Tuesday 24 October 2000

October 24, 2000

Man, are we discouraged! The weather here continues to be unseasonably warm. Yesterday evening I actually saw people walking around the city in shorts!!! Mark and I might be the only people in northern Alberta complaining about the temperatures! We are keeping our fingers crossed that it won’t last for too much longer!!

I was in Edmonton over the weekend for a dog show. I thought Rosie and Smiley looked and behaved great. Unfortunately, the judges didn’t see it the same way and we didn’t walk away with any wins! In 2 weeks we are doing 1 day of a Show in Red Deer, that will be our last show until sometime late next spring. 

I’ve been busy working on planning. I put my Race Plan down on paper last week. Of course, the best laid plans can get tossed out the window on Day 1 of the Race, but planning out a schedule helps me organize myself and my food drops. Last year I was very close to my estimated trail times but with the broken sled in Rainy Pass and other issues, my rest times were all off ‘the Plan’. This year’s plan has better rest times – with alittle luck on my side, I’ll be able to stick closer to it! 

I thought that I’d take some space in the diary entries to introduce everyone to some of the new dogs in the team. The first I’m going to talk about is one of our exciting young ‘up and comers’ – Wetaskiwin’s Sir Gallahad. ‘Surge’, as he is known, will be 2 years old on December 24. Two summers ago we sold NorthWapiti’s Ginger Grant to Sam and Britton Burton in Iowa. Ginger went down bred to NorthWapiti’s Butch Cassidy and part of the purchase price was that we got a puppy back from the litter. When I was in Minnesota in the spring of ’99 I met up with Sam and picked out Surge. Burton’s had been calling him ‘Laddie’, but in our minds that just didn’t suit him, so Mark came up with the name ‘Surge’. Surge and I got some quality bonding during that trip. His nights were spent curled up in my sleeping bag and even after getting back home, he shared the bed with us. That was until he got so big that the three of us didn’t all fit! After that it was out to the kennel! 

After a few eventful trips to the city with the pup, he picked up the nickname ‘Surge the Purge’ that has basically stuck with him. Although, with age he has gotten much better control of his bladder and bowels (thank goodness!!!!) 

Surge has been working hard for a spot on this year’s team. When we were back in Minnesota a few months back he decided to show us his potential as a leader. Since then he has been spending a lot of time in the front of the team. He is not the fastest dog, but he is a fantastic puller and has a tremendous work ethic. He is absolutely one of Karen’s favorites!

Surge has been sponsored this year by P. Jill Frick of Toronto, Ontario.

Tuesday 17 October 2000

October 17, 2000

I’m trying to get back into the swing of more regular updates to the diary. The year everything seems to be quite behind last year, everything but the training on the dogs – which is right on schedule! And that is the most important thing!

Our limited edition prints ‘In the Middle of Somewhere’ are in and will be in the mail to Sponsors and purchasers very quickly. T-shirts, hats, and sweatshirts are in the works and should be available pretty soon! We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a REALLY neat fundraising item, generously donated by Bonnie Lundberg of Romantix. It is an adorable little stuffed black and white Siberian with a maple leaf embroidered on his foot! He has been customized with a little flag with our kennel logo around his neck and some nifty packaging. Seventy-five of these guys will be available soon!

Things in the kennel are going well. We had a great run on Sunday. It is nice to get back on some of the trails that we haven’t seen since last fall. Sunday saw us back on our ‘Muskeg Trail’. Three miles of this 20-mile loop go through a big batch of muskeg. For those of you that don’t know what this is, imagine run on miles and miles of peat moss with water and mud underneath. Some muskeg is quite dangerous for animals and vehicles as they can sink into these bogs and struggling to get out only gets you in deeper. This particular batch is not bad, in fact this is the first year I have seen any water under the surface. The trees in the area are all stunted ‘swamp spruce’, under the trees are paths made by all kinds of small rodents and their predators. It looks just like a world of miniatures. The teams seemed to enjoy being back on this trail and literately roared through the rough and bumpy terrain.

There are a few more of last year’s trails that I hope to get back on sometimes this week.

This is going to get labeled ‘Bath Week’ too (not for Mark and I, we bath more regularly then that – although, some days after wallowing around in the dirt with the dogs you wouldn’t know it!). The housedogs, Libby and Skeeter got bathed on Sunday – much to their dismay! Skeeter is 16 and deeply resents anything that takes him away from sleeping. Like a grouchy, old man he snarls and mumbles through the whole thing.

Also in the tub, probably for the first time in her life, was Jumper. Her coat has been ratty looking for awhile and she is just starting to shed, so a bath seemed like a good idea. Her eyes got HUGE when I turn the big cool air dryer on her (to blow out loose hair and dirt), but after a moment of panic, she settled right down. The tub got about the same reaction. But once she was done she was so pleased with herself – I don’t think she realized what a foxy little lady she was under all that dirt and old coat!

This weekend is another dog show, again in Edmonton, so Rosie and Smiley will be in for their baths this week too! I’m gonna have dishpan hands by the time this week is over!

Friday 13 October 2000

October 13, 2000

I always find it amazing just how quickly the seasons change. It seems like just yesterday that it was bright and sunny when we got up at 5am. The birds would be singing and everything gorgeous and green. Now, in the blink of an eye, it seems – it is pitch black out at 5am, most of the birds have migrated, the leaves have turned and fallen off the trees. Despite it all, this is one of my favorite times of year. We can run dogs almost everyday, the planning and organizing for this season’s Races are well under way, the dogs are all spunky, noisy, and keen to get working…I love that nip in the air and the smell of fall! A few weeks ago Mark and I were out on a training camping trip. We ran 13 miles, camped the teams for 2 hours and then ran 16 miles home, it was the peak of the fall leaf change and watching the sun come up over the River valley, filled with all those gorgeous colors was great!

Fall has had a few bumps in the road for us this year. First, there was the passing of Icey in September. Just a few weeks later, our first Siberian Husky, Meomar’s Miss Liberty became very ill. Libby was diagnosed with liver and some intestinal problems. It seemed touch and go there for awhile, but being the stubborn Siberian she is, in recent days she has rallied and is now doing pretty good! At 13, we know our time with her will not go on forever, so she has moved into the house full time so we can all enjoy whatever time we do have left together.

Just last week another NorthWapiti dog passed on. NorthWapiti’s Ginger Grant, mother to Surge, Norman, Grover, Gus, Smiley, and Camilla and owned for the last 2 years by Sam and Britton Burton of Iowa died unexpectedly. We are very sad, but Sam and especially, Britton, are devastated. Our thoughts go out to them at this difficult time.

Training has been going quite well. The dogs are looking very strong and, I think, working much better then at this time last year. I discovered just how strong last weekend! We were running in the dark when all of a sudden my team indicated there was something ‘exciting’ on the side of the road. I swung my headlight over and saw a big, fat porcupine sitting there. My futile cries at ‘ON BY’ didn’t even slow down them as they headed after him. We were already level with the prickly guy, so there was nothing I could do but watch and pray that he would waddle out of the way fast enough. My leaders ended up about 1 foot from him. He was waddling as fast as his stumpy legs would carry him. I went to get off the quad to drag Grover and Visa back to the road and the quad started to move! It was in gear with the emergency brake on – not easy to move, for sure! I ended up just able to sit and hold the rear brake on the quad and wait for Quilly Willy to trundle off. I can just imagine the mess (and vet bill) if the team had gotten hold of him!! Now I’m paranoid that every black bump ahead on the trail is a porcupine! Goodness, I hope they hole up for the winter soon!

Sunday 1 October 2000

October 1, 2000

I'm considering going out to Minnesota with the team for the months of December and January. I'd be training and doing 2 or 3 races out that way. One of the deciding factors on whether or not I go will be if I find a handler to come with me.

I would be leaving Alberta at the beginning of December and coming home after the Grand Portage Race the 3rd week of January. Ideally, my handler could drive out with me, but I would consider meeting someone on the way. We would be staying at Jamie Nelson's in Togo, Minnesota.

Duties would primarily involve daily dog care and being my main handler for races. Actually sledding opportunities would be fairly limited, although some double sledding will probably be done.

The work will be hard, long, dirty, and smelly. The pay non existent - although I will cover all living expenses (within reason - no lobster dinners!)  The food will be less then gourmet - there is no T.V. - phone access limited - computer access not available.

If there is anyone out there that I haven't scared off - I'd love to hear from you!