Sunday, 8 July 2018

NORTHWAPITI'S EXCELSIOR






NorthWapiti's Excelsior
March 12, 2005 - July 7, 2018


In 2010 X popped his Achille's tendon training in Alaska with us. For many dogs, such an injury is life ending, but X had the NorthWapiti Community behind him and 2 days after the injury was hanging in my Mom's upscale duplex near Okotoks awaiting surgery.
He handled going from being in peak training to full crate rest with his typical 'no sweat' approach to life.

So many people played roles in his recovery but most heartfelt thanks go to my Mom, my brother Jim, Dr Veronica Devall and Richard Todd for giving my Xceptional boy an additional 8 years of mobility.

He was a favourite of many of the dogs and people in my life. He was my Most Xcellent Dude.

I will miss him always. 


Saturday, 9 June 2018

Iditarod's New 'Dead Dog Rule'

In the hours since Iditarod announced that all mushers that have a dog died on the race (unless it "was caused solely by unforeseeable, external forces") will be withdrawn from the Race,  I have been asked for my opinions a number of times.

I hate talking dog deaths, the wounds on that issue are still raw for me. 

For those of you unaware, my lead dog, Snickers, died of a gastric ulcer in Grayling during the 2007 Iditarod. I have throughly examined the events leading up to that so many times. I shared her necropsy report with many highly respected vets and asked their opinions. My head knows that I did right by my girl, my heart will always ask, 'What if....?'. 

I almost quit racing after that night.

Ultimately though, everything in life has risks - even sitting on the couch is a risk. I make decisions for my dogs that mirror the decisions I make for me. I am not a foolhardy person, I take my wellbeing seriously and I do the same for my dogs wellbeing - but I also want for all our lives to be rich and full.

I look at and reevaluate that balance often.  You may not agree with where my balance point is, I may not agree with yours - but the point is that it was made thoughtfully and caringly, so it should be respected. 


I don't disagree that this new rule might make an uncaring musher think twice about leaving a dog in a checkpoint 
(though it should be noted that there are already rules in place to deal with mushers whose dogs die a preventable death)  - and that is good thing but what I also see is what it may do to a musher who really does care and really was doing their best for their dogs - a musher who really views their dogs as a member of their family, as I did and do. 

As I write this my mind is in Grayling. I remember everything about that night. The fear, and eventually,  the sorrow, but I also remember the support. The community, the vets (oh, the vets!!), the officials, and my fellow mushers all offering such tremendous support and compassion - and once I got home, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring from fans. I can't even begin to say what that meant to me.

Now, I fear that the new rule will take some of that away. I was given the room and the support to make the choices that I needed to make for me (my choice was to scratch - my heart just wasn't in the race anymore). Now, I fear, when the worst happens, there will be a black cloud of suspicion over a musher - the suggestion that you did do something wrong and have been judged and penalized for it without your story even being heard.

I was reading some comments on the new rule on FB today and saw some already saying that it was good because whether or not the musher cared, they still made a mistake that led to the dog's death. The judging has begun. Life is tenuous and fragile - living it 'mistake free' does not guarantee that it will be long.

I believe there are pros and cons to this new rule - but, in my mind, what it boils down to is whether you believe most mushers care about their dogs or whether most mushers don't.

I believe that most mushers care about their dogs.



Wednesday, 23 May 2018

When Was The Last Time You Did Something For The First Time?


Well, Sunday!


A few months or so back my dear friend Kristin Fox asked if I would be a KeyNote speaker for her at a Women’s Business Conference she was organizing with her new company FinFoundHer in Chicago.

“Sure”

To be honest, I was thinking mostly of deep dish pizza, popcorn and some long overdue time visiting with a few of my friends fondly known as the ‘Minions’. 
Kristin has long been gently pushing me to combine my Iditarod experiences with my ‘pre sled dog’ life as a business woman and do this kind of thing. While I appreciate her kind prodding, I generally get distracted by a dog, a sheep, chicken or something like that because those things are now my ‘comfort zone’. But I’m always poking people to step outside their comfort zones, so it was likely time I put up or shut up.

As time got closer I began to put some thought into exactly what I was going to speak on. 

I eventually turned to the Bio that another friend, Heather Walls, wrote up and sent to Kristin for me while I was up in Alaska judging Iditarod in March.

“Wow. I’d like to know that woman”, I thought as I read it over. “She sounds cool.”
My stomach flipped when it occurred to me that it was MY bio I was reading.

“Am I really that person?”

Heather hadn’t spoke at all out of turn, I HAD done all the things she mentioned - and I had read and approved the Bio before it was sent out, but I guess I was focusing on the correctness of the statements rather than a big picture.

I guess I tend to think more of myself fumbling and figuring out her way on a herding trial field or chasing a chicken around a pen trying to sort out how I’m going to catch it than the woman in that bio.

BUT, I do pride myself in figuring out ways to rise to the occasion when I get myself into ‘situations’ - and I was going to do my best to do that this time. Mostly, I think because I didn’t want to let Kristin down or make Heather appear like a liar. 

So I fleshed out a presentation and then I fussed and fussed and fussed some more over it.

Yeah, I’ve done lots of presentations and public speaking over the years, but mostly I’m speaking to dog people telling the story of my life. I know that subject matter well. It is my comfort zone.
This was not but I put some slides and thoughts together that I thought was decent.

I was feeling good about it all till Saturday night when I went down to the Conference to meet up with Kristin. I walked into the building and realized that these women were not my people. There was not a dog or a chicken to be found.

I drank a number of margaritas at dinner that night trying to distract myself from the commitment I had made for the next day (well, and also because they were super tasty and washed down well the most excellent Mexican food we were eating). 


The next morning I was up early flipping slides and running over my notes on the concepts I had put together. By the time we got downtown my stomach was in a knot. 

I stepped up to the podium to face these beautiful, strong, confident women feeling like a total fraud but if I was going down, I was going to go in a blaze.

I was as nervous as I’ve ever been at a presentation as I began to speak. Would these women understand what I was trying to explain with pictures and stories of fluffy dogs, dead moose and snowstorms????

I noticed a few writing notes as I spoke and prayed they were not writing grocery lists or reminding themselves to book a hair appointment next week.

But no, it seemed like they were actually ENGAGED and interested!!

I took a deep breath and finally felt my stomach and shoulders relax a bit.

The presentation wrapped up and there was that TERRIFYING moment of truth - “Are there any questions?”.

Hands shot up everywhere.

Please don’t let them ask how I pee on the trail, I thought.

Not that that isn’t a valid question, I get asked it all the time and don’t mind answering but I wanted them to have got the concepts of building teamwork and teaching leadership that I had been trying to pass along.

AND THEY DID!!! The questions were TREMENDOUS.

I was so relieved and it was SO GRATIFYING!!!

My thanks to all that took the time to tell me how much they enjoyed the presentation and that they felt they got ideas that they could take away and use in their work. I can’t begin to say what that meant to me.


So, when was the last time you did something for the first time?

You should get on it!!!!!!!









Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Happy Halloween!!!!

I thought that since it was Halloween and I seem to find myself hanging around in a chair healing I'd share a blog that I wrote for 'holiday' back in 2010!!

Hope you enjoy!


Saturday, 30 October 2010

Ghost Stories

My friends at Northern Lights media did a neat little 'ghost stories' from the trail story today and it got me thinking that that might be a good topic for the blog, this weekend being Halloween and all!

The Iditarod Trail has an incredible history to it. Now much of it is empty, lonely and unused except during March, but thousands of feet and paws have padded over it for centuries. Fortunes and lives have been made and lost along its route. If there is a place in my travels that deserves to be inhabited by presences from another world, this would be it.

I've read and been told many odd tales of mysterious encounters along the Iditarod Trail, some are obviously hallucinations from dehydrated, sleep deprived, twisted musher minds, but others......?

A friend of mine tells me of waving at folks on the porch of a roadhouse between Nikolai and McGrath on a number of his Iditarods; problem is that there is no such roadhouse there.
Jon Van Zyle tells a great story of hearing voices near Kaltag on one of his Iditarods.

My first encounter actually didn't happen on the 'Iditarod Trail'. It happened on the original Serum route between Tanana and Ruby on the detoured 2003 Iditarod. The dogs and I were traveling along the wide Yukon River at about 1 or 2 am. We hadn't been traveling with anyone and hadn't even seen another musher or headlamp in many, many hours. Not that that really matters, mushers often travel without headlamps on and 'sneak up' on other mushers. So when I was bumped on the back of my legs, I just assumed that the lead dogs of another team had come up behind me. I turned around to offer the faster team 'trail' to find nothing but darkness. I shone my headlamp around and found nothing but empty river. Hmmm....
I turned back around and gave my attention back to my dog team, only to have it taken away moments later by a second bump on my calves.
I again scanned the river to no avail. It's not like there is anywhere for someone to 'hide' on a 1/2 mile wide, flat frozen river. We were completely alone.
I felt no threat from my 'visitor' - and really, it seems to me that any presence that might be hanging out on that stretch of trail would be nothing short of delighted to see dog teams out racing along it again.

My second strange event happened in 2004 on the trail between Koyuk and Elim. At the time it happened I never thought it had 'ghostly connotations', but when I told my tale a couple years later to a friend, I got a different perspective on it.

I had left Koyuk late at night, followed shortly after by my friend Doug Grilliot. For awhile I could see Doug's headlight behind me. Eventually he caught up with me, we snacked dogs together and then took off again. Throughout the night his faster team gradually pulled away, then I only sporadically saw his headlight when he glanced over his shoulder and finally I stopped seeing it altogether.
I was traveling along a section of the trail that runs along the coast of Norton Sound, so to the left of me was sea ice and a half mile or so out, the open Arctic Ocean.

The dogs had been moving along quite steadily when all of a sudden Hector's head snapped to the left and he started barking a low, deep warning bark. The other dogs all stopped moving and joined in on his barking.

In all the years and miles I have traveled wilderness trails with dogs, I have never seen my team do this. My dogs are the bravest, toughest creatures I know, so the thought of what might be putting them all on edge made my blood run cold.

Honestly, my first thought was 'polar bear'. Although a few mushers claim they have seen polar bears along the coast during Iditarod, Iditarod officials claim they were all hallucinating.

I was very worried about stepping off the runners of the sled, as I expected the dogs would bolt when they finally decided to move, so stayed where I was and encouraged them to get moving. All the while wishing my gun wasn't buried up in the front of my sled bag well out of reach (there is normally nothing along the coast that would make having it handy necessary).
After what seemed like ages, but was probably only a few minutes, the dogs slowly began to move, although they kept throwing the odd menacing bark over their shoulder - and I was throwing numerous nervous glances over mine.

Two years later I was having breakfast with my friend Iditarod finisher and checker Palmer Sagoonick and his wife Fena in Shaktoolik. Palmer and Fena are locals and I wondered what they thought could have made my dogs act like they did.

I'll never forget what Palmer said to me. He dismissed the thought of a bear in the area. "Likely spirits", he said and Fena nodded in agreement. "Spirits?", I replied. "They sometimes think it is fun to try to lure you out onto the thin ice", he said very matter of factly.

Strangely that didn't offer me alot of comfort!!!

Happy Halloween everyone!

Karen

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Pre-order 2018 North Wapiti Calendars--




The pre-order period for the 2018 Calendar is now over. If you forgot to pre-order and want to be put on a "waitlist" in case there are any extras, please send email to help4northwapiti@gmail.com. Thanks to everybodies who ordered!
____________

Howdy Ho Everybodies!  See that biggie big arrow up there?

It's pointing to the tab that says 2018 North Wapiti Calendar and if you clickity click that tabby thing then it'll take you to the page that will let you order your 2018 North Wapiti Calendar!

Isn't that easy!?!?  We like to make things easy, especially when it means you'll get to hang a little slice of North Wapiti on your wall and gaze upon us all year round!

Here's a shot of the new cover design:



So get to clickity clicking because we are only going to have a limited number available.  Act now, operator Minions are standing by.

Oh, and North Wapiti patches are still available too, so get them while you can also, because once supplies run out... they're gone for good.

- Bet


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Happy Birthday Heather Minion

Howdy Ho Everybodies!

It's Heather Minion's birthday today!


Without the Heather Minion, we wouldn't be able to do everythings and stuffs.  She should have been born a Border Coolie because she herds the Musher and other minions around and makes sure that everythings (and stuffs) gets done!

Heather minion has designed all of the FABulous North Wapiti ensembles and makes sure they are comfy and stylish and FABulous.  She also mails stuffs and things, and sometimes she mails things and stuffs, but mostly she is the minion with the mostest and we couldn't do all of the fantabulous things that happen around here with out.

So, Cakes for everybodies and wish Heather Minion a very happy birthday!!!

- Bet

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Who Goes There???




Since the wild winter storm we have had going on since Friday FINALLY gave up and spring is rallying - the Border Collies, Bear and I went out to the river today.










It was glorious.

Zac - did I mention you are NOT coming in the house tonight?






We were sitting on the river bank soaking up the sun when all of a sudden the Border Collies went on full alert. 





I spend a lot of time in the woods with dogs and I have learned that a wise woman listens when her dogs speak.
But because it was so lovely out, I thought I'd consult with Bear before beating a path out of there.

BEAR. BEAR. Do you see anything Bear??


"NOPE. I DON'T SEE ANYTHING"


You know what? I think I'll just take the Border Collies' word....