel is his name for life. I guess it could be worse though. He likes wrestling with Dunkel, who has been a fantastic big brother to him. Metoo thinks he’s a brat because he is always stealing her toys. And Shagoo hates him of course because she hates all change, as well as anything cute and small. Whenever he is around, she just goes upstairs and glares at him through the banister of our loft, not atypical behavior for her during our introduction of a new dog.

Some of you asked about our dog names, and where we got them from. I’ll try to focus on a dog each week to explain their names, since most of them have a story behind whatever we call them. Since Ibn is already the focus of this week’s post, we’ll start with him. Ibn came to us after another musher up and left all their dogs behind with no food and water. He was in bad shape when we got him, so we began nursing him back to health, and we had no idea what he was called before he came to us. At the time I was reading the Eater’s of the Dead by Micheal Crichton. In the book, (and movie called The 13th Warrior) there is a Middle-eastern character who has a very long name, due to their patriarchal culture. He is based on Ibn Al Fadlan, and the term Ibn means “son of,” so as the character begins to rattle off his whole lineage in his own language during an introduction, the only thing the Norse Vikings with him keep hearing is “Ibn,” so that’s what they call him, much to his dismay. Despite the silly meaning in the movie, Cole and I both liked the name Ibn, so when we adopted him, that’s the name he got.
As to a suggestion to get Cole to keep a daily diary, sorry but I think your chances are better off winning the lottery. In addition to how busy we both are, Cole loathes computers, all forms of technology really, whereas I’m glued to one for 8 hours a day as a writer, so I sometimes need to take a break and just do something fun like keep up with this blog. She does make an occasional post, but typically only for really sentimental things like dog obituaries, which we hope we don’t have any of any time soon. All for this week.

Color Us Content

Sunday, September 11th, 2011


Things are going great here at Rogues Gallery Kennel. We’ve had a busy week so let’s get right to it. As you can tell from the photo above (Buliwyf and Cyder in lead), the falls colors are really coming in, making the first light during our early morning dog run’s absolutely beautiful. We’ve been treated to some really amazing natural spendor, but some of sights we see are very difficult to capture with a camera while in such low light (we’re still starting our runs at 5 a.m. and are usually done by about 8:30-9 a.m). Still, I’m trying my best to capture our life to show you all who live far away.
This past week the mercury finally dipped into the 30’s and as we dropped down onto the beach with the dogs we could see a fresh blanket of snow on the volcano across the inlet from us. Adding to the image, we have been in the fall harvest-moon cycle, which means it is just exceptionally huge when full and close to the earth. This morning, the moon was a blood-orange color and we got to see it set behind the volcano before the sun camp up. So peaceful just being out there in the crisp, cool air, the only sounds to be heard are the panting of the dogs breath, and the only other people we see are other mushers usual on their first run when we’re finishing up our third run of the day (see below).

The only sad part has been one of our favorite training areas got fenced off this past summer, so we have lost a few miles of trail. The reduction of mileage isn’t the bad part, though. The area was a bit of a maze of braided trails, so we used to take different rights (gee’s to the dogs) and lefts (haws to them) every time we went through the area. It was where we trained most of our leaders to be gee-haw dogs. Also, there are numerous little cold water sloughs in the area, so at this time of year when it is still above freezing (warm to the dogs), it was great to have them charge through the open water to cool off a bit. Anyway, all of that is gone now, surrounded by a big hideous metal guardrail…completely ruining the natural aesthetics of the area.
Not to digress too far, but the annoying thing is, the guardrail was put up because summer tourists were littering, and degrading the area by not sticking to the established trails. We only have about 6 weeks of city slickers coming down from Anchorage and treating our home like a hotel room…expecting someone else to clean their mess. So rather than finding a way to prevent or punish these people for six weeks, now all of us yearround residents will be inconvenienced…and our dogs suffer too. Anyway, below is a pic of the stupid guardrail. Even Crumb closes her eyes to pretend it’s not there.

O.K. back to the positive. This week we also stayed busy with kennel chores. We got several loads of screened-sand delivered to start building up the dog yard so it will stay high and dry when the snow starts melting in April. Now is also a good time to fill any holes the dogs have dug, which in the dark of early morning makes it very easy to twist an ankle while plugging dogs into the team.
We also tore the old, leaky rotten roof off of our straw barn and put up a new sheet wood roof, and caulked it out (see pic below of Cole up on it). Later today we plan on papering and shingling it. Then we can start stocking straw to keep the dogs warm in winter, and we don’t have to fear it getting wet every time it rains.

The dog truck has a series of small problems and we have been working on those as well to get it in shape to make the drive to Canada for the Yukon Quest. This week we took the door apart and replaced the door handle mechanism. Last season it quite working and the only way to open it was from outside and the only way to close it was to lock it. This made for some real problems during hectic pre-race moments when trying to get dogs out of the cab.
Also, as some of you have noticed (and already donated), we finally wrestled down the computer and got a Paypal button put on the website. There’s one on the main page and on the blog, so hopefully some of you readers who have been asking me to get one up will now use it. Every dollar we get is needed and goes a long way. O.K. all for this week, enjoy one final shot of an early morning silhouette shot of the team.

Fall Thoughts

Thursday, September 1st, 2011


The calendar has flipped to September, and in my book, that’s one day closer to winter. Already we are breaking out the headlamps as the night (gaining at a rate of more than 5 minutes a day) has already enveloped our early morning runs in darkness. Once the sun comes up the aspen leaves are already turning gold, there is an earthy smell as the summer explosion of vegetation has started to decay, and there is a stillness to the air – perhaps from the dropping humidity or barometric pressure, I’m honestly not sure – but once the dogs see us carrying a bundle of harnesses you can hear their shrieks of excitement miles away (as you can tell by this picture above of Zoom bellowing as she waits for the other dogs to get plugged in).
We are so happy to be back to training regularly. The life of a musher is full of routine and labor. The days start early and end late, and no matter how hard you work, there’s just never seems like there’s enough time to get everything done. Still, it’s good to once again feel the sensation of grit, mud and dog fur between our fingers.
The fall rains have returned and made our trails as soggy as a bowl of cereal left sitting a little too long. This spring they were severely trenched by too much ATV traffic during breakup, and we spent many, many hours of summer trying to repair them with nothing more than shovels. It helped quite a bit, but they are still pretty sloppy. The dogs don’t seem to mind, though, and regularly coming back so black and muddy we can barely tell who is who.

Starting the season is also a great time to really see who had matured from last year. We have two young dogs, Boo and Klause (Klause pictured above after a run), which regular readers will remember we got through unpleasant circumstances. They had been left behind by a musher who had decided he was done with dogs. They were only weeks old and got no food, no water and no love, for an extended period of time. BY the time someone figured out they had been abandoned, most of their littermates were so feral they had to be put down by another musher who intervened to take the remaining semi-feral dogs. He wasn’t sure what to do with these two skittish guys and was going to try to pedal them in front of a local grocery store, hoping to find them a pet home. We stepped in and said we’d give them a permanent place, not expecting much from them since they had so little nutrition and mental enrichment during their formative first few months.
To our surprise they have been doing better and better each year, and with each passing run. Last season Boo stepped up and lead on quite a few training run, including a few long ones. Klause, possibly because of his lack of socialization, was quite aggressive to other dogs in the kennel, so we got him neutered in the hope of calming him down. Getting the testosterone out of them is a great way to reduce aggression, but it can also stunt a young dog’s performance for a year or two. Last season Klause really struggled to keep up with even our third string team, but this year he has been keeping up with the speed and mileage of the big boys in the A-team, and he has even begun leading runs with exuberance. Hopefully, his desire and stamina will hold through the season.

Also, as usual, we have spent the fall building new dogs houses for anyone who may have chewed up theirs (see above as Metoo and Dunkel model some of the new boxes. Like many things, lumber prices keep going up. I could hardly believe how expensive a piece of sheet wood has gotten. They used to be around $9 a sheet when we got into sled dogs, now they are $13 a sheet on sale. And that’s not to mention the cost of the 2x4s, screws, caulk and other supplies we use to make them water-tight and warm enough for the dogs in winter. We have gotten pretty good at minimizing any excess though. If you do it right, you can build a dog house out of one sheet of wood with only one tiny piece of unusable wood leftover, which you can see resting on the roof of the box all the way in the left of the picture.
With the rising price of EVERYTHING, we are also hopeful that people will help sponsor us through monetary donation to offset supplies, race entry fees, gas to and from races, dog food and veterinary bills, or will help purchase items we need for the upcoming season. Below is a list of a few of the things we are still hoping to get, and we are VERY, VERY thankful to all the kennel boosters who have already purchased items for the upcoming season. We couldn’t do this without all of you!
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:
From Mountain Ridge (at www.mtnridge.com or by calling them at 866-DOG-BOOT) under the “Health Care” tab, we 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.)