Tuesday, 15 November 2005

15 September 2005 1998 and 1999 Thoughts From Long Ago

October 20th, 1998

Things are going very well in training so far. We have 25 dogs currently training for the 'A' team. Dogs are currently doing 10 - 12 miles, 4 times per week. We can see quite a bit of progress since we started running back in July!

Some new leaders are developing their skills. Key in this years leader 'pool' will be Iceman. Although he ran lead in Quesnel for me last year, we had not focused on his leader training - this year he is proving to be very hardworking and reliable up front! Oreo has also shown she likes to be up front, although she is not yet taking commands. One of the biggest surprises in lead has been Chester (Chuchinka's Pathfinder). Although still very young and not expected to be on the team this year, he has led a few times in training. He seems to relish the leader position and becomes quite 'full of himself' when there - he even seems to be starting to understand 'Gee/Haw'!! Of course, the old 'stand bys' are still up front - Spud (Ch. The Professor of NorthWapiti CD, SDU, TT), Howl , Gilligan, Minnow, Breezy, and my favorite leader - Buddy.

This is our team on the way to a 5th place finish at the 1998 Quesnel, B.C. Goldrush Trail Sleddog Race.
Photo taken by Ross Mitchell of the Quesnel Caribou Observer.

November 10

Well we have run into a training snag, not with the dogs, but with me! On October 28 I stumbled walking into my brother in law's garage. Initially we thought it was just a bad sprain, but now they are saying it is either a fracture or severe bone bruise. Either way it hurts and is probably going to do so for awhile. Luckily, I only missed 1 day of training because of it. We have switched to running alot of nights so Mark can give me a hand, it does make a long day for him though. The weather is nice and chilly, but alittle snow would sure make the dogs and I happier. We are running 10 - 14 miles on a daily basis and last weekend did one 26 and one 16.5 mile run! Dogs really seemed to enjoy the change of scenery! We made our first cut of the season, Rizzo was cut from the team last week. As he seems to be a slow maturing boy, we really hadn't expected him to make the big team this year, so this was not a real surprise to us. One other change in the yard is that Ginger has moved to a new home. She is now living with Sam and Britton Burton in Council Bluff, Iowa. We will sure miss her, but know that she will be well loved and cared for with the Burtons.

November 27

We are eagerly waiting the end of hunting season!! Our house is surrounded by numerous 'green quarters', which are government owned pieces of land. This is really wonderful for 11 months of the year and really not wonderful for the month of November, which is rifle hunting season here. The last week the our trails have been as busy as a highway as everyone frantically tries to fill their deer and moose tags before the end of the season. It will be nice to get back to peace and quiet on December 1. The leg is doing pretty well. I was a bad girl and took Breezy and Lyra to a dog show weekend before last. A good wrapping job and some Tylenol 3 and I got through the weekend in fine shape. Lyra picked up a few points towards her championship and Breezy took 3 breed wins and a Group 1!!! That is the end of showing until next April for us.

I took 3 dogs, Gilligan, Doc, and Gus into the vet for blood work. We are going to monitor the results on these 3 dogs a few times over the season to see what we can learn. Dr. Long, who is a former Iditarod vet and working the Quest this year, was pleased with the condition of the dogs.

We are off to bed early tonight - busy training weekend ahead!

December 4

Things are beginning to get hectic around here. Only 20 days left before we leave for Alaska. I spent yesterday in Edmonton picking up turkey skins, frozen herring, leg braces (for me!!), and other odds and ends. Back to running today. There is still not enough snow for a sled - this is beginning to badly affect our training. I hope that I get on a sled before Alaska!!!

Dogs are doing really well, despite the lack of snow. In the next 20 days I have to shave my 'A' pool from 24 to 18 dogs. I don't know where to start!!!! This weekend and next we will get some good, long, back to back runs on them and see if that helps us make some decisions!

December 15

Well, we are getting down to the crunch - just 10 days before we leave for Alaska! We still don't have snow, but they are predicting some for later this week. Maybe I'll luck out and get a couple sled runs in next weekend!

I have made a few cuts in the team. Gus and Sammie have decided this will not be their turn to go. I have also made the hard (but right) decision to leave Chester at home. He has been working so well that it was tempting to bring him, but our long term plans for him will be better served by not pressuring him this season! So right now the dogs that I taking (of course barring injury or illness) are:

















Well off to get another run in today!

December 18

SNOW!!!!! It stormed all day yesterday and we are thinking that we should be able to get some SLEDDING in this weekend!! What a relief! Of course, I will probably have to stay with smaller teams for safety reasons, but we should be able to get some good runs in anyway!! I hope that is the last of the noisy, back breaking 4 wheeler for the season. It and I didn't get along so good this season. Mom, if you are reading this - please skip the next line :) I rolled it twice this season and the transmission is beginning to sound like it is in need of some work. I'll be glad to put it away!
I have decided that the 18 dogs I mentioned last entry are, for sure, the ones headed to Alaska with us. The decisions were hard this year and I ended up leaving some very good dogs in the yard, but I don't have room for everyone.

I send my entry in yesterday for Klondike 300. That starts on January 16th in Big Lake, Alaska. I'm starting to have trouble sleeping at night, I don't know whether it is because I'm excited about the up coming trip or whether I'm nervous about all the things still left to be done!!

January 8, 1999

Well, so much has happened since my last entry, I don't know where to start!!! Unfortunately, I'm sure to miss some details, but here goes....

Christmas was a good time. Good friends, good food, lots of laughter, what more could someone ask for (except to have their family around!). We headed out for Alaska on Boxing Day and arrived at our new 'home' on December 29th. The trip was icey and alittle hairy at times, but nothing too serious. We saw lots of wildlife on the way up - moose, caribou, a fox, a wolf, and about 1 million bunnies! Our accommodations with Maureen Chyrsler in Willow are pretty much perfect. I just couldn't wait to get out on the snow, so Maureen and I each took a couple 6 dog teams out that day so I could see the trails. They are incredible!!! The following days Mark and I did some double sledding and explored the area more.

Last weekend was the Knik 200. I had a blast, despite less then perfect weather and getting lost a fair bit! Those of you interested in more specific information about the race may want to check out Don Bower's Musher Diary on the Iditarod homepage. He gives a good account of the race! We finished 25th out of 29 teams, which is a result we are very satisfied with. We really just wanted to get some more experience on the dogs and myself and finish with everyone healthy and happy. The team consisted of Buddy, Spud, Sissy, Oreo, Breezy, Jake, Mork, Iceman, Howl, Gilligan, Doc, and Butch. One interesting thing about the race was that there were 3 Siberian teams entered - and all three were driven by women!!! Judy Currier was there with her team (finishing around 17th place, I believe) and Earl and Natalie Norris had a team there driven by one of their handlers, Doro (she had an excellent race, finishing in 15th!)

One particular memory of the race will stay with me always! On Saturday night at about 1 am I left the Yenta Roadhouse for the 35 mile run over to Skwentna. At about 1:30 the full moon came out. It was so bright that I shut off my headlamp and made the journey down the river entirely by moonlight! It was spectacular!!!

Mark is back at home now for a just over a week. I am continuing to train dogs and organize things for the Klondike that starts on January 16.

There has been one sad component to our trip. Minnow has been quite sick with mysterious symptoms. It looks now that she has a mass located in her throat. Vets in Willow are going to try and remove it tomorrow. We are very worried about her.

That's about all the time I have to write now! I hope that I will get a few more entries in before our trip home!

January 26

BACK HOME!!!! As fun and exciting as our trip was - it is true that there is no place like home!!! The dogs are happy to be in their yard again! Everyone is looking in terrific shape - I have no doubt that they will be fit, healthy, and ready for Race to the Sky in a few weeks.

Guess I should fill everyone in on the Klondike 300. It turned out to be the most challenging race of my career - and one that I am EXTREMELY proud of finishing. The dogs were still suffering from the 'bug' that they had picked up at Knik at the start of Klondike. The 13 mile ceremonial run confirmed my fears that they weren't feeling terrific. By the time we reached Yentna Roadhouse I was entertaining thoughts of scratching. By Skwentna, I phoned Mark to let him know that I was probably going to scratch in at Fork's Roadhouse - the only checkpoint that the team wouldn't have to be flown out of. A little while later I received a phone call at the checkpoint from musher Jamie Nelson. She proceeded to give me the best 'pep talk' I have ever received in my life! She also flatly informed me that she would not be allowing Mark to pick me up anywhere other than the finish line. I was back on track!!!! Things almost faltered again leaving Skwentna - the dogs were very sluggish leaving - however I had promised to meet fellow competitors Steve Crouch and David Teslario two hours down the trail. I figured that they would worry if I didn't show up - so I put into effect some of the ideas Jamie had suggested and about 1 mile down the trail things came together!!! Scratching was never again thought of!! The dogs rolled down the river to the turnoff to Fork's Roadhouse. As we crested the bank coming off the river, I thought I heard a crack from the sled, but quickly forgot about it. Steve and David were waiting, as promised! We snacked dogs and headed out again. About 1/2 mile down the trail I noticed that my left runner felt wobbly. A quick look confirmed my worst fears - the runner was broken. Next time I looked down all that was there was the runner plastic - the runner itself was gone. That make for an eventful 50 miles into the Roadhouse, riding one runner! I had flagged down a couple snowmachines on the trail and they had gotten word out to my husband that I was going to need a new sled for the remainder of the race. (Race rules allow for a new sled to be brought in in case of a sled being damaged to the point of being unusable). Jamie Nelson, once again, came to my rescue - giving Mark one of her sleds for me. That wasn't the only challenge the Klondike held in store for me though!

Around 11am Monday I rolled out of Fork's Roadhouse. We had a nice trip for the first 50 miles. The only problem was Hawk, who had a sore shoulder and was riding in the sled bag. Once we hit the river again things started to fall apart - the temperature was dropping rapidly, my headlamps batteries were failing and the dogs were tired. About 10 miles out of Yentna, Doc decided he was too tired to continue - I loaded him into the bag with Hawk. Things were now getting tough - after trying to plug on for a bit, I decided that the best thing was to shut everything down for awhile, have a nap and cook for the dogs. Upon waking up in the sled bag I knew things were really cold - the front of my snow suit was frozen solid - I had to roll out of the sled to stand up. I cooked a warm meal for the dogs and got packed up and ready to go. By now, my headlamp batteries were out. I trusted my leaders to find the checkpoint in the dark. At 7:45am we arrived at Yentna. Turns out that folks were pretty worried about me, the temperature on the river was -55F. The dogs and I were in good spirits, but the cold had taken alot out of us. We shut things down for a long rest in Yentna and finished on Wednesday afternoon. It was an adventure and a half - I'd do it again in a minute!!!

Friday morning we left Alaska. A marathon drive got us back to Grande Prairie on Sunday for the wedding of my dear friend, Lynda and then we arrived home Monday afternoon. The next week to ten days will be busy getting everything ready for Race to the Sky!

March 4

I feel badly for not updating this sooner! So much has happened since our return from Alaska. First off - the sad news. As many of you may have seen through our tribute on our main page Minnow passed on January 30. After returning from Alaska, her condition quickly worsened. Our vet in Westlock agreed with Dr. Leach's diagnosis - that she had neurological demyelization - and that it was not curable. The very difficult decision was made to put her down. We were both able to hold her and tell her how much we loved her as she went. We will miss her greatly.

We left on February 9 for our trip to Race to the Sky. Our friend and neighbour Roger Morey came along to help out as a handler!! As always, we had a terrific time in Montana. We have had the same wonderful host family, Joan and Dave Morgan, for the past 3 years and we just love visiting with them! It is also a treat to get to see so many of the Race organizers and volunteers that have become friends over the years. The Race went really well up to the last checkpoint!! Unfortunately, there we ran into some problems. The vets figure the dogs got some spoiled meat or something, and when it was time to leave they were bloated, gassy, and didn't want to go. After about 4 hours of walking them around the checkpoint and trying to get them moving, we scratched. It was a very difficult decision, but I was very happy with their race till that point! They had been strong and happy in every other checkpoint. Hills that in past years had been monstrous, long things seemed like molehills as the dogs steamed up them! Even the 25 miles of heavy trailbreaking we did from Holland Lake towards Fawn Creek didn't seem to phase them much.

So now that Montana is behind us we are looking forward to next year and IDITAROD!!!! Training is already underway! I am heading out to Minnesota this weekend to spend some time training with Beargrease winner and Iditarod veteran, Jamie Nelson. What an opportunity that is for us!! I'm taking 20 dogs, including the yearlings - it will probably we a hectic trip down as they all get used to traveling in the dog truck!

A couple changes have happened in the dog yard. Rizzo has decided that sledding is not a career path he wishes to follow, so he is going to live with his sister Zoe in Grande Prairie. And we have a new addition to the yard, Lacey. Lacey is from Bob and Loreen Bridges in Prince George. She is a 4 1/2 year old gal out of BIS, BISS Ch. Chuchinka's Shawn Boy SD x Alaskan's Tonsina of Anadyr. We don't know if she will make the team, but we know that she will fit well into our breeding program! (Now if only she would quit howling all the time!!) I will try to get pictures of her posted soon.
One last, non dog related note. Many of you may be familiar with the fact that we have horses. While we were in Montana, my dear friend and companion of 18 years, Brandy had to be put down. At 25 years, he had lived a long life. I was devastated to not be able to be there with him and am grateful to my brother-in-law, Kelly for taking care of him in my absence!

April 12

Once again, I'm falling behind in keeping my journal updated! I got heck from Mark's Uncle Mervyn from Saskatchewan on the weekend for not updating (nice to know people are reading!) - so here goes!!

Mark and I headed out to Minnesota at the beginning of March. There I did some training with Jamie Nelson. Mark, unfortunately, had to fly home and go back to work. One of the people Mark works with asked why we would go to all that trouble to go to Minnesota to train. Mark asked what he would do if his kid got an opportunity to train with Wayne Gretzky. Would he go out of his way to make it work? 'Of course', he replied. Well, this is the same chance - different sport. Jamie is a 4 time winner of the John Beargrease Marathon and a two time competitor in the Iditarod. She is a gifted lady with a remarkable knack for training dogs. I found the whole 3 weeks to be incredibly educational and a whole lot of fun! We will continue to work with Jamie leading up to Iditarod.

I came home from Minnesota with 2 more dogs. 'Surge' is a puppy back from Sam and Britton Burton of Iowa. Several months ago they purchased Ginger bred to Butchie. Surge (Wetaskiwin's Sir Gallahad) is one of those pups. They have done a terrific job with him - he is outgoing and wonderfully confident for a youngster. Also coming back was a dog from Ann and Al Stead of Northome Kennels. 'Visa' is a neat little black Siberian with white feet. Quick and light on her feet, hard working in harness, and lovable in the kennel, we are delighted that they parted with her.

That's about it for now. I am continuing to run the dogs with the 4 wheeler, although I am having to get up earlier and earlier to avoid the heat. Summer lots like it is not far around the corner!


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