Sunday 31 October 2010

NorthWapiti's C4

NorthWapiti's C4
May 22, 2010 - October 31, 2010

C4 toughed it through 2 major surgeries at 8 weeks of age and for the last 3 months seemed to be making a wonderful and complete recovery. However yesterday he began to have the same intestinal issues again. I spoke with our vet who gave us the unfortunate news that we were left with no further surgical options on our tough little guy.
We spent the night doing everything we could to help his system rally but by this morning it was obvious that we needed to step in and bring his fight to an end.

He was a cool little guy with a tremendous fighting spirit. He deserved more.

Special thanks to the wonderful vets and staff at the Westlock Veterinary Clinic, especially Dr. Trevor Jackson, who pulled out all the stops to give C4 every chance possible.

And, of course, special hugs to C4's great friend, Corrine. We know he loved you as much as you loved him, Corrine!


Saturday 30 October 2010

Ghost Stories

My friends at Northern Lights media did a neat little 'ghost stories' from the trail story today and it got me thinking that that might be a good topic for the blog, this weekend being Halloween and all!

The Iditarod Trail has an incredible history to it. Now much of it is empty, lonely and unused except during March, but thousands of feet and paws have padded over it for centuries. Fortunes and lives have been made and lost along its route. If there is a place in my travels that deserves to be inhabited by presences from another world, this would be it.

I've read and been told many odd tales of mysterious encounters along the Iditarod Trail, some are obviously hallucinations from dehydrated, sleep deprived, twisted musher minds, but others......?

A friend of mine tells me of waving at folks on the porch of a roadhouse between Nikolai and McGrath on a number of his Iditarods; problem is that there is no such roadhouse there.
Jon Van Zyle tells a great story of hearing voices near Kaltag on one of his Iditarods.

My first encounter actually didn't happen on the 'Iditarod Trail'. It happened on the original Serum route between Tanana and Ruby on the detoured 2003 Iditarod. The dogs and I were traveling along the wide Yukon River at about 1 or 2 am. We hadn't been traveling with anyone and hadn't even seen another musher or headlamp in many, many hours. Not that that really matters, mushers often travel without headlamps on and 'sneak up' on other mushers. So when I was bumped on the back of my legs, I just assumed that the lead dogs of another team had come up behind me. I turned around to offer the faster team 'trail' to find nothing but darkness. I shone my headlamp around and found nothing but empty river. Hmmm....
I turned back around and gave my attention back to my dog team, only to have it taken away moments later by a second bump on my calves.
I again scanned the river to no avail. It's not like there is anywhere for someone to 'hide' on a 1/2 mile wide, flat frozen river. We were completely alone.
I felt no threat from my 'visitor' - and really, it seems to me that any presence that might be hanging out on that stretch of trail would be nothing short of delighted to see dog teams out racing along it again.

My second strange event happened in 2004 on the trail between Koyuk and Elim. At the time it happened I never thought it had 'ghostly connotations', but when I told my tale a couple years later to a friend, I got a different perspective on it.

I had left Koyuk late at night, followed shortly after by my friend Doug Grilliot. For awhile I could see Doug's headlight behind me. Eventually he caught up with me, we snacked dogs together and then took off again. Throughout the night his faster team gradually pulled away, then I only sporadically saw his headlight when he glanced over his shoulder and finally I stopped seeing it altogether.
I was traveling along a section of the trail that runs along the coast of Norton Sound, so to the left of me was sea ice and a half mile or so out, the open Arctic Ocean.

The dogs had been moving along quite steadily when all of a sudden Hector's head snapped to the left and he started barking a low, deep warning bark. The other dogs all stopped moving and joined in on his barking.

In all the years and miles I have traveled wilderness trails with dogs, I have never seen my team do this. My dogs are the bravest, toughest creatures I know, so the thought of what might be putting them all on edge made my blood run cold.

Honestly, my first thought was 'polar bear'. Although a few mushers claim they have seen polar bears along the coast during Iditarod, Iditarod officials claim they were all hallucinating.

I was very worried about stepping off the runners of the sled, as I expected the dogs would bolt when they finally decided to move, so stayed where I was and encouraged them to get moving. All the while wishing my gun wasn't buried up in the front of my sled bag well out of reach (there is normally nothing along the coast that would make having it handy necessary).
After what seemed like ages, but was probably only a few minutes, the dogs slowly began to move, although they kept throwing the odd menacing bark over their shoulder - and I was throwing numerous nervous glances over mine.

Two years later I was having breakfast with my friend Iditarod finisher and checker Palmer Sagoonick and his wife Fena in Shaktoolik. Palmer and Fena are locals and I wondered what they thought could have made my dogs act like they did.

I'll never forget what Palmer said to me. He dismissed the thought of a bear in the area. "Likely spirits", he said and Fena nodded in agreement. "Spirits?", I replied. "They sometimes think it is fun to try to lure you out onto the thin ice", he said very matter of factly.

Strangely that didn't offer me alot of comfort!!!

Happy Halloween everyone!


Thursday 28 October 2010

Siberians In The Mist

It was very foggy and cool around the Tawatinaw valley this morning.

Couldn't resist sharing a few photos!!!

An Old Married Couple?

Our issues with Irving have been fairly well detailed in my blogs over the years. Irving is just basically a jerk. While he rarely actually fights with other dogs, he does get in their face, show his fangs and make alot of noise. We've tried a HUGE number of techniques to get him past this behavior all with limited success. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) he is a hard enough driving dog that he is worth extra work and effort. Last year we ended up dealing with him by running him alone most of the time.This year we have had some more progress with him, but he's still far from great.

Now another 'problem' dog you may not know of is Tramp. Tramp is a 2 year old daughter of Moses and Olena. She is cute as a button and pulls like a demon in harness, but we think she watched too many Disney movies as a puppy and has this really annoying habit of barking as she runs down the trail (in case any of you have never noticed, whenever Disney movies show a dog team on the move they dub in a 'barking dog' soundtrack. However, real dog teams generally shut up as soon as they start to move). She mostly does it at the beginning of our runs, usually for about 2 miles and then sporadically for the rest of the trip. It's not a HUGE deal, but it tends to drive her running mates (and me) insane!!!

So this morning I said 'what the heck' and decided to run my two 'problem' dogs next to each other.

As we were bringing dogs from the yard to the ready chain, Simone noticed Tramp and Irving's names next to each other on the running board and said "Oh, that will be fun". I'm certain she said that because she had already decided to stay home this morning rather than joining us on our run.

Off we went.

When we stopped next to the Perryvale Cemetery for a break I told Mark that I thought I had figured out the trick to getting a good run out of Irving.

"How's that?", he said.

I told him that he was running great next to Tramp. "He muttered at her a bit when we left the yard, she got in his face and nattered at him for a mile or so, but both have been completely quiet since then."

"Sounds like they are married", Mark said.

"Excuse me?", I replied to my husband of 24 years.

"Sounds like you figured Irving out", he wisely replied.

Yup, that's what I thought he said.

I love it when a plan comes together!

That's What Friends Are For!!!

A sixteen dog team is over 60 feet long from the front of the ATV to the leaders noses. Turning them around, even when all goes well, is always a chore with lots of potential for disaster.

So, when your friend across the valley has a lovely circular driveway, gosh knows it makes sense to utilize it when you can!!

I'm not sure that Sam, the World's Most Adorable Guardian Sheepdog thought so though! He abandon his flock of sheep and headed for his shelter when the 2 packs of 'wolves' descended on his yard (sorry - no pictures, but check out Lisa's blog at )

A nice easy, relatively stress free 20 mile run!!! Excellent!!

As opposed to the day before when I ended up with my gangline wrapped around the axle of my ATV - but let's not dwell on that - let's remember yesterday.

Ah - bliss!!!!

Thanks Lisa!!!!

Tuesday 26 October 2010

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” - Seneca

Good thing I'm not a big believer in luck. This is how my run started today -

I backed my ATV out of the garage and managed to destroy my rearview mirror in the process. Nice!!!

About 7 miles into the run we came over a rise and spotted a couple loose cows. How is it that it is okay to pass them when 4 little measly strands of barb wire that dogs can slip through in a heartbeat, but panic ensures without???

'Luckily' (yes, I'm grinning - luck didn't have much to do with it - training and experience played a much bigger factor!!!) we got by without incident!

And yes, Mom and baby ran along next to us for about a 1/4 mile before we got by them.


Monday 25 October 2010

There Is No Denying It Now!!

It started yesterday...
Big, fat, fluffy wet flakes of snow!!!

Sure, they were melting almost as soon as they hit the ground, but on the way down, they were indeed snowflakes.

By this morning flakes were actually sticking to the ground!!

Yup, no denying now....winter is on it's way...

The sounds of sled runners on snow, the crunch of snow underfoot on cold winters mornings, beautiful pristine white landscapes......I love it all.

Yet this morning my one thought was...

ACK!!!! Where did summer go!!!!????? I'm not ready for winter yet!!!!

...BUT I'm still smiling!!!!! Dasher is too!!!

Thursday 21 October 2010

Baled Out

Straw bales are an important part of winter survival gear for us country folk. Most years my very thoughtful neighbours across the highway give me enough straw bales to get me through the season, but since they didn't put any crops in this year we were on our own this time. Well, that is until 'Other Side of the Valley' Lisa put together a little straw co-op. Five of us got together and purchased 120 bales.

"Many hands make light work."
-John Heywood
Lisa has a pretty messed up back, so she was assigned the job of counting!

One hundred and twenty bales ready to roll!

Our 'take' was 30 bales. Ten of those will insulate the water line to the garage and the other 20 will be keeping the dogs warm and cozy for the winter!

Lisa will be using her 30 for her dogs and her sheep.

In addition Eve and Sandy's horses will be warm for the winter, as will Stacey's dogs and garden!!

One more 'pre-winter' task checked off on the list!!

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Moving To A New Neighbourhood And Meeting TheLocals

We did a bit of rearranging in the yard yesterday and when it was all said and done Sherwood found himself out on a stakeout chain.

One of the first things you should do when you move to a new neighourhood is to get to know the locals.

Seems like a pretty friendly place!!!