Living in Saskatchewan has one huge benefit - we are next door neighbours to Alberta, so it is only a 10-hour drive to NorthWapiti. My husband Marty and I along with six of our woofs made the trip up to NW on Thursday, trying to squeeze in as much time as we could with Karen, Mark and the woofs. The six woofs along for the trip included three NW kids - Blaze and Thunder, littermates from the Kaylinn x Moses litter and Sparky The Cutest Puppy on the Planet out of Olena and Surge; along with Kobey, Tuak and Mask.
Fly looked particularly stunning as he greeted us on the drive into the yard. I actually had to take a second look as to whether that was indeed Fly. He is looking particular buff this year, sporting a new-improved shorter hairstyle for the summer season. Fly helped us get parked and settled. We had the honour of using the guest cabin this weekend, so it was an easy set up and before I knew it we were mulling about the dog yard saying hello to everyone.
Some of the youngsters from last year have moved from "puppy" to "big dog" status and looked quite full of themselves as they are now on stake-outs amongst the Iditarod finishers. Boom looked particularly full of himself housed next to his dad, Moses. Charge (my Sparky CPP's sibling) strutted around doing the "big dog" strut then lost his stride due to uncontrollable happiness. Wolvie and Irving are separated by Gus just so they don't forget their manners.
Crunchie in his black and buff tuxedo always looks ready for a night on the red carpet, so nothing doing, I had to have a visit with him too. That black mask and those soft brown eyes just scream out "pet me". No hugs though - those are reserved for only an elite few. Barq - what can I say. The ADHD behaviour that was apparent in Alaska seems to have stayed with the boy. He bounced from the top of his house to the ground, back to the house, while barking and wiggling his whole dog body in many different directions. The guy can definitely multi-task.
Snickers and Dasher, the "Restart Princesses" of Iditarod 06, were in the deluxe-model suites across the lane and just up from the ready chains. These pens scream "reserved for VIPs only". This is the busiest part of the yard when it's time to take a team out. Dogs move from the ready chains to the gangline and my hunch is that these two chicks critique every move of each dog, particularly the yearlings as they go through the paces of getting ready for a training run. One morning when I was up at the ready chains while Karen was harnessing a team, I could hear loud chuckles coming from the vicinity of Snickers and Dasher as they compared notes of the "rookies' " awkward ways. It's lonely at the top, isn't it girls?
As Karen has mentioned, Grover is looking a lot better and appears to be on the road to recovery. He is focusing his attention on admiring his new fur coat and spent the weekend trying to trade kibble for hair products from the women visiting him. His raised paw and that "aw, come on, spare a guy some attention" pose always lures people in.
Then there are the puppies!!! Dew and Gator are the two pudgiest babies - sorry girls. They are definitely "thriving". They have the thankless task of being neighbours with the firecracker babies (Nate moved to another spot in the kennel - his feminine side was in danger of being over-exposed). Hard not to be overshadowed by the presence of five very feisty girls. God, in her wisdom, strategically placed a white spot in the middle of Razzle's back. I am convinced this is so she is easily identified in the pack of little puppy bodies. Let's just say that Razzle has some anger management issues come feeding time. Her littermates are not faint of heart, and I am sure are secretly plotting a revolt. Despite the family dynamics, they do still have their puppy halos and we had a blast playing with them.
At the other end of the yard from the puppies is geriatric park. After trying to get one of them out of the pen while leaving the others behind, I am not convinced geriatric park is that far down the road of life from the puppy pens. These dogs are in amazingly good health and are the happiest "mature" dogs I have ever met. I use the term mature since it seems a bit of a stretch to call them "seniors". Our dogs were staked out right by geriatric park, so the "G Park" kids enjoyed sharing many snacks - hard to hand out cookies to my family and ignore the stares of onlookers.
Kara, resident Queen of Denial (I am not a dog), was in perfect form this weekend. I would expect no less. She was particularly annoyed with the number of people in HER house this weekend and at one point was lowered to escorting herself outside into her newly built kennel complete with a Kara door. I bet at this very moment she is sleeping soundly on her Kara bed while Bait bats at her poofy Kara tail. For any of you who may recall Karen mentioning Kara's need to sit in the corner of the living room when Karen cooks for fear of the smoke detector going off ... well let's just say it's the most pathetic looking Sibe face I have ever seen. I think Post Traumatic Stress Disorder counseling needs to be considered.
Both Marty and I had an absolute blast this weekend. Lots of good people, good conversation, good food and most of all good times spent with our dogs and the dogs of NW.
Thanks to Karen and Mark for opening your home to us and for being such gracious hosts. You are obviously on your way to another great season of racing.
NorthWapiti Iditarod Handler 2006