Thursday, 29 November 2007

November 29, 2007 The Old Dog Truck & Chilly Temps!

Read easy, this first story is not about one of the dogs, but Monday morning offered a bit of a 'funeral procession' here. See a couple years back I wrote a diary entry regarding the retirement of our old dog truck, which had seen us through a lot of years and a lot of miles before the fancy new F450 showed up on the scene.

For the last two years or so, the old truck (aka 'the 250') has continued to serve us well. With it's dog boxes now removed it has make many trips to the Perryvale 'Waste Transfer Station' (aka 'The Dump'), hauled thousands of pounds of dog food home from Athabasca, carried bulky kennel supplies like fence posts, materials for dog houses and more.

It's certainly been showing it's age, with creaks, strange noises, the odd weird smell and more - but what old man doesn't??? In the last month, it had had some issues with fan belts, brakes and antifreeze, but it was still carrying on like a good solider.

On Sunday night Mark took it to work as one of the guys he works with was bringing in some bales of straw for us. He had emailed that there was still an issue with antifreeze and he had had to drive the hour to work (at -20 or so) with no heat in the cab.

Monday morning arrived snowy and cold - minus 25 to be exact. At 7am Kathryn and I were out feeding the dogs breakfast and I was expecting Mark to be pulling in the driveway at any time. By 7:30 I was worried. It isn't like Mark to be late coming home and with the issues with the truck and the storm, I decided to play things safe and go looking for him.

As I crested the hill on our driveway, there was Mark and the 250. The truck had indeed broken down - but like the trooper it has always been, it was kind enough to die close enough to our road that Mark could coast off the highway before bringing it to a stop.

He knows better then to leave a vehicle in a storm and was patiently waiting for me to come looking for him (yes, he carries a cell phone, but it doesn't work close to the house).

Later that afternoon, after Mark woke up from sleeping, we headed up the hill with the van and a tow road expecting to have to drag our old friend home. That was not to be though, sputtering and spewing foul smelling smoke it coughed to a start and headed for home. It stalled a few times and clouds of black smoke billowed from it at various moments as it limped the last mile to the yard.

It's parked up by the gates for now. Mark had been crawling around in it a bit in the last few weeks and thinks it is probably done for now, but he will take a look at it again in the spring just to be sure.

Either way with over 320,000 hard kilometres on it through the years, it owes us nothing, but it does feel alittle like losing an old friend.

You might have noticed mention of some chilly temps in that story - honestly, right now, -20 would seem toasty warm. It was -35 this morning and now, at 11am, has warmed up to a 'balmy' -32. That puts training dogs on hold. I ran on Monday at -25 but 4 wheelers just don't work great at those temps. The dogs had a blast and were barking and screaming each time we took a break. I was barking and screaming too, but mostly because I seemed to have forgotten how to dress for that kind of cold and was freezing to death.

Tuesday it was in the -20 range and Mark and I each took a team out. That was definitely more bearable and 4 wheelers, dogs and humans had a good run.

Yesterday it was down in the -30 range and we all wimped out. After feeding the dog's breakfast and a quick trip to Athabasca for some dog food, headed to the city for a movie and dinner.

The movie was 'Into the Wild', which was very interesting. I don't know that I share Sean Penn and Jon Krakaurer's take on Chris McCandless, but it was a visually interesting movie and inspired some good discussion over the dinner table.

Anyway, today we will hang out and work on some chores around the house with a close eye to the thermometer. If it warms up some in the 'heat of the day', I'll definitely be sneaking out the door for a run.

All for now!


Friday, 23 November 2007

November 23, 2007 Training Run Photos and Trail Facts

Yesterday's run was a pretty routine one, but I posted some pictures at -
I started off with Flash in lead, but he made it very clear that he was not ready to be a lead dog yet and I swapped him out with Runner within 1 ½ miles. Flash still proved to be distracted up in swing, so I ended up with him back in wheel before the run was over. He worked just once he was in wheel! Ah, 'Puppy Brain'. 
Part of yesterday's run was up on the historic Landing Trail. This trail fascinates me. It was established in 1875 by the Hudson Bay Co and used until the railway, which actually ran along the east boundary of our property, came along in 1912.
It is mentioned in James Michener's Journey and I found some interesting information online about the trail -
The section of the trail I travel is now part of the Trans Canada Trail System -
As a point of trivia - The Trans Canada Trail reaches from the Pacific to the Atlantic and up to the Arctic Ocean. In 2000 a relay occurred across Canada bringing water along the existing and proposed sections of the trail from reach of these oceans to be joined in a fountain in our nation's capital in Ottawa.
From -

  a.. The Trans Canada Relay Trail began on February 19, 2000 in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, when water from the Arctic Ocean was drawn by local Junior Rangers and blessed by local church representatives before being placed in a symbolic baton.
  b.. The western leg of Relay 2000 began in Victoria, British Columbia on April 7. Water was drawn from Victoria's Inner Harbour and brought to shore by Aboriginal war canoes for its trip east across Canada. On May 5, the Atlantic waters were drawn in Cape Spear, Newfoundland.
  c.. Five thousand official water carriers (1,300 in Ontario) have walked, run, cycled, ridden horseback, cross-country skied, snowmobiled and journeyed by wheelchair along the 16,000 kilometer Trans Canada Trail that stretches across Canada's mountains, prairies, forests, parks, towns and cities. The waters from the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans will all reach their final destination of Hull, Quebec on September 9, 2000, when the Trans Canada Trail is officially unveiled. When it is complete, Relay 2000 will have visited more than 800 communities across Canada, including 165 in Ontario

When the relay passed through Perryvale, my 2000 Iditarod team and I carried water out of Perryvale and along part of the Trail.
That's your history and useless trivia lesson for today.


Thursday, 22 November 2007

November 22, 2007 One Month Being A Dog Handler

2007I heard that several of you have been asking Karen that her dog handler should write a diary entry.  Well, since I've been her handler for almost a month, I guess it's time.

A little bit about myself.  I'm 35 years old, quit my job as an accountant and left my husband of 7 years and two Siberians at home, Dakota who is 11 and diabetic for almost 3 years and Nokomis who is almost 5.  We had Sierra for 4 1/2 years before she died from cancer 3 years ago Christmas.  All three of our fur kids were adopted from various organizations.  I talk to Pete a couple times a week and email regularly.  He is taking very good care of the dogs, working, maintaining the house, etc.

I absolutely love being up here.  I'm from Metro Detroit, but was really looking forward to being out in the country.  I'm not sure how I'll react going back home to the city after being here for 6 months, but I'm certainly not thinking or worrying about that.

I am learning a lot of things, such as living in cold weather (block heaters, plugging in vehicles), driving a quad and dealing with so many dogs.  I have finally figured out everybody's name and where they belong in the yard.  Therefore, hooking up for runs is moving along quicker than in the beginning when Karen had to tell me where everyone was located.  I don't mind cleaning up the yard because the weather has been nice and sunny and it gives me some time to say hi and play with all of the dogs.  The time goes by really fast.  It is hard physical work, but I love it.  I love being around so many dogs and even Karen and Mark are cool.  Both have been very nice and gracious and I feel very lucky and comfortable being here.

I wish all of the Americans a Happy Thanksgiving!

Kathryn Trussell
Winter 2007/08 Dog Handler @ NorthWapiti Kennels

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

November 21, 2007 Team Updates

I've been asked a few times how the team is shaping up, so I figured that must mean it is time I do a 'team update'!!

 They are actually all doing very well. Runs are up in the 30 mile range now and they are coming home strong and happy. We have had some issue with feet, but we got a couple inches of snow over the weekend and that should clean up a lot of our problems on that front, as the frozen gravel roads were the root of the problems. 

 It is -20 this morning and I imagine that will close up the Tawatinaw River completely. That'll make many of the dogs ridiculously happy - especially Runner!

The few inches of snow we got make things easier on the dogs feet, but it also makes steering the 4 wheelers (ATV's, quads, whatever you call them) a bit trickier!

The other day I was trying to take a picture as we started up the sand hill and failed to punch the throttle and steer wide where I should of. It became obvious I was in a jam and I took a minute to assess the situation (and uttered a few 'not nice' words'). The dogs were all around the corner pointing north, the quad couldn't get any traction in the snow and sand, - and it still needed to go west before I could make the corner. I was in a quandary. I was going to have to call upon my 'Jamie Nelson' training to get out of this one.

I hollered out 'HAW' to Jr and Q and without question, they scrambled up the sand cliff in front of us. No way I could take a dog team all the way up there, but if they were willing to try and 'crawl the wall' I could probably move the quad forward enough that I could get it around the problem corner. I was absolutely thrilled that they were so willing to attempt to get up that 'seemingly impossible for a dog team' hill for me - especially since all I did was ask once.

Sure enough, with them pulling as best they could and me pushing, we got the machine forward the 6 or 7 feet I needed. I called out 'GEE' and they scrambled off the hill back onto the trail, plowing over some poor little saplings in the process, and we were underway again! I praised them silly once we got to the top. What good dogs!


Later in the run Jr nailed a turn onto a trail we had never been down, that also had about 2 years of willow growth in it. He is turning into quite the command leader!

You can see pictures from this run at


I have made a few cuts from the team. Two year olds Paxson and Fritz were cut. That is in addition to Xena and Minto, who were cut a few weeks back. I'm not disappointed in any of them - they are all just young.

There are still a number of 2 year olds hanging in with the 'big dogs' - Isis, Bingo, Togo, Irving, Wolvie and X are all doing excellent - really excellent! I think I smile every time I look at Irv, Wolvie and X in particular. Stars!!






There are some newcomers to the leader pool - and some old standbys still working hard.












Moses, Q, Jr, Runner, Crunchie, Sprite, Spider, Hilda, Kara, Dasher, Tess and Jinx are all key leaders.




When I feel like 'banging my head against a wall', I put Charge, Watt, Irving, or Boom in lead. They are coming along nicely, but it will be awhile before I'm going to actually call them 'leaders'. All are pretty good when we are moving (well, except for Boom who turns down every driveway we pass), but when we stop pandemonium ensues.

I've been really thrilled with Nahanni this year. She had a 'so so' season last year and I wasn't sure what she would want to do this fall. She has let me know loud and clear that she still wants to be a sled dog and is putting in outstanding performances. Mark even had her in lead for a bit the other day, as she was the only dog on his team willing to dive right into the icy river. She did an okay job for a few miles and then reminded us that she really is not a leader, which is fine with me.

Well, time to get on with some other projects!!! All for now!


Sunday, 18 November 2007

November 18, 2007 SUPERDOG Joins The Team

Sometimes people and things just pop into your life at the exact right time and moment, don't you all think??

Earlier this year I had been looking for a replacement to the supplement that we had feed our dogs for joint support and helping with extra 'wear and tear' that their lives put on their fuzzy little bodies.

The one we had been using was expensive and the dogs hated the taste of it. Loki actually would carefully pick all his kibble out of his bowl around the granules of supplement and then pee in the bowl on his supplement. Not too subtle a message!

I had been researching a few products online and talking to some friends, but was just not finding anything I was feeling really good about feeding to the team.

At the same time I had also been talking to Mark about retiring Moses. You all know how much I respect and adore Mo, he led me across the finish line in the '06 Iditarod and has been a solid and dependable leader in my team since the '04 Race. However, lately I was seeing some changes in his gait that was making me think that he was having some issues with his body - and more bothersome, he was cranky and snarky with the dogs he was running with. Very 'un-Mo' like and I was worried it was a sign that he was in pain.

I decided to give him a few solid days off and then look at him in harness again.

During those few days I received an intriguing email from a local company that I was unaware even existed. The company, Super Dog ( , makes a high end pet food treat that contains Elk Velvet Antler (EVA), Saskatoon berries, Kelp Meal, Flaxseed and many more interesting natural ingredients.

Quoting from their information brochure "This high end dog treat was formulated as an aid towards keeping your dog healthy. Especially from old age, poor coats, allergies and stomach problems. As well Elk Velvet Antler is proven ( to help dogs with joint stiffness, lack of energy, old injuries and arthritis. All the ingredients are designed to holistically help with these problems and not intended as your dog's main food. Dogs also love the taste of Super Dog treats; therefore can be used for training or as a reward."

 This sounded exactly like the kind of thing I was looking for (and EVA has always intrigued me) and what better time to give it a try?

Don and Dave Bamber paid a visit to the kennel a few days after the email. We got a chance to get a feel for what we were each about and they left me with a bunch of treats to feed the main string dogs in the kennel - and Fly, who we were having some coat troubles with this fall.

 So the 'test feeding' has gone remarkably well and we are thrilled to report that our 'main string' or 'A team' dogs can now be referred to as the 'Super Dogs' in the kennel!! They will all be supplemented with Super Dog treats throughout training and racing.

 They are actually thrilled about it - as they LOVE the treats!!! Loki actually picks his treats out of his bowl and eats them first rather then peeing on them. And those lovely pictures of Crunchie standing so attentive in the show ring in California - he was being fed Super Dog treats as bait for 95% of that show.

 Fly's coat is actually finally starting to come in - which is great, as I was very concerned about what we were going to do for him this winter. (For those that don't know, his coat just wasn't growing after he got his summer hair cut this year).

 And of course you know I'm about to mention Moses. Moses led the team on a lovely fast 22 mile run the other day. He was wagging his tail on breaks (which is actually fairly 'un-Mo' like in of itself, he's never been a tail wagger in harness) and leaving his co-leader alone. I had a chiropractic assessment done on him yesterday and there were only very minor things to adjust, overall he was very sound. We are no longer discussing cutting him!!

We are thrilled to announce SUPER DOG as part of the NorthWapiti team!!

Check them out at - and of course, tell them I sent you!


Saturday, 17 November 2007

November 17, 2007 Camping Trips & ER Visit

I've been doing a fair number of 'mini' camping trips this fall - basically they were glorified coffee outings to my friend Lisa's place - but the dogs don't know that! J  Works out great, as the dogs were getting good runs and experience resting in harness, but it was time to really stretch them out on a real camping trip.

The original plan was to go camping last Friday, but plans got stalled Thursday when Mark walked out of the bush without his ATV and asked if I'd mind driving him to the hospital. When I asked what the problem was he held up his left hand to show 4 fingers pointing in one direction and his ring finger pointing an entirely different way.

I should have taken a picture, but honestly, I was too busy trying to keep my lunch down.

Mark was greeted warmly by the ER staff at the Athabasca Hospital - he tried to tell me that the nurse worked at Alpac in addition to putting shifts in a the hospital, but I'm thinking he is just becoming a 'regular' in the ER.

After the receptionist, nurse and just about everyone else gave 'oh gross' exclamations at Mark's hand they froze the finger and yanked it back into place. A few days with a splint and his hand is mostly back to normal.

We dragged his ATV up the hill it was stuck on with my ATV the next day. Thankfully it did not require an ER visit.

So, Mark back to full strength we decided to try again yesterday. As he was just coming off a stretch of night shifts, he slept through the day, we fed the yard at 4 pm, fed ourselves, packed up and hit the trail around 7pm. 

The run to the campground was a solid one. The dogs hadn't been on a night run in while and were having a blast. We bounced off tussocks in the muskeg reminiscent of the trail from Ophir to Iditarod on last year's race.

Three big animals bounced across the road right in front of my team. At first I thought they were deer, but their size and the way they jumped the fence in the far ditch really let me to think they were actually elk (aka Wapiti) - Mark agreed.  Not unheard of in the area, but the first time we have run into them out here with teams.

Miles later we wheeled into the campground. It was a nice treat that our handler Kathryn had decided to drive out and meet us. We got dogs fed and settled down before Mark (aided by a lot of flammable liquids) got a fire roaring for us to cook up some hot dogs over.
by Penny Blankenship

Despite having all my rookies in the campground with us, we passed a relatively quiet 3 hours before packing up, waving goodbye to Kathryn (as she scurried back to the cabin to get to bed - we had kept her up till WELL past her bedtime!) and hitting the trail for home.

The dogs took a mile or so to find their 'groove' and then settled easily into ground covering travel.

With traffic virtually non existent (it was 2am), I pulled out my iPod to help me stay away. No luck, it was totally dead. Seems I put it on the charger yesterday, but forgot to plug the darn thing in.

I resorted to munching on some trail mix and reciting 'The Cremation of Sam Magee' to the dogs to stay awake.

"There are strange things done 'neath the midnight sun by the man who moil for gold..."

We took a couple good long water and rest breaks for the critters, finally we hit the muskeg that means we are about 7 miles from the kennel. As I was bouncing along (no problem staying awake now) it occurred to me that I should have seen Mark's headlamp round the last corner in my rear view mirror by now. I called the dogs to a stop and turned around to look - still no Mark. I powered down my ATV accessories (my handwarmers, GPS and spotlight) and shut off my machine to see if I could hear Mark's making it's way down the trail. Nothing. Hmmm, then a weak light accompanied by no sound popped into view. I hit the start button on my ATV and absolutely nothing happened. What the heck?? I tried one more time before deciding to just wait for Mark - I didn't want to kill the battery. When Mark pulled up, I mentioned that I had ATV trouble. "Me too", was his reply. Seriously, neither machine would start, that was why there was no noise when he came into view around the corner.  Rather unbelievable when you consider that in all the years and all the miles we have put in with ATVs, we have never had one break down on a training run - forget 2 within 5 minutes of each other (Katerina - are you jinxing our machines??). 

Battery power held up enough that we were both able to run our spotlights for most of the way home. We each also put on a headlamp for added security. Luckily, pulling a 500 + lb ATV with a person on board is not a big challenge for the team, so we made it home only a bit later then expected.

Everyone ate well and was tucked back onto their chains. It was 6:15am when Mark and I dropped into bed. Mark lucked out with a full 10 hours sleep, but I had to be up at 9:30 to be ready to meet Dr. Veronica Devall for kennel shots, a few adjustments on dogs and a MUSH with PRIDE kennel inspection!

Despite my lack of sleep, I had a lovely visit with Veronica and we got all our projects accomplished - including our kennel inspection, which we passed with flying colors. J

(For more information on MUSH with PRIDE kennel inspection program, check out )

Well, I'm off to make dinner and then pushing everyone out the door to feed early so I can get some sleep!!!

Happy Trails!


Tuesday, 13 November 2007

November 13, 2007 Dog Updates

Sadly, it has been months since I have done a proper kennel update. As you would imagine, much as been going on - so much that it's probably going to take a few diary entries to bring everyone up to speed!!

I'll start with the most important item - dog updates.

As is often the case, fall saw a number of dogs leaving the kennel for new homes. The start of the exodus coincided with the arrival of Mike Carmichael in mid August. Carmichael's had already made arrangements to purchase Lexx - a nice yearling out of Tolsona and X. So as soon as Mike got settled in his 'spot' in our meadow, Lexx was moved out of our yard and down to Mike's truck. I'm confident he will be a nice strong addition to Mike's team.

Before Mike's departure in September, I managed to talk him into taking Gator, one of the Jumpy x Butch pups from last summer and he managed to talk me out of puppies Pitch (Surge x Kara) and Bubba (Nate x Hilda).
Lucky Mike doesn't have a bigger dog truck!!!

Around the same time, I offered Sukih (Skor x Kluane) to Tara Lemiex of Kazlo Siberians. Tara already has a couple dogs from us - and a number of dogs from our lines. She simply jumped at the opportunity to get Sukih in her yard!
We also had to make the tough decision, thanks to a yardful of puppies this summer, to place a few more kids. So Banjo jetted off to live with Rob and Louise Cooke in Nova Scotia and her sister, Billie down to New Hampshire.
Although Kelly Berg was unsuccessful talking me out of a number of dogs when she was here in September, I caved a few weeks back and let Bongo head out to Kelim. I know she will be loved and appreciated there, but it was still really tough to put her on the plane.
As you may have all read, we did welcome 7 more little mouths with the addition of a litter courtesy of Crunchie and Olena. 'The Candies' - Smartie, Chicklet, Skittles, Twizzler, Peeps, Turtle and Jelly Bean - are all wonderful.

So, 8 dogs have left - and 7 more arrived. So much for getting the kennel numbers down a bit! J

As for training updates, a couple cuts have been made, but I'm still training 35, so watch for a bunch more coming soon!

Cut so far have been Minto, Xena and Lingo. The girls both got cut for the same reason, they just need a bit more time to grow up. Xena developed the nickname 'Bubbles' in training as her bubbly exuberance kept overtaking her ability to focus on working in harness. She is constantly making me smile, but it was very obvious she isn't grown up enough for any 'serious' training yet.
Lingo's cut was a harder one, as it was nothing he 'did' that caused it. Rather, he came down with a health issue that necessitated his right eye being removed and caused me to cut him from the team.

I'm happy to report that he is doing wonderful now and it looks like we may have even found him a new home where he can lead out a full and happy life. Good news!!!

I took some pictures on my training run on Sunday and you can check them out on my Piscasa site - The site has been fussy and hasn't wanted me to do captions on the photos, so there are only a few for now, but I'll keep trying!

Off to run dogs!


Sunday, 4 November 2007

November 4, 2007 Smiley's Retirement

A few months ago, Katerina requested an update on how Smiley is enjoying his retirement.  I had neglected to get this done, however after all the e-mails of Crunchie's wins in the ring this weekend (GO CRUNCH), Smiley reminded me that he was getting bored with all the talk being centered on someone other than "Smiley".  The trademark Smiley yawns were being shot directly at me as I stalked the computer for more good news from California!!!  So Smiley, this is all about YOU!!!  Again!!!
Ch. North Wapiti's Guy Smiley - Smiley - Smiles - Smarty Pants - Goof Ball ... the "Guy" has many nicknames.  Regardless of how we address him, we always find ourselves saying his name with a hint of glee in our voice.  I'm not sure if it's the name or the woof, but Smiley has a way of making us laugh in the utmost respectful way.  We are never laughing at Smiley, we are laughing with him.  The boy's mood may be infectious but let's be clear - he has an agenda.  Get the humans on your side then take them for all they are worth.  The sad part is whatever we do for Smiley and trust me the list is long, we do it willingly knowing we are fueling the fire.  So here are a few Smiley stories.
Shortly after we brought Smiley home from the 2006 Fall Warm-up Weekend, he was in the house for a visit along with a few other woofs.  I was sitting in the living room and I heard Smiley's toes ticking around on the kitchen floor.  Then things got quiet before he came prancing into the living room carrying a bunch of bananas that had been on the kitchen counter.  He had his head held high as he proudly carted them around with me in pursuit.  I pretty much had to wrestle them off of him and let's just say that the bananas lost.  Ever since then, bananas go up "high" in a cupboard.
The next Smiley trick was at Halloween a month or so after the banana fiasco.  One of our neighbors had given us two small pumpkins from her garden.  Since we aren't avid pumpkin carvers, the little orange things were left in the porch on the cupboard.  One night I made the mistake of leaving the porch door open (daaaa).  Smiley disappeared for a few minutes then came flying in from the porch and stopped behind the couch (see a pattern emerging?).  I could hear heavy nasal breathing coming from the general vicinity of Smiley, so got up quickly to see if he was in distress.  Well yes, he was certainly in distress.  You see it is very hard for a Sibe to breath when he has a pumpkin the size of a football stuck in his mouth.  He had a good hold on it and when I inquired what he was up to, he looked up and pranced into the living room, again head held high, showing off his prized possession.  Well, you can't deny the guy his pride or a little fun.  The pumpkin didn't really have a purpose anyway, so for the next few weeks until Mr. Jack-O-Lantern was unrecognizable we played hide-the-pumpkin.  Each night the pumpkin had a few more holes in it - some pretty funky looking holes since Mr. Smarty Pants' canines have seen their share of wear and tear.
One last "food" story, then I'll move on.  Raw potatoes are one of Smiley's most favorite things.  We keep a bag of the little round guys in the porch pantry and EVERY night when Smiley comes in he finds it necessary to check on them.  I'm not sure if he counts them to make sure none have escaped or what the deal is, but he noses them around in their bag and if he is so inclined he might put a few teeth marks in one or two, but is ever so careful not to do enough damage that he is forbidden to ever touch the potatoes again.  I think he just plain enjoys checking on his little potato friends.  So if you are ever at our house for a meal, do enjoy the potatoes!!!
My poor siblings have endured my love of Sibes for most of my adult life.  They are polite and patient with my addiction but they don't see the dogs often enough to get to know which dog is which.  They hear the stories though ... all too often.  My sister Kathy came out to our place to stay overnight before we headed out for a "girl weekend".  I had to go to work for a few hours before we could run off, so she said she'd hold the fort until I got back.  We agreed that she could bring a couple of dogs into the house for some quality time.  I had been at work about an hour when my phone rang and it was Kathy.  She had done something weird with the t.v. and needed some help getting things back on track.  While she had me on the phone she said she had two dogs in the house and she wasn't sure which two, but one of them was sitting on the chair in the livin groom staring at her to the point that it was making her uncomfortable.  I was pretty sure I knew who the culprit was.  When I asked if he was all white with a bit of grey/black on his face and two beady brown eyes, she replied "yeah which one is that?".  I said, "his name is Smiley and apparently because you don't know his name you are not worthy of his affection".  She laughed and said "Smiley is that you?"  Apparently, he bounced off of the chair and that was that.  She later told me that the two of them had toast and jam together on the couch and watched Oprah.  PLEASE.
There are many more Smiley stories but I'll stop now.  It's hard to believe that it's been just over a year since we brought Smiley into our home.  I knew at the time that Karen's decision to let Smiley come and live with us was a great compliment but also a great responsibility.  It would be an understatement to say we are enjoying him.  We celebrated his 11th birthday this summer.  He wore a shiny silver party hat with "birthday boy" written in blue (you can see a photo on the NW main page).  He allowed a couple of photos then ripped the hat to shreds.  All the dogs enjoyed cinnamon buns and of course, Smiley got the first one.  He snatched it from my hand as I was attempting to break it into pieces.  Yes, Smiles I got the message.  You are a big boy and don't need your food cut up for you.  He is a picture of health and happiness and we look forward to many more birthday celebrations.  This Fall he is teaching Blaze and Sparky to be lead dogs.  He gives them homework every day and they have to bring him a banana if they need to suck up to the teacher (an apple would just be too mainstream for Smiles).
So Katerina, I hope you agree that it sounds like Smiley is enjoying his retirement.  Smiley has authorized me to share a couple of photos with you.  Enjoy!!!
Until next time,
Colleen Hovind