Tuesday 31 October 2006

October 31, 2006 NorthWapiti's Super Grover

NorthWapiti's Super Grover
July 13, 1996 - October 30, 2006
Over the years, I've said goodbye to many of my canine companions. Many very special ones have passed, breaking our hearts and causing much sorrow in our lives. Skeeter, Libby, Minnow, Charlie, Allie, Orion, Spud, Buddy, Howl, Breezy and many more have shared our lives and then left, teaching us lessons about loving and losing along the way. I thought I was a good student. I understand that this is the inevitable end of any canine/human relationship and as painful as the end is, the relationship has always been worth it.

This morning though, I feel like my heart has been torn out of my chest and stomped to a pulp. I feel wrecked and broken - and a failure at the school of loss.

I'm sure most of you have figured out where this is going by now, yesterday evening, very quickly and - despite his recent illness - very unexpectedly, Grover left us.

The details of his passing are just cruel and heartbreaking. The short version of it is that Grover and I had a wonderful day together yesterday. He seemed almost himself again. He and I ran into Westlock to do some errands late in the afternoon, including a quick stop at the vet clinic for the vets to take a look at him. Trevor was as optimistic as I about his recovery.

He has always been a great traveler and he rode home comfortably in his crate in the back of the van, except about 20 minutes from home he let out a very mournful howl - just one - one that I now know will haunt me forever. I assured him we would be home soon and flipped on the interior light in the van to make sure he didn't need to stop for a break. He seemed to be resting contentedly.

When I arrived home and opened the back of the van to let him out, he was gone.

I spoke with my vet last night and he warned me that we might never know what happened. Although I am taking him in for a necropsy today, I don't think answers are going to help anyway - they certainly won't bring him back.

I looked for a quote to include in this email, but nothing seemed right. This is all I found - 

Tears are words the heart can't express

And that is where I sit this morning - without the words to express this loss, just the tears.
I loved him so much,

Saturday 28 October 2006

October 28, 2006 Quick Message

Just a quick message this morning, as I don't have much time, but I wanted to let everyone know that Grover is home. Yesterday I force fed him small amounts of food throughout the day, but this morning he actually ate a few mouthfuls on his own!! YEAH!!

We've had a few sightings of our new kitten, so we know she isn't wedged under one of the freezers. Good news! In keeping with our 'food' theme for names on the cats - and taking into consideration that it is almost Halloween, she has now been named Treat.

Oh, yes - our 'trapline' yielded one dead mouse this morning!

All and all, good start to the day!!!!!

Friday 27 October 2006

October 27, 2006 Ups & Downs

Well, we have been through a number of ups and downs with Grover since my last email. Here's where we find ourselves now - Grover's biopsy confirmed that he does NOT have cancer. Very good news! He has had a serious and life threatening pancreatitus attack though. On Tuesday his liver and kidney values were pretty messed up too - and that was a serious concern to my vets (all three of the Westlock Clinic's small animal specialists are working on Grover's case). Yesterday showed improvement in his pancreas values and recovery on his liver and kidney values. He is drinking water and able to hold it down.  He ate a little bit of food Tuesday evening, but promptly threw it back up - and that is the big issue now, we simply cannot get him to eat. This appears to now be the roadblock to his recovery. 

Yesterday afternoon, because of low protein levels Grover got a blood transfusion - and after that was done I managed to convince Dr. Lawrence to let him bring him home for the night. He hates the vet clinic and we hoped bringing him home might perk him up enough that we could get some food into him. It hasn't, but he does seem much happier here at home.

He's a pretty funny boy, being home is good in his books, but where he really wants to be is in the dog yard. At feeding time I did put him out on his chain - and by including him in the normal feeding routine, we did manage to get him to eat a bit of soup, which was good. When it was time to come back to the house, I practically had to drag him back in. Once in, he paced for a bit and scratched at the sliding doors before settling down. He slept comfortably beside our bed last night.

I've got to have him back at the Clinic at 9:30 this morning and I'm going to talk to them about starting to force feed him, as we have tried just about everything else.

I thank everyone that has emailed with good wishes and kind thoughts. It means alot. He's such a special part of my life, it is very reassuring to know that their are folks that understand that and are pulling for him.  We aren't out of the woods yet, but the path is looking relatively promising.

With gratitude,

Wednesday 25 October 2006

October 25, 2006 Grover Update

Many of you have emailed with good wishes and kind thoughts to Grover for a speedy recovery and I thank you all. I should have had an update for you yesterday, but it was just such a busy day, I didn't get time to sit down at the computer. Let me tell you about the day in general and then I will get to the Grover news (and obviously, it isn't bad news - or I wouldn't be wasting time with other stuff).

As I was making coffee yesterday morning, I noticed two suspicious black dots along the back of the counter top. I choose to ignore them and we head out to feed dogs. Once back in I opened the cupboard to grab some flour and there was no denying anymore - we are living with a mouse. For 10 years this house has been mouse free and I was cockily thinking it was pretty much mouse proof. Apparently I was wrong. I HATE having mice in the house. The next hour or so was spend gutting the big corner cupboard and throwing out anything with teeth marks on it and anything that wasn't tightly sealed in mouse proof containers. That was a lot of stuff. Did I mention I hate mice in the house?? I'm offering Sprite and Bait (who only has supervised house visits when the door to the back room is firmly closed as he and Sprite aren't good buddies) rewards for getting the little bugger, but really think I need Kara back in the house to sort this situation out.

When the vet opened at 8:30 I called to make sure Grover had had a good night. The techs said he had. He was still depressed, but he was up and around.

We aren't running first thing in the morning now, as we feed and water the main string around 6:30 and then need to wait at least two hours before we can run them. So, we watched a movie (Kicking and Screaming with Will Ferrell. If you haven't watched it, I wouldn't bother) while I puttered around the house.

Our run was the longest of the season so far (26 miles) - and the dogs did just great. I had young superstar Tess in lead with Hilda and Mark had his favourite Snickers, along with Holly.  Holly is an interesting young lady. She is beautiful and talented, but I just can't seem to get the best out of her in lead. She's fine in team for me, but just doesn't like running lead for me. For Mark she has been doing a pretty great job. I think it is because I'm more demanding of my leaders then he is. Whatever the reason, she is running lead a lot for Mark lately. We are hoping it will bring her confidence up and that will translate to leading for me down the road, or she will just be a good team dog for me and a leader for Mark!

The only problem we had on the run yesterday was that we kept running into neighbours that wanted to chat. Most everyone around the neighbourhood is so kind when we are out training that I feel it is the least I can do to take a few minutes to visit when they stop. Even the neighbours I don't know, know me and want to know the plans for the winter and how the team is shaping up. It's very flattering actually. Problem was I had figured that we needed to be back in the yard by 3pm at the LATEST to make it into Westlock in time to visit with Grover before the Clinic closed. So, finally when we ran into one of our more senior neighbours, who was out with his dog chopping his winter wood, I had to put a hand on his arm and tell him I was very sorry, but I was in a real hurry today.  We pulled back into our yard at exactly 3 o'clock. Mark headed to the garage to prepare food for the dogs we had been running, I headed to the house to phone for a Grover update and let them know we were on the way in. The dogs were quickly fed and put away. Each of us grabbed a shower and jumped in the van for the drive to Westlock.

Grover is still quite depressed, but he was happy to see us and wagged his tail most of the time I talked to him. We went over blood work with Trevor and he assure me Grover is progressing just as expected with an attack of pancreatitus, which is good news. It is just something that takes time. They are figuring that sometime today they will offer him a bit of water and low fat food - for the last few days all his nutrition is coming via his IV - and how soon he can come home will depend on that. We are still waiting on the biopsy results, which aren't expected back until Friday or so.  We had a nice about 20 minute visit before it was time to go. Grover wanted to follow us as we left. I told him just to work on getting better so he could come home.

Oh, did I mention we came home with a kitten?? It's so wild we will probably never see her again, but she is getting a chance. We let her out of the box (which it took Mark, a vet tech, leather gloves and a lot of howling and hissing to get her into) and she bolted to the furthest corner of the garage behind one of our freezers. Bait was over trying to make friends when we went back into the garage to feed last night, but I don't know whether the little spitball is interested.

Anyway, that was our day. We will continued to keep you all posted on Grover's condition - and I will be certain to mention when the mouse is eradicated from the house!


Tuesday 17 October 2006

October 17, 2006 CKC Points

Amid all the confusion and bustle around here the last month, I did find time to put Nik and Wonder on a plane out to BC to hang out with our friend and dog show handler, Cynthia Seeling.

This past weekend was their first show with her (and Wonder's first show ever) and we are happy to report that Wonder picked up her first CKC point - and Nik picked up 2, moving him just 2 points away from his Canadian Championship! Don't forget that Nik is 9 years old - an age when most show dogs are long retired!

Cyn emailed me a couple pictures taken at the show grounds and you just won't believe how sparkling clean they are!


Click on photos to enlarge

Many thanks to Cyn - and 'YEAH' to the kids!

Saturday 14 October 2006

October 14, 2006 Rocket Adventures

Saturday, October 14  5:54 pm

Ah Rocket - her name is a dirty word in our kennel right now.


The little darling has figured out how to climb her 6-foot chain link fence. Up until today, she only did it when we went out to feed each night and would greet us at the feeding table as we came out with the buckets of food. Her plot pretty much worked, as although she would get carried back and put back in her kennel, she and her kennel mate, Powder, would get fed first.

Powder stands watch for Rocket...

So today we were feeding the teams in harness after a 20-mile run when who should suddenly appear but Rocket. Mark's team basically ignored her, but mine wasn't as tolerant and both Vortec and Jr gave her a good scare - grabbing her as she rocketed by.  She was fine, but was shown no sympathy and quickly put back in her kennel.

While we were shovelling this afternoon, she thought maybe she'd come visit. Silly girl didn't count on my being a few steps away and a hand slammed into the chain link scared her back to the ground.
She's just too athletic and clever for her own good!

Saturday, October 14 8:41 pm

So, we headed out to feed tonight quite sure that after Rocket's adventures earlier today she would have figured out to stay in her pen. As we are now watering as well as feeding, it takes 8 buckets to feed the yard (3 buckets of kibble, 5 buckets of 'soup'), so it takes a few trips to get everything out to the feeding table.

Three Firecracker littermates in the rear pen overlook the activity

First out was Mark, followed by Markus - whose bad timing had him visiting just at feeding time - and a minute or so later (I was having trouble finding a hat to stick my headlamp on) me.

Rocket was waiting for Mark at the feeding table. He handed her off to Markus and went back for more buckets. Markus carried her back to her pen, but didn't take her dinner up with him. Rocket met me at the feeding table. Markus showed up about 2 minutes behind her. She had scaled the fence and made it back to the feeding table in less time then it took Markus to walk back down.

 She went back up with Markus and her dinner. It took her all of 3 minutes to finish her dinner, scale the fence and join us again.

She spent the rest of the feeding time locked in the outside part of the 'MASH' pen, which has a roof on it - screaming her head off and throwing herself at the fence.
 Tomorrow Rocket gets introduced to a stake-out chain!
Too clever for her own good!

Saturday, October 14 10:09 pm
9:20 pm - caught Rocket and stuck her back in her pen.
9:40 - 9:50 pm - chased Rocket around the yard because she had now figured out that if I caught her, her fun was over.
9:50 pm - put Rocket in the roofed pen off the back of the house and locked in the big closure so she wouldn't bother Sprite and her babes.

9:51 - 9:54 pm - Mini 'Hound'ini patrolled the perimeter of the pen looking for weakness and climbed to the top of the chain link to inspect the roof.
9:55 pm - the howling and barking, which incidentally is right outside our bedroom window, begins. I'm fairly confident it will go on all night. I'm also fairly certain I'll now be awake all night - and also that Mark will sleep right through it all.

FYI - She howled all night long...
Sunday, October 15 6:41 am
Honestly, Rocket has always been my favourite out of this litter and deep down I like the evil little ones, so this only makes her more special. She is still moving out onto a chain today though.
Actually, I put her sister Powder in with her this morning and that has quieted things down. I should have thought of that last night.

Sunday, October 15 4:36 pm
Rocket got a reprieve on the chain, as it is pouring rain today and I didn't want her (and me) sitting out and getting soaked while she was getting used to her new living arrangements.

(To be continued...)

Wednesday 11 October 2006

October 11, 2006 Sprite Plays Dress Up...

I have a confession. My children are promiscuous. I swear, I turn my back on them for 5 seconds and they are getting themselves into trouble.

Last Tuesday, I took the dogs out for a run after getting back from my trip to New Hampshire. Everyone was working great and we were all loving the cool, crisp morning. About 13 miles into the run I stopped to water the dogs. While we were stopped a number of the dogs took the opportunity to roll on their back. When I leaned over to scratch Sprite’s belly, I stopped dead in my tracks. Not only did she have a little bit of a ‘pooch’, she was shedding all her belly hair. She just couldn’t be pregnant. I coaxed her to her feet and had a good feel of her belly. Maybe it was a false pregnancy – yeah…right!

Last night Sprite welcomed 2 new NorthWapiti kids to the world. Mom and babies – a piebald male and a red/white female – are doing great. She is proving to be a fabulous mother.

Sprite and her surprise to commemorate Karen & Mark's 20th Anniversary

Who is the father you ask?? Well, we have asked ourselves that a lot in the last week. At first I was totally puzzled, but then a little memory started nibbling at the recesses of my brain - a memory of Barb telling us that young Nitro was off his chain when she came over to feed the night Mark and I went to the city to celebrate our 20th anniversary. A phone call to Barb to confirm and some counting with a calendar and it looks like we have a solid suspect. Of course, DNA will – yet again – be used to confirm the suspicion, as it looks like confessions are not forthcoming from either Sprite or Nitro.

August 2006
Nitro (a Grover grandson)

I am disappointed to have Sprite out of the training pool, but what will be, will be. As it is a little litter and as she was running right close to her whelping date, I might see if she can catch up with her training. She is a veteran of a few race seasons and that might make it easier for her. We will see. I don’t desperately need her in the pool and the health of her and her kids will be foremost.

Speaking of her kids, we have already picked names for them. The little girl will be Casey and the boy, Finnegan. Now, I know my Mom and most Canadians on the list don’t need this theme (one that I’ve been wanting to use for ages) explained to them, but for the rest of you - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Dressup - these two make up The "Dress Up" Litter. I know my Mother has all sorts of embarrassing stories of how much I loved this show as a child.

Finnegan (a piebald male) and Casey (a red/white female)
Pictures will be included on the website and I’m going to work on a sex education program for the kennel. What do you think the odds of my teaching them to simply abstain are??


Monday 9 October 2006

October 9, 2006 Fall Runs

As I was putting my shoes on in the back porch tonight before going out to feed dogs, I watched a fly crawling his way up the window screen. With temperatures hanging out in the -5 (22F) to 8 (48F) range lately, he was moving very slowly. Each step seemed deliberate and difficult. I was sympathetic to his problem, but it certainly doesn’t mirror the situation here in our dog yard. The cold and imminent approach of winter doesn’t slow things down here; rather it seems to put everything into fast-forward.

Each day now teams barrel out of the yard on runs that are usually 15 – 20 miles long. Their enthusiasm has not at all diminished with the increased mileage but their strength has definitely picked up, making handling and hooking up the dogs a very physically demanding job.
By the time 14 dogs are brought up to the ready chain, harnessed and hooked into the line, we are exhausted.

In a few months the insane edge will be off the critters and our own muscles used to the tasks again, so everything will go a little easier, but right now we rely on our own enthusiasm for the approaching season to keep us moving!

I’m continuing to work my way through the young dogs, giving them each a taste for being a leader. Every single one has done an excellent job so far. The latest success stories are Watt and his brother, Charge. I still think their sister, Tess, was the best out of the bunch, but all 3 are showing good promise.


Another young leader that I’m pretty giddy about is young Spidey. She is definitely the smallest dog in my main pool, but she is FAST, enthusiastic and thoroughly enjoying the work.

Super leaders! Spider and Dasher

Today, halfway through a 17-mile run, I stopped to show my leaders a turn they didn’t understand on a new piece of trail. I stepped to the side and whistled at Dasher and Spider to bring them around to me. Spider bolted at me full speed and leaped into my arms. Lucky she is little or she would have knocked me right off my feet! We shared a good laugh, I played with her and Dasher for a minute and off we went.

Olena and Nahanni

Jinx and Charm

Draco - they know we had a good run this morning!



Barq looking pleased with himself after our run


Eeek and Lingo

On the way home, a herd of about 20 horses came over and raced us along their fence line. I ‘gave the team a gear’ (reducing the resistance they are pulling the 4-wheeler against) and enjoyed the ride. For the record – we won!.

Boom relaxing after a run!


It was still only 1C (34F) when we pulled back into the yard around 11am. Ah fall – gotta' love it!
Friday was actually a bit warmer, so I took the opportunity to get the ‘puppy team’ out for a run. As they are only going 4 or 5 miles, I can squeak in a run on them before temperatures warm up too much, even on slightly warmer mornings.

Grover and Gus were thrilled with the opportunity to teach the youngsters a thing or two. You would just never know those boys are 10 years old!

Brothers Paxson and X (The "Copper Basin" Litter)

Brothers Flash and Wolvie (The "Super Heroes" Litter)

Flash and Wolvie

Irving (foreground) and Nitro 

Nitro and Irving


After the yearlings were tucked back into the yard, it was time to free run some puppies!
Rocket, Comet and Powder have the routine down pat and I swear would do the run without me if I let them. I just basically follow them around the 1-½ mile loop on the 4-wheeler. They will run flat out almost the entire way. Rocket in particular takes her running seriously!


Nate is a little bit more of a goof and stops to chew on interesting looking things in the woods and to sniff this and that, but when he goes – he goes at a good clip.

Dew and Gator spend as much time wrestling, bumping and body slamming each other as they do moving forward, but when I can get in front of them, they will run flat out behind me.

New ‘NorthWapitites’ Trigger and Shooter took a couple minutes to figure out the whole ‘run with the 4-wheeler’ thing, but before the dog yard was even out of sight, their ears were pinned back and they were barreling along with tongues lolling out the side of their mouths and huge grins on their faces.
They remind me SO much of their Dad, Chester. Very cool!!

All for today – hope you are all enjoying fall as much as I am!


Draco on his house waiting for me to put his chain back on

Tuesday 3 October 2006

October 3, 2006 Trigger Shooter

Just a quick note to let everyone know that Trigger, Shooter and I safely arrived home at 2am (remember - that is 4am New Hampshire time) this morning.

I had a great time out east and will have some stories and maybe even a few pictures over the next few days.