Wednesday 26 December 2007

December 26, 2007 'Bad' Dog Snacks!

Dogs have no respect for our silly little people holidays.

Yesterday morning started nicely. We had actually celebrated Christmas - opening presents and feasting on turkey the day before as Mark was working 6 am - 6pm Christmas Day, so I was planning on a nice long run with the dog yesterday.

That plan lasted until about 7 am when Kathryn and I discovered that Jelly Bean aka Mr. Bean aka Beanie Baby was sick - and pretty seriously sick. He had a bad case of bloody-ish diarrhea and was obviously feeling poorly. We messed around with him a bit and then when I took his temperature and it registered at 103.5, the messing was over. I called the vet and, of course, got their emergency answering service. I told them who I was and explained the problem. The normal procedure is that there will be a slight delay while they get a vet on another line and then they will patch me through. But not so this morning, there was a LONG delay and then the operator came on saying she was trying a different number. A minute or so later she came back and said she couldn't find a vet, but would get one to get back to me right away. I felt so bad calling early on Christmas morning - this was not making it any better.

About 15 minutes later one of the horse vets from the Clinic, who wasn't the vet that was supposed to be on call called. He didn't sound pleased. I profusely apologized for bothering him on Christmas morning and then there was an awkward pause where he was supposed to say something reassuring like "That's alright", but didn't. Ouch. I quickly launched into explaining my problem with Beanie. The vet very quickly warmed up to the call when he realized I wasn't bothering him for some 'silly' reason. Luckily I had on hand the antibiotics he wanted Beanie on and some stuff to sooth his tummy. As we were catching whatever he had early, we were able to use this course of treatment rather then us all spending Christmas Day at the vet. Phew!!

Kathryn and I spent the morning coaxing syringes of water down Beanie's throat and keeping a close eye on him. By 1pm he was starting to act much more like the 'real' Mr. Bean, by 2 pm I felt comfortable enough to take the team out for a run.

The run was spectacular. The temperatures were sitting around -9 C and with my 4 wheeler sporting the new HEATED seat cover that Mark got me for Christmas (no kidding, it is so neat!!! I make no apologies for these kinds of luxuries on my quad - it just rolled 8150km in 3 winters worth of use!) I was downright toasty. I sang along with my iPod as my team just booked it down the trail.

A few neighbors stopped to wish me a Merry Christmas as they drove by but mostly we had the road to ourselves. As it got dark Christmas lights began twinkling on the farm houses. I remember many Christmas's with my family driving around the city looking at Christmas lights. Who would have ever thought I'd be looking at them from behind my dog team one day?

As we rounded the last corner to point back towards home, I caught a glow of light from an area that I didn't know there was a house. There was also a glow in the night sky above the light -  my mind turned a bit before I realized it was Mother Nature outdoing all my neighbors with a stunning display of her own. It was the moon - low, large and a beautiful warm orange color, glowing on the horizon. It was so beautiful; it was hard to look away.

The team rolled into the yard around 6:30. Mark arrived home as Kathryn and I were feeding the main string. He pitched in and we got the whole yard fed. I was picking up harnesses when I found one of the extra harnesses that I hadn't used on that run lying next to the trail in ruins. Unfortunately, it was missing most of the neoprene lined neck piece. I was really puzzled over who would have done this; until I consulted the dog board to see who might have been close enough to reach it when the team was parked in the yard waiting for their dinner. Tess's name instantly jumped out.

I've been having big problems this fall and winter with her grabbing and inhaling junk she finds on the trail - and a week or so ago she destroyed, but didn't eat, a harness I left lying too close to her as I was unharnessing and putting away dogs. I looked at Tess and I looked at the size of the chunk of missing harness. Not good.

Now to tell the next part of this story, I need to do a flashback to Saturday night.

On Saturday night, good friends Marty and Colleen Hovind showed up to pick up a couple of dogs they were getting from us - Lingo and one of Olena's candies, Twizzler. Of course, Twizzy quickly worked her way to the house to meet her new folks (Colleen hadn't seen they were about a day old!). Within minutes of being inside, Twizzy somehow swallowed one of the cat toys that was floating around the house. Ironically, it was a toy Colleen had brought out for the cats on a previous visit.

We decided that we needed to try and get the darn thing out. I was familiar with the theory of using hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting in a dog, but in 18 years of breeding dogs I've never actually had to do this. I consulted the internet and Colleen consulted a vet tech friend and within minutes we had Twizzy doing the 'hoaker, hoaker' routine. Unfortunately, although she puked up some kibble, a bit of straw, and some gross flemmy looking stuff - no 'double whammy' cat toy.

(As a footnote - Twizzy is home in Saskatchewan now and doing fine. Colleen and Marty have been in touch with their vets and are in a 'wait and see' mode now).

So, now back to last night..

Since I was now experienced in the act of inducing vomiting in a dog (how ironic is that - 18 years of working with dogs and never needing to do that - then twice in under a week) I hauled out the peroxide and headed out to make Tess sick. I syringed the solution down her throat and sat back waiting for harness bits to appear. Tess gagged once and then sat and stared at me. After about 10 minutes, I repeated the procedure. Tess blinked at me a few more times, sniffed the ground and flopped into her dog house for a nap. I scurried to the house and consulted the internet about what to do if the treatment for inducing vomiting is unsuccessful. Apparently, it is always successful. Obviously, the internet doesn't know Tess. I debated calling the vet, but figured I would really being pushing my luck there unless I had a dying dog on my hands.

I went out and dosed Tess once more. This HAD to work. Tess was now convinced I had lost my mind and retreated to her dog house, curling up with her back facing me.

Now I started to fret about what all that peroxide in her stomach was going to do to her.

Mark had no brilliant ideas, so I decided to pester Colleen to pester her vet tech friend, but of course, it was Christmas night, Colleen was out.

I fretted for about 45 minutes before Colleen called back. Right away she offered to phone her friend and in 15 minutes I had been advised that the peroxide would not hurt Tess and that it was now too late to get her to puke up the harness anyway (ove4r 2 hours had now passed since she had eaten it).

We now, like Colleen and Twizzy, are on a 'wait and see' protocol. My fingers are crossed that my evil little brat ripped the harness into smaller pieces before swallowing it.

So, that is how we passed our Christmas. How exciting, eh??

This morning Tess appears fine and Beanie is still improving. Of course, we will be watching them closely and I will probably run them into the vet tomorrow, just to be cautious. And beside, if I don't run them into the vet now, they will probably hold off till New Year's Eve and have crisis's then!


December 26, 2007 Kara's New Dog Bed

For Christmas I purchased Kara a lovely new dog bed. Now, Kara already has a reasonably new, lovely dog bed, but she likes thebigger, rattier old one, so both have been hanging out in the house for the last year or so. I thought if I got her a nice new, slightly bigger one, she might let me throw out the old one (it doesn't work with Mark and his ratty t-shirts, but I thought Kara might be a little more biddable).

As my friend Lynda can vouch, I didn't take the new Kara bed purchasing decision lightly. I hummed and hawed for a long time before settling on one. Christmas morning came and I, with great fanfare unveiled the new dog bed. I moved the old one out of the way and replaced it with the new one. With some prompting, Kara lay on it for about 10 minutes before moving back to the old stinky bed.

Yesterday I walked in the door to find Bait sleeping on the new dog bed, Tic snoring on the slightly older bed and Kara on the ratty old thing. *sigh*

This morning I had to drive Kathryn to the airport, as she is picking up her hubby and heading to Jasper for a few days vacation. I decided that I was going to fix this dog bed issue once and for all, so I took Kara with me for a trip to PetSmart on the way home.

 Kara was quite intrigued by PetSmart, but like the perfect Siberian she is, trotted happily next to me with only a passing glance at the rows of dog bones. We got to the back of the store and started looking at dog beds. A clerk came over and offered assistance. I mentioned that we were looking for a new dog bed and he led me to the 'Kara sized' models. "Yeah, I bought her one of those and she gave it to the cat" I said. He commented on how generous she was - little did he know that giving it to the cat was simply the most disdainful thing she could think of to do with the bed to show it was not up to her standards.

After much debate, Kara selected one that she felt would work for her. I overlooked the fact that it had a GREAT DANE on the packaging and toted it up to the counter for her. Oh, with a quick side trip to the aisle with the Denta-stick - Kara adores Denta-sticks and her tail was up and wagging as soon as she heard the rattle of the bag coming off the shelf. 

The folks in line ahead of me commented on what a lovely dog she was. She looked down her nose at them and cast a glance at me condemning them for stating the obvious. A gentleman from the next
line came over and said "What a nice Sibe". She stuck her nose up in the air, but permitted a bit of scratching. She also lowered herself to taking a treat from the cashier before strutting out of the store beside me.

Once home I realized just how big a Great Dane is as I squished her bed into it's spot in front of the bookshelf.

It seems this one FINALLY meets her standards. I need a bigger house though.


December 26, 2007 #1 Rule Of Dog Sledding

Everyone, The Number 1 Rule of Sledding is Never Let Go of the Sled!!!!  I figured that wouldn't be a problem because our number 1 rule at home is to Never Let Go of the Leash.  I even ran down a steep hill with Nokomis last year, fell and rolled down a rocky hill, but I kept hold of the leash and didn't break any bones.  So this should be no problem.  

On Dec. 24th, the Husch family, Gabby, Markus, Anna, Wyatt and a cousin who I don't remember her name, even though I was introduced to her came over to take some dogs out running.  This is the family that comes over in the evening to help with the feeding and Anna and Gabby will be doing the shoveling for me while I'll be in Jasper with Pete enjoying a little vacation.  The first round of people that went out was Gabby by herself with 4 dogs and Anna with her boyfriend riding in the sled bag and 6 dogs.  Their trip was fun and Anna did say that they ran into a tree and broke a large branch off of it. 
The second round of people was Markus and the cousin riding in the sled bag with 6 dogs and me with 4 dogs.  I called my team the All Girl Geriatric Team.  I had Camilla (great leader, race veteran, 11.5 years old), Joey (my favorite, not a leader, 10 years old), in wheel I had Kaylinn (good leader, race veteran, 11.5 years old, oldest) and Jumper (a good leader but never made it on the main string, 11 years old).  Markus had the other 3 male geriatric dogs along with JR (a main string who didn't train that day) and some young dogs.  His team's ages ranged from 2 - 12.  Markus started out first and his team was consistent, but not as fast as he wanted them to be.  I always have trouble leaving the yard and I still at times get confused between haw (left) and gee (right).  To get out of the yard on this particular trail (which I didn't not know where we were going, you have to gee the tree.  My team haw the tree, but did get back on trail.  My team is really running fast.  The fastest I've gone so far, but we kept running up to Markus' sled and Joey and Camilla were splitting Markus' sled, so I had to keep riding the brake, which then makes the sled not be even and the banks were high, so I often had to apologize to the dogs for driving (actually not driving very well) the sled into the side of the trail.  Besides that small issue, everything was fine until Markus yells back to me to let me know that he's stopping because JR is tied up.  I got my team stopped, ran into the bank and I did a nosedive into the snow bank.  I somehow ended up losing the grip on the sled, but since Markus stopped in front of me, my team also stopped.  He got his team back in order and we were all off again.  It was great going except slow.  Markus asked me if I wanted to pass him and I declined because I had no idea what trail we were on.  

The day before Anna and Markus went out with different dogs and kept talking about some hill and if they thought that it would be good enough to go on or not.  Well, apparently they went on it and so did I.  Not knowing what I was in for, finally Markus' team got going so my team could go full sprint out and they were booking it nicely.  All kept a tight tugline and everything.  Right after the downhill, there's a tight right turn.  Needless to say, I don't drive a sled well yet so I ran up the bank heading for a tree, I put on the brake, I don't think I flipped the sled, but I did end up taking another nosedive and losing the grip on the sled once again.  But this time, my team continues to run fast.  I yell for them to Stop, Whoa.  I called for Markus, but nothing.  I ran a little bit, but knew that I wasn't going to catch them.  I didn't realize that we were close to kennel.  Markus arrives and they all ask where Kathryn is and he says right behind me.  Well, my team was, but I wasn't.  He said that he heard me yell, turned around and saw the dogs and figured that I was on the sled.  Wrong assumption.  Apparently, my team ran into the yard great, but Karen was more concerned with how I was.  I was fine.  As I kept telling them, it's hard to break anything when you nosedive into a deep snowbank.  So everything is fine.  The dogs are well, I'm fine with no bruises or ill effects.  Once Pete and I get back from Jasper I'll get back on the trail, but go on an easy one that I know.  


Monday 24 December 2007

December 24, 2007 Christmas Eve Legend

Christmas Eve is not necessarily a time I look forward to. See,  it is legend that on Christmas Eve animals can speak in human voices.

The yard is peaceful and quiet right now - but that is probably because they are all in their dog houses working on their speeches.

Kara is going to have a whole list of demands to dictate to us; 
Bait is going to preach at length about his 'Cat Supremacy' theories; 
Tic will squeak out a list of complaints about how unfair the world is; 
Fly will groan and complain about the woes of getting old; 
Charge will cover about 100 topics in 10 minutes; 
Olena will bitterly complain about not running with the main string; 
Fritter will tell us over and over again how much she hates her evil sister; 
Sprite will complain that Icey is looking at her food dish; 
Nahanni will share all her conspiracy theories; 
Mr Bean will swear that all his littermates are beating him up - even if they are not even close to him; Shooter will be singing the chorus of  'Don't Worry - Be Happy'; 
Tess will be yelling obscenities at any girls within earshot; 
Runner will complain that he is not getting enough kibble; 
Battie will want to host a group meeting so everybody can learn to just get along...the list goes on and on.

Well, except for Crunch - he will believe that he is above any human traits and will simply pass on speaking in human tongue.

My head is already hurting just thinking about it.

Thankfully, it is also believed that at midnight all water turns to wine. So, I'll probably have my head under the tap guzzling away to get me through the night!!!

Wishing you all the very Merriest of Christmases!!!!


Friday 14 December 2007

December 14, 2007 The First Time Driving A Sled

As several of you may know, I have never driven a sled and was only on the scooter once in November with Gus and Camilla.

I have to say that it was really cool and fun.  I now understand why people like to do this.

At first I was apprehensive since I've never done this before.  Karen explained the trail to me and I was quite confused, but luckily I was following her.  First of all, I had a problem getting out of the yard.  Karen already had her team going and I tried to pull the rope to unhook the sled and it got knotted up.  I'm trying and trying to undo it with no success.  I think I ended up pulling the rope over the pole to get going.  Somehow I was still holding on with one hand and off went Nic and Surge in lead with Kluane in wheel.  It was pretty slow going because Olena (on Karen's team) wasn't moving and the boys were interested in Trigger.  Finally after about 1/2 a mile, Karen took Nic and gave me Shooter.  Now Surge was in lead by himself.  Things went fine after that and we went slow enough for me that during the run I made the realization that I understand why people do this and spend so much time outdoors in quiet wilderness with their dogs.

We made it back to the yard and we fed everyone fish.  Karen wanted me to take a different team out by myself so I can become comfortable with the trails while Mark and her are in Alaska and I can take out some of the dogs.  Now, I wasn't so sure of things.  Even though I've been on the trails a few times, I haven't been able to make out landmarks.  Once again Karen explained the trail to me and I wasn't so sure.  I ended up taking Gus and Camilla in lead with Draco in wheel on the Yellow Brick Rd. Trail.  Karen told me that Camilla and Gus know this trail so I went on it in case I couldn't figure it out.  But with the stakes in place I was able to figure out the trail.  There was one place where they wanted to go straight and I had to keep telling them "Gee" to get us back into the yard.  Eventually, they listened to me and we got in the yard.  Since I didn't take them up to Geriatric Park, Karen suggested I take the Green Mile trail and then take them straight up to their pen.  I took the Green Mile trail when I was on the scooter so I was more comfortable with that one.  There was a time when I wasn't sure if we were even on the trail because Gus and Camilla were breaking trail, but we did end up coming to a marker so I was pleased with them.  This team kept the gangline tight and we moved faster than the first time, but it was still relaxing and fun.

I'm looking forward to seeing my husband in a couple weeks and to put him on a sled with some of the old trusted guys.  I also plan on going back out on the sled soon.

Kathryn TrussellWinter 2007/08 Dog Handler @ North Wapiti Kennels

Thursday 13 December 2007

December 13, 2007 Bingo

"There was a musher had a dog and BINGO was her name, oh. B-I-N-G-O B-I-N-G-O - and BINGO was her name, oh"

Bingo is the kind of dog that makes a musher's life easier. She is easy to live with, does her job every time you put her in harness, eats well and is always happy. However, because she is never causing trouble or being loud or obnoxious - she is easy to overlook.

I frequently find myself talking about my outstanding rookies - and then saying "Oh yeah - and Bingo".

Yesterday, right before I was heading out the door to run I was on the phone with Mike Carmichael talking about some stuff for my trip to Montana next month. Of course, I was asking how his training was going and how his NorthWapiti kids were doing. In telling a story about Lexx, Mike mentioned having Bang - Bingo's sister - in lead. That got me thinking about Bingo and why exactly it was I hadn't tried this solid little gal in lead. When I headed out the door a bit later, Bingo's name was at the top of the list of dogs running that day.

Giving her a solid support system, I had Hilda running next to her and Jinx and Holly behind her.

Hook up went pretty well, with Hilda making sure everyone stayed lined out while I tried to explain to Bingo that she needed to stay up front. The first few miles went very smooth, I even took time to arrange my iPod and get some tunes rolling. When we got close to the highway, a big tractor trailer with a giant piece of oilfield equipment roared by, spewing highway junk and wet snow behind it. That made my little rookie leader a bit unsure and she backed off, but recovered well.

As it had been storming the previous day, I knew the field we cut through to avoid our evil nemesis, PorkChop, would be very drifted in but I thought better to try that with the team rather then the annoying farm dog and his little American Eskimo Dog friend, Emma.

Both Hilda and Bingo leapt into the drifted field, even though there was absolutely no sign of our previous trail. The whole team looked like little show jumping horses as they jumped through the snow for a solid ½ mile. Maybe once or twice there was an indentation in the snow to confirm to them they were on the right path, but that was it. And never was the snow cover thin enough that they could plow through it rather then leap. When we hit the far side of the field, I picked my jaw up off the ground and went up front to HEAP praise on my leaders. Little Bingo absolutely wiggled from head to toe at the praise. She adored being the focus of all that positive attention. Of course all the dogs get praise during a run, but being a leader definitely comes with more pressure, and therefore over the top praise when they get things right - especially when they are still learning.

The rest of the run Bingo continued to do well. She had another moment of hesitation crossing a secondary highway at another semi, but recovered and later in the run passed the idling County of Athabasca grader, after we caught up with it. She ignored loose dogs, passed a neighbor on horseback, and continued to simply vibrate at the praise heaped on her.

Thirty seven miles later when we pulled back into the yard -  Bingo was still in lead. She has now officially given up her 'wallflower' status in the kennel.

 ".and BINGO was her name - OH!".


Wednesday 12 December 2007

December 12, 2007 Karen & Kathryn Run The Retired & Young Dogs

It's actually blizzarding today - snow, blowing wind and all that goes with it. Hard to say how much snow we are getting, as it is all on the move!

 I had planned to take a big team out with the 4 wheeler this afternoon, but I knew the roads were going to be miserable, so decided staying closer to the house was in order.

Kathryn hadn't had the opportunity to drive a sled yet, so today seemed great for that. I hooked up 5 dogs - 4 yearlings (Wonder, Trigger, Shooter and Nate) and Olena to lead, while Kathryn took Surge, Nik and Kluane. Things didn't go particularly well leaving the yard, but nothing really disastrous!

Then within the first ½ mile I had a bunch of trouble with Olena and ended up grabbing Nik off Kathryn's team and putting him in lead with Ollie. I gave Kathryn Shooter to run next to Klu and left Surge in single lead on her team. That seemed to straighten the issues out and it was smooth sledding for the rest of the run.

When we got back into the yard, I talked Kathryn into taking Camilla, Gus and Draco out on her own. I want her to get comfortable enough with the dogs and the trails to go out when I'm not around.

She had a really good run and even took them for a second smaller loop before giving them a fish and tucking them back into Geriatric Park.

Learning to sled behind 3 multiple Iditarod finishers is definitely the way to go!!!

You can check out pictures of Kathryn's adventure (and a few dog shots) at

I've been cooking up a storm this afternoon preparing Trail Meals. First it was Flautas with shallots, Portobello mushrooms, feta and ricotta cheese - then penne in vodka cream sauce (Kathryn and I each stole a small serving for our dinner. Mark ate earlier in the afternoon, as he is working nights right now).  Think I'm onto Cajun Shrimp Fettuccine next!

Those are the tales for this evening!


Sunday 9 December 2007

December 9, 2007 Upcoming Race Plans

One of the tasks that takes up a lot of our time and thoughts in the late fall/early winter is planning our winter season. That includes surfing the 'net looking for races that might work with the teams training, checking driving distances, finding handlers if Mark is unable to accompany me, reading race rules and actual entering races.

Mark spends a good amount of time banking days and sorting out his time off work to maximize the time he can be on the road with us.

Well, weather and all else permitting, this is what we have planned for the 07/08 Racing season -

January 4 - 6 - Flathead Sled Dog Days - Olney, Montana
2 - 50 mile day

January 10 - 13 - Seeley Lake, Montana
200 mile race

January 25 - Don Bowers Memorial Race - Willow, Alaska
200 mile race - 2 teams

March 1 - Iditarod

Will the exception of Iditarod, all these are new races for me. The dogs and I are really looking forward to seeing some new trail this year!! Always fun!!

The team is shaping up really well right now. We did a fast and furious 31 miles yesterday with 2 teams (I ran 16, Mark 14) that barely even winded the dogs. They were screaming for their dinner and bouncing and bucking as we unharnessed them!

If the weather would cooperate a bit, I'd like to up them to 40 mile runs - as mentally and physically they are really ready for that!

Although, compared to the rest of North America, I don't think I have any right to complain about weather! I'll take snowy and -30 over what Alaska, Montana, the Yukon and other areas are reporting.

I spoke with Jamie Nelson in Minnesota the other day and she is the only one I've heard reporting great trail conditions!

Weird weather!

Anyway, we hope many of you will follow our races this season. As always, we will keep you as up to date as we can!

Happy Trails!


Thursday 6 December 2007

December 6, 2007 NorthWapiti Teams Have a Super Day with Super Dog Treats!

Mark, I and 20 of the dogs had really fun day yesterday. We loaded up the truck - good experience for rookies, Bingo, X and Irving who had never been on a truck trip before -and headed over to Sangudo, home of our newest sponsors - the Bambers/Royal Elk/SuperDog Pet Treats. 

Don and Holly have an incredible piece of land overlooking the Pembina River valley. Grazing contently down the hill from the house are 170 or so bull elk that were the start of their Royal Elk business.

Once we got the dogs all dropped and settled around the dog truck, Don took us for a tour of their onsite plants that manufacture their Royal Elk EVA capsules for humans and a separate plant that makes the Super Dog Pet treats.

It is a really interesting process and Don's passion for his business shows through in how well organized and sparkling clean the facilities are!

After our tour and a wonderful lunch of elk hot dogs (yum!), we hooked up 2 teams and headed off to explore some of the multitude of trails on the Bamber's huge ranch. Unfortunately there really wasn't enough snow to be sledding yet - well, enough to sled, just not enough to STOP. Mark had Don and Holly's daughter, Shirley riding along so we had someone to help with the dogs and give directions when we got off the trails we were supposed to be on!!

 About 4 miles into the run we met up at a lovely campground with Don and his brother, Dave. Dave climbed into my sled for the next part of the journey.

Now, I don't think Dave would at all mind if I mention that he, well..let's just say he weighs a bit more then his niece does. Anyway, off we headed on a beautiful trail that ran along the banks of the Pembina. The woods were filled with animal tracks and I even saw a few eagle nests high in the trees. Just gorgeous.

Then we came to a hill that certainly made the dogs earn their kibble in getting us up it. As is usually the case after you climb a big hill - the trail started downwards. Shirley mentioned to Mark that the next hill was 'kinda steep and rocky'. Well, 'kinda steep and rocky' is not a huge problem IF you have a fair base of snow - which you might remember me mentioning - we didn't. Mark made it most of the way down the hill before losing it. When I crested the hill and saw the wreckage at the bottom of the hill, it was too late for me to try and stop my team. We did a semi control free fall down the top part of the hill and I honestly thought Dave and I were going to make it without crashing - up to the second we crashed. We slid to a stop inches from Mark and Shirley. Mark and I quickly determined that all passengers were okay and began the careful job of up righting the sleds without losing teams.

Once underway again, Mark questioned Shirley about what was up head on the trails and we decided that the trails really weren't safe enough until several more inches of snow fell. We turned the two teams around, climbed the 'Rock Hill' (boy, once we had to climb it, it became apparent that it was truly a steep and rocky hill!!!), and headed back to the house.

Once safely back to the truck, we extracted Dave from my sled and had a good laugh about the crashes. Dave and Shirley were great sports about the whole thing. Mark and I were just grateful that everyone was okay!

We put Mark's team away and turned my crew around so I could give Holly a short ride. Thankfully, that one was 'incident free'.

 The dogs were unharnessed, staked out on the truck and fed before we headed up to the house for hot chocolate and coffee before a wonderful dinner.

 Mark and I pulled back into our yard about 9 pm. Kathryn had the rest of the yard taken care of (Sweeet)  and pitched in unloading and feeding the group that we had taken with us, so we everyone settled and filled with dinner in short time.

It was a long day for sure, but a fun one - and I'm very excited to head back again and see those trails with just a bit more snow on them.

Photos of the day can be found at -


 Many thanks to Don, Holly, Dave, and Shirley for a terrific day. We are really thrilled to be associated with folks like the Bambers and we look forward to a long and successful relationship between NorthWapiti and Super Dog!!!!


Sunday 2 December 2007

December 2, 2007 4 Wheeler Lesson By Hilda

Well, temperatures continue to toy with -30 and lower. I think the outdoor thermometer touched on -40 overnight last night, but 'nature boy' Mark went out this morning and declared that no way it was -40. I was too chicken to open the door and really look, but with a flashlight it sure looked to me like it was reading -40.

Things have warmed up to about -29 now, but still too cold to run a team with a 4 wheeler.

Speaking of the 4 wheeler, I was reminded of an important lesson yesterday -

Wheels up..handlebars down - oh, opps, it's wheels DOWN..handlebars up. Yeah, that's it.

Yes, for the first time in many years I managed to roll my 4 wheeler on a run yesterday (no fear Mom, I'm totally fine). I'm blaming the whole thing on Hilda, although she is completely unapologetic about it - she might have actually been laughing about the whole incident right after it happened.

Not much of a 'story' to tell with it, I'm afraid. Hilda just caught me off guard (my mistake) and headed down my neighbors' driveway after one of their dogs. This is the same dog she had decided to run after a week or so ago, so I should have been prepared (for the record we have passed Casey on more runs then I can count over the last 5 or 6 years and Hilda has never wanted to chase her or any other dog before).

Anyway, I set the brakes best I could and went up to pull the team off the driveway and back onto the road. They got the 4 wheeler moving and I leapt for it. It became quickly obvious that we weren't going to make it by the culvert and ditch in between the road and their gates, so I bailed off as the machine rolled down into the ditch.

Everyone was fine and the flipped machine held the dogs while I got them back where they belonged.

It took some grunting and groaning for me to get the machine upright, then I enlisted some canine power to drag it back up onto the road. My back is feeling it today, but much better then the embarrassment of waiting for and flagging down a passing car to help. Pride can be a painful thing.

The rest of the run was uneventful, but cold. I came home through the muskeg and the snow on all the trees was gorgeous! Sadly too cold for my camera!

All else is going pretty well here. Kathryn is settled in nicely and is pretty much just part of the family now. It is such a treat to have her help around the yard - I feel completely spoiled. The dogs all like her, especially little Mr. Bean, who has her wrapped around his little paw.

Kathryn has also discovered, much to her surprise that she likes cats - well, our cats anyway - especially Tic. I think I've seen those little brat cats sticking their tongues out at me as they enlist more and more people into the 'TIC AND BAIT FAN CLUB'. I'm not a charter member, as I seem to be the one they wake up, the one that has to clean up the cat puke and the one that has issue with Bait sitting on our kitchen counter. Kara sees through those pointy eared, whiskered little fuzzballs too. That's my girl!

Oh, forgot to mention that I did make a few more cuts to the team. These ones were made mostly because I wanted to get my numbers down a bit. They were dogs I figured weren't going to make the trip to Alaska this year, just too young, but that were still having good runs. Anyway, it was Flash and Isis. I'm not at all disappointed in them, in fact, I'm very proud of how they have done up to now in training and expect big things from them next year.

That leaves 30 in the 'Super Dogs' group. I'll probably hang onto that number for another month or so, as it is a good number to work with and everyone is looking very solid. There are still 4 two year olds in that gang - Wolvie, X, Irving and Bingo. All 4 are outstanding, as are race rookies, Runner, Togo, Newt, and Roary. So 22 veterans and 8 rookies - sweet!

That's it from chilly Alberta for today!


Thursday 29 November 2007

November 29, 2007 The Old Dog Truck & Chilly Temps!

Read easy, this first story is not about one of the dogs, but Monday morning offered a bit of a 'funeral procession' here. See a couple years back I wrote a diary entry regarding the retirement of our old dog truck, which had seen us through a lot of years and a lot of miles before the fancy new F450 showed up on the scene.

For the last two years or so, the old truck (aka 'the 250') has continued to serve us well. With it's dog boxes now removed it has make many trips to the Perryvale 'Waste Transfer Station' (aka 'The Dump'), hauled thousands of pounds of dog food home from Athabasca, carried bulky kennel supplies like fence posts, materials for dog houses and more.

It's certainly been showing it's age, with creaks, strange noises, the odd weird smell and more - but what old man doesn't??? In the last month, it had had some issues with fan belts, brakes and antifreeze, but it was still carrying on like a good solider.

On Sunday night Mark took it to work as one of the guys he works with was bringing in some bales of straw for us. He had emailed that there was still an issue with antifreeze and he had had to drive the hour to work (at -20 or so) with no heat in the cab.

Monday morning arrived snowy and cold - minus 25 to be exact. At 7am Kathryn and I were out feeding the dogs breakfast and I was expecting Mark to be pulling in the driveway at any time. By 7:30 I was worried. It isn't like Mark to be late coming home and with the issues with the truck and the storm, I decided to play things safe and go looking for him.

As I crested the hill on our driveway, there was Mark and the 250. The truck had indeed broken down - but like the trooper it has always been, it was kind enough to die close enough to our road that Mark could coast off the highway before bringing it to a stop.

He knows better then to leave a vehicle in a storm and was patiently waiting for me to come looking for him (yes, he carries a cell phone, but it doesn't work close to the house).

Later that afternoon, after Mark woke up from sleeping, we headed up the hill with the van and a tow road expecting to have to drag our old friend home. That was not to be though, sputtering and spewing foul smelling smoke it coughed to a start and headed for home. It stalled a few times and clouds of black smoke billowed from it at various moments as it limped the last mile to the yard.

It's parked up by the gates for now. Mark had been crawling around in it a bit in the last few weeks and thinks it is probably done for now, but he will take a look at it again in the spring just to be sure.

Either way with over 320,000 hard kilometres on it through the years, it owes us nothing, but it does feel alittle like losing an old friend.

You might have noticed mention of some chilly temps in that story - honestly, right now, -20 would seem toasty warm. It was -35 this morning and now, at 11am, has warmed up to a 'balmy' -32. That puts training dogs on hold. I ran on Monday at -25 but 4 wheelers just don't work great at those temps. The dogs had a blast and were barking and screaming each time we took a break. I was barking and screaming too, but mostly because I seemed to have forgotten how to dress for that kind of cold and was freezing to death.

Tuesday it was in the -20 range and Mark and I each took a team out. That was definitely more bearable and 4 wheelers, dogs and humans had a good run.

Yesterday it was down in the -30 range and we all wimped out. After feeding the dog's breakfast and a quick trip to Athabasca for some dog food, headed to the city for a movie and dinner.

The movie was 'Into the Wild', which was very interesting. I don't know that I share Sean Penn and Jon Krakaurer's take on Chris McCandless, but it was a visually interesting movie and inspired some good discussion over the dinner table.

Anyway, today we will hang out and work on some chores around the house with a close eye to the thermometer. If it warms up some in the 'heat of the day', I'll definitely be sneaking out the door for a run.

All for now!


Friday 23 November 2007

November 23, 2007 Training Run Photos and Trail Facts

Yesterday's run was a pretty routine one, but I posted some pictures at -
I started off with Flash in lead, but he made it very clear that he was not ready to be a lead dog yet and I swapped him out with Runner within 1 ½ miles. Flash still proved to be distracted up in swing, so I ended up with him back in wheel before the run was over. He worked just once he was in wheel! Ah, 'Puppy Brain'. 
Part of yesterday's run was up on the historic Landing Trail. This trail fascinates me. It was established in 1875 by the Hudson Bay Co and used until the railway, which actually ran along the east boundary of our property, came along in 1912.
It is mentioned in James Michener's Journey and I found some interesting information online about the trail -
The section of the trail I travel is now part of the Trans Canada Trail System -
As a point of trivia - The Trans Canada Trail reaches from the Pacific to the Atlantic and up to the Arctic Ocean. In 2000 a relay occurred across Canada bringing water along the existing and proposed sections of the trail from reach of these oceans to be joined in a fountain in our nation's capital in Ottawa.
From -

  a.. The Trans Canada Relay Trail began on February 19, 2000 in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, when water from the Arctic Ocean was drawn by local Junior Rangers and blessed by local church representatives before being placed in a symbolic baton.
  b.. The western leg of Relay 2000 began in Victoria, British Columbia on April 7. Water was drawn from Victoria's Inner Harbour and brought to shore by Aboriginal war canoes for its trip east across Canada. On May 5, the Atlantic waters were drawn in Cape Spear, Newfoundland.
  c.. Five thousand official water carriers (1,300 in Ontario) have walked, run, cycled, ridden horseback, cross-country skied, snowmobiled and journeyed by wheelchair along the 16,000 kilometer Trans Canada Trail that stretches across Canada's mountains, prairies, forests, parks, towns and cities. The waters from the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans will all reach their final destination of Hull, Quebec on September 9, 2000, when the Trans Canada Trail is officially unveiled. When it is complete, Relay 2000 will have visited more than 800 communities across Canada, including 165 in Ontario

When the relay passed through Perryvale, my 2000 Iditarod team and I carried water out of Perryvale and along part of the Trail.
That's your history and useless trivia lesson for today.


Thursday 22 November 2007

November 22, 2007 One Month Being A Dog Handler

2007I heard that several of you have been asking Karen that her dog handler should write a diary entry.  Well, since I've been her handler for almost a month, I guess it's time.

A little bit about myself.  I'm 35 years old, quit my job as an accountant and left my husband of 7 years and two Siberians at home, Dakota who is 11 and diabetic for almost 3 years and Nokomis who is almost 5.  We had Sierra for 4 1/2 years before she died from cancer 3 years ago Christmas.  All three of our fur kids were adopted from various organizations.  I talk to Pete a couple times a week and email regularly.  He is taking very good care of the dogs, working, maintaining the house, etc.

I absolutely love being up here.  I'm from Metro Detroit, but was really looking forward to being out in the country.  I'm not sure how I'll react going back home to the city after being here for 6 months, but I'm certainly not thinking or worrying about that.

I am learning a lot of things, such as living in cold weather (block heaters, plugging in vehicles), driving a quad and dealing with so many dogs.  I have finally figured out everybody's name and where they belong in the yard.  Therefore, hooking up for runs is moving along quicker than in the beginning when Karen had to tell me where everyone was located.  I don't mind cleaning up the yard because the weather has been nice and sunny and it gives me some time to say hi and play with all of the dogs.  The time goes by really fast.  It is hard physical work, but I love it.  I love being around so many dogs and even Karen and Mark are cool.  Both have been very nice and gracious and I feel very lucky and comfortable being here.

I wish all of the Americans a Happy Thanksgiving!

Kathryn Trussell
Winter 2007/08 Dog Handler @ NorthWapiti Kennels

Wednesday 21 November 2007

November 21, 2007 Team Updates

I've been asked a few times how the team is shaping up, so I figured that must mean it is time I do a 'team update'!!

 They are actually all doing very well. Runs are up in the 30 mile range now and they are coming home strong and happy. We have had some issue with feet, but we got a couple inches of snow over the weekend and that should clean up a lot of our problems on that front, as the frozen gravel roads were the root of the problems. 

 It is -20 this morning and I imagine that will close up the Tawatinaw River completely. That'll make many of the dogs ridiculously happy - especially Runner!

The few inches of snow we got make things easier on the dogs feet, but it also makes steering the 4 wheelers (ATV's, quads, whatever you call them) a bit trickier!

The other day I was trying to take a picture as we started up the sand hill and failed to punch the throttle and steer wide where I should of. It became obvious I was in a jam and I took a minute to assess the situation (and uttered a few 'not nice' words'). The dogs were all around the corner pointing north, the quad couldn't get any traction in the snow and sand, - and it still needed to go west before I could make the corner. I was in a quandary. I was going to have to call upon my 'Jamie Nelson' training to get out of this one.

I hollered out 'HAW' to Jr and Q and without question, they scrambled up the sand cliff in front of us. No way I could take a dog team all the way up there, but if they were willing to try and 'crawl the wall' I could probably move the quad forward enough that I could get it around the problem corner. I was absolutely thrilled that they were so willing to attempt to get up that 'seemingly impossible for a dog team' hill for me - especially since all I did was ask once.

Sure enough, with them pulling as best they could and me pushing, we got the machine forward the 6 or 7 feet I needed. I called out 'GEE' and they scrambled off the hill back onto the trail, plowing over some poor little saplings in the process, and we were underway again! I praised them silly once we got to the top. What good dogs!


Later in the run Jr nailed a turn onto a trail we had never been down, that also had about 2 years of willow growth in it. He is turning into quite the command leader!

You can see pictures from this run at


I have made a few cuts from the team. Two year olds Paxson and Fritz were cut. That is in addition to Xena and Minto, who were cut a few weeks back. I'm not disappointed in any of them - they are all just young.

There are still a number of 2 year olds hanging in with the 'big dogs' - Isis, Bingo, Togo, Irving, Wolvie and X are all doing excellent - really excellent! I think I smile every time I look at Irv, Wolvie and X in particular. Stars!!






There are some newcomers to the leader pool - and some old standbys still working hard.












Moses, Q, Jr, Runner, Crunchie, Sprite, Spider, Hilda, Kara, Dasher, Tess and Jinx are all key leaders.




When I feel like 'banging my head against a wall', I put Charge, Watt, Irving, or Boom in lead. They are coming along nicely, but it will be awhile before I'm going to actually call them 'leaders'. All are pretty good when we are moving (well, except for Boom who turns down every driveway we pass), but when we stop pandemonium ensues.

I've been really thrilled with Nahanni this year. She had a 'so so' season last year and I wasn't sure what she would want to do this fall. She has let me know loud and clear that she still wants to be a sled dog and is putting in outstanding performances. Mark even had her in lead for a bit the other day, as she was the only dog on his team willing to dive right into the icy river. She did an okay job for a few miles and then reminded us that she really is not a leader, which is fine with me.

Well, time to get on with some other projects!!! All for now!


Sunday 18 November 2007

November 18, 2007 SUPERDOG Joins The Team

Sometimes people and things just pop into your life at the exact right time and moment, don't you all think??

Earlier this year I had been looking for a replacement to the supplement that we had feed our dogs for joint support and helping with extra 'wear and tear' that their lives put on their fuzzy little bodies.

The one we had been using was expensive and the dogs hated the taste of it. Loki actually would carefully pick all his kibble out of his bowl around the granules of supplement and then pee in the bowl on his supplement. Not too subtle a message!

I had been researching a few products online and talking to some friends, but was just not finding anything I was feeling really good about feeding to the team.

At the same time I had also been talking to Mark about retiring Moses. You all know how much I respect and adore Mo, he led me across the finish line in the '06 Iditarod and has been a solid and dependable leader in my team since the '04 Race. However, lately I was seeing some changes in his gait that was making me think that he was having some issues with his body - and more bothersome, he was cranky and snarky with the dogs he was running with. Very 'un-Mo' like and I was worried it was a sign that he was in pain.

I decided to give him a few solid days off and then look at him in harness again.

During those few days I received an intriguing email from a local company that I was unaware even existed. The company, Super Dog ( , makes a high end pet food treat that contains Elk Velvet Antler (EVA), Saskatoon berries, Kelp Meal, Flaxseed and many more interesting natural ingredients.

Quoting from their information brochure "This high end dog treat was formulated as an aid towards keeping your dog healthy. Especially from old age, poor coats, allergies and stomach problems. As well Elk Velvet Antler is proven ( to help dogs with joint stiffness, lack of energy, old injuries and arthritis. All the ingredients are designed to holistically help with these problems and not intended as your dog's main food. Dogs also love the taste of Super Dog treats; therefore can be used for training or as a reward."

 This sounded exactly like the kind of thing I was looking for (and EVA has always intrigued me) and what better time to give it a try?

Don and Dave Bamber paid a visit to the kennel a few days after the email. We got a chance to get a feel for what we were each about and they left me with a bunch of treats to feed the main string dogs in the kennel - and Fly, who we were having some coat troubles with this fall.

 So the 'test feeding' has gone remarkably well and we are thrilled to report that our 'main string' or 'A team' dogs can now be referred to as the 'Super Dogs' in the kennel!! They will all be supplemented with Super Dog treats throughout training and racing.

 They are actually thrilled about it - as they LOVE the treats!!! Loki actually picks his treats out of his bowl and eats them first rather then peeing on them. And those lovely pictures of Crunchie standing so attentive in the show ring in California - he was being fed Super Dog treats as bait for 95% of that show.

 Fly's coat is actually finally starting to come in - which is great, as I was very concerned about what we were going to do for him this winter. (For those that don't know, his coat just wasn't growing after he got his summer hair cut this year).

 And of course you know I'm about to mention Moses. Moses led the team on a lovely fast 22 mile run the other day. He was wagging his tail on breaks (which is actually fairly 'un-Mo' like in of itself, he's never been a tail wagger in harness) and leaving his co-leader alone. I had a chiropractic assessment done on him yesterday and there were only very minor things to adjust, overall he was very sound. We are no longer discussing cutting him!!

We are thrilled to announce SUPER DOG as part of the NorthWapiti team!!

Check them out at - and of course, tell them I sent you!


Saturday 17 November 2007

November 17, 2007 Camping Trips & ER Visit

I've been doing a fair number of 'mini' camping trips this fall - basically they were glorified coffee outings to my friend Lisa's place - but the dogs don't know that! J  Works out great, as the dogs were getting good runs and experience resting in harness, but it was time to really stretch them out on a real camping trip.

The original plan was to go camping last Friday, but plans got stalled Thursday when Mark walked out of the bush without his ATV and asked if I'd mind driving him to the hospital. When I asked what the problem was he held up his left hand to show 4 fingers pointing in one direction and his ring finger pointing an entirely different way.

I should have taken a picture, but honestly, I was too busy trying to keep my lunch down.

Mark was greeted warmly by the ER staff at the Athabasca Hospital - he tried to tell me that the nurse worked at Alpac in addition to putting shifts in a the hospital, but I'm thinking he is just becoming a 'regular' in the ER.

After the receptionist, nurse and just about everyone else gave 'oh gross' exclamations at Mark's hand they froze the finger and yanked it back into place. A few days with a splint and his hand is mostly back to normal.

We dragged his ATV up the hill it was stuck on with my ATV the next day. Thankfully it did not require an ER visit.

So, Mark back to full strength we decided to try again yesterday. As he was just coming off a stretch of night shifts, he slept through the day, we fed the yard at 4 pm, fed ourselves, packed up and hit the trail around 7pm. 

The run to the campground was a solid one. The dogs hadn't been on a night run in while and were having a blast. We bounced off tussocks in the muskeg reminiscent of the trail from Ophir to Iditarod on last year's race.

Three big animals bounced across the road right in front of my team. At first I thought they were deer, but their size and the way they jumped the fence in the far ditch really let me to think they were actually elk (aka Wapiti) - Mark agreed.  Not unheard of in the area, but the first time we have run into them out here with teams.

Miles later we wheeled into the campground. It was a nice treat that our handler Kathryn had decided to drive out and meet us. We got dogs fed and settled down before Mark (aided by a lot of flammable liquids) got a fire roaring for us to cook up some hot dogs over.
by Penny Blankenship

Despite having all my rookies in the campground with us, we passed a relatively quiet 3 hours before packing up, waving goodbye to Kathryn (as she scurried back to the cabin to get to bed - we had kept her up till WELL past her bedtime!) and hitting the trail for home.

The dogs took a mile or so to find their 'groove' and then settled easily into ground covering travel.

With traffic virtually non existent (it was 2am), I pulled out my iPod to help me stay away. No luck, it was totally dead. Seems I put it on the charger yesterday, but forgot to plug the darn thing in.

I resorted to munching on some trail mix and reciting 'The Cremation of Sam Magee' to the dogs to stay awake.

"There are strange things done 'neath the midnight sun by the man who moil for gold..."

We took a couple good long water and rest breaks for the critters, finally we hit the muskeg that means we are about 7 miles from the kennel. As I was bouncing along (no problem staying awake now) it occurred to me that I should have seen Mark's headlamp round the last corner in my rear view mirror by now. I called the dogs to a stop and turned around to look - still no Mark. I powered down my ATV accessories (my handwarmers, GPS and spotlight) and shut off my machine to see if I could hear Mark's making it's way down the trail. Nothing. Hmmm, then a weak light accompanied by no sound popped into view. I hit the start button on my ATV and absolutely nothing happened. What the heck?? I tried one more time before deciding to just wait for Mark - I didn't want to kill the battery. When Mark pulled up, I mentioned that I had ATV trouble. "Me too", was his reply. Seriously, neither machine would start, that was why there was no noise when he came into view around the corner.  Rather unbelievable when you consider that in all the years and all the miles we have put in with ATVs, we have never had one break down on a training run - forget 2 within 5 minutes of each other (Katerina - are you jinxing our machines??). 

Battery power held up enough that we were both able to run our spotlights for most of the way home. We each also put on a headlamp for added security. Luckily, pulling a 500 + lb ATV with a person on board is not a big challenge for the team, so we made it home only a bit later then expected.

Everyone ate well and was tucked back onto their chains. It was 6:15am when Mark and I dropped into bed. Mark lucked out with a full 10 hours sleep, but I had to be up at 9:30 to be ready to meet Dr. Veronica Devall for kennel shots, a few adjustments on dogs and a MUSH with PRIDE kennel inspection!

Despite my lack of sleep, I had a lovely visit with Veronica and we got all our projects accomplished - including our kennel inspection, which we passed with flying colors. J

(For more information on MUSH with PRIDE kennel inspection program, check out )

Well, I'm off to make dinner and then pushing everyone out the door to feed early so I can get some sleep!!!

Happy Trails!


Tuesday 13 November 2007

November 13, 2007 Dog Updates

Sadly, it has been months since I have done a proper kennel update. As you would imagine, much as been going on - so much that it's probably going to take a few diary entries to bring everyone up to speed!!

I'll start with the most important item - dog updates.

As is often the case, fall saw a number of dogs leaving the kennel for new homes. The start of the exodus coincided with the arrival of Mike Carmichael in mid August. Carmichael's had already made arrangements to purchase Lexx - a nice yearling out of Tolsona and X. So as soon as Mike got settled in his 'spot' in our meadow, Lexx was moved out of our yard and down to Mike's truck. I'm confident he will be a nice strong addition to Mike's team.

Before Mike's departure in September, I managed to talk him into taking Gator, one of the Jumpy x Butch pups from last summer and he managed to talk me out of puppies Pitch (Surge x Kara) and Bubba (Nate x Hilda).
Lucky Mike doesn't have a bigger dog truck!!!

Around the same time, I offered Sukih (Skor x Kluane) to Tara Lemiex of Kazlo Siberians. Tara already has a couple dogs from us - and a number of dogs from our lines. She simply jumped at the opportunity to get Sukih in her yard!
We also had to make the tough decision, thanks to a yardful of puppies this summer, to place a few more kids. So Banjo jetted off to live with Rob and Louise Cooke in Nova Scotia and her sister, Billie down to New Hampshire.
Although Kelly Berg was unsuccessful talking me out of a number of dogs when she was here in September, I caved a few weeks back and let Bongo head out to Kelim. I know she will be loved and appreciated there, but it was still really tough to put her on the plane.
As you may have all read, we did welcome 7 more little mouths with the addition of a litter courtesy of Crunchie and Olena. 'The Candies' - Smartie, Chicklet, Skittles, Twizzler, Peeps, Turtle and Jelly Bean - are all wonderful.

So, 8 dogs have left - and 7 more arrived. So much for getting the kennel numbers down a bit! J

As for training updates, a couple cuts have been made, but I'm still training 35, so watch for a bunch more coming soon!

Cut so far have been Minto, Xena and Lingo. The girls both got cut for the same reason, they just need a bit more time to grow up. Xena developed the nickname 'Bubbles' in training as her bubbly exuberance kept overtaking her ability to focus on working in harness. She is constantly making me smile, but it was very obvious she isn't grown up enough for any 'serious' training yet.
Lingo's cut was a harder one, as it was nothing he 'did' that caused it. Rather, he came down with a health issue that necessitated his right eye being removed and caused me to cut him from the team.

I'm happy to report that he is doing wonderful now and it looks like we may have even found him a new home where he can lead out a full and happy life. Good news!!!

I took some pictures on my training run on Sunday and you can check them out on my Piscasa site - The site has been fussy and hasn't wanted me to do captions on the photos, so there are only a few for now, but I'll keep trying!

Off to run dogs!


Sunday 4 November 2007

November 4, 2007 Smiley's Retirement

A few months ago, Katerina requested an update on how Smiley is enjoying his retirement.  I had neglected to get this done, however after all the e-mails of Crunchie's wins in the ring this weekend (GO CRUNCH), Smiley reminded me that he was getting bored with all the talk being centered on someone other than "Smiley".  The trademark Smiley yawns were being shot directly at me as I stalked the computer for more good news from California!!!  So Smiley, this is all about YOU!!!  Again!!!
Ch. North Wapiti's Guy Smiley - Smiley - Smiles - Smarty Pants - Goof Ball ... the "Guy" has many nicknames.  Regardless of how we address him, we always find ourselves saying his name with a hint of glee in our voice.  I'm not sure if it's the name or the woof, but Smiley has a way of making us laugh in the utmost respectful way.  We are never laughing at Smiley, we are laughing with him.  The boy's mood may be infectious but let's be clear - he has an agenda.  Get the humans on your side then take them for all they are worth.  The sad part is whatever we do for Smiley and trust me the list is long, we do it willingly knowing we are fueling the fire.  So here are a few Smiley stories.
Shortly after we brought Smiley home from the 2006 Fall Warm-up Weekend, he was in the house for a visit along with a few other woofs.  I was sitting in the living room and I heard Smiley's toes ticking around on the kitchen floor.  Then things got quiet before he came prancing into the living room carrying a bunch of bananas that had been on the kitchen counter.  He had his head held high as he proudly carted them around with me in pursuit.  I pretty much had to wrestle them off of him and let's just say that the bananas lost.  Ever since then, bananas go up "high" in a cupboard.
The next Smiley trick was at Halloween a month or so after the banana fiasco.  One of our neighbors had given us two small pumpkins from her garden.  Since we aren't avid pumpkin carvers, the little orange things were left in the porch on the cupboard.  One night I made the mistake of leaving the porch door open (daaaa).  Smiley disappeared for a few minutes then came flying in from the porch and stopped behind the couch (see a pattern emerging?).  I could hear heavy nasal breathing coming from the general vicinity of Smiley, so got up quickly to see if he was in distress.  Well yes, he was certainly in distress.  You see it is very hard for a Sibe to breath when he has a pumpkin the size of a football stuck in his mouth.  He had a good hold on it and when I inquired what he was up to, he looked up and pranced into the living room, again head held high, showing off his prized possession.  Well, you can't deny the guy his pride or a little fun.  The pumpkin didn't really have a purpose anyway, so for the next few weeks until Mr. Jack-O-Lantern was unrecognizable we played hide-the-pumpkin.  Each night the pumpkin had a few more holes in it - some pretty funky looking holes since Mr. Smarty Pants' canines have seen their share of wear and tear.
One last "food" story, then I'll move on.  Raw potatoes are one of Smiley's most favorite things.  We keep a bag of the little round guys in the porch pantry and EVERY night when Smiley comes in he finds it necessary to check on them.  I'm not sure if he counts them to make sure none have escaped or what the deal is, but he noses them around in their bag and if he is so inclined he might put a few teeth marks in one or two, but is ever so careful not to do enough damage that he is forbidden to ever touch the potatoes again.  I think he just plain enjoys checking on his little potato friends.  So if you are ever at our house for a meal, do enjoy the potatoes!!!
My poor siblings have endured my love of Sibes for most of my adult life.  They are polite and patient with my addiction but they don't see the dogs often enough to get to know which dog is which.  They hear the stories though ... all too often.  My sister Kathy came out to our place to stay overnight before we headed out for a "girl weekend".  I had to go to work for a few hours before we could run off, so she said she'd hold the fort until I got back.  We agreed that she could bring a couple of dogs into the house for some quality time.  I had been at work about an hour when my phone rang and it was Kathy.  She had done something weird with the t.v. and needed some help getting things back on track.  While she had me on the phone she said she had two dogs in the house and she wasn't sure which two, but one of them was sitting on the chair in the livin groom staring at her to the point that it was making her uncomfortable.  I was pretty sure I knew who the culprit was.  When I asked if he was all white with a bit of grey/black on his face and two beady brown eyes, she replied "yeah which one is that?".  I said, "his name is Smiley and apparently because you don't know his name you are not worthy of his affection".  She laughed and said "Smiley is that you?"  Apparently, he bounced off of the chair and that was that.  She later told me that the two of them had toast and jam together on the couch and watched Oprah.  PLEASE.
There are many more Smiley stories but I'll stop now.  It's hard to believe that it's been just over a year since we brought Smiley into our home.  I knew at the time that Karen's decision to let Smiley come and live with us was a great compliment but also a great responsibility.  It would be an understatement to say we are enjoying him.  We celebrated his 11th birthday this summer.  He wore a shiny silver party hat with "birthday boy" written in blue (you can see a photo on the NW main page).  He allowed a couple of photos then ripped the hat to shreds.  All the dogs enjoyed cinnamon buns and of course, Smiley got the first one.  He snatched it from my hand as I was attempting to break it into pieces.  Yes, Smiles I got the message.  You are a big boy and don't need your food cut up for you.  He is a picture of health and happiness and we look forward to many more birthday celebrations.  This Fall he is teaching Blaze and Sparky to be lead dogs.  He gives them homework every day and they have to bring him a banana if they need to suck up to the teacher (an apple would just be too mainstream for Smiles).
So Katerina, I hope you agree that it sounds like Smiley is enjoying his retirement.  Smiley has authorized me to share a couple of photos with you.  Enjoy!!!
Until next time,
Colleen Hovind

Tuesday 30 October 2007

October 30, 2007 Remembering...


NorthWapiti's Super Grover
July 13, 1996 - October 30, 2006
"Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell."
- Edna St. Vincent Millay