Monday 30 April 2007

April 30, 2007 The Dasher Dog

No fear, Dasher - or The Dasher Dog, as she is usually called (I have no clue why) is fine, however on Saturday she was rushed to the vet with pyometrea, which is basically an infection of the uterus. We were given a couple of treatment options, however, I was not willing to at all gamble with Dasher's life, so an emergency spay was performed.

Unfortunately that means that there will be no Charge/Dasher babies next month - and no Dasher babies ever.

We are very sad about that, but very happy that Dasher is home and well on the road to recovery.
BTW - Kara is most appalled that Dasher is in the house. I told her that it should be easier to share her doggie beds with her daughter, but she remains simply mortified at having to share anything. Bait, Tic and Tac are all annoyed too, as Dasher doesn't share her Mother's tolerance for small, furry things and the cats have been banned from the house!

┬ęPenny Blankenship for

Friday 20 April 2007

April 20, 2007 A Look Inside

What Mark does in his free time....our new kittens - Tic and Tac (no, I can't tell them apart)....what Kara thinks of the new kittens....and what Bait thinks of the new kittens.
What Mark does in his free time
Our new kittens - Tic and Tac
What Kara thinks of the new kittens
What Bait thinks of the new kittens

Tuesday 17 April 2007

April 17, 2007 Taiga 300 Part III

Because we were all using the same spots in the checkpoint that we had used earlier, but pointed in the opposite direction, all my boys ended up parked where the girls were before. MUCH sniffing and marking ensued. Poor boys, as if they weren’t stirred up and out of their minds enough already!
I got a good meal in them right away and then just let them rest. I cleaned up my parking spot and repacked my sled for the trip back to Wolverine before heading up to the lodge.

Up in the lodge, Alan offered to cook breakfast, but with the disclaimer that his wife would have done a better job. The disclaimer was unnecessary – his omelette was top notch!

Race organizer John Schandelmeirer was telling us stories of a couple foxes that came down in the night and raided the straw and garbage piles next to the parked dog teams. Very brave little critters! Apparently, Zoya and Molly’s teams were barking their heads off at them!

I really wanted to be out of Maclaren as soon as my mandatory 4-hour layover was done to get as much running in as I could before we hit the real heat of the day, so I didn’t want to go down to the cabin to nap (too comfy). I intended to just hang out in the lodge, but in no time, Mike, Becca and I were all snoring on the super comfy couches. Luckily Becca set her alarm - just in case (my watch is still sitting somewhere at the top of Rainy Pass, so I was relying on an alarm clock that I had left down in my sled).

The three of us staggered around half asleep, muttering and grumbling as we pulled on layers of clothes, boots and such.

Before waking up the dogs (they always notice when I come over to the team, but late in a race they won’t really get up until I ask them to), I took the opportunity to put in an extra section of gangline. I figured that a 14-dog gangline would allow me to space out my girls and boys a little better – and it would also give me the option of running Olena in single lead (all the girls in season had her really worked up and no one wants to run lead with her when she is worked up – pure evil!!).
When asked, the team got quickly up and once tugs were hooked up and the final gear tucked into the sled, they left the checkpoint smartly!

I was worried that all the snowmachine tracks leaving the Lodge would cause the same problems they had leaving in the other direction last night; however Dasher and Spider listened well and hit the hard-packed race trail with no hesitation! YEAH!!

The team moved well and with Becca just a bit behind us, we began clicking off the miles. I had one little incident about 2 miles out though where the girls all stopped to flirt with the boys. As per the ‘ritual’ I had developed, I threw down my hook and ran up the gangline as fast as I could. Problem was my hook didn’t hold and I was doing my darnedest to keep the leaders ahead of the boys. I thought I might have to run all the way back to Wolverine backwards, dragging my leaders, but thankfully Becca came running up and set the hook for me. Without her help, I most certainly would have ended up with a breeding that time! Phew!

In typical ‘tired Karen’ fashion, I obsessed about each of the obstacles we had cross on the way up to Maclaren but the dogs handled the overflow, glare ice, ice shelf and other things very well. I was very proud of Dasher and Spider. They were learning to really work with me and I was gaining trust and faith in their leading abilities with each passing mile. This was EXACTLY what we all needed.
Olena had been favouring a leg almost since we left the last checkpoint. It seemed to be more comfortable for her to lope than trot but as the temperature picked up, she was heating up faster than the rest of the dogs and I eventually stopped and put her in the sled bag.

A number of the dogs were still dealing with diarrhea, but everyone snacked well, wagged their tails and rolled happily in the snow on our numerous breaks.

Becca and I had originally talked about shutting down about noon and waiting out the worst of the heat of the day, but there was a nice, light breeze blowing and I thought we could make it to our previous camping spot on the Big Su river by 2:30 or so without taking too much out of the dogs, so we decided to aim for that.

Between 1 and 1:30, the breeze vanished and the sun got quite strong. Becca had had a few issues and fallen back out of sight, so I wasn’t sure what she was doing, but I was convinced that camping in our old camping spot would be a good thing mentally for the team and kept pushing through.
When I hit the over flow that had caused us so much trouble the previous day, we just scooted over it. Zoya was camped out on the other side of the overflow and I stopped to chat with her for a few minutes. I asked why she hadn’t gone ahead to where we had camped before and she said she thought she was 8 miles or so from there. I was sure we were just a mile or so away – luckily I was right. Becca had caught up again and our teams pulled happily onto their old beds from yesterday.
Our intention was to camp for only 2 hours, so I prepared a meal of meat and lots of water for the team. Everyone licked their bowls clean of seconds and even thirds! By now it was plain HOT outside. The dogs sprawled out on the snow, soaking up the sun while I started a fire to burn garbage.
At 4, when we should have been starting to get ready to go, it was hotter than it had been when we arrived. We decided to stall an extra ½ hour, hoping a few wispy clouds that hung around would eventually block out some of the sun. They didn’t, but we hit the trail for the final 56 miles or so, right at 5.

The trail twisted and turned along the Tyrone River, giving us brief respites from the sun, but it was still pretty hot for the next few hours. We passed the cabin that John was camped at the previous day and it was even cuter in daylight than at night. It would be a great spot to camp at!
The river was covered with snowmachine tracks and had very, very few markers, but I just left Dasher alone and she did a tremendous job of keeping us on the main trail. Just before it was time to start thinking about headlamps, I stopped and snacked the team.

Olena was still in the sled bag. I had put her back on the gangline as we left our camping spot, but it immediately became obvious that she needed to ride the rest of the way to Wolverine. She popped out for a snack with the rest of the dogs and curled up quickly once I tucked her back in the bag.
Once you hit Tyrone Lake, things get very straight and boring for all – especially when you are all tired and looking for a finish line!

Becca and I had been traveling on and off together since our camping spot. It was obvious her team was faster, so I stopped and told her to go ahead. Sadly, my dogs aren’t big chasers, so letting another team lead doesn’t pick up the speed of my team any. She pulled ahead, but I’d occasionally see her headlamp flash back as she looked over her shoulder. It gave us something to aim for.

As we made the final turn and Wolverine Lodge came into sight, Olena’s nose stuck out of the sled bag and she started to whine. I’m sure she smelled familiar smells. All the dogs picked it up and we coasted across the finish line.

Gwen and a bunch of other folks were around to help get the team safely hooked onto the truck without an ‘oops’ breeding! It would have been ironic to get all the way through the race without one and then have one at the finish line!!

Despite my early doubts, the Taiga was a good healing experience. I don’t think a moment went by that I didn’t think of Snickers and wish she was with us, but that was to be expected. I think it was probably a good thing that I had issues with my ‘in season’ girls. It kept my mind in the present and kept me focused on the team. Sometimes blessings come in weird packages!

Sunday 15 April 2007

April 15, 2007 Taiga 300 – Part II

First off, let me clear up some misconceptions. It was reported at various times that I intended to spend longer then my mandatory rest at Maclaren Lodge – up to even an extra day. That was never the case.
The dogs were tired coming in and I had a bit of a bug going through the boys, but I knew running this race on it’s mandatory layovers at Maclaren wasn’t going to push this team beyond it’s training nor ability. The purpose of my race was for it to be a ‘getting back in the saddle’ thing – and that wasn’t going to be accomplished on an ‘ultra conservative’ time line.

The dogs were hot, so I just gave them a meal of meat and lukewarm water to start. Eight of the dogs polished off everything – Olena, Batdog, Barq and Odie were suffering ‘the bug’ worst of all and didn’t dive into dinner well. But I wasn’t too worried, as I figured they would after a bit of rest.
I headed up to the very comfortable and cozy Maclaren Lodge, where I had a wonderful bowl of chili and a whole jug of water. Susie and Alan (who run the lodge) were very accommodating and even tossed my pants into their dryer to get rid of the ice buildup from dealing with overflow.

I killed about an hour before grabbing more water for the dogs and heading back down to the team.
This time I prepared a big meal of Eagle Ultra and meat for them – and as I hoped, everyone ate. With full bellies, they burrowed into their straw for a good sleep – I intended to follow their example, but first I ran up to the lodge for more to drink and to use the flush toilet (what luxury!).

The cabin set aside for mushers was perfect – neat, warm, with cots that even had blankets and pillows. Heaven. I set my alarm and was asleep in no time.

Two hours later I forced myself out of the cozy cabin and back up to the lodge for more water for the dogs. I wanted to make sure they got well hydrated on this rest due to the hot run into Maclaren and their bug.

Again everyone ate at least some of his or her meal - most of them gobbled every last morsel up.
Dasher finished her meal and attempted to sidle over to one of the boys. I juggled a few dogs around to make extra sure her attempts at romance were unsuccessful.

When we left Wolverine Lodge the night before, sleds were loaded down with food and supplies for the rest of the race – which was over 250 miles! Every square inch in my sled bag was stuffed with stuff! It was a heavy and cumbersome load! For this next 30-mile leg we had the luxury of leaving gear/supplies at Maclaren that we could use on our return, so I emptied my sled of everything but mandatory race gear. Sweet!

Becca was a little nervous the mountainous 30-mile leg (heights make her nervous) so we agreed to travel together. Right around 11 pm Becca, Mike and myself pulled our hooks and headed into the night.

There were a lot of tracks leaving the lodge and I had lots of trouble getting Dasher over onto the packed trail. Mike’s team hit the race trail and slipped off into the dark. Unlike the previous 100 miles of trail, this was hilly, mountainous terrain. I was grateful for the lighter load in the sled! The dogs moved strongly and we reeled Mike’s team back in and took over leading our little threesome.
The night was bright and that gave a teasing hint of what beautiful country we were traveling through. Many times during the run I wished I were doing this leg in the daylight.

Every now and again my front end, with its 3 sexy girls, would come to a screeching halt. The boys would take the opportunity to try and jump the girls and I’d go charging up the gangline as fast as I could to prevent any breedings. That certainly kept me awake and on my toes!

Eventually the trail hooked up with the Denali Highway (which is closed in the winter) and began a long, gradual descent back towards the Lodge. A few miles before Maclaren we swung off the road and back into the hills to hook up with our outgoing trail. Along this leg was a little box on a post next to the trail. It was filled with envelopes and a sign encouraging mushers to ‘Take One’. I did and was delighted to find a free nights stay at Maclaren Lodge inside! It is valid until April of next year, so you can be CERTAIN Mark and I will be making use of it next winter!

The dogs picked it up when they realized we were heading back to their straw beds and came strongly into the checkpoint.

I was pleased with the team and in great spirits as I parked them and started my checkpoint routine.
Next up – the finish.


April 15, 2007 Handling! The most fun you can have…

by Gwen Ross
A few paw prints from the Taiga 300, April 2007.
“If you’re coming with me you need nerves of steel, Cause I take corners on two wheels..”

- Pam Tillis, Mi Vida Loca

The drive along the Alaska Highway from Willow to Lake Louise, Alaska is nothing short of spectacular.

I started calling it the ‘sports car’ of dog trucks because of the way Karen drives that big hunking beast, I’d swear she has taken lessons from Jeff Gordon! The truck eats up the miles, she passes while barreling up hills, and even in tight parking situations she can maneuver it backwards around corners and obstacles, even on sheets of ice! It takes corners like a dream.

Well… all except one corner….

We pulled into the Wolverine Lodge turn-off and the truck gracefully took the corner, and kept taking the corner until it ended abruptly with one wheel over the edge. “Gwen”, said Karen, very calmly “Would you please lock the hubs?” Out I hopped, locked up my side and then stepped round the front to lock up the driver’s side when suddenly I plunged up to my armpits in snow!

“OH OH!!!!”

We hiked down to the lodge and one of the young employees agreed to give us a tow out.

“So how big is it?” He asked, “ a ¾ ton?” “Ah, No!” was all Karen replied.
His eyes were as big as saucers when he saw the truck. And for all you ‘Ford vs. Chevy’ folks out there, it took not one, but two Chevys, in tandem, to pull us out! Karen knows how to make an entrance!

We arrived with 22 dogs and will leave with 24! Kluane is coming home, Togo, from the Bergs, is the newcomer. Mike Ellis brought them with him.


Race Day:
The day starts with a drivers meeting. There are 7 teams that will start the race, at two-minute intervals starting at 11:00am sharp. The mushers ask lots of questions, mostly about the trail conditions. The first checkpoint will be back at Wolverine, so the handlers drag straw and drop bags for their mushers over to where the teams will be parked. This is an unassisted race, so up until Karen leaves I’m allowed to help her with whatever she needs, but after that point my assistance will be very restricted. 

As we get closer to the start time I string out the gang line and help harness dogs.

Hooking up….

And before I know it, she is off!

And then there is just silence.
Question #1: So what do handlers do while they wait?
Answer: We lay bets on when the mushers will come back!

And back they came, quicker than any of us had anticipated. I had just finished dropping dogs and moving the truck away from the checkpoint (as per Karen’s instructions) when someone hollered, “Gwen, she is coming in!!!”

There’s a flurry of excitement to grab the leaders and lead them around to park them all lined out, like a series of tractor-trailers.

The race Marshall gave me my instructions; I can talk to the musher, and I can “kick the musher awake”. Other than that I can give no assistance, except to break up a dogfight, or… prevent a breeding!!!! The teams had a mandatory 8 hr lay over and I spent most of the time doing exactly that, preventing a breeding. Or multiple breedings, as Karen had 3 of her leaders in season.

Karen didn’t get any sleep, and before I knew it, it was time to get her out of the checkpoint. This time in the dark, but with a good full moon, and strong headlamps, it wasn’t really dark.

Getting the team up and moving proved to be quite a test of patience for Karen, as the dogs certainly had the call of nature on their minds. For me it was blur of running out with the leaders, watching the team leave, then seeing the line accordion, running out again, grabbing leaders, lining them out, watching them leave, seeing Karen’s headlamp light whip around (looking for me), and repeating this process numerous times. I was uncertain as to how far I could help her, and wondered if I might have to run the entire second leg like this!!!

Later the other handlers shared a giggle as they told me from their perspective at the steps of the lodge, they could see my headlamp light bobbing along with the team, see it stop, hear Karen yell “Thanks Gwen” then hear her yell “Gwwwweeeeennnnn” and my headlamp light bob along again, repeat the process until finally they heard “I’m on my own now Gwen” and my light switch off in reply.

Too wired to think about sleep I moved the truck back, moved all the discarded drop bag gear back into the truck, and finally raked the left behind straw into piles. Afterwards I stood outside just looking into the night for a while and wished my friend a good run.
Wolverine Lodge is wonderful!

The next morning after they left, I was up at 6:00am to drop and feed the dogs. I turned on the tap to fill buckets and there was no water! Uh OH!!!!  Not to worry, Tree, was also up, and when he saw my dilemma and discovered I had 12 dogs in my care he immediately scooped ice out of the ice machine into a large soup pot and melted me enough water for my morning chores. Getting water from the lake was no easy task as their lines had frozen up, but he promised there would be water for dogs and mushers from this point forward.

The water truck pumps water from a hole in the lake and then drives it up to the lodge’s holding tank.

Question #2: So what do handlers do while they wait?

We rake up and bag straw!

We watch planes come in!
We groom dogs, and snuggle dogs….
Some snoozing, some stretching, some talking and laughing….
At least I had dog chores!

Anticipation started to mount as the dropped dogs came in via snow machine.

The teams arrived through the afternoon, into the night and finally in the wee hours of the morning, all the teams were in. Karen’s team came in strong at 11:40pm.

We heard plenty of stories afterwards including thwarted breedings, porcupine encounters, overflow, tricky ice bridges, and even sneaky foxes.
Karen is well liked for her trail etiquette and kindness to other mushers. I heard this first hand when one of the rookie racers told us of how grateful she was that Karen had stayed with her and helped her through the rough spots. She was very insecure about running in mountainous terrain as she is scared of heights. Karen made it possible.

An awards banquet was scheduled, but as the mushers all arrived sooner than anticipated, the banquet became an “Awards Brunch” and although most mushers will say, “The best moose is a dead moose” I’d have to say the best moose is moose steak and eggs, Wolverine style!!

The drive to Alberta is long and stunningly beautiful.

Ice fishing

Wildlife abounds.

We chased Caribou up the highway; we saw Moose, Deer, Big Horned Sheep, Bison, and even a Bobcat!

And Karen’s foot tends to get heavier the closer Alberta gets!
Thanks Karen for the opportunity to handle for the Taiga 300. I’ve never done anything like this before and I learned so much!
Gwen Ross

Rookie Handler - 2007 Taiga 300

"Heading for the barn!"
Footnote: Duct tape – don’t leave home without it!

Saturday 14 April 2007

April 14, 2007 Taiga 300 part I

Part I
I’m going to leave most of the pre race tales to Gwen. I know she is just dying to tell the tale of the dog truck in the ditch, so you’ll have to hold on to hear that story!

Suffice to say it was good to be back at Wolverine Lodge. Mark and I trained out of there for many weeks in ’03 and spent a few days there in ’04 and ’05 too. The Lake Louise area remains one of our favourite areas of Alaska and the memories here are all good ones.

I had a little moment dropping dogs for the first time. Snickers had very memorable habits and behaviours while traveling and it really hit me that she wasn’t here with us. Anyway, we got the dogs settled in, picked up Togo (WOW – he is the SPITTING image of his Dad) and Kluane from Mike Ellis and readied ourselves for the race.

It had been a busy day and by the time the last drop of the dogs was done, I was really looking forward to a good night's sleep. Sadly, that was not to be. The noise from the bar carried on until after 4 am – folks tramped up and down the hallway, a dog across the hall barked and doors opened and closed continuously. I woke up feeling more tired than when I went to bed. Not good.

We fed dogs, fed ourselves, dropped dogs, packed the sled, attended meetings and eventually, shortly after 11 am, hit the trail.

The team consisted of Dasher, Holly, Tess, Olena, Spider, Barq, Batdog, Odie, Hector, Herman, Charge and Crunchie. I was completely confident in them, but felt I might be a little on the weak side for ‘racing’ leaders. The fact that Dasher, Holly and Tess were all in standing heat added a whole ‘nother dimension to things too!!

Still on Lake Louise, it became apparent that my front end wasn’t a ‘push button’ front end when I had trouble getting them off a side trail and onto the main trail. I had to sink a hook and go up front to deal with the situation, but Dasher and Holly were happy to be on the main trail when I pointed it out to them.

It felt good to be out racing and I think I even let out a little ‘yee – haw’ at one point. Familiar trails, a solid team and a GORGEOUS day are definitely healing for my soul.

The miles passed easily and steadily. I only had to stop twice – once to help the leaders get off the ‘Copper Basin’ Trail we had been running on and onto the loop on Crosswinds Lake – and once when Dasher and Holly decided to beg for treats that Perry was handing out to his team (what mooches!!) – but I stopped and snacked a few times and let them take a lot of breaks to roll in the snow and cool off throughout the day. I didn’t want the heat to take too much out of them.

They finished the first leg strong and all ate with gusto back at Wolverine. However, resting wasn’t something they then felt compelled to do. That surprised me, as my team is usually one of the best behaved out there when it comes to resting in checkpoints. I guess the hormones were the big issue though, as my leaders batted their eyes and wiggled their butts at the boys. The boys were totally smitten and it took a lot of work to arrange and secure the team in a manner that would prevent any breedings.

I headed to the lodge to get some sleep. Despite finding a comfy, quiet spot upstairs on a bed, I couldn’t fall asleep. My mind was whirling and visiting all kinds of places I didn’t want to be. The lack of sleep and long days really caught up with me and I found myself stressed, strung out, near tears, and entertaining thoughts of scratching. “I’m just not ready for this”, I kept telling myself - “Too soon”. I was a mess.

I thought of calling Mark, but deep down knew that wasn’t a good idea. I knew what my issues were and I knew that being tired was making everything seem like a bigger deal than it really was. I needed to hit the trail to Maclaren Lodge – once there, finishing was really the only option – and I needed to finish this.

Finally, midnight rolled around and it was time to get going. My front end oozing estrogen, my team dogs fuelled mostly by testosterone, we attempted to leave Wolverine. It didn’t work. Finally with some help from Gwen, a fair bit of swearing and 4 leader changes, we hit the trail.

Once moving the team rolled well. I let them just move for about 5 miles and then stopped to praise everyone and make sure they were all happy. Back on the sled, I turned on my iPod and settled in for a long night run.

A bit before dawn I caught a whiff of wood smoke on the cold, night air. The trail twisted around a bend on the Tyrone River and exposed a lovely little cabin site tucked in the bend. A voice from the bank called out “Hello to the musher”. It was race organizer John Schandelmeier. I stopped, identified myself, and chatted for a moment before getting underway again.

Just as dawn was breaking we hooked up with the Big Su river. As we were told, a marked trail lead over to a cabin on the far bank that was open to mushers. I was cold and hoping mushers ahead of me had warmed up the cabin, but I could see no teams parked along the bank. A glance downriver revealed 2 teams parked along the trail a bit ahead. “Cabin or company??” I tossed the choice over in my mind, then called the team up to head towards the other teams parked ahead. The teams were Zoya DeNure, who was bundled up on top of her sled, and Becca Ross, who helped guide my team into a parking spot ahead of her. I fired up my cooker and prepared a warm meal for the dogs. They polished off every morsel. For me, the meal was a couple Toostie Pops and a bottle of water!

The dogs were paying the price for not resting back in Wolverine and slept solidly here. Phew!!
Zoya pulled out at about 9:30 and Becca and I followed shortly after 10 am. Becca and I traveled together until we hit a bit of overflow, where Dasher and Spider hit the brakes. I ended up with a GIANT tangle. The dogs saw this as an opportunity to hit on each other and I was kept very busy sorting out the mess and preventing any breedings. Despite being on a wide open river, Becca was long out of sight by the time I got underway again.

The day was warm and I took lots of breaks again to let the dogs eat snow and catch their breath. They weren’t breaking any land speed records, but they were moving well.

This entire 100-mile leg was on the river, except for 1 mile that was brushed along the bank to avoid some holes in the Maclaren River. On that portage I noticed something dark on the trail ahead. My mind finally registered it as one of the worst things a dog team can run into – a porcupine. I SLAMMED on the brakes. Luckily, the twisting and dippy trail hid the porcupine from the view of my leaders – however he was moving towards us, so that wouldn’t last. I yelled at the giant pincushion - he realized that there was danger ahead and started waddling off the trail. Unfortunately, they don’t waddle fast. I was praying for time when my swing dogs noticed Porky. The team popped the snow hook and charged down the trail. My saving grace was that my leaders really hadn’t seen the critter and weren’t sure what we were after. They shot by the porcupine before my swing dogs could pull them after him. He wasn’t more then 2 feet off the trail when we went by – that was far too close!
The rest of the run was uneventful. The trail eventually worked its way above the tree line and offered some spectacular vistas. I had caught up to and passed Mike Ellis by this time. “It finally feels like I’m sledding in Alaska”, he said in reaction to the scenery! Indeed. It was beautiful. All my issues from Wolverine had slipped away with the miles and I was just happy to be where I was.
We slipped around a bend in the river and into Maclaren Lodge.

Watch for Part 2…..

Friday 6 April 2007

April 6, 2007 Greetings from Tok

Hey all,
Gwen and I (well, mostly Gwen) packed up the truck late this morning and headed out of Wolverine Lodge. We made a short drive to Tok where we decided to made it an early evening. Handily, the hotel I picked offers free WiFi.

We will be hitting the road early in the morning for Watson Lake. Kara says 2 more sleeps in the dog truck before she can become a house dog again! :)

The dogs are looking great. As I saw the girls mention, the team consisted of Dasher, Spider, Holly, Tesla, Olena, Odie, Batdog, Crunchie, Hector, Herman, Barq and Charge. Despite vowing last year after the Copper Basin that I would never again race bitches in heat on my team - I left Wolverine Lodge with 3 girls in standing season!! What was I thinking???

I wouldn't call the race 'fun' - it was a lot of work to take 12 hormonally charged beasts on a 300 mile journey in the wilderness - but we got it done! And thanks to vigilance, a couple good snow hooks and a lot of luck - there were 'No Unplanned Breedings'!! ! Yes, that does imply a 'planned' one. Charge was bred to Dasher this morning!! It's not often that I breed such 'young' males - the fact that I did shows that I think VERY highly of this boy.

Once we are settled at home, there will be more stories to tell - and I know Gwen has been journaling her adventures too! Talk to you all soon!