Friday, 30 January 2004

January 30, 2004 Moose Tracks in the Snow

It is 8:30 in the morning and daylight is just breaking at Howling Dog Farm. I should be outside feeding and shoveling the yard, but it is –30 F this morning and I decided the time was right to catch up on some email and other things. 

Janet, Natalie’s handler, laughed at me this morning and said, “Oh so you do have a temperature cutoff for running dogs”. I explained that years ago when we first started our cutoff was about –20C, over the years it got colder and colder until there was awhile when there was no cutoff. Now I have a much more reasonable approach to things. If it is brutally cold, but I’m behind where I want to be in training – I go, but if things are going well in training, I’m happy to stay at home below –30! 

As it is, I will probably have to run sometime today, as I’ve committed to being a volunteer for the Earl Norris Memorial Sprint Race at the Willow Winter Carnival this weekend, so I probably won’t be running dogs tomorrow or the next day. Maybe it will warm up if I stall for awhile though!

Things are going pretty well up here. Thinking about Orion is still very painful, but I’ve decided that if I can’t run Iditarod with Orion this year, I’ll run it for him. I’ve been so grateful to the many, many folks that took time to email, write and phone to express their sympathy. It is very touching to me to know that others care. Thank you. 

The dogs are looking great. They are as animated and keen as they were at home and have been attacking the trails in Alaska with gusto. 

The trail system behind Norris’s is in some of the best shape I’ve ever seen it in. It has been lovely to get back to Steven’s Lake, Windy Lake, the Big Swamp Loop, etc. I’m always amazed by how well I and especially the dogs remember the trails. Yesterday I ran the Deception Creek/Romano’s Loop trails that we used a bit when we were training out of Maureen Chrysler’s place in 2000. I was thinking for a while that I might be lost, but every time an intersection came up either Camilla or I remembered which way to go and with only one small glitch we negotiated the 30-mile trail.

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Trail Out of Norris's

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Norris Trail System

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Denali in the distance (the mountain, not the dog)

This past Monday I trucked the dogs over to the Willow Community Center and went for a run with Doug Grillot. Doug is a Quest veteran and will be running Iditarod for the first time this year. I met him our first trip up in ’99 and he has always graciously offered help on our subsequent visits. This is the first time I’ve taken him up on his offers and I am so glad I did. Doug was a fantastic tour guide and our 40-mile run was most enjoyable. He was such a great host that he was even the one to go chase away the moose that was happily munching on willows a hundred feet or so in front of the dog trucks while we were hooking up (probably because he was the one carrying a gun – but it was still very gentlemanly of him!)
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Loping around Steven's Lake

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Taking a break

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Off and running

Speaking of moose, the moose around here are as thick as always. The ‘Give Moose a Break’ sign outside of Anchorage says 235 have been killed on valley highways this winter alone. Not sure when ‘this winter’ starts for them, but no matter how you look at it, that is a big number. That also translates into a lot of vehicle and human damage, as these beasts mostly weigh around 1500 + lbs. You can imagine that no wreck that kills such a big animal is pretty. Alaskans are so practical though. While I was leaving Wasilla the other day, 4 men where working away gutting a moose on the side of the highway. None of the road kill meat is wasted; it is salvaged for people whose names are on a waiting list or by the local food banks. Smart thinking! 

There have been a few of the creatures hanging in close to Howling Dog Farm. Chester had me up until past 1am the other night with his frantic ‘let me kill it’ screaming. Bullwinkle was unimpressed and wandered around the edge of the yard grazing. My insults and verbal threat had no more effect either. I was grateful when he finally meandered off and let us all go back to sleep.

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Norris Trail System - 2

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Norris Trail System - 3

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Norris Trail System - 4

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Norris Trail System - 5

I wasn’t home the other day but tracks (and the folks that were at home) confirm that one walked down the dog trail within about 20 feet of Camilla on Wednesday. My group was apparently quite excited and vocal about the whole thing. Our moose at home take off when they see the dogs or hear the dog yard fire up; moose here seem to find bugging dog yards to be an enjoyable pastime. I just wish my guys would figure out their 38 (in Camilla’s case) to 60 lbs is no match for a moose.

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Self portrait

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Coming home to Howling Dog Yard

Anyway, it is now 9:30. Still –30, but I can stall no longer – time to go feed the critters. 


Friday, 23 January 2004

January 23, 2004 Dogs that Travel

I received some questions of late about which dogs made the trip to Alaska with me and realized in all the confusion and heartache of the last week I forgot to tell everyone. So here goes (in no particular order) - 
NorthWapiti's Super Grover
NorthWapiti's Crunchie
NorthWapiti's Draco
Clout's Moses of Velikaya
NorthWapiti's Mr. Snuffleupagus (Gus)
NorthWapiti's Denali
NorthWapiti's Kobuk
Chlout's Herman of NorthWapiti
NorthWapiti's Robert E. Lee (Squeaky)
NorthWapiti's Nahanni
NorthWapiti's Valkyrie Kara
NorthWapiti's Camilla
Alaskan's Olena of Anadyr
Chlout's Hilda of NorthWapiti
Chuchinka's Pathfinder (Chester)
Ch. NorthWapiti's Loki
Chlout's Hector of NorthWapiti
NorthWapiti's Oden (Oldie)
NorthWapiti's Sir Galahad (Surge)
NorthWapiti's Orion the Hunter

PS. hee...hee. Okay I confess to 'some order' to my lists. Actually, I  listed them as they are arranged in Natalie's dog yard and Grover is on the front corner, closest to the house. He's there....well...because he is Grover :)

And I'll have to apologize to Odie the Coyote about that slip on his name - I think I must have agreed with my spell check, which wasn't fond of the name 'Odie'.

Thursday, 22 January 2004

January 22, 2004 Godspeed Orion

I asked Janet to share the news with the Northwapiti list yesterday that Orion was gone, as it was just too hard for me to do. Thanks Janet - and my thanks for crying with me at the vet clinic and driving me home. It helped a lot and I am grateful. Things are still very painful, as I really don't believe that this vibrant, amazing animal is gone - but I'm going to attempt to tell the story.

Early yesterday morning Orion appeared to be maintaining well - he was obviously no better, but didn't seem much worse either. I walked him and gave him his first round of medication. At 8:30 when I called the vet and gave them an update on his condition, there we a few signs that he might be deteriorating - his temperature, which had been very high the day prior had taken a significant drop and was now a touch below normal; he appeared to be breathing harder then yesterday; and he had vomited up a bunch of the water I had let him drink earlier. I thought it was because I had let him drink too much all at once. 

We talked about the option of a whole blood transfusion, again looking to buy him some more time so the drugs could 'kick in' - although in reality, all the meds hadn't even slowed down his condition yet, but we weren't really discussing that. Between phone calls to the vet I kept going downstairs to check on Orion and it was becoming obvious that he was starting to go downhill. When the vet talked about getting pre-screened, 'clean' blood shipped up from the lower 48 for a transfusion, I indicated I didn't think we had that much time, whatever we did had to be done that day. While the vet looked to clear his schedule, we got in touch with Natalie's son and daughter in law to ask if they had a young healthy dog we could use for a transfusion. They graciously offered two dogs. 

A trip down to check on Orion moved everything into frantic mode - he was 'crashing'. Orion was loaded in the truck and covered with blankets. For a moment then I thought we had lost him, as he became very unresponsive. In my heart, at this point, I knew he was leaving us. When we got to the vet, he looked a little brighter, although he was still obviously a dog in critical condition. The vet was willing to do the transfusion, but when I asked him what the chance of it helping Orion, he indicated he was almost 100% sure it wasn't going to save him, "...but we can try if you want", he said. Through tears I was debating the options. I asked Brian if Orion was his pet, what would he do? Before he could answer, Orion did - he arched his back and made a whining moan. I've never heard him whine before, except in excitement. I asked if he was in pain and was told it would now be like he was being held underwater and unable to breath. I made the decision that moment that he be freed from pain and fear and be euthanized.

With my head against his and me whispering in his ear, this once beautiful, strong athlete left us. He was 6 years old, a main leader, a finisher of Iditarod, Race to the Sky, John Beargrease Marathon, Grand Portage Passage, Knik 200, Klondike 300 and more. This season alone he had traveled 1400 miles of trail with me. 

Yesterday afternoon I took a 10 dog team out for a run. In lead was Orion's brother, Draco. As we sailed around the spectacular trails near Willow, I could see shades of Orion in his teammates. I remembered 'postcards' of him in harness - when he first stepped up as a leader in 2001 at the Grand Portage race, his exuberant, 'pointy teeth' grin when we stopped for a break. I know this sounds foolish, but the way the late day light was playing off the dogs, I could have swore there was a spot of light traveling down the trail with us. I know I could feel him.

He is being cremated and I've already decided where his ashes will go. Last year on Iditarod we had a spectacular run from Galena to Nulato on a cold, crisp morning. We were fresh off our 24 hour break and the dogs were raring to run. Ironically, I don't remember who the other leader was, but I remember Orion being up front and remember stopping to give them all a snack. Orion was rolling around in the snow and grinning a big Siberian grin. It was so obvious that he was loving what he was doing. His passion for the trail shone from inside. That's how I will remember him and that's where his ashes will go. 

You were so, so loved, my friend.

Wednesday, 21 January 2004

January 21, 2004 Orion's Status

Thank you to all for your words of support regarding Orion. While I'd love to take the time to email each of you personally, I'm just a little overwhelmed right now - remember I still have 19 other dogs that need my attention too and need to be run. It is a difficult and stressful juggling game.

Orion is significantly worse this morning. I'm waiting for the vet to come out of surgery so we can decide our next course of action. We had talked yesterday about a few different options and now we need to decide which direction to go from here. Please all be assured that our vet here in Alaska is an exceptional one (he is the vet used by Martin Buser and top sprint musher Egil Ellis - among others) and he is devoting a lot of time and effort into Orion. I am grateful to him and I trust him completely. 

Orion has been a real fighter through all this, but last night and this morning his disease seems to be getting the better of him. If and when Orion tells me his is tired of fighting, I will respect that - but I don't think we are quite there yet. 

Prayers are still appreciated. I am saying mine continuously. 


PS. Barb Branham sent this to me and I was deeply touched by it. With her permission, I sharing this with you all.

Thank you Barb.

And if I go,
Know that I live on,
Vibrating to a different measure
- behind a thin veil you cannot see through.
You will not see me,
So you must have faith.
I wait for the time when we can soar together again,
- both aware of each other.
Until then, live your life to its fullest,
And when you need me,
Just whisper my name in your heart,
...I will be there.

- colleen corah hitchcock '89

Tuesday, 20 January 2004

January 20, 2004 Orion's Blood Work

As many of you may have heard, we are now in Alaska, but our trip was plagued by some problems. First and foremost are the issues we are having with Orion. 

To backtrack and recap some of what has already occurred - Orion has been having a tremendous season in harness - One of the best of his career actually. On the 7th of January he went with the rest of the Race dogs for our 'pre Alaska' vet checks. Orion checked out fine, as expected - however his blood work showed a very low platelet level. We drew a second sample, which also showed a low platelet level. Tannis (our vet) was concerned that we were getting a false reading, as Orion showed no signs of being at all sick, and we scheduled a follow up test for Saturday. Saturday's sample again showed the same abnormality. We drew blood again on Monday morning and I left with steroids and antibiotics that I was to put him on once I talked to the vet from the road. I spoke to the vet on Tuesday and it was decided to start Orion on the medication. 

Thursday evening when we 'dropped' the dogs Orion had a stool that was very dark and 'tarry' looking - a sign that there is bleeding somewhere, however his appetite and attitude remained high. Stools where the same on Friday morning and night. We arrived in Wasilla on Friday afternoon and I made arrangements to visit our vet here, the Big Lake - Susistna Vet Clinic on Saturday morning. 

When Dr. Baetsle saw Orion at first of Saturday and was going over the records that were faxed up from the Westlock Clinic, he was very optimistic about Orion's condition and the possibility of him still making my Iditarod team. Once he drew a blood sample though, all that changed. The blood work showed that Orion's blood values had basically bottomed out. His hemocrit level, a value that mushers watch quite closely on their dogs had dropped from the mid 40's to 17. Dr. Baetsle said that 20 was critical. More tests, which answered none of our questions, were run. Orion went home on a whack of medication and we hoped for the best. 

Sunday was the first day Orion seemed to be showing signs of his condition He was fairly depressed and obviously tired. A check of his blood at the clinic showed his levels continuing to fall - now down to 14. We ended up running a transfusion of Oxyglobin - a chemical blood replacement and adjusting his medication. 

Monday (yesterday) Orion was VERY depressed and down. For the first time, he turned down food, but at least continued to drink. The bright spot was that the blood seemed to be out of his stool. 
This morning I ran him into the vet again. The good news is that his platelet level has raised somewhat, however his hemocrit level is now down to 9.5 and he is running a fever of 104. We again adjusted his medication and he came home with me. 

His prognosis is very poor. We are pretty much at a dead end for the treatment we can do on him. There are some tests to help us determine what is killing him, but they are risky and they won't allow us to help him anymore then what we are, so I'm hesitant to do them.
What does he have - we have no clue. It might be bone marrow cancer, but it might not be. Whatever it is, it really doesn't matter, as the symptoms are what are now killing him. His body is, basically, rejecting and destroying it's own red cells. 

To say I'm devastated is really an understatement. Two weeks ago this hard driving, fun loving leader was blazing up the trails and now he is on the verge of death. I was not at all prepared for this. 
Orion is a finisher of Iditarod, Beargrease, Race to the Sky, Grand Portage Passage, Klondike 300, Knik 200 and more. He is my dear friend and a very loved companion - if you are at all inclined - prayers are very appreciated.


Thursday, 15 January 2004

January 15, 2004 "Top Ten" Lists

Karen & Mark's Top Ten Worst Things
About Traveling the Alaska Highway List.

Paying $2.50 for a cinnamon bun so stale that it takes an entire $2.00 cup of weak coffee to reconstitute it in your stomach.
9. Bushes and trees along the side of the road that look like antlers. I'm fairly convinced the caribou carefully cultivate and prune these shrubs and sit further back in the trees laughing like crazy when poor drivers mistake them for wildlife at dusk and dark.
8. Hotels being so full that you have to take the $90 room with a Jacuzzi, which you don't have the time or energy to use between dropping dogs and needing to get on the road early the next morning.
7. Watson Lake. I'm sure it must have its nice points, but they escape us. Basically what it takes to make us happy on the road is a decent gas station, a bit of edible food and a clean washroom. We haven't found any of those things in Watson Lake. Our most memorable meal there was the one where Mark ordered a hamburger and it came with a fried egg on top of it. We think someone at the restaurant must have misunderstood the cooking tip that an egg in your hamburger will help hold it together on the grill.
6. Snow covered warning signs. You know there is something coming up that you should be concerned about, but damn if you know what it is until you are upon it.
5. Answering the same questions over and over to gas station attendants. "They are not all wolves, are they?" "What have you got in there?? Chickens?? " and "Do they all have names?" are a few of our favorite ones.
4. Steamboat Junction. This is stretch of road between Fort Nelson and Laird Hot Springs. There isn't a ½ mile of flat or straight road and who ever thought that you could fit a semi tractor-trailer and any other vehicle on some of those corners at the same time was seriously delusional or drunk when they planned that road.
3. Towing a trailer that slows us down enough that the 45 mph speed U-Haul wants you to stay under is just a dream.
2. Hitting the 'seek' button on the radio and watching it go around and around and around.
-- And the number one worst thing about driving on the Alaska Highway...
1. The impending fear of crossing the border. It might go good, but if it doesn't those border guards have the ability to wreak havoc with the best of plans.
Karen & Mark's Top Ten Best Things
About Traveling the Alaska Highway List.
10. Trapper Rays at Liard Hot Springs and Beaver Creek Lodge. Great food, friendly folks and beautiful log buildings!
9. The high spirits of the veteran dogs who are thrilled about being on the road. At our last drop Grover was making Siberian snow angels on his drop chain, Draco was sticking his nose in the air and inhaling the snow filled air, Odie was bouncing and barking like a puppy and Surge was in his box kicking up straw and wiggling around on his back.
8. Having the time to listen to books on tape. We just finished Ellen Desgeneres' "The Funny Thing is." and it was funny!
7. The quality of the light in the north. Especially at this time of year when the daylight hours are short and the sun never gets too high in the sky, it gives the sky almost magical hues and shades that most think only exists in paintings.
6. Teslin, Yukon. If I could find Mark a job there, I'd pull up stakes and move to this picturesque community in a second.
5. Running into other dog trucks and having an instant camaraderie with them. Yesterday a sprint musher who lives at Terry Streeper's in Fort Nelson sought us out in a Subway and graciously invited us out if we needed a place to drop, water for the dogs or anything else. We were fine, but we certainly appreciated the offer.
4. The wildlife - as long it stays off the highway - as I was typing this line we had to stop for a cow and calf moose to trot across the road. So far this trip we have seen moose, caribou, a bobcat and a really cute little fox.
3. Having time to sit around and type up top 10 lists
2. Steamboat Junction. I know, I know - it made the 'Worst list' but if you survive that part of the drive without being squished into a rock wall or plunging over a cliff, the scenery is spectacular.
-- And the number 1 best thing about driving the Alaska Highway.
1. Turning into Howling Dog Farms. Not only is it a terrific place for a musher to stay, but the history, knowledge and experience housed in that place is a thrill to be around. And I never tire of the fact that these people, who are so high on my list of heroes love having us there.

Wednesday, 14 January 2004

January 14, 2004 Watson Lake, Yukon

Well, here we are in Watson Lake, Yukon. Still a long way to go to get to Willow and it has already been quite the trip.

I'm not sure where exactly to start everything. I guess our problems started back on the 7th when we took the dogs into the vet for their 'pre-trip' blood work. As I reported in my last entry, there was a 'bobble' in Orion's blood work. Unfortunately, after a few more trips to the vet and 5 more blood tests, it has passed 'bobble' status and moved into the 'full fledged problem' arena. The thing is Orion doesn't know it and is still happy, bouncy, eating great and full of beans. He is along for the trip north, but whether or not he will be a candidate for Iditarod will depend on how he responds to his treatment. As to what it is he has, the jury is still out on that. What the blood work is showing is a low platelet value. As I said he is showing no outward symptoms of anything being wrong, so we have, obviously, caught whatever the problem is early and that gives us hope we will get him over it completely and quickly.
Our next problem occurred on Sunday. Mark called home and said, "I hit a deer on the way to work" - Never good news to hear. He quickly assured me that he was okay, as was the Suburban, which he was driving because his little commuter Ford Escort was already at the airport in Edmonton, so he can have transportation when he flies home from Alaska on Sunday. The report on the deer was not so good. He paid for his indecision about crossing the road with his life - poor guy. That just furthers my belief that when you make a decision you should just stick to it and never turn around and go back due to second thoughts!

Monday, although incredibly busy, went well until early evening. I had blocked out time after feeding the dogs and doing some packing for clearing up the 70+ emails sitting in my computer Inbox that required answers from me. I also had some Internet banking, updating of my 'Dog Running' Database and 'Drop Bag' Database, and transferring of files/address books to my laptop to do. Not 15 minutes into my time on the computer the darn thing went kaput. It appears to be a problem with the power supply. Mark spent about 15 minutes fussing with it and announced that it was going to have to make a trip to the 'doctor' when he got back from Alaska. That left me feeling very unsettled and unprepared for my trip, but there was nothing I could do about it. (If you emailed me in the last while and where expecting an answer, best to resend the email to me).

Tuesday morning came early. We rolled out of bed at 4:30 so we could get on the road at a decent hour. Packing actually went pretty well. For a while it looked like we weren't going to have enough room in the truck and the 'Y-Haul', but miraculously, it all fit! We loaded the 'A' team into the dog truck, rearranged and fed the 'left behind' dogs, I went by and said 'goodbye' to everyone, did a short phone interview with the National Post, and we hit the road. That's always a time of mixed emotions for me - I'm very keen and excited to head to Alaska, but I do hate leaving my dogs and home for so long. 
At dusk, Mark turned on the headlights and our smooth day fell apart. All the dashboard lights on the truck and the headlights started flicking and going out. We pulled over in the next little town and Mark disconnected the trailer wires. That had to be the problem, as everything was working fine when Mark took the dog truck to work on Monday. Sure enough, the lights quit flicking and it APPEARED we had headlights again. One peculiar thing was that the radio on the truck was 'stuck' - it was working, but we couldn't turn it off, change the station, or the volume. It was a quirky and somewhat amusing problem now, but I figured it would get old fast when we were out of range of that station and could only get static. About this time, Mark discovered we actually didn't have headlights, just our daytime running lights (a Canadian safety thing) and that just wasn't going to do out here in the middle of nowhere. We nursed the truck to a little gas station at the Eaglesham, Alberta turnoff. Lucky for us 'The Emporium' turned out to be a really nice little place with very kind and helpful owners. Two hours, lots of friendly advice, a call to an old friend who is a parts manager for a Ford dealership, a lot of fuses, and a bunch of swearing later - we had headlights again. We took time to have a pizza at the Emporium and got back on the road. 

Now the weather decided to take its turn at us. The next 2 ½ hours to our friends, Scott and Denise Linley's place in Farmington, B.C. rate among the worse hours of driving we have ever done with the dog truck - and we've driven in a lot of miserable weather. Patches of heavy fog and freezing rain reduced our speed to a crawl - but at least we could see where we were going!!! 

Finally, at 10pm, we pulled into Linley's. We are so lucky to have such patience, kind friends as Scott and Denise. We are always arriving on their doorstep at weird hours and keeping them from a good night sleep, yet they always greet us with hugs and smiles.

The day held one last nasty surprise for us. As we were dropping dogs around the truck, I made a stupid mistake and allowed Herman a little too close to 'in heat' Olena - I have no excuse, I know better, but it had been a long day and I guess I wasn't thinking straight. As I stepped around the truck to grab the pooper-scooper, Herman made his move and bred Ollie. It was a short breeding and I have my fingers (and toes and eyes and everything else I can cross) crossed that the breeding didn't take. If it did, Ollie will be busy whelping puppies while the team and I are on Iditarod. I'm sick about it.
Thankfully, today was a better day on the road. The weather wasn't great, with freezing rain this morning and blowing snow this evening, but compared to yesterday - today has been a piece of cake.


Sunday, 11 January 2004

January 11, 2004 Bravo

Ch. NorthWapiti's Bravo TT
February 21, 1990 - January 11, 2004

A week to the day after her big brother Charlie left us, she has joined him.

Bravo was our first born out of our first litter. She was also our first Group placing show dog. 
She never ran much in harness, as since the time they were six months old Bravo and her sister Allie HATED each other. Over time it just became too much to manage these two spunky girls in the team and Allie was the better sled dog, so Bravo didn't run too often. She didn't mind though, she was a true princess at heart and enjoyed not having to 'sweat'. 

As I said goodbye to her yesterday, I told her that she and Allie were to 'get along' when they saw each other again - but now, after shedding their blankets of age, I would imagine some sparks in the Northern Lights over the next while. :)

Godspeed Brav. Be good. 

Friday, 9 January 2004

January 9, 2004 So much to share and so little time...

As it has been a very busy month, I'm going to quickly cover some of the happenings in the kennel of late and then, at a bit later date, share some of the stories in more detail (I got a new laptop for Christmas and I'm going to work on some stories on our drive to Alaska). 

Speaking of our drive north. Mark and I leave for Alaska on Wednesday. Caravanning up with Jamie and Ken Nelson, as was originally planned, didn't work out, so Mark is driving up with me and flying home. Lucky for us his shift schedule allows that, as he is on a 6 day off stretch. The house is a disaster of food drops supplies, suitcases, winter clothing and such. I've carved out a small pathway to allow us to find the bathroom and light switch in the morning, but straying off the path will reward you with stubbed toes and bruised shins. Things are bound to get better as the small U Haul trailer (Mark figures the trailer, with it's Texas license plates is actually a Y'Haul ), we rented is sitting out in the driveway waiting to get packed and sooner or later the mess will move from inside to there.

This is actually the first time we have attempted to haul all our gear, dogs and supplies up in one vehicle, but finances and other circumstances dictate we do this this year. We have our fingers crossed that our heavily miled, aging dog truck is up to the task. 

A few things have been happening dog wise around here. First off was the arrival of the adorable Spider, or Spidey dog, as she is most often called, from Oregon. Spidey (aka Tumnatki's Ms Muffet of Nwapiti) is from Karen Yeargain's kennel. Her Mom is former NorthWapiti resident KitKat and her Dad is Karen Y's Comet, so she is a Grover grandchild - the first actually! (Hmmm, no wonder I adore her so much). 

Spider hasn't been enjoying the bitter cold temperatures in her new Alberta home, but we gave her fuzzy Roary to act has her personal heater and that is working very well. We were worried at first that the older and bigger Roary would push Spider around and not allow her to eat, but the opposite has been true - little Spidey more then sticks up for herself! 

Yesterday we dropped Zackery (Kimlan's Xzackeryit of Nwapiti) off at the airport for his flight to Vancouver to visit Cynthia and Kerry Seeley. Zack will be dancing around the show ring with Cyn and Kerry for the time we are in Alaska. He is looking wonderful and we have high hopes for him! (Think Best Puppy in Show, Zack!!).

We are busy making arrangements to get Pirate (Ch. Innisfree Pirate's Treasure) back to the Kanzlers in New York. As many of you remember, Pirate came to us in September of 2002 to try his paw at being a sled dog. He outdid all our expectations, traveled to Alaska with us last winter, and participated in the Knik 200 and ceremonial start of Iditarod. Although he has now been cut from the Race Pool, I think this boy has more then proved his worth as a sled dog. I will miss him dearly. 

What else..?? Hmmm.

Christmas was good. Mark worked most of it, but we still managed to have a turkey and exchange a few gifts. No tree though. I do miss that every year, but things are so hectic for us at this time, it just doesn't make sense. Santa was very nice to me (I must have been very good this year) and I got a new laptop. Good for all of you that read my diaries, as the 's' key on the old one wasn't working anymore (among other problems) and I waz going to have to ztart uzing 'z's' inztead of 's'. Would have made for hard reading, I'm zure. 

I also got a rearview mirror for my 4-wheeler (I'm just loving this - don't know how I ever got by without it), an electric boot dryer (way, way cool) and a bottle of my favorite liqueur - a blend of Rye Whiskey and maple syrup (how Canadian, eh??)

We had an interesting run happen right after Christmas. We were looking after Mark's brother's dogs while they were in Calgary for the holidays. They live 13 miles away by the roads, so one evening we just ran the dogs over, fed their labs, borrowed the bathroom and ran home. The next day we planned a longer trip - running a 37 mile route to Kelly's, planning on resting 4 hours in their house and running 25 miles or so home. It was dark at 6 pm when we pulled into the yard. We fed dogs and got them settled out behind the house where we could keep an eye on them, then headed inside. 

It was a cold evening and we shed most of the layers we had piled on to stay warm. As we walked upstairs I commented to Mark how cold it was in the house. Imagine our surprise when we discovered it was 5C (42F) in the house. BRRRR. Turns out the furnace had quit. Luckily, hubby put on his Electrician cap and had it humming again after an hour or so. Just about the time it was getting warm in the house, it was time to head home! So much for a warm napping spot on our trip - but lucky we went in and took off most of our winter clothing or we might not have noticed how cold it really was! 
Running now has slowed down a bit (in frequency and miles) as we sort out and organize things for our trip. But the dogs are still in tremendous condition, full of beans, and just where we want them to be in their training. 

The main string went into the vet for their pre Alaska checkup and blood work on Wednesday. Luckily for me, dog show friend Teri (after a little whining and bribery from me) agreed to help out and we got a nice 'production' line of dogs going through the clinic being weighed, having hearts listened to, temps taken, general checkup and blood work.

Every one checked out very well. Orion had one 'bobble' in his blood work and we are going in tomorrow for a recheck on that. Hopefully it is nothing.

Thought I would share some stats with you all on the team. First off, the pool is down to 24 dogs - Grover, Smiley, Nik, Surge, Hector, Squeaky, Orion, Moses, Chester, Loki, Odie, Herman, Gus, Kobuk, Draco, Denali, Crunchie, Kara, Kaylinn, Olena, Nahanni, Sprite, Camilla and Hilda. One more cut will have to be made to get it down to 20 before Wednesday.
a.. Average weight - 47 lbs.
b.. Heaviest dog - Draco and Kobuk 58 lbs
c.. Lightest dog - Sprite 36 lbs.
d.. Oldest dog - Kaylinn born May 27, 1996
e.. Youngest dog - Herman, Hector and Hilda born August 28, 2001
f.. Average age - 5 years
g.. Number of veterans - 17
h.. Number of rookies - 7
As I believe I've mentioned here before - I couldn't be happier with this group of dogs. They are the best team I've ever brought to Alaska. They are mature, capable, strong, healthy, and well on the path to be ready for Iditarod. I smile whenever I speak of them! 

Anyway, I need to get back to packing. I will try and get one more diary entry out before we leave, but if I don't - I will speak to you all from Alaska.


Monday, 5 January 2004

January 5, 2004 Charlie and My Passion for the Breed

NorthWapiti's Charlie CD, SD, TT
February 21, 1990 - January 3, 2004

We've lost a number of dogs over the years and a number of very special ones in the last year, but none more special in my eyes then this one. It has taken me two days to be able to share this news and every word of this post has been accompanied by tears.

Charlie was the dog that inspired my PASSION for the breed. His love for life, his special spirit and his wicked sense of humor will always be the standard every other Siberian in my life will need to live up to. 

My world is a duller place as of Saturday.