Saturday 22 July 2006

July 22, 2006 Chirp, Quack, Ribbet...Moo

It seems that certain times of the year our yard is descended upon by hordes of unwelcome visitors. We seem to be going through one of those times now.

It started a week or so back when the dog yard, specifically the Bitch Pen and the few dogs around it were carrying on about something one morning. I trudged down in my pyjamas and flip flops to find some weird little bird hopping around on the edge of the dog’s circles eating bugs and generally having a great time – seemingly oblivious to the danger less then a wing’s length away. When I tried to shoo him away, he got flustered and flew closer to the dogs. I tried; he was now on his own.

Throughout the day he was spotted on the edge of yard in a variety of different spots. He’d fly some, so he wasn’t injured, but he seemed to prefer hopping around picking up bugs as he went. For awhile he was up by the puppy pens, then near the middle of the yard, back down by the Bitch Pen, in behind Newt….each section of the yard would get worked up at his appearance. By mid afternoon Mark had had enough and went out to see what was up. Again bird got flustered, but this time the little guy miscalculated and Nahanni snatched him out of the air as he flew out of Mark’s way. Poor little bird – happy little Nahanni.

Next up was another morning commotion in the yard. This time up behind the house, by the puppies and the kennels. I walked out to find a young duck, flapping and quacking. He was obviously working on the whole ‘flying thing’ and having a few problems. He was very stressed, so I, with the help of my ‘not so awesome’ herding dog – aka Fly, chased him out of the yard. We had just turned around when there was a flap of feathers and a barrage of quacking. The duck was back. We spent about 10 minutes playing this game before I waved my arms and pronounced this one also on his own.

For the next hour or so, Daffy flapped and quacked his way around. He made a couple runs up and down the road between the kennel and the house, took off and wound up right back next to the dogs. He had one or two very close encounters when he made low, awkward passes over the main section of the yard before finally getting his act together and heading off into the woods for good. The dogs closed up the Duck a l’orange recipe they had pulled out and settled back for a nap.

Then there was the frog. The first one occurred at about midnight one night. Once I found it, I turned around and just went back to bed. Anything stupid enough to wander into the jaws of a screaming dog at midnight deserves to die.

A confused young coyote was next to come visiting. He attempted to come visit Odie, Draco and Hector, but was sent packing. Same result with Newt, Lingo and Chester. A bit later, I went to the door to tell the girls to quit barking and realized it wasn’t them, but the coyote down in the meadow trying to coax the girls into running away with him. Fly and I went down and suggested he leave. He made one more attempt to visit with the girls up on the hill and then I guess decided Siberians were generally an unsocial lot
Last night was ‘Return of the Frog’ – or maybe it was his cousin – anyway, Piper, Charm and Wolvie all seemed to be vying for frog legs at 1am. I didn’t stick around to see who won – nor to offer them any dipping sauce.

This morning the entire yard was making weird barking noises at 6 am – this time it was the neighbour's cows. They can get down to our west fence line, which runs on the other side of the cabin, but being they weren’t in that area last year, it has been a long while since they have been down. The pups and yearlings especially were utterly (pun intended!!) fascinated with the large, entirely edible looking creatures. I wandered over to the fence line - my big, hairy herding dog was with me, but he’s scared of cows, so he was pretending he didn’t see them (yeah, pitiful, I know). I generally insulted them and launched a few pinecones in their general direction and they finally got the hint.

I wonder what tonight will bring??

Wednesday 19 July 2006

July 19, 2006 Sibersong Visits NorthWapiti

With Kelim's Sibersong McKinley due to come into season this spring/summer, I started thinking about possibly breeding her to one of her NorthWapiti relatives (McKinley is a Grover daughter). I was losing hope that she would come in early enough so that I wouldn't lose her for next racing season when she finally started her cycle. Since it turned out to be only slightly more expensive for me to fly there with McKinley and as Karen and Mark were gracious enough to invite me to visit them, I decided to take an unplanned vacation and go along. So within days our trip was booked, and a little over a week later McKinley and I set off for Perryvale, Alberta.

The trip to Alberta was pretty uneventful. We drove up to Montreal in the middle of the night to catch a 6:30 am flight to Edmonton. McKinley's "What are you doing to me?" expression as she rode off down the conveyor belt after I checked her in was enough to make me want to cry.
As we approached the Edmonton airport all you could see for miles and miles was flat, square parcels of farmland. Farms as far as the eye could see. And a large majority were bright yellow, which I later found out was canola crops (yes, where your canola oil comes from). It was even more beautiful from the ground!

Where Karen and Mark live is about 2 hours north of Edmonton and not nearly as flat. Still a whole lot of farmland however. All the parcels of land up there are huge - land is much much cheaper than around here obviously. And all roads except the main routes seem to be dirt. Which of course is like heaven for us mushers - the unlimited amount of miles of training you can get on those dirt roads on top of the trails they connect to is almost enough to make me want to move there!

Have to say the weather's much nicer too. It generally hit 70's-80's during the days while I was there, but nights cooled off considerably and there were 2 mornings that it was cool enough to run dogs. So it seems to be similar to our New Hampshire weather in September. Very little humidity too - in fact, I don't believe I've ever before had an entire week of great hair days as I did up there, LOL! 

Other awesome things about the area: no ticks! How cool is that? McKinley and I went for long walks in the woods during the week and I didn't have to worry about avoiding tall grasses or checking us out for ticks afterwards. And sandy base under the soil. Forget about having to pay for truckloads of sand for your dogyard each summer - once you remove the topsoil up there, it seems to be nothing but sand underneath! Although this is probably only appreciated by us dog mushers....

I had the opportunity to see 28 of Karen's dogs run while I was there (2 teams of 14). Karen has miles and miles of trail right out of her yard.... I'm so envious! I actually had the opportunity to see Sibersong's Charmed I'm Sure (the Charmed Litter) run while I was there, and according to Karen that was the best she's run so far. I thought she was fairly good in harness, and ran similar to her sisters Decal and Piper. I haven't seen Charm since she left here as an 8 week old puppy and was thrilled to get to see her all grown up. She looks like a cross between Decal and Piper. Maybe she'll get more of an opportunity to run with the "big dogs" this coming season now that she's finally figured out what to do in harness!

The dogs in the front were Holly (grey) & Jr (leg)
Hector (black) & Lingo (saddleback)
Charm (red pie) & Piper (grey pie).
I was extremely impressed with Herman, as well as Crunchie, Odie, name just a few! Also got to see Olena, Lingo, Batdog, Snickers, Holly, Junior, Watt, Runner, Moses, Boom, Charge, Hector, Draco, Dasher, Q, X, Paxson, Newt, Piper, Barq, Dasher, Nahanni, Jinx & Eeek run.
Two of my faves in the yard (tho' I didn't get to see them run) were Bingo and Bongo. Those two yearlings just totally grabbed me from the start.
The first morning (not counting the day I landed) that I was there we ran Odie and Crunchie so I could see both prospective fathers run. I hadn't made my decision yet as to which boy I wanted to use with McKinley. After the run and after spending some time with both boys I chose Crunchie as my first choice for various reasons. It was a difficult decision because I really liked both dogs equally. In the end I chose more because I thought Crunchie's serious and quiet personality would meld well with McKinley's sometimes goofy personality...i.e., maybe I'd get some serious pups in the litter. I also really liked the idea of line-breeding on Grover.

Crunchie was a little shy and inexperienced however, and McKinley just didn't want to be bred. Finally we decided to see if Odie, choice #2, had any more luck. From then on we'd put Crunchie in first and if he had no success we'd throw Odie in. It became a contest to see which boy would be the one to finally breed McKinley. I jokingly referred to it as the newest reality show: Who Wants To Be A Daddy?


By Friday I was getting a little desperate. Our flight back was scheduled for Saturday afternoon and we still hadn't gotten a breeding. After another unsuccessful series of attempts, Karen suggested we call her vet the next morning and arrange to do artificial insemination. We also decided I should change my flight and extend the trip another few days. So Saturday morning we took Odie and McKinley in for AI and Odie was the winner of Who Wants To Be A Daddy.

Back to other parts of the trip....

On the Fourth of July (which of course, doesn't get celebrated in Canada!) we went to the Edmonton Mall. This mall is AMAZING. The mall actually houses not only a gazillion stores but also a hockey rink, water park, pirate ship, sea lion show, fire-breathing dragon, casino, amusement park with roller coasters, bumper cars, and flamingos (after all, what Canadian mall would be complete without flamingos right?).
I took one look at the roller coaster and announced, "I have to ride that thing." And it was the scariest roller coaster I think I have ever ridden. I've ridden some scary ones out there, but this one definitely is at the top of the list. Perhaps it was simply the fact that you're speeding towards the walls at super high speeds, or could be the fact that Karen told me before riding it that someone had been killed on this coaster a few years back (she also assured me they'd fixed it since then, but it still adds to the thrill). She offered to show me the spot on the wall where the guy actually died, but I declined.

On Thursday, Mark and Karen took me to see the Canadian Rockies (Jasper National Park). It was about a 4 hour ride, but it was soooo worth it! The scenery was just breathtaking.

On the drive there we saw two road signs that really excited me: one said "To Alaska Highway", and the other road sign said, "Scenic Route to Alaska". If I hadn't felt like such a silly tourist I would have asked Karen to stop so I could take a photo of those signs, hehe! Oh well, I know someday in the near future I will see them again, along with a "Welcome To Alaska" road sign.

Anyway, this national park had mountains that made ours over in NH look like tiny hills. There was still snow on top of some of the mountains (ahhh, how nice to see snow in July!), and the wildlife there was different in some ways than what we have here. Big horned sheep, grizzlies (which unfortunately, or maybe it was fortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to see), elk. We did see quite a few of the local animals including a black bear. Some are so tourist-friendly they just walk right down the middle of the road....

After 9 days of relaxation, very little computer work, great food, and nothing but dog-related activities and lots of TV on their giant flatscreen, McKinley and I flew back home. Unfortunately, it was not a smooth return back. All flights that day on Air Canada had been delayed. We were put on a different flight that left a little earlier specifically so we would make the connection in Toronto on time, however once we got to Toronto I found out the connecting flight had been cancelled. After a frantic 45 minutes of trying to locate McKinley (and I'm still not sure why everyone ELSE got their baggage but they couldn't find a large and fairly conspicuous kennel that was on the flight), I finally made my way with McKinley to the departures desk to find out how I was now getting to Montreal. They informed me I'd have to spend the night in the airport waiting for the next flight out at 6:30 am. I'm still annoyed that they refused to put us up in a hotel, especially when I found out later that some other stranded passengers put up such a fuss and stink about it that THEY got a hotel room.

Anyway, we did finally get home the next day. Have to say, pulling an all-nighter in the airport is not my idea of fun! McKinley and I made some new friends there however, which helped pass the time. Really, I think they only wanted to make friends with McKinley and I just came along as part of the package. She sure was popular that night at the airport!

Now we're back in NH - happy and relaxed thanks to a week away, and hopefully pregnant. Big Thanks to Karen and Mark for being such wonderful hosts!!

Sibersong Sleddogs

Tuesday 18 July 2006

July 18, 2006 Summer Stories

Summer is rolling right along here in the valley. We have escaped the severe heat that so many are dealing with lately and have even had a number of mornings since the beginning of July cool enough  that we've been able to hook up teams.

All the yearlings and 2-year-olds are doing very well. Boom and Charge are probably the stars of the 2-year-olds. Boom actually makes the hair on my arms stand up when I run him – outstanding dog. He pretty much has to be as he isn’t the easiest dog to live with. You should have seen Jaye, who was visiting from New Hampshire, and I trying to trim his nails a few weeks back. It was full body contact nail trimming – and I even got a cut on the inside of one of my nostrils from Boom’s back toe nail. You can imagine the contortions necessary for that to happen!

I should also report that Newt and I seem to be well on the path to working out our differences from last fall. He is even starting to put in some nice performances in harness. He must have heard that I was seriously thinking of selling him a month or so back. Amazing how that canine grapevine in the yard works!

I had Jinx and Snickers in lead together the other day and I would be surprised if these girls didn’t end up being a key set of race leaders for me this winter. They were hard driving, fast, and very quick to take commands. It was the kind of run that gets mushers excited about planning races for the upcoming season!!

Jumpie and her fat babies, Dew and Gator, moved outside the other day. They are quite the characters – real independent thinkers. They flatly are not interested in being started on kibble – and I can only convince them to take a mouthful or so before they toddle off to look for something more interesting to do.

They also aren’t much interested in sleeping in their doghouse. Mark claims (sarcastically) that there must be spiders in there that they are scared of. I don’t think so; even spiders would run in fear from these chubby monsters.

I’ve gone out to check on them to find them burrowed under the doghouse, under the play ramp and a bunch of other nooks and crannies they’ve discovered in the pen. I know they can negotiate the step up into the house, I've watched them do it. They just aren't interested in sleeping 'inside', I guess!
Hilda has been separated from her kids. While she was great at weaning them, I just couldn’t convince her to stop regurgitating her meals for them. When she started loosing weight due to this, it was time for them to say goodbye. She’s still kennelled where she can keep an eye on them, which she religiously does.

The Firecrackers are all doing very, very well. I am so pleased with the entire litter. (BTW – all the puppies in this litter are already spoken for – most by us – and there is a waiting list for any others we might decide to let go of. But thank you to all for the intense interest in this litter.)

I should also report that Bait has already decided to use up one of his lives. While we were moving Jumper and her babies out to the puppy pens, Bait decided to go visit with the Mommie dog. Jumper grabbed him, but quick actions by Mark and a scream from me made her drop him and he bounded off to the garage, fuzzed as big as he could get, hissing and spitting.

He has decided now that the ‘pointy eared dogs’ (the Siberians, not the Australian Shepherd) are dangerous, which is good – but he still insists on bouncing around and playing on the lawn right in front of the kennel. ‘BAIT TV’ has had the whole kennel’s undivided attention for the past few afternoons. The ‘star of the show’ better hope that no chains break, ‘cause I can assure you, it is not autographs the Siberians are interested in getting.

To wrap up this entry I have a story to tell about our 'ferocious' guard dog, Fly. For those of you who haven't been out to the kennel, Fly is our about 70 lb (probably 50 of those lbs are hair, I swear!!) Australian Shepherd who protects, guards and keeps peace in the dog yard. In truth, he's not that ferocious; really he is a wimp - especially when it comes to thunderstorms.

Last night as Mark and I were feeding dogs, a thunderstorm was moving in. It looked and felt like it was going to be a big one. Fly was staying fairly close to me, I think hoping I would offer him some protection from the storm.

Impending Storm
I was finishing picking up bowls and was up in the section of the kennel where Odie, Draco, Surge, and Loki are – they had all felt the rain coming and most had all ready settled down in their houses. Draco was inside his, leaning against the wall of the house with his nose resting on the door ledge. All of a sudden lightning flashed and a few seconds later the entire valley shook with a huge crack and rumble. Fly literally went flying by me and dove straight into Draco’s house – remember Draco, one of the biggest dogs in the yard, was already in there. Draco never even moved or rolled his eyes as 70 lbs of petrified Aussie leapt on top of him. Our doghouses are good sized, but certainly they aren’t big enough for 2 of our biggest dogs to share one – but share they did until the storm blew over.

Silly dog!

Anyway, those are the stories for today!

Saturday 15 July 2006

July 15, 2006 My Dad

A few of you have mentioned in private emails to me that July 15 was going to be Grover and the rest of Muppet litter’s 10 birthday. Indeed, I had forgotten. Mark and I were talking last night about the things going on in our lives 10 years ago and how much we have done in the 10 years. Nice to reminisce like that. I do however have one regret – and today of all days, seems to be the one to speak of it.

See, today also would have been the birthday of another very important guy in my life – more important than even Grover, believe it or not. Today would have been my Dad’s 73rd birthday, but 10 years ago this fall, he died.

I had intended to do a tribute up to him on the 10th anniversary of his passing, but today, the day that commemorates his life, seems so much more appropriate than the day that marks his death.
One of my Dad’s greatest wishes in life was to go to Alaska – and this was long before I owned a sled dog or a dog sled. And sadly, he never got to go. Oh, I have no doubt that he has been along on many of my trips north, I’ve felt his presence numerous times on the trail, but my regret is that he never got to go to the starting line of Iditarod with me even once. He would have been very proud and would have told me to be careful, because “you know your Mother worries”. Truth be known, he always worried just as much as she did, if not more.

I think the words I wrote about him for his eulogy are still the truest words I’ve ever spoken in regards to him, as is often the case when your heart is raw and aching. So today I’m going to share that eulogy with you. It was written right before his funeral. It was actually the first time in many years that I had sat down and put words to paper. I had forgotten how much I loved to put my thoughts and feelings into words. As you obviously all know, I’ve kept writing over the years and it has opened a lot of doors for me. Maybe that was his last gift to me.

So, I hope you all forgive me this off topic post, but he crosses my mind a lot, especially lately and I needed to share.

It is important to me to be the one speaking about Dad today. This is because you all knew Don Murray as a co-worker, friend, golf partner, relative, or neighbor, roles that I know that he was good at, but I knew him in the role that he excelled in above all others - being a Dad.

Don Murray was born July 15, 1933. Before his first birthday, the Murrays had moved to Winnipeg. It was in Winnipeg that Dad met Morna, while they were both employees of the Dominion Bank. A while after Dad moved to Toronto, from where he and Mom carried on a long distance romance. In 1955 Dad went home for Christmas and gave Mom an engagement ring. They were not to see each other again till nearly 9 months later, the week of their wedding. Dad arrived in Winnipeg on a Monday, after the minimum 48 hour waiting period, Mom and Dad were married on a Wednesday night. They set up home in Toronto, where in 1964 I was born, followed by Jim in 1969. In 1975 the family moved west, with strains of Gordon Lightfoot singing ‘Alberta Bound’ on the radio. It was in Alberta that Dad found a style of life that suited him.

Over the years Dad worked at many things - sales manager for various printing companies, real estate salesman, retail sales manager, representative for an aluminum siding company, inspected homes for insurance companies, and, up until about 4 weeks ago, worked for Keyfacts Canada.
Those are but the details and dates of Dad’s life - they are not really about who and what Dad was.
Dad was first and foremost a family man. My first memory is being snuggled with him on the couch, watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Most of the rest of my memories involve him..the walk he took me on when my cat got hit by a car, to tell me about his pets and loss being a natural part of life..diving into the deep end of the neighbor's pool to rescue Jim from drowning..driving through the mountains and stopping to watch the trains go by..he and Mom being in the stands or crowds of virtually every trumpet performance Jim had and every horse event I participated in. He took a deep and serious interest in anything we were interested in. This meant he was well versed in trumpets, big bands, horses, dog sledding and much more.

Dad was a skier, a curler, and a golfer. He approached all of these sports with the same determination that he took to every aspect of his life. As a skier he was always composed and in control on the ski hill. Mom, Jim, and I all learned to ski the same way, with our skis between his, in a snowplow, slowly carvings turns into the hill, then walking back up - no lifts for us until we were completely comfortable on our skis. It was an effective approach as we all turned out to be good skiers and ski trips to the mountains provided us many memorable family weekends.

As a curling skip he was a force to be reckoned with. The last year my husband Mark and I lived in Calgary, we joined Mom and Dad’s curling league. Curling and staying with them for a few drinks after was so enjoyable. When we moved to Grande Prairie we joined a local league, but gave up after one season - curling just lacked something without them.

And then there is golfing. Do you know that Dad kept every scorecard for every game he ever golfed? That includes his last game, less than a week before his passing. He would very much want me to mention that he shot a 97 that day. I think one of his favorite aspects of golf for the last few years was his golfing partner - his son Jim. Although occasionally accusing each other of ‘fudging’ scores, the enjoyment that they both received from these games was obvious to us all.

Dad was a Canadian. The truest, most patriotic Canadian I have ever met. It was a matter of great embarrassment to Jim and me to see that huge Canadian flag hanging on our garage on all national occasions. On his desk is taped this quote by Robertson Davies “Because I am a Canadian, I couldn’t really live anywhere else. I have had chances to do so and have never given it serious consideration. I belong here. To divorce yourself from your roots is spiritual suicide….I just am a Canadian. It is not a thing which you can escape from - it is like having blue eyes.”

Dad was not a religious man, in the traditional sense of the word, but he had strong spiritual beliefs. The verse that appears on the back of his memorial folder is one that he gave me many years ago. Going through difficult times in my life, including this - the most difficult time, I have referred to it often. Among his paperwork was the verse in its entirety. I’d like to share it with you, as in it I see so much of my Father, of his values, beliefs, and teachings.

Go Placidly amid the noise and haste, & remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly & clearly; and listen to others, even the dull & ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud & aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain & bitter; for always there will be greater & lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity & disenchantment it is perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue & loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees & the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors & aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery & broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.
Found in Old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore, Dated 1692

Thursday 13 July 2006

July 13, 2006 Photo Diary

I'm really enjoying my new camera and just couldn't resist zipping outside between thunderstorms today and snapping a few pictures.

Lobelia on my front porch

My pepper plant - I might actually get to harvest something off this one!

The Antler Garden. Antler sheds picked up on training runs share this planter with pansies.

The Cabin sporting it's new paint job!

Sweet Peas on the fence of the 'Bitch Pen'
Who can resist snapping a few puppy pictures when out in the yard? (The FireCrackers Litter)

Holly sporting a summer coat.

I cannot remember what this stuff is called, but it is pretty!

Clematis seed heads



Bait, The Killer Kitten


Pretty meadow

Tiger Lilies

Ox-eye Daisies


I'm not sure what this stuff is called, but it is pretty


Indian Paintbrush, one of my very favorites!

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush and Clover

Impending storm

A visitor

Fireweed. Just so the Alaskan's don't think they are the only ones that get to enjoy this pretty flower.

Hurrying so I don't drown.

Moose tracks on the edge of our driveway

Moose tracks up close

Just so you get an idea how big they are. 

Alfalfa on the roadside



When folks come to visit at this time of year, usually the first question out of their mouths are "What are those yellow fields that we see everywhere?". Canola. It is beautiful and sometimes the yellow stretches for miles if farmers have planted large fields.

Canola field

Summer training scenery - the Canola Fields
And then it started to rain.......