Sunday 29 December 2002

December 29, 2002

We hope that everyone had a very Merry Christmas! We did, despite it being kind of weird. Mark and I opened our presents Christmas Eve during commercials of  “It’s a Wonderful Life” – one of my favorite movies. As we had no tree and just a few gifts for each other, it stretched things out nicely.
Christmas day I took out a team and Mark spent the time slicing up meat on the band saw.  In the evening we went over to Mark’s brother’s place and had a great turkey dinner with Kelly, Karen and the kids – all and all, a pretty nice day.

Mark has been off since Christmas Day, so we have been doing a fair amount of running. The dogs are pretty bummed lately. Could be that they all had kennel cough vaccinations last week, were dewormed just the other day, and are darn sick of the tough 4 wheeler training. Who knows, but ups and downs are a part of training and we are just working through it. The one thing they have not lost enthusiasm for is eating – even after hard runs they go SKUNKY when the snacks and meals come out. That is a very promising sign!!

I had all 23 of the ‘A’ team into the vet last week for blood work, kennel cough vaccination, and a checkup. That went pretty well and other then one dog needing a tooth pulled, which was done that day, there were no surprises. We weighed everyone too and I was going to share some of that information with you – but I seem to have misplaced the piece of paper I wrote the weights down on. I’m sure I will find it when we clean out the cab of the dog truck and I will pass it along then.
Draco had his leg checked over at the vet’s too. Nothing was diagnosed for sure. We ended up knocking him out to better allow the vet’s to check out his leg. That resulted in conflicting opinions from two of the vets. One thinks it is a partial tear in his cruciate ligament. If that is the case, it is a career ending injury. We talked about the chance of surgery bringing him back to racing status, and both vets agreed that even if the best specialists in western Canada performed the surgery, the chance of him ever running at an Iditarod level again was highly unlikely.  If there had been a bucket to throw up in while we were discussing this, I would have. Even now, typing about it makes my stomach turn. Draco is maturing into an amazing sled dog. I had well expected him to be one of my main leaders in Iditarod this winter. I am devastated at the thought of his running career being over.
Now, there is a glimmer of hope. Tanis felt that it wasn’t a cruciate injury. Both she and Daryl agreed that the best course for now would be 5 days of anti-inflammatories and crate rest. I was advised that if it were a cruciate, we would not see improvement.

Draco’s 5 days are up – and, I tell you, I’m happy about that! Living in our small house with a 55 lb, eager sled dog is tough.  The day before yesterday, we came home from our run and as I was walking back to the garage with the empty snack bucket, I noticed Draco keenly watching me from the sliding glass doors. Not a big issue – except for the fact that he was locked in a crate when we left. I was terrified to open the door to the house and see what damage he had done. Seems he had decided that he had had enough of that ‘crate rest’ stuff and had pulled open the crate door. He bounced and charged around when I walked in, pretty pleased with himself for figuring out a way out of his crate. Thankfully, damage to the house was non-existent. PHEW!

As for the leg – he is bearing weight on it again – a very promising sign. He’s back out in the kennel and I intent to try him in harness on Tuesday. I will be holding my breath until then.
I’ve had a few emails asking about cuts to the team –when we were making the next batch and if I had any ideas who it would be. The plan was to make the final cut at the end of December, but with Draco’s injury, I’m stalling that decision for a week or so.

January 11th I load the truck and head to Alaska, so it has to be done by then!

Well, I think that is it for today. I’m off to kick Mark out of bed (I let him sleep in until 5:30 this morning). We are planning to run out about 40 miles or so, rest the team for 4 hours and then run home. That should have us home sometime in the wee hours of tomorrow morning.

All for now!

Monday 23 December 2002

December 23, 2002

We ended up not running on Saturday, which was fine, there was lots of other stuff to do around the yard. We trimmed nails and treated feet on the ‘A’ team, filled all the dog houses with straw, picked the dog truck up from the repair shop, ran to the bottle depot…exciting stuff! 

Saturday night we went to Mark’s brother’s place for dinner. That was nice. Although we only live 6 miles from Kelly, Karen (yes, my sister in law is also named Karen Ramstead), and the kids – I haven’t seen them since the summer. We ended up eating too much and I even drank alittle too much (as I don’t drink much at all anyway – 3 drinks is pretty much ‘too much’ for me. Who would have thought that liqueur made from maple syrup and rye would be so tasty?? And how Canadian, eh??) – but isn’t that what the holidays are all about?? 

Karen also invited us over for Christmas dinner – which is cool, because Mark and I are going to spend Christmas day cutting up meat for my food drops and we weren’t planning anything special for dinner. 
Yesterday we had a pretty BLECK run. I still have some girls in season and a few of the boys (namely Kobuk, Odie and Loki) spent more time gazing lovingly at them then running. Kobuk’s neck is probably sore today after having it twisted around trying to look at Mark’s team all day. Both teams just really lacked focus and drive. Oh well, that is just part of the ups and downs of training season. We still managed to do 40 miles, which puts the dog’s mileage at over 1300 right now. That’s alittle behind where I wanted to be at this time, but Mark has a number of days off over Christmas and we are hoping to pick up some more mileage then.

Today I’m running the ‘A’ team into the vet. They are all getting blood work done, getting weighed, kennel cough vaccinations, and a general checkup. With the blood work, I’m mainly interested in the Hemoglobin levels, as that can give a good indication of how a dog will recover and run over the long run. Of course, the vets will also be looking for any problems that we are unaware of. 

I’m also very keen to get Draco looked at. Last Tuesday morning, after breakfast, he all of a sudden stopped bearing weigh on one of his rear legs. I’m pretty sure he did it on the ice in his run, although I can’t seem to find an actual injury. We’ve had him laid off since then – figuring rest was what he needed. However, that hasn’t solved the problem, so it is time for the vet to step in. I am just sick at the thought that it may be something like a crucite ligament – which might put him out of harness indefinitely. He has been such a star in training this year and is certainly one of my favorites – to not have him at Iditarod with me would be a real blow. 

All for today!

Saturday 21 December 2002

December 21, 2002

What a spectacular night we came home in from our run yesterday. The day started off beautifully, as we were leaving the yard, fog was lifting from the valley, leaving behind a wonderful blanket of hoar frost to coat everything in white. It was pretty enough that you could forget it was –20C – at least for a bit! 

The dogs ran great and we ended up doing a 40-mile run. 

As the sun was setting at 4 pm or so, the sky turned a beautiful cobalt color and then gradually faded into darkness. We were running through a wooded section of the historic Landing Trail when the team can around a corner and there was a big, gorgeous, orange full moon dancing behind the trees. Several times on the roads that led home I glanced over my shoulder, thinking a car was coming, to find the light was the moon – not headlights. 

As we were doing the final few miles home, I shut off my headlights and enjoyed the moonlight run. I was shocked to see the northern lights competing with the very bright full moon. They danced and spiked for quite a while – I can’t imagine what a display that would have been without the moon washing them out. 

It’s been another busy week. As most of you know, we put Libby down last Friday. It was hard, but we know it was the right decision. Libby was one of the greatest teachers I ever knew and she saved one last lesson for me – one about learning to let go. 

We decided to take the teams out for a camping trip the next day. Nothing like a night in the woods to help me deal with tough things. We dropped the dog truck off at the Forfar campground and then headed home to hook up teams. It was a 25.5-mile run to the truck – where we stopped and took a 3-½ hour break. We had scheduled it for longer, but the dogs weren’t at all tired coming into the campground. The next leg of the run took us down 17 miles of familiar trail and then 9 miles along the Trans Canada Snowmobile Trail that we had never been on before. 

Supposedly, there was a ‘warm up’ shack there that we were going to stop at. I had my doubts that we were going to find this ‘mystery shelter’ in the dark, but it turned out that the trails were really well marked and we found it with, pretty much, no problems.

That last 9 miles was really demanding on the dogs and they were more then ready for a break at the shelter cabin. We ended up taking a 6-hour break there before running the 26 miles back to the dog truck and then trucking them home. The leg back to the truck gave me one moment of panic. On the way out we had gone up a few really big hills that took much grunting and groaning by all to get the four wheelers up – one in particular was really bad (so bad, I cheated and used the throttle to get my team over it). Even sitting in the warm up shelter, I was obsessing over going down that hill (I HATE going down steep down hills – I think that goes back to the incident a few years back where I flipped my quad, end over end, and almost broke my hip). 

Now here I was sitting at the top of this hill. The dogs looked over their shoulders, wondering what their crazy musher was up to now. Mark was already at the bottom and yelled back to find out why I had stopped. When I suggested I was scared, he said I had been down bigger hills. Now, you have to understand that MARK -- ‘It’s all downhill to the finish line, honey’ -- LIES in these situations. Finally, I suggested that he come back and take the team down the hill. He said the hill was too steep and he was absolutely NOT walking up it. Oh that built up my confidence. Finally, the dogs started to fuss and I knew I had to ‘screw my courage to the sticking spot’ and get on with it. So I did. It really wasn’t that bad, but Mark did come over later and say ‘Well, NOW you’ve been down a hill that big’. 

What a schmuck!

My Mom came out for a visit this past week. She arrived on Sunday afternoon and left yesterday morning. It was a lovely visit and she did a WHOLE lot of housecleaning for me – which was a terrific Christmas present. 

Today we are heading out for a bit shorter run and then off to Mark’s brother’s place for dinner. 

I hope everyone is almost ready for Christmas. Snow or not, it is almost upon us! 


Friday 13 December 2002

December 13, 2002

In the beginning there was that opened doors to a whole new life... one that that inspired ... one that gave us a foundation to build on...for us, that one was Libby.
I thought when the day came I could write a nice tribute for her - talk about how we loved her, all she taught us, all she endured as we learned, all the wonderful offspring she had...many things. But it turns out that I'm completely at a loss for words. 

Goodbye Libby. We will never forget you.


Tuesday 10 December 2002

December 10, 2002 Food Drop Items

I just finished up my food drop sheets and thought you'll might be interested in some of the numbers of items I'm packing:

110 - feedings of kibble
148 - dog snacks
1280 - booties
40 - meals for me
23 - pairs of socks
107 - juice packs
33 - snack bags for me
20 - cans of Boost
10 - changes of long underwear
6 - neckwarmers
65 - pairs of cheap stretchy gloves

The list goes on - but I thought I'd share a portion it with everyone!

Monday 9 December 2002

December 9, 2002

Hmmm, where to start telling the stories of our weekend…. should I start with the road kill story? The Hercules? The psycho mini horse?? …. Well, let’s start at the beginning …with the story of Mark trying to break his hand.

On Friday, as Mark’s quad was in the shop getting new wheel bearings and brakes (second set this year – the price to pay for a smokin’ dog team - VBG), we decided to truck a 14-dog team over to the Forfar campground and do some exploring out that way. Forfar is where we camped a few weekends ago and we are hoping to find more trails so we can do some multi day trips later this month.
We loaded down the Honda with an axe, saw, shovel, lunch for dogs and humans; the two of us and off we went. Sure enough, within the first ½ mile on the new route, we accidentally got off the main trail. Mark walked ahead and we picked our way through the frozen beaver dam and pond we had wound up on. As the trail hooked back up with the main trail there was a small ditch. I looked at it and vowed the quad wouldn’t go through. Mark muttered a few comments insinuating that I lacked courage and offered to drive it though for me. Not to put too fine a point on it – but I WAS RIGHT

The front of the quad jammed into the ditch and Mark did a spectacular flip over the handlebar and smashed into the road on his back. Very lucky for him, his injuries weren’t too serious, although his hand got caught between the grip and the brake and I thought it might have been broken. Whether it had been or not (it wasn’t), I don’t think there was anyway he was going to admit it was. Men! It is now starting to burst into a lovely display of interesting colors. I told him when it is the most colorful, I’m going to take a picture of it for the website.

The rest of the day was lovely. We found more trails then we will ever be able to fully explore. There were even some really beautiful, marked snow machine trails. The dogs loved the change of scenery – as did we.

On the way home we spotted another quad working it’s way towards us on a long straight stretch of trail. We watched him coming towards us for about 1 mile and when he was just ahead of my leaders, it occurred to me that he hadn’t seen the team and was about to hit them. I hollered out ‘GEE’ to Camilla and Draco and they scooted over – at the same time the man (a trapper out checking his line) on the 4 wheeler’s head shot up – he had obviously not been paying any attention and I think we scared the living daylights out of him. Mark and I smiled and exchanged a greeting with him – but I think he was still trying to clear his head and figure out whether we were real or not! J
We arrived back at the truck – the dogs had done 34 miles of pretty tough trail, pulling both Mark and I, and still were full of beans at the end. Wow!

On Saturday, Mark ran into Athabasca and picked up his quad and we decided to run from home instead of going exploring again. The plan was to do a 40-mile loop that wound around the Perryvale area. Plans changed when we came out of our rough, bumpy muskeg trail and Mark realized his favorite leather mitts had bounced out of the box on his quad. We decided to do a different loop so we could come back on the same trail and, hopefully, pickup his mitts. The run was uneventful until we came around a corner and I noticed a flock of crows fly off something in the ditch. Ah, road kill, always fun to pass with the team. 

A few weeks ago I had to wrestle a dead squirrel away from one of the dogs. YUCK! Anyway, as we came to the spot all the dogs took a good look at what was in the ditch (a dead coyote) but, very obediently, kept moving and stayed on the edge of the road UNTIL the pair in front of my wheel dogs got level with it. At that point Grover, yes, Grover…my sweet, wonderful, bulletproof leader grabbed the coyote and started carrying it down the trail. 

Now, you have to know that the coyotes around here are about the same size as my dogs, so Grover was having some trouble carrying this while moving – so he decided to drop it. Surge and Kobuk were right behind him and instantly jumped on it. Surge grabbed it and gave it the ‘death shake’ (I think the car already took care of that for you, Surge). As I was braking, I was seriously thinking of puking knowing that I was going to have to wrestle this thing from them. 

Thankfully, Mark had secured his team and was up to help me out in seconds. It took the two of us to convince the boys to give up their ‘treasure’, but they did and Mark flung it further into the ditch. At that point, we realized a car was coming down the road and we wanted to get out of there before that added to our problems. My team headed out and I looked over my shoulder to see Smiley drag Mark’s team into the ditch after the coyote. As the car went by Mark was wrestling him off it, while Gus tried valiantly to get everyone back on the trail. Sometimes it is so hard to smile and wave when cars are going by!

Not 2 miles down the trail after that we passed a field of horses. They all stopped grazing and lifted their heads as we approached. After a moment, they all turned and trotted off away from the road EXCEPT for the one tiny, miniature horse that was ‘thundering’ across the pasture after us. The dogs all turned their heads, and I SWEAR their jaws were hanging open as they watched this ‘snack size’ horse charging us.  Mark was laughing so hard; I thought he was going to fall off his quad. We passed the field without incident and the little horse headed back to the pack to tell the others how brave he was and how he saved them from the ‘wolf pack’.

The rest of the run was uneventful. Mark even found both his gloves – although he swears there are tiny teeth marks in the leather on one of them.

Sunday we decided to head back to Forfar with 2 teams. The run was great and we found even more wonderful trails! Both of us are so excited at having found all these great trails reasonably close to home! As we pulled out of the trails and onto the gas company road that led back to the truck, there was a terrific rumbling. I looked up to see a huge military Hercules plane banking steeply, right over the treetops, just ahead of Mark. Mark swears he could see the pilot’s face it was so low. I braced myself for the crash I was sure was going to come – thankfully, it didn’t. The plane made another 5 or 6 passes as it appeared to circle over Cross Lake Provincial Park – although none quite as low or close as that first one! Must have been some practice run out of the Edmonton base! Pretty cool, actually.
On the way home Mark radioed a scary message back to me – “The porcupine is out” (Terry, if you are reading this – I was thinking of you!). Along the road is the home of a porcupine. He’s appears to be living in a tree on the side of the road that he has mostly stripped of bark. We spotted him on Friday, but luckily, the dogs didn’t. This day, Mark’s team had moved right over because of an oncoming truck and spotted ‘Quilly Willy’. Thankfully, they all went by him. I was very nervous about passing that spot, but Willy had tucked himself into a hole at the base of his tree, and we didn’t even see him. I think we are going to have to find a way around that spot, until the porky finds a new home. No point in tempting fate too often!

Sunday night we pulled back into the yard in the dark. As we waited for the yard lights to come on, so we could put dogs away and feed the yard, Mark asked if he could go back to work tomorrow, so he could get some rest! 


Friday 6 December 2002

December 6, 2002

Click on the images to view larger versions.  I have purposely left the originals large, so that details will be more easily visible for those who car to view them.

Getting ready to run out of the Forfar campground.

Dogs waiting in their boxes

Bumping along a cut line (which is why the picture is blurry!)

Look how far the trails go for!!! 

Break time...

For people and dogs!

A quick break after some tough hills! That's Camilla and Draco in lead.

A frozen beaver dam. I wanted to catch some of the red Willows lining the trail, but we had bounced by them by the time I got my camera out. 

Tuesday 3 December 2002

December 3, 2002

Yesterdays run was VERY interesting. I had two pretty young, but experienced leaders up front (Odie was one of them June - the other his brother, Loki). We pass lots of horses, cows, etc on our runs and although those two get a little distracted by livestock, they always stay on the trail - until yesterday. We passed a field with 3 horses - and as is fairly common, the horses (2 of them draft horses) came over to say 'Hi'. Loki and Odie couldn't resist and snuck over. They were just under the fence sniffing and barking at the horses as I set the brake to go get them back on track. Very quickly things turned ugly when one of the draft horses spun and started kicking at the dogs. His buddy turned and joined him and my heart was in my throat as I ran up the line. Both dogs got kicked at least once, as I saw them get thrown back. Thank goodness both are fine. Odie bit his tongue and that caused a few minutes of panic as I searched for the source of the blood. I took Odie out of lead and replaced him with the incredibly reliable Camilla - who got everyone safely back on the road with the horses still hanging over the fence. 

So then I'm about 3 more miles down the trail when I notice my leg is getting cold (remember it is -10F). Turns out the zipper on my Carhartt coveralls was acting up. I stopped to fix it and in the process tore a couple of the teeth out of the zipper - rendering the zipper useless. So now, there I am, 14 miles from home with an open leg on my coveralls from hip to ankle. There are a few snaps on the leg and I did those up - but that didn't do much to keep out the cold. I had a few heat packs and tucked them in my long underwear to try and stop my leg from freezing and stopped ever few miles to jog on the spot and keep the blood flowing.

Oh well - I always say it is important to have bad days running dogs so you can appreciate the good ones!

Thursday 28 November 2002

November 28, 2002

I’m pouting this morning because of the warm temperatures. It was 5C (just over 40F) here this morning. I guess it will melt all that ice that has been making training with the 4- wheeler so treacherous lately. I was kind of hoping that it would get covered with snow though – rather then melted away.

Despite the miserable weather, training is still going well. I’m a little behind where I want to be, but the dogs are looking good enough that I’m feeling okay with it.

Last weekend Mark and I went out on an overnight camping trip. We did 28 ½ miles out to the Forfar Campground, stayed overnight and came home the next morning. It was good for the dogs – but also important for Mark to test out his camping gear before some of our planned longer trips in late December. Unfortunately, his gear failed him – although his sleeping bag was warm enough, it certainly wasn’t big enough for him to sleep comfortably in outside. Better to find out now then on a really long trip.

Overall the trip was good though. We found a great camping spot near the lake  - seems that campgrounds aren’t too crowded in November – go figure! There was even a pile of nice dry firewood and we were able to get a nice fire going. It took us a bit to figure out that the moaning and groaning we kept hearing was the ice on the lake – you should have heard some of the different ideas we were throwing out before we figured that out!! The moon came out and was so bright that headlamps weren’t even really necessary to work around the campsite! The next morning everything was covered with a thick layer of frost. The dogs where able to shake their frost off, but it took a little scraping to get the seats of the 4 wheelers clear!

This week I’m just trying to stay alive for the last few days of hunting season. Those hunters that haven’t yet filled their tags are getting a little punchy and the woods are filled with sounds of gunshots at dawn and dusk! Only 3 days to go!!! Still, hunting season here is never as bad as Minnesota where the state color is blaze orange and the state motto is ‘If it’s brown – it’s down’.

I need to take a moment to sing the praises of one of my wonderful critters. Sometimes dogs ‘sneak up’ on me and slip into maturity without my really noticing it. The ‘now retired’ Spud was one of those dogs. As a youngster, he was a lousy leader. Every year I’d faithfully try him in lead – shake my head and then put him back into the team, where he worked hard and solid. Then one day when he was about 4 or 5, I put him in lead during a Race and he never looked back. From that day forward, he was one of my most reliable and dependable leaders. Now Draco (not surprisingly – a Spud grandson) has decided to do just this. Draco and his brother, Orion, are remarkable, strong, and important dogs in my team, but Orion has always been the one that I thought was going to be the ‘leader’ out of the two. Orion was leading at 2 years of age, Draco was distracted by butterflies, leaves…. anything. Over the last few years, there have been a few signs that Draco was maturing – but nothing dramatic. When I was out in Minnesota I put him in lead a few times – and all of a sudden it occurred to me that most of my best runs were the ones where he was up front. I started testing him in lead by putting him with some young leaders to see if he was picking up cues off of the really experienced leaders he had been running with or whether he was doing this all on his own. Surprise, surprise - it was all Draco. Since Minnesota, Draco has been leading A LOT. In fact, he is out performing his brother on a regular basis. Watch for this neat, affectionate, big dark gray and white boy at the front of my team a lot this winter! Way to go Pointy Whiskers!!

Well, I’m off to run the carpet cleaner around the front room. Between having a 16-year-old housedog and my mad rush to the bathroom from the dog yard this morning with my boots on, our light beige rug is looking pretty bad! One of these days I need to battle the squirrels for supremacy of our outhouse – or just tear up all our carpet and put down hardwood!  I’m not sure which sounds like a better plan!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American family and friends!!

Wednesday 27 November 2002

November 27, 2002

Click on the images to view larger versions.  I have purposely left the originals large, so that details will be more easily visible for those who car to view them.
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Ready to harness up and run!
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Okay - sometimes it is hard to center a picture when you are bouncing along, hanging onto the handlebars with one hand! :)
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Trail to Yentna 
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Stopped in some snow so the dogs can cool down!
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The Tawatinaw River winds through our quarter section of land. Notice the beavers have been busy on a tree in the foreground!
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Another view of the River valley
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One of my favorite spots on our land!
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The big beaver pond!
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This climb out of the valley is actually MUCH worse then it looks! This trail is on the government land that borders our place.
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The dogs get a break and a pat for working up that climb without stopping! Way to go guys!
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Coming back into the yard.
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After feeding and watering the team, we do a final 1/2 mile or so 'go round' before we are done. The sun is already setting on this day!
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Tuesday 19 November 2002

November 19, 2002

We had a really good weekend of running. We did 29 miles on Friday, 34 on Saturday and 20 on Sunday. It’s really nice having Mark to train that second team again on weekends, that way every dog runs every day and the miles add up much quicker.

The dogs seem to be going through a little bit of a slump right now – the super, super attitudes I was seeing in Minnesota have toned down some, but they are still working well. I’m actually glad to see this happen now – training seasons are full of peaks and lows and the more lows I can put behind me prior to Iditarod, the less chance I will run into one out there on the trail (which I do believe happened in 2001).

As I hoped, I was able to convince the Millers to share Scott’s parody of American Pie – ‘Sled Dog Pie’ with everyone. I was going to cut a few of the verses out, as most are written for specific friends of the Millers, but then figured that everyone probably relates to one verse or another! So without further ado – here it is (remember to hum American Pie’ to yourself while reading this!)

Sled Dog Pie
Words by Scott Miller
A long, long time ago
I can still remember how our two dogs used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had one more, that I could make that dog sled soar
So we added three more dogs instead.
But five dogs wasn’t quite enough to fill our two four-dog teams up.
Bad news on the vet steps, we didn’t have enough yet.
And I can’t remember if I thought it true
When I said a dozen dogs would do
But now I know I’m really through the day 18 arrived.  And we were singing. . . 

Bye, bye all my money good-bye
Spent a half a million dollars and they still make me cry.
I should sell the truck and give them up while I have some pride
But that would be the day that I die.  That would be the day that I die.

Do you believe in circumstance and naming sled dogs after plants
And buying pups the Millers tell you to?
And do you believe in sharing dogs or are you the type that likes to hog
The fast ones so your partner goes real slow?
Well now I know you’ve gone and lost your senses.  You’re building more and stronger fences.
When you go buy a bigger truck, you’ll know that you’ve been stuck.
You’ll have a big old trailer with ATVs and you’ll feed three bags of food a week
And mix it all with bloody meat the day 18 arrives.  And you’ll be singing. . .  

Helter skelter in a summer swelter the dogs going crazy ‘cause Nimka’s out there
Breeding someone else again.
Well I’ve seen him mushing in a cast and Solon Springs where he kicked my ass
And the mountains in his bright red Jeff King suit.
Well I heard him say he had enough, and now he wants some Miska pups
Well that shouldn’t be so hard.  He’s still got a lot of yard.
He’s got a big old trailer and another truck, he might as well go fill them up
And buy a couple of Pangnirtung pups and run 18 dog teams. And he’ll be singing. . .  

I met a bearded man who looked so blue so I asked him for some happy news
He just smiled and turned away.
Then he pointed off across the lake where his team raced by at a break neck pace
But there was no one on his sled.
He looked at me with such alarm.  He said, “I help folks out and break their arms,
And when I give one dog away, I end up with two to take its place.
Oh I’ll have to keep Lori at home it seems or I’ll end up with half of Jamie’s team.
In Blaine I don’t know how I’ll survive the day 18 arrives.”  And he’ll be singing. . . 

Here we all are in one place and Kevin has a smug look on his face
‘Cause he thinks he has a plan.
But I can see it in his eyes and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised
If things change when his kids go off to school.
He’ll call to take a closer look to see if Kerry has more Anuks
And when the Millers can’t supply enough, LeeAnn will say, “Let’s have some pups.”
And then the kids will move back in, they’ll even bring their boyfriends then
‘Cause Mom and Dad are cool again the day 18 arrives.  And they’ll be singing. . . 

Did she laugh or feel like puking when her dogs left her out on the Yukon
That’s why they call her Karen Runs Instead.
And was it a ridge or just a hummock that helped lose her team and frost bite her stomach
And how’d that loaded gun get through the mail?
And she doesn’t have to ask what if she drives her dog team over a cliff
Likes the aches and breaks from the past, the paralysis doesn’t last.
And it’s nice to know your dogs are able to pull over porches and picnic tables
And have people wonder all the while if she’ll survive 18 more miles. And she’ll be singing
. . . 

Oh what a quandary Jamie’s in, She’s out there in a boggy fen
And she’s been training dogs for hours.
One dog’s nose is out of place and another dog it wants to pace
And we know how serious that is.
Max’s water is several hours old, Hurry’s fire is out, she’s getting cold.
What will Jamie do? She’s gonna see that dog team through
And when the rest of us are tired and done, she’ll hook up more dogs just for fun
There’s always time when Jamie runs to train 18 more dogs.
I thought it might be fun to see what the dogs were costing me
For every mile that I ran.
So I figured out the cost of food, the vet, the gear and my time too
And I found it would cheaper to take a plane.
And in the yard the dogs are screaming, it’s suppertime and I’m here steaming
They bellow and they holler and gulp down my last dollar.
Then they’ll look at me and wag their tails and the bitterness it can’t prevail
And I’ll look out with happy eyes the day 19 arrives.  And I’ll be singing. . .

Bye, bye all my money good-bye
Spent a half a million dollars and they still make me cry.
I should sell the truck and give them up while I have some pride
But that would be the day that I die.

Tuesday 12 November 2002

November 12, 2002

“Be it ever so humble, there is NO place like HOME!”

Make no mistake, I love the time I spend in Minnesota, Alaska and the likes – but, gosh, it is a great feeling to crest the hill at the top of our road and see our lovely little corner of the world spread out ahead of me.

I got home at about 7pm on Wednesday. Mark was waiting and we quickly got the dogs settled back into the yard. They fussed and chatted all night – I guess there were lots of stories from the past month that the ‘A’ team had to share with the rest of the yard!!

The tales seem to all be told now and things are settled back down.

I did some rearranging in the yard so the pups are all together and the ‘A’ team in one area. I think this is when Butchie figured out that he is no longer part of the main crew. The look on his face when he didn’t get breakfast with the main dogs was truly confused. Ah, Butchie boy.

I was home for a whole two days before heading off at 4am on Saturday morning, with Nik, for Grande Prairie and the dog show.

The show went very well, with Nik picking up 2 more points towards his Championship. Four down – 6 to go. Those will have to wait until next year though, as from here on in the sole focus is on Iditarod.
Lynda and Dwayne had all my meals waiting for me. Wonderful choices like dilled sole, Cajun chicken, and eggs/feta cheese/honey (Dwayne PROMISES me I will LOVE this strange combination) await me on the trail. Yum!!

To jump backwards a little – the ‘Big Dog Bash’ in Minnesota was a blast. In addition to Jamie and my teams there were 10 ‘big dog’ teams joining us on the trail. We even changed the trail a little this year and, after voting and finding everyone in favor, extended the run to 15 miles out to the Franklin Lake cabin. That added my favorite Minnesota trail to the run – a lovely little stretch that winds and dips through the woods. Everyone got settled in by the cabin and we hung out by a warm fire for a terrific evening of story telling, song singing (if I can get Scott Miller to agree, I will get up his parody of ‘American Pie’ up on the site – including the verse he wrote specially for me! Really, really cute!), and eating! Jamie, Scott, and I had planned to go out on an evening run – but the good company and warm fire lured us into staying. 

After a great night sleep, some people took the 10-mile route back to Jamie’s, but most of us did the 15-mile trip.

I even brought a souvenir home, well; actually the ‘Big Dog Bash’ folks surprised me with it when we got back. I’m a ‘bit’ of a firebug around campfires and spend a lot of time fussing and rearranging fires – in fact, I love it so much that Jamie has instructed me to use it as a time passer when I’m camped on the trail trying to kill time while the dogs rest. See sometimes it is really hard to kill 4 hours alone on the trail when you are not all that tired, like near the beginning of Iditarod. Anyway, I had found the PERFECT fire stick while at the Franklin Lake cabin – a nice little ‘y’ at the end of it to move small logs and everything – I guarded it all night, but the next morning when I went looking for it, it was gone. I was saddened to think someone had burned it while cleaning up the fire. Upon arriving back at Jamie’s the stick was presented to me with instructions to use it when I’m camped on the Farewell Burn on Iditarod. So the stick will be heading out in my drop bag to Rohn and I hope all of you ‘Big Dogs’ folks know I will be thinking of our evening at Franklin Lake while I’m camped on the trail in the Burn. Great memories always keep you warm and happy on the trail!

All for now!

Friday 1 November 2002

November 1, 2002

Phew – as I sit in bed typing this I can barely stand to be in my own skin I smell so bad!! Yesterday was a ‘Mink Day’ at Jamie’s.

Virtually all serious mushers feed their dogs some kind of meat to supplement their kibble diets. Although now that we are feeding the Eagle Power Pack we are using substantially less meat, we will still add tripe, beaver, and fish into our dog’s diets this winter. Jamie’s meat source is a fairly unique one – she feeds ground up mink carcasses from a local mink farm to her dogs. Now they may make beautiful coats, but NOTHING smells quite like a dead mink! YUCK – YUCK – YUCK. Jamie deals in big volume with this stuff, as she also supplies it to a number of other area mushers, so last night we loaded 14 pallets of the stuff into her walk in freezer. Each pallet contains 40 – 40lb blocks. Thank goodness there were a lot of hands around to help out!! Still, it will probably take 2 showers until I smell human again.

Plans are firmed up for my trip home. We arrive back on Tuesday afternoon from the ‘Big Dog Bash’ and I will be loading up the dogs and heading out to friends in North Dakota that day. I should be back in Perryvale sometime late Wednesday evening. I need to be in a rush to leave after the ‘Big Dog Bash’ as I have Nik entered in a dog show in Grande Prairie next Saturday and Sunday. The trip is a ‘two birds with one stone’ deal – my best friend Lynda Brown and her husband Dwayne Dubetz live in Grande Prairie. They are the ones that do up all my meals for Iditarod each year. I jokingly refer to them as Brown/Dubetz Iditarod Catering Services. They do a fantastic job on my food and my meals are the envy of many a musher. Anyway, Lynda says the meals are ready to go, so in addition to the show, I am going up to pick those up.

Everything else is going very well here. The dogs are doing a little bit shorter runs now. – in the 15 mile range. That helps pick up their attitudes and lets any minor aches and pains go away after their big pushes the past few weekends. Olena’s back feet seem a little tender and despite her very verbal protests as I hooked up yesterday, she got an extra few days off.

When I was running on Wednesday there was a light layer of snow on the logging trail I was traveling on for a bit. I could see a lot of wolf tracks heading down the road, certainly not unusual for Minnesota, they have very high wolf populations in the area, but yet, I’ve never seen one in all the time I’ve spend out here. I’ve seen them in Alberta and always enjoy the glimpses, so I was keeping my eyes peeled as we ran. We came out into a big meadow area and just off to my right a huge blanket of ravens lifted off the ground with much squawking and complaining. Sitting in a tree nearby was also a good-sized bald eagle. Their object of interest was just over a little hill and I couldn’t see, but it was obviously something dead and that was what was attracting the wolf traffic too.  I stopped for a moment and stood up on the 4-wheeler, but saw none of the elusive canines. I have no doubt that they were around and were watching me though! Yesterday the area was again quiet, with natures ‘janitors’ (the birds) having obviously cleaned up everything that there was to clean up. 

Well, I think I’m going to sneak in a shower before everyone else gets up this morning!

All for now!

Tuesday 29 October 2002

October 29, 2002

Every year, the weekend after Jamie’s ‘ButtonBox’ weekend, she holds her ‘Big Falls’ trip. Where Buttonbox is a fun, easygoing, weekend filled with socialization – Big Falls is WORK for dogs and humans!

Normally the trip is 120 mile round trip adventure. This year, bad trail conditions forced a change of plans and instead of trekking to Big Falls we headed out to a friend’s place near Marcell, Minnesota, adding an extra 22 miles to the trip.

The stories and adventures from the weekend are many, but I think my favorites involve our passage through the town of Big Fork on the way out and back. On the way out we passed through at around 12:30am. As we were watering dogs by the Big Fork River, the local police officer - Officer Babcock appeared. He chatted with Jamie for quite a while – after all, she is a celebrity in the state and then we ended up getting a police escort through town (not OUT OF – I’d like to make that clear!). Lights flashing he lead the 5 dog teams through town and then as we traveled a few miles along the end of the highway, he tagged along behind to warn oncoming traffic. When we came to the spot where we had to cross over the highway and onto the snowmobile trail, he blocked off the highway (although there was actually no traffic at that time of the morning) and directed up across. How nice!!
On the way home on Sunday afternoon, I felt like I was part of a bad western – you know the ones where the outlaw gang is riding into town and the Mothers are scurrying to get their children into the houses – as our teams threaded their way through streets of town, folks where hustling their dogs into houses and backyards! Too funny!!

The trip was definitely a tough and arduous one, but the team did wonderfully, even though dogs like Grover stayed home! All 5 of the 2 year olds made the trip and did great.  Olena is always one of the first on her feet ready to go!

Now we are doing some shorter runs for this week as I ‘wind’ the team down from the last few weeks of hard work.

All for tonight – despite two days off of running dogs, I’m still pretty tired and can barely keep my eyes open!!


Monday 21 October 2002

October 21, 2002

This past weekend was Jamie’s legendary ‘ButtonBox’ Weekend – held at the beautiful ‘ButtonBox’ Campground on ButtonBox Lake near Togo, Minnesota. 

On Thursday morning a large group (probably about 14 teams) headed out of Jamie’s place – after 8 miles a few of the teams splintered off for a 12 – mile run to the Campground while the remainder of us continued on down the trail. The plan was for us to go out 20 miles to a nice meadow Jamie knows (and where we camped last year) and spend the night. However, within sight of the meadow, we ran into a little snag – it seems that the gully we cross to get there had washed out over the summer and we ended up having to make do camping in a slightly muddy clearing. The dogs didn’t mind much – especially when we cut some pine boughs and made them cozy little beds!!

After setting up camp and getting a meal into humans and dogs we kicked around the campfire for several hours, telling stories and laughing. By the time we headed for bed it was dark, although an almost full moon (somewhat obscured by clouds) made it possible to see. As I was about to crawl into the tent I stopped to take it all in – a spot by a running river, bathed in moonlight; dogs teams nested in the tall grass or snuggled into the pine bough beds; the coals from a warm fire still glowing; headlamps from friends moving around settling themselves in for the night and the fabulous glow of colored tents lit from the inside – how can anyone ever wonder why I choose to live the life I do! 

Young dogs, not yet experienced at camping on the trail made for a fairly short night and restless sleep. With only 3 ‘rookie’ dogs (Olena, Denali, and Nahanni) on my team I was spared having to leap out of my sleeping bag in the middle of the night to check on dogs – and I may have been the only one that lucky!! At 4 am, Jamie and I gave up on sleeping. We restarted the fire from the leftover coals (thank goodness – big, competent distance mushers we are – she had a lighter that was out of fuel and neither of us had matches!) and cooked some leftovers for an early breakfast. As we puttered about discussing race plans for the upcoming season it started to snow. We quickly packed up the tent and our four-wheeler before all our gear got too wet. By 9 am everyone was up, dogs were fed, campsites cleaned up and we were on the way on our 24-mile run to the ButtonBox campground.
I had been very pleased with the way my team had run on Thursday’s run, but Friday’s was even better. Led by Camilla and Orion the team put in a solid run that only heightened my (cautious) excitement about this upcoming race season.

Many more teams, including folks from Michigan, Wisconsin, and even California, were already at the campground when we arrived. Quickly we were settled in and all enjoying a big potluck dinner! 
Almost everyone headed out for a night run after dinner. It was really neat to look over your shoulder and see a long string of lights from headlamps and four – wheelers winding through the trees behind. After about 7 miles, Jamie and I splintered off from the main group and headed back to her place. Our plan was to spend the night there returning early in the morning with teams that included the remaining 9 dogs from our main strings – we didn’t want anyone missing out on the terrific training experience!! We were back just in time the next day to hook up with everyone for a morning run. That night we all got together for another run – this time Jamie and I stayed. The weekend wrapped up with breakfast on Sunday and a nice run back to Jamie’s place.

Today will be a day off for the dogs and then Jamie and I are thinking of doing another overnight trip on Tuesday to check out some trail we hope to use for the ‘Big Falls’ Run next weekend! 
The dogs are all doing very well. The 2 year olds, with perhaps the exception of Kluane are fabulous. Olena, in particular had a BLAST camping!

I do have one bit of dog news that I have been stalling on sharing – Butchie has been cut from the main string. Our very first run here in Togo Jamie commented that 8 year old Butch was looking old. That had never really even occurred to me, but as I watched him through her eyes on the rest of the run – I could see it. His gait is just not as smooth and effortless and it was in past years and he has some trouble keeping up when the speed picks up too much. I talked to Mark and he was not surprised – he said he thought he could see it on runs at home too – seems that I was the only one blinded by sentimentality. Cutting Butchie is the end of an era for me – he was the only dog on my main string that has done ‘it all’. His ‘rookie’ race was the 1996 Race to the Sky. He was dropped that time, but never again – he has completed every race I have. It’s not like he hasn’t left us anything to fill his paw prints – Draco, Orion, Surge, and Squeaky are all main string ‘Sons of Butch’s’ – but I will miss him. Butch is hanging out here and leading some puppy teams for Jamie to keep himself amused for the remainder of our trip – he will do the same for us when he gets back to Alberta. I figure Butch and I have traveled over 10,000 miles together in harness over the years – he has thoroughly earned his retirement. Mark and I hope it is a long one.

All for today!

Thursday 10 October 2002

October 10, 2002

Oh my gosh – where does time go. I’m amazed that it has been over a month since my last diary entry. Shame on me! Lots to report on – in fact, so much that it is going to take me several journal entries to catch up!! I’ll start off with some current stuff!!

On the 30th of September I loaded up the dog truck and headed down to Togo, Minnesota for my annual ‘pilgrimage’ to Jamie Nelson’s place. I won’t bore you all with tales of all Jamie has done for me in helping me grow and develop as a musher – most of you have heard that many times before – but I think this time with her is one of the best things I can do for myself and my team as I prepare for Iditarod.

Space on the dog truck dictates that I must make my first ‘cut’ of the season to the main string before this trip. I know those of you that have been kind enough to sponsor dogs in our ‘Sponsor-a-dog’ program are keen to know who came along – I will say that this was the hardest cuts I’ve had to make and some really fine dogs got left in the yard at home (notably Striker, Rosie, Cassie, and Jumper) – but without further ado, here is the list of dogs that are currently in our ‘main string’:

NorthWapiti’s Super Grover – ‘Grover’
NorthWapiti’s Mr. Snuffleupagus – ‘Gus’
NorthWapiti’s Camilla
Ch. NorthWapiti’s Guy Smiley – ‘Smiley’
Ch. NorthWapiti’s Oreo
NorthWapiti’s Draco
NorthWapiti’s Orion the Hunter
NorthWapiti’s Sir Galahad – ‘Surge’
NorthWapiti’s Robert E. Lee – ‘Squeaky’
NorthWapiti’s Kobuk
NorthWapiti’s Denali
NorthWapiti’s Kluane
NorthWapiti’s Nahanni
Chuchinka’s Nikolai II – ‘Nik’
Chuchinka’s Pathfinder – ‘Chester’
Chuchinka’s San Antonio Rose – ‘Kaylinn’
NorthWapiti’s Valkyrie Kara
NorthWapiti’s Freya
NorthWapiti’ Oden
NorthWapiti’s Loki
Alaskan’s Olena of Anadyr
NorthWapiti’s Butch Cassidy
Ch. Kainai’s Anchorman – ‘Mannie’

I feel this is a very strong and solid group of dogs and so far, they are showing that out here. I’ve never had a team pulling as strong and consistently as this batch – especially this early in the season. That certainly has me excited about this coming winter! 

The weather in Minnesota has been good. We’ve been able to get out and run every day, which is terrific. The trails aren’t as muddy as normal, which is a mixed blessing – Jamie insists (and I tend to - reluctantly - agree with her) that nothing builds a team quite as well as learning to pull together through a mud hole – but it is nice not to come back from every run covered in muck!!! 

As always, things are buzzing out here - in addition to myself, Lynzie Bacchas, who is training for this year’s Jr. Iditarod is out. Lynzie is a neat 16 year old with a great amount of ‘dog sense’. I would think she is one to watch on the Jr. Iditarod trails this winter! 

This coming weekend is one of Jamie and Ann Stead’s Boot Camps (you can find out more about their Camps at A number of the participants are repeat Boot Campers that are also friends of mine (including Lori Pedretti – our handler ‘extraordinaire’ from Beargrease last winter)– so I’m really looking forward to seeing them. 

Next weekend is ‘Buttonbox’ – a wonderful, by invitation only weekend that Jamie hosts each year at one of the local campgrounds. Lots of great experience for the dogs and a darn fun time for the humans!! Last year 50 some odd mushers and 397 dogs took over the campground!!
The weekend following that is Jamie’s annual run up to Big Falls – a 120-mile trip, broken up into a number of 20 and 30-mile runs. 

Then the last weekend I’m here is the 2nd Annual Big Dog Bash. It’s geared for Inuit dogs, Malamutes, Samoyeds, and the likes. Rounded off with Jamie’s Alaskan Husky team and my Siberians – it is truly a ‘multi cultural’ dog weekend. (If anyone with ‘Big Dogs’ reading this would like to join us – drop me an email and I will put you in touch with Scott and Terry Miller, who organize the event).

Well, I think that is about it for today. I will try to post some more entries in the next few days to let everyone know about other happenings over the past month!! 

Happy trails!

Monday 26 August 2002

August 26, 2002

First off, I would like to congratulate Karen Yeargain of Tumnatki Siberians for the recent addition of NorthWapiti’s KitKat. Yes, we sold KitKat to Karen in Oregon. She was REALLY hard to let go, but I know she will fit in beautifully in Karen’s life and kennel. Karen has an awesome sprint team that is kicking butt in the western US and we are very flattered that she feels KitKat will be a strong addition to her team.

Karen has been in contact several times since KitKat flew out there on Tuesday to let us know how happy she is with her and how well she is adjusting. That helps make things somewhat easier for me on this end!

It was a really busy weekend around here. On Friday, my brother Jim and his girlfriend, Melissa showed up for a weekend visit. Mark’s youngest brother Brian and 2 of his children showed up for a short visit on their way to Mark’s older brother’s place. Older brother, Kelly and family live just 6 miles away, so they showed up too and we had 7 adults and 5 children in the house for dinner. For those of you that have visited our 950 sq. ft house, you know this was a tight fit! But a good time was had by all anyway!
The puppies got a lot of socializing with the nieces and nephews! It was terrific for them (the puppies, that is).

Mark got a cold on Saturday and wasn’t up to doing much, but Jim, Melissa, he and I puttered around the yard anyway. Jim and Melissa got out and did some blueberry picking – the crop this year is the best ever – the ground around our land is literally blue! I went out to round them up for lunch and took Visa and Fly out with me. Visa quickly discovered how tasty blueberries are and was gobbling them up off the bushes as fast as we were picking. Lucky there is LOTS to go around.

For dessert I did up a recipe from one of my Alaska cookbooks – fresh blueberries, sprinkled with brown sugar, topped with a scoop of sour cream! Sounds weird, but very tasty!

On Sunday we marked some of the trails for our Fall Warm Up next weekend. We put in a nice 1.5 and 2.5 mile loop that will be wonderful for folks with carts. Mark and I will guide the longer runs on 4 wheelers, so no need to mark those trails.

Well that’s the news for now! The temps have been warm and I only got one day of running in last week. They are predicting temperatures closer to normal for this week – my fingers are crossed!


Monday 19 August 2002

August 19, 2002

All kinds of things happening around here last week (like what else is new?) 

First off, Lynn Alfino, who wrote that great article on me that appeared in Homemakers magazine showed up for a visit. Lynn is working on another project, which I let everyone in on at a later date, and wanted to do another interview with me. It was a lot of fun to do this one in person, rather then on the phone. Luckily, she stayed overnight, as we were chatting well into the evening – much past my usually 9:30 – 10 bedtime! 

NorthWapiti’s Alpha CD, SDX, TT (aka ‘Allie’) made a trip to the vet for surgery on Wednesday. Allie is almost 13 years old, so any surgery is worrisome at that age, but she has been having some coat problem that the vet thinks was hormonal and she had some mammary tumors that needed to go. Minus a few internal parts, she is back at home and doing well. Real well, in fact – I have lost my place on the couch, as she likes to hang out there with her Dad, who is her favorite person in the world. Oh well, she is entitled. For those of you that don’t know Allie, she was the last-born pup in our first litter. She was Mark’s obedience dog and finished her ‘Companion Dog’ title in only 4 tries. When we began doing longer races she and her half brother, Buddy were my main leaders (if any of you have seen our business cards or letterhead, Allie and Buddy are the dogs in that artwork). Allie was key in my 1994 Quesnel, B.C Gold Rush Trail win. She retired from the main string after the 1997 season, but for years after that helped train a number of the up and coming leaders in the kennel. We hope this surgery will allow us the pleasure of her company for, at least, a few more years. 

We were pretty excited; at least I was, to have the ‘Return of Psycho Coyote’ on Sunday. ‘Psycho Coyote’ is this brave, deranged, but entertaining coyote that lives on the ‘government land’ next to ours. Whenever we would go through what she perceived to be ‘her’ territory, she would charge down the trail after us barking and yipping. We didn’t see her at all last season and I was worried that she had moved on to torment someone else or that something had happened to her. On Sunday we were coming down a road a mile from home, when all of the sudden their was a bunch of barking, yipping and complaining from alongside the road – ‘the Return of Psycho Coyote’. True to form, she caught up with us and ran in the trees parallel to my team for a bit, taking short breaks to bark in her strange ‘psycho’ way. When we turned onto another trail, she fell in behind us. She followed for about 1/2 mile, even impatiently waiting 30 or so feet behind my 4-wheeler when I got off to undo a tangle. Then, I guess as we crossed out of her area, she vanished silently into the woods. I’ll be taking my camera on the next few runs to see if I can’t snap a picture of my favorite little weirdo of the woodlands.

The pups are growing like weeds – big, fat weeds actually. All three are wonderfully playful and cute - definitely my favorite age. As I’ve been leaving the yard with the dog teams the last few mornings, there has been a little line up of faces peering out from their house – learning by example, I hope! 

That’s all for now!!

Monday 12 August 2002

August 12, 2002

I've been pretty pleased that I've been keeping my diary pretty up to date lately - that was until I actually went to look at the diary page and realized that it has been almost 1 month since my last real entry. Where does time go? Unbelievable! Of course, lots has been happening in the kennel in the last while. We are full swing in training. The weather has been cool enough that I'm running almost every morning. We are up to 8 - 9 mile runs and I can honestly say that I have never seen the dogs look stronger! All the teams are even getting up the hill on our driveway - and those of you that have visited know that that is a nasty hill - without any breaks or help. That has always been something that didn't happen till much later, if ever in a season - I'm excited! I'm continuing to work some new dogs in lead. I've been surprised at how well these dogs, some youngsters, are doing. Olena has got to be the star - she is amazing! The rest of the dogs don't seem to share my enthusiasm for her, though - she is so focused and driven that she can really carry on at the start (and during, for that matter) a run. I swear the other dogs throw me dirty looks when I hook her up next to them. This morning I had Denali up front. He did really well - lots of promise there too! Last week or so I had Freya up front. Freya is probably the smallest dog on my team, but she has a BIG work ethic that more then makes up for her size. We were running the ditch of Highway 2 for the first time this season and the tall grass had absolutely no trail in it. Little Freya was totally lost in the grass, but never slacked up on her tug line, blindly taking commands without hesitation. I would have been impressed if that were one of my fully trained leaders, for it to be a young leader made it that much more wonderful!

Joey's pups continue to grow and do well. We have named them (with some help from friends) - the black/white, brown eyed girl is NorthWapiti's Born to Run 'Lou'; the black/white, blue eyed male is NorthWapiti's Long May You Run 'Junior'; and the piebald, brown eyed girl is NorthWapiti's See Spot Run 'Spot'.

We are disappointed to report that Jumper didn't have any puppies. She had been bred to Orion, but maybe she was planning to go to Iditarod this winter. She is happy to be back in training!
One very exciting bit of news that I was saving for last - Smiley has finished his Canadian Championship. This makes him the second Canadian Champion in the history of the breed (the first was our 'Mannie' - Ch. Kainai's Anchorman) to finish Iditarod. It was a real chore to keep that white coat clean for the show ring and I'm very happy, as I'm sure Smiley is too - he was getting dishpan paws and I was getting dishpan hands from all the bathing, not to have to be working on it anymore! Watch for show pictures of our handsome boy to be posted on the site soon. Gosh, I'm proud of him! Next in the ring will be Nik - but we are only planning on one or two more shows this season. Things are going to be getting really busy really fast around here.

All for today!

Tuesday 16 July 2002

July 16, 2002

First off the most exciting news - Joey (Alaskan's Georgio of Anadyr) whelped out 3 pups yesterday. Well, the first two on the 14th and the 3rd yesterday, but it all kind of blurs into one day to me! She was several days overdue and I had been hovering nervously over her for a few nights. The first two pups look a lot like their Dad, Grover and the third one is a very cool looking piebald - white with black spots. Joey is one of the most relaxed Mom's I seen and the pups are a content and quiet bunch. 

Joey and her pups enjoy a meal! 

Other then that, things are plugging along here. I managed to sprain my ankle in one of the 'human traps' that the dogs dig out in the yard. They are so pleased when you take a nosedive into one of their holes and instantly pounce upon you to cover you with kisses. It's an even bigger bonus if they get you while you are carrying bowls of food!! This was almost a week ago and the pain has now just turned into a dull throb. It better just go away, I have a dog show this weekend and need to be able to run. Ah well, learning to work through pain is always good training for Iditarod!

I had a tiring and trying run this morning. Cassie has been showing signs that she was going to really start seeing things my way. I let that lull me into a false sense of trust in her and hooked her up as my main leader this morning (she had Kaylinn with her, but Kaylinn has absolutely no clue about anything other then just running when up front). Behind them I had all the 2 year olds and then other 'A' team dogs scattered throughout. Cassie was awesome for the first few miles. Then we came to our watering spot and I wanted to go by it, do a small loop and then come back and then stop to water. Cassie failed to see the wisdom in that plan and went on strike. Man that dog can strike - she gets this disgusted look on her face and plants her feet firmly on the ground. As she sees me coming up the team, see throws me this look that clearly says "Talk to the paw - I don't care what YOU want to do.". I struggled through with her for another mile or so and then decided this wasn't in the best interest of the rest of the team. I got her working again and then stopped on a positive note and took her out of lead. Because I was still suffering sleep depravation, or because I hadn't had enough coffee this morning, I decided to stick Olena up front for the very first time. Now I had 2 leaders and 2 swing dogs that didn't know 'Gee' and "Haw'. Olena was a little STAR (as I figured she would be) - she never looked over her shoulder, just leaned into that harness and pulled like crazy. I had to stop and run up front to show them what I wanted on just about every corner, but Kaylinn even showed signs that she understood more then I thought about commands. She really, really tries hard to please!!

Things continued along great until we came into the yard. Now this is usually a time when the dogs are starting to think about their snacks and I'm thinking about that cup of coffee that isn't too far away. Distracted by visions of caffeine, I failed to see the problem brewing until we were wrapped around a kennel and tree at the edge of the dog yard - and then Fly came flying into the picture. Olena saw no reason she should go running with him and every time I got them straightened out and pointing the right direction - off she went, tangling us again. It actually turned into a great training tool for both Kaylinn and Olena - both finally got the idea and held the line tight while I ran back to the 4 wheeler, then pulled solidly and straight into the yard - despite the big 'Fly' buzzing around them! What good dogs!

Leaving the yard for our 'finishing loop' (I usually ask the dogs to leave the yard and do a small ½ mile loop before putting them away) was just as exciting, Olena dug into her harness when asked but then had some trouble understanding that this was not the time to chat with Dasher, Dancer, and the 'Race to the Sky' pups!

They finished strong though and did a really admirable job of coming into the yard the second time! Yeah Olena - the more I work with her, the more I'm excited about her potential! And YEAH for Kaylinn, she is really developing into a keen to please and responsible leader. As for Cassie….I guess it is back to the drawing board….*sigh*

Have a great day!

Tuesday 2 July 2002

July 2, 2002


Training got underway yesterday!! It was actually a lovely and cool morning and I took a team out for a nice 4-mile jaunt. As a 'first run of the season' treat to myself, I ran Grover in lead - not something I often do in training, as training time is better spend on dogs that need training rather then a boy that has the 'leader thing' pretty much down pat.

The team was:

Grover and Odie
Gus and Denali
Kobuk and Chester
Olena and Nahanni
Nik and Striker
Oreo and Cassie
I'm inching Denali up closer to the front of the team, as I think he holds some real promise as a leader. Olena continues to shine and Cassie, well - she is still testing me!

I have to do a quick brag for a friend! I've been snacking with some treats given to me by my friend, Cheryl Liddle from California. She calls them 'Kona's Trail Treats - Energy Snacks for Dogs' and her company is 'Single Tracks Pet Snacks' ( Under 'How to Feed' on the back of the package she states, "watch your fingers" and she is REALLY not kidding! I have no clue what she puts in the darn things put the dogs go NUTS for them! Cassie snatched the bag out of my hand yesterday! Two paws up from our team!!

Anyway, just a short post for today! I know Kim and Kelly Berg are whelping a litter of Grover babies in New Hampshire as I write. I understand 3 boys so far. I'll have more details up in the next day or so!

Too warm to run this morning!

Sunday 30 June 2002

June 30, 2002

Just a quick note to mention that Iditarod entries opened yesterday. All mushers that enter on the first day are guaranteed a starting position in the first batch (65 mushers entered yesterday - so my bib number will be between 2 - 66. Remember Bib 1 is always a ceremonial musher). You can follow the list of mushers, which will grow until the December 1 cutoff, on the Iditarod site.

The mushers entering yesterday were:

1. G.B. Jones Wasilla, Ak
2. David Straub Willow, AK
3. Ken Anderson Fairbanks, AK
4. Perry Solmonson (rookie) Plain, Wa
5. Frank Sihler (rookie) Wasilla, AK
6. Ray Redington, Jr. Fairbanks, AK
7. Aaron Burmeister Nome, AK
8. Ramy Brooks Healy, AK
9. Ted English Willow, AK
10. Vern Halter Willow, AK
11. Mitch Seavey Sterling, AK
12. Jason Cameron (rookie) Homer, AK
13. Dexter Kancer (rookie) Nenana, AK
14. Mike Williams Akiak, AK
15. Lance Barve Wasilla, AK
16. Judy Merritt- (rookie) Moose Pass, AK
17. Mike Suman (rookie) Big Lake, AK
18. Martin Buser Big Lake
19. Debbie Moderow (rookie) Anchorage, AK
20. Doug Grillot (rookie) Willow, AK
21. Carla Kelly (rookie) Anchorage, AK
22. Lynda Plettner- Willow, AK
23. Ben Stamm (rookie) Argyle, WI
24. Jessie Royer Fairbanks, AK
25. Cim Smyth Big Lake, AK
26. Jeff King Denali, Ak
27. Ellen Halverson (rookie) Wasilla, AK
28. Cali King (rookie) Denali, AK
29. Gerald Sousa - Talkeetna, AK
30. John Baker - Kotzebue, AK
31. Jim Lanier Chugiak, AK
32. Rick Horstmann (rookie) -Willow, AK
33. Ramey Smyth Big Lake, AK
34. Gerald Riley- Nenana, AK
35. Burt Bomhoff Chugiak, AK
36. Tyrell Seavey- (rookie) Seward, AK
37. Michael Goosen Wasilla, AK
38. Tim Osmar Ninilchik AK
39. Hans Gatt Atlin BC CANADA
40. Ed Iten Kotzebue, AK
41. Sonny Lindner Fairbanks, AK
42. Aliy Zirkle Two Rivers, AK
43. Karen Ramstead- Perryvale, AB, CANADA
44. Charlie Boulding Manley, AK
45. Randy Chappel - (rookie) Arlington, TX
46. Blake Matray (rookie) Two Rivers, AK
47. Robert Sørlie Hurdal Norway
48. Cliff Wang (rookie) Isabella, MN
49. Sandy McKee (rookie) Fairbanks, AK
50. Tom Roig (rookie) Shreve, OH
51. Karen Land Sand Coulee, MT
52. Jason Barron Lincoln, MT
53. Bruce Lee Denali Park, AK
54. Jack Berry Salcha, AK
55. Todd Capistrant-- (rookie) Emerald, WI
56. Paul Gebhardt Kasilof, AK
57. John Barron Helmville, MT
58. Linwood Fiedler Willow, AK
59. Rick Swenson Two Rivers, AK
60. Cindy Gallea Seeley Lake, MT
61. DeeDee Jonrowe Willow, AK
62. Rick Minard (rookie) Newberry, MI
63. Dave Monson Fairbanks, AK
64. Peter Bartlett Willow, AK
65. Melanie Gould Talkeetna, AK

*Note - there is no 'rookie' status after my name! That is so COOL!!

Saturday 29 June 2002

June 29, 2002

RAIN!!!! YEAH!!! 

Things have been so dry around here for the last few months - it has been downright scary. We have been on a complete fire ban, no campfires, no burning barrels, no fireworks (a real bummer for the Canada Day weekend) - but, finally, yesterday we got several hours of rain! I certainly don't think it has got us completely out of danger yet, but it is a start. We probably have Mark to thank for the rain - he was working on a small building project and wanted to get it painted when the skies opened up! Ah well… The project Mark was working on is one I'm pretty happy about. He built me a permanent grooming table out in the dog yard. Up to now I've been having to haul my show grooming table, air dryer, brushes, etc out there every time I wanted to groom - I spent more time hauling then grooming. Almost all the dogs are in full shed - it's nuts. If they were more polite, they would take turns shedding, so I could keep up with the grooming easier! Many sled dog kennels just allow their dogs to shed naturally and don't groom the loose hair out. I like the one on one time with the dogs though. I think it is a great opportunity to give them a complete look over and it is really good training for the youngsters on being handled and patient. Here are some 'before' and 'after' pictures of Howl. I picked up a handy new grooming tool on the weekend - a cordless Dremmel tool. Hmmm, carving patterns into my dogs you ask?? No, not quite, but with the sander attachment, it is very cool way to do nails. Most of the dogs really seem have more patience for that then for the clippers. In fact, I got Libby's nails done for the first time in MONTHS! She is a crabby old dog when it comes to be brushed and handled (heck, she is 15 - who can blame her) and usually tries to bite me when she sees the nail clippers. Being that she is mostly deaf and partially senile - she just sat there while I shaped and shortened her nails.

We 'officially' start our new training season on July 1st. Effective that day on all training miles get logged into our 2002/2003 journals. I also start to be serious about running again. The last month I've been able to come up with some pretty creative excuses as to why I shouldn't have to get up on cool mornings and run dogs - no more excuses now. Mornings that are under 10C will find me out on the trail! Iditarod here we come!!!

A little bit of show news to report - first off, I took Rosie and Smiley to Edmonton at the beginning of June. Smiley seemed to be a little confused and every time we were in the ring with another dog believed the goal was to be the fastest in the ring. Needless to say - he didn't do much winning and I got quite the workout! What a NERD! Rosie was much better behaved; in fact on the second day of the show, she really seemed to 'figure out' this whole game. On Sunday, she was practically PERFECTLY behaved in the ring - a true delight to show and took the Breed! Yeah!

Next off, it was to Grande Prairie. I had Smiley, Kara, and Dasher. Smiley and I had a bit of a 'chat' about the purpose of the show ring and he was actually a lot of fun to show. I am so proud of him (being one of my Iditarod finishers and all) and, win or lose, love being at the end of his leash. He actually picked up a 3-point win - which puts him only 3 points away from his Championship. I REALLY want to finish him prior to this Iditarod!

Kara picked up a couple more points and Dasher just had a fun time - which was all she was there to do.

Next off is the Prince George show in mid - July (just Smiley and I are going) and then the Westerly Show in Edmonton at the end of July. Rosie and Smiley are entered for that!

Before I sign off, I'll introduce a few more of this year's training pool. This time I'm introducing some of the 2 year olds!

NorthWapiti's Kobuk - Can you say 'TALL' or how about 'LANKY'? This big boy is all legs and build for speed! Both his Mom and Dad are from Earl and Natalie Norris' kennel, so it comes by it all honestly! Although some have described him as 'HOMELY' - I've always liked his look and he one of my favorite pups from our Keesa litter.

NorthWapiti's Denali - When naming the 'National Park' litter - we didn't give this name out lightly. Denali means 'the great one' and that he is. Like his brother, Kobuk, Denali is a big boy, but he is absolutely AMAZING in harness. Although I have toyed with the idea of selling him a time or two because of his size - his attitude and enthusiasm in harness are keeping him here. I wouldn't be surprised to see him leading teams this winter.

NorthWapiti's Nahanni - A prettier, more feminine version of her brothers (Kobuk and Denali). Nahanni is one of those dogs you put in the team and forget she is there. She just puts her head down and does her job. She is growing up to be a very dependable, solid sled dog!

NorthWapiti's Kluane - 'Klu' or 'Klu-less' as I've sometimes been caught calling her, has a wonderful build and a terrific gait. She does have one habit that she will have to get over if she wants to make the 'big' team this year - she is a very picky eater. A strong, solid girl though!

Alaskan's Olena of Anadyr - This is the 2 - year old that I think shows the most potential of making the main string. She is one of the most amazing youngsters I've ever driven. I cannot say enough nice things about Olena. She does need to be run next to another strong-minded dog, as she gets so worked up and excited in harness she can put off a more timid dog - lucky I don't have too many of those!

All for now!