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!