Wednesday 31 August 2005

August 31, 2005 The Rules

Rules are made to be broken – right?? So I can be forgiven for blatantly disregarding my own rules – right?? Please???

Okay, maybe you all need a few more facts to go along with this - so then you can all tell me I was right – or at least that my decision was understandable.

The Rule in question is this one – I will not put a dog over 12 through surgery.

It’s a good rule, I agree – heck, I made it – it has to be a good rule. Surgery is hard on an older dog and I am not convinced that the benefit of many surgeries are not outweighed by what the surgery takes out of them. And 12 years is a good long life for a dog – right??

Let me back up a little further here. About a week ago I noticed a lump on Buddy’s neck (yes, 14 year old Buddy). Mark and I figured it was an abscess and attempted to drain it. It didn’t want to drain, not a great sign, but we stuck him on a week of antibiotics to see if that would help. It didn’t, so today I took him into vet. The vet attempted to drain it, with the same results we got. Next step was to get some cells under a microscope. I knew what he was going to say before he came back into the room – I’ve been down this road before. No infection and the cells look cancerous. The good news was that the mass seems ‘encapsulated’ and Buddy is in terrific health and spirits.
In my defense, I’d like to say I hummed and hawed over the decision, but in all honesty, I didn’t. He is scheduled for surgery this afternoon.

If Buddy’s health had been poor, if the mass seemed ‘attached’ or ‘spread out’, maybe then I would have, but the simple fact of the matter is I owe him a shot. After there was Allie and before there was Grover – there was Buddy. At 8 months of age he began leading for me.

Buddy as a pup
Buddy as a pup
He led our team through many changes and down many trails. His last race was the 2000 Iditarod. I’ve never felt it was a coincidence that I dropped him in Unalakleet that year and ended up unable to leave that checkpoint. Like Allie did, like Grover does, he made a team better just by being a part of it – putting him in lead could elevate them all to the next level.

Buddy was the dog on our first Iditarod logo.
He’s a tough old dog – if any dog stands a chance of defeating cancer, I would think it would be him. So I’m giving him the chance. Wouldn’t you??
Maybe it will give us 2 more years, maybe 2 more months, maybe 2 more weeks…whatever it is – I owe him.

Buddy is the prominent dog in the 2000 print 'Nightrunners'.
For the record – I broke the rule for Allie too. After all, rules are made to be broken – aren’t they?


This is our team on the way to a 5th place finish at the 1998 Quesnel, B.C. Goldrush Trail Sleddog Race.
Photo taken by Ross Mitchell of the Quesnel Caribou Observer.

Tuesday 23 August 2005

August 23, 2005 Just How Does He Do It??

A couple years ago Mark bought me a neat little mini 'weather station' for my birthday. It sits next to my bed, but has a remote sensor out in the dog yard, so I know the true temperature outside without even getting out of bed. My ritual at this time of year is such that I roll over and check the outside temperature as soon as I wake up each morning. If it is below 10 C (52 F), I get up and run dogs - above 10 C and I roll over and try to catch a bit more sleep (although I do usually get up anyway and try and catch up on emails before the day really starts).

Now, the truth of matter is - Mark has no problem running dogs when we can do so in the middle of the day - but he just isn't a 'morning guy'. He will get up and run dogs with me in the mornings, but it usually takes the smells of breakfast cooking, coffee brewing and a bit of harassing to get him out of bed.
At this time of year, each night before he goes to bed he prays that the temperature is above 10 C in the morning - and darn it, it is working. So far this month out of the 9 days he has been off only 1 of those days was cool enough to run dogs. In contrast, out of the 14 days he has worked this month - 11 of those were cool enough to run. This morning is the first of his 6 day off stretch and the temperature is 10.1C.
I checked, despite the fact that he has threatened to, he's not moving the remote sensor into the garage or house at night to give a false reading. Either he has some freaky control over the weather or his prayers are being answered. Personally, either way I think he is frittering away his powers for a few extra hours sleep. Maybe I'll make a list for him of ways that I think he can better use those powers - but I'm thinking it is going to take more then breakfast and coffee to get him to pay attention - he does love his sleep.


Sunday 21 August 2005

August 21, 2005 The Nook at NorthWapiti

Many of you probably aren't aware, but Mark and I were toying around with some big life changes earlier this year. It all started in March, when we were driving through Whitehorse on our way back home from Alaska. "Why don't we live here?" I asked. Neither Mark nor I could answer the question. 
See, for years folks have asked us why we don't live in Alaska - and I have two answers to that question - 1) it is too crowded (I know that sounds odd, but really it is hard to find land in Alaska that is 'on the grid' (in other words - has electricity) but doesn't have close neighbours) and 2) it isn't in Canada. Not that I have anything against the US - obviously I don't - I spend a ton of time there and many of my dearest friends are American. But in our hearts and souls Mark and I are Canadian. Neither one of us can really imagine living anywhere else. 

However, Whitehorse isn't as crowded as places like Willow, AK - and it is in Canada - so just why don't we live there? It would certainly be closer to the races I like to run in Alaska and I wouldn't have to leave home for 3 months of the year if we lived there. I could drive up, race and then just come home after the race was over. Plus, our area in northern Alberta is great for fall training, but not so great for sleds. Around Whitehorse there are hundreds and hundreds of miles of trail for dog sleds. 
So we spent virtually all our spare time in April, May and June researching the Whitehorse area - This makes my trip to Whitehorse to show this June make a little more sense now too, doesn't it? After all this time what we have discovered is that we can now answer the question of why we don't live in Whitehorse - we don't live in Whitehorse because Mark can't find a job comparable to his job here - and house and living expenses are all higher then here. Financially it just isn't a move for us that makes sense, at this time. I know Mark was very disappointed - I was both disappointed and relieved.

Honestly, while I saw the pluses of the move, the thought of the actual move was almost completely overwhelming - and I do LOVE our place here in Perryvale. Well, love it except for a couple things .
Those of you that have been out to visit us know that our house is small and doesn't accommodate company well. So far this year we have had folks from BC, Minnesota, New Hampshire, California and the UK camped out on our couch at various times - as well as shuffling a few off to the motel down the road. It is a real pain. If we were staying, that needed to change. For years we've talked about adding onto the house, but in reality, we both know that is never going to happen - every time we scrape any money together, we spend it on races or things like new dog trucks. So we began to talk about putting a small 'sleeping' cabin for guests in the yard. 

We looked at packages and plans online, but as gifted and talented as my husband is in many areas - he isn't the world's best carpenter (or backgammon player - but that's a whole other story). I talked to our friend, Roger Morey - who I consider 'up there' in the 'world's best carpenter' ranks, but before he could get back to me I was driving through Westlock one day and spotted these cute little 'cabins' outside the local UFA. UFA (United Farmers of Alberta) is an interesting place; you can buy anything from chicken feed to new socks to lumber to canola seed there. I stopped by to take a look and inquire about the price of the buildings. It was a little smaller then we wanted, but cute - and priced well below what I thought it would be. When Roger got a hold of me I told him of the change of plans and asked if he would drop by UFA one day and take a look at the building for us. He did and gave it the 'Roger stamp of approval' - later that week our new 10x12 'cabin' arrived.

Now, let me explain 'arrived' a little better. 'Arrived' means the cabin was unloaded outside our yard gates - not somewhere it could stay. No problem assured Mark and friend Andrew visiting from the UK. They told Chris (Andrew's wife) and I to go do our running around in town and it would be moved when we got back. We got back to find it sitting in exactly the same spot it was when we left (and the guys drinking beer). Turns out the ATV's couldn't budge it. That evening a call was made to the neighbour's begging for use of a tractor. Because our neighbours are wonderful, within a ½ hour we could hear the rumbling of a tractor coming down the driveway. The move wasn't that quick and for a bit I feared both the cabin and tractor were permanently parked in a dip next to the garage, but I should have had faith. Mark and young David persevered and eventually the cabin was close enough to where we wanted it!

A few days later I made another call to Roger and hired him to finish off the inside of the cabin. What would have taken Mark and I months to get done, took Roger days and the cabin (right now being called the Nook at NorthWapiti - 'cause it isn't much bigger then a nook) just needs a bunk bed and a few odds and end before it is ready for use. Which is good, because it already is 'booked' for the Fall Warm Up Weekend - which is just 2 weeks away.

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There is one more task related to the Nook that I wanted to take care of. Although we have never used it, there is a nicely built outhouse sitting in our yard that I wanted to 'reclaim' and bring back into use. I know the squirrels have been using it, as I often see TakeOut crouched in the bushes around the building waiting for them to come and go, but how bad could it be?? FAMOUS last words.

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Fly and I headed out to the outhouse to take a look. Before opening the door I gave it a kick and heard something thump in there. Cautious I cracked the door. There were no squirrels, but I had just opened the door to squirrel paradise!

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The floor had a 3-inch layer of dried mushrooms and pinecones - as well as mushrooms jammed in every space possible, but the 'piece de resistance' was the magazine rack on the door. Stuffed in there was the most glorious Siberian fur squirrel nest you've ever seen - complete with snacks within early reach of the entrance.

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Squirrel heaven - although not heaven for a human who needs to pee in the middle of the night. I deemed that even if I cleaned it all up, I could never sit on that hole without wondering what might be living beneath the toilet seat. So, the goal now is to have a new 'hole' dug before the Fall Warm Up Weekend and recruit a group of burly men to move the outhouse on top of it. Problem solved - although I think I'll continue to use the indoor plumbing.

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 ©Penny Blankenship

Thursday 18 August 2005

August 18, 2005 Daddy Determined

We are a happy household today!!!!!


We just got the phone call!!!


Haven't figured out who won the contest yet - too busy dancing for joy - but I will get to it later today!!!

WAHOO!!!! YIPPEE!!!!!!!


Tuesday 16 August 2005

August 16, 2005 Puppy Names

Most of you that have been out to the kennel or around Mark and I at races or such know that Mark is very good about deferring to me in most matters relating to the dogs. However, every now and again he gets an idea in his head in regards to a dog name, which dog to keep, etc and just won't let it go. It would be extremely foolish of me to not take these requests very seriously.

For the last few days, as I've been bouncing names for Nahanni's pups off him he keeps referring to the puppies by a set of names he picked out for them. This morning, as we were returning the latest 'escapees' to the pool, he picked up the boy and again referred to him by the name he's been calling him for the last 4 or 5 days. "Are you serious?", I asked, "Do you really want to give them those names??". He looked at me incredulously and said, "Yes".

I spent a couple hours seeing if I could get my head around these names and finally agreed that I could and that, actually, in a twisted sort of Mark way, they were kind of cute names.

Now, we've decided to not make this too easy on you guys - we are going to play some Trivial Pursuit.
Here goes - Nahanni's puppies are being named after the members of a fictional rock band that spent some time with some castaways in 1965 TV series.

Do you know????

Well, the show is Gilligan's Island, the Band was the Mosquitoes, and the names are Bingo, Bango, Bongo and Irving.

Jim and Melissa, I'm blaming the two of you for this one. For my birthday the Geeks gave me the complete 2nd season of Gilligan's Island on DVD (I watch DVD's while working out, so I'm forever looking for stuff to watch). As soon as I got home with it, Mark had it open, had rifled through the menu, and was watching that episode - which he declared his all time favorite. *sigh*


Monday 15 August 2005

August 15, 2005 Two Geeks and A Dog

Some of you may recall that I got a sister in law last December when my baby brother, Geek (aka Jim, although, honestly, I've called him Geek since he was in his teens.) got married. Mrs. Geek (aka Melissa or Mel) is a sweet, trusting gal, probably too sweet to be part of a family that includes Mark.
Those of you that know Mark know that he has a very quick and sharp wit. Many times it is so sharp and quick it can offend. Some times intended, sometimes not. For that reason, I spend a lot of time filtering for him - filtering stuff before it gets to him, filtering stuff before it gets to other people. My life is smoother and easier that way.

Now imagine my dismay when Mark cc'd me on his reply to an email Mel had sent directly to him at work. This is just simply not supposed to happen. I knew trouble was brewing.

Turns out Mel had approached Mark on her wedding day and asked if she could have a puppy. He apparently said 'sure' (which Geek wisely assumes was said to make her stop bothering him), so she was now emailing him to ask for a Grover/Kara puppy (You just have to admire folks that aim high * grin *).

Anyway, Mark advised her that puppy sales had nothing to do with him and that she would have to ask me. He further went on to tell her that a puppy might be more then they could deal with at this point in their life, but generously (so she thought) offered her a good deal on one of our older dogs - Spud.

I just know some of you are saying 'but didn't Spud.' - yes, he did. Don't get ahead of the story.

Anyway, Mel was delighted and excitedly shared the news with Jim that Mark was willing to sell them Spud. I think Jim probably knew right away - but he is a newlywed, he's not admitting it now. He suggested that Mel go on our website and look Spud up. Poor girl, imagine her face when she looked up Spud and found his bio in our 'Gone, but not forgotten' section. "Well, we have his ashes." was Mark's excuse when I chided him for setting Mel up so badly.

To shorten up a story that is getting really long, Mark and I convinced the Geeks that their busy lifestyle wouldn't work with a puppy (and besides, he may be my only brother, but did he really think he was getting a Grover/Kara puppy???) but offered them Oreo.

Oreo has been retired for a couple years and although she is a very special girl that we both adore and didn't really want to see leave, we knew she would be perfect for Jim and Mel and that she would love that sort of retirement home. Emails flew back and forth about her age, her desire to eat cats and such, but eventually it was all sorted out and Oreo headed down to Calgary with me in mid July to join her new family.

I'm happy to report that, as we expected, things are going wonderful. Oreo loves her new family (even the cats) and they all love her. We are thrilled.
Mel is still vowing revenge on Mark. I've advised her not to poke a hornet's nest, but I don't think she is paying attention. I'm sure she will learn in time.
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Yay! Dad's home!!!
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At home in the basement
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In the basement with my new friend
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In my new outdoor kennel
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Mom, I'm giving you "Oreo Ears" because I'm tired of pictures!!!

Sunday 14 August 2005

August 14, 2005 Hourly Charge

Summer is supposed to be ‘downtime’ for dog mushers – and religiously each summer I promise myself I will spend some time just doing nothing – well, nothing more then sitting in the sun, catching up on my reading, and watching the clouds roll by. But each summer, like so many of us these days, life catches up with me and before I know it leaves are falling from the trees and winter is closing in on me.

But this year I had a plan – a lounge chair. Maybe if I bought myself a real, honest to gosh lounge chair I would make the time to lounge. This, I convinced myself, was the ticket to my relaxation. So, when my birthday rolled around in June that was what I was going to tell everyone I wanted. Problem was, everyone in my family knows me well enough that a ‘lounge’ chair never even crossed their minds (although don’t get me wrong, I got wonderful and very appreciated gifts – especially the new 4 wheeler for training dogs from Mark!).

So in early July I took ‘the bull’ by the horns and bought myself a lounge chair. As I fiddled with Allen wrenches putting it together, I could just picture myself stretched out in it with lemonade on the table next to me and a book in my hand. Heaven.

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I got it put together, picked a nice spot on the back lawn, took a table out, a mosquito candle and it was all set. If I had been wise, I would have plunked my butt in there right away, but I had other chores to do – and it would still be there tomorrow. Tomorrow I would lounge.

I know you all know where I’m going with this. Tomorrow stretched on and on. As the days passed I would glance at the inviting set up as I trudged by with buckets filled with dog food, dashed off to town (Athabasca) or the city (Edmonton), dragged reluctant dogs by to be bathed, or one of a bunch of other chores. Maybe tomorrow I’ll find time to spend some time lounging I’d tell myself.

Well, here we are on August 14. The hummingbirds have headed south, the blueberries are out, the mornings are cool enough that I’m actually running teams most days – all the signs are there that fall is closing in. I have spent a total of 1 hour in my chair. It was a wonderful hour, although I kept glancing at the lawn and thinking I should fire up the lawn mover, and friend, Roger stopped by, caught me sitting out there reading and teased me about my lack of activity – but I did indeed lounge.

I figure that hour of lounging, when you figure out the price of the chair and side table, cost me $150. There should be a few more weeks of mild weather left; my goal prior to winter is to get the price of lounging down to $20 per hour. I just have a few hours of chores left this morning – then I’ll get right to it – really!


Sunday 7 August 2005

August 7, 2005 Charmed, I'm Sure

With all the hubbub and excitement surrounding the arrival of Nahanni and Kara's pups it would easy to almost overlook the arrival of another adult dog to our pack. Almost....

It was just over a week ago that Charm (Sibersong's Charmed, I'm Sure) arrived at the airport in Calgary all the way from North Carolina. The path that has brought her to us has been a rather winding one and things may seem alittle confusing, so bear with me for a moment as I give everyone a brief NorthWapiti kennels history lesson. A number of years ago I sold NorthWapiti's Lyra to Kim and Kelly Berg of Kelim Siberians in New Hampshire. Lyra had some puppies for the Bergs and then was leased to their good friend, Jaye Foucher of Sibersong Siberians for a litter. Smiley was down visiting the Bergs for the summer and was the sire of Lyra's litter for Jaye - so although it was an all NorthWapiti litter, it was not one that had anything to do with Mark and I.

One of the puppies, Charm, was went to Joni Barnhart of Khovaki Siberian in North Carolina.
Okay, with me still???

Now fast forward to this summer. For a few different reasons, Joni had decided to send Charm back to Jaye. Jaye is expecting a new litter this summer and has some other changes happening in her life, so she was probably going to place her. Kim and Kelly thought I might be interested in her, as I really loved the 'Constellation' litter (Orion, Draco, Lyra and Cassie) and haven't been really successful in getting alot of offspring off them. I liked the few picture I had seen of Charm, but bringing an adult dog into the kennel, especially one with no serious sledding exposure is always a risk - then I saw one of her in full stride playing with Joni's other dogs - I was sold. I worked out a deal with Jaye and Charm hopped on a plane and made the journey to Alberta.

Charm in full stride playing with Joni's other dogs

Charm spent her first weekend here at the Calgary dog show with Dasher and I. She quickly decided Dasher was her best friend in the whole world and threw hissy fits whenever Dasher left the set up area for a walk or to be shown. Dasher looked at her like one of the 'in girls' looks at a geek in high school, but then again, being a Kara daughter and Breezy granddaughter, Dasher has always been alittle stuck up.

When we got home I kennelled her near Dasher. Dasher continued to maintain her stuck up attitude, but I think it was reassuring for Charm.

It's been almost a week now and Charm is settling in very nicely. I'm giving her a little while to start feeling at home before we hook her up - but her body and attitude hold out great promise.

Charmed, we are.

Monday 1 August 2005

August 1, 2005 Princess Kara Delivers

I know I would be in deep trouble with many if I didn't keep everyone up to date on Kara.

Well, in typical Princess fashion, Kara threw a temper tantrum all night last night, keeping Mark awake and on edge. He reported she whined and cried constantly to the point that he hauled her off to the vet this morning. The vet checked her over and did an ultrasound to make sure the puppies were in no distress - they weren't, but Kara's ultimate goal was achieved - I came home from the dog show I was at in Calgary early.

Big apologies to Dawne Deeley - I know she would have liked her sleep, but she was very gracious when my phone rang in her motor home at 5:30am and then I started frantically gathering dogs and gear so I could head home. Thanks goodness she is a true dog person, as well as a good friend and thus completely understood.

Kara didn't seem particularly happy to see me - I figure 'cause she was annoyed I had the gall to leave in the first place, but there was none of the previous nights antics once I got home.

At 6:30, right after a tired Mark dragged his butt out the door to go work a night shift, Kara, with very little fuss and no theatrics welcomed a lovely, tiny version of herself to the world.

I will keep you all posted, as time - and Kara - permits throughout the night.

Big strapping piebald boy at 7:10
8pm - black and white male marked like Dad
8:10 - black and white female
8:45 - another black and white male!
9:05 - black and white female
Sadly puppy 7, a black and white girl was still born

It's been a busy weekend, Wednesday night I was up most of the night with Nahanni and her litter. Thursday I drove to Calgary in time to pick up an US arrival (more on that later) at the airport at 9pm. By the time I was finished with customs and got down at the show grounds, it was well passed 11pm. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were typical dog show nights - alittle too much wine and not enough sleep. Then the rushed trip home for Kara ... by 1:30am last night I was the walking dead. Kara was settled, so I crawled into bed, but set my alarm for every 1 1/2 hours. Religiously throughout the night I got up and checked on her and everyone was settled and nursing nicely.

At 5:30 I put a leash on her and dragged her outside. I felt her belly and figured we were now done - although when I went to bed last night, I really thought she might of had one more in there. I found a box for the babies, lined it with a blanket and began moving them into it so I could change their bedding. The big piebald boy was first, then the other pie....wait...the OTHER pie?? I shook my head and began to count 1...2...3...4...5...6..........7

So somewhere during the night she snuck in another one - a sweet black and white piebald female.   :)
Mom and babes are doing fine - although Kara is going to have to figure out that curling up around her babies doesn't work as well with 7 babies as it did with her previous litter of two. The milk bar needs to stretch out to accommodate this hungry mob!