Sunday, 25 February 2007

February 25, 2007 Making The Cuts

Making the cuts….
As followers of my journal know, I took 23 dogs up to Alaska with me and now need to pick 16 to make up my ’07 Iditarod team. The task is proving to be unbelievably difficult, but I have narrowed it down to 20 contenders now.
First cut was young Boom.
Now, there is nothing wrong with Boom, he is just young. On long runs he often gets distracted and spends more time watching ravens then pulling. I’m not at all concerned or disappointed. He’s worked hard this winter and did very well to earn a place on the truck for our trip to Alaska. Watch out for him next year!


Second cut was Hilda. 

Hilda had been plagued by on again/off again performances this season. For the Sheep Mt Race she was definitely ‘on’ and was a valuable leader, but she has had many runs were she was ‘off’ too. With this competitive a ‘pool’, I had been leaning towards dropping her. Then when we went in for our vet checks Dr. Baetsle found an irritated back nipple on her. It’s nothing to be concerned about; we are running her on a course of antibiotics to be sure though. The decision was made to cut her from the team and give her a good rest to heal up. 

“They” may say, “The first cut is the deepest” – but ‘they’ obviously haven’t been around here. The third dog cut from the training pool here in Alaska is Kara. Yes, I said Kara. 

On Thursday the main goal of my run was to decided whether or not Kara was a go for Iditarod. Over the season, she has been plagued by a number of small, but lingering injuries and she had been struggling to keep up with the team on the last few runs, so I took her over to Susan Whitton for an acupuncture and chiropractic treatment last Monday. I then gave her 2 days off before putting her back in harness. There was a definite improvement in her performance, but she is still not 100%. . The deal with Kara is that her heart and her head have always been her strongest attributes. Her smaller stature and slightly shorter legs (relative to the rest of my team) mean that she was to lope a great deal of the time in harness to keep up. She has to give ‘more’ to do the job then a lot of my dogs. A dog like that can do what Kara does because they have the heart and drive to do it. To ask Kara to hit the Iditarod Trail with me when her body is not 100% means that she will have to compensate even more with attitude then usual. I can’t ask that of her.

I had to dig deep to make this decision. Kara is a security net for me and I just plain love her company. I know if I asked she would bounce on down the trail with me again, but I am more then just her friend. As the one with the (supposedly) bigger brain, I’m responsible with making decisions affecting her well-being. Heck, if given the choice, she would gorge herself on dead squirrels until she puked – I’m the one that wrestles squirrel carcasses away from her because I know that isn’t in her best interest. It might be in my best interest for Kara to go on Iditarod – and it may be in the Team’s best interest for Kara to go on Iditarod – but it is not in Kara’s best interest - and the welfare of the individual dog comes first for us.
This doesn’t mean Kara is retired. She is still putting in dynamite performances in lead when she is feeling good, so I will work hard over the summer to help her body catch back up with her spirit. I’d love for her to be with me on our adventures next season. 

In the meantime, I’m sure she will be tippy toeing into the house late at night (no, she will not be living in the house – in Alaska she is a sled dog), logging on the computer and checking race stats. There will be much muttering under her breath about how we are doing it ALL WRONG now that she isn’t around – but I’m sure even if we won the Race, she would claim we could have won it faster with her.
Still 4 more cuts to make....

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