The training has been really diverse the past few weeks and we have had to work harder than usual to get the guys conditioned, but the dogs have loved all the different areas. Oddly, this situation developed from a negative one, but if there’s one thing we’re good at its turning chicken $h!t into chicken salad.
Things started to go bad as we had a bit of a wet fall. Really, we’ve had worse, but we had more water when there were less mushers living here. Now there are many, and they’re all training multiple teams a day, so the trails can get pretty beat up from all the clawing of the dogs’ nails as they dig in to drive hard, not to mention the wheeler itself causes trenches when people run over the same trails, and the same part of that trail, too many times.
Some people are better than others, and for our part we try not to hit the same trails or the same part of the trail in two consecutive runs, and we NEVER come home the same way we go out. We always try to put together loops so the trails don’t get overworked.
Sadly, not all mushers have the same sense of intelligence or consideration and a few will run, out and back over the same sections of trail, sometimes even repeating the sections more than twice to add a few miles. The result of these mushers is the trails have turned into an 8-10 inch deep pudding that the dogs literally have to squish their way through.
What really sucks is the trails these messes are on are usual the easier option for the dogs, so we try to use them more often than the beach, which can really kick-up sand into the dogs eyes and mouths, and cause foot irritations if run too much. But this year, the dogs are coming home with just as much mud in the eyes and mouths as if we had been on the beach.
What’s really worrisome isn’t just that these trails aren’t maintained, so as bad as they are this year, they’ll be even worse next year, since they seem to be annually degrading. What worries us is that there is a push in our borough to ban all-terrain vehicles from driving in next to the road, where these trails are, because kids who like hot-dogging typically will go “mudding” in these sections making a mess.
Normally I would argue mushers only use the trails and don’t really abuse them, but this year that argument would be hard to make. If I was someone who liked walking on the trails in the evening with my spouse or the family dog and I saw the muddy mess mushers have made of it this year, I’d be angry too. So I would suspect in the near future we won’t even have these trails as a training option and we have other mushers to thank for screwing it up for us.
Anyway, with the trails being ruined, we have been on the beach more than usual the lats two weeks, and they’ve been doing great (as you can tell from the picture below of Wolf in lead going crazy).
But, as I said you can’t be down there for every run or it starts to become a detriment, so we have also been trucking the dogs to various locations and running them off the truck as in the picture at the top of this post. It’s more work and expense since we have to load up everything and drive to these locals, and then drive while we’re there (which is also a super boring way to mush), but the dogs have really been enjoying not being on the same trails over and over.
It has been much healthier for them than ingesting all the sand and mud, and since these trails aren’t muddy, we have been able to move at higher training speeds as well, which hopefully will pay off in the race season. There are also numerous hills in some of these locations, which ae never bad for the dogs to train on too.
All for this week. Keep your fingers crossed for snow. It’s been about 34-36 at night and 38 during the day, so hopefully it won’t be long now.
Archive for October, 2011
As I write this, it is finally 28 degrees outside, and not much warmer inside. I can see doggy breath coming out of Metoo. I have just lit the wood stove to let the dogs warm up by the fluffy beds that lie in front of it, while some of the guys outside are starting to find the first rays of the morning sun to bask in.
Well, it’s been a weird week here at the kennel, as you can tell from these pictures. We have been getting visited daily by a flock of turkeys. This may not sound that strange except to those who know that there are no wild turkeys in Alaska.
Apparently someone has been letting them go, probably hoping to start a seed crop of birds that will take root and breed to increase hunting opportunities down the road, but as ex-zookeepers we can vouch for the fact that it is never a good idea to introduce a new species into an area where it does not, and never did, naturally occur. Typically diseases can be introduced to native birds, or perhaps naturally occurring wild species can be out competed for a food source during our long, harsh winters.
In this case, neither seems to be a concern really; instead the turkeys seem to be coming to our yards because they are struggling to find food. They try to visit what is left of our garden to peck a few scraps of greens. Since they aren’t truly wild, they seem to have slow reflexes and no sense of the danger of dogs or other carnivores, which doesn’t bode well for them going into winter in a neighborhood filled with coyotes and lynx.
Anyway, we came home from a dog run two days ago and Shagoo was sitting in the woods next to the first bird she brought down. Shagoo spends most of her free time outside since she tends to be such a loner compared to the other dogs who seem to have a buddy or two they like playing and rough-housing with.
Shagoo is quite proficient at bringing down dinner for us. In the past she has caught grouse, and pheasant (which also don’t belong here), but this was by far the largest critter, as you can tell by the picture. It was as big as she was. Still it looked like it was a tussle bringing it down, there were feathers all over the yard.
We don’t teach Shagoo to kill wild things, but since the birds don’t belong here anyway, we never scold Shagoo for killing them when they’re coming in our yard. And since she is the one who brings in dinner, we always split the catch with her once the birds are cleaned and cooked.
Anyway, we thought it was a fluke that the birds came through once, but we figured seeing one of their own brought down would be enough for them to avoid our yard in the future, but the next day we finished another dog run and as we ran the team up the incoming trail to the yard we flushed another flock. The sleds dogs went wild, immediately jumping from about 10 up to 20 mph at the site of the birds, but being tethered into the team, no dogs caught one.
However , as we made it the rest of the way into the kennel, once again we saw Shagoo, this time sitting on a big bird to guard it from all the sled dogs that just arrived. Again, we cleaned the bird and cooked it up, giving Shagoo 50 percent of her catch, although this time the other dogs were starting to get a little curious too, and I barely got the bird to the cleaning table once they all figured out what it was.
While we feel bad for the turkeys, the fresh meat has been delicious, especially since we just harvested our garden last week and have been enjoying all the crops we grew. We harvested about 2,000 carrots and 500 potatoes, plus several other veggies and greens. Again, this bounty is thanks to the dogs since we spend two years on average composting their poo into some incredibly fertile soil. I know it sounds gross on first thought, but you have to remember two things. One: most fertilizers come from some form of animal poo, typically chicken, cow or even occasionally bats. And two: when done right, composting completely breaks it down. By the time we use it, the rich soil smells sweet and earthy, and is indistinguishable from that from a nursery.
Well, on that note…all for this week.
fall training splashs 009
Alright, we’re like the last people on the planet to still be on dial-up, but we’ll give this a try for all you people with high speed connections. I tried it once in HD and it was a no-go, so I shot this in a lower resloution with a different camera, but then it wouldn’t upload with dail-up. Then I came to town once and the usual place I upload had a reuter (or is it router) down. So hopefully this is it. I hope this gives a little more of a taste of what it’s like here. Here are some videos of training at dusk on the high beach. You can see our volcano, Mount Redoubt, at the end of this first clip. Here is also another of how sloppy and muddy the trails have been lately from too much rain and too many mushers sharing the same trails. Enjoy the clips because they may be the last for a while. I’m going back to pictures after this until we get a higher speed connection at the house. This is just too much work.
fall training splashs 008