Sunday 26 December 1999

December 26, 1999

What a week of ups and downs it has been. First off, my computer completely crashed on Sunday - luckily I had the laptop that I'm taking up to Alaska, so I was still able to get my 'fix' of surfing and emails. By Monday night, thanks to my very kind brother in law, Kelly, I had it back and running (I did lose my email address book and a number of other things though!). Maybe this time I'll learn to back up my stuff - but I doubt it!

On Monday the computer filled up with messages from friends in Alaska - they had SNOW!!! Heaps and heaps of snow! I started rushing around like a chicken with it's head chopped off, making the final plans for our departure on December 26. Then on Wednesday the computer was again filled up by the same friends, but with bad news - RAIN! Seems that a 'Pineapple Express' weather front moved into Alaska dumping tons of warm moisture on them. In the Anchorage, Wasilla, Willow area, it was warm and wet enough that they lost most of the snow that arrived just days before. On Thursday, after talking to all sorts of folks in Alaska we made the decision to postpone the trip north for 1 week. It really isn't all that bad for us. I have some time to deal with more last minute details and we are still getting some pretty good quad runs in on the dogs.

Speaking of the dogs - I can honestly say that I have never seen them look better. They are strong, sassy, and happy! Earlier this week I made the final cuts and selected the 20 dogs that are going with us to Alaska. It was hard - especially the last 3 cuts of Sammie, Visa, and Mork. I'm very lucky to have this kind of depth in our kennel! The list of the twenty can be found at our new link The Team.
Christmas was basically a 'non-event' around here this year. My Mom and brother, Jim were up a little over a week ago and we opened presents and had a turkey dinner then. Christmas Eve found us out on the trails. We are running a lot of roads lately, so we got to run by lots of house decked out in lights for the holidays. It was kind of like a slower, less fancy version of the trips driving through town in the family car looking at lights on Christmas Eve that we did when I was a kid. Some of the neighbors were out and about on the roads, almost all stopped to roll down their windows and wish us a Merry Christmas. One of the families all piled into their car when we went by and all came out to take some pictures and wish us a Merry Christmas! Of course, that big, bright, gorgeous moon that has been around since December 22 made an appearance too. All and all, a pretty neat Christmas Eve. Christmas Day was pretty much the same. The dogs got extra big breakfasts, although I did forget to pass out the pig's ears and salmon chunks that Santa was so kind to leave them - guess that will have to be done today!
We were very lucky last week to have my brother come back up for 4 days to help out. He was a lifesaver - running to town for dog food, doing banking, helping out in the yard. I can sure see how a full time handler would be a pretty cool thing to have! Actually though, I rather just have a maid and a cook - I enjoy the yard chores - it's all the other things I don't like! Maybe when we win the lottery :)

I hope that all of you had a Merry Christmas!

Sunday 19 December 1999

December 19, 1999

Well, we are in the countdown until I leave for Alaska! One week today!!!! I think 'YIPPEE' until I realize all that is still left to be done! One obstacle stands in our way and that is snow. I got an email from Maureen in Alaska saying that she had switched over to a sled, but was only running teams of 4 for safety. We really need another 6 inches or so to make things safe up there!

At home we have run into some weather problems too. We got some more snow but it is not enough for the sleds and too much for the quads. I took 2 - 8 dog teams out on Saturday, but Mark had to come out on the snowmobile in case I had a tangle or problem because there is not enough of a base to sink a snowhook. So, it has been a bad week for training and I've fallen a little behind my training mileage goals.

My Mother and brother, Jim came up during the week for a little early Christmas celebration. It sure was nice to have them up. Jim is even talking about coming back on Monday to help me with some of my preparations! I certainly put him to work for the time he was here. On Thursday we packed 23 dogs into the dog truck and headed for the vet in Westlock. We had bloodwork and health certificates for crossing the Alaska border done on 22 of them. Everyone checked out fine and we certainly caused a stir in the Clinic!

Number 23 on the truck was a sad story. As I had previously mentioned, we had a tumor removed from Pirates intestines a few weeks back. Unfortunately, the tests came back and Pirate has cancer. Dr. Jackson figures that he will only live about another 6 months or so. We took him in on Thursday to do a complete blood panel to try and better pinpoint how long he has. Like all my dogs, when their 'time' comes, I wish for them to go surrounded by their family - the people that love them. As I won't be around for Pirate in January, February, and March, I want to make sure that he is going to be okay until I get home. Things are looking pretty optimistic for that. All and all a sad situation.

I still have a really tough decision to make and that is which 20 of the 22 dogs currently in training are going to Alaska with me. I've been puzzling this over in great detail and having the hardest time making this decision, but there is only room on the truck for 20 dogs for an extended trip, so it is going to have to be figured out this week! Everyone has strengths that I know would be an asset out on the trail. What to do, what to do!!!???? I'll post the names of the 20 I pick here as soon as I make up my mind!

My Mom certainly worked hard while she was here too. On top of slaving away in the kitchen cooking an early Christmas dinner, she was vacuum sealing trail meals that were donated to me by my best friend, Lynda Brown and her husband Dwayne Dubetz. I'm really, really lucky to have these two gifted cooks preparing meals for the trail. I'm definitely going to be eating better on the Iditarod then I do at home when I'm cooking for myself!

Well, there is lots more to say, but no time to say it, I'm afraid. I need to get outside and get the dogs fed and ready for the day. We are going to do 2 - 30 milers on the sled today, with snowmobile backup for safety!

Tuesday 7 December 1999

December 7, 1999

I was SHOCKED to see that it has been 2 weeks since my last entry. Where does time go???

I just got back last night from Alaska, where I was for the Iditarod's Mandatory Rookie Meeting. It was fun to get to meet some of the other rookies and do some visiting! Jamie West and her husband, Harry, were gracious enough to open their home to me and even loan me a truck so I could get out to Willow on Sunday. I also got to Palmer to visit Earl Norris in the hospital. For those of you that don't know Earl, he is one of the ikons of Siberian Huskies and racing in Alaska. Earl had a stroke last week, but they are figuring that he should be back home for Christmas. My thoughts are certainly with him, his wife, Natalie, and everyone else at Howling Dog Farms.

Things kept hopping around here even while I was away. Mark was busy running teams over the weekend so the mileage didn't fall off too much. We are heading into a difficult time here as the dogs mileage is to a point where runs take up a good part of the day, yet there is still much to be planned, acquired, packed, and organized before I leave for Alaska in 19 days. YIKES!!!! Christmas just falls at too busy a time to be celebrated much around here, but we do have some plans for some family get-togethers next week. Between vet visits and runs, we might even get a turkey dinner in there somewhere! I've done no decorating of the house (unless piles of dog booties in the dining room and drop bags in the hallway count!) other then sticking a wreath outside.

We had a scare with Pirate last weekend. Turns out he had a good size tumor in his intestine. Some of you might remember that Pirate is the rock eating dog from Oregon that we got a few months back. He is very young to have such a thing, we are hoping that it is a product of one of his earlier rock removal surgeries. Right now he looks a little like a patchwork quilt with shaved patches on his legs and belly. We were very grateful to Pirate's Uncle Blunder, who was rushed to the vet clinic by his owner, Roger Morey, so we could do a blood transfusion. It certainly helped his recovery!

We were VERY excited to get our December issue of 'Dogs in Canada' magazine in the mail last week. Dogs in Canada is the Canadian Kennel Club's official publication. It is a very well done and award winning magazine and this month it features OUR DOG TEAM - not only on the cover, but with a 4 page article by Heather Brennan inside! They all did such a nice job - I was overwhelmed when I saw it for the first time. Unfortunately, it is not available online, but if some of you might be interested in getting a hold of a copy you can order one at the Dogs in Canada website.

Well, seems like I could go on chatting forever this morning, but there is not a speck of food in the house and I need to run into town and do some grocery shopping before running a team today!