Tuesday, 14 September 2004

September 14, 2004 Mud Play

It actually seems a little quiet at the house this morning.

A week ago things were still buzzing around here with our 4th Annual  Fall Warm-Up weekend. This was the best attended and, I think, most enjoyable weekend yet. Everything started up with Kathy and Mike Carmichael and 14 of their Siberians arriving from Utah on Friday afternoon. They were quickly followed by Jackie Wepruk, Rick Austin and about a dozen more Siberians. I was cringing as we were parking trucks in the middle of blueberry patches, but really we had no choice - most of the ground out here is blue right now!

Joining the crowd a little later was Paul Jones with 4 dogs and Lee, Tim and Hunter Vincent in their 'Malamute Motel' with 5 Malamutes.

We were able to get everyone (dogs and humans) fed and well settled before we headed off that evening for a run. The way our trails twist and turn through our land there are lots of 'outs' for people to pick their own run distance, so teams did anywhere from 2 - 4.5 miles that night.

The weather cooperated great for the whole weekend, allowing us nice runs each morning and night. Our ranks were joined throughout the weekend by Scott and Denise Linley; Lorne LeClair; Doug and Sue Gingrich. At the peak, the number of dogs on this chunk of land was well over 100. Lucky we are not close enough to any of our neighbors that that would be a problem! Although I'm sure the area wildlife, including the bear Rick chased off the trail Saturday evening, were put out by the commotion (I'm kind of jealous, I've lived here for something like 6 years and although I see lots and lots of signs - I've never seen a bear here!)

For many of the dogs, including a lot of my puppies and yearlings, this was their first time to pass and be passed by strange teams of dogs. They all did great - although Eeek's eyes almost bulged out of his head when he watched the Vincent's big dogs go by. He didn't know dogs came that big and hairy!!
The weekend was very enjoyable with lots of food - including things like blueberry pancakes, deep fried turkey, Jackie's KILLER Caesar salad, homemade Saskatoon berry wine, and more desserts then you could shake a stick at - much laughter and a lot of dog tales.

Things wound up nicely on Tuesday morning with the Carmichael's and I each taking a team out for a very enjoyable 8 mile run before they packed up to leave. It was a nice conclusion to a hectic, but wonderful weekend. I got lots of emails from folks that attended saying they also had a great time. In fact, Mike and Kathy are even talking about buying land in the area!

Although each year I vow this will be the LAST FWW - I'm now looking forward to the 5th Annual!
The other thing making the house quiet this morning is that all the Moms and pups have now moved out into the dog yard. Since mid July we have had a string of Moms and their kids living in the back room.

First it was Kaylinn and her 'Storm' litter, followed by Olena and her 'Electric' kids and finally Jumpy and her 'Spots'. Watching TV is just that much nicer when you can sneak a puppy out of the back room and snuggle while you do it! Not that the puppies aren't still close by and don't all get their chance to come up and visit, but it is nice when they are all clean and you don't have to put shoes on to get one!
One of my favorite things about having the pups outside is when we are getting ready to run. The puppies pretty much go about their business of playing, paying us hardly any mind while we are hooking up teams. They know that doesn't involve them and they are content to wrestle and romp in their pens. Yet when I call the team up to leave the yard (the main out trail goes right passed the puppy pens), they all rush over and line up at the fence to watch the teams go by. One day, babies!!
I thought I would share a 'Tale of the Trail' that you all should enjoy.

The wet weather around here this year as made for a lot of 'Un-Alberta' like conditions on the trails - namely standing water and mud holes. Normally, I don't have to deal with this kind of stuff till I get to Minnesota in October. In fact, I rarely, if ever wear rubber boots when training at home, yet I live in them in Minnesota (Land of 10,000 Lakes - right! The state is really one big lake with a few high spots.). Anyway, enough of my whining about Minnesota - back to sunny, dry Alberta..

About ½ way through a great training run the other day I decided to head down the highway ditch for the first time this year. My leaders, Kara and young Snickers eagerly took the turn, looking forward to some new trail. Their eagerness quickly became horror when they realized that there was a huge mud puddle covering the trail. Kara, being the little prim Dona she is, spotted a trail that cut off to the left and into a field. Despite me walking up front a number of time to talk to her, she refused to see the point of plunging into the mud and water when there was a perfectly good (at least in her mind) trail to the left. Partway through this process I gained a spectator. It was Barb, the wonderful woman that looks after our dogs and place whenever we are away. I stopped to chat with her for a moment and she asked what exactly I was trying to do.

I gave her my little speech about "mud puddles building character and teaching teamwork'. If I had glanced over my shoulder I'm sure I would have seen the team rolling their eyes and mimicking "Blah, blah, blah." - they just don't see the same value in going through mud that I do. I asked Barb is she would help out and she agreed. I had her block the trail the dogs kept trying to take. "Flap your arms and look mean if they head towards you" were my instructions.

The dogs, of course, didn't buy it and scooted around her. By now we had gained enough ground that things were getting pretty ugly - I wasn't able to put the leaders where I wanted unless I was willing to wade knee deep into ice cold, muddy water - and I was not wearing rubber boots! I decided drastic times require drastic measures and swapped Camilla for Kara in lead. Camilla, who just days ago was rolling in big, sloppy cow pies, decided there was no way she was getting dirty today, and darted to the edge of the mud hole and under a barb wire fence. With Barb pushing from one side and me pulling from the other (while balancing on a clump of grass so I didn't soak my feet), we got everyone extracted from the fence. When I got back to the 4-wheeler I had to leap across water to reach it.
Of course, as I jumped, my supporting foot slipped and I landed flat on my back in the water. I splashed and struggled to my feet with the background soundtrack of Barb's muffled laughter. I squished over and climbed on the 4-wheeler. The dogs swung out into the middle of the puddle and leaned into their harnesses. I'm thinking one of 2 things convinced them do what I had been asking all along. Either A - they wanted me to get wet before they were going to or B -they (and rightly so) figured I was not going to be in a good mood after my swim and it wasn't a good time to push my buttons further.

Anyway, they powered through the mud hole in fine form. I stopped on the other side, squished my way to the front of the team, taking my time to praise everyone and tell them what geniuses they were. I'm sure they were giggling.

The dogs and I would like to take a moment to send congratulations to Siv, the Norwegian Buhund (owned by our dear friend and main sponsor, Dawne Deeley) on being awarded her first Best in Show last weekend. She is now officially known as BIS Ch. Kyon's Freidige Siv. On her summer holidays this year, Siv stopped by the kennel and tried her paw at being a sled dog. Okay, after having a harness put on and poising for a few pictures with Grover, she decided work was not her thing and is now simply offering her services as a coach and motivator.

Congratulations Siv and Dawne - we love you both and are so pleased for you!

All for now!

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