Tuesday 23 November 1999

November 23, 1999

Well, I did end up canceling the school visit I was suppose to do last Thursday. I 'toughed' it out on Friday though and with the help of a few glasses of water, got through 2 presentations to a total of nearly 700 kids! I still haven't completely recovered from this nasty flu, but I seem to have it on the run now!

I did 2 school talks yesterday. Spud, Camilla,and KD came along. Spud used to be my 'regular' for school visits, but maybe because we had been doing so many, he was getting bored with them and not having fun. This was the first visit he has done in a long while and the KING is back! I looked over at one time during my slide show and Spud was stretched out across the laps of 4 teenage girls. One was rubbing his ears, one scratching his belly, and another stroking his tail - what a ham! He absolutely 'worked' that crowd! Little KD had a blast too! I turned her loose and she would run in circles around the room at high speeds, punctuating the run with a little bark every now and then, and then PLUNGE into the group of kids. It was like Moshing - Siberian style!!!! A fun time was had by all!
I thought that you might be interested in a little about what a typical day and a typical week in our lives is like, so here goes....

Normally the dogs get Monday and Thursday off. I've been using those days to get into the city, pick up dog food, grocery shop, do banking, school visits, vet visits, etc, etc. Tuesday and Wednesday I've been running 1 team each day. Mark doesn't work Friday, Saturday, Sunday (he works 4 - 10 hours day/week), so those days are are big running days. This is putting the dogs on a 3 days on - 1 (2) day(s) off, 1 day on - 2 (1) days off. For now that is working well, although the runs will need get more frequent relatively soon.

A 'typical' day is kind of rare around here, as things always seem to happen to disrupt the best of plans, but usually we are up at 5am. On work days, Mark is out of the house by 6am - and here's my BIG confession - between 6 - 7 I usually plunk myself in front of the TV with a cup of coffee and watch Northern Exposure on A&E. Absolutely, my favorite show of all time! After that, or at 6am on Mark's days off, it's out the door to water dogs. First I feed the 'A' team (24 dogs and 2 'alternates'). Their meal is thicker and meatier due to their increased caloric needs. Then the 11 'B' team dogs. We then go through and pick up bowls, taking the opportunity to play, snuggle, and mess around with the dogs. This is also a good time to check any problems with the 'A' team dogs, something like the foot that might have been tender after the last run or things like that. Then off to 'Geriatric Park' to feed and say 'Good Morning' to the 4 seniors. We save the pups for last! After feeding we get the meat thawing for the days teams and dinner. Then back into the house for 1 1/2 - 2 hours while the dogs digest their meal! This time is usually used for breakfast, catching up on email, paying bills, and stuff like that. Now comes running! As we are still on the quads, runs are slower then with a sled, including hooking up, running, and feeding/putting the dogs away afterwards, we are usually out for between 6 - 10 hours. Sometime during that time, Colin, the young man that helps out in the yard, will have showed up and shoveled the yard for us. If we get in the yard after about 4 pm, then we will feed the dogs their dinner in harness. Otherwise, they get another meal of soup after a run. At 8pm it is feeding time. Mark and I always feed the kennel together in the evening. Last year, I was feeding before Mark got home from work, but he missed the time with the dogs we changed the schedule. By 9pm we are calling it a day!

Well, the 2 hours since feeding are almost up this morning! I need to get out there and get ready to run!

Monday 15 November 1999

November 15, 1999

I've lost my voice due to a cold/cough that I've been packing around for a few days. So, I'm going to have to get my 'talking fix' in by updating my journal today!! I don't know what I'm going to do if the phone rings. I hope it doesn't last long, as I'm scheduled to do 5 or 6 school talks over this Thursday and Friday. I'd hate to have to cancel.

Other then the cold, everything is going well. We did a 43.5 mile run on Friday, 20 miles on Saturday and then Sunday spend the day doing health checks and vaccinating the 'A' team for kennel cough. For our health checks we bring the dog into our well lit garage weigh them, check their feet, teeth, gums, ears, look for harness rubs, etc, etc.. Of course, we do check them every time we are putting them away after a run, but it's a good idea to get a really good look at them up on a table every now and then too! Just for interests sake, I thought I'd give you some weights on the dogs. Our smallest dog is Joey, who weighs in at 38.5 lbs. On the other end of the scale is Mork, at a whopping 65 lbs. Average weight on the 'A' team is 49lbs.

I spent some time at the vet's again yesterday. Striker has been coughing for almost a month. We had tried some antibiotics, but they didn't help, so we had him put under so Dr. Jackson could take a good look down his throat. Turns out he has tonsillitis. So he is on a different antibiotic. I hope this clears it up quick. His attitude has not been affected by his cough and he is not at all happy with not being allowed to run!

I almost forgot to tell you about 'Take Out' :) On our Saturday run Mark discovered an abandon little grey and white kitten on the side of the road. It was meowing it's head off and Mark flatly refused to leave it there. It was quite the trick trying to keep 2 - 12 dog teams under control while trying to grab a half wild kitten. But we accomplished it! I will long hold the memory of Mark's team moving down the road in front of me with a kitten perched on his shoulder (the kitten kept crawling out of his jacket, climbing up his shoulder and attempting to leap off the moving quad). So 'Take Out' now joins 'Grisle' and 'Kibble' as the resident yard cats!

Well, I'm going to go drink another gallon of orange juice and see if all that vitamin C helps me shake off this nasty bug!

Wednesday 10 November 1999

November 10, 1999

Well hello to all. Things are going pretty well here. We had another good weekend of training on the dogs. On Monday I went to the Kikino Metis Settlement, about 1 1/2 hours from here and talked to the kids. One of the pups, Odie, and Lyra came along for the trip. We all had a really good time.

Yesterday I wanted to get a run in on the dogs, but ended up returning phone calls, booking airline tickets, and doing some trip planning. It is only 6 weeks till I head up to Alaska, so I can't let details get away from me. This morning Mark and I were counting how many days we are going to be in Alaska and trying to figure out how much kibble and meat we will need for the dogs. Then, of course, we are working on the food drops for Iditarod. We need to cut up and package all the meat for the trail, as well the rest of the dogs food, my food, extra gear, etc, etc. I can't wait till all that is out of the way and I can get on the trail!!!!! I think that is a pretty common feeling among mushers!

I did also get one fun chore in yesterday - it was a Straw Day!!! The dogs just love straw. It is like Christmas in the yard when I drag out the skidder and start dividing up a bale. The pups hadn't seen straw before and it is so scattered across their kennel that it won't offer much insulating value for them, but they sure had fun running around chasing each other through it! The older dogs aren't much better. They bounce and bark, grab mouthfuls out of my arms and dash around their areas shaking their heads and sending straw flying! After dinner there was a lot of satisfied 'sighs' as the dogs bedded down in their houses for the night! I think the mental benefits of Straw Day are just about as good as the physical ones!
Well, I need to get outside and get the dogs fed, so I can run later this morning. We give the dogs 2 hours after their breakfast to digest their meal before asking them to work.

Tuesday 2 November 1999

November 2, 1999

Hunting season has arrived! Not a good thing for mushers around here! I've outfitted the dogs with blaze oranges vests to wear over their harnesses, which should help keep us safe as we share the woods with hunters for the next month.

We had another excellent weekend of training, putting 90 miles on all the 'A' team dogs in 3 days. We even discovered some really lovely new trails!

Yesterday the dogs all got a day off to rest. I spent the day catching up on paying bills, banking, my correspondence, yard chores..... Not much rest for me :) We picked all the water buckets up on Sunday too, that means that our feeding schedule changes now. In the summer, the dogs have buckets hanging on their houses with fresh water available all the time. Feeding consists of going through the yard in the evening with dry kibble. Now that the buckets are off the houses we feed a breakfast of meat, National Energy Pack and water. Their evening meal starts off with dry kibble and vitamins and then we go through the yard and scoop out their 'soup' of meat and water. Most mushers feed their kibble soaked in water/meat, but we have found that our critters eat better if offered dry kibble first! It requires an extra 'pass' through the yard in the evening, but Mark and I both enjoy feeding time and the visiting that we do with the dogs then! Of course, in addition to all this, the dogs get fed after every run too. Usually a snack of frozen fish, lamb or beef and followed up with a meat, Energy Pack and water soup! Lately, we have been adding a little kibble after the run as I'm trying to put some more weight on a number of the dogs!
Today, I'm going to get a run in. Then I need to go into the Vet in Westlock. Seems Striker and Chester had a minor disagreement on the weekend. Even minor disagreements can be a problem when you have 2" canines! Striker got a puncture wound on his nose, nothing serious, but it is swelling a little and I want my vet, Dr. Jackson, to take a quick look at it and probably put him on antibiotics.

Well, that's the news and gossip for this morning!