Wednesday 13 September 2000

Gone...but not forgotten

NorthWapiti's Meomar Iceman
(Meomar's Othello x Meomar's Constitution)
 February 26, 1995 - September 13, 2000

Icey’s Tribute
It is with deep sadness that Mark and I share the news of the passing of one of my Iditarod teammates, our dear friend, and loved family member, NorthWapiti's Meomar Iceman. Icey was a leader and commonly known as our team 'clown'. We spent last evening sharing stories of the various pranks that he has pulled on his teammates and us over the years. Everything from inflicting his unique grooming preferences on any dog in the kennel close enough to him, to stealing the food bowls from the swing dogs when our backs were turned, to his preference for sleeping on his back (Icey was the dog featured in the Anchorage Newspaper during Iditarod sleeping on his back in the McGrath checkpoint). He always made us laugh!

Icey ran in harness with the team on Saturday. On Monday morning he had a sore shoulder and didn't want to eat. On Tuesday morning, he was in the vet with a fever of 41 and a raging infection through his left shoulder muscle. On Wednesday morning he quietly died at home, with me sleeping 2" from his face with my arm around him.

The battery of tests that was being done on him as we fought for his survival and the battery of tests were done on his body provided us with only partial answers. He died from a bacterial infection of Klebsiella. The method that this bacterium used to get into his muscle tissue and the reasons his system could not fight it remain a mystery.  A small bright spot in all this is that this doesn’t appear to be something that will endanger the rest of the kennel and that they are all looking healthy and strong.

Our gratitude to Jackie and Chris Marshall of Meomar Kennels. When Icey was 6 months old, they decided he was too good a dog to live out his life in their aging dog population and INSISTED he come live and work with us. You were right guys - he was a great dog. Icey was a participant in the Beargrease, Gold Rush Trail 120, Race to the Sky, Knik 200, Klondike 300, Goose Bay 120, and the Iditarod.

It is never easy to lose a friend, but to lose a young dog (5 1/2 years), in peak physical condition, so quickly, has been particularly hard.
Major Races
John Beargrease Marathon
Gold Rush Trail 120
Race to the Sky
Knik 200
 Klondike 300
Goose Bay 120
Current Working Status
Rainbow Bridge Brigade

Tuesday 12 September 2000

September 12, 2000 - Draco the ‘Moose’ Killer

When I do schools visits and ask the kids what they think the scariest thing I can run into on the trail is, I usually get answers like ‘wolf’ or ‘bear’. Surprising to many, the answer for many mushers and myself is a moose.  Whether moose see an oncoming dog team as a pack of wolves, whether they are just too stupid to just get out of the way, or whether their moose Mommies have told them they are bigger and tougher then anything else in the forest, I’m just not sure. But the fact is that often a moose would rather stand in the middle of a trail stomping and swinging their large, empty heads then move off a hard packed trail. Each winter some sled dogs are injured and in a few extreme cases killed during these encounters. This is not one of those stories.

As I was coming home with a 12-dog team yesterday, I had to pass through a quarter section of government land that is home to a herd of cows in the summer and used by us and a few other outdoor enthusiasts for the rest of the year. This is home to numerous deer, some moose, and ‘psycho’ coyote (who I will talk more about at a later date!). One of the gates was closed and as I walked up the team to go open it, I noticed Draco carrying something in his mouth. Draco is a ‘packer’. He loves to pick things up along the trail and carry them with him. I discourage this habit for fear he will swallow some of the smaller things he finds, but he sometimes finds things that I have missed on the trail. First off I tried to determine what this was I was about to attempt to wrestle out of his jaws (there is not much worse then playing tug-o-war with something dead or rotten!). I couldn’t figure it out and finally made a grab. Draco fought hard for his prize. When finally it popped out I was amused and surprised to find him packing a 4” high STUFFED MOOSE!!! Where he picked this up and what exactly it was doing in the middle of the woods in beyond me (maybe coyote pups play with stuffed moose toys – who knows), but I am very grateful that this moose encounter ended so well. 

Well, except for the stuffed moose – covered in dog slobber and missing an eye – he was definitely the loser in this battle!

Monday 11 September 2000

September 11, 2000

What busy, but rewarding times we have had of late! It all started the weekend of August 19 and 20 when Smiley, Rosie and myself went up to Peace River for a dog show. Both the ‘kids’ ended up with some more points towards their championships!

Also traveling with us that weekend was our friend Jackie Wepruk and her amazing obedience Siberian (no, that is not a contradiction!!) – Tasha. Tasha and Jackie were the real success story of the weekend, putting the last leg on their Utility title and picking up a High Scoring Dog in Trial award along the way!!!  We were so happy for them!! Obtaining a Utility title is very difficult and they have worked long and hard for this! Way to go guys!!!!!

Two days after returning from Peace River, I packed up 24 dogs and headed out to Minnesota to do some training with my friend, Jamie Nelson. The trip down was ICKY!! The temperatures through Saskatchewan and Manitoba were in the 90’s – not pleasant for furry dogs! Once in Minnesota, the temperatures were a little better. We plowed ahead with training, despite the warm weather, taking precautions to give the dogs lots of breaks and lots of water. Everyone did really well. It is really amazing to see the way my team has progressed since I first went out to Jamie’s in March of ’99. I was very proud of them and Jamie had some nice things to say about the way they are working.
I even discovered a few new leaders in the group! Surge, Mork (!), and Orion all did very well in their first few times as leaders. Cassie and Nik showed some nice potential and will be working in lead in the upcoming months.

As always, my trip to Minnesota was hard, muddy, wet, tough, educational, inspiring, and, mostly, a lot of fun!!!  I can’t begin to explain all that I have learned and continue to learn from my time with Jamie!

On my way home from Minnesota, a strange little encounter happened. Just outside of International Falls, Minnesota I ran into some trouble with the dog truck. The engine was overheating. I was pretty sure it was a leak in the radiator, but I had never really checked fluid on a radiator before. I figured it wasn’t going to be too difficult to figure out, but was wishing Mark were around to make sure I wasn’t messing anything up. At that moment, a truck pulled into the gas station. The driver stuck his head out and said ‘ Heck, I haven’t seen you since Nome’. It was Jack Welsh, who is a Race Judge for Iditarod. Actually, he is the Race Judge that I had to turn my mail packet and race bib into when I scratched in Shaktoolik. He asked what I was doing in Minnesota. I answered that I was at Jamie’s fixing the problems I had had when I saw him in Shaktoolik. He was happy to help out with my radiator and after a little visit, I was on my way again – thinking of what a small place the world really is!
On my way back through Manitoba I spent a couple nights with Brian and Brigitte Hunter. Brigitte had been kind enough to arrange an opportunity for me to do a slide show and presentation in Winnipeg. I was very pleased to have over 30 people show up, including some Internet friends that I had not had the chance to meet before!

Once I got home, I had 2 days to get the Minnesota mud off Smiley and Rosie to get them ready for another show in Edmonton. Rosie did GREAT, picking up 6 more points. Smiley was rather distracted by Rosie being in heat and wasn’t on his best behavior, but managed to pick up another point anyway.

Phew – I get tired even typing all that! And to think – this is my ‘slow’ time of year! LOL