Wednesday 28 September 2005

September 28, 2005 Squirrel Count

It’s been a bad week for squirrels around here. It started last Thursday. I was in the house cooking meals for my Quest drop bags when Mark showed up on the deck with a dead squirrel on a shovel. Seeing that ‘Squirrel Fricassee’ wasn’t on the menu, I asked exactly why he was bringing me a dead squirrel. “Gristle wanted you to see what she caught”. You have to understand, Gristle, our little black cat weighs maybe 5lbs, soaking wet, after eating a big meal – this squirrel weighed darn close to that. Absolutely, unbelievable that she managed to kill it – especially when you consider that TakeOut, her 20 lb best buddy got beat up by a squirrel a couple years ago. No kidding - I was sitting up in the one of the puppy pens and witnessed him catching one, after a brief tussle and rolling around, the squirrel headed up a tree and the cat headed for the garage to lick his damaged ego.


Anyway, I asked Mark if he had actually taken Gristle’s ‘prize’ from her and he said no, she dropped it after he screamed. I didn’t ask for an explanation of the reason for screaming – got to let my husband keep a little pride.

(Dead squirrel count – 1)

Slip forward to Monday. Mark was starting night shifts, but we were able to squeeze in a run in the morning before he went back to bed. When I caught up with him at one of our usual stopping spots, he told me I had just missed a cow and calf moose – they had trotted off the trail when Mark’s team rounded the corner – but something else had Mark all excited. He pointed to a gray ‘blob’ hanging from the barbwire fence next to us. For years Mark has been maintaining that we have Flying Squirrels in our area. Each time he insists he’s seen one, I question how much he has had to drink – I’ve never seen one – until now. The gray ‘blob’ turned out to be a flying squirrel – now, obviously this wasn’t a flying squirrel that was very good at flying – or he had bad eyesight and didn’t see the fence – whatever, it had at one time been an actual flying squirrel. Would have been cooler to see one actually flying, but at least now I can quit questioning Mark’s sobriety.

(Dead squirrel count – 2)

We continued off on our run. Each fall we drag our old horse-watering trough out onto the trail and use that to water the dogs when we are out on a run. We have a nice little ¾ mile stretch of rolling hills leading up to it that I usually let the team go as hard as they want on. As I rounded the corner to this section it was like holding back a team of horses, they were practically rearing to be let ‘go’. They just flew down that stretch and I was shocked when I got to the watering trough and found Mark’s team right on my heels. I hadn’t thought his team would keep up and was very pleasantly surprised to see them do so. Mark and I were joking and bantering back and forth with each other as we set the brakes and grabbed our watering jugs. I was barely paying attention when I leaned over to scoop out water and came face to face with a dead squirrel floating in the trough. Gross. Mark, being the ‘person in charge of dealing with dead things’ in our relationship, fished out the corpse and tossed it into the bush.

(Dead squirrel count – 3)

This morning I was off running on my own, as Mark is in the midst of his night shifts. It was real cold, so I figured I was going to have to break ice on the top of the water trough. I peered in to see how bad it was and there, dead and frozen in the ice was another squirrel. I poked at it a bit, but it was frozen solid in there – and besides, as I’ve mentioned before, dead things are not my responsibly. I was on my way back to the yard anyway - needed to drop Kara off. It was her first run back in harness since weaning her pups and I didn’t want to push her too hard. So I just opted to water the dogs there.

(Dead squirrel count – 4)

If I were a squirrel in this neighbourhood – I’d move – and quick.

When Mark got up I requested that he stop on his way to work and fish out the dead squirrel for me (the water trough is just off our driveway) – he just rolled his eyes. I’m not sure whether that means ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Well, I actually have a pretty good idea – but I can always hope – after all, dead things are Mark’s responsibility…well…except for in emergencies, like the other day when I had to wrestle a dead porcupine tail out of Vortec’s mouth – but that’s a whole other story!


©Penny Blankenship

Tuesday 27 September 2005

September 27, 2005 Welcome Aboard Penny!

I am continually delighted at what a diverse and talented group of people are subscribed to the NorthWapitiNews list. Recently I got to know one of them better when I posted looking for someone to help out revising the 2005 logo for 2006 (btw - Paige Blum, creator of the '05 logo that everyone loves so much is back on board with that task).

© 2005 Logo by Paige Bluhm
Penny Blankenship sent me the most adorable cartoon to be considered for the '06 logo. It wasn't really what I was looking for, but we got chatting about Penny doing some cartoons to accompany my Diary Entries - and to my delight she has agreed.

We are also looking at setting up a Cafe Press site with some of the images, so you can buy t-shirts, mousepads, mugs, etc with the cartoons on them. Very graciously Penny says all proceeds will go back to me.

Below is a brief bio on Penny. Watch for her cartoons in my diary entries soon!

Penny Blankenship

Raised by 60's radicals in a Mennonite town, Penny escaped Goshen, Indiana by joining the Air Force and becoming a Russian Linguist.

After marrying a Marine and traveling through the Eastern US where she did various jobs (vet tech, world's worst answering service person, golf course, retail, administrative) they settled in Maryland and both become boring and humorless government consultants.

To keep their sanity they adopted two gimpy dogs (Sam and Loki), and also own one spoiled show dog wannabe (Meeshka), and grumpy 16 year old Nova. Her hobbies include Web site development, failing business ideas, removing dead animals from dog mouths, and cartooning the bizarre.

Penny still doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up.

Welcome 'aboard' Penny!

 ©Penny Blankenship

Sunday 25 September 2005

September 25, 2005 Fall Weekend Wrap Up

Break out the polar fleece – it’s fall. It never fails to amaze me just how fast the landscape makes it’s transition from summer to fall. It is almost like a curtain of yellow, brown and rust is dropped over us all at once. Every night for over the last week (except last night) temperatures have dropped down below freezing. In fact, almost everything in my gardens, except for a few hardy pansies have surrendered to the approach of winter. A couple mornings the dog’s water buckets has a layer of ice on them. It was hilarious watching the yearlings try to figure out what happened to their water. The older dogs just break open holes for themselves.

Luckily, the weather was perfect for the Fall Warm Up Weekend. The nights were cool and days pleasantly warm. We had a tremendous time and thank everyone that managed to make it out for a visit.

Two years ago, when everyone but Jackie and Rick cancelled at the last minute (now you know why they got the honour of sleeping in The ‘Nook’), I vowed we were done with the whole scheme, but perseverance seems to be paying off – as about 2 dozen people and an extra 156 dogs joined us for the 5th Annual!

I was especially pleased at the interest and feedback in the talk Dr. Veronica Devall did for us. There aren’t a lot of seminars for this kind of sled dog care information in western Canada and I was very pleased to have been able to make this one happen.

On a much lighter note, also a tremendous success was Mark’s 1st Annual Scavenger Hunt. The list was as follows:

10 – blueberries
5 – cranberries
1 – rose hip
1 – yellow wild flower
1 – puff ball mushroom
1 – live grasshopper
1 – bra
1 – 8 inch stick
4 – dog booties
1 – empty foreign beer bottle
1 – automotive fuse
5 – wooden matches
1 – raspberry
1 – article of clothing with ‘Iditarod’ on it
6 – sunflower seeds

Folks had one hour to complete the ‘hunt’ and points were deducted for any minutes they checked in over or under the allotted time. Did I mention Mark took everyone’s watches away before we began? The only places off limits were our house and garage. Many clever contestants raided our old dog truck and were able to come up with matches, fuses, dog booties and sunflower seeds from there. Everyone missed the Iditarod armbands on the sun visor though. Shame only one or two folks spotted the big raspberry bush in the middle of our dog yard.

2005FallWeekend.jpg (45275 bytes)

Sadly, although I have a score sheet and know that ‘Team 6’ was the winners – I don’t recall who exactly team 6 was. I do have some honourable mentions to make though! Hats off to Gerry and Rose who selflessly polished off a number of bottles of Corona beer - before noon even, so there were more ‘empty foreign beer bottles’ around. Special Kudos to Lorne and Eric – even though their team consisted of two guys, they managed to come up with a bra (we are all still wondering about that!).
Many thanks to Eagle Pet Foods, who donated 40lb bags of Eagle Power dog food to the winners (okay, they gave 6 bags and Mark and I donated 2, so everyone got to go home with some!).
Mark is already plotting for next year.

2005FallChairs.jpg (56969 bytes)

Oh, we also got some dog running in too! We had everything from 14 dog teams and 4 wheelers to brave Linda on a scooter behind her two speedy Belgian Malinois dogs. The first night Linda got here, we were just coming back from our run. Mark offered to go out with her on an ATV to show her the trails, but she shot out of the yard in the wrong direction at warp speed. Took the guys over a ½ mile to catch up with her so they could steer her in the right direction! Man, those dogs can run!

And did I mention the food?? Copious amounts of great food!! (Which reminds me Kathy, I want the recipe for that ‘to die for’ corn casserole). I’m sure the dogs were watching us pack away all that food and rolling their eyes about having to haul our butts down the trail later.

2005FallKaren.jpg (65310 bytes)

Hope even more of you can join us for the 6th Annual next year.

By Monday evening, the campsites in the meadow were mostly gone and our little valley mostly peaceful again. I say ‘mostly’ as it seemed we couldn’t get rid of one set of campers – Kathy and Mike Carmichael from Utah. Okay, that’s not quite true. Mike and Kathy had approached me earlier in the summer and inquired if they could stay for 10 days or so after the FWW and train with us. We agreed and had a very pleasant time with them.

I tell ya, that Kathy is one dedicated employee – while Mike and I were out running dogs, Kathy was sitting up in the cow pasture by the highway participating in conference calls and receiving emails (lucky the cows weren’t in the field at the time – or I’m sure they would have been hanging over her shoulder). Apparently, there is a ‘sweet spot’ up there for wireless Internet and cell phones. Despite my many offers, it wasn’t until the day the rain clouds rolled in that Kathy agreed to just use our phone.
On the 14th the Carmichaels ‘finally’ packed up and went home – taking with them NorthWapiti’s Sepp. He joins NorthWapiti’s Lightning and NorthWapiti’s Robert E Lee (aka Squeaky) who were already part of ‘Team Carmacks’. Look for some more ‘dog dealings’ between the kennels in the future!

Bright and early the morning after Carmichaels left, I hopped on a plane and headed for Thunder Bay to judge the Sweepstakes and Unofficial Classes at the Siberian Husky Club of Canada National Specialty. I awarded Best Overall Sled dog and Best Overall Working Dog to Brigitte Hunter’s BISS Ch. Kiaya’s Klondike’s Diecho SD CD WD TT; Best in Puppy Sweepstakes to Highlander’s Follow Yr Dream owned by Diane Glenny; and Best in Veteran Sweepstakes to Am.Can. Ch. Hurricane’s Gin Fizz, owned by Kris Brown. Many thanks to all the entered their lovely dogs under me.
Also congratulations to Candace Cook and Zoom (Ch.Shakula’s Zoom Zooom Zoooom AOM WL) on winning the Specialty under judge Olga Gagne. I just love seeing dogs that work in harness do well in the show ring!

So now I’m settled in back at home – and Mark and I actually have the place all to ourselves!
There have been a few dog ‘goings on’ that I should bring everyone up to speed on. First off, we have a ‘guest’ - Nokken Av Vargevass. Nokken is owned by Al and Ann Stead of Northome Kennels. They imported him from Vargevass Kennels of Sweden in 2002.

I have been interested in the boy for quite awhile and actually left Kluane in Minnesota one year to be bred to him. It is rather a long story, but the breeding never happened, so this summer, when Ann made the offer of letting Nokken come out here for a visit, I jumped. He’s a big, hard working, happy go lucky guy – we are enjoying his company! Watch for some Nokken puppies in the kennel this spring!
We did have one dog leave us (in addition to Sepp) – Atigun has returned to his breeder, Jamie West in Alaska. Nothing went ‘wrong’ with Atigun, but I felt he was a better match with Jamie’s team then mine. Besides, Jamie had always struggled with Atigun leaving her place and dropped many, many hints that he was always welcome back there – so it was probably for the best – and I’ll get to visit him this winter too!

Buddy is doing well after his surgery. It did take him alittle longer then I thought to ‘get over’ it all, but he is now back to his opinionated, crotchety, 14 year old self!
We had a cancer scare with Kaylinn too. I found a small lump on one of her mammary glands, which was quickly removed (lump and gland). She seems to be recovering well. No word yet on whether the tumour was malignant or not.

All this weekend I’ve been cooking up a storm getting some meals done for Quest. So far I’ve done a big batch of French toast sandwiches (I love these – basically they are a cream cheese sandwich dipped in egg mixture and fried like French Toast.. My recipe was inspired by Peter McClelland of White Water Wilderness Adventures! Thanks Peter!), pesto chicken with sun dried tomatoes over pasta, and lasagne. Still a few more dishes in the works!

Well, my fingers are quickly tiring out, so I’m going to wrap this long-winded entry up.

Promise it won’t be so long before the next one!

Saturday 10 September 2005

September 10, 2005 Fall Warm Up Weekend Tales

I'm a little late on offering our take of the weekend, but still wanted to get a few comments in.

We've attended the fall warm up weekend every year that it's been held (5 years now, click for a nice picture from 2004).  While every year is fun, this year was probably the best so far.  The weather cooperated - while it was wet and rainy outside of the valley, at Karen and Mark's it was perfectly dry.  It was great to renew old acquaintances and meet new people, some whose names were known through email, but whose faces are now known too.

The food was fabulous - and way too abundant. :-)  The trails are always great.  When our dogs arrived they knew what they were there for - and wouldn't shut up until we ran them.  It was a homecoming weekend for Denali (and a few others on our team).  We had the chance to run Denali in lead for the first time on our team.  Wow!!  He was incredible and set a new standard for us on  gee/haw response time.
We really enjoyed seeing all the teams and comparing notes with everyone on equipment and dogs.  We always pick up a few tips that we can incorporate into our toolbox.

The added bonus of having Dr. Veronica come by and offer a mini-seminar on identifying and treating injuries was great.  The information she provided is so important, regardless of whether you run your dogs recreationally or competitively.  I think everyone learned something from her talk.

We were the lucky ones that got to sleep in Karen and Mark's new cabin.  It was like having a mini house (minus a toilet) - very homey and comfortable.

I know the fall warm up weekend is a bit far for some to travel, but for those nearby - well worth attending.  The laughs, the trails, the food, the 'dog talk' and so much more make it a worthwhile event for anyone who can make it.  This is a huge opportunity to learn from Karen and get her perspectives on training.  Where else can you descend upon an Iditarod musher's home, run their trails, pick their brains and watch them train - all for free (aside from bringing a potluck item or two)?

Thanks Karen and Mark for holding this event, yet again.  We had a blast.

Jackie and Rick
TuColdTuRain Siberian Huskies

Wednesday 7 September 2005

September 7, 2005 Judging and Recent Pictures

Hi All,

I'm away for the weekend (judging Sweeps and unofficial classes at the Siberian Husky Club of Canada Nationals in Thunder Bay this weekend). 'Talk' to you all in a few days. Below are some recent pictures for you to look at until we return.

Our thanks to Kathy Carmichael of Carmack Siberians for her photos.
The first few images are of puppies from The "Mosquitoes" Litter

Bingo & Bongo


Bongo & Bingo

Irving, Bingo & Bongo


This puppy is from The "Super Heroes" Litter


Training & Yard Pictures

Grover & Eeek in lead

Karen's team on a recent training run

Grover & Eeek in lead - close up

Moses in single lead

Hilda & Snickers

September 7, 2005 Fall Warm Up Weekend Tales

After a bit of a rocky start at the border we had a fantastic weekend at Karen and Mark's. We crossed the Washington/BC border on the opening day of hunting season in Canada.

The border guards thought we had so many dogs because we were transporting them to an outfitter who had been bringing dogs in to be leased out as hunting dogs. We were unable to convince him that our Siberians were not hunting dogs. I wonder if we were less convincing because we were laughing so hard. We ended up giving up, going 3 hours out of our way to another crossing where we got through with no problems.

We finally arrived at Karen & Marks and had a wonderful time making new friends, meeting lots of wonderful dogs, and running great trails.

Everyone brought tons of good food to share. Karen served us some great Chili Friday night and Sat. morning cooked us feta cheese scrambled eggs that were out of this world. Among her other talents Karen is an awesome cook.

Iditarod Vet Veronica Duvall’s seminar was excellent. Afterwards there was a lot of open discussion which was also very informative.

Sunday afternoon Mark came up with a scavenger hunt that kept us laughing for hours and helped us all get better acquainted.

There were people there with just a few dogs, people with large teams and we were there with our 6 dog team consisting of mostly rescues.

All of us had a great time so if you ever get the chance to come to a Fall Warm Up Weekend don’t hesitate. Good company, beautiful dogs, great food, and fantastic trails, and a bunch of gorgeous North Wapiti puppies- what could be better?

Thank you Karen and Mark for an unforgettable weekend.

SNO Siberian Rescue
Kettle Falls, Wa.