I’m back! After taking, more or less a hiatus from writing my diaries last winter, I’m back writing and preparing for Iditarod again. Watching the 2002 Race on the Internet proved to be downright painful, so we are doing everything in our power to assure the team and I are back on the Iditarod trail this winter!
Spring has finally started to spring around here, despite a weak start. The trees are still not leafed out, but a few brave tulips are sticking their shoots up. The dogs are shedding like crazy – our birds and squirrels have the loveliest fur lined nests! I’m collecting some of the fur and our friend, Nancy Yarbrough is going to be making some dream catchers with it that will eventually be available for sale on the site!
I’m continuing to run dogs, although the running is not really consistent, we are getting into that time of year when temperature dictates whether or not we run in the morning. (It must be under 10C when I get up before we run)
I’d thought I’d take the time in these first entries to introduce everyone to some of the dogs that we will be working with this fall and winter. First off, I’ll tell you about the returning Iditarod veterans!
NorthWapiti’s Super Grover – ‘Grover’ is a 6-year-old dog. Those of you that have visited the kennel or met the team surely know just how special this dog is to me. Grover is my main and favorite leader. I think he is every bit a ‘Super Hero’. When the chips are down and the trail is tough, Grover is the dog to turn to. His kennel is the one closest to the house and he is the dog very closest to my heart.
NorthWapiti’s Sir Galahad – In 2001 ‘Surge’ was the ‘youngster’ on our team. At 3 ½, he is now all grown up and every bit the wonderful adult that his promising puppy hood hinted to. On the John Beargrease Marathon this past winter, Surge was one of my leaders coming across the finish line.
Ch. Kainai’s Anchorman – My ‘handsome Man’, ‘Mannie’ continues to do better and better in harness. He has even started to do some leading for us. Certainly, he is not the fastest dog on the team, but his ‘never quit’ attitude makes him a treasured asset.
NorthWapiti’s Orion the Hunter – In training ‘Orion’ is one of the best leaders we have. His strength is unbelievable! He has yet to show this same drive during a race though. He’s turning 5 this winter, so I am hoping maturity will help him realize his true racing potential. Orion does rate as one of the happiest dogs in our kennel – he always has a big husky grin on his face and is ready to play.
Chuchinka’s Pathfinder – Big, hard driving and tough as nails is really the best description of Chester, but under that rough exterior is a heart of gold. The mere sight of children starts that tail wagging. In 2001 on the Mid Minnesota I had to constantly verbally correct him for trying to veer over to the edge of the trail to visit with the kids. What a character. At 5 ½ he is in the peak of his career!
NorthWapiti’s Draco – I’ve always described ‘Draco’ as a ‘big, goofier’ version of his brother, Orion. He is, however, very much coming into his own. In 2001 I was torn between running Draco or one other dog on my Iditarod team. I talked to Mark and my friend, Jamie Nelson looking for help in filling that final spot on the team. Both said ‘DRACO’ – so he went. Never once did I regret that choice, he worked hard and honestly throughout the whole race! He is even started to show some promise as a leader!
Chuchinka’s Nikolai the 2nd – There is nothing soft and cuddly about Nik – he lives hard, eats hard, and works hard. If he isn’t moving, he is usually screaming to get moving. He drives me NUTS – but I wouldn’t trade him for the world! Just last week, I had some masochistic feelings and decided to try him in lead. After trying my patience until he thought I would burst, he put his head down and showed me that he knew what I wanted all along. ARGGHHH!
NorthWapiti’s Mr. Snuffleupagus – ‘Gus’ is a littermate to Grover. He is probably the most underrated and under appreciated leader in my kennel. I often seem to overlook him when talking about ‘great’ leaders in my yard, but find myself turning to him time and time again in Races. Gus was the only dog in our team to be in lead for the Ceremonial Start, Restart, and Finish of the 2001 Iditarod.
NorthWapiti’s Guy Smiley – ‘Smiley’ is the flashiest of the ‘Muppet litter’. He seems to have a special twinkle in his eye that captivates those that meet him. A solid leader in his own right and a pointed show dog, he is one of the best ‘dual purpose’ dogs in our kennel. Scratches under the chin are the way to his heart!
NorthWapiti’s Butch Cassidy - ‘Butchie’ is the ‘old man’ of this year’s training pool. He will be turning 8 in August. Butch is a serious and hard working dog, but his biggest contribution to our team has got to be the offspring he has given us – Orion, Draco, Surge, and a number of up and coming dogs are all ‘Sons of Butch’s ‘. Butch is best known for being the ‘flying husky’ on the front page of the Anchorage Daily News Sports section after the Iditarod restart in 2001. He does lead, but we call him the ‘Scud Missile’ when he is up front – you are going somewhere and fast, but you have no control over where it is you are going!
NorthWapiti’s Camilla – the lady of the Muppet litter. Little Camilla, also known as the ‘chicken dog’ (because she is named for the little white chicken Gonzo was in love with on the Muppet show), is the sharpest ‘Gee/Haw’ leader in our kennel. She turns on a dime and you can easily steer her across featureless terrain with little, quiet ‘Gee’ and ‘Haw’ commands.
Chuchinka’s San Antonio Rose – ‘Kaylinn’ took a break late this winter to raise a litter. She was as wonderful a Mother, as she is a sled dog. With her pups only 8 weeks old, she has made it clear that Motherhood will not slow her down and is already back in training!
Tumnatki’s Bosun NorthWapiti – ‘Striker’ missed making our race team last winter after being bumped by his son, Odie. We are not counting him out yet though and think he still stands a good chance of making this year’s main string.
Ch. NorthWapiti’s Oreo – Like Butchie, ‘Oreo’ will be turning 8 this summer, but this gal is just getting better and better with age! Her last 2 seasons have been the best of her career. She was in lead at the finish line of both Race to the Sky and the Beargrease this past winter. She deserved to have finished Iditarod in 2001, and I intend to take her to Nome in 2003!
The two dogs that are not returning from the 2001 team are Jake (Hawk’s NorthWapiti Vindicator) and Sissy (The Flying Nun of NorthWapiti). Jake experienced a few injuries in 2002 and I decided he was ready to slow down. He is currently living with the Trembley’s in Bellevue, Alberta. They tell me he has adjusted nicely to being a spoiled housedog and part time sled dog. I miss him daily.
Sissy is still here, but she has made it very clear that she is sick of being a sled dog. She runs occasionally with puppy teams and is working hard on developing a tan this summer.
Next time I will ‘introduce’ everyone to the rest of the ‘pool’.