Monday 27 October 2008

A Thousand Words...

42,000 more words about our run today can be found on my Picasa site -

Saturday 25 October 2008

This story is for my Mom.

My Mom is one of the toughest ladies I know. She has been struggling for the last long while with ALOT of pain due to her hip and is now in the process of recovering from hip replacement surgery. I was chatting with her the other day and telling her stories about the dogs. She really loved the story of Wifi and suggested that I share it with you all. Today we (Wifi and I) added another chapter to the story that even Mom doesn't know about, so I thought telling it now was appropriate.

There are those dogs that by pedigree, personality and/or structure just capture my heart from the very beginning. Wifi (pronounced 'Wi Fi') had none of that going for him.
Not that I disliked his pedigree, but his personality was alittle 'over the top', and his build was just okay. Nothing about him grabbed me. As he grew older, but not much bigger, and got much wilder - I really began to be ambivalient about him.
I tried to sell him a few times, but for one reason or another nothing worked out and as we started training this fall, I decided I may as well train him up with the rest of the dogs. Afterall, he'd be easier to sell with miles on him.
I'm guessing by now alot of you have figured out where I heading with this....yup...Wifi has not once this season put anything less then 100% into any run he has been on.

His build hasn't changed and he is still a crazy boy in the dog yard, but run after run this 'Little Man' (he wears the same sized harness as most of my girls) has been worming his way into my heart with his tight tugline and super ethusiastic attitude.
Last week I confessed to a few that I didn't really think he was for sale any more.
This morning I decided to try him in lead. WOW! I think on the way home today, we ran over the little 'For Sale' sign that had been following Wifi around for the last year. He was a STAR and lead like he had been doing it for YEARS.

Yes, this is Wifi holding the team on the road, as cows chase us along the fence line - on his FIRST TIME in lead.

Waiting outside the Perryvale Store.
Wifi taking a break - he still doesn't do 'still' too well!

Wifi leading the team across the river on the way home.

And to make the day even more perfect, look what else happened while we were out running -
Yup - the first SNOW of the season!!!


Need I Say More???

Kara is NOT in a good mood.

Kara is NOT in a good mood.
Seems she is feeling that her raffle is not going as well as she wished. So at her request (okay - DEMAND is a better word. She is sitting on the couch, glaring over the back at me) I am posting some pictures of the raffle items up for grabs.

Dave Totten print - Northern Lights, featuring Karen, Grover, Spud, Smiley, Gus and Chester

One of a kind polar fleece jacket with the 2008 'For Snickers' kennel logo

Print of Jr in Takotna in the '08 Iditarod. This item comes with Jr's 2008 official Iditarod dog tag.
Please guys, help me out, the house is not a safe place if we have to face the WRATH of Kara.
Details on the raffle can be found at

Friday 24 October 2008

The Junk Brothers....

Togo's antics with garbage a few weeks ago were documented in my blog, but I haven't mentioned that he has a partner in crime - Runner.

Runner is actually alittle better at the 'grabbing garbage game' then Togo as he is quicker on his feet. He remains the only leader I've ever had that managed to catch (and eat) a squirrel on the fly on a training run (okay, maybe I stopped for 10 seconds so he could swallow, but it was all long over before I even got the ATV stopped). He's pretty good about dropping stuff if I notice him grabbing it and call his name, but he does try to be sneaky about it so I don't see.
The other night when Helen and I went out to feed, Runner was hunched over trying to pass a rag that he had obvious scored and inhaled on a run. With alittle help he got through the incident fine.

I don't know if this has any bearing on the situation, but both Togo and Runner where born at Kelim Kennels in New Hampshire. Helen says that New Hampshire is a dirty state compared to lovely green Vermont, but I know nothing about that ;) But you must know Helen is the woman that struggled to close a gate for me a few weeks back and once she successfully closed it, found herself standing on the wrong side of it! *VBG*

I don't know what I was thinking when I put the two boys in lead together today. Well, I guess that isn't true, I do know what I was thinking, they are good leaders and I want to give them a bit more experience up front -- and I was planning on running the Landing Trail which doesn't really have any garbage on it. But of course, plans changed and we headed over to Perryvale so Helen could get her absentee ballot in the mail.

The run was going well with only the occasional bit of ducking and diving for 'tasty tidbits' when Runner and Togo FLEW off the trail after something. Runner was already swallowing a prize when I jumped off the ATV and started up front. Helen was reaching for her camera to take pictures of my out of control team (now you understand my mentioning the gate episode!!!). I was halfway up the 16 dog team when the smell hit me and I realized that this was probably not going to be a good day. FRESH ROAD KILL!
Thankfully, something had dragged the deer carcass a ways into the bush, so I was able to stop the team before they got right on top of it but there was lots of bits and pieces about. I looked over at one point and Flash was rubbing his handsome piebald face in a green pile of stomach contents. How special!!!
It took about ten stinky, unpleasant minutes to drag the team out of the bush, undo all the tangles and get everyone pointed down the road again.

On the way home the deer had been moved quite aways down the road, perhaps by the huge bald eagle that we flushed off of it as we passed by (very cool). Thankfully, the dogs didn't get wind of the stink until we were by, but they did try to check out where it had been earlier in the day.

I think I'm going to have to save 'The Garbage Guys' (or 'The Trash Talkers', as Helen calls them) until we are way out in the wilderness from now on - at least as a pair!


Thursday 23 October 2008

Just busy...

My phone answering machine has been blinking furiously and the tone of the emails in my Inbox getting frantic, but rest assured, as all is well - just busy.

We've had company, been running alot of dogs, trying to get all those leftover projects from the summer cleared up, and preparing for winter. Helen has been a tremendous help, but it just means that we are getting more done, not having much more 'down time'.

The dogs are all doing well. They've got about 200 miles on them right now. Their feet were getting alittle tender as they need some time to get them toughened up for alot of gravel road running, so I backed the mileage off a touch and got them running on our sand trails for a bit. All that seems to have helped and yesterday's team were a noisy, pumped up bunch of rowdy kids. Alittle too rowdy actually, but once I got them all sorted out and pointed in the same direction, they were awesome. I've posted a few pictures at

There are 36 of them in the 'pool' right now and I'll get their names and information on them all up and posted soon. Some exciting new faces and a number of old standbys!

Puppies are all doing incredible. We've been having a blast free running 'the Twins' and 'the Energy Drinks' and 'the 'Toons' have all opened their eyes and are beginning to howl, bark and stomp around their puppy pool.

I've been firming up our race plans for the season. As many of you have speculated, there is not a 1000 mile race (Iditarod or Quest) in the works for this year. Unfortunately finances just are not going to allow it. But that doesn't mean we will be having a quiet winter, we still need to keep the team trained up and get some experience on the rookies, so there will be a number of 200 and 300 mile races in the works.

As much as I enjoyed Montana last winter and would love to go back, a number of factors make Alaska a more logical choice for us - one of the big reasons the fact that most of my racing gear wasn't off the Iditarod trail when we came home from Alaska last year, so it still up at Jamie's - and I need it to race. Also, with fuel prices being so high, it makes more sense to scurry up to Alaska and then do races that are virtually in our 'backyard' as opposed to various trips down the US, BC, Saskatchewan and the Yukon.

So, all that taken into account I have decided to head north in December, with the Sheep Mountain 150 being the first race of the season.

I'm not entirely sure about what the next few races will be, but we are considering the GinGin, Tustemena, Knik 200, Klondike 300 and/or Don Bowers 200/300.

One thing for certain is that the 'big' race for us this season will be the Yukon Quest 300 If you browse the list of mushers, you may notice something interesting too - there are not 1, but 2 Ramsteads listed!!

Yup, that means 2 NorthWapiti Teams in the race!! I suspect Mark will also do some other racing prior to that too.

We will make sure to keep you all posted as we sort more details out!!

So that's the news for the morning. Watch for more updates to the website and blog shortly!!


Wednesday 22 October 2008

The word from the dog yard........

We have been busy here at NW with Mark building lots of new dog houses and Karen putting bowls out on the dog houses for the A string. There is never a dull moment here and the dogs always have an opinion of the things that are happening, so I decided I would write down some of the things they tell me when I am doing chores!

The word from the dog yard........

Flash thought he should have the new dog house because how is he going to keep up with the neighbor’s new houses with his slightly used one (his neighbors Crunchie and X just got new houses)
Minto on the other hand is feeling rather slighted that there is a double wide next door while she is only getting a single wide (Mark put a new puppy house in the pen next to Minto’s)
Tess and Q are lounging in the sun out back thinking this is better than Hawaii, Jr thinks they are dumb and Bingo is mad she doesn't get the nice morning sun
Rocket knows her name is on the list to run and is pouting that no one is running today
Moses, poor Moses he thought his new spot was to be quiet and relaxing and instead he has the likes of porcupines and lots of visiting dogs practically in his dog house.
Turtle on the other hand had his eye on a cute girl that was visiting; living with all the old guys is getting to him
Herman is mad that Hector got a new house when his house is older
Newt doesn’t care that he didn’t get his food bowl on his dog house he will ask his Dad tomorrow and is sure he will get him one (again another mechanical issue)
Karen said only those that are performing well in the harness get a bowl on their dog house today and Xena is beside herself because she didn’t get one and her siblings Flash, Isis and Wonder all got one (I told her it is a mechanical issue we will fix tomorrow)
Nick and Camilla were lying next to their fence in Geriatric Park enjoying the sun, they said if they were humans in a retirement home they would be sitting on the porch in a rocking chair

Everyone else is just happy that it is getting colder and that life is good........ :-))

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Introducing.....the 'Toons

Well, it took alot of discussion and a multitude of pieces of scrap paper filled with scribbled notes, but we have named Olena's new puppies - now referred to as 'The 'Toons'. Yup, the theme is cartoons - cartoon dogs to be more specific. The individual names are:

Skookum - after Doug Urquhart's adorable sled dog (

Bolt - From the new Disney adventure (and yes, our Bolt has a lightning bolt marking too!)

Astro - from the Jetson's

Snert - Hagar the Horrible's dog

Underdog - "There no need to fear, Underdog is here"\

Tramp - as in 'Lady and the Tramp' - (yes, I know Tramp was a male, but our Tramp is a gal)


Grimmy -

I was going to take pictures of them today, but their eyes are just opening and they look like they have all had a hard night out drinking, so the 'official portraits' will have to wait for now!


Wednesday 15 October 2008

A Glorious Day.

Today Helen and I took all the older pups (Kim and Kelly, then Jolt, Wired, Sobe, Rocky and Boo) out free running. It was so wonderful to watch them barreling down the trail with their heads down, ears flat and HUGE grins on their face. The grin on my face was as broad and my heart was brimming over. See, there is something that I haven't, until now, shared with those that are on our list and follow my blog.

The Friday after we got home from our Nova Scotia trip the pups in the kennel came down with Parvo. It started with Kim and at first there was hope that it was just a 'break' in her immunity, especially when the vet called a day and a half later, begging us to come get our pup that was screaming at the top of her lungs at her confinement, but before the day was out, Kelly had taken her sister's place at the Clinic. She ended up in for 7 days.

It took a few days but then the Energy Drinks started showing signs. It was a beyond awful time, as all we could do was sit and wait. Parvo has about a 10 day incubation period, so the exposure happened well prior to Kim showing signs of the illness. There is also no cure, so it is a matter of waiting for the symptoms to show, then treating the complications as the pups battle the illness themselves. First little Boo, then Sobe, followed by Rocky and Wired. The only one that didn't end up coming down with the illness was Jolt.

The pups were all in the Clinic for varying times - I was worried sick all the time.

With no small thanks to the terrific staff at the Westlock Vet Clinic every single puppy recovered completely. They have all been home for over three weeks and now that they are no longer shedding the virus are back to running the trails and life pretty much as normal.

There are still some precautions that we will be taking in the yard for the next year or so, but our vets assure us that we have the protocols in place to safely look after our dogs and raise puppies.

As to where it came from...? Parvo is such a hardy virus, the answers to that could be many and really the best defence for this, in my opinion, is to keep your vaccinations on your pets up to date, so when you do run into it - which you are almost guaranteed to - you are protected.

I do want to take a moment to thank the tremendously fantastic vets and staff at the Westlock Vet Clinic for taking such wonderful care of the pups - and for putting up with my very frequent phone calls. A special thanks goes out to Vet Tech Wendy, who was basically assigned full time to our pups. Even on her days off Wendy phoned the house after the last of the pups were home to check up on them. We all think the world of her!

And finally, I'd like to share a few photos of the puppies that I took last week. It was the first time since they got sick that I allowed myself to take pictures of them, so they are indeed special photos for me.


Tuesday 14 October 2008

Musings from the dog handler!

When I emailed Karen about the job of temporary dog handler (minutes after her email hit my inbox) she emailed me back asking if I had seen the job description because it was a bit of a rigorous job. It included things like being fairly physically fit, shoveling the dog yard, being able to carry buckets weighing 25-30 pounds a fairly long distances and as well being able to tolerate very cold temperatures. So I of course assured her that I could manage all those things and that besides it was only 6 weeks and I was sure I could do anything for 6 weeks.

Now first of all I have to say that I love the job, the kennel, the dogs, Karen and yes even Mark. But what I think is important to mention here are all the things Karen neglected to include in the job description.

Let’s start with rescuing a suicidal cat (I know Karen calls it invincible!) from four very excited Siberians who thought nothing of chewing on the cat while I wrangled them away.

Then there was the night Karen came banging on the cabin door because there was a porcupine in the yard……hm, I didn’t remember the clause about chasing porcupines out of the dog yard or removing quills from Roscoe’s nose.

Now has there been mention of the over population of beavers that are building dams and preventing the dogs from crossing the river? Well it seems Karen also forgot to mention beaver dam destruction not just once but several times.

OK so she did warn me about the 25-30 pound buckets to be carried a long distance but she forgot about the 40 pound bags of kibble that I lift every night and the two five gallon buckets of water (my estimation is 40 pounds each) that are carried a fairly long way. Well she did say fairly physically fit so I guess she is covered there.

Also there was mention of Mark but not one word about his arsenal of blond jokes or the fact that I would get to learn all there is to know about NASCAR.

Oh and I almost forgot about the brutal weather here in Alberta…..that week of 75F was barely tolerable as well as the gorgeous fall days of late.

Now I think it is also time to mention the other things Karen said in the job description… working with some really cool dogs and leaving here with lots of stories. Yes plenty of stories that she was right about as well as the cool dogs but there are other things she neglected to tell me.

First of all that she is a really good cook and that I would have great meals here, and what a treat that is! Second of all that I would have 70 new best friends here that would hug and kiss me everyday each with their very own distinct personality. Nor did she mention how much I would laugh and that I would look forward to each and everyday. So the next time you see the ad go out for a dog handler just know she is only telling part of the story!!

Monday 13 October 2008

Things I am NOT thankful for...

I thought that since yesterday's blog entry was some of the things I was thankful for, today I would tell you of something I am definitely NOT thankful for - and that is people that throw garbage out of their vehicles as they are driving down the road.
In fact, at this moment I would happily deliver a few swift kicks to the stomach of anyone I found that does this.
Why do I feel so strongly about this you ask?? Well, it seems like one of my family members is spending his Thanksgiving in the Vet Clinic with a IV in his leg and a sore belly full of mineral oil (and other vet junk) thanks to this disgusting habit.
See, although the ditches up here in Canada are relatively clean, there is still an assortment of paper coffee cups, plastic bags, fast food wraps and the likes to be found on our local roads. The dogs sometimes grab at this garbage as they are running along the road ditches. I do my best to discourage this practice and can usually convince them to drop whatever they have scooped up by calling their name or pumping the brakes on the 4 wheeler a few times, but occasionally I miss something.
We haven't been running the roads alot yet and because of that trash was a bit of a novelty to the team when we were running on Friday. Best I can figure is that Togo must have snarfed up something that I didn't notice. He ate dinner Friday night, but threw it up later in the evening, but it didn't really seem like a big deal. On Saturday he started acting a bit 'off' and by Sunday he wasn't eating and was obviously in pain. I called the vet clinic, which was of course closed for the holiday, and Dr. Lawrence gave me a few things to try with him. We nursed him through the afternoon and evening and I spent a mostly sleepless night last night before making the decision to take him in this morning.
We aren't entirely sure what is up with Togo, but it does look like an impaction of some sort. If the IVs and goop we forced (and trust me - he was NOT keen on this) down his throat haven't resulted in a 'freeing up' of things by morning, they will probably be operating on the boy.

I would appreciate you keeping him in your thoughts tonight! THINK POOP!! Maybe if we are lucky and he does poop, I'll save it to throw at the next car I see tossing trash out as they drive down the road.


Sunday 12 October 2008

What I'm thankful for...

...I'm thankful for alot of things - alot - but today, the day before Thanksgiving here in Canada, what I'm most thankful for is that cats have 9 lives.

See, yesterday Mark's best friend, otherwise known as our stupid cat (if you are talking to me, at least) Bait decided his life lacked excitement. Seeing that he knows without a shadow of a doubt that he is invincible, he decided the best way to rectify the boredom was take on 4 Siberian Huskies at one time.

Bait on a happier day

While I was out running dogs and Mark was in the garage building new dog houses Bait saw his chance. While Helen was moving a new house into Geriatric Park the stealth black and white hairball slipped into the kennel unnoticed.

House safely in the kennel and door latched shut, Helen let Draco, Joey, Kaylinn and Gus back into their pen. She was sitting visiting with them when Bait, firmly convinced of his invincibility, decided to step from the shadows . Reality quickly came crashing down on him as 4 dogs that have been waiting their whole life to get ahold of him charged.

In a superhuman feat Helen managed to for the most part fend off 4 crazed huskies. Bait was munched, but somehow Helen managed to hold the dogs at bay long enough that the cat, who now had a better understanding of the word 'invincible' and how it didn't actually apply to him, could scramble out of the pen.

There was a few tense hours as we waited to see whether Bait, who had run off into the woods, would come home, as no one was really aware how badly he was hurt. But eventually a very shaken up, slow moving, big eyed cat slunk back into the garage.

Mark was waiting and quickly bathed the dog spit off him looking for obvious wounds. Thankfully, there were none.

A call to the vet was very reassuring. Bait was put on painkillers and allowed to sleep away the rest of the day and the next day.

Just this evening, a full 36 hours after his ordeal, Bait seems to be returning to his abnormal self. I think that when he has time to put his own 'feline spin' on this all, he will be back to describing himself as 'invincible' - after all he took on FOUR Siberians and lived to tell the tale.

Me? I'm just thankful that cats have 9 lives - and for Helen!


Thursday 9 October 2008

Moses Update

I thought I’d give you all a quick update on Moses. As you all know, he had a run in with a porcupine a week or 10 days back. If you look at the pictures taken at the vet, you will see that all the quills seemed confined to the left side of his muzzle and mouth.
At the recommendation of our vet Moses was not put on antibiotics, as Trevor said if we had missed a quill he wanted it to abscess and fester out of his body. Well, sure enough, about 4 or 5 days after his trip to the vet, he got a big, hard lump on his RIGHT lip. I talked to Trevor who said that was what we wanted and to let his body do its thing.
Sure enough, after a few days the lump ruptured and yesterday Helen pulled a big scab and a piece of quill out of his muzzle.
We went over Moses numerous times the night of his incident and in the days following and found no quills in that area, so either it migrated over there or there was just that one completely buried in his lip.
Score another one for Trevor and the rest of our wonderful vets at the Westlock Vet Clinic!!!!


Tuesday 7 October 2008

Waiting no longer...

Olena delivered 7 lovely little children this morning. Five boys (2 grey and white, 3 black and white) and two girls (one grey and white, one black and white).

Mom and babies all seem to be doing very well.

More pictures soon, but I'm off to bed right now.


Sunday 5 October 2008

Still Waiting

Karen is trying to be very patient with Olena and thankfully she has a new book to read!

Kara's Raffle

Kara's 2008/2009 NorthWapiti Racing Season Raffle

As we all know Kara is an exceptional mother and she has raised some concern about her offspring as they go off to race in Alaska. She has decided to organize a raffle to raise funds for them to have all the little extra’s that these special dogs should have. She raided Karen’s office and came up with some great prizes to give away.

The prizes are:

1. A limited edition print “Northern Lights” number 5 of 200 by well known Alaskan artist Dave Totten Northern Lights is a painting of Karen and her team running under a beautiful sky of northern lights. It is based on a 1999 photograph that Dave Totten took at the start of the Klondike 300, it features Smiley, Gus, Chester, Spud and Grover leading on his first race ever (the original hangs near Karen’s bed as she cherishes it).
2. Black fleece jacket, size XL, 2008 for Snickers Iditarod logo on it. This is the only jacket made with this logo on it, not even Karen owns one of these!
3. A photograph of Jr taken at the Takotna checkpoint of the 2008 Iditarod and his 2008 Iditarod tag to go with it.

The first raffle ticket picked will get the limited edition print
The second raffle ticket picked will get the fleece and the 3rd ticket will get the picture of Jr and his dog tag

Beginning today October 5 you can buy tickets on Paypal. The tickets are $5 each.

If you buy your tickets between today and October 10 you can get 6 tickets for the price of 4 or $20.
If you buy your tickets between October 11 and October 17 you can get 5 tickets for the price of 4 or $20
After that all tickets will be sold for $5 each and the raffle will end on Friday, October 31 at 5pm (Mountain Time zone)

Just click on this button

. From there you can enter how much and we will confirm with you the number of tickets and tell you your raffle ticket numbers.

Kara is counting on this raffle being a success because otherwise she may not let her children go off to Alaska to play this winter!
Good Luck

Friday 3 October 2008

Waiting, waiting, waiting....

Olena doesn't seem in any hurry to have her puppies...

Not everyone is patiently waiting!

Thursday 2 October 2008

A Post From Helen....

Musings from the Dog Yard

As a rookie dog handler I have not had any experience with so many dogs in one place! I must say it is rather interesting to experience the dog yard all throughout the day as their energy levels and moods change. The dogs know the routine and behave accordingly and I now know what to expect from them as I approach the dog yard.

First thing in the morning we go out to the yard to get the dogs ready for a run. Of course there are only 16 that get to go so many are left behind. Walking into the dog yard requires much dodging of the dogs as they are each trying to yell the loudest, jump the highest and run back and forth in excitement. Then when we get to the dog that is going for a run it is all we can do to get them off their chains and then walked over to the ready line. They are so excited and have so much energy and power that it is the most challenging part of the day!

Of course the saddest time is when Karen and all 16 dogs leave for their run and the remaining dogs are all howling a very low mournful howl. Usually I hop on the back of the quad so I do not have to experience their sadness too often. The first time I heard them do this I was overwhelmed at how much feeling they were having about the situation.

Later in the afternoon I go out to the dog yard to clean up and give them all fresh water. By this time of day they are all relaxed and sleeping, the yard is quiet and most of them do not move as I wander around the yard. It is my favorite time of day in the yard since I am able to visit with each dog as they are gentle and mild mannered.

In the early evening it is feeding time and once again everyone is up and jubilant. The difference now is that the dogs have no interest in jumping on me and instead are focused on one thing, the dog bowl in my hand! They yell until they are fed so it is especially easy to see who has been fed and who hasn't. As soon as feeding time is over the yard is once again quiet with a game or two happening among the young ones!

It really is quite a wonderful experience spending so much time with all of these talented dogs. Everyday I learn something new about the dogs that makes me truly appreciate their amazing abilities and drive. They have fun and interesting lives and best of all have an owner that adores each and every one of them!