Well, the bright yellow colors of fall have deepened into warm caramel and toffee colors, accented by russet reds, oranges, and all shades of brown – the countryside here is simply breathtaking. I find the wide variety of fall colors to be much more visually interesting and eye catching then the shades of any other season!
Our training for the team is progressing well. Currently the dogs have between 250 – 300 miles of training on them, which is a little behind where I wanted to be, but well in line with last year’s mileage. Our ‘first cut’ to the main string is coming up pretty quick. Some of the decisions are becoming pretty obvious – others are going to be very tough. We are actually thinking of doing something new for this season. Four or five main string dogs may remain at home when I go to Minnesota. Mark will keep the mileage up on them and then when I get home we will then be working with a pool of 28 or 29, instead of the normal 24.
This allows us to run 2 – 14 dog strings in training, which is what we are currently doing and will give the team some more depth to it. Always good!
The main string dogs that stay behind will be dogs that have been on our Minnesota training trips before, so they are all well acquainted with traveling, living in different places, camping, passing, and the other things this trip teaches them!
This is an interesting time for us at home. Early in the season, we can do our runs without leaving our own land and the ‘Green’ (Government owed land) around it, so other then a few coyotes, squirrels, deer, moose, bear and the likes, we don’t have a big audience during training. However once our daily mileage exceeds 10 miles we end up adding gravel roads and highway ditches to our runs.
The first few outings into the ‘public’ eye always seem like a circus! Are Mark and I the only people in the world that don’t carry a camera or video camera in our vehicle?? The number of people that quickly whip out their cameras and click away when they see us amazes me. Even if I did have a camera in the truck, it would take me a half hour (easy) to locate it!
And then there is the folks that pace along beside us for several miles in the ditch – or, better yet – BACK UP along the highway to get an improved shot. Some days I cringe and wonder just how far debris from an accident would fly….
And, of course, on the gravel roads folks will stop and I’ll get the inevitable questions; “What are you training for?”, “The WHAT?”; “Are they pulling that on their own?”; and my all time favorite “Have you ever thought of hooking them up to a sled and having them pull you on the snow?” (NO – I’m not kidding – and YES – he was serious).
Honestly, I am so grateful to the folks that slow down to pass us on the roads, that I’m happy to take the time to answer any questions or just to say ‘HI’ and let them meet the dogs.
Because of all the training we do do in the vicinity of traffic, our teams are very strictly trained to hug the right side of the road. “Gee Over” is probably our most commonly used command. The veterans like Grover, Draco (especially Draco), Gus, and Camilla are wizards and will scoot over in a heartbeat. For the rookies it takes a good deal of work to get the message through their heads. I almost thought Olena was going to be incapable of learning the command, as she is so left ‘pawed’. Every time I’d get after her, she’d look at me over her left shoulder and end up swinging back out into the middle of the road. I was going up so many times to correct her that I was probably putting more miles on foot then with the team! Thankfully, this year she seems to have gotten the hang of it.
Now I just have to get it into the heads of Kobuk, Denali, Moses, Crunchie and the other young leaders! Some nights I swear I mumble ‘Gee Over’ in my sleep! (Maybe that is why Mark sleeps on the right side of the bed!! Doesn’t work though – he still hogs the bed and the covers!)
Last week was ‘Vet Day’ here – or as the vet described in her notes at the Clinic (faxed to me with some other paperwork) ‘Herd Health and Vaccination Day’. I don’t think I’ve ever thought of them as a ‘herd’ before – but a herd of huskies is a pretty accurate description I suppose! Everyone got their shots and I had Karla look at a few other little things – nothing major!
We did blood work on Freya. Last year she had a low red cell volume prior to Iditarod that kept her off the team, this time we are monitoring her levels closely throughout the year so we have an accurate ‘baseline’ on her. It is looking now like that is ‘just Freya’ and therefore is nothing that will stop her from participating in Iditarod this time.
Karla came equipped with words of advice from Tannis, who has done Vet Day in the past - label all the needles in case they get knocked out of your hand (The first time Tannis was here we walked into the ‘puppy pen’ to vaccinate the pups, they stampeded over to greet us and sent the box of needles she was holding flying. A mad scramble ensued as Tannis and I tried to beat the pups to the syringes – luckily we recovered them all without incident); never put anything down within reach of a dog (Always a good one here. Karla listened well and lost nothing – I however played tag with Spotty Dog to recover the paperwork with the list of which dogs needed which shot.); and don’t poke Karen with a needle (Karen is scared to death of needles). All very good pieces of advice!
Anyway…that’s the news for today! I’m busy scrambling trying to get lots of loose ends tied up before my trip to Minnesota!