Tuesday, 26 September 2006

September 26, 2006 2006/07 Racing Schedule

There is a cute little T-shirt out on the market that says “Every winter my mind turns to MUSH”. It’s the truth for those of us involved in this sport, but it actually begins to happen in the fall here.
Around this time Mark and I start spending any spare time we can on the internet checking out race sites, driving distances and dates between races, mileages, previous race results, race rules, etc.

For the past few years, this planning has made easier by the fact that I have been living in Alaska by mid December or early January, so all our racing has been done up there – and that was actually the initial plan for this year, but then I got thinking…always a dangerous thing, according to my husband.
It started with my desire to do the Sheep Mountain Race again this year. I really enjoyed the race last year, but didn’t really want to burden Jamie and Harry by showing up on their doorstep pre-Christmas again.

Mark still had some holiday days left over that he had to use up by the end of ’06, so I started bugging him that I wanted to drive up, run two teams in the race and come home.
Late last week he emailed and told me he had booked the time off and we were good to go. Hmmm…that was easy.

I got snooping around other races in Canada and the lower 48 and noticed that the Canadian Challenge in Saskatchewan had moved their dates forward a bit. I’ve always wanted to do that race and with the new dates, I could now race there and get up to Alaska in time to get my drop bags done. Hmmm…..
With a leading line of “You know, we have that lovely new dog truck, maybe it is time we did some traveling with it” I broached the subject of doing the Canadian Challenge.

That went over pretty well too, so being me, I pushed the issue further and suggested a couple more races.

In the end we have come up with a race schedule for the 2006/07 season. It is, of course, subject to spur of the moment, last minute, and even a few well though out changes (although those are rare). Finances may also slow us down, as could us being unable to find help in the kennel, but, for the moment, here is the schedule - 

December 16/17, Sheep Mountain 150, Sutton, Alaska -

January 13/14, Neckbone 120, LaRonge, Saskatchewan -

January 26 – 28, Cache Valley K9 Challenge (220 miles), Logan, Utah –

January 31 – February 4, Canadian Challenge (400 miles) Prince Albert, Saskatchewan – 

March 3 - ?, Iditarod (1151 miles) Anchorage, Alaska –

We will run 2 teams in a few of the races, but as of yet, I haven’t quite decided which ones (although not in Iditarod). A lot will depend on how the team is shaping up and what I think they are capable of once we get closer to race days.

I’m excited about seeing some new trail and facing some new challenges this season. We hope you all will follow along with us online and have fun learning about some new races, faces, and countryside!


Saturday, 23 September 2006

September 23, 2006 Bring It On!

Today was the first full day of fall – and what a lovely day it was. We actually got a reprieve from the rain that has been falling for pretty much the last week and the fall colors were today backed up by a gorgeous blue sky.

Fall colors

Mark and I each ran a team this morning. That is actually his first time running dogs since breaking his leg last winter, although he has been helping hook up whenever he can all spring and summer. He had the amazing Snickers in lead and I know he delighted in being able to zoom around me every time my leaders (Draco and Runner) got confused (Draco because he was more worried about impressing the cute females on the team – Runner because it is only his second time in lead!).
The dogs are up to 15-mile runs now. It’s getting pretty toasty temperature wise when we get back into the yard, but thanks to all the rain in the previous week there are lots of water holes to stop and cool them down in.

The young leaders continue to do excellent, although the longer runs are a little more stressful, so I’m not running them in lead on as regular a schedule now.

One of the reasons these longer runs are more stressful on leaders is that there are A LOT more distractions once we leave the confines of our woods and start adding the roads and ditches to the runs. In the past week, we have had road kill, loose cows, horses racing us along fence lines, farm dogs and of course, traffic. It’s a kick to watch the eyes on all the two year olds get big when they experience all this stuff for the first time. Poor Charge just about jumped out of his skin the first time a semi roared by on the highway. After only a few runs though, he wasn’t even flicking an ear at their passing.

Round straw bales out in the field across the highway.

Thankfully, our local ditches are quite clean and there is very little garbage in them. Very handy considering that the young dogs feel the urge to pick up every wrapping, empty bag, can and such that we pass; I’ve wrestled some pretty ‘scary’ stuff out of their mouths over the years.

I have to find some time next week to check out my usual (and favorite) trail that comes out near the Perryvale Waste Transfer Station (aka The Dump). The Community Association sold a small piece of land that they owned next to the road and the new owner, who sadly died early this year, I believe blocked off part of the trail. I will be sorely disappointed if I lose that trail; it is one that we use on a really regular basis. Like all areas of the country, every year it seems more and more fences go up and it gets harder and harder to find trails that aren’t along roads and ditches.

One of my very favorite spots on our land

A closer view of the favored spot

I also have to find time to work on a few of the trails on our property. The beavers here seem to think that winter is fast closing in and are on a mission to chew down every popular tree along the top of the Gully and the Riverbank.

Beaver signs

The Beaver pond

My bench overlooking the Beaver Pond and the Valley

Beaver's work and paths along the top of the riverbank

Well used paths that the beavers use to skid their trees down to the valley

Honestly, I’m not too concerned with them knocking down the trees and using them (Mark and my title deed to the land really means nothing to them), but they really annoy me when they drop them over my trails and then just leave them there. 

Beaver handiwork

I don’t think it’s a problem for the dogs to step over one or two smaller trees, in fact, I think it is very good for them to learn to watch where they are putting their feet...

Downed trees on our trails

– but on one trail there is a series of 5 or 6 trees down and along the Riverbank they take down some trees that are just too big for my 4 wheeler to get over.

More beaver signs

The beaver should talk to the squirrels – or rather the relatives of the squirrels that decided they were going to battle with us for the right to the outhouse and the string off of my hammock. We will fight for what is ours, whether it is outhouses, hammocks or trails – and we will win.
I wonder if they know that I’m looking for a couple beaver hides for a friend to use to make me a new pair of musher mitts to match the beaver hat I bought in Nome last year??

©Penny Blankenship for NorthWapiti.com
©Penny Blankenship

Anyway, busy beavers aren’t the only signs of fall around here. The trees are all decked out in their showiest finery;

The Tawatinaw river valley where it passes through our land

...the crops are either already harvested or being worked by farmers with swathers and combines;

My neighbours once beautiful canola crop waiting to be combined.

...many of the less hardy plants in my garden have succumbed to the cool (and sometimes already – cold) temperatures and died – although the tough pansies continue to bloom;

A few colorful, hardy wildflowers are still around.

...the squirrels have moved into high gear and are storing food in trees, nooks and any other cranny they can find;

Mushrooms in trees - the squirrels seem to think this is a good storage techinque to keep them from being buried by snow in the winter.
...geese have been flying over head in big, noisy flocks for weeks and ravens are beginning to gather and prepare for their upcoming trip; mushrooms are popping up everywhere – I’ve yet to be brave enough to pick and cook any, but I do have a mushroom book that assures me many of the varieties around here are very edible.

Moss and mushroom covered old handiwork

Mushrooms growing on old beaver chewed stumps

Shaggy Mane mushrooms
(I have to wonder if a sign of fall for my neighbors is the return of dog teams to the ditches and side roads in the area).

The Valley. Our house is at the end of the road to the right.

Our 'driveway'. See the deer??

The real start of our 'driveway'.

I also got one of my FAVORITE signs of fall the other morning, as we turned onto ‘Lee Heights Road’ on a training run the dogs and I all raised our noses to the wonderful scent of woodsmoke in the air. One of my favorite smells - and one associated very closely by both the dogs and I with fond, warm memories of many checkpoints and stopping places we have visited over the years. That smell more then anything else, awakens a longing for winter in me.

Bring it on….

Thursday, 21 September 2006

September 21, 2006 The Pigs

Okay, I delayed telling this story, ‘cause I thought I might have already told it in my diaries, for it is one of the ‘legends of my life’ – one of those tales that is so ingrained with who you are, it is a part of you. But it appears I might not have, so… here goes…

As previously mentioned I did a presentation in Red Deer a few weekends back, in attendance were a number of friends including my best friend, Lynda Brown.

At the end of the presentation, the Club presented me with a card and a lovely gift-wrapped box. It is not unusual for Clubs to present a ‘thank you’ gift, but this time, they insisted I open the box in front of everyone. Hmmm…my ‘Spidey Sense’ should have been tingling, but I was blissfully unaware.

(Click for larger version)

I opened the box and found 8 of the tackiest napkin holders you have ever seen. They are wooden cut out pig shapes with a hole in the center, each about the size of a cigarette box. I had been HAD!! See, these pigs are not new to me; in fact I have been in possession of them for various parts of the last 12 or so years.

It all started in November of 1994, Breezy and I won 4 of them as a prize for Group 2nd at a dog show. My buddy Lynda and her Sheltie, Joey also won 4 for a Group 2nd in their Group (Siberians are in the ‘Working Group’, Shetland Sheepdogs in the ‘Herding Group’). Lynda and I spend the rest of the day jokingly trying to give our 4 to each other – after all, you can’t properly entertain with only 4 napkin holders!

That Christmas I received a beautifully gift wrapped box from Lynda and inside were her 4 napkin holders. For her birthday the following year she received all 8 ‘piggies’.

Over the years 'the pigs' have gone back in forth a number of times in a variety of ways. They have been housewarming gifts, get well gifts, they have suddenly appeared in gardens/birdfeeders and more.
In the winter of '03 when I was heading up to Alaska for the Iditarod I stopped and spent the night at Lynda's. The next night when I was digging in my suitcase for my toothbrush I found 8 piggies stowed away with a note that said, "One little piggie went to Market, one little piggie stayed home...but these little piggies are going to NOME!". And one did...

In 2004, I carried one of the pigs 1151 miles by dogsled from Anchorage to Nome on the Iditarod Trail. I mailed the pig back to Lynda from Nome and the remaining 7 pigs have (thanks to the help of many friends) arrived in her mailbox via countries such as South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, China and England.

When I received them back a few weeks ago, each of the pigs was sporting a brand new brand on their foot, stating the county they arrived via.

For the last 9 years Lynda and I have lived a half day away from each other and our busy lives mean that we don't talk near as much as we used to, but these 'pigs' and their journeys are reminders to each of us that no matter what is going on in our lives, we are still thinking of each other.
At the time I won them, I thought they were one of the worst prizes I had ever won; little did I know they would turn out to be one of the very best.

So now, I am again in possession of the ‘hot potatoes’ – or ‘hot piggies’. The plotting has already begun….


Monday, 18 September 2006

September 18, 2006 Impressive Youngsters

…Just Mark and I, 2 crazy cats (one crazier then the other), one Australian Shepherd and a pack of Siberians!!

Make no mistake Mom, Marlene, Mike, Kathy, Brooke, Fall Warm Up guests, Marty, Colleen, Joel, Anne, Donna and Joe – we loved having you all visit, but when the last of our, constant since the beginning of August, string of guests left on Sunday, we let out a big sigh!!! Company is wonderful and all our guests are quick to make themselves helpful with yard chores, which is very appreciated, but the flow of the house is just easier when it is just Mark and I – especially when our training is beginning to kick it up a notch.

Somewhere among all the company, I managed to sneak off to a dog show in Edmonton with Crunchie and Dasher. Neither one did anything startling at the show, but both were well behaved and seemed to have a good time. I was especially proud of Crunch, who was taking his first shot at being a ‘show dog’. He handled the crowds, the judges and the rest of the pomp with hardly a flick of his ear. What a man!

The Saturday night of the show I whipped down to Red Deer to put on a ‘Tales of the Trail’ presentation for the Red Deer and District Kennel Club. A few close friends, like my best bud, Lynda (all the way from Grande Prairie) and Jackie and Rick showed up, as well as a bunch of Iditarod fans from the Red Deer area. The questions asked were great – it was obviously a knowledgeable crowd and I had a really good time. I hope the same was true for all the folks that attended! (It seemed to be, as they were all very kind with their comments and remarks afterwards)

Next up are a few school presentations in New Hampshire and the New England Sled Dog Trade Fair in 10 days. That’s the last of the presentations for the year, as it is already past time to be solely focusing on running dogs!

Training is going very well, despite about 10 days of poor weather that we are just finishing up. Poor weather for dog mushers at this time of year means warm temperatures and rain. Most may agree with me on the rain being bad, but it is hard to get sympathy when you are whining about warm weather in September in Alberta!

I’ve been trying to focus on getting a number of the two to three year olds up front leading. For some, like Batdog, Junior and Jinx – it is basically a refresher course from last year and beginning to work on adding more responsibility (commands, etc) - but for others – like Q, Tess, Spider, and Runner – I’m starting from scratch.

I must say that, so far, I have been nothing but impressed with the youngsters! If the kids live up to the potential they are showing in lead, I may get to race season with the strongest pool of ‘front end’ dogs I’ve had in years. That is very exciting for me, as for many mushers; the difference between a good season and a great season is often the quality of your leaders!

I have a cute little story to share from my run this morning (it is only cute because it worked out so well – it had the potential to be particularly gory actually).

This morning I had Runner in lead for the first time ever. Next to him I had Draco, who is having a TREMENDOUS season so far (really unbelievable if you remember my past season’s training journals where I was often mumbling about how awful Draco tends to be in fall training) – in fact, I’ve been using Draco in lead a lot, especially with my young males inaugural experiences in lead. 

We were having a great run and as I started along in the ditch of Highway 2, I caught a glimpse of something dark moving around ahead of us. “Please don’t let it be wildlife”, I thought. Runner does like to chase things and I was fairly certain he didn’t have the discipline to get by wildlife while in lead.

As we got closer, I realized the movement was birds – a lot of birds – a lot of crows, to be exact. Crows in the ditch generally means ROADKILL. Man, if you think wildlife is hard to get by, roadkill takes things to a whole different level.

When we were about ¼ of a mile away, about 30 birds took to the air. That definitely got the dogs attention – and mine. Starting the week wrestling a mangled animal corpse out to the jaws of a pack of sled dogs is just not my idea of a good time. There had to be a way around this!

As we were closing in on the site, I could see that there was a big pool of blood in the grass on the right hand side of the trail and then a blood trail crossing our trail and leading to the carcass about 15 feet off of the trail on the left side.

It turns out that this was one of the times that not babbling at my dogs while running really paid off. Just as we were almost to the dead thing, I called out “Alright – On by’. As I don’t often give commands out of the blue like that, it snapped everyone’s attention onto what I had just said – afterall, when I take the time to say something – it must be important, and we rolled right by the gore. I breathed a sigh of relief as a few noses came up and heads swivelled around, but the opportunity was already by them. That brief moment of undivided attention from them was enough to save me a really ugly WWF worthy match.

Just one more case for keeping quiet unless you really need to say something while running dogs!
As has already been mentioned in posts on NorthWapitiNews, we have had a few dogs leave for new homes in the last while. 

First off, Mike and Kathy Carmichael managed to talk me out of Piper. I’m not really sure how that happened, but I know she will be very well cared for and loved.

Janet and Jay, from Washington got a major scoop from me – Pepsi. Peps had a few health issues crop up this summer that made her making my team this winter doubtful. They will not stop her from being a great addition to Janet and Jay’s team and household, so it is really a great match!

Razzle left for her new home in Montana last week. I hear she is settling in wonderfully and has already stolen everyone’s heart.

The most surprising departure came when Marty and Colleen Hovind left after the Fall Warm-Up weekend with Smiley in their truck. I’ll admit, I woke up the morning before they left with a knot in my stomach, but I just couldn’t deny Smiley the wonderful home that Marty and Colleen are going to give him – and he will be a really steady (well, reasonably steady – he is Smiley after all) influence in their young team, allowing them to have some fun while they teach Blaze, Thunder and Sparky to lead.
I hear he has appropriated their couch already. Go Smiley!!!

The newest NorthWapiti dual purpose Siberian - Smiley
Puppy Trainer / Couch Potato
(Click to enlarge)

Well, that’s it for today – consider yourselves all updated!

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

September 6, 2006 Kennel Tidbits

Things have been very busy the last few weeks. I’ve started a bunch of diary entries in my head while on the trail, shoveling the dog yard, etc., etc. - but none have never actually made it to ‘paper’. This diary entry will probably be pale in comparison to the brilliant ones that existed only in my head, but what can you do??

I think in my last ‘newsy’ entry I covered visits by Marlene and my Mom, so I’ll start filling everyone in from there.

After Mom left Mark and I had a ‘leisurely’ 2 days to ourselves before Mike Carmichael and 12 of his and Kathy’s dogs (including NorthWapiti alumni Squeaky, Lightning, Sepp and Bang) showed up. Mike and his team quickly settled into 'their spot' in our 'meadow' where they were going to be staying through the Fall Warm-Up Weekend.

Mike also brought back to the kennel Roary, who had been on lease to them for the last year, and one of her offspring from her litter with Herman, Banshee. Banshee is just as lovely as we hoped. Basically, she is a blue-eyed, female version of her Daddy! After 2 nights of living up to her name (what was I thinking putting her in the kennel closest to Mark's and my bedroom?), she settled in just fine. 

Roary returns from Utah

Roary seemed to remember everyone and slipped right back into ‘NorthWapiti Life’, although she was not particularly impressed with the diet she was instantly stuck on.

Temperatures cooperated nicely and Mike and I were able to run dogs almost every day of his visit.
Mike seemed to, as usual, enjoy his time in Alberta – so much, in fact, that he and Kathy purchased 4 ½ acres of land just off our road. It was pretty funny when Mike and I went into the Athabasca County office to make sure he could have dogs on the property. When he told them what he wanted to do with the dogs (train a sled dog team), they quickly commented that there was another musher in that area. “Do you know Karen Ramstead?”, they asked. Mike indicated he did and introduced me to them. Did they really think it was a coincidence that a musher from Utah just happened to buy a chunk of land a ½ mile from our property?? The girls were very nice though and carefully checked all the county ordinances before assuring Mike that he was in the clear!

I had been flipping through an Athabasca County Tourist guide while waiting for Mike and found the page on Perryvale. It was a kick to find the highlight box on the page the indicated that Perryvale “is also the home of Karen Ramstead, the only Canadian woman to complete the Iditarod dogsled race.” I picked up a couple copies to send to my Mom!

It was fun to have another team to train with for a couple weeks – and we managed to keep Mike busy in the garage hammering away in his ‘down time’. Joey, Charm, Tolsona, Wolvie, Fly, Sprite, Newt and Batdog are all enjoying their brand new doghouses thanks to Mike.



And you will all never believe the other project I also talked him into – reclaiming the outhouse!! Mike shoveled out all the pinecones, mushrooms, furry nests, and other ‘squirrel household’ items before the two of us tipped it up onto the flat deck truck (the old dog truck) and moved it up to the garage. There he pounded off the rotted base and put on a new one. I took the opportunity to replace the screen in the door (which sported a squirrel sized hole) with some heavy plastic before we hauled it back out and positioned it over the new hole we had dug. I dragged the hose over and gave it a good wash down before stocking it with all the necessary outhouse items (TP, hand sanitizer, Kleenex, etc.).

The squirrels made a valiant attempt to reclaim ‘their condo’ and I had to replace the plastic with heavy-duty screen. So far, so good.

Nice to get some of those projects taken care of before the snow flies!

On the running front, I continue to be in awe of a number of my young leaders. Jinx is living up to the promise she showed last winter. As well, her handsome brother, Q, is looking a lot like a veteran leader. The coolest thing happened the first time I ran him in lead. At the end of the run, I leaned over to unhook and unharness him and he instantly flopped over onto his back to ask for a belly rub – EXACTLY like his Dad. He has never done this when running in the team. I glanced over at Grover while I was rubbing Q’s belly and I swear he was beaming with pride. It was just too cool!
Grover works for belly rubs :)
Grover's trademark belly rub position
Tess is also inspirational. I constantly have to remind myself that she is just a 2-year-old. She is so good that I’ve begun to fret some over making sure I am careful and allow her to reach her full potential.

Charge, Boom, Pacer, Charm, Spider, Lingo, and Runner are all scheduled to take their first turns at running lead sometime in the next few weeks. Squishing all those young, energetic (often hormonal) teenagers into lead in too short a time frame will probably land me in a mental institution, so I’m going to spread the insanity out!

The yearlings are all doing pretty well. They aren’t running on the same schedule as the ‘big dogs’, but with the weather being so cooperative, they are going out a fair bit.

Wolvie is the star of that lot right now, although all the Mosquitoes are excellent too. X is beginning to show more and more confidence each run. I’m still convinced he is an ‘xtraordinary’ Siberian.
August 2006
x806-1.jpg (10094 bytes)
Ten days after Mike’s arrival, he was joined by Kathy and their lovely 8-month-old daughter, Brooke (aka Babbling Brooke). My fondness for babies without fur is not legendary, but I will admit that Brooke is a very happy and agreeable little one and we actually enjoyed her visiting us. I’m sure that was mostly because her parents were the ones that changed her, dealt with her in the middle of the night and picked her up when she began wailing.

Kara treated the baby with extreme tolerance and we all marveled at how she wouldn’t even flinch when Brooke decided her ears or tail were toys created specifically for her entertainment. It is exactly the same attitude Kara displays when Bait ambushes and pounces on her. Further proof that Kara is indeed the PERFECT Siberian.

Well, I think that is all I can pry out of my tired brain this time. Next up – the Fall Warm-Up Weekend!

September 6, 2006 Fall Observations

Another Fall Warm-Up Weekend at NorthWapiti has come to a close. Janet has already provided a great post on the Fall Warm-Up event, so I decided to do something a bit different (and a bit long as it turns out) and focus my observations on the dogs of NW.

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.

Colleen Hovind
NorthWapiti Iditarod Handler 2006

September 6, 2006 Fall Visit

We are back home from attending our second North Wapiti Fall Warm-Up Weekend.

It was a beautiful sunny day when we arrived at Karen and Mark's late Friday morning. The afternoon was spent making some new friends and catching up with friends made on last years trip. Of course all of us spent a good part of the afternoon walking around the dog yard admiring those pretty sled dogs. We were also entertained by Bait.  Bait is a non-stop ball of energy, and I do mean non-stop, the perfect North Wapiti cat.

In the evening, we gathered for a meal of Karen's famous chili. Since it never cooled down enough to run dogs we spent the evening around the  bon fire talking about dogs and sharing trail tails.
Saturday we took advantage of the early morning temps to take the dogs out for a run. It was a great opportunity to get in lots of passing  practice. Karen's trails are fantastic. Something new this year were trail markers. It has been too hot where we live to run dogs so we picked the shortest trail, the Yellow Brick Trail, for our first run of  the season. Everyone had a great run and then is was time for breakfast. Karen is a wonderful cook and her scrambled eggs alone are worth the 14-hour drive we made.

After breakfast, more visiting and playing with puppies. Then it was time for Mark's Fall Warm-Up Weekend Scavenger Hunt. As usual it was a challenging list and everyone had a good time. The Eagle rep was  there again this year with prizes for everyone. In the afternoon, Karen treated us with a slide show of her team on the Iditarod Trail.  Potluck dinner was wonderful. There is no shortage of outstanding food on these weekends. Mark's roasted pig is something we will be talking about for a long time.

At the bon fire gathering in the evening we had a special treat. One of Karen's neighbors is a young girl that is an outstanding fiddle player. She took time off from preparing for a competition to play for us. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Sunday morning was happily a repeat of Saturday, run dogs and then another breakfast feast. In the afternoon, it was time to pack up and drive home thinking all the way that we just can't wait for next  year.

Thank you, Karen and Mark for opening up your home, kennels and trails to us.

Janet & Jay
SNO Siberian Rescue
Kettle Falls, Wa.

"You don't think enough of them will show up to out number us, do you?..."

Anna Husch and Camilla


Tuesday, 5 September 2006

September 5, 2006 Address Book Update

by Colleen Hovind
(North Wapiti Iditarod 2006 Handler) 

For anyone keeping an address book of NW woofs, please note that Guy Smiley's forwarding address is now the same as mine. Yes, it's true. Marty and I received an offer we couldn't refuse this weekend when Karen offered us Smiley. So, The Man came home with us yesterday. His tail is wagging and he has already made himself at home, although I'm sure he is wondering what the heck is up. He has made his first round of the house and parked himself on the couch just to make sure it is clear that he may be a sled dog, but he also knows a real good thing when he sees it. I'm not sure who is smiling the most - Smiley or us.

As well, here are a few photos from the Fall Warm-Up Weekend. I have not played around much with sending photo attachments, but here it goes. A couple of them are dark because the setting on my camera got bumped when I was passenger on the quad. Enjoy!!!

Colleen Hovind
(North Wapiti Iditarod 2006 Handler)

Colleen's team with Smiley & Blaze in lead

We had lots of time to practice passing and running close during Fall Warm Up Weekend 2006!

A trio of Firecracker pups

Grover (Karen's favourite)


Karen with a passenger on the left. Gwen at the head of the team on the right

Mark & Karen