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??


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

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Spring Cleaning - Bet

Howdy Ho Everybodies!

Yes, it's been a while since I've done any bloggity blogging, but I have an ultra mega mega good excuse for being absent for a while, and that excuse is... I had a bad tooth.

When I say it was a bad tooth... it was REALLY bad.  Totally freaked the Musher out when we got up for breakfast and I looked at her like this:

Um... excuse me Musher, but I seem to have an issue here
The Musher started me out on an antibiotic and drove me to the vet.

She said I looked like a pit bull, but I think I looked a bit more like that Spuds MacKenzie dog thing, but that's neither here, nor there, because thankfully the wonderful peoples at Westlock Veterinary Center gave me some happy gas and pulled that icky tooth out and made sure I have enough pills to get rid of any infection, and I'm on the mend again.

See, I'm almost back to normal again

The biggest problem right now is that I'm not supposed to be running around, flouncing, or drinking from a straw, so I'm a bit bored at the moment and driving the Musher a bit insane, so she told me that I could help her out a lot if I would just go to the garage and go through some of the boxes out there.  She said that she had a few things that she'd like to put in a garage sale so if I could go and inventory it all and use my AH Mazing interwebs skills to do a Hugey Huge Online Garage Sale, that would keep me occupied and help her out.

So I said "sure".  I mean, how much stuffs could she have out there?

Seriously peoples, there's a bunch of really good stuffs and things we'll be putting up for auction on a separate Facebook group from April 24th until April 30th.  We'll post a linky link soon where you can see all of the cool stuffs and things and ensembles, and books and autographed things and even really cool Iditarod-related stuffs and things that you can bid on.

I'll be posting updates this week on where it's at, what's going on, and how you can soon own a piece of the Musher stuffs and things.

- Bet

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

I Make No Apologies For Being a Woman...

This showed up on my Facebook feed this morning....

It was followed by a whole bunch of woman striving to explain how they were 'zeros' or at least close to it.

I've seen similar conversations pop up on various 'woman's mushing forums' over the years - and lots of shaming to any woman who admits they could vaguely be considered 'high maintenance'. It drives me CRAZY!!!

First, let me say I can probably 'out rough' all of you. I know what it is like to go close to 2 weeks of high intensity activity without a shower and end up with your hair so dirty it takes 3 washes to even get your shampoo to lather.
I can pack everything I need for two weeks of travel in Alaska in the winter in a small backpack.
There have been times in my life I considered an outhouse an incredible luxury.
I once took a timed 1-minute shower that I considered fantastic.
I've run a 300-mile dog sled race with a broken finger, I've stuck a stick through my hand, I've sprained and SERIOUSLY bruised almost every bit of my body at one time or another.
I've spent evenings throwing 1000s of lbs of slimy skinned beaver carcasses into a walk-in freezer, stacked over 100 - 40-lb bags of dog food on my own, and can lug 2 full, 5-gallon buckets of water wherever they need to go.
I have driven 16 dogs down the Happy River steps and Dazell Gorge 10 times.
I've been covered in crap, puke, piss, birthing fluids, dead animal bits and a variety of other gross substances more times than I can count over the years.

However, I get regular pedicures, I get my hair professionally cut, coloured and styled, and although most of my days are spent in polar fleece and sweatpants, I love wearing dresses, skirts, and flowy soft clothing when I can. I'm addicted to cute boots and scarves.

I remember a few years ago buying a pair of flashy, shiny bright red pumps to wear to a family function and posting a picture of them on FB. I got more comments - most of them of the 'I never would waste money on something like that' (they were $14.99 at Walmart) or 'I only buy shoes I can wear in the dogyard' variety than anything else. GET OVER IT LADIES. I wore them with a simple black dress, got a zillion compliments and felt like a million bucks.

I am so inspired to see women like DeeDee Jonrowe, Monica Zappa and Lisbet Norris wearing skirts and lovely, colourful outfits on Iditarod. I saw a picture the other day of Roxy Wright accepting her award for winning the ONAC in a skirt and ADORABLE boots!!!

If your style is jeans and a sweatshirt, hair tied in a ponytail, with a winter's worth of growth on your legs - power to you - BUT it doesn't make you tougher, a better dog musher or a more caring dog owner than me.

Or another great bit of shaming - "I spent all my time and money on my dogs - I don't have money or time for myself". If that is what you want to be spending all your time and money on - GREAT - but don't try to make me feel lesser because I have figured out ways to embrace my style within my financial budget and time restraints. My dogs don't want for anything.

We need to stop shaming each other.

Wear what you feel comfortable in. Wear what makes you feel good. Spoil yourself every now and again. Paint your nails/don't paint your nails. Put eyelash extensions on/don't put eyelash extensions on. Wear Carhartts with diamond earrings (fake or otherwise). Do chores in your pjs with Carhartts over top! Run dogs in a skirt. Be as feminine as you wish!!!!!

Make no excuses for it. Hang with people that embrace you for who you are.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go feed dogs, work out, shovel my dog yard and shower before my massage appointment this afternoon - and if that makes me 'high maintenance', so be it.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Ch.NorthWapiti's Crunchie

I wanted to convey my most grateful thanks to all of you who have written and messaged over the last 10 days to express your sadness over the passing of Crunchie.

I have generally not replied, liked or even acknowledged anything and I wanted to make it clear that it was not because I am ungrateful or don't care, but rather that I just CAN'T. We all grieve in our own way - and my way is often to withdraw. Please don't take it personally, it is not intended like that.

I don't think I can write a little memorial page for him as I usually do with the passing of one of my dogs, but I did have some things that I think were important to say about him - some for the folks with his offspring and his future offspring (a few folks have collected and stored semen on him) - and some for me.

I don't have some great breakout memory of one day recognizing his potential as a puppy. With him it was more like a jigsaw piece clicking into place. Without effort or force he just became part of me and part of the team.

Many have commented about the loss of my 'leader' - but in fact, I don't consider him a 'lead dog'. In a pinch, he could get the job done, but it was rare that I put him up front. Despite that, he made any dog team he was in better. I don't understand how, but I really didn't need to. He was just a different sort of 'leader'.

He ran his first Iditarod at 2 1/2 years of age. He ran his last Iditarod, and probably his best, at 10 1/2 years of age.

He ran just about every race with me from 2004 to 2012. He was never injured, sick or dropped in any of those races - and I could likely count on one hand the number of times he had booties on.  I think he embodied the toughness of Siberians of old.

Crunchie resting in McGrath in '12 at 10 1/2 years of age

One year the Discovery channel came out to film us for a series on Iditarod they were doing. Inevitably, they asked the question, "who is your favourite dog?". I took them over to meet Crunch. The cameraman got in tight for a head shot and Crunchie fixated his dark eyes on him - or so the cameraman thought. When he got in close Crunch struck like a cobra and ripped the fuzzy cover off the microphone. It took some doing to get it back.

Weeks later when they were filming us in Rainy Pass on Iditarod, the same cameraman tried to get Crunchie to do the same thing. Crunchie looked at me and looked back at the cameraman with a look that CLEARLY said "can't you see I'm working". The cameraman didn't get his shot.

Retirement never suited him. This is him in his teens singing the blues because I was out with a team.

After his first Iditarod I got the harebrained idea to take him to a dog show. He was what I thought a Siberian should look like, so why not show him?
I promised him that if he thought it was foolish, I'd never ask him again but the second he figured out that you just stood there and got fed, he was on board.

He finished his Canadian Championship with a Group 2nd.

The year I took him to the US Nationals I clearly remember being in the Open Dog class. It was a huge class and I had no expectation of placing with my little old sled dog.

The judge went over him, commented on his lovely shoulders and sent us to the front of the line.  It wasn't until the next few exhibitors came over and counted back to insert themselves in the line that it occurred to me that the judge was putting us in the order she intended to place us - and we were up front.

I got stressed and attempted, to Crunchie's dismay, to place his feet like a show dog. He brushed me off and put his feet back where he wanted them. I took the hint and was just a puppet on the end a show leash from then on. HE won the class.

Those stories - and many more - about Crunch make me smile, for sure - and I'm proud of the things he accomplished in his life, but none of them are the reason I grieve so deeply for him.

I'm stealing something that my dear friend Simone wrote to me after hearing the news of Crunch's passing. I didn't ask her permission, but I don't think she'll mind.

"I went through all my photos to check if I find a great photo of him. I realized, I took selfies with almost all the dogs - except Crunchie. He was always your dog, and he sure let me know this - he was quite reserved around most handlers (well, all the ones I met) but as soon as you came in the yard - he was totally focused on you! ❤️ a once in a lifetime relationship!"

I have spent the last 16 years with those little black eyes boring into me. I have deeply loved many dogs, but I have never known one that I felt more connected to.

Simone's right: he was not a super affectionate, cuddly dog. He didn't give kisses, he hated hugs, and he NEVER wanted to be pampered. His way of connecting was to stare into my eyes and sniff my face. Correction, stare into my soul and sniff my face.

I can't count the number of times I'd be puttering in the dog yard and look up to catch him lying somewhere he could stare at me. On our last Iditarod, I swear he was sitting up staring at the door of the checkpoint every time I walked out.

In 2007 flying home from Grayling after losing his sister (Snickers), the dogs were all behind me on the small plane, necklines snapped into cargo netting - I turned around in my seat as we got ready to take off to make sure everyone was settled. Some were fussing, some lying down, and Crunch was sitting straight up staring at me. We locked eyes - and I'm not really sure I know who was comforting who in that moment.


In the Vet Clinic that final day, I sat on the floor with him waiting for Tannis (Dr. Jackson) to come in. He locked eyes with me and we sniffed moments before she did. I couldn't look in his eyes as he passed - I feared the light going away would suck my soul out with it.

He was my teammate, my partner and my friend. I will grieve his passing always.

Ch. NorthWapiti's Crunchie
June 6, 2001 - March 10th, 2017

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Birthday Soups for The Cartoonist -Bear

Hey! Guess what today is?

Yuppers, it's The Cartoonist's birthday. 

She's been feeling ill so I decided to share my precious soups with her. 
Soups are good anytime, but especially when you are cold or sick.

"You can never have too much soups!" -Bear

Twig insisted we add the brocoolies--but between us, soups are better without green stuffs. 

Join me and all the critters here at NorthWapiti in wishing our Cartoonist a Happy Birthday and tell her to please get well soon--we don't want to see any more icky, sick cartoons on the Facebooks.

Love to all,


Thursday, 16 March 2017

A List Of Scarred Souls

Today the ADN published a 'list' of all the dogs that died during the running of the Iditarod for the last 10 years.
Iditarod Dog Deaths Over The Last Decade

I've seen similar lists in different places and with different motivations over the years. Many times that list includes my name, for in 2007 in the village of Grayling my leader Snickers died of a Gastric Ulcer.

This lists might make it seem that those deaths are just an asterisk in an Iditarod career - or a painful, but long-past event. Let me tell you that is not the case.

The 10th anniversary of Snickers' death was last Friday. Sadly, that morning her brother Crunchie had to be put down due to old age. He would have been 16 in June.
He was one of the ones fighting with us in that little community centre late into the night 10 years ago.
Dr. Justine Lee, with minimal supplies, used him as a donor to do a blood transfusion on his sister in the battle for her life. I will never forget how stoically he sat amidst all the stress and commotion going on around him as Dr. Lee drew blood.
All our efforts were for naught though and she passed away in the night, cradled in my hands.

In terms of bad days in my life, that rates right up there with the passing of my father.

I remember walking out to the bank of the Yukon River shortly after she passed and having a talk with her. The moon was out and clouds were drifting across it in the wind. (I had a similar chat with her - and her brother - last Friday night. The sky was eerily almost exactly the same.)

The next morning I scratched from the race and went home. My heart for the race was gone. (Let me just say that most mushers do continue down the trail - and I get that. We all grieve and heal in our own way and, when there is no wrongdoing on the part of the musher leading to the death of their teammate - the race needs to support that.)

For a while I didn't know if my heart for racing and the Iditarod would come back, but it did. In no small part thanks to Snickers - on the banks of the Yukon that night I had promised to take her to Nome 'in a manner she deserved' and that had to be done.

In 2008, I stopped my team on Cape Nome overlooking the Bering Sea coast and the city in the distance. It's a spot that I have traditionally stopped to thank my dogs for the adventure we just had together, and I knew it was where Snickers' ashes needed to be scattered.
I thanked the team and then sat down and had a good chat with Snickers before turning her ashes over to the wind and snow.

The rest of my trip into Nome was graced by the most spectacular sunset I've even witnessed. It about broke my heart and helped settle my soul all that the same time. When I reached Nome, as I walked up to to my leaders in the chute, I stopped to spread the last little bit of her ashes under the burled arch.
"A promise made is a debt unpaid and the trail has it's own stern code." (Robert Service, 'The Cremation of Sam McGee')

Photo by Jeff Schultz

In the wake of her death, money was donated to help fund Dr. Mike Davis' studies on gastric ulcers in working sled dogs. His studies gave us protocols that are still used today - and '07 was the last year that a dog on the Iditarod died from a gastric ulcer (and for the record, bomb sniffing dogs for the military have also benefited from this work).

In '12, my last Iditarod finish, I stopped and visited with Snickers on my way into Nome. In the years I have judged, I have asked mushers that I particularly admire to stop and say 'Hi' to her for me. They all have.

I never have asked to work a particular checkpoint on Iditarod, but I have always requested that I NOT work in Grayling. Although the community rallied around me in the wake of Snickers' passing and supported me in ways that were so appreciated and will NEVER be forgotten, the memories are just too raw.

Even working Shageluk in '13 as a judge I was hit by a flood of memories, as it was the last checkpoint she led me out of. I could have told you exactly where we were parked and I stood at the 'out trail' before the first teams arrived, letting the memories wash over me.

I have spoke to other mushers who have lost dogs on the trail over the years. If the talk turns to such things, you can watch their eyes cloud over as they speak and the memories flood back.

So when you look at that list in the paper, don't fail to see that what you are looking at is a list of scarred souls - forever changed by those moments in time.

NorthWapiti's Snickers
June 6, 2001 - March 10, 2007