Friday, 31 January 2003

January 31, 2003

Plans have changed a little for the Knik 200 Race - so I'm taking some of the veterans along. The team will be: Camilla, Surge, Odie, Loki, Nahanni, Denali, Squeaky, Pirate, Grover, Kara, Freya and Olena.
Grover is listed way back in the list because I've promised I will not run him in lead during the Race. :)

It rained most of yesterday evening here - I'm sure that didn't help the trail, but whata ya do????

You can following the Knik online, although I don't know how good they are at updating information, at

All going well, I'll 'talk' to you all on Monday! :)

Wishing for healthy, happy dogs and a decent trail!

Tuesday, 28 January 2003

January 28, 2003

As always, much to report since last time! 

The snow situation has not improved at all up here (although I understand that there is a ton of the stuff at home in Alberta now!!!). I was losing a little sleeping fretting about the training I was getting in on the dogs. Thankfully, Bob Chlupach, who I met in 2001 when he ran Earl and Natalie's team in the Iditarod, has come to my rescue. Bob arrived home from a trip to the lower 48 and heard of my plight from his wife, Robin. The very next morning he was on the phone telling me to come and train out of his yard. So, armed with detailed maps he provided, I've been trucking up the road 10 miles or so to his place, hooking up in his yard, and getting nice, solid 40 mile runs in. The dogs are knocking off some really incredible runs too. A little too incredible actually, so I'm weighing down the sled and spending a lot of time standing on my drag track! They need to save some of this enthusiasm for March!
This weekend is the Knik 200. The Don Bowers Race and the Tustemena were both cancelled, so I'm very happy that they are able to run the Knik. It is a 12 dog race. I've not yet decided which 12 dogs to take, but the more experienced dogs, like Grover, Gus, Camilla, Smiley, Mannie, Chester, and Kaylinn will probably stay home and I'll use this to evaluate some of the rookies!  

This past Sunday I went to the Willow Winter Carnival and entered Surge and Grover in the weight pull competition. None of my dogs nor I have ever been to a weight pull before, so I would have been more then pleased if they just pulled the first load, which was 200 lbs. Seems I underestimated my amazing canine athletes - Surge (57 lbs, according to their scale) pulled 800 lbs and Grover (55.5 lbs) I pulled out of the competition after he successfully pulled 1250 lbs (as it was his first pull, I didn't want him to overdo it!)!!!! I was astounded - and then a little scared after I started doing some figuring......say each of my dogs can pull about 700 lbs.....700 x 16 = 11200 lbs......say an Iditarod sled with musher weighs about 400 lbs......11200lbs - 400 = trouble for Karen!!! Anyway, I was so proud of Grover - he looked like a real professional out there and received many compliments from other participants and spectators. What a truly special dog he is. And hats off to Surge too - although he may have lacked the focus and drive of Grover, he did a more then commendable job and had a lot of fun doing it! 

If any of you have a weight pull in your area, I encourage you to attend. It is a wonderful display of the amazing strength of dogs and their bond with their owners. The dog that won the pull was a very large St. Bernard who calmly and with relative ease, dropped his head and pulled 3500 lbs. when asked to. Simply amazing! And I thought walking mine on a leash was hard! :) 

After the pull, Jamie West and I wandered around the Carnival a bit. There were all sorts of booths with crafts and artwork. I passed on the reindeer hot dogs, which Jamie reported were good. We took in the 'Most abused Carhartts' contest. For those of you not in the 'know' - Carhartts are an extremely tough brand of coverall that are pretty much a uniform in Alaska, Minnesota, around dog sled races, etc. The contest was won by a spunky older woman, maybe in her 80's that also placed in the woman's cross cut saw competition. The wad of chewing tobacco in her cheek during the Carhartt contest was the 'touch' that put her on to victory, I think.  

Bidding for the 2003 Idita-rider auction finished up last Friday. Folks bidding to ride the first 11 miles of the race with the mushers raised over $100,000 for the Iditarod. The winning bid on my sled was $1700 - the 8th highest bid overall out of the 74 mushers. That is very flattering! I don't know yet who my Idita-rider will be, but I will get to meet them at a luncheon on February 27. Over the years I have stayed in contact with my other Idita-riders - I consider the friendships made to be the true benefit of this program! 

Anyway, that is the news for the day! 

31 days left till the start of Iditarod - not that I'm counting or anything!

Sunday, 19 January 2003

January 19, 2003

Greetings from Alaska! 

After a fairly uneventful trip, Jim and I arrived up in Alaska last Monday night. He spend Tuesday helping me get settled in at Howling Dog Farm (the Norris' place) and then flew home on Wednesday. Which he had to do, in order to be ready for a performance he had on the weekend (for those of you that aren't aware, Jim is a very talented trumpet player and, pretty much, makes his living off of performances and giving lessons). It was really great to spend the trip up with him. I think that is the most time we have been together since I got married and moved out of the house 16 years ago. 
The dogs are doing really good. They all made the trip well, in fact, alittle too well and I'm finding I'm having to cut meals back alittle to get rid of the few extra pounds that some of them (especially Nik and Chester) gained. I've had them out and running several times. On Thursday and Friday I trucked them to spots with better snow, but after getting 2 1/2 inches of the white stuff on Friday night, I braved the trails that run out of the yard here yesterday. Things were not too bad, alittle bumpy, but definitely do-able. It was terrific to be back on trails that I know and love from my trips up in '99 and '00.  

Howling Dog Farms is going to be a terrific base for us. They are on a great trail system, have a really good dog yard, and the folks around here are wonderful. Natalie is spoiling me. I fully expected to be cooking for myself while up here training, which generally means a quick meal from a package or a can, but she has insisted that I have dinner with them every evening. So I didn't feel to pampered, I did negotiate that I am responsible for my own breakfast and lunch - but even that took some doing - Natalie is a very generous and kind lady. She is also one of the most knowledgeable people in the world about the Siberian Husky and I'm learning lots from the great conversations we have been having. Her history in the breed and stories she has to tell are simply amazing. 

There are two handlers up here. Katherine, from Sweden, and Janet. I've been roping Janet into all kinds of trouble since arriving and have had her double sledding and riding along as a passenger for me. That has been really helpful with the sparse snow conditions.  

The house always seems to be bustling with activity. Natalie's son, J.P, and his wife Kari have some of their Siberians in the yard here, so they are through a few times a day. I'd not met J.P on my previous trips here and am really enjoying his humor and rededication to the Siberian Husky. Not many mushers come back to running Siberians after having had Alaskans, but J.P. and Kari have - the Siberian breed will be better for it, I'm positive. Jon and Jona Van Zyle were visiting yesterday. I missed most of their visit, as I was out with a team, but it was nice to say 'Hi' and have a short visit with both of them. They left the Norris' and I each a signed copy of the 2003 Iditarod print - an adorable print of husky puppies based on pictures of Natalie, J.P. and Kari's puppies from this past year. I'm a big fan of Jon's work, as many of you know, and have a number of his prints framed in our house - so getting another signed poster was a real special treat. I believe you can see copies of the 2003 print, and Jon's other work at his new website  

I had signed up for the Little-T race that runs in conjunction with the Tustemena 200 next weekend, but they have postponed the Race until the beginning of February now. In fact, the same weekend as the Knik 200, which I had also hoped to run. I'm alittle undecided now about which to do. I may enter both to hedge my bets, in case snow conditions force the cancellation of one of them. I'm also hoping to enter the Don Bowers Memorial Race the weekend after next. Hopefully that will be a go. 
Well, Janet is out feeding the Norris dogs and I can hear mine complaining about the 'neglect' they are being subjected to by not being fed at the same time, so I must run. 

Do snow dances for us!!

Wednesday, 8 January 2003

January 8, 2003 Alaska Bound Team Members 2003

Well, without further ado, I’m going to introduce the 20 dogs
 that are heading north to Alaska with us. 
NorthWapiti’s Super Grover (6.5 year old black and white male – Iditarod veteran – main leader). There is probably not much I can say about Grover that you all haven’t heard me say before. My best leader and a contributing member anywhere else in the team. In my mind, they don’t come any better then this boy. 

Ch. NorthWapiti’s Guy Smiley (6.5 year old white and gray piebald male – Iditarod veteran – leader). Aptly named, this handsome, happy boy is a pleasure to run. A solid, dependable leader. 

NorthWapiti’s Mr. Snuffleupagus (6.5 year old white and gray piebald male – Iditarod veteran – leader). ‘Gus’ was my leader for the ceremonial start, restart and finish of the 2001 Iditarod. He often gets second billing to his brothers, Smiley and Grover – but he is every bit as valuable a team member! 

NorthWapiti’s Camilla (6.5 year old white and gray piebald female – Iditarod veteran – leader). The last of the ‘muppets’ – a littermate to Gus, Smiley, and Grover. Camilla is the best command leader we own. Having her up front is like having power steering. 

NorthWapiti’s Orion the Hunter (5 year old gray and white male – Iditarod veteran – leader). When it comes to pure pulling power, Orion is at the head of the class. 

NorthWapiti’s Draco (5 year old gray and white male – Iditarod veteran – leader). Those of you that follow my journal entries know how excited and happy I am to have this boy heading north with us. Draco is coming into his own as a leader and has been leading frequently this training season.

Ch. Kainai’s Anchorman (7 year old sable male – Iditarod veteran). ‘Mannie’ is hardworking and focused. Not a leader, but a valuable team member nonetheless. 

Chuchinka’s Pathfinder (6 year old black and white male – Iditarod veteran – leader). ‘Chester’ is a tough, happy, hardworking boy. Not the best leader we own, but still very capable of being at the front of the team.

Chuchinka’s San Antonio Rose (6.5 year old, gray and white female – Iditarod veteran – leader). ‘Kaylinn’ first started leading during the 2001 Iditarod. This year she is actually trained to run lead! Very eager to please. 

NorthWapiti’s Sir Galahad (4 year old, gray and white male – Iditarod veteran – leader). In 2001, ‘Surge’ was our youngest team member. He know has some more experience and is an even more valuable team member. 

Chuchinka’s Nikolia 2nd (5 year old, gray and white male – Iditarod veteran – leader). ‘Nik’ is undoubtedly the most annoying dog in the team, but his screaming in harness and enthusiasm for the food bowl is a real asset out on the trail. 

NorthWapiti’s Denali (2.5 year old gray and white male – racing rookie – leader). Denali is the tallest boy on the team. Very handsome. But a real baby about having his feet touched – hopefully he will get over that this season.

NorthWapiti’s Loki (3.5 year old gray and white male – racing rookie). One of the up and coming powerhouses on our team. 

NorthWapiti’s Oden (3.5 year old gray and white male – leader – Beargrease veteran). ‘Odie’ is almost a twin of his brother, Loki, even I sometimes get the two of them confused in harness! 

NorthWapiti’s Robert E. Lee (4 year old light red and white male – racing rookie). ‘Squeaky’ (because he has been debarked – but not by us) came to live with us just over a year ago. A littermate to Surge, he is just one of those dogs that you can put into the team and forget he is there, because he causes no trouble and just does his job. 

NorthWapiti’s Freya (3.5 year old, gray and white female – racing rookie - leader). At 37 lbs, she is the smallest member of our team, but I swear she puts more pounds of pull into her tug line then some of the bigger dogs on the team.

NorthWapiti’s Valkyrie Kara (3.5 year old, black and white female – racing rookie – leader). Beautiful and without a doubt, the happiest dog on the team. Kara took last year off to raise a family (Dasher and Dancer), but this year has decided to focus on her career.

Alaskan’s Olena of Anadyr (2.5 year old black and white female – racing rookie - leader). Quite possibly the most focused and driven dog I’ve ever met. An UNBELIEVABLE dog in harness.

NorthWapiti’s Nahanni (2.5 year old silver and white female – racing rookie). Nahanni digs in on the hills like no other. There is leader potential in this gal too!

And, finally….

Ch. Innisfree’s Pirate’s Treasure (4 year old gray and white male – racing rookie). Boy, I caught you all with this one, didn’t I??? Pirate has been our little secret in the kennel this training season. When I was in New York in May judging Puppy Sweepstakes for the Seneca Siberian Specialty, Trish and Pam Kanzler were showing this boy. After watching Pirate move around the ring, I was completely taken with him. I offered the Kanzlers a chance to prove him out in harness. (For those of you that don’t know Kathleen Kanzler’s Innisfree Kennels – they are, without argument, the most successful Siberian Show kennel in the history of the breed.). Showing a tremendous amount of faith in Pirate and in me, they agreed and Pirate came out here in September.  He has done beyond all our expectations, honestly earning his spot on the truck. Watch for more information and pictures of Pirate – now that our secret is out!

Well, that’s the team. They are a solid and hard working group of dogs. I’m excited about the potential of this group! Just for curiosities sake, here are some stats on the team. There are:

· 11 Iditarod veterans and 9 rookies
· 14 males and 6 females 

The average weight of the team is 45.9 lbs, with the heaviest dog being Chester at 54.2 lbs and the lightest being Freya at 36.8 lbs. 

The average age of the team is 4.5 years, with the oldest being Mannie, at 7 and the youngest being Olena, Denali, and Nahanni, at 2.5 years. 

A quick word about the three dogs that were cut from the pool – as many of you may have guessed, the hardest cut was Oreo. I had really hoped that I could take her to Nome this year and I still believe that she could do the Race, however, my job as coach/manager etc. is to pick the BEST dogs for the team and Oreo was beat out by some of the younger dogs. This decision was one that had to be made with my head, not my heart - as my heart would have put her on the truck in a second.

Kobuk was another tough cut. He is a great youngster and I know he is going to be an even more wonderful dog in the years to come, however, I feel he could use a little bit more time to mature. 
Kluane was not as difficult a decision. Her poor eating habits have been a huge frustration throughout training and that is what caused her to be cut from the team. 

Thank you to all those who participated in our "2003 Sponsor-A-Dog" program. Please visit the page to read who they are and to learn more about these people to whom we are so grateful!!  Without the support of all of our Sponsors (we have more than one type and more than one page of sponsors!) our trip to Alaska would not have been possible.

All for today!

Tuesday, 7 January 2003

January 7, 2003

Good morning! Phew, what a busy few days – and things only look to get busier! 

Sunday Mark spent the day on the band saw. He got lots done and all the meat I need for the trip north is now ready. Once I leave, he will still have to do another day or so of cutting to get everything ready for Iditarod. I’ve included some pictures below of ‘Band Saw Day’. 

Click on the images to view larger versions.  I have purposely left the originals large, so that details will be more easily visible for those who car to view them.

Mark slices salmon into snacks for the dogs. 

TakeOut, the cat keeps a close eye on the proceedings.

600 lbs. of tripe waiting to be cut into meal sizes. For those of you that don't know what tripe is - it is the stomach lining of cows. Aren't you glad you wondered??? It is certainly alittle stinky!

TakeOut tries to figure out a way to make a meal out of the pile! Actually, TakeOut is very spoiled and refuses to eat meat scrapes. It's either commercial cat food, freshly killed squirrel or bird, or nothing for this boy!

Working the blocks down to meal size. Each meal block is about 8 lbs - that will be one feeding for the 'A' string. 

Preparing the meat for a race.

The blocks are sliced into these thin slices for racing, as they will thaw very quickly when hot water is poured on them. These meals will be used for the shorter races I'm planning on doing in Alaska in January and February. 
While he was busy in the garage, I took a team out. Still doing shorter runs to help Draco get back with the ‘program’. He continues to look good. He has his ‘final exam’ today – a 30 mile run. If he is sound tomorrow he will go to Alaska with me. 

Loki is now my ongoing concern. He is in great spirits and working great, but his blood work did show a slightly high white blood count when we did it on the 23rd. A follow up yesterday showed an even higher count. He is going in this morning for more testing. There is obviously some sort of infection in him; we just have to find it. First test will be getting a urine sample – not tough to do with Lok – he pees on everything he can! 

I’m not really that concerned about this, obviously if it was a serious infection, we would see signs in his overall attitude and health – but it is definitely something we want to get cleared up. 

Breezy (multi BIS Ch. Chuchinka’s Dance in the Wind SDX) was in the vet yesterday too. She is one of my retirees and has been having some troubles of late. X-rays on the 23rd made the vet want a closer look, so yesterday they opened her up and took some intestine and digestive tract biopsies. They are thinking Inflammatory Bowel Disease or something similar. That is actually good news, as it is a manageable condition. I also had her spayed while they had her on the operating table. She is resting comfortably in the house. 

For those of you that are not on the NorthWapiti News mailing list, we announced a new ‘Lead Dog’ Sponsor last week - Stuffed Animal House of Langley, B.C.. You can see some of their very neat stuffed huskies (and other critters) at . We are very pleased to have them join our ‘team’!!! 

Denise Linley tells me that the 2003 limited edition print is now heading off to the printers. The print is titled “24’d and Ready” and depicts my team and I getting ready to leave the McGrath checkpoint after our 24-hour layover in the 2001 Iditarod. I will get a copy of it up on the site as soon as I can and mailings will happen as soon as I get home from Alaska at the end of March. My apologies to all for the delay on this this year. 

That’s all for today!

Saturday, 4 January 2003

January 4, 2003

I have been getting a fair number of emails asking about Draco’s condition (nice to know so many folks are reading!), so I figured I better get a ‘Draco Report’ up!

Draco ran 10 miles with the main string on Wednesday and 12 miles with them yesterday. He remains sound and happy – and I am THRILLED!!! I plan to do two more short runs with him today and tomorrow, give him a day off, and then bump him up to a 30-mile run on Tuesday. If he remains sound after that, he will be getting on the truck for Alaska on Friday!

It looks like, even if he ends up not going to Alaska, the injury with his leg is not the career ending one we originally feared. Our vet confirmed that if it had been a cruciate injury, we would not have seen the improvement that we have so far. So the way I look at it, it is still a success, even if I don’t have Draco on Iditarod this year (but I hope I do!)

We are busy, busy preparing for my trip north. We need to organize and pack all the food and gear the team will need for the month before Mark comes up. Because I am planning on doing 2 races before he arrives, that makes the planning a little bit trickier! The truck will sure be loaded down. My brother, Jim is driving up with me (and then flying home a day or so later) – I think he may have to sit on a sled on the roof of the truck (just kidding Jim……well, hopefully so).

In addition to working on all that, I’m trying to get as much of my Iditarod food drop items prepared as I can before I leave too. Mark will be responsible for preparing and packaging all the kibble and meat for the dogs, so I’ve done up lists for him with how many salmon snacks, how many beaver snacks, how many tripe meals, how many chicken meals, etc. Then I’ve already got all my own meals and snacks packaged and ready to go into drop bags. I’m just now vacuum sealing my changes of clothing and extra neck warmers, hats, gloves, etc.  The house looks like it was hit by a small tornado, with all the piles of gear and supplies stacked all over.

Next time I should have the list of the 20 dogs that are going to Alaska with me ready. I must say that this is a toughie - tough enough that I really haven’t narrowed it down yet. I faxed my vet yesterday with a list of dogs for which I need shot and health records for the trip and there were 22 names on that list. Maybe Jim wouldn’t mind driving to Alaska with a dog on his lap? (just kidding, Jim….well, hopefully so)

Must run for this morning! Wishing you all the best for the upcoming year!