Thursday 28 February 2008

February 28, 2008 Ch NorthWapiti's Oreo

"Ch. NorthWapiti's Oreo"
July 14, 1994 - February 28, 2008
For a number of years O's has been spoiled and loved by my brother, Jim and his wife, Melissa. About 11 months ago, Oreo was diagnosed with cancer and given only a few months to live. However, with much love and top notch vet attention Oreo far outlived the odds. We are not surprised, she was a stubborn and determined young lady from birth. However, in the last week it had become apparent to those that loved her that the cancer was progressing and Oreo was no longer having the quality of life we all wished for her to have. So, last night Jim and Melissa let her go. I asked that they pass on a message to her to 'come play with me on the trail' before she left - and I know she will .

Many thanks to Jim and Mel for giving Oreo such a wonderful home for the past years. She was a wonderful dog and deserved no less. Her adventures were many, but more importantly, she was loved from the day she was born till the day she left.

See you out there O - this time I'm not dropping you in Nikolai!!


Tuesday 26 February 2008

February 26, 2008 Flashy New Parka!

I know this may come as a huge surprise to you all, but I'm just not much of a 'girlie girl'. Yes, there have been times in my life when I paid a fair amount of attention to my wardrobe, wore heels to work everyday and even jewelry, but for by far the majority of my life I've been clad in jeans, boots, ball caps, sweatshirts and for the latest chapter - polar fleece.

When I was 17, I came into a small bit of 'inheritance' from my Grandpa, who passed away when I was 2. He had left me a small piggy bank and told my Mom that maybe it could buy me a nice 'party dress' when I got older. I took that money and opened a bank account, squirreling away enough money to eventually buy myself a horse - not a toy one - a real one. So 'party dresses' have never really been my thing!

That said, there are still a few items of clothing that can cause me to squeal girlishly with delight - parkas are right up there at the top of the list. So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon Skookum brand anoraks ( Not only were the anoraks gorgeous, they were well made with great attention to detail - and Canadian made!!!

My Cabelas Trans Alaska anorak was beginning to show it's wear and Cabelas was not being particularly helpful in regard to me getting a new red one made, as they had been in the past. So I had been kind of looking at what else was out there. I wasn't have much luck finding anything I liked and that fit my needs until I came across the Skookum ones, but now we were getting so close to Iditarod, I feared I wouldn't be able to get anything in time.

I dropped an email to the company and got a very enthusiastic response the same day.

Yes, they could get me a parka, they even offered to do some 'tweaking' to their standard anorak to really make it functional for me (like 300 polartec lining instead of the standard 200 polartec). On top of that, they offered me a GREAT deal on it. Sweet!!

Mom, who still shakes her head over the fact that her son (because he makes his living mostly as a musician) has a fancier wardrobe then her daughter, stepped up to cover the price tag. Doug G. offered to pick it up in Dawson City when he was up there for Quest and bring it home in time for the race and we were in business.

It arrived here in Willow today and I tell ya, I'm going to feel like Cinderella at the start of Iditarod this year! This is one gorgeous and better yet - functional anorak. Jamie tried it on and I thought we were going to have to wrestle it away from her.

It's a little deeper red then you are used to seeing me in, but I think that just makes it look more fashionable. And it is trimmed with silver reflective tape, which not only looks good, but will make me much more visible to all those nighttime snowmachines too!

The ruff is a beautiful light colored wolf one - and the hood shape such that it forms a really nice tunnel to keep the cold away from my face. It has loads of lined, zippered pockets too, so I'm unlikely to lose things as I pull my parka on and off.

No pictures yet, you will have to wait until we get it all decked out with patches and stuff, but if you are curious, there are pictures up of the parkas on their website -

Oh I also have to tell you what 'Skookum' means - power, strong and impressive. I'm finding a puppy to name that this year!!! How cool.


Sunday 24 February 2008

February 24, 2008 Change For Iditarod Team Member

What the heck was I thinking???? I should have known that announcing my Iditarod team so early was just tempting the fates.

When we did blood work on the crew last week there was a little 'blip' in Spidey's results. It didn't seem like a big deal and we made arrangements for her test to be repeated when we were in getting our vet checks done at the Big Lake Susitna Veterinary Clinic yesterday.

Well, it turns out her 'blip' was a little bit more of an issue then we thought. Spidey is feeling super good but it is looking like she had an 'event' sometime recently that set her red blood cells back a bit.  The fact is that her body will not have enough time to get back to the peak condition needed for Iditarod. We are doing some treatment and follow up testing on Spider, but she is expected to make a full recovery and none of this should affect her ability to race in the future, but it will stop her from participating in this year's race.

Spidey and I are bummed; she is a great little leader and such a happy, fun dog to work with!! That said there are still a lot of great leaders in the team, so it really should 'hurt' us any!!

Now X, he's not bummed, in fact he is doing the 'Happy Dance' all around his stakeout, as he is the one selected to step into Spidey's spot.

Anyway, the rest of our vet checks went well. Dr. Baetsle of the Big Lake Susitna Clinic ( has examined every one of my Iditarod teams over the years. He is a tough vet and I know a few that don't go to him because he can be 'too picky', but that is exactly why we use him. Every little bump, bruise, and scrape on the dogs is noted on their vet forms. Every joint is flexed, foot examined, mouth inspected and ear peered into. If Dr. Baetsle has any hesitation about a dog running the race, they don't race.

He is also just plain invested in the kennel. He has worked with our team for so many years that he knows the parents of most of the dogs that are on the team today. He always asks about the dogs and happenings back in Alberta. He recognizes new names on my dog list and always inquires about the parents, etc on them. He and his staff have mourned losses with us and celebrated victories. Although on a good year, I may only see them a couple times on my visit to Alaska, they are a very integral part of our team. Heck, he even came in on his day off yesterday to do our team exam!

Dr. Baetsle was very impressed with the condition of the team. He complimented the condition and weight on each of the dogs. Although there were a few minor splits on the odd foot (which we were already aware of and treating), there was no swelling, stiffness, or injury (old or new) in any joints. He was very pleased with how flexible everyone was (an important thing for a performance dog).  He even paid special attention to Jr's front to make sure his injury from last year was completely healed. It is. Dr. Baetsle couldn't even figure out which shoulder it had been in until he looked up the records from last year on the computer.

So, we are all done with vet checks on the dogs now. Runs with them over the next few days are just to keep them limber and ready to roll - especially with the icy trail conditions around here.

All for this morning!


Saturday 23 February 2008

February 23, 2008 Crunchie's Interview With The Discovery Channel

Okay, before you read this diary entry, you need to watch this video....

Don't worry about how it relates the dogs yet, it will all become apparent in time...

So, yesterday we had a cameraman from the Discovery Channel out following us around for the day. Actually, this is a bit of an ongoing project (hey, I don't tell you guys EVERYTHING! *VBG*). I ran into a crew at the vet checks last year and got chatting with them. They came out to the kennel for a visit and to get some footage of the dogs and I and then did some filming of us in Rainy Pass last year before the wind blew them away.

Really nice guys - very keen on this project they are working on and very fun to work with. They will be following a number of mushers on the race this year and then use footage on about ½ of us for a documentary that will air in October. No guarantees that we will make the show (and no need to inundate the Discovery channel with emails requesting I make the show - what will be will be), but we are having fun with them anyway.

So, yesterday Brian came out and tagged along after us with a camera. He filmed the dogs being fed, then he and I puttered through the dog yard with me introducing and telling him a bit about the individual dogs. The question of 'my favorite' (of the Iditarod team - so Kara wasn't even in the running here!) came up and of course we headed over to meet Crunchie. Crunchie batted his big, brown eyes at Brian and Brian moved in for the close up...

Okay, is the relevance of the ferret video becoming clear????  No?? Watch it again -

Got it now?

Yes, the rare buff footed, black faced Siberian saw his moment and made his move. In a flash he had pulled the fuzzy cover off Brian's mike and headed as far away as his chain would let him. All the while inflicting 'fatal' bites to it. I gasped. Brian assured me it was okay. Crunchie began inflicting the death shake. I sharply called his name. Brian assured me it was okay. Crunchie hunched over his prize.  After about a minute or two of wrestling, Crunch realized that I was not letting him keep his fuzzy victim and grudgingly surrendered it.

I told Crunchie he was a nerd. Brian shook the spit and snow off his cover and stuffed it back on the mike. Crunchie stared at the cover without blinking.

The rest of the day was spent playing with dogs and running dogs. Brian proved to me he was dedicated to getting the shot he wanted when he crouched in my sled bag, facing me as we loped down icy, skittering trails. I don't know that I could have kept my balance facing forward in such a situation, let alone facing backwards. He hung off the back of Jamie's snowmachine, out the side of my sled, and off the back of my runners.

Brian left convinced he got the shots he was looking for. Crunchie didn't blink for the whole day - he just stared at the fuzzy microphone cover wherever it went.

Brian said he see me out on the trail somewhere this race - Crunchie will be waiting and biding his time!


Friday 22 February 2008

February 22, 2008 Introducing The 2008 Iditarod Team!

"There is nothing to regret - either for those who go or for those who are left behind"
- Eleanor Roosevelt

So, this year is proving to be a bit unusual. Here we are still over a week from race day - and I have my Iditarod team already selected. Go figure!!  In past years, I've been puzzling over the decision the night before the race - and one year I took 17 dogs to the restart and made the decision just hours before hitting the trail! But this year, after the Goose Bay race and then a training run yesterday I feel very confident that I know what 16 I want to hook up March 2nd.

Now that doesn't at all mean that I feel the quality of the team is any less then in previous years. In fact, I think it is better - and there are some dogs staying home that I sure feel could go - in fact, I believe that all 7 (well, at least 6 of them) of the recent cuts are dogs fully capable of making the journey to Nome, but these 16 are the best, in my mind.

So who are they, you ask??

Well, lets start with the 5 girls that are on the crew. They are -






Dasher, Sprite, Tess, Jinx and Spider. All are Iditarod veterans and all five of these girls are top-notch leaders.  I actually expect this group to do the bulk of the leading for me this Iditarod. Bitches RULE!!!

Then there are 11 boys - 












Moses, Crunchie, Runner, Charge, Watt, Barq, Herman, Hector, Batdog, Q and Jr. Eight of these are veterans. Runner, Watt and Q are all Iditarod rookies, but veterans of other races.

It is a strong pool, probably the strongest I've ever fielded. Fourteen are leaders - and good leaders. There is loads of experience and oodles of enthusiasm in the bunch.

Eleven of them were born in our yard; 3 (Hector, Herman, and Moses) were bred by Bob Chlupach and Rick Outwin; one (Spider) my Karen Yeargain;  and one (Runner) by Kelly and Kim Berg.

I'm so proud of them already, I could bust! I can't wait to hit the trail with them next weekend!!

Now, because I have selected the team so early, I do have a few alternates that will be going through all the vet checks and be kept up on their training, just in case. They are:





X, Nahanni, Boom, and Holly. Young X was a hard one to cut - and the cut had nothing to do with his performance and everything to do with his age. He's just a little on the young side, as he won't be 3 until March 13th. Boom had been doing tremendously in harness, but the last few weeks, he has been a little 'off'. He's a great youngster, but this just isn't going to be his year. There will be other years for him. Same for Holly. She's a great dog, lots of speed and a good leader, but she has been kind of 'hot and cold' this season. As for Nahanni, I just opted for an experienced leader over an experienced team dog.

 The three that have been cut are Bingo, who is just too immature for Iditarod; Togo who also needs a bit more time to mature and Hilda, who..well...



Well, Hilda is pleased to announce that she is expecting a litter. The father to be is none other then Jr!!!



Was it planned you ask?? No not really, but it is a great breeding and I am pretty excited about it. We will make sure to keep you posted on her 'developments'.

So, that is the dog news for today! Big news, uh???


Wednesday 20 February 2008

February 20, 2008 Last Year's Pups Are Growing Up

(by Kathryn Trussell)
I thought that everyone would like to hear how last year's puppies are doing since a lot of them have been moved out on chains into the main yard.  One of my tasks while Karen and Mark are in Alaska was to get the puppies out of pens and onto chains so once spring comes we can start harness breaking these puppies.

Utin, from the Cree litter, has been out on a chain for several months now so I often forget that he was one of last year's puppy.  Even the day I put him out, he looked big enough that he belonged.  Granted a lot of the puppy fat and extra fur helps, but he never looked little out there.  In comparison to some of the others, he was easy to put out.  He didn't yank himself too much at all and is now very comfortable being next to Wifi.

Since the Candy litter (5 months old now) were getting too big for the puppy pen, there was a need to start moving out the older puppies.  Peeps was already starting to climb and Grit (Hillbilly) could climb over the fence it was time to get moving on this project.  One weekend, Anna & Gabi came over to help me put collars and hook up some puppies to the ready chain and walk some on a leash.  I have to admit that walking these young guys on a leash really helped in having them correct themselves with they were pulling away and we would just stand there.  It also helped us on the Come command and then we'd praise them.  Once I was on my own, my strategy was to take each dog into the garage and check it's collar.  I would give them pieces of chicken throughout this process.  Some of the collars were too big to keep on them on a chain, but were fine for in the pen.  So a few of them had to get new collars and it was easier to tighten them without gloves on in the garage.  In addition, the garage was a new place and they were not comfortable so not as crazy as usual, except for Grit.

Since TopDog and Tie were in a pen located the furthest away I wanted to move them out first.  At that time, Surge just pasted away and I had him in Crunchie's spot.  I thought that one of Surge's boys needed to be there.  Since Tie came out of the pen first, he got it.  TopDog wasn't as eager to leave the pen, but I did get both of them out without too many issues.  TopDog rarely sleeps in his house even in very cold temperatures.  I often find him playing with his neighbors, Fritz, Flash and Tie.  But both Top and Tie are doing very well.

Since these two boys went so well, I thought I would continue on with the boys.  Next came Roscoe and Grit.  For being as crazy as Roscoe was in the pen, he is much more "normal" out on a chain.  He is very manageable and doesn't get tied up and is quite quiet.  I often see him laying on top of his house.  He is very comfortable out there.  Grit on the other hand was a different story.  The first time I hooked him up to a leash to take him to the garage he wanted no part of it.  So I figured that he wasn't ready yet, I didn't want to deal with it yet, so I went onto the girls.

Beauty was already in a pen by herself, so she was easy to move to the garage.  Her collar was good and she walked very well (for a young dog) on a leash so I took her to the chain.  At that time, Nik was the only one near her.  I think he was pleased to be with a female in closer range.  He kept being at the end up his chain to try to reach her and her the same to him.  But once again, no yanking at all. 

Then I got See out and I put her next to Beauty.  See does not like her food bowl in its holder.  By now, I have given up on putting it there, because as soon as I walk away she'll grab it and put it on the ground.  Also, as soon as she sees me start cleaning the boys area, she will make this noise, but not yanking at the end of chain, but this constant noise for the rest of the duration that I'm out there.  Meg is quiet and very cute and sometimes ends up with all 3 bowls.  I've learned that these three girls eat better with their bowls on the ground, so I've left them there.  At first, I thought Meg would have been too short to reach her bowl, but she manages.  Beauty had the "Montana Bug" so she wasn't eating that great until I put the bowl on the ground and I haven't moved it.

I decided it was Grit's turn because I still needed one more pen for the Candy litter.  So like it or not, Grit had to come out.  I carried him to the garage and once I put him down inside, he didn't stop moving.  It took me 20 minutes to finally get him cornered to check his collar.  I had to tighten it a little bit, and then it was time to go out on the chain.  I put him next to his brother, Roscoe and Paxson.  Grit is also very vocal and gets himself tied up and I'm not sure how because the stakeout is not frozen.  Nevertheless, I often have to unwind his chain for him and then he's happy again, but still vocal.

Lastly, I put Daisy out today.  I needed a pen for Roary and since Fritter is in season, she has to stay in her pen.  So it's Daisy's turn and she did not want to leave her pen, so I carried her to the garage.  I checked her collar and it was fine so I opened the door to try to get her outside.  She was quite reluctant, but I eventually got her down to her chain which was next to Trigger, Kluane and Isis.  Kluane, being her (subdued and older) was very nice to Daisy.  Trigger and Isis were a bit more excited.  I had Fly with me and Daisy would often clean out his ears and go visit her neighbors until they got too rambuctious for her.  Within the hour, I caught her playing with Isis.  She didn't whine too bad when I walked away and continued cleaning the yard.

Now I finally had 3 pens open that I could move the Candy litter.  Before they were in 2 pens and I realized that Chicklet and Skittles were the "mean" ones in each pen.  Therefore, I was going to put both girls together.  Well, I did and they got in a fight which I had to break up.  They both had superficial blood on their necks, but I couldn't find any open wounds.  I then put Chicklet back in the puppy pen by herself, but the next day I felt bad so I put her back with Peeps (from the original situation).  The two boys are together, Turtle and Bean and Skittles and Smartie are together.  When the puppies were in the short puppy pen, I had to climb over the fence to escape Skittles, Smartie & Turtle because they always got out when I was leaving.  Now, I figured with only two puppies, I should have no problem leaving.  Boy, am I wrong!!  For feeding time, Peeps always wants to escape and any other time, Skittles and Smartie do.  Just yesterday, I was leaving their pen and Skittles and Smartie both escape.  Cricket is getting very good at running them down.  Skittles got totally scared and peed on herself, but still wouldn't go back in the pen.  So I decided to go in their pen to see if they'd follow.  Well, they did and so did Cricket.  Well, there's no way that Cricket can get out the door without the two little ones getting out.  So I let them all go out again for another run around the pens.  Finally, I get Smartie inside and shut the door and then Skittles comes around the corner and I squish her back in.  This all took about 15 minutes and they really enjoyed themselves.

I took pictures today of the puppies except for Utin since I forgot that he was a puppy last year since he's been in the yard so long that I don't worry about him anymore.  Here is the link:  I have other albums in the same area of puppies when I first put them out that you can look at.

Kathryn Trussell
NW Dog Handler Winter '07-'08

February 20, 2008 Goose Bay 120

Training has been going very well. In fact, so well that I've been having a tough time making cuts to the team. It was decided that we would use the Goose Bay race to help sort out a few of the rookie dogs.

So we split the teams up without really putting an 'A' team and a 'B' team out on the trail.

My team was:

Dasher and Tess
Sprite and Jinx
Nahanni and X
Watt and Crunchie
Boom and Runner
Q and Charge

Mark's team was:
Hilda and Spider
Holly and Bingo
Batdog and Barq
Herman and Hector
Togo and Jr

Just to give you some of the reasons certain dogs were where they were - Tess is becoming a key dog in the kennel and I wanted to see how she performed as a leader under the pressure of a race. X and Runner are the most promising true rookies, so a race would hopefully help me decide whether they were close to being ready for something like Iditarod. Boom has not been having great runs since we got to Alaska, but in the last week he has stepped it up a little and I wanted to see if he would settle into his normal hard driving self on some new trail.

Now, of course I had to give Mark some good leaders to ensure he had a good trip. He loves having Moses in single lead, so that was easy. Spider, Hilda and Holly were other leaders that I knew would listen to him and give him good runs (not all my leaders perform as well for Mark as for me). Bingo and Togo are probably not going to make the Iditarod team this year, so I just wanted them to have a lower pressure, fun race with Mark.

The rest of the group was just sort of divided up randomly.

I drew bib number 9 and Mark drew number 17, which gave us some time to easily get two teams off the truck.

They had give us the option of just starting off our dog trucks or being helped across the parking lot, across the road crossing and onto the trail - I trusted my leaders.well.I trusted Dasher, I wasn't sure what Tess would do, so I opted to just be started from the truck. Unfortunately, a couple volunteers stepped over to help out at the last second and didn't realize I didn't want help over to the trail. I was hollering at them to just let the dogs go, but they couldn't hear me over the other barking dogs in the parking lot. Finally, thankful, they just couldn't hold on anymore and let go. I said 'thanks' (after all they were just trying to be helpful and I appreciate that) and we shot across the parking lot and onto the trail.

It had been a couple years since I had been on the trails out this way and it was nice to be traveling them again. I played leapfrog with Julie Deloach's team, caught and passed a few teams and was passed by a couple others.

By the time we hit the 'Nome sign swamp', which is about 20 miles out the wind was blowing with an intensity that made it impossible to ignore. Around here we also started passing participants in the Su 100 - a 100-mile adventure race. Folks either travel by bike, cross country skis or walk. Each year different disciplines excel depending on trail conditions. This year the bikers were having a tough go of the warm, soft trail. I don't think I saw many actually riding their bikes; most were just pushing them along.

Tess was definitely being challenged by road crossing, snowmachines, and adventure racers. She'd balk a bit every time she met a new obstacle, but recovered quickly and was soon roaring by all sorts of distractions without a second glance.

We dropped onto Fish Creek and followed it towards the mouth of Flathorn Lake. There were ice fisherman, adventure racers and snowmachiners kicking around and behind them all a nasty looking lake. You could see the wind howling and snow blowing as you approached. "Now that doesn't look too friendly", I commented to 2 snowmachiners sitting on the side of the trail. They agreed.

Sure enough, we hit the lake and the power of the wind hit us. Dasher has seen bigger storms in lead for me and Tess just didn't seem to care. We caught and past a team whose leaders did seem to care and continued to pick our way across the lake with ease. Good dogs. I honestly never get bored of watching a couple good leaders picking out a blown in trail. It really is amazing.

It was nice to hit the little treed area on the far bank of Flathorn though. I stopped and let everyone roll in the snow and gave them all some praise. A few miles later and we hit 'the Big Swamp'. It made Flathorn Lake seem sheltered, but luckily the snow was blowing right through, so it was only drifted in in a few spots.

I figured that the rivers were going to be nasty, but we made the big drop onto the Big Su, which was GREAT this year, and things seemed to calm down. It was still windy and blowing snow, but not with near the force it had been on Flathorn or the Swamp.

The dogs moved along well and I leaped frogged a few more times with Julie before rolling into Yentna Station just ahead of her at 8pm.

Parking wasn't great and we were in close quarters with a couple other teams. Luckily, other then trying to steal a bit of food off of each other, there were no problems between them. My team devoured all their food and a bit of their neighbors. I got them all fed and settled down and then headed off to find that heated outhouse the checkers were bragging about. Sure enough, it was a lovely little tent with a heater, sanitary lotion, and even scented candles burning!! Almost enough to make you forget you were sitting on a 'honey bucket'.

I wandered over to the big tent where there was food for the mushers and chowed down on some beef stew while chatting with the Redington boys and Scott Smith. Mostly we griped about Iditarod and things we thought they could be doing better. That conversation is almost a given when you toss a bunch of Iditarod mushers in a room together.

Finally, I wandered down to see if Mark was in yet. He actually met me on the pathway up to the tents. Not only was he in, his dogs were all fed and bedded down. I was pleased to hear he had gotten in just 55 minutes behind me. He reported that he had had a good run, everyone was doing well, and raved about how amazing Moses was.

We wandered up to the Roadhouse to get a meal for Mark. I figured we might be able to dry out some clothes up there and although we would have to pay for Mark's meal, it never hurts to spend money at the roadhouses that put up with us mushers on these races.

I was shocked that owners Dan and Jean Gabryszak ( remembered me. It had been 7 years since I actually stopped and went up to the roadhouse when I passed through Yentna, but then again, I did spend a lot of time here in '99, '00, and '01!!!

We passed a pleasant few hours in the nice warm roadhouse before strolling back down to check on dogs. Everyone was sleeping soundly. I puttered and cleaned up around my sled, wandered down and pestered Mark and generally killed time until it was time to feed dogs again.

At 4:44 am it was time to go. As there was a stack of mushers leaving within minutes of each other, things were pretty chaotic but thanks to some help from Mark I got off down the trail with just minimal problems.

The team was roaring to go and took off at breakneck speed. I had Sprite up in lead with Dasher, just because Tess wandered a bit too much in the checkpoint with the extra space her leader line gave her, so I moved her back into swing for our break and kind of forgot to move her back up before I left.

We settled into a nice pace and the dogs moved lovely through the early morning. Occasionally I'd get glimpses of headlights ahead, or hear a few dog barking, so I knew I wasn't far off some of the teams in front of me.

At the beginning of the big swamp, I passed a musher that had stopped to load a dog. The swamp was windy again, but the wind was at our backs this time!

Flathorn Lake was REALLY blown in. There was only the occasional sign of where the trail was. Now, there was trail markers, but the packed trail ranged from right next to 20 to 30 ft from the markers - and if you were traveling off the trail, you were wallowing in snow! So it was up to the leaders to keep us on the packed trail, which was now buried under a pile of blown snow. Dasher and Sprite did it flawlessly and without hesitation. I felt for the mushers that didn't have leaders that could do this - or didn't trust their leaders and kept trying to second-guess them. Experience has shown me that we just end up exposing our human shortcomings when we second-guess a good dog in conditions like this!

Once we got back into the woods, I stopped to snack dogs and to ruffle their fur. Everyone was in great spirits.

Back in the swamp before the 'Nome sign' (a famous landmark on the Iditarod Trail), we came to a spot where sled tracks went straight, but my dogs were sure we headed right onto a blown in trail that I could barely make out. I really thought the dogs were making a wrong choice here, but as I said, experience has shown me that second guessing them is usually a dumb move.

I was kinda nervous until a marker showed up about a ½ mile down the trail. I'm pretty sure Dasher shot an 'I told you so' glance over her shoulder as the marker came into view.

Turns out that Vern Halter had second-guessed his leaders there and the sled tracks I saw were his as he went off the trail and lost some time!

A while after that I stopped and put little Tesla back into lead with Dasher. That picked our speed up a bit. Occasionally, I thought I might have caught sight of a team on the hills ahead of me, but I convinced myself that it was just trees hanging over the trail I was seeing. So imagine my surprise when we popped onto 7-Mile Lake and I found 2 teams stopped on the trail. We passed the first one, but the second one was Julie, who I had been playing leapfrog with most of this race and she pulled the hooked and headed down the trail. Now Julie seemed like a really nice lady, she had said some really nice things about my team, and I had enjoyed traveling with her this race, but I WANTED TO BEAT HER. I know she felt the same way. She asked if I wanted to pass and I declined. Really I just wanted a chance to judge her speed, so I followed along behind her for a bit. After about a mile or so I figured my dogs could hold a lead on Julie, so I asked for trail. Julie and I spent the last 7 miles of trail racing each other hard. I wasn't sure what position were we in, but I knew it was nothing in the money; still it was fun to see what the dogs could do. I hadn't called up my team all race, I had just been letting them do their thing, so I was curious what they would do when I asked them for more. I chirped and whistled at them and they responded wonderfully. Julie hung with me until we turned into woods for the last ½ mile or so to the finish line. I could hear her dogs barking behind me, so I knew she had stopped and I didn't see her again.

Harry and Jamie were waiting at the finish line and we got the dogs hooked onto the truck. They looked a little tired after their finishing push and I thought they might not eat, but they inhaled everything that we offered them.

Turns out our finishing time was 11:41, which put me in 12 place of 27 finishers with a time of 22:41.

Mark showed up at 7 minutes after 1, for a total time of 24:07, which was good for a 21st place finish.

All and all a nice weekend!!!


Tuesday 19 February 2008

February 19, 2008 Do The Snow Dance!

Although Wasilla, Palmer and even Anchorage are very windy places, this little corner of Alaska (as in Jamie and Harry’s place) is rarely windy – but tonight as we fed dogs the trees were swinging wildly. As I stood in the dog yard waiting for the dogs to finish eating I could hear a few trees behind Watt’s house moaning and groaning in the wind. Unfortunately, the noises from the trees match my mood – ‘cause not only is it windy, it is very warm. We are quickly losing our snow thanks to the temperatures and some rain that has been falling on and off for the last 24 hours.
I don’t know that we will even be able to run dogs tomorrow. Because the temperatures, even at night, are not dropping below 40 F the trails are either icy or soft enough that running sleds on them will just damage them – and of course, the warmth is tough on the dogs anyway.

The thing about Alaska is that the weather can and often does turn around very quickly. Remember just a week ago the state was breaking records for cold temperatures.

I know the dogs and I will be doing snow dances for the next few days!!! Any body care to join me????


Monday 11 February 2008

February 11, 2008 Drop Bags

So, on Saturday I had a bit of a crash a few hundred feet after leaving the dogyard and I gave myself a good whack on the head. (I think I fell on my snow hook) It wasn't anything really serious. I just have a goose egg, a serious headache and my jaw was out of alignment for about a day making it hard to talk, chew, or open my mouth. I'm very dedicated to all those things, so I found ways to make it work, but I was really glad on Sunday when my jaw 'popped' back in on it's own bringing instant physical relief and allowing me to eat and talk properly again.

Things are almost normal now. The swelling is mostly gone, although the area is still tender to the touch but other then popping a few extra painkillers a day (having a pharmacist for a land lady is sweet - she always knows the right painkiller for the right occasion) things are back to normal.

Now, I will have you all know that I'm a dedicated dog musher and finished a 30 mile run after the head bang (obviously it didn't knock any more sense into me) but Sunday morning I wasn't feeling too hot and was kind of looking for an excuse to take a day off running. A temperature of -23 F was the ticket and Mark and I decided to spend the day putting my drop bags together - which are due to be dropped off tomorrow in Anchorage.

Many of you have asked about drop bags - what goes into them, how I decide what to send where, etc. The process actually starts in the summer when I sit down and work up a race plan. I figure out run and rest times and then work out my drop bags around that schedule, while always padding the numbers with extras in case the race doesn't go exactly like planned (actually, it never seems to go like planned - at least for me!)

Throughout the year I gather, sort, and organize. During the winter, Mark slices and dices meat on the band saw and then divides and bags them into 16-dog sized meals and snacks.

The end product is piles and piles of stuff that gets loaded into the truck for the drive north. Once we get to Alaska, more gathering, sorting and bagging is done. Drop bags are picked up from Iditarod Headquarters and labeled with my name.

Finally, usually the day before they are due, we spend the day filling and closing up drop bags. Everything is kept on an Excel database that tells us what is going in what bag.

At the end of the day 70 or so bags will have all the supplies I will need for the dogs and I to journey across Alaska (I'll give you exact numbers and weights after we turn them in tomorrow. Since we are paying 50 cents for every pound I'm shipping - I will know the exact weight).

To give you and idea of things in the bags, I shipped -

60 packages of SuperDog Treats

27 herring snacks

22 chicken skin snacks

10 vet bags (containing things like liniments, foot ointment, Gold Bond baby powder, and Imodium)

36 meals for Karen

26 bottles of Gatorade

86 juice packs

9 sets of runner plastic

175 handwarmers


7 changes of underwear

Of course that is not a complete list. You can see more of the stuff sent out at

Since the bags are all loaded in the truck and ready to be taken to town tomorrow, we headed out to run dogs today. It was a great run, as the temperature went up to 0F and we got a couple inches of snow this morning!

You can see pictures of that at  -

Lots of dog butts - as usual!!

Anyway, that brings everyone up to date on the happenings here.


Friday 8 February 2008

February 8, 2008 Presenting The Golden Collar...

Well, I guess it is time I make this official....

Ch. NorthWapiti's Valkyrie Kara would like to take this opportunity to announce her retirement from competitive racing.
Kara wishes everyone to know that she is in perfect health - and perfectly happy - it is just that all the 'young pups' around here wish to travel at a speed that she no longer wishes to view the world at. She thinks that she would like to spend some time smelling the flowers and enjoying the scenery along the way.

She looks forward to the occasional romp in harness and many years offering her advice and consul from the warmth of her straw filled dog house - and from her fluffy indoor cloud (aka the world's biggest dogbed).

Kara asked that I include her 'resume' in this announcement - so here goes -

*She has participated in the following dogsled races:

2007 Cache Valley Challenge
2007 Neckbone 120
2006 Sheep Mtn 150
2006 Goose Bay 120
Iditarod 2006
2006 Copper Basin 300
2006 Knik 200
2005 Sheep Mountain 150
2005 Copper Basin 300
Iditarod 2005
2005 Knik 200
Iditarod 2004
2003 Knik 200
Iditarod 2003

*She is a Canadian Kennel Club Champion and has 2 group placements to her name (Group 3rd and Group 4th).

*She has produced the following offspring;
    June 14, 20074 puppies with NorthWapiti's Sir Galahad - "Surge"
         - The "Black" Litter

    Aug. 1, 2005 7 puppies with NorthWapiti's Super Grover
         - The "Super Heroes" Litter -

     Dec. 21, 2001 2 puppies with NorthWapiti's Butch Cassidy, SD
         - The "Reindeer" Litter

(No wonder she wants to retire - I got tired typing this out for her!!)

We have consulted with her and she has agreed that she would be please to raise one more litter for us before retiring from Motherhood too.

She has also been my best friend and constant companion for the the past years - a position that she will happily continue to hold in her retirement.

And as a final note, she would like to make it clear that the recent rumors of her 'Chunky Monkey-ness' have been highly exaggerated. She is consulting an attorney and a defamation suit may be in the works.

Kara and I would like to thank all of you that have followed and supported Kara's adventures in harness over the years.

Karen - on behalf of  HRH Kara

Tuesday 5 February 2008

February 5, 2008 Never A Dull Moment!

Never a dull moment!!!

So Mark and I headed out to do a nice long run today. We shot out of the yard, up over the big hill, onto the power line, across Windy Lake, over to Lost Lady Lake, the Toilet Seat trail over to the Little Swamp Loop, and headed back across Windy Lake on our way to Romano Lake, Deception Swamp, Ruth Lake, and Steven's Lake.

There was 'Y' in the trail and once I took the right hand branch, I stopped to make sure Mark saw where I was headed.

I knew he was a bit back, so I took the opportunity to go up and play with my leaders, Watt and Q. I was working my way back through the team when Mark pulled in behind me. I was just about to step on my runners again when I saw a team closing fast behind him.

I watched it for a second and then realized there was no musher with the team. I started yelling and gesturing at Mark to get him to look behind him, but he was fiddling with his hood and didn't hear me right off. Finally, at the last second he got my drift and turned around. The team veered onto the side of the 'Y' we weren't on, but Mark made a heroic leap and managed to grab onto the sled as it whipped by. He got everyone stopped and got the hook set well enough that he could go up front and untangle a tangled dog and undo everyone's tuglines. He was on his own with this, as I was stuck on the other trail babysitting our 2 teams.

We waited a few minutes hoping a musher would come running down the trail behind them, but that didn't happen. We were in a swamp, so there was no trees to tie the wayward team to. We were either going to have to sit tight until the musher showed up, or recruit some help.
We were fairly certain the team belonged to one of Vern Halter's handlers, as there was a bag in the sled bag with his name on it, so I pulled out the cell phone I always carry for just such a situation and dialed 411. The conversation went like this -

"State and City you need a number for"

"Willow, Alaska"

"Name of the party you are trying to reach"

"Dream A Dream Dog Farm"

Now, you must realize, as I'm talking the musher-less team and our two teams - over 30 dogs altogether - are barking, screaming and howling to the point that it is hard for me to hear the operator - and likewise for him, I'm sure.

"Sounds like you already have a bunch of dogs there"

"Actually, more then I know what to do with." I paused, "You might not believe this, but I'm standing in the middle of a swamp in the middle of Alaska on the back of a dog sled. We just found a driver-less team and I'm trying to track down the owner."

Dead silence. Then he said, "Well, you did say Alaska - so I guess that is believable".

Unfortunately, Halter's number kept coming up busy. So I phoned Jamie at work, told her what the problem was and where we were, knowing she would track down help for us.

In the meantime, another dog team showed up, not much they could do though. We all just waited together with over 40 barking dogs now.

Soon two of Vern's handlers, the one that had lost the team and another, showed up on a snowmachine - VERY grateful to see the dog team with all the dogs safe and sound. Moments later, another neighbor, this one the one Jamie had tracked down showed up.

Everyone got straightened out and everyone headed off down the trail.

But I bet that 411 operator is still shaking his head.


Monday 4 February 2008

February 4, 2008 Mystery Solved

Not the brightest dog in the yard!!!

For the last couple of years whenever we are up in Alaska we have had a strange issue with Hector. We'd go to feed, harness or whatever and find bright red drops of blood in his run. Not enough to be a critical concern, but enough to cause us to give him a complete once over. All we ever found was a few drops of blood on the end of light of my reading audience.his pee-pee. All his examines and checkups pronounced him fine - and it never happens at home - so we continued to be puzzled by it.

Sure enough after a day or so here in Alaska this trip there was blood in Hector's run again. Again we checked him over and only found that one drop of blood one him in the usual spot. Mark and I were again puzzled and discussed a few different scenarios, none of which explained Hec's problem.

About half way through hook up, Mark stopped and said "Do you think he is getting too close to his metal stake out pole when he pees and freezing the tip of his .pee-pee (okay, Mark didn't use that word, but you get the idea) to the pole?"

"He cannot be that stupid" I replied.

Mark pointed out that at home Hector had a wood stakeout, so that would explain why it only happened in Alaska. I still couldn't fathom Hector being that dumb, but we agreed we would switch his run with Jr's (Jr is staked out to a tree this trip) after our run that day and see what happened.

Well, it has now been about a week - and no blood. It looks like even I will have to concede that that was Hector's problem.

When I saw it this problem in one of my favorite cartoonist's (Chad Carpenter) Tundra cartoons I thought it was hilarious (check out and scan down to the 'hydrant' cartoon), but having it happen to one of my own dogs is just PITIFUL!!

Hector needs to hang his head in shame - and keep better track of what he is doing with his. .pee-pee. No wonder he is a wheel dog!


Sunday 3 February 2008

February 3, 2008 NorthWapiti's Sir Gallahad - "Surge"

NorthWapiti's Sir Gallahad - "Surge"
December 27, 1998 - February 3rd, 2008
As many of you are aware, Surge had a bout of pneumonia when I was down in Montana in January. Our vets and Kathryn worked tremendously hard on our behalf to bring Surge back to health, but an ironic twist of fate this morning, Surge got overly excited at seeing Tic outside on the deck and collapsed (Surge killed one of our cats at 6 months of age and spent the rest of his life desperately trying to increase that number). Kathryn rushed him to the vet, but he passed away on the drive in.
We are extremely grateful to Kathryn, Gabi and Jocelyn for all they did to help Surge in the last month - especially Kathryn, who moved Surge into the house and treated him with the respect and kindness he so deserved.

It is hard to determine Surge's greatest legacy in our lives. Of course, his remarkable and incredibly promising offspring - Tess, Watt, Charge - and 'The Blacks' he had with Kara earlier this year are a tremendous legacy - but I think his greatest gift to our kennel goes further back then that.
See, we didn't breed Surge (although his parents were both NorthWapiti dogs) - he was a 'stud puppy' - in other words, I took a pick out of his litter in lieu of a stud fee. I met his breeder in Minnesota during my first trip out to train with Jamie Nelson in Togo. Surge was my choice of the litter when I saw them at 3 months of age. I brought him back to Jamie's where he spent his days in one of her puppy pens. After my last chores were done for the day, I'd bring him up to 'the Dog House', we'd share dinner and he'd tag along behind me up to the Bunkhouse when he curl up in my sleeping bag and spent the night.
One day Jamie announced that I was going to ruin him with all this spoiling and that because of that he would never be the top notch sled dog I needed him to be. I shrugged and continued my routine. In fact, once I got back home, he slept at the end of Mark and my bed until the three of us just plain didn't all fit on there anymore.

Surge finished his first Iditarod at 27 months of age - obviously the 'spoiling' had no effect on his performance - and the basis of the 'NorthWapiti' theory of puppy rearing was set. THAT is Surge's greatest legacy in my mind.

Surge was never cute or cuddly - he was strong, powerful and an athlete to the core of his being. I don't even have to close my eyes to picture him in harness outside of Nome on the 2004 Iditarod. Eleven hundred miles of trail had taken no toll on him - it just made him better. His stride was efficient and powerful as a dog's could be. His muscles rippled when he moved and everything about him stated that he was in his element here - doing what he was born to do.

He well may have been one of the greatest athletes that our kennel has ever produced.

Just yesterday I had his amazing young daughter Tess in lead on a training run here in Alaska. Her performance was incredible. I can't help but think that Surge made sure I knew he had left me in good 'paws' before moving on.

We will never forget the things he taught us and the gifts he left us.

Godspeed my friend - you will always own a piece of my heart.