Monday 8 December 2003

December 8, 2003 Goodbye Gilligan

Although the sky is bright tonight with the full moon drowning out any chance of Northern Lights here, I feel certain that they are dancing somewhere with bright splashes of red.

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This evening we said goodbye to one of our family - NorthWapiti's Gilligan SD. This big, red dog was a staple at the front of our team for a number of years. He was a finisher of the Race to the Sky, Klondike 300 and Knik 200.

Despite the fact that we will greatly miss this happy go lucky boy, it's hard to find too much regret in his life and death. He lived a good, happy life and left it as he lived it - with people that loved and cared about him. I wish nothing less for each of my canine companions.

Gill had a number of special folks in his life besides us that also loved him. We know in particular his friend, Roger Morey will also be remembering him fondly and mourning his passing.

Godspeed Gilligan.


Sunday 7 December 2003

December 7, 2003 For the Love of Winter

Last night it snowed. Not the light, flaky snow that leaves a nice thin, clean cover on everything, but a thick, heavy blanket that overnight changed the landscape.

Now, you would have thought that would have made me the happiest camper around, but it didn't. See, the truth is, since we moved to Perryvale in 1998 the winters have all been rather late and mild, so we just haven't had to focus on putting in sledding trails, as by the time there was snow, I was in Alaska or Minnesota training. In the last 6 years many of the trails that we counted on being able to use when we bought our property have been fenced off. Yes, we have a lot of great 4 wheeler trails for the dogs, but they use sections of gravel roads and cross highways, all things that are unsafe to do with a sled.
Anyway, I spend Wednesday night in a fitful sleep, tossing and turning worrying about how I was going to keep getting long runs in on the team (they are up to 30 - 50 mile runs now) for the next month.

I slugged my way through the snow to feed the dogs in the morning, preoccupied with my worries. When Mark got home from work at 7am and made some cheerful comment about the snow, I grunted and then launched into a whine about my 'woes'. He seemed pretty confident it would work itself out and we would find trails. "Sure", I thought, "Maybe if we truck the dogs - but that just adds to my already full days." After telling me I should just take a few small teams out for short runs in the 'Green' area around the house, he headed off to bed.

I had no intention of running. I'd wait until the County plowed the roads and then get back to my schedule. I'd take today to catch up on the one million other things that need my attention before I leave for Alaska in January.

I worked on a few things in the house, but by 10am I found myself out in the garage struggle to muscle one of my sleds out of it's summer storage area. I still had NO intention of running; I'd just get the sled out. Soon, I was strapping on sled bags, laying out lines and finally, selecting harnesses - giving into the inevitability that I was running dogs today.

Knowing I would be breaking deep snow the entire way, I selected a solid and experienced 6 dog team; Grover and Gus, Surge and Chester, Kara and Kaylinn.

In no time, they were hooked up and I unsnapped the quick release. We sailed out of the yard and into the unbroken winter landscape. In our sheltered valley the snow still clung to the branches of the trees and the dabbled sunlight made it sparkle and twinkle. The sky was that impossible blue that really only happens when the air is crisp, clear and cold.

It took no time for the realization to hit me that today's run wasn't about miles, building muscle, lungs, tendons, Iditarod, etc - today's run was about the SOUL. Schedules, details, plans be damned - today was about remembering the connection to my soul and spirit I felt the first time I hooked up dogs. Remembering why I love this lifestyle of mine so very much.

Grover and Gus flawlessly took the turns and corners asked. These are dogs that I've spend so much time with and understand me so well, that it sometimes seems merely thinking about a turn will make it happen.

To say the run was flawless would be a lie - Kaylinn is in heat and the 4 males in front of her were completely aware of every move she made. They remembered their jobs and did them well, but they were also a bit distracted.

The winds picked up when we climbed out of the valley and drifted snow had the team breaking trail up to their chests. Little Kara was forced to bound through the deep snow to keep up with her longer legged teammates.

They roared back down the hill with ears back, tongues lolling, and huge husky grins on their faces. Although I kept my tongue in, my expression was much the same!

We logged in a solid 6 ½ miles before pulling back into the yard. 

I put them away, ran into the house, grabbed a quick lunch, started a meal in the slow cooker and ran back out to hook up another team.

When I pulled back into the yard, Mark was up. "You decided to run after all" he said. He smiled when I mentioned this was the second team I had had out.

Sometimes we get so bogged down in the details of our lives, we forget to step back and look at the bigger picture. I LOVE WINTER, I'm ecstatic that it snowed and the rest will all find a way to work itself out!!!!


Saturday 29 November 2003

November 29, 2003 The Weather Kid

For those of you that aren’t aware, Mark began working shift work a few months back. We already lived our lives by a peculiar schedule anyway, so it hasn’t proven to be much of a hardship at all. In fact, it is actually working out great, as he has been able to run dogs a lot with me.

Yesterday Mark was coming off of nights, so he slept till noon and we intended to do a night run. The plan was for a (roughly) 50 mile run, rest the dogs in harness in the yard for 4 hours and then do a 15 – 20 mile run with them.

The weather kid, Josh (I swear, he is 22 if he stretches it) on the Edmonton TV station we watch was predicting a forecast that well complimented our plans – it was to warm up through out the weekend, reaching a high of 2C (28F) on Sunday. Sure enough as we started to hook up at around 5 pm it was –5C (22F) and with a light, wet snow falling and a bit of a wind blowing. It was warm enough that we were sweating while working and I shed a layer of clothing into the trunk on my 4 wheeler. At the last second I ran to the house and grabbed my lined raincoat (the one I bought to take on Iditarod last year!). I put it on and stashed my anorak on the 4-wheeler. I was grateful I had put on my lightweight –20 NEOS overshoes, rather then the –40 ones I had been wearing earlier in the week (If you have never heard of these things – they are TERRIFIC!!! Take it from me – I may not collect high heels and dress shoes, but I do have a bit of a winter footwear fetish – or so I’m told! *G*).

As the dogs moved strongly up the hill and out of our valley, the winds picked up – of course they were coming from the direction we were headed – so most of the time we were traveling straight into this sharp breeze. A couple times as my leaders, Olena and Kaylinn, rounded a corner and felt the full force of the storm they would allow it to push them over into the middle of the road and I’d have to get off and move them back to the right side. Despite the exercise, at about 6 miles out I stopped and put back on the layer I had shed while hooking up.

We stopped at about 14 miles out and let the dogs roll in the snow while we sipped on some hot chocolate and munched on trail mix. The spot we choose was sheltered and I was actually warm while moving around petting and playing with the dogs. “That Josh,” I was thinking, “He’s a clever one. This wind is going to die down and it will be a lovely evening. Just like he predicted.”

A few miles later I noticed the moon peeking out from behind a few clouds and sure enough when I roused from the narrow tunnel of vision (dogs, road) that my hood allowed, I could see stars starting to sparkle. The cloud cover was blowing off. As we pulled into the Forfar campground (our turning around point) the wind was all but gone and now it was getting chilly. I wrote off my shivers to having gotten chilled by the wind but after we snacked the dogs, I pulled my anorak on over my raincoat and other layers. I noticed Mark putting his insulated coveralls on and by gosh, now that I really looked the dogs were starting to get a little frosty. Strange for such a ‘warm’ evening.

The teams set a blistering pace for home and that gave me a nice warm glow for a while! They are doing so well this season!!!

By now it was well into the late hours of the night, somewhere around 11 pm. I wanted to stop and let the dogs roll, but didn’t want to do it near anyone’s house and risk waking them up. I picked one spot and was about to ‘Gee In’ the team (the command for getting off the trail and into the snow) when a deer bounced across the road in front of us. The dogs picked up her scent and charged down the road – the stop would have to wait. A couple miles later there was another nice spot. This time the break was spoiled by a moose’s meanderings. When I finally was able to get pulled over the dogs had sparks in their eyes and were glancing around hoping for more exciting things to chase.

They all looked fresh and keen, despite the fact that they had already come over 35 miles pulling those big, heavy 4 wheelers.

Mark and I both commented on the temperature and checked to make sure the other was warm enough. Not like we could do much about it if we weren’t, we were both already wearing every piece of clothing we had brought along and were still over 10 miles from home.

About 7 miles from home we go through a section of ‘muskeg’ on the trail. Muskeg is a type of swamp. Actually, it is soaked peat moss! In the summer it has a definite spongy quality to it and traveling across it you run the risk of sinking in a big way. We learned about the stuff after ‘sinking’ Mark’s horse, Shooter in it when we first moved north. Shooter got out without incident, but was always leery of any soft footing after that. I’ve heard that D-9 Cat tractors were lost in the muskeg, never to be found, while they were building the Alaska Highway. Dangerous stuff in the summer – great, but bumpy trails in the winter.

Anyway, as we hit this humid part of the trail the temperature really seemed to take a dive. Draco, in wheel, was so frosted up his normally dark gray coat looked as white as Moses’. Now my feet we getting cold and my knees (hey, I know it is weird, but they get really cold on those darn 4 wheelers) felt like blocks of ice. I was glad the dogs were still moving strong and quick.

As we cleared the muskeg, I peeked out from under my hood (while strongly wishing it was my hood with the toasty warm fur ruff) and was treated to the Northern Lights starting up. I must admit, the moon was now set and the clear, cold night was inky dark and the lights did look wonderful.

Finally, at 1:30 we pulled into the yard. I worked my way through the team, petting and fussing about them and after telling the girls what a wonderful job they did in lead, veered straight for the thermometer. Minus 22 (-12F) was what it read. That is a 17 degree DROP in the temperature in 7 hours – VERY different from dear little Josh’s forecast!!

As we prepared the dogs ‘after run’ meal for them, we discussed our plan for the rest of the night. Neither one of us felt that we would be able to get the 4 wheelers running in four hours if they sat outside for that time, plus when we rest the dogs in harness in training we do it without straw (they get all the luxuries during a race and therefore learn to LOVE racing) and I wasn’t in a hurry to make them sleep on the bare snow at this temperature, and finally I was in NO hurry to sit on that big chunk of cold metal for another 3 hours tonight. We decided to just put them away and do our next leg later in the daylight.

The dogs barked and fussed and farted around while we unhooked them. They looked so good for a team that had just done 47 miles. Like I said earlier – that warms me up – but if I get my hands on that Josh…….


Friday 28 November 2003

November 28, 2003 Dog Placement

I must say what a gratifying week this has been for me. 

First I got an email from Brenda raving about Freya; then one from Janet in California raving about how great Cassie (NorthWapiti's Cassiopeia) is; then comments in the Northwapiti News - Yahoo Group from Donna re: Sissy (The Flying Nun of NorthWapiti); and even more from Donna in New Hampshire regarding how well the very clever Lou (NorthWapiti's Born to Run) is settling in and comments from Jackie regarding her 2 - Striker x Breezy kids.

For all those who ask and wonder how we can sell our dogs/puppies - this is what makes it do-able. I take great pride in trying to match the right dog with the right home. Hearing stories like these about how well these dogs are all doing in their homes is exceptionally rewarding.

:) :) :) 

Monday 24 November 2003

November 24, 2003


Last week we experienced our first true cold snap of the winter. Temperatures dropped down into the -30's (F and C both merge around that point). We were prepared in most ways, the dogs had lots of straw in their houses, snow was piled over the 'problem spot' in our garage water pipe to keep it from freezing, and all our extra heavy duty winter clothing was out of storage.

There was one thing I was unprepared for though. A couple days into the snap, Mark came back from feeding the Seniors and when I inquired about Gilligan, who has been having some trouble this year, he informed me he was fine, but Charlie couldn't stand up.

For those of you that don't know Charlie, let me back up a little - well, a lot - it was almost 14 years ago that Libby whelped out her, and our, first litter of pups. She had 6 girls and 1 boy - Charlie. From the moment that boy was born, he has owned my heart. We had first pick of that litter, Jackie and Chris Marshall, Libby's breeders had second. There was never any question or doubt who our pick would be - it was Charlie.

Charlie grew to be everything we hoped for in a working Siberian. Leggy, sound and capable - with a personality that could melt just about any heart. Even when he was knocking down my Mom's Christmas tree or gnawing on the antique bar of soap passed down from my Grandma, you couldn't stay mad at this happy boy for long.

When we took him in for a 'Temperament Test' the instructor offered to buy him. Charlie was never for sale.

When I took up obedience, Charlie passed his Companion Dog title quickly and easily. He trained up well for the next level, but in my excitement to make him into a 'real' obedience dog, I forgot that Charlie was in life for the fun of it and when I made it work, he decided to teach me a lesson that will never leave me. Despite performing each exercise in the ring correctly on numerous occasions, Charlie refused to string together a qualifying round. YEARS and thousands of dollars in entry fees later, Charlie was retired with not one leg of his CDX title. I never forget to include fun with work now!
Charlie was shown a few times in conformation and even picked up a few points. I was so proud to hang his 'Best of Winners' ribbon on his ex-pen at the show. When I turned my back he plucked the ribbon off the pen and scratched and torn it up. Charlie didn't need any judge to tell him his worth.
I loved this dog when he was too small to get to his feet. I watched him struggle to learn to walk, I watched him run with the enthusiasm of youth, I watched him run with the knowledge and power born of maturity, I watched him slow down when age began to dictate limits. Now I love him when he is almost too old to get to his feet.

Mark and I helped Charlie up and got him inside where it was warm. Stalling, we agreed that we would see how he was doing in the morning. Morning came and he was 'better'. He followed me outside and we went for a short walk, his halting steps mirroring mine - I walk, Charlie walks; I stop, Charlie stops. He still remembers his 'heeling position' and that is where he wants to walk.
It's Monday today. The temperatures have warmed and Charlie is now outside for the days, but inside for the nights. He barked and pawed at the kennel door for his dinner last night. That made me smile, but I know the days left are stolen ones.


Sunday 23 November 2003

November 21, 2003

Back Home & The Big Bash

Oh my gosh, I love my home!!! Now, don't get me wrong, I love my time in Minnesota, Alaska and the likes, but this is where my heart lives!

My sentiments were completely echoed by the dogs as I drove down the road to our place on Monday (I don't understand how they do this, but after a couple thousand miles of travel they absolutely KNOW when we turn onto the road to our house.) and they all began to howl in their boxes. Fly met us at the gate with big eyes and then roared around the yard barking and making sure every dog knew we were home. The yard quickly erupted into a circus of noise and activity. No quietly sneaking into the house for me!

I did a little re-arranging of the dogs that were left behind and then got the main string out to their spots. They peed, they bounced, and they batted at the dogs next to them. Just generally showing their enthusiasm for being back in their own yard. The rest of the day and long into the night was filled with restlessness and 'dog talk'. Many stories to share, I suppose! I'd love to hear their versions of our adventures!

Anyway, as most of you have read from my earlier diary entry - the stop in Winnipeg on the way home was a very worthwhile one, with Chester, Draco and Mannie all picking up some very nice wins at the National Specialty. I can't begin to tell you how excited I was over Draco's win. Draco is truly a favorite around here and a dog that I feel really embodies a 'working Siberian', to have him recognized and awarded a big win at a National Specialty is very, very rewarding. I'd be lying if I said I didn't shed a tear or two over that!

Mannie's Award of Merit win from the Veterans Class was also special. At 8, I know Mannie's competitive trips around the show ring are going to be getting rarer and rarer. I try to treasure and enjoy each opportunity I have to gait around a show ring with this special boy.
Enough of my glowing about the Specialty! I have one more weekend of tales from Minnesota to share with you all - the Big Dog Bash!

The Big Dog Bash is a weekend event organized by Scott and Terry Miller and hosted by Jamie. It is geared for 'Big Dog' (Malamutes, Inuit Dogs, etc) and non-competitive dog teams. We travel 10 - 14 miles out to a cabin at lovely Franklin Lake, where we camp out for a day or so before traveling home. The teams range in size from 2 to 13 and for many this is the furthest distance they have ever traveled with their teams. Spirits are always high for this, as mushers often learn that their dog's abilities are beyond their expectations!

Thursday saw everyone gathering at Jamie's and a lot of great mooching opportunities for me. (These guys bring GREAT food and those of you that have spend time at Jamie's, especially when Ken is away, know that there is usually not an over abundance of food in the Nelson house!) I munched on cheese curds and reassured everyone that the infamous bridge was in good shape this year (I was pretty sure everyone's carts would fit on it); the wolves in the area wouldn't bother us (even though we saw fresh tracks on our way to the cabin earlier that day); and that the weather would be fine (despite the rain and snow that had been falling on and off all week).

Pretty much at 10 am on the nose the next morning we all pulled our quick releases and headed out. There were in the neighborhood of twenty teams and I felt a little like a Mother Hen when it was my turn to bring up the rear.

At about 7 ½ miles out we all gathered and decided whether or not to do the 'long' or 'short' route to Franklin Lake. Eventually it was decided that 4 teams, guided by Jamie's handler, Jane would take the direct, shorter route and the rest of us would go the longer way. Bonus for me - the longer way involves one of my favorite trails in Minnesota, a lovely twisting and turning trail through the trees.

When we got to Franklin Lake the 'short' group had already arrived and things were pretty much in disarray. Seems that the Department of Corrections (who owns the cabin - but allows others to use it when they are not) had an unexpected group of girls staying there overnight. Peter McClelland of White Wilderness, who was doing are cooking for the weekend, had misunderstood Jamie's directions and was further down the road when we arrived. Most of the teams had camped near him.

Jamie and I headed down to round up everyone and get the group altogether again. We were met by quite the sight and story. It seems when Peter overshot the cabin he managed to get his truck stuck in some nasty, mud filled ruts in the road. His first (and I must say, Peter - not too bright) thought was to hook his dog team up to the truck. That didn't work and while he was attempting to move his 10-dog team, by hand, to the back of his truck, the dogs took off. Peter valiantly hung on and was dragged down the road, skidding all the skin off both his forearms in the processes. OUCH. Just before a short turnoff to the Lake Peter lost his hold and off went his team. As they reached the corner he shouted 'HAW' and they obediently took the turn! Very impressive. Being a Minnesota team, they are well used to plowing through big puddles and they forged into the Lake without hesitation. Unfortunately, Franklin Lake gets deep rather quickly and Peter had to jump in to rescue his dogs.

By the time Jamie and I got there the dogs were safely back hooked to Peter's 4 wheeler, Peter was drying out and had carefully covered his arms to stop us from getting a look at them. Peter's truck was still firmly stuck in the mud though and our first order of business was getting it out.

Many people threw out various suggestions, but in the end, we opted for a plan that only seems sensible if you are in a Togo mind state of mind - DOG POWER!!

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(Our thanks to Cindy Braun for sending some of the photos above)

To the rear of Peter's truck we hooked up 4 dogs teams side by side - Peter's 10-dog team, my 14-dog team, Terry Miller's 13-dog team and Jamie's 14-dog team.

At the signal we were all going to call up our teams and the truck would pop out of the mud. Yeah right, was my thought!

The signal was given and the Miller's 13 incredibly strong Inuit dogs hit the line for all they were worth. Their snub line couldn't withstand the hit and snapped, sending Terry and her team down the trail away from us. Peter's, Jamie's and my team looked quizzically over their shoulders and wondered what strange things their owners were up to now. A quick discussion with the three remaining teams and we were ready to try again.

The dogs hit the line much better this time, but again nothing happened. I was convinced this was not going to work. - Then every so slightly, the truck budged. As soon as the dogs felt that inch of give, they all dropped down and applied themselves to the task at hand. It was a real rush to feel that truck start to move and then slip out of the mud! We actually had to ask the dogs to stop once they got the truck (a new model 1 tonne 4x4) moving.

VERY COOL!!! The entire episode was video taped, so hopefully we will have some pictures to share at a later date!

A very enjoyable evening was spent patting ourselves on the back and chowing down on delicious food, cooked by Peter.

The next day had us all off on a variety of runs. Jamie and I had to run back to her place to do chores. With us came Peter, who needed to give his forearms some attention and Ann Stead, who had just joined us for one night.

Others did runs around the cabin and some just hung out, resting up for the next day's journey.
The rest of the weekend rolled by with lots of dogs stories, songs, terrific food, great company, and dog running! All to soon it was time to journey back to Jamie's.

The run back was pretty uneventful, except for one incident between Jamie and I (well, in fairness to Jamie - my beef is with one of her dogs, not her!). A mile or so from Jamie's the main trail comes out of a field and onto a blacktop road for a ½ mile or so. The approach out of the field has a pretty good drop off on one side. I know this drop off well - I rolled Jamie's new 4 wheeler in it a few years back and came very close to rolling my own over in it the day before the Big Dog Bash.

Wanting to make sure everyone noticed it I parked my team and stood on the edge of the approach watching for traffic and encouraging teams to stay left. All went well and team after team safely rolled by UNTIL it was Jamie's turn. As her 14 hooligans passed by one - I'm thinking Jed, but none of her dogs are talking - deeked around me at the last minute and sent me flying. I came down tangled in the gangline and dragged down the blacktop for a short bit before Jamie could react and get the team stopped.

When I did the after accident 'body inventory' I was dismayed to find one finger on my right hand not functioning. Sprained, cracked, damaged tendons. there has been much speculation, but as I sit here and type, almost 3 weeks after the incident my finger is still swollen, painful and not fully functional! (And, No, Mom. I'm not going to the doctor, it will heal in time).

All for today!

Saturday 22 November 2003

November 22, 2003

Puppy Pictures - The Noisy Litter

These pictures are from September, but here are images of the puppies from the "Noise" themed litter. 

The parents are Striker x Kaylinn and the litter consists of 
  • Dark red piebald male - Buzz
  • Light Light red piebald male - Eeek
  • Red bitch  - Roary
  • Grey male - Ruff
  • Red bitch 2 - Whinny
Not all of them are shown here.

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Monday 17 November 2003

November 17, 2003

Working Dogs/Show Ring Winners

I just got back this morning from an intense, month long 'training trip' to Minnesota with 24 of the dogs in contention for my Iditarod team this winter. Before I left I got the harebrained idea that I would 'drop by' the NorthWinds Show and Siberian Husky Club of Canada National Specialty in Winnipeg on the way home. Like you can really 'drop in' anywhere with 24 dogs....

Anyway, by Friday evening I was soundly kicking myself and wishing I was already back in Alberta. Saturday morning and the Specialty had me singing an ENTIRELY different tune.

I am so proud to announce that our Mannie, (Ch. Kainai's Anchorman - bred by Vivian Delude) took first Award of Merit and Best Overall Veteran. Chester (Chuchinka's Pathfinder - bred by Bob and Loreen Bridges) took his Open Male class and Draco (NorthWapiti's Draco) took the Bred By class, Winner's Male and Best of Winners.

Mannie, Chester and Draco are all Iditarod finishers.

This was also the first time Draco has been in a show ring since his one experience as a young puppy (about 6 years ago) and I can assure you I had no time in Minnesota to spend preparing him. It was lucky I was able to find a nearby grooming shop to knock off the mud that we were wallowing in for most of the last month.

It is the same wonderful temperament that allowed me to get away with that that made me turn to him to lead my team out of Fairbanks and through the crowd of 15,000 people at the start of Iditarod last year. He is a special boy and I'm so proud of him.

My sincere thanks to my wonderful 'Pit Crew' of Karen Armstrong, Brenda Potter and Jackie Wepruk. Without them I would have been lost. They juggled the six dogs I had entered, armbands and bait; made sure I had the right dogs in the ring at the right time; and showed dogs when I ended up with conflicts.
I am very lucky to have such friends.

Finally, my congratulations to all the other winners, especially Brigitte Hunter (BISS) and Candace Cook (BOS and AOM). It was lovely to be in such nice company when the ribbons where being handed out. I think it is especially cool that all the dogs standing in the ring at the end of the judging are dogs that work in harness. :) :) :)


Wednesday 12 November 2003

November 12, 2003

Minnesota Training - Suomi Hills Run

“Lady bug, Lady bug fly away home; Your house is on fire and your children alone…”.

I have no clue where this little rhythm comes from, but it was one I often recited as a child. I loved ladybugs and, like many, considered it to be a sign of good luck when I spotted one. NEVERMORE…
Jamie’s place, and many other places throughout North America (thankfully not Perryvale) have apparently been over run by a strain of Asian or European beetle. They look like ‘normal’ ladybugs with more spots, but they STINK, BITE and are EVERYWHERE. Apparently they were introduced to deal with some aphid problems and have quickly taken over. I don’t know about other places, but I know the aphid problem in the Nelson household was non-existent. And really, what are a few aphids compared to windows and light fixtures thick with little orange bugs??

The colder temperatures a few weeks back drove them into hiding, but any time we warm up the house with a fire or the outside temps go up, they creep out of whatever little cracks and holes they had managed to find.

The poor Shop Vac has been doing double duty due to ladybugs! I must admit, it is sadistically rewarding to watch the little buggers get sucked into the vacuum to their death.
Anyway, back to “Adventures in Togo”….

The morning of October 24th rolled around raining and miserable. Six of us - myself, Jamie, Joel Kersting, Colleen Wallin (Ward must still have been struggling with that Service poem), Nancy and Roger Johnson – huddled around Jamie’s kitchen eating breakfast and dragging our feet about starting our 150-mile trip, the Suomi Hills run, in the rain. Finally, we could stall no longer. We layered on polar fleece and rain gear and headed out. Thankfully the rain slowed down as we were hooking up and although we did have a few snow and rain showers over the next 3 days, overall the weather was pretty much ideal for running dogs in the fall.

Where the previous weekend’s Button Box was a relaxing and fun ‘ease’ into serious fall training - this trip is all work. One hundred and fifty miles, broken down in to (approximately) 25 mile runs with 6 – 8 hours rest in between. After the run, Colleen mentioned to Jamie that this was tough as any race she had been on – and that is EXACTLY the point! (Make training the hardest thing you do in the season, and racing the easiest and most enjoyable, so everyone on the team LOVES to race!) But that is not to say that we don’t have fun along the way!

Our first stop is the intriguingly named Busty Lake. I figured that there must be a colorful and fascinating story behind the naming of this lovely little lake, but it turns out that it was named after Chief Busty, a local native leader. Local legend has it that Chief Busty buried a fortune of gold somewhere in the area. Many have looked, but the mystery remains unsolved. I kept my eyes peeled – but sadly – I’m still broke.

After the dogs and humans were fed, we pulled out our sleeping bags and just threw them down on our mattress pads out in the open. The clouds had cleared and we lay under a spectacular blanket of stars. I wasn’t very tired and besides the sky was so lovely that just lay back and gazed. Later on Jamie and I took turns pointing out passing planes, satellites and falling stars until the clouds quickly and completely came back and a few falling raindrops scared us into packing up our sleeping bags. It was time to water dogs and get ready to leave by then anyway!

The next leg of the run is one I dread, as it includes about 9 miles of travel along the shoulder of paved highways. I put Camilla the Wonder Leader up front and she kept the team safely tucked on the right shoulder of the road the whole way. It was the wee hours of the morning, so there was only sparse traffic anyway.

Soon we were safely back on snow mobile trails, bouncing over downed logs, slogging through mud and dodging partially fallen trees.

Our next stop was Jack the Horse Lake. I thought it must have been a pretty special horse to get a lake named after him, but it turns out Jack was a local miner, renowned for his amazing feats of strength.
Luckily, dogs can’t read – so they didn’t mind bedding down next to the ‘No Camping’ sign. We reassured ourselves that we weren’t really camping, rather just stopping over for 8 hours.
We were all refreshed by our stop and warm meal and eager to get back on the trail for the next leg that would take us to Joel’s place. This run started eventfully with a short, nasty bit of trail and a serious tangle in Jamie’s team. Quick, levelheaded reactions thankfully resolved everything though.
The rest of day passed quickly and as it got dark, we pulled into Joel’s yard.

Joel whipped up a roast, surrounded by veggies from his garden (the carrots were to die for) and treated us all to a much-appreciated feed. With full stomachs and tired bodies we all sprawled around his cabin and snoozed away a few hours of the night. Before daybreak we were again on the trail backtracking our way home.

Around this time it seems I ‘mismanaged my 4 wheeler accessories’ and created some problems that would plague me for the next leg of our journey. See, having an electrician husband is a handy kind of thing and wired to my 4 wheeler I have a GPS (for tracking mileage, location, distance, etc), heated hand warmers (hey – I’ve proved time and time again I can handle the cold. No need to suffer needlessly!), and a 75,000 candlepower spotlight. When we pulled into Joel’s I neglected to turn off my GPS and it drained away on my battery for our 8-hour stay. The ATV started nicely in the cold early the next morning though, but I guess because of all the accessories running the alternator was not able to recover and within a few miles, I found myself with one very dead machine. Using the dogs to ‘jump start’ the engine a few times, I was able to get it going, but it idled rough and stalled quickly and finally refused to restart. I was very gratefully to Roger, who upon learning of my predicament (as I was now traveling in the dark without lights) stayed with me until we caught up with the rest of the group.

Everyone was quick to help out and Jamie watered by dogs while I helped Joel change the spark plug on my machine and looked for any other problems. But it was to no avail, the ATV refused to cooperate. Luckily, it was getting light and the dogs just pulled me into the town of Marcell with the engine in neutral.

I was adamant that I wouldn’t be able to do the highway miles on the way home without a headlight, so we came up with a plan to have Jamie’s son Erik transport another 4 wheeler to Jack the Horse Lake for me. Before he headed out though, we decided to try to jump start my machine off of Jamie’s with a set of jumper cables loaned to us by a kind man at the local gas station. It took a while to locate the battery and a socket set to get at it, but finally we were rewarded with the roar of my ATV coming back to life.

I suffered through a few hours without my hand warmers and other luxuries – but by the end of the run I was totally back in business with a running ATV, warm hands, confidence in my location and the ability to see where I was going!

At 10 am on Monday morning, almost exactly 3 days after we started, our weary, but enthusiastic band of travelers rolled back into Jamie’s yard. Everyone cared for their dogs and all but Jamie and I packed up their trucks and 4 wheelers for their drives home. Before heading our separate ways we all had breakfast together and rehashed our adventures. It’s nice to watch the ‘seeds’ of my own and others teams developing at this time of the year. I know I will be eagerly watching my traveling companions race results this winter and I wish them all a “Bon Hiver”. (You fellow Northern Exposure fans will get that reference from one of my favorite Northern Exposure episodes, I’m sure).

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Sunday 9 November 2003

November 9, 2003

Minnesota Training - Button Box

Time seems to often pass by so incredibly quickly that I am often only aware of the fact that it is passing and not how much and how quickly it is. Maybe that is a good thing.. I do know that many of the bruises and scrapes that seem to be evitable on my journeys to Jamie's are dulling and healing - a sure sign that I've been here awhile. 

It is almost a month since my arrival in Minnesota and my last diary entry. On Thursday I will pack up and head home, via Winnipeg and the Canadian National Siberian Husky Specialty though!
So, so much as happened in the month here (which is probably why I haven't found time to update my diary entries!) that I am sure I will miss some of the stories. I promise to share in later diary entries any of the really good tales I miss this time! 

As many of you know from my previous forays to Togo, the visit is punctuated by several big events - most notably Button Box, the Suomi Hills Run and the Big Dog Bash. 

As per usual, the first of these is Jamie's invitational camping trip most fondly known as Button Box (due to it's location at the Button Box campground on Button Box Lake). I think we forgot to do the formal count this year, but traditionally the event sees over 50 mushers and 300 dogs invading the Campground and this year was no exception. 

The unique format of Button Box makes it suitable for all levels of teams. Teams can either join Jamie for a 20 mile run, an overnight camp and another 24 miles to the Campground; run with another group the 11 mile direct route to the campground or just drive their trucks over and do shorter runs right from the Lake. 

Something like 12 teams, myself included, did the overnight trip. The weather was wonderful and an enjoyable evening around the campfire with a lot of old friends and some new ones followed a fun 20-mile run! 

I was most disappointed that Ward Wallin hadn't joined us on this trip (his lovely and infinitely more charming wife, Colleen was representing 'Team Wallin' this year. That definitely eased my disappointment.). Last year over a similar campfire Ward and I challenged each other to memorize Robert Service's "The Cremation of Sam McGee". I spend the last year reciting "There are strange things done 'neath the Midnight Sun." to the kennel and was ready to challenge Ward to a 'recite off'. But alas, he didn't show. Rumor has it he had done his homework anyway. Next year Ward!! I'm even now working on 'The Shooting of Dan McGrew'. 

My team was reasonable quiet overnight for what was, for many of them, their first camping trip - so I was surprised and a little annoyed come morning to find 2 harnesses, a neckline, and a gangline section thoroughly chomped. Luckily, I was prepared and had spares of everything along with me. Hilda was definitely in my bad books for the morning though. 

The dogs had another strong run down to Button Box and we were able to do a lot of passing and weaving in and out of other teams! This is a great confidence builder for the team and one of the big reasons I like bringing them out to Minnesota. 

After gorging ourselves on deep fried turkeys everyone hooked up dogs and headed out for an evening run. Jamie and I started out with the group, but quickly broke off and headed the 11 miles back to her place to do chores and get a few hours sleep before heading back early in the morning. This works out well for us, as we can swap out dogs, so all the main crew gets to come along for at least part of the adventure. 

The next morning as we were heading back out I ran into a bunch of Button Boxers heading out for a morning run. After many queries of "Do you know the 8-mile loop?" I swung my team down the trail to head out with them. By the time we were back at the campground, we had done a nice tidy little 20 mile run. 

Saturday afternoon's culinary delight was a incredible seasoned roasted lamb from musher, Art Gloor. Rather incredible - and I'm not even much of a lamb fan. 

A Saturday night run and a Sunday run back to Jamie's rounded up the weekend.

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Next...the Suomi Hills run!

Wednesday 22 October 2003

October 22, 2003

Fall Training Pool

Well news has been sparse from here for the last while. That is because I was busy traveling and settling down in Minnesota for my yearly ‘training trip’. Finally, things are settling into a bit of a routine and I’m able to spend some time answering some emails and doing diary entries.

First off, I guess you all might be interested to know exactly who is here in Minnesota (dog wise) with me. As I’ve whined in the past, there were some really, really hard decisions to be made this season – and for the first time, Mark is maintaining a small ‘pool’ of ‘A’ team dogs at home for me too.

All that said, the dogs here, in no particular order are:   
  • NorthWapiti’s Super Grover
  • NorthWapiti’s Orion the Hunter
  • NorthWapiti’s Kobuk
  • NorthWapiti’s Oden
  • NorthWapiti’s Robert E. Lee (Squeaky)
  • Chlout’s Hector
  • NorthWapiti’s Crunchie
  • NorthWapiti’s Pepsi
  • NorthWapiti’s Camilla
  • Alaskan’s Olena of Anadyr
  • NorthWapiti’s Snickers
  • Chuchinka’s San Antonio Rose (Kaylinn)
  • NorthWapiti’s Draco
  • NorthWapiti’s Sir Galahad (Surge)
  • NorthWapiti’s Denali
  • Ch. NorthWapiti’s Loki
  • Chlout’s Herman
  • Clout’s Moses of Velikyra
  • NorthWapiti’s Barq’s got Bite (Barq)
  • NorthWapiti’s Sprite
  • Ch. NorthWapiti’s Freya
  • NorthWapiti’s Nahanni
  • Chuchinka’s Pathfinder (Chester)
  • Chlout’s Hilda
Still in the main string, but back in Perryvale are:
  • NorthWapiti’s Mr. Snuffleupagus (Gus)
  • NorthWapiti’s Valykrie Kara
  • Ch. Innisfree Pirate’s Treasure (Pirate)
  • Ch. NorthWapiti’s Guy Smiley
  • Chuchinka’s Nicolai the 2nd
  • Ch. Kainai’s Anchorman (Mannie)
Must sign off this entry for now – but (hopefully) more soon!!

Monday 6 October 2003

October 6, 2003

Fall Training

Well, the bright yellow colors of fall have deepened into warm caramel and toffee colors, accented by russet reds, oranges, and all shades of brown – the countryside here is simply breathtaking. I find the wide variety of fall colors to be much more visually interesting and eye catching then the shades of any other season!

Our training for the team is progressing well. Currently the dogs have between 250 – 300 miles of training on them, which is a little behind where I wanted to be, but well in line with last year’s mileage. Our ‘first cut’ to the main string is coming up pretty quick. Some of the decisions are becoming pretty obvious – others are going to be very tough. We are actually thinking of doing something new for this season. Four or five main string dogs may remain at home when I go to Minnesota. Mark will keep the mileage up on them and then when I get home we will then be working with a pool of 28 or 29, instead of the normal 24.

This allows us to run 2 – 14 dog strings in training, which is what we are currently doing and will give the team some more depth to it. Always good!

The main string dogs that stay behind will be dogs that have been on our Minnesota training trips before, so they are all well acquainted with traveling, living in different places, camping, passing, and the other things this trip teaches them!

This is an interesting time for us at home. Early in the season, we can do our runs without leaving our own land and the ‘Green’ (Government owed land) around it, so other then a few coyotes, squirrels, deer, moose, bear and the likes, we don’t have a big audience during training. However once our daily mileage exceeds 10 miles we end up adding gravel roads and highway ditches to our runs.

The first few outings into the ‘public’ eye always seem like a circus! Are Mark and I the only people in the world that don’t carry a camera or video camera in our vehicle?? The number of people that quickly whip out their cameras and click away when they see us amazes me. Even if I did have a camera in the truck, it would take me a half hour (easy) to locate it!

And then there is the folks that pace along beside us for several miles in the ditch – or, better yet – BACK UP along the highway to get an improved shot. Some days I cringe and wonder just how far debris from an accident would fly….

And, of course, on the gravel roads folks will stop and I’ll get the inevitable questions; “What are you training for?”, “The WHAT?”; “Are they pulling that on their own?”; and my all time favorite “Have you ever thought of hooking them up to a sled and having them pull you on the snow?” (NO – I’m not kidding – and YES – he was serious).

Honestly, I am so grateful to the folks that slow down to pass us on the roads, that I’m happy to take the time to answer any questions or just to say ‘HI’ and let them meet the dogs.

Because of all the training we do do in the vicinity of traffic, our teams are very strictly trained to hug the right side of the road. “Gee Over” is probably our most commonly used command. The veterans like Grover, Draco (especially Draco), Gus, and Camilla are wizards and will scoot over in a heartbeat. For the rookies it takes a good deal of work to get the message through their heads. I almost thought Olena was going to be incapable of learning the command, as she is so left ‘pawed’. Every time I’d get after her, she’d look at me over her left shoulder and end up swinging back out into the middle of the road. I was going up so many times to correct her that I was probably putting more miles on foot then with the team! Thankfully, this year she seems to have gotten the hang of it.

Now I just have to get it into the heads of Kobuk, Denali, Moses, Crunchie and the other young leaders! Some nights I swear I mumble ‘Gee Over’ in my sleep! (Maybe that is why Mark sleeps on the right side of the bed!! Doesn’t work though – he still hogs the bed and the covers!)
Last week was ‘Vet Day’ here – or as the vet described in her notes at the Clinic (faxed to me with some other paperwork) ‘Herd Health and Vaccination Day’. I don’t think I’ve ever thought of them as a ‘herd’ before – but a herd of huskies is a pretty accurate description I suppose! Everyone got their shots and I had Karla look at a few other little things – nothing major!

We did blood work on Freya. Last year she had a low red cell volume prior to Iditarod that kept her off the team, this time we are monitoring her levels closely throughout the year so we have an accurate ‘baseline’ on her. It is looking now like that is ‘just Freya’ and therefore is nothing that will stop her from participating in Iditarod this time.

Karla came equipped with words of advice from Tannis, who has done Vet Day in the past - label all the needles in case they get knocked out of your hand (The first time Tannis was here we walked into the ‘puppy pen’ to vaccinate the pups, they stampeded over to greet us and sent the box of needles she was holding flying. A mad scramble ensued as Tannis and I tried to beat the pups to the syringes – luckily we recovered them all without incident); never put anything down within reach of a dog (Always a good one here. Karla listened well and lost nothing – I however played tag with Spotty Dog to recover the paperwork with the list of which dogs needed which shot.); and don’t poke Karen with a needle (Karen is scared to death of needles). All very good pieces of advice!

Anyway…that’s the news for today! I’m busy scrambling trying to get lots of loose ends tied up before my trip to Minnesota!


Tuesday 30 September 2003

September 30, 2003

Kennel Noise
Mark was away tonight and as I was finishing up feeding the dogs I was reflecting on the issue of kennel noise.

Most folks seem to think that our yard of 60+ dogs is a constant clamor of noise. Actually that is far from the truth. Other then feeding time, hook up and incidents like loose dogs and visitors; our yard is a pretty quiet place.
As I worked my way through the dogs picking up bowls after feeding tonight I was enjoying in the peace in my corner of the world.

Sure, there was some noise – the occasionally dog tongue lapping up an after dinner drink, dogs like Jumper who give soft ‘woos’ at my approach, others like Butch who jump on their house and impatiently tap their nails on their roofs to get me to hurry to them, chains dragging across the dogs ‘front porches’ as they go in and out of their houses, the crunching of tires on the gravel road on the other side of the river – but nothing that impedes thought or appreciation for quiet.

I sat down on Howl’s house to enjoy the sense of peaceful contentment in the yard.

Then, from the top of the dog yard came the first note – one dog lifting their head and singing into the evening sky. Quickly a few more joined in, then all 60 (or so) added their notes to the ‘song’. Some distinctive voices I can pick out – Nahanni and Kluane’s unique and rather off key sound, the impatient barks at the end of a note that Holly throws in, Fly’s comical (although we would NEVER tell him) attempt, the short over enthusiastic yips and yowls from the puppies, other voices just blend and mix together. Tails wag and faces, mine included, smile as the valley fills with Siberian song.
Then, much quicker then it started, it is over – 30 seconds of song and they are set for a quiet evening.

I take this over city noise any day!

Driveway in the Fall

Fall blueberries

Left-over berries

Trail of Leaves

Sunday 28 September 2003

September 28, 2003

Fall Activities

The days are passing so quickly, it is mind-boggling. It seems like only yesterday the green in the trees started to dull and hint of their fall colors, now most of the leaves are littering the ground and making a beautiful blanket of yellow for the dog teams to run across! The blueberries stand out spectacularly against their now red foliage. 

Virtually everything in my garden is dead. Luckily, I rescued a few tomatoes before the hard frosts came. Within the next week, I will try to clean up and cover up the beds so I don't have to worry about them later in the fall. 

My sense of anticipation about the upcoming winter has turned more into a sense of panic as I think of all the things that still need to be done and yet, running dogs is now the biggest priority. 
The dogs continue to do great in harness. I make it a fast rule to not make any judgments on dogs until I have over 200 miles of training on them for the season. The wisdom of this has become pretty obvious this month. At the beginning of September, if you had asked me to 'rate' the 'H's' (Hector, Hilda, and Herman) I would have glowed about Hilda, spoke fondly of Hector and told you I was considering selling Herm. Here we are September 28th and I'm speaking fondly of Hilda, glowing about Hector and totally awed by Herman!! 

Snickers developed a bizarre abscess on her jaw that required a quick trip to see Dr. Jackson at the Westlock Vet Clinic. Tannis drained it and put her on antibiotics for a bit. The swelling is almost gone now and Snicky is back in the team working her heart out. Phew - it would be such a shame to be forced to 'shelf' such a promising young dog for this season for something so fluky! 
Last week saw me somewhere I haven't been in a very long time. Many of you may know from the Iditarod info put out, that I was born in Toronto. We moved west when I was 11 (in 1975) and I have been back once in the last 28 years (My dad used to say that Toronto was a good place to be FROM!) - but last weekend found me visiting again. This time it was on behalf of one of my sponsors, Eagle Pet Products.

I did a couple presentations - one for the Eagle Canadian sales staff and one for the Ontario Federation of Sleddog Sports.

It was a terrific weekend. The Eagle folks are first rate and treated me wonderfully. We even went out to see 'The Lion King' (the live version - not the cartoon one). The staging and special effects were remarkable!

The OFSS seminar was in Marmora, Ontario - about 2 hours from the city. The drive out was quite lovely - that is a nice area! It was nice to put a few faces to names I've 'known' for awhile. I was especially thrilled to get to meet Don McEwan, who ran Iditarod with a mostly Norris team of Siberians in the early '90's. Don did a short talk and showed some footage on his World Record holding 78-dog team that he hooked up for a British TV commercial. Absolutely incredible! 
As a 'thank you' for my presentation, the OFSS presented me with a lovely hand forged knife made by a local craftsman. That's a special gift that will certainly be useful on Iditarod! Lucky I remembered to put it in my checked luggage and didn't try to get onto the plane with it - or I'd probably still be answering questions to the airport folks! 

One of the best parts of the day was that Smiley came back to me!!! As you may know, Smiles has been summering in New Hampshire with Kim and Kelly Berg of Kelim Siberians. Friends Scott and Corina Alexander came up from NH for the seminar and brought Smiley up to me. 
After a 4-month separation, his greeting seemed pretty low key. It wasn't until we got back to our hotel room that I was convinced he had missed me - once out of his crate he followed me everywhere and whenever I sat down he'd stretch out beside me so as much of his body as possible was touching mine. 
Smiley and I spent Sunday working the Eagle booth for a Pet Industry Trade Show and flew back home Sunday evening. 

All for today!

Wednesday 10 September 2003

September 10, 2003

Puppies & New Dogs

I believe that I have probably said it before, but I’ll say it again – I LOVE fall! Although the weather hasn’t been as cooperative, in regards to running dogs, as I’d like, there is still that smell and sense of promise in the air that fall brings to a sled dog kennel. 

The days are cooler and everyone’s energy level jumps up. Projects seem to take on an air of urgency as winter lurks on the horizon. I notice that the forest creatures seem to feel much the same way. Squirrels have this insane tendency to dart across the trails immediately in front of the dog team, carrying pinecones, mushrooms or other treasures. Where at any other time of the year they would be content to wait till danger passed them, in the fall they seem to feel that getting their treasure safely stashed away cannot possibly wait that extra split second. 

Many of the birds around here have already left. The ‘monkey like’ calls of the purple martins have now been replaced by the hoarse and distinctive vocalizations of the crows, which congregate near our place before heading south. Last night, as we headed out to feed, the sky was a remarkable shade of blue, accented by beautiful clouds of purple. The crows circled and squawked, giving the scene a look that would have been any cinematographers dream. 

The puppies continue to grow like weeds. Jinx, Q, Chip, and Dare have all progressed to running loose next to the 4 wheeler – there is just no way to keep up with them on foot anymore. Kaylinn has been weaned from her puppies and is back working in harness. Her children are enjoying their walks in the woods and, thanks to the patience and assistance of Fly, we are still able to go for nice walks with them. 

We did decide to go ahead and breed one more litter this year. Joey has been bred to Nik and is due early in October! 

Last weekend I was in Bozeman, Montana speaking on ‘Siberians in the Iditarod’ for the 13th Annual Race to the Sky Seminar. I had a great time. I was expecting my talk, which was early on Sunday morning, to be attended by only Siberian Husky owners. It was a very pleasant – but also a slightly nerve racking - surprise to see 2 time Yukon Quest winner Hans Gatt, 5th place Iditarod finisher Ken Anderson, and top stage racer Gwen Holdman among the Alaskan drivers attending. I got lots of positive feedback on my presentation, including the very nice comment that my theme of ‘getting the most from the dogs you own’ was relevant to all mushers! 

It boggles my mind to be recognized and included with mushers like Hans, Ken and Gwen. I still feel like a Little League ballplayer that accidentally stumbled onto a Major League field and is now surrounded by many of the players that they look up to. Too cool! 

Well, I mentioned last time that I would introduce you to the remaining dogs in my training pool, so here goes. 

Chlout’s Hilda of NorthWapiti (Alaskan’s Raven of Anadyr x Alaskan’s Baleen of Anadyr) – We collectively refer to Hilda and her brothers, Hector and Herman, as the ‘H’s’. Hilda is quite possibly my favorite of the bunch. A pretty, outgoing 3 year old black and white gal – she is a real contender for the team this year!

Chlout’s Hector of NorthWapiti (Alaskan’s Raven of Anadyr x Alaskan’s Baleen of Anadyr) – Hector is distinguishable from his littermates because he is missing the tip of his tail from a puppyhood accident. “Where the Heck is your tail??” we often tease him. A tremendous mover! 

Chlout’s Herman of NorthWapiti (Alaskan’s Raven of Anadyr x Alaskan’s Baleen of Anadyr) – Herman or ‘The Hermanator’, as Mark often calls him, is not as flashy as his siblings, but he is solid in harness!

Clout’s Moses of Velikaya (Smokey II of Velikaya x Buffy of Velikaya) – This is one of the real up coming STARS of our team. Bob Chlupach practically insisted I take this dog when I was up in Alaska last year. I hummed and hawed and am so glad Bob finally talked me into this neat boy. Watch for this ‘white’ (he’s actually grey and white – but from a distance looks white) boy at the front of my team A LOT this winter! He may not part water, but he definitely walks on it in my books!

NorthWapiti’s Anadyr Terra (Alaskan’s Skookum of Anadyr x Alaskan’s Kessa of Anadyr II) – Terra is actually owned by Natalie Norris, but is back here working for the winter. A littermate to Denali, Kobuk, Nahanni, and Kluane this big strapping girl is fitting in well!

Hmmm, did I say 36?? Looks like on second count there are 35 in the pool! Okay, so math was never my strongest subject in school!

Wednesday 27 August 2003

August 27, 2003

Things are beginning to seem like Fall around here. The temperatures have finally dropped, so much in fact, that my tomato plants are now in danger – but I can always buy tomatoes and I can’t buy training time on my dogs, so I’m okay with it!

The dogs are really getting with the ‘program’ quickly this year. In fact, I am constantly awed by their attitude in harness. With 36 in training, I continually remind myself and am amazed by the fact that over ½ of this crew will not make it to the Iditarod team. They all, or at least almost all, seem totally capable and eager to head to Nome! We have put a lot of time, blood, sweat, tears, and money into the kennel over the years to get to this level and I am THRILLED to see things really coming together!  
I thought I would go through and introduce everyone to the ‘pool’. Some I’ve talked about at length over the years, so I’ll just mention them by name, but the young ones that are ‘here’ for the first time, I will tell you all something about.  

Returning for another year are (in no order other then the order I feed them in each night);

NorthWapiti’s Super Grover
NorthWapiti’s Draco
Chuchinka’s Nikolai 2nd
NorthWapiti’s Sir Galahad (Surge)
Ch. Innisfree Pirate’s Treasure (Pirate)
NorthWapiti’s Robert E. Lee (Squeaky)
NorthWapiti’s Orion
Chuchinka’s Pathfinder (Chester)
Ch. NorthWapiti’s Loki
NorthWapiti’s Mr. Snuffleupagus (Gus)
NorthWapiti’s Kobuk
Ch. Kainai’s Anchorman (Mannie)
NorthWapiti’s Denali
NorthWapiti’s Odin
Ch. NorthWapiti’s Guy Smiley
Chuchinka’s San Antonio Rose (Kaylinn)
Alaskan’s Olena of Anadyr
NorthWapiti’s Nahanni
NorthWapiti’s Valkayrie Kara
NorthWapiti’s Camilla
NorthWapiti’s Kluane
Ch. NorthWapiti’s Freya

The 2 year olds coming into this group are a good and solid bunch. They are; 

NorthWapiti’s Barq’s Got Bite (NorthWapiti’s Butch Cassidy SD x Alaskan’s Jumper of Anadyr) – Barq is a leggy, over enthusiastic, young man. His eyes, one being blue and one half blue and half brown, add to his slightly crazed persona. He is, however, one of the fastest dogs I’ve ever hooked up. If I can just get him to stay still long enough to get a harness on, he should be a real contender for the team.

NorthWapiti’s Crunchie (NorthWapiti’s Super Grover x Northome’s Visa) – Crunchie is, quite possibility, my favorite of the 2 year olds. He has his father’s sweet and serious personality – with his Mom’s ‘Velcro’ qualities.  His first runs in lead where so wonderful, it made the hair on my arms stand up. I have HIGH hopes for this handsome, shiny black boy!

NorthWapiti’s Skor (NorthWapiti’s Super Grover x Northome’s Visa) – a littermate to Crunch, Skor is the bigger, goofier one of the brothers. He struggled a bit earlier in the season, but now seems to have found his legs and is a serious, hard driving contributor to the team!

NorthWapiti’s Snickers (NorthWapiti’s Super Grover x Northome’s Visa) – Snickers is the sweetest, most affectionate gal you could imagine. She loves nothing more then pets and scratches – well, except maybe for running! She is a good-sized girl with a tremendous athletic build. One of Mark’s very favorites in the kennel!

NorthWapiti’s Pepsi (NorthWapiti’s Butch Cassidy SD x Alaskan’s Jumper of Anadyr) – Peps is a wonderful combination of both her parents. A super build, a head for lead and a desire to get moving. Could I ask for anything more??

NorthWapiti’s Sprite (NorthWapiti’s Butch Cassidy SD x Alaskan’s Jumper of Anadyr) – Sprite is very hard to tell apart from her sister, Pepsi – except for the fact that she has 2 brown eyes where Peps has one blue and one brown. Both of the girls have had their turn leading already and are showing tremendous promise!

NorthWapiti’s Dasher (NorthWapiti’s Butch Cassidy SD x NorthWapiti’s Valkyrie Kara) – Dasher is a ‘young’ 2, having been born in December of 01 – however you would never, ever figure that out by watching her in harness. She’s already doing more leading then most of her young peers. She is AMAZING!

NorthWapiti’s Holland Lake (NorthWapiti’s Odin x Chuchinka’s San Antonio Rose) – Holly is really not expected to make the team this year, being that she was born in March of ’02. However, she seems rather determined to stay with the ‘training pool’ and is putting in solid runs for us. If she gets cut this season, we expect her back with a vengeance in ’04!

The rest I’m saving for the next entry!

Sunday 24 August 2003

August 24, 2003

Another New Champion
Just over a week ago I made a quick trip out to Vancouver to pick up Loki and drop off Freya for Cynthia and Kerry to take out to a few shows, hoping for those last 2 points for her Championship!

Well, Freya decided that big brother Loki was not going to show her up and on Friday took points to become Ch. NorthWapiti's Freya ! :) :) :)

Next up is Loki and Freya's sister, Kara - who is already on 6 points - but that will probably have to wait until after Iditarod now!


Wednesday 30 July 2003

July 30, 2003

New Champion!
Lots of news from the weekend, but for now I'm just going to report the show stuff!

I was at the Westerly show in Edmonton with Freya and Mannie. It wasn't the greatest weekend for us, but Mannie did manage to pick up a Group 4th yesterday under Cec Ringstrom that I've very pleased about.

My bud, Jackie Wepruk was there with her Smiley son, Jaraw's Zini Zepplynn and they picked up 2 more points towards his Championship.

The really exciting news came from Prince George, BC where Loki was with his handlers, Cynthia and Kerry Seeling. Loki took 3 Best of Winners wins to finish his Championship!! Way to go Loki!!! We are so, so pleased!

:) :) :) :) :) :)

Wednesday 23 July 2003

July 23, 2003

Greetings from toasty warm northern Alberta! 

This has been the worst July we have had since moving to Perryvale. Okay, others may disagree and think that warm evenings, mornings, and hot days are an enjoyable thing during the summer. Me - I'm more a fan of cool mornings and warm days! * sigh *

I've only been able to get 2 teams out so far this July. But I do admit that I'd rather have a warm, 'unable to run' July then the same in January or February! The 35 miles that I had planned for the dogs this month will easily be made up down the road. 

The pups have certainly been keeping us busy. Chip, Dare, Q, and Jinx have all adapted well to outdoor living. They have even learned to dig, which keeps them nice and dirty! We took them into the vets yesterday for their first shots and a checkup. One of the techs commented on what an interesting soft gray color Dare was. I had to own up to the fact that she was actually white - just very dirty! Ah, well - they seem happiest that way!

Yesterday I filled the kiddie pool up for them. No one is brave enough to dip more then their toes in it yet, but I'm sure in no time they will figure out how much easier it is to get dirty when you add water to the equation!

Kaylinn's kids are as noisy and rambunctious as week old pups can be. Finding themselves more then 2 inches from a nipple leads to squawking and screaming that you wouldn't believe. I've run into the back room a million times, figuring the pups were tangled in a blanket and on the verge of death, only to find out that the fuss was over not being able to push one of their littermates away from nursing or something equally simple. What a pushy bunch they are!

Loki is now out with Cynthia and Kerry for the summer. Cynthia says that he is getting along with all the other dogs and other then the death and destruction of a few plants in their garden, things are going very well.

He actually picked up 3 more points towards his Championship at the Evelyn Kenney show in Calgary the weekend I dropped him off. Just 3 more to go! This weekend coming up he will be in Prince George, B.C. working on those last 3 remaining points. Go Loki!!!!

Actually, it will be a busy time in the ring for us over the next few weeks. In addition to Loki being out - Mannie, Freya and I will be in Edmonton.

After the weekend there, the dogs and I will be home for a couple days and then heading off to Calgary, for what will probably be our last show of the summer.

I'm crossing my fingers and saying my prayers for Freya and Loki finishing - as well as some nice wins for Mannie. I've been threatening for a while to retire Mannie from showing, but he enjoys it so much and has been doing so well lately, that I just can't! And I will admit, although it is not the same 'rush' I get from being behind a dog team, there is a certain indescribable thrill to gaiting a beautiful, capable example of your breed around the show ring!

All for today!!

Wednesday 16 July 2003

July 16, 2003

Litter Announcement
We are pleased to announce the arrival of 5 new NorthWapiti kids out of Iditarod Finishers, Chuchinka's San Antonio Rose (Kaylinn) and Tumnatki's Bosun NorthWapiti (Striker).

I am SHOCKED to announce that we got 2 dark red females; 1 white and light red piebald male; 1 white and dark red piebald male; and 1 grey and white male. I haven't whelped out a red in 12 years - and never a red pie!

These lines are the LAST in my yard that I would have expected piebalds or reds from. I think Striker has one red dog in his pedigree, period - although there are the odd related red that have cropped up over the years.

Anyway, Mom and babes are doing terrific. You can see a picture of them here

Still shaking my head....