It's your non-roving Border Collie Reporter, Bet, here!
Now that the Musher is back from the whole Iditarods judging things and stuffs, and we're getting back into the normal swing of things... well, as normal as normal is around here, I thought I'd sit down with her and take some questions from the fans!
I asked the Facebooks: "What questions do you have for the Musher?" and peoples posted questions. If your question wasn't posted here, then post one in the comments section of the blog and we'll do a follow-up to make sure all questions (within reason, peoples) are answered!
So, I printed out the questions, sat the Musher down, and interviewed her.
I made her wear the parka so the interview would look all authenticate and stuffs... and things.
Good morning Musher, how are you today?
Musher: Fine, thank you Bet. Although you sleep on top of me and have been attached to my side for the past 10 days or so, so you should already know that!
Now that you are back from your exciting Iditarod Judging adventure, your fans had a few questions for you, so without further ado, let's get this party started...
Donna Quante Any plans to run the Quest?
Musher: Right now we are just focusing on the 2014 Iditarod. I intend for that to be our last Iditarod, but am not sure what the future beyond that will look like.
LaRita Skipper Do you prefer long distance or mid distance races? Are certain dogs better suited for long distance vs. mid distance races?
Musher: I do like both, but at the core of my being I am an Iditarod musher. The trail, the race, the other mushers, the people all own a piece of my soul!
Lois C Greene How do mushers in general and women mushers in particular go to the bathroom while racing (especially in extreme cold)!
Musher: My most frequently asked question!!!! Women mushers seem to be divided into 2 categories - those who use and swear by products like the Shewee and those that think that is kinda crazy. I'm in the second category!!!
The colder it is the faster you can be - trust me!!!
Kerry Lord Clay How do you pair the dogs, what exactly are you looking for when making a sled team?
Musher: I am insistent that the dogs all get along and are capable of working together regardless. Like I used to demand of the folks that worked for me in the retail world - you don't have to love each other, but you need to be able to work next to them!!!
So in training their partners change on a daily basis.
Jen Koehler Reiter How did judging compare to racing? Did judging give her new insights that will change her future race plans?
Musher: My standard answer on that was - judging was better than being at home, but not as good as being on the runners!
And DEFINITELY!!! I learned all kinds of things as a judge!!!
Allie Marie Was there a “must have” food that you cooked up/packed for your time as a judge?
Musher: I wasn't responsible for any of my food on the trail as a judge. Food was supplied by Iditarod and cooked by volunteers - or kindly donated by locals. I actually ate very well!!! Moose, caribou, salmon and muktuk all made appearances in my diet!!!
But if I were to do it again, I would pack some packages of Starbucks Via!!! =) =)
Barbara Bennett Did you have to kick any judging decisions up to the Race Marshal?
Musher: Yes, I suppose. On a number of matters I consulted with Mark Nordman as to how he would like to to proceed. And in the case of all rule infractions (yes, there were a few - and no, I'm not telling who or what!), I reported the infraction and Mark decided on the penalty!
Kathy Hogan Your thoughts on miniature husky puppies?
Musher: Not a fan. I think it is really just a money-making fad.
Ruthann Blomquist Do you keep your retired racing dogs or sell them?
Musher: Both!!! Some of the dogs stay with us and some move on to new homes. It really depends on the dog and what I think is best for them - and sometimes I just can't bear the thought of them leaving, so they stay!!!!
Jared Henegar Once you started running and raising dogs when did it click that you were actually doing it as opposed to just thinking about it?
Musher: LOL. I still have a hard time believing I am Jared!!!
Susan Westwood How early to you start the new pups in harness and how far do they run on their first trip?
Musher: Our timing for starting pups in harness is more dependent on my schedule than anything else. I always want to do it at a time when they can be my complete focus, so usually we do it in the spring meaning they are about 10 months old!
First runs are about 3 miles! I always want to keep it super fun for them and want them wanting more!!!!
Marilyn Werner Do you ever look at one of your dogs and NOT know their name?
Musher: LOL. YES!!! But my Mom used to occasionally do that with my brother and me - and there were only 2 of us!!!
Margaret Uber Beatty How do you actually move your dogs around from one position to another on the gang line when you are out on the trail, what is the sequence to follow so there isn’t a slip-up or problem of some sort while “trading places”?
Musher: The trick is to try to always have either a neckline or tugline on every dog!! That is easy when you are moving a dog one position up or down - harder if you are moving them further.
I do spent a lot of time teaching my dogs to be 'okay' off leash and making sure they are easy for me to catch. I think that is VERY important for a distance musher!
Marlene Dahlquist How do u really start in the racing world?
Musher: My first and biggest recommendation is to start slow!! Too many folks grow their kennels too fast and end up either finding out they don't really enjoy it that much, aren't willing to make the necessary commitments or get in over their heads.
Grow slowly, carefully and responsibly!!!!
Mary Sangrey Does dropping a young dog hamper their potential to finish other races? They’re so smart that I wonder if, to a young dog who hasn’t finished a big race, dropping becomes a positive and known thing so more likely to drop?
Musher: Not normally - and NO, I do not wish to speak about Rocky at this time. I'm still sorting that boy out in my head! Rocky, Rocky, Rocky....
|Captain Snow Machine|
Starla Brewer What is the best and worst part of being a race judge?
Musher: The worst part is easy - the worst part was reporting rule infractions. Although I am a believer in rules and invested in the rules on Iditarod (I'm on the Iditarod Rules Committee), it is hard to report infractions on mushers, many who are my friends!!!
As for the best part....don't know that I can pin that down to one thing. I loved seeing the trail from the air, loved getting to really know some of the volunteers and locals, enjoyed the extra sleep, being warm and being well fed all the time!!! =)
Monica Fisher What words of advice would you give someone considering acquiring a husky puppy?
Musher: Do your homework, don't buy the first puppy you see, and keep a sense of humour!!!
Susan Perney Do you ever run a dog with just a neckline and no tug line to give them a break?
Musher: No, I actually don't believe in that. Even on tricky and dangerous sections of the trail like the Happy River Steps and the Dalzell Gorge I keep tug lines on all my dogs.
I think sled dogs learn to balance and brace off of the pressure from the tug line and taking that away from them puts them at greater risk of injury!!
And YES - sometimes leaving all the tugs done up puts ME at greater risk of injury - but heck, that's my problem!
A. B. Collie Why don't you make waffles more often?
Musher: Because you'd be as fat as Mark's Stupid Cat if I made waffles more often BET!!!
Laurie Wesman How do you prevent bloat on the trail and still got the dogs their calories?
Musher: Good question Laurie!! Actually bloat is really not an issue for most racing sled dogs. I know it is for Malamutes, I think the deeper chest of the Mals makes the difference.
I believe dogs are a 'predator' and therefore should be fed like predators - that is eating immediately after hard exercise and then given a good rest afterwards.
Have you ever seen a wolf pack after killing a moose lie down to rest for an hour or so before eating? Nope, they gorge immediately after and then sleep things off.
I feed as soon as I can when I arrive in a checkpoint and then the dogs get 2 hours rest after eating before we hit the trail again!
Shirley Yarbrough What was the most interesting thing that occurred while serving as a race judge? What are different lines of responsibility between the manager & race judge in a checkpoint?
Musher: Getting to watch Martin Buser's radical strategy play out from the 'inside'. Even though it wasn't ultimately successful, it sure stirred things up and caused a lot excitement on the trail!!! Yay Martin!!!
Kathye Carter Shuman Can Siberian Huskies be allergic to their own fur? (or their own dander)? My husky has a sneezing fit every time we brush him and especially during coat blowing season. He even got a sinus infection this year…
Musher: I've never heard of that. Best speak with your vet!
Adonia Wilson we use to borrow a dog off family she was a lead dog prior to them getting her as a pet. She is 7yrs old alaskan husky now and she’s had a number of litters since they have had her unfortunately. Do you think we should still try to use her as a lead dog or just move on? She has the motivation but the fitness is out the window.
Musher: Guess it would depend on her fitness going into and out of the litters - and how many litters she has had, but our bitches always come back quickly and easily after having puppies!
Joy Pensinger What made you decide you wanted to race? And I have to say how much I admire you and all mushers!
Musher: I think the desire to see new trail is what got me started racing. Now I not only enjoy seeing new trail, but I enjoy putting the dogs and myself under the 'stress' of racing. It teaches me a lot about the dogs and about myself!!!
Jennifer Adelman-McCarthy My 6 yr old Daughter Kelly would like to know if there are Polar Bears along the trail. And what animals do you worry about along the trail."
Musher: According to Iditarod - no, there are not polar bears along the trail. According to mushers ..... well a number say there are!!
I will say that when I followed the race as a fan in '98 there were signs at the Unalakleet airport warning of polar bears!!!
I asked in Koyuk this year if there were polar bears around and was told that it is not common, but on rare occasion, there are. They are a bit more common around the Nome area!
Moose are the only thing that really worry mushers on the trail. Most other critters are more than content to share the trail with us!
Thank you so much for taking time out from your busy schedule to answer these questions Musher... can I have some shrimp and pasta now?