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!!!!