Wednesday, 10 January 2007

January 10, 2007 Kennel News and Training Updates

So far this winter mushers throughout North America are whining about lack of snow and races all around being cancelled or in danger of cancellation. We here in northern Alberta cannot relate!! We are in the midst of our snowiest winter in over a decade. 

This morning we woke up to drifts piled up against the front door and the wind and snow still raging around us. 

The F450 (aka - The Dog Truck) was taken to Athabasca for an oil change yesterday and I was going to have Mark drop me off at the dealership to pick it up on his way to work this morning. He headed out the door to start his little Ford Escort and quickly turned around and came back in. No way that little car was getting out of the yard, forget up the big hill to the highway. 

I had to wake up Colleen so we could all unload a pallet of dog food that was on the F250 (aka - The Old Dog Truck) so we stood a chance of getting into town and getting Mark off to work.
Well, we got out of the yard and a ¼ mile down the driveway before the F250's fan belt was pushed off by the snow, leaving us without headlights, power steering, etc, etc.  The driveway was the worst I've even seen it! We plowed up the hill and to the highway, just to 'break open the trail' before turning around and heading back to the yard. We got within sight of the house before the truck slide off the road and into a snow bank. 

We are now waiting until daylight before heading out to dig, plow and stomp our way out of all the white stuff - so I thought I'd take this bit of 'down time' to bring everyone up to speed on the happenings around here in the last few weeks since we got home from Sheep Mountain. 

As many of you may have heard, Mark came down with 'Norwalk Virus' the day after we got back from Alaska. It was so bad, he actually spent one night in the hospital on IV. As the nurse was hooking up his IV, she looked at me and said "This is HIGHLY contagious, you know". Well the morning of December 24, I knew. I never ended up in the hospital (as most of you know, I'm petrified of needles and I'd have to be next to dead to agree to go in and have an IV hooked up), but Christmas was not a festive occasion here. 

The greatest gift we got over the holiday season was from the Husch family. Markus, Anna and their Mom, Gabby, all took turns coming down to help feed and shovel the yard while Mark and I were so sick. It was very kind of them to take time away from their family time to work here. The dogs, Mark and I were all so grateful. 

Runs on the dogs didn't get too behind, as it seemed when Mark was the sickest, I was still able to train and vice versa! It took almost a week for both of us to get back to 100%. 

Around New Years we trucked the team over to the Blackfoot Grazing Reserve, east of Edmonton for a run. The trails started out excellent, but we somehow ended up on the equestrian trails - and let me tell you - horses and dog teams don't mix!! Luckily, everyone walked away fine from our horse encounters, although Herman was proudly packing around a mouthful of tail hair from one of the horses. 

Our efforts to get back to the 'multi use' trails had us careening down plowed roads, scaling snow banks and crashing through blown in trail before getting back to the nicely groomed stuff. It was a challenging day, but none the less enjoyable - and great experience for the dogs. 

I've been training at home on both the 4 wheeler and the sleds and the team is looking FABULOUS!! Charge, Watt and Tess continue to amaze me. They are well beyond good. Charge, in particular, cannot seem to get enough. The more I run him, the more energy he seems to have. I am in complete awe of him.

Dasher is having a tremendous season. Both Mark and I had runs over the holidays that had us standing in the dog yard with our jaws hanging open at the end of them. The common denominator in all those runs was Dasher in lead. Watch for her to be one of our key race leaders this season.
Also shining in the leader department are Kara (of course), Snickers, Jinx, Spider, and Q. Standbys like Hilda, Olena, Hector, and Draco are also putting a lot of time up front. 

All 24 dogs that we took to Sheep Mountain are still solid, healthy and looking great!
Matt left to be with his girlfriend shortly after we got back from Alaska and that left us scrambling around the yard. Luckily, Anna was out of school until well into January and came down a bunch of times to shovel and help out.
Colleen Hovind, who rescued us by flying up to Alaska last year to help out after Mark broke his leg, again came to our rescue and came out last week. Her help and friendship has been a real blessing during this busy time.
I thought we had a new handler coming this week, but her plans changed and she had to back out on me. Not sure what we will do for the rest of the winter without help (Colleen heads back home this weekend), but we are looking at scaling back our racing plans some. Just not enough hours in a day to do yard chores, keep the dogs training up, and properly get ready for multiple races without kennel help, I'm afraid.
I'm very disappointed, because our training conditions have been so good and the team is looking so great - but unless I come up with a way to add more hours to the day, it's just not happening.
Anyway, that is the news around here. We will spend today digging out and getting ready to leave on Friday for the Neckbone Race in La Ronge, Saskatchewan. Plans are to run 2 teams. We will be back on Monday, I'm sure with tales to tell.

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