Wednesday, 19 July 2006

July 19, 2006 Sibersong Visits NorthWapiti

With Kelim's Sibersong McKinley due to come into season this spring/summer, I started thinking about possibly breeding her to one of her NorthWapiti relatives (McKinley is a Grover daughter). I was losing hope that she would come in early enough so that I wouldn't lose her for next racing season when she finally started her cycle. Since it turned out to be only slightly more expensive for me to fly there with McKinley and as Karen and Mark were gracious enough to invite me to visit them, I decided to take an unplanned vacation and go along. So within days our trip was booked, and a little over a week later McKinley and I set off for Perryvale, Alberta.

The trip to Alberta was pretty uneventful. We drove up to Montreal in the middle of the night to catch a 6:30 am flight to Edmonton. McKinley's "What are you doing to me?" expression as she rode off down the conveyor belt after I checked her in was enough to make me want to cry.
As we approached the Edmonton airport all you could see for miles and miles was flat, square parcels of farmland. Farms as far as the eye could see. And a large majority were bright yellow, which I later found out was canola crops (yes, where your canola oil comes from). It was even more beautiful from the ground!

Where Karen and Mark live is about 2 hours north of Edmonton and not nearly as flat. Still a whole lot of farmland however. All the parcels of land up there are huge - land is much much cheaper than around here obviously. And all roads except the main routes seem to be dirt. Which of course is like heaven for us mushers - the unlimited amount of miles of training you can get on those dirt roads on top of the trails they connect to is almost enough to make me want to move there!

Have to say the weather's much nicer too. It generally hit 70's-80's during the days while I was there, but nights cooled off considerably and there were 2 mornings that it was cool enough to run dogs. So it seems to be similar to our New Hampshire weather in September. Very little humidity too - in fact, I don't believe I've ever before had an entire week of great hair days as I did up there, LOL! 

Other awesome things about the area: no ticks! How cool is that? McKinley and I went for long walks in the woods during the week and I didn't have to worry about avoiding tall grasses or checking us out for ticks afterwards. And sandy base under the soil. Forget about having to pay for truckloads of sand for your dogyard each summer - once you remove the topsoil up there, it seems to be nothing but sand underneath! Although this is probably only appreciated by us dog mushers....

I had the opportunity to see 28 of Karen's dogs run while I was there (2 teams of 14). Karen has miles and miles of trail right out of her yard.... I'm so envious! I actually had the opportunity to see Sibersong's Charmed I'm Sure (the Charmed Litter) run while I was there, and according to Karen that was the best she's run so far. I thought she was fairly good in harness, and ran similar to her sisters Decal and Piper. I haven't seen Charm since she left here as an 8 week old puppy and was thrilled to get to see her all grown up. She looks like a cross between Decal and Piper. Maybe she'll get more of an opportunity to run with the "big dogs" this coming season now that she's finally figured out what to do in harness!

The dogs in the front were Holly (grey) & Jr (leg)
Hector (black) & Lingo (saddleback)
Charm (red pie) & Piper (grey pie).
I was extremely impressed with Herman, as well as Crunchie, Odie, name just a few! Also got to see Olena, Lingo, Batdog, Snickers, Holly, Junior, Watt, Runner, Moses, Boom, Charge, Hector, Draco, Dasher, Q, X, Paxson, Newt, Piper, Barq, Dasher, Nahanni, Jinx & Eeek run.
Two of my faves in the yard (tho' I didn't get to see them run) were Bingo and Bongo. Those two yearlings just totally grabbed me from the start.
The first morning (not counting the day I landed) that I was there we ran Odie and Crunchie so I could see both prospective fathers run. I hadn't made my decision yet as to which boy I wanted to use with McKinley. After the run and after spending some time with both boys I chose Crunchie as my first choice for various reasons. It was a difficult decision because I really liked both dogs equally. In the end I chose more because I thought Crunchie's serious and quiet personality would meld well with McKinley's sometimes goofy personality...i.e., maybe I'd get some serious pups in the litter. I also really liked the idea of line-breeding on Grover.

Crunchie was a little shy and inexperienced however, and McKinley just didn't want to be bred. Finally we decided to see if Odie, choice #2, had any more luck. From then on we'd put Crunchie in first and if he had no success we'd throw Odie in. It became a contest to see which boy would be the one to finally breed McKinley. I jokingly referred to it as the newest reality show: Who Wants To Be A Daddy?


By Friday I was getting a little desperate. Our flight back was scheduled for Saturday afternoon and we still hadn't gotten a breeding. After another unsuccessful series of attempts, Karen suggested we call her vet the next morning and arrange to do artificial insemination. We also decided I should change my flight and extend the trip another few days. So Saturday morning we took Odie and McKinley in for AI and Odie was the winner of Who Wants To Be A Daddy.

Back to other parts of the trip....

On the Fourth of July (which of course, doesn't get celebrated in Canada!) we went to the Edmonton Mall. This mall is AMAZING. The mall actually houses not only a gazillion stores but also a hockey rink, water park, pirate ship, sea lion show, fire-breathing dragon, casino, amusement park with roller coasters, bumper cars, and flamingos (after all, what Canadian mall would be complete without flamingos right?).
I took one look at the roller coaster and announced, "I have to ride that thing." And it was the scariest roller coaster I think I have ever ridden. I've ridden some scary ones out there, but this one definitely is at the top of the list. Perhaps it was simply the fact that you're speeding towards the walls at super high speeds, or could be the fact that Karen told me before riding it that someone had been killed on this coaster a few years back (she also assured me they'd fixed it since then, but it still adds to the thrill). She offered to show me the spot on the wall where the guy actually died, but I declined.

On Thursday, Mark and Karen took me to see the Canadian Rockies (Jasper National Park). It was about a 4 hour ride, but it was soooo worth it! The scenery was just breathtaking.

On the drive there we saw two road signs that really excited me: one said "To Alaska Highway", and the other road sign said, "Scenic Route to Alaska". If I hadn't felt like such a silly tourist I would have asked Karen to stop so I could take a photo of those signs, hehe! Oh well, I know someday in the near future I will see them again, along with a "Welcome To Alaska" road sign.

Anyway, this national park had mountains that made ours over in NH look like tiny hills. There was still snow on top of some of the mountains (ahhh, how nice to see snow in July!), and the wildlife there was different in some ways than what we have here. Big horned sheep, grizzlies (which unfortunately, or maybe it was fortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to see), elk. We did see quite a few of the local animals including a black bear. Some are so tourist-friendly they just walk right down the middle of the road....

After 9 days of relaxation, very little computer work, great food, and nothing but dog-related activities and lots of TV on their giant flatscreen, McKinley and I flew back home. Unfortunately, it was not a smooth return back. All flights that day on Air Canada had been delayed. We were put on a different flight that left a little earlier specifically so we would make the connection in Toronto on time, however once we got to Toronto I found out the connecting flight had been cancelled. After a frantic 45 minutes of trying to locate McKinley (and I'm still not sure why everyone ELSE got their baggage but they couldn't find a large and fairly conspicuous kennel that was on the flight), I finally made my way with McKinley to the departures desk to find out how I was now getting to Montreal. They informed me I'd have to spend the night in the airport waiting for the next flight out at 6:30 am. I'm still annoyed that they refused to put us up in a hotel, especially when I found out later that some other stranded passengers put up such a fuss and stink about it that THEY got a hotel room.

Anyway, we did finally get home the next day. Have to say, pulling an all-nighter in the airport is not my idea of fun! McKinley and I made some new friends there however, which helped pass the time. Really, I think they only wanted to make friends with McKinley and I just came along as part of the package. She sure was popular that night at the airport!

Now we're back in NH - happy and relaxed thanks to a week away, and hopefully pregnant. Big Thanks to Karen and Mark for being such wonderful hosts!!

Sibersong Sleddogs

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