Monday 31 August 2009

New Leaders!

It is that time of year that I try out all my young dogs in lead.
It's a pretty 'low key' time. I put the youngsters in lead with a good experienced leader beside them and 2 good leaders behind them in swing.
If they go - great. If not, no big deal, I swap them out with one of the swing dogs and the run goes on.
It's mostly just an 'information gathering' type thing!

I've already raved about See, who was AMAZING!!! Yesterday I had Dew in lead. She did pretty well. I took her out when we came back into the yard, as Dew has issues with Cricket and she wasn't confident enough in her job to lead a team by the big beast (who sits alongside the trail and watches the team come in). With time and work, she'll get there I'm sure.

Today was Utin's turn and he was very impatient to show me his stuff!

He wasn't quite as good as his sister, but he was close. He definately likes to push the pace. A few times he had the team convinced that he was trying to kill them, we were going so fast!

Finding another promising young leader makes me a happy musher! Being able to show off what a promising young leader he is makes Utin a happy sled dog!

Sunday 30 August 2009

An Evening Howl

Yesterday evening I was sitting out on our deck working on my computer. It was a lovely late summer evening and the dogs made it lovelier with this -


Saturday 29 August 2009

A Phobia Put To Bed

For over 30 years I have nurtured a phobia to needles. I mention it to folks and they'd say "Yeah, I don't like them either" or "I just close my eyes". I'm not talking DISLIKING needles, I'm talking PHOBIA.
Twenty three years ago when Mark and I got our marriage license, you needed a blood test. It took 3 nurses, Mark and drugs to hold me down - and I really wanted to get married!!
Over the years I've fainted, had full blown panic attacks, crawled off the back of dentist chairs, cried, screamed but most usually just avoided the things like the plague. My doctors have suggested counselling, but I didn't want to be 'brain washed' into getting needles (yes, I know that makes no sense).

This spring I found out that there were some things in my life that I was more scared of then needles - like cancer.
During some routine testing for a small health concern I had last winter (Bless the Canadian Health Care system!) they found that I was very anemic and that I had a large mass in my liver.
Instantly things kicked into high gear. Many doctor appointments, ultrasounds, blood tests and CT scans (involving IVs) followed. I cried and hyperventilated my way through most of them.
Then I decided enough was enough - it was time to give up this ridiculous fear. So I did. Just like that. It is amazing what you can do when your motivation is high!

Last month I practically skipped home from the hospital after sitting up, drug free (my doctor used to give me cool little white pills to help take the 'edge off' before a blood test), and tearless for a blood test.

Yesterday I had to go in for a series of scans. It involved drawing blood, making it radioactive (cool eh?), re-injecting it into me and then scanning and x-raying as they tracked it through my body.
The tech poked my left arm over 6 times trying to find a vein. Months ago that would have turned me into a puddle on the floor.
I sat through it all without even flinching (BTW - the nurse apologized PROFUSELY and the second one found a vein in my right arm on the first try).

I can't decide whether to wear long sleeves for the next few days so I don't look like a junkie - or wear short sleeves to show off those needle marks off as badges of pride!

Oh, and as for the whole 'health scare' thing - don't worry, I'm fine. There is no cancer (and they have looked everywhere to be sure. There will be a bit of surgery down the road, but it's all under control) and thanks to getting my phobia and anemia under control, I actually feel mentally and physically better then I have in years!!

In fact, I'm thinking of donating blood sometime down the road - I've always wanted to do that!


Thursday 27 August 2009

Auntie Bet

Holding paws and still friends!

Another nice distraction

Our friends and fellow long distance Siberian drivers, Mike and Sue Ellis stopped by the kennel to rest and refuel their bodies on their way north.
The Ellis's have packed up their lives in New Hampshire and are relocating to Fairbanks, AK.

As always, it was a lovely visit. I even convinced them to take a few dogs out on the Pawtrekker scooter this morning!

Mike with one of this year's Tsuga pups!


Some of the Tsuga crew!

Yup, that is former NorthWapiti resident, Boom! It was great seeing him and Togo again!

Sue scootering this morning!

Check out their website and follow them on the Yukon Quest this year!

We wish them a safe trip and all the best in their new home!!!


Tuesday 25 August 2009

A Cure For the Blues in the Key of 'See'

This morning I was looking for something to kick me out of my funk. Luckily, I found it quite early in the day.

While making up my team this morning I decided to go out on a limb when picking out leaders. Top leaders Jinx, Dasher and Tess were on the run list, but rather then taking the 'easy' way out, I opted to hook up Bang, who is doing really nice in lead so far this season along with .... I hummed and hawed looking at the list of dogs....and then I saw SEE's name (word play intended). Perfect. She has been so keen in harness lately it would be interesting to see what she'd do in lead.

Mike (our new handler) and I picked out the 16 dogs that would be running this morning ;
Bang See
Jinx Tess
Dasher Smartie
Billie Bingo
Grit Irving
Hector Shooter
Crunchie Turtle
Q Tie

We put on harnesses and started hooking dogs into the gangline. First in were the leaders.

Hmmmm, that went smoothly.

The rest of the team got hooked up and off we went. We shot out of the yard and down the trail.

Hmmmm, that went smoothly.

We zigged and zagged through the woods for 3 miles before pulling into the watering trough.

Hmmm, that went smoothly.

The dogs drank and were roaring to go.

Off we headed.

Hmmm, that went smoothly too.

We went up and down the Widowmakers and pulled back into the yard. When we got to the yard I didn't ask the leaders to stop and we didn't. Right through the yard they went - with a completely green leader in front (and she was the one really driving).

WOW, that went incredibly smoothly.

Everything about the run was smooth. I simply can't remember a green leader (except MAYBE Grover) ever putting in a first run like that. AWESOME, just AWESOME.

Despite the horrible events of the previous day, I couldn't help smiling at that young piebald girl. She wiggled and smiled back.
I know she knew she was doing a great job.

And now I must tell you the rest of the story with See. In the spring of '08 after coming back from Alaska I decided to harness break the 'Cree' litter before Kathryn headed back home. My friend Lisa was riding along that day too.
Utin and Meg were excited about the whole process and took off with enthusiasm when the team headed out. See was a different story.
The noise and commotion of hookup seemed to overwhelm this formerly confident young dog.
When the team started to go, See curled up in a ball and refused to put her feet down. We spent the next 50 yards or so going one or two steps, stopping for See; one or two steps, stopping for See. Kathryn finally reached over and picked See up by her harness and ran along carrying her for a few steps. That worked and the young lady hit the ground running.
She has not looked back yet.

And this morning she made me smile.

Thank you See.


NorthWapiti's MegaWatt (Watt) 08/02/04 - 08/24/09

It’s been a long time since I had to write one of these for one of our Siberians. I expected it to be for one of the geriatrics, not one of the best main string dogs I own – but life doesn’t always roll the way you expect or want it to.

This morning, very quickly and unexpectedly Watt passed away. I had taken him to the vet because things just weren’t ‘right’ with him. I was thinking that he had injured his back or neck, as he was showing no signs of illness (no vomiting, loose stools, was eating, etc, etc), just some general stiffness and soreness. While they were attempting to get blood from him, he ‘crashed’ and they were unable to resuscitate him.
It is looking like he may have had some kind of bacterial infection. We will know more after his necropsy this afternoon.

I have having trouble wrapping my head around this. It doesn’t seem possible. Watt was just 5 years old and one of the best dogs in the yard. He had already accomplished a lot with us and he held the promise of so much more. I had been working a lot with him in lead and it was looking like it was something he was going to excel at.

I wish we could have had a longer trail to travel together…


Saturday 22 August 2009

Super Hero Powers

As Corrine and I were grocery shopping one day during her visit she asked, "If you could have any Super Hero Power what would you pick?".
Great question!!! (Oh, to be 12 again)

The discussion went on for the rest of our shopping trip and the whole drive home.

One of the first powers Corrine thought she might like to have was the ability to control nature. I thought that had too much responsibility attached to it - and I stand by my position!!!
Now just because I wouldn't want the responsibility of controlling nature doesn't mean that I don't want to know what is going on with it! And that explains my most recent Internet obsession (with thanks to Lisa, who has been addicted to this site for awhile) -Internet radar weather

Way cool. I can see where rain is falling in the local area and by hitting the 'play' option can see where our weather is coming from and what is moving our way.
It also gives me a way to figure out how long a storm is going to last. All which is pretty neat if you spend alot of your day outside.

Last night I got hooked on watching a storm track northeast across the province. It looked pretty severe and sure enough, when I checked the 'lighting detection' feature, I could see that we were going to get a nice little thunderstorm.
Now, Kara - who recently has decided she doesn't like thunderstorms - sitting on my head at 1am probably would have been a good indicator that thunder was approaching, but it was cool to have 'pre Kara' warning!

It's lovely this here this morning. The much needed rain overnight has 'cleaned up' the dust and dirt around the yard and perked up all the vegetation. The radar is showing blue skies for at least the next few hours, so I'm off to doing some more puttering and chores.

Oh and - hands down - the ability to fly!!!

What Super Hero power would you choose???


Thursday 20 August 2009

MidWest Sled Dog Symposium

For those that may not have heard, I am heading out to Curtis, Michigan September 25 and 26, 2009 for the MidWest Sled Dog Symposium.
Ed and Tasha Steilstra of Nature Kennels are organizing the seminar and have very graciously asked me to be the key note speaker for the event. I'm very honored.

You can find out more information at MidWest Sled Dog Symposium

I hope to see some of you there!


It Might Not Look Scarey To You...

I was in Home Hardware in Athabasca the other day searching for some kind of 'hole saw' that Mark needed for his continuing remodel of the dog truck when I spotted this...

Since Kara, Bet, Bait and Tic have Mark and I filling their water dish a million times a day I thought this would be a great little purchase for the house.
Mark was quite taken with it when I arrived home, agreeing that it was a great find. I filled it up thinking just how handy this was going to be.

Kara and Bet looked it over and decided it was relatively harmless and that the odds of them not dying of dehydration (they are both fairly dramatic dogs) were better with it in the house.

All was well and peaceful until Kara took a big drink and began to walk away from the dish. 'BLURP' went the tank.
Kara shot across the floor with nails scrambling for purchase and terror in her eyes.
Bet had pretty much the same reaction the first time the water dish 'BLURPED' at her too.

Things have settled down a bit now. Kara and Bet aren't quite so startled by the 'BLURPING' water tank, although they still approach it suspiciously.

And Bait....well he is trying to figure out a way to add fish to the tank.

Never a dull moment!

Tuesday 18 August 2009

No Wonder You Are Red Listed

Bet and I were snuggled up in bed (Mark was working last night) when our sweet dreams were intruded upon by a barking dogs. It wasn't, to steal and misuse a phrase from Cesar Millan, a 'Red Zone' bark that would have gotten me out of bed before I was really awake. I listened for a minute and decided that it was really a situation I needed to follow up on.
I grabbed the flashlight that sits next to the back door, slipped on the shoes that sit outside the door for this very sort of situation and headed out into the night. The commotion came from the pens, specifically it was Olena, Tramp and Nahanni SCREAMING at something that was lurking in on the edge of the yard or in the woods just beyond.
I looked around for my killer guard dog, who was no where to be seen. I called for her a few times but nothing. Great she is off partying and leaving me to deal with rabid moose or an enraged bear.
I took a deep breath and rounded the corner of Nahanni's pen. Sure enough, there the beast was - flinging itself against the chain link to Tramp's pen.

It was a toad. Yup, a toad. And it was indeed flinging repeatedly trying to get up on the railway tie that borders Tramp's kennel. Tramp was attempting to assist him by grabbing him through the chain link. How kind.
I watched for a minute and came to the conclusion that the toad must be suicidal. After all, there was no other outcome then death should he succeed in his effort to get into the kennel (which I didn't really think was possible, but I've seen stranger things happen).

I debated attempting to rescue the guy, but past experience in steering toads to safety has not been successful, and besides it was 2am. If he was really just looking for help and someone to listen to his problems, he picked the wrong person and the wrong time of the morning.
I shut off the flashlight, watched the night sky for a minute, called for Cricket a few more times, and then headed back to bed.

The yard barked for a few more minutes, then all went completely quiet. I figured either the toad had been put out of his misery or had wandered off into the woods in search of a sympathetic coyote or moose (Good luck with that).

This morning I walked up to Tramp's kennel. There was no sign of Mr. Toad.

I did alittle search on the Internet this afternoon about toads in Alberta and found this - Canadian Toad

Apparently the 'Canadian Toad' is a 'Red List' species. Well, no wonder I figured, they obviously aren't too bright. But then I got thinking, maybe because he was a 'red list' species he couldn't find a date. Lord knows that is stressful. And we are having a drought, so maybe he was depressed about not being able to find a snazzy little pond or swamp to call his own. Or maybe since the fly and mosquito population is down this year he was hungry and looking for handouts.

I got to feeling alittle bad about my callus disregard for Mr. Toad's situation.
I think if he comes back tonight I'll be more compassionate - well, that is if he shows up after 5am. I've been yawning all day and waking me up before 5 am he well may be moving from the 'red list' to the endangered list.


PS. Cricket was back in the yard this morning to greet Mark when he got home for work. She vehemently denied being away from her post during the night. The lying furball!!

Sunday 16 August 2009

Ye Ole Watering Hole

We have an old horse watering trough that we drag out onto the trail every year so we can stop and water dogs on the run.
Since my runs are now pushing close to 6 miles Mark filled the trough and dragged it out with his tractor the other day.

The veterans know the routine and eagerly turned onto the watering hole trail when asked the other day. The rookies were alittle puzzled by the big blue thing on the side of the trail, but quickly figured out that it was all good!

Bang and Wonder having a drink


Not everyone stands around patiently waiting for a drink. Grit takes matters into his own paws

Once they have all had a drink and caught their breath, they are keen to get going again!

And soon we are underway again..

X and Wolvie digging in on one of 'The Widowmaker' hills.

For the record the team was Jinx and Tess; Wonder and Bang; Bingo and Jolt; Kim and Grit; Irving and Runner; Rocky and Roscoe; Shooter and Turtle; X and Wolvie. A nice mixture of young and old. I was very pleased with the power of this group!


Friday 14 August 2009

A Change of Winter Scenery

This is the time of year that we start to make plans for our winter season. Mark has been booking holidays and I'm planning training/racing schedules. Certainly we can't plan out every single detail now, but the more we can organize and plan in August, the less chaos in our lives and the more time to focus on training dogs in the fall/winter!

As you all know, Iditarod is definitely in the plans for this season - but one thing that you all don't know about this winter is that we are moving our 'base camp' in Alaska to Two Rivers (just outside of Fairbanks)!

Jan Denapoli of Muzzy's Place Kennels has graciously opened her doors to the NorthWapiti Team. (Take a peak under "Handler Wanted" for some great pictures of Jan's place. BTW - I think the position is full and she just hasn't updated the site!)

We will, of course, miss Willow and all our friends there, but the thought of new trails and making some new friendships is exciting too!

Many thanks to Jamie West and Harry Banks for their hospitality over the years! We all really appreciate everything the two of them have done for us.

Looking back with gratitude and forward with excitement!

Thursday 13 August 2009

The Gal's Got a Good Eye

Well Corrine has headed back to Seattle with her family. It certainly seems quiet around her without here!! Snap, Crackle and Pop are complaining the loudest because even though they are still getting free run and loads of other attention, we just don't compare to Corrine in their eyes!
The only one not complaining about her absence is Bait. He has a way of always being in the wrong place at the wrong time and that meant that Corrine was constantly packing him around under her arm. He's just not used to being treated like a cat!

Before Corrine headed out, I asked permission to share some of the terrific photos she took of the dogs while here. She readily agreed! Thanks Corrine!!

Corrine ADORES super happy and super energetic Dew - probably because they are so much alike!







And of course, there were ALOT of shots of the Rice Krispies!




And a bunch of the three of them -

And this FANTASTIC shot that I really wish I had taken!!!

Way to go Corrine! We will see you next year!

'Auntie' Karen