Sunday 30 November 2008


Two weeks ago we got about 2 hours of freezing rain. Unfortunately, the weather hasn't improved much and we are still inching around with Ice Cleats and 'YakTracks' on.

Junior trotting in his icy run.

but eventually we just had to 'suck it up' and get moving with training again. The dogs are actually doing remarkably well and so far we have avoided any injuries, despite the odd slipping and falling (by dogs and humans alike).
I am dragging Chris along on the 4 wheeler and spending more time on roads and less in the bush for safety reasons but otherwise things are proceeding pretty much as normal.

Icy trail in the woods.

Ice on the gravel roads!

Ice everywhere!

There are a few more pictures of yesterday's run on the Picasa website

PLEASE LET IT SNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday 24 November 2008

The Buck Stopped Here .....

So, as you all gathered we had a bit of a run in with a deer.

We had the truck loaded with 25 dogs,3 people (myself, Lisa and Chris) and were heading into the vet at 8:30 Monday when just a mile north of the Perryvale turnoff a big buck deer came charging out of the woods. By the time any of us spotted him, it was already too late. He was moving far too fast and we were too close. I grabbed the wheel tight and braced for the hit.

He hit hard just behind the passenger side headlight, took out the headlight, bumper, front quarter panel, and passenger door. Thankfully, there was no injuries to the dogs or people on board. The deer, however, was killed on impact. It seems running head first at full speed into a fully loaded tonne and a half truck isn't a wise thing to do. Go figure.

Unfortunately, the truck did sustain some damage - around $8000 worth actually.

For awhile it looked like the damage was going to interfere with alot of our race plans for the winter, as all of the autobody shops in the area were booked into January or February, however thanks to our friend Rick Austin, the truck is heading to Red Deer in the morning where the collision shop at Pike Wheaton Chev Olds has committed to having it done for us in time to leave for Alaska as originally scheduled. I can't even begin to say how relieved and thankful I am.

While it is easy to bemoan the whole accident and whine about how 'unlucky' it was, I must say that really the only thing I am is grateful. Things could have been so much worse - so much worse. And besides, one should never look at 'luck' in a 'snapshot'.

I was a huge 'Northern Exposure' fan and would like to share one of my favorite stories from the series.

The Warrior -

[There was] a warrior who had a fine stallion. Everyone said how lucky he was to have such a horse. "Maybe" he said.

One day the stallion ran off. The people said the warrior was unlucky. "Maybe" he said.

The next day the stallion returned, leading a string of fine ponies. The people said it was very lucky. "Maybe" the warrior said.

Later, the warrior's son was thrown from one of the ponies and broke his leg. The people said it was unlucky. "Maybe" the warrior said.

The next week, the chief lead a war party against another tribe. Many young men were killed. But, because of his broken leg, the warrior's son was left behind, and so was spared.

~~~From "Bolt from the Blue" as told by Marilyn Whirlwind, in Northern Exposure.

'Luck' is a complicated subject.
Still feeling 'lucky',

We are all fine......

.....well except for the truck and the deer.

More details later....


Sunday 23 November 2008


I was asked this question in response to my blog entry from the 23rd.

"Can you tell us a little more about all these trails. Who made them, when & why. Sounds like there is some group that is involved with them. Who maintains them, why, etc?"

Most of the trails we use in the area are ones that we put in and maintain, as well as alot of gravel and dirt roads.
However, we do utilize a piece of the 'Athabasca Landing Trail' - and I love to talk about it! The 'Athabasca Landing Trail' was established in 1875 by the Hudson Bay Company. It ran 161 kilometers (about 100 miles) from Edmonton to Athabasca Landing (now just known as Athabasca) and was key for the role it played in the fur trade and Klondike Gold Rush. For 40 years it was a very busy route hooking up the North Saskatchewan and Athabasca rivers.
In 1912 the railway came to Athabasca (the old bed actually runs along the east border of our land) and drastically cut down traffic on the Landing Trail.
Now much of the trail is overgrown and lost, but the section we run is a part of the original trail and I am always honored to be traveling it.

Here are some links that talk briefly about the trail;

and the amazing story of Billy Loutit

A number of years back the section of the trail we travel became part of the 'Trans Canada Trail' project -

In 2000 there was a 'water relay' carrying water from each of the oceans (Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic) along the trail to a fountain in Ottawa. The dogs and I carried water that originated in the Arctic Ocean out of Perryvale and a few miles down the trail before handing it off to horseback riders that took it on the next leg of it's journey.

The group that I met on the road the other day was with the Alberta TrailNet Society which deals with Alberta trail systems, including the Trans Canada Trail.

Hope that answers the question!


Saturday 22 November 2008

A Day at the Office

So the last while the weather around here has been pretty miserable. It's bounced from cold and windy to warm and raining to wet snow, but yesterday the sky was blue the temps cold but pleasant with a nice little skiff of fresh snow on the ground - a pretty perfect day to be out running dogs actually.
I took care of a few tasks in the morning and then headed out with 16 dogs around 10;30am. I messed around a bit with leaders in the first few miles but eventually with Q and Wifi up front the team began to roll nicely and the miles started to click by.
We ran along the highway ditch and then hooked up with one of my favorite trails that drops down into the river valley coming out near the cemetery. As we were just about to the cemetery we came across a car parked in the middle of the trail. The elderly driver was wearing blaze orange and munching on a sandwich as the dogs veered around the car and trucked on by. The driver and I waved.
As I was stopped nearby watering dogs, the elderly man drove out of the woods, got out of his car and headed into the cemetery. He walked around a bit before coming out and taking a few steps towards the team. He seemed very leery of the dogs, so I headed over to him to chat. Turns out he was raised in the valley. His grandmother was one of the first buried in the Perryvale cemetery (and actually the tombstone that Hilda and Olena almost knocked over a couple years back - but I didn't tell him that). It was very interesting to stand and chat with him, but soon the dogs began to kick up a fuss and it was time for me to get going.

The dogs had enjoyed their break and careened down the road and across the bridge into Perryvale. I tied the leaders off to my usual "Call before you dig" post and zipped in to pick up the mail and grab a liter of chocolate milk for lunch. After a quick chat with Rhonda and a glance at the notice board, it was back to the dogs and on the road again.

Many uneventful miles later we were up along a very remote gravel road that eventually turns into the Landing Trail when a truck came around a bend and stopped dead. The dogs were over on the far right of the road, so there was room for the driver to pass, but he just idled there. I was puzzled. When the driver threw the truck in reverse and started speeding backwards along the road, I was more puzzled. Then it hit me, this was the folks that lived just a ways up the road, they have never seen the dogs here before and they were worried that they yard dogs, a big 'Cricket-like' creature and a collie, were going to be a problem. Sure enough the truck swerved backwards into the yard, the doors flung open, the drivers jumped out and began trying to round up their dogs. They were slipping and sliding and the dogs by now had realized the team was coming and had no intention of getting caught. As I passed the driveway, they were trying in vain to stuff the dogs into their garage. Once my team was past the driveway, I stopped. The woman was frantically waving her arms at me and yelling 'GO, GO' - obviously unaware that I pass by there several times a week without any issues with her dogs. 'They are fine", I yelled and she looked at me like I was crazy. "Really I pass by here all the time. Don't worry!! But thanks" I called. The Great Pyr ran out, barked a few times at the team, which just stood there and then headed back to the yard. I called out and off we went, leaving two very baffled dog owners behind.

I whistled along to Kid Rock on my iPod (Mark's actually, mine went missing this spring) as we traveled the old Landing Trail, eventually hooking up with the roads again. As we dropped down near Meanook, a short, handicapped styled bus went by. I swung south and next thing I knew the bus was right behind me honking. The driver passed and then pulled over and stopped in front of the team. The doors opened and 20 + people piled out. Turns out they were a group from the Alberta TrailNet Society touring the valley and looking at the Landing Trail area. A number of the folks knew me and there was alot of handshaking, question asking and chatter about the local trails (which I utilize pretty well!). It was great timing and I was happy to take the time to chat with them.
One of the ladies pointed out that X was carrying something in his mouth and I went over to investigate. Turns out he was packing a half rotten coyote skull. Nice X - that'll impress the politicians! I tried to discreetly wrestle his prize from him and then went to toss it far into the ditch. It caught on my glove and sailed straight up in the air. Luckily, no one was hit as it plummeted to the ground, I quickly retrieved it and got it into the ditch with this throw. I made a big point of taking off my gloves so no one would be grossed out by shaking hands with me now.
We chatted a bit more before everyone piled back onto the bus and they headed back to Meanook. The dogs and I went a mile or so down the road and pulled into Lisa's for a 2 hour coffee break before we began the jaunt home.

We pulled back into the yard around 6pm. Chris had dinner ready for the dogs. We fed and then tucked everyone in for the night.

Ah, a good day at 'the office'.


Friday 21 November 2008

Great Entertainment!

While driving on the long trips I find that listening to audio books is the best way to make the time go quickly. I mean really some of the scenery gets a bit old and repetitive and just watching the miles can be a very boring endeavor.

Before I left NorthWapiti I was given the audio book The Story of Edgar Sawtelle which was a total of 21 hours of entertainment! Actually I made it to Pennsylvania before I finished the book so I thought that was pretty good. The good news is that Paxson and Wired also got to listen to it so now they are feeling quite smart and literate!!

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski is Oprah’s latest book club selection and it caught my eye because it is a book about dogs. It took me a couple hours of listening to get into the book but once I was hooked I didn’t want to stop listening.

Author Stephen King describes the book this way:
"I flat-out loved The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Dog-lovers in particular will be riveted by this story, because the canine world has never been explored with such imagination or emotional resonance. It's a novel about the human heart, and the mysteries that live there, understood but impossible to articulate. Yet in the person of Edgar Sawtelle, a mute boy who takes three of his dogs on a brave and dangerous odyssey, Wroblewski does articulate them, and splendidly. I closed the book with that regret readers feel only after experiencing the best stories: It's over, you think, and I won't read another one this good for a long, long time.

This is a wonderful book and I would recommend that anyone that enjoys a good book take the time to read or listen to this one.

Remember anything you buy through Amazon can help support NorthWapiti by merely going to the Amazon site via Every bit of support we give to NW allows us to enjoy the racing season and those great dogs right along with Karen!!


Tuesday 18 November 2008

Thank goodness for the dogs!

So there I was on the road back to Vermont with my two traveling companions Paxson and Wired. Of course they were the perfectly behaved dogs that anyone would expect from one of Karen’s NorthWapiti dogs. The entire trip they never made a peep of sound, walked perfectly on their leashes and were very content with the trip.

I wish I could say the same about myself…..there I was following my Google map directions not feeling overly concerned about the trip just riding down the road. I was in Saskatchewan heading for North Dakota and the US border. I saw the sign for the US border (150km) and I was on Route 6 as I was supposed to be, a nice uneventful trip. I knew the Portal, ND border crossing has a town on either side of the border and had planned on getting gas etc there. So you can imagine my surprise when out of the blue I come to a government building that says US customs and a sign that says Welcome to Montana. As I stopped, the border patrol officer saw the look of confusion on my face as I said, “I was supposed to be crossing the border in North Dakota”, and he laughed and said lots of people make that mistake and I had turned too soon. Well that was all well and good but I was expecting a town at the border and my gas light was now on and there was nothing at the border but open country. He assured me there were plenty of gas stations 16 miles down the road in Plentywood.

I got gas and some snacks and decided that I would drive a little more before I took the dogs out. So there I was driving out of Plentywood, following the signs and even paying attention to the speed limit. So now I am in the 70mph zone and have picked up my speed I see a police car with lights on coming down the road. I pull off to the side of the road, thinking he will pass by me to some huge emergency, and the next thing I know he has come up behind me. I am wondering why he has pulled me over and of course I ask him when he comes up to my window. He tells me I was going 55 in a 45 speed zone, since I had been paying close attention to my speed going through this little town I told him in fact I had not been speeding and had been paying very close attention to my speed. He again said I was speeding and wanted my registration etc. Now you must realize that little Wired is in a crate in the front seat so I have to get out of the car go around to the passenger side in order to get in my glove compartment and all my paperwork. He follows me and I am very courteous and give him my stuff. Now that he is back in his car ‘checking me out’ I decide I might as well take the dogs out. I mean really why just sit and wait while I am losing time on the road. I am convinced he will see I have a perfect driving record and might give me a little warning and send me on my way!! Ah but this is not the case.
He comes back to my car and tells me he is citing me for going 55 in a 45 and at this point I have just about had it with this guy and once again tell him I was not speeding. He tells me not to get angry and I once again (I have never argued with a police officer before either!) tell him that I was not speeding and yes I was angry. At this point he suggests he could take me into custody and that would not help me get down the road any quicker.

Now can you see the flash that is in my mind………..two dogs in the car, calling Karen to tell her the dogs are now also taken in because I argued with a police officer, now I am an extra day on the road and the twins are wondering where there dogs are…….

OK, so it was time to be nice and go on my way. If only it was that easy…. now since I am out of State he wants me to pay bail of $55 or he will have to take me and now I am mad all over again!! All I can tell you at this point was thank goodness for the dogs....they kept me out of jail !!

Needless to say I fumed about the incident for many hours……….

Friday 14 November 2008

Leaving NorthWapiti

There I was with the car all packed and ready for me to leave NorthWapiti and head back to my life in the States. I was anxious about my trip because I was bringing Paxson and Wired with me and also anxious because it was a long trip ahead of me. When I drove out to Perryvale I did it as such a spontaneous trip I never had time to even think abOut it but now I had been thinking about the return trip for a while.

The new handler had arrived and I had shown him a little bit of what needed to be done in the yard. He was all moved into the cabin and I had all my stuff packed into the trunk of my car and the hand off of responsibility was complete.

Waking up that Monday morning I was thinking I would have coffee with Karen and then head off down the road. Karen had a different idea of how my morning would go and insisted I go out for one last run with her! I said I would go if we took Paxson, since he would be in my car for the next 5 days and after that we would take the puppies for a run too. Karen assured me it would be a shorter run and that I would be able to get going soon!!

As we headed off on the trail I was struck by how much I have enjoyed my six weeks at the kennel. When I first got there I was completely overwhelmed with all the dogs and never imagined I would learn all their names let alone be able to tell one from another. Now I not only knew their names but I also knew their personalities and specifics about each one of them. This was an experience that I would always remember with great fondness and gratitude.

After a short 7 miles we pulled back into the yard where the new handler was waiting to help us get the dogs all back on their stakeouts. Next we took out the puppies and they were all in fine spirits free running after the quad!

Once we returned I knew it was time for me to get the dogs in the car and set off on my way. I put Paxson in the crate on the backseat and Wired was in a crate on the front seat of my little Toyota Corolla. Next was to track down Karen who was not making it easy for me to say good bye. It was a tearful good bye for both of us……….how lucky I was to not only have a great experience with all the cool dogs but to also leave with a wonderful new friend.

Not to worry I will be back!


Thursday 13 November 2008


Dirt seems to be an everyday part of my life. While most women my age (44) are only covered in mud when they are at the spa, I am constantly covered in dirt, mud, other brown substances and sweat.

Not very lady like, I'm afraid, but then again, I don't think I've ever been accused of being too 'ladylike'.

Rather then light, fragrant floral based soaps and shampoos in our shower, I have deodorant soaps, exfoliating facial scrubs and a nailbrush that is used on nails and much more.

Yesterday while I was making dinner Dr. Oz was on Oprah talking about 'healthy beauty secrets' - or some such thing. He was admonishing women that they shampoo their hair too frequently. "Only wash it when it is dirty" was his advice. LOL What if it is dirty everyday?????

I actually don't wash my hair everyday, mostly cause I don't have time, but when I do, I'm lucky if I can get the first batch of shampoo to even lather!

Despite aggressive scrubbing my fingernails are never sparkly and white. Well, I guess there is really no telling if they are bright white, as I don't have a nail longer then 2 millimeters - and even those ones are raggedy and uneven across the top.

So, why all this talk about dirt you ask?? After all it is November and all the mud is frozen and covered with a layer of sparkling snow - right??


Barq was NOT impressed...

Nor was Herman.

Nor was I (but I didn't take any pictures of that!)

This is NOVEMBER for goodness sakes.
Many thanks to Lisa ( for filling me up with homemade soup, muffins and coffee - and not minding when Herman dug a hole in her lawn - when we stopped by her place for a mid run break. She made a miserable run almost enjoyable!
More pictures of today's muddy run can be seen at -
and a few of yesterdays slighty more 'seasonable' run at -


Tuesday 11 November 2008

A Pittance of Time

Today is Remembrance Day.
As I hook up dogs this morning and head out into the woods on our training run, it will be in full remembrance of all those that sacrificed so I could choose to live the life I do.

I hope that all of you will take a 'pittance of time' to remember those that gave so much more.

Lest we forget,


Monday 10 November 2008

That'll Do Fly

Today our much loved Australian Shepherd, Fly left us.

Fly had been battling for the last three weeks and last night he told me he was done fighting. He slept outside one last time to oversee HIS dogyard before Mark and I drove him to the vet this morning.

It is really hard to summarize what Fly has meant to us over the years. Like the Siberians, our relationship with him was special because he honestly worked for a living and we relied on him. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year for over 11 years Fly has run the dog yard. He greeted visitors, looked intimidating to uninvited strangers (including 2 lost police officers that wouldn't get out of their car until I came out to greet them), announced feedings, supervised hookups, broke up fights, negotiated treaties, led puppy walks, kept wildlife away from the dog yard, and much, much more. The peaceful, calm atomsphere that so many comment on in our kennel (of course, not at hookup or feeding time - but the rest of the time) is in no small part thanks to Fly's presence.

The stories our crazy Aussie yard dog are many - and each one brings a smile to our face in memory. He was a character, for sure. We were the perfect situation for him - and he was the perfect dog for us.

As we helped Fly into the van this morning for his trip to the vet, his 120lb geeky protegee, Cricket rushed over and stuck her ample snout in the van to share one last word with her mentor and pal.
As we pulled out of the driveway, Cricket ran along side us to the gates - something she does not normally do. I know that everyone of the Siberians in the yard was doing the same in spirit.

Every soul here at NorthWapiti mourns his passing.

There are not enough words in the world for Mark and I to thank Fly for everything he has done for us, so we'll just steal a favorite line from the movie where he got his name.

"That'll Do Fly"

Camping Yesterday

Got some stuff on the go that I'll blog about later, but in the meantime, I thought you all might be interested in some pictures of our camping trip yesterday.

Here are a few teasers -

-the rest can be seen at


Thursday 6 November 2008

Busy, but smiling....

As is very normal at this time of year, things have been very busy lately. Not that I'm complaining - busy is good in November in a dog yard!!!
I did take a camera along on our 20 mile training run today and you can see some of the pictures on my Picasa site -
You will notice the predominant color in the pictures is WHITE - that puts the dogs and I in a GREAT mood!!!

More blogs soon - promise!!