Sunday, 8 July 2018

NORTHWAPITI'S EXCELSIOR






NorthWapiti's Excelsior
March 12, 2005 - July 7, 2018


In 2010 X popped his Achille's tendon training in Alaska with us. For many dogs, such an injury is life ending, but X had the NorthWapiti Community behind him and 2 days after the injury was hanging in my Mom's upscale duplex near Okotoks awaiting surgery.
He handled going from being in peak training to full crate rest with his typical 'no sweat' approach to life.

So many people played roles in his recovery but most heartfelt thanks go to my Mom, my brother Jim, Dr Veronica Devall and Richard Todd for giving my Xceptional boy an additional 8 years of mobility.

He was a favourite of many of the dogs and people in my life. He was my Most Xcellent Dude.

I will miss him always. 


Saturday, 9 June 2018

Iditarod's New 'Dead Dog Rule'

In the hours since Iditarod announced that all mushers that have a dog died on the race (unless it "was caused solely by unforeseeable, external forces") will be withdrawn from the Race,  I have been asked for my opinions a number of times.

I hate talking dog deaths, the wounds on that issue are still raw for me. 

For those of you unaware, my lead dog, Snickers, died of a gastric ulcer in Grayling during the 2007 Iditarod. I have throughly examined the events leading up to that so many times. I shared her necropsy report with many highly respected vets and asked their opinions. My head knows that I did right by my girl, my heart will always ask, 'What if....?'. 

I almost quit racing after that night.

Ultimately though, everything in life has risks - even sitting on the couch is a risk. I make decisions for my dogs that mirror the decisions I make for me. I am not a foolhardy person, I take my wellbeing seriously and I do the same for my dogs wellbeing - but I also want for all our lives to be rich and full.

I look at and reevaluate that balance often.  You may not agree with where my balance point is, I may not agree with yours - but the point is that it was made thoughtfully and caringly, so it should be respected. 


I don't disagree that this new rule might make an uncaring musher think twice about leaving a dog in a checkpoint 
(though it should be noted that there are already rules in place to deal with mushers whose dogs die a preventable death)  - and that is good thing but what I also see is what it may do to a musher who really does care and really was doing their best for their dogs - a musher who really views their dogs as a member of their family, as I did and do. 

As I write this my mind is in Grayling. I remember everything about that night. The fear, and eventually,  the sorrow, but I also remember the support. The community, the vets (oh, the vets!!), the officials, and my fellow mushers all offering such tremendous support and compassion - and once I got home, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring from fans. I can't even begin to say what that meant to me.

Now, I fear that the new rule will take some of that away. I was given the room and the support to make the choices that I needed to make for me (my choice was to scratch - my heart just wasn't in the race anymore). Now, I fear, when the worst happens, there will be a black cloud of suspicion over a musher - the suggestion that you did do something wrong and have been judged and penalized for it without your story even being heard.

I was reading some comments on the new rule on FB today and saw some already saying that it was good because whether or not the musher cared, they still made a mistake that led to the dog's death. The judging has begun. Life is tenuous and fragile - living it 'mistake free' does not guarantee that it will be long.

I believe there are pros and cons to this new rule - but, in my mind, what it boils down to is whether you believe most mushers care about their dogs or whether most mushers don't.

I believe that most mushers care about their dogs.



Wednesday, 23 May 2018

When Was The Last Time You Did Something For The First Time?


Well, Sunday!


A few months or so back my dear friend Kristin Fox asked if I would be a KeyNote speaker for her at a Women’s Business Conference she was organizing with her new company FinFoundHer in Chicago.

“Sure”

To be honest, I was thinking mostly of deep dish pizza, popcorn and some long overdue time visiting with a few of my friends fondly known as the ‘Minions’. 
Kristin has long been gently pushing me to combine my Iditarod experiences with my ‘pre sled dog’ life as a business woman and do this kind of thing. While I appreciate her kind prodding, I generally get distracted by a dog, a sheep, chicken or something like that because those things are now my ‘comfort zone’. But I’m always poking people to step outside their comfort zones, so it was likely time I put up or shut up.

As time got closer I began to put some thought into exactly what I was going to speak on. 

I eventually turned to the Bio that another friend, Heather Walls, wrote up and sent to Kristin for me while I was up in Alaska judging Iditarod in March.

“Wow. I’d like to know that woman”, I thought as I read it over. “She sounds cool.”
My stomach flipped when it occurred to me that it was MY bio I was reading.

“Am I really that person?”

Heather hadn’t spoke at all out of turn, I HAD done all the things she mentioned - and I had read and approved the Bio before it was sent out, but I guess I was focusing on the correctness of the statements rather than a big picture.

I guess I tend to think more of myself fumbling and figuring out her way on a herding trial field or chasing a chicken around a pen trying to sort out how I’m going to catch it than the woman in that bio.

BUT, I do pride myself in figuring out ways to rise to the occasion when I get myself into ‘situations’ - and I was going to do my best to do that this time. Mostly, I think because I didn’t want to let Kristin down or make Heather appear like a liar. 

So I fleshed out a presentation and then I fussed and fussed and fussed some more over it.

Yeah, I’ve done lots of presentations and public speaking over the years, but mostly I’m speaking to dog people telling the story of my life. I know that subject matter well. It is my comfort zone.
This was not but I put some slides and thoughts together that I thought was decent.

I was feeling good about it all till Saturday night when I went down to the Conference to meet up with Kristin. I walked into the building and realized that these women were not my people. There was not a dog or a chicken to be found.

I drank a number of margaritas at dinner that night trying to distract myself from the commitment I had made for the next day (well, and also because they were super tasty and washed down well the most excellent Mexican food we were eating). 


The next morning I was up early flipping slides and running over my notes on the concepts I had put together. By the time we got downtown my stomach was in a knot. 

I stepped up to the podium to face these beautiful, strong, confident women feeling like a total fraud but if I was going down, I was going to go in a blaze.

I was as nervous as I’ve ever been at a presentation as I began to speak. Would these women understand what I was trying to explain with pictures and stories of fluffy dogs, dead moose and snowstorms????

I noticed a few writing notes as I spoke and prayed they were not writing grocery lists or reminding themselves to book a hair appointment next week.

But no, it seemed like they were actually ENGAGED and interested!!

I took a deep breath and finally felt my stomach and shoulders relax a bit.

The presentation wrapped up and there was that TERRIFYING moment of truth - “Are there any questions?”.

Hands shot up everywhere.

Please don’t let them ask how I pee on the trail, I thought.

Not that that isn’t a valid question, I get asked it all the time and don’t mind answering but I wanted them to have got the concepts of building teamwork and teaching leadership that I had been trying to pass along.

AND THEY DID!!! The questions were TREMENDOUS.

I was so relieved and it was SO GRATIFYING!!!

My thanks to all that took the time to tell me how much they enjoyed the presentation and that they felt they got ideas that they could take away and use in their work. I can’t begin to say what that meant to me.


So, when was the last time you did something for the first time?

You should get on it!!!!!!!