Friday 30 November 2012

Dear Santa Paws - Bet

Dear Santa Paws,

Howdy Ho!  I hope this letter finds you and those rainy deers happy and healthy!

I know this is your busy season, and I hope you don't mind the intrusion, but I have a bit of a problem that only you can solve!

I'm sure you already know (because you know everythings and stuffs) I have a very cushy life here at North Wapiti.  I have my very own Musher, plenty of Pretty Curly Tails to herd around, plenty of puppies to teach, a personal crampy toe massager, and a Brittany Handler, so what oh what could a non-roving Border Collie Reporter need?

Well, it is no secret that I have plenty of napping places in the house.

I have my chair

I have my couch

I have my bed

But I don't have my own cloud any more.

There's always somebody else on my cloud.


And of course, whenever there's a sick or injured Pretty Curly Tail, the cloud is the spot for recovery

This hasn't been a really hugey huge problem until recently when the need for a little privacy place of my own has become abundantly clear.

HEY!  HELLO??? I'm trying to nap here!!!!
SOMEBODIES likes to take discrete pictures of me when I'm not awake, but they wake me trying to be all stealthy.

WHA?  OMG Seriously?  I'M NAPPING!!!!

So I get all miffed and run to the cloud, which is the last bastion of safety in this house, and THIS IS WHAT I FIND!!!

Is nothing sacred?  I thought the cloud cover smelled just fine and what's a little dirt, it adds character!

So you see just how rough my life is, but you could turn it all around if you could get some of your little elf peoples to pack one of these in your sleigh for me this Christmas:

Isn't this sweet!  It's the Cabela's Semicircle Memory-Foam Dog Bed!  MEMORY FOAM!  That means it will remember me, and it will kick all of the other dogs off of it!  It would be just big enough for me and only ME, and it would be MINE!  It also says it delivers superior relief for hip and joints, and you know how broken I've been lately, so it's not like I'm asking for something frivolous, it's actually therapeutic and helpful and stuffs and things!

So, if you aren't too busy and all, I would like a large one of these, either Chocolate or Saddle color (to hide my embarrassing peanut butter stains and match the furniture).

Thanks in advance, I'll make sure that Cricket doesn't eat your tasty peanut butter cookies and milk like last year... I seriously have no idea how the crumbs got in my fur, Cricket must have eaten them over the top of me... no, seriously... would you try to stop Cricket from eating cookies?  Yeah, I didn't think so.



Thursday 29 November 2012

Making Good Choices

Snap is a three year old female out of our 'Rice Krispie' litter. You may not have heard me talk about her too much, but she is really starting to worm her way into my heart.
Her personality is a lot like her Mom, Sprite. She's bossy and will not back down from a confrontation but forgives easily and quite loves attention. We were having trouble with her having words with the other girls running through her area when we turned them loose at the end of a run to run back to their houses.
In the course of working through this problem with her it got to the point that she would get stiff legged and raise her hackles at the other dog, then would look over at me. I'd tell her to "Make good choices",  she would think about it for a second then run over to me for snuggles. Love it!
"Make good choices" has become her 'behave' command now.

Snap has been in lead once or twice. Nothing big, just 'getting her feet wet'. I decided today it was time to drop her in the pool, so to speak.
And, because, why not - I put Wifi up front with her. I wanted to see if he would 'step up' with a less confident leader - but still bossy dog next to him (he did - he did GREAT!!).
Now, I'm not a total fool - in swing was Jinx - without a neckline, so she could do some steering in a pinch - and Rocket, the best 'Gee Over' dog on the planet!!!

The run was 30 miles, in a storm, mostly breaking trail, past loose dogs, cows and assorted other farm creatures.
Snap put in a really solid performance!

She tried to come back and posture with Rocket and Jinx a few times, but a quick suggestion to 'make good choices' and she was back on track. She pushed the pace, allowed Wifi to push her around corners, and even initiated a few 'Gee Overs' on her own.

"Wow - look at all those dogs behind me!!!!"
"I am making good choices!!!!"
Snap and Wifi leading the team out at a good clip!
Never fails to make me smile watching young dogs start 'get' the whole 'lead dog thing'. She's still got a long way to go, but maybe, like her Mom, she will lead me under the burled arch in Nome one day.


Tuesday 27 November 2012


 I 'understand' single mindedness. In fact, been there, got the t-shirt - and maybe even a ball cap to go with it. But the older I get the more I believe that being a 'well rounded' person enriches all aspects of your life.
I am able to find inspiration, guidance, and wisdom from my other interests that, I believe, enhance my abilities as a dog trainer and a musher.

As some of you may be aware, alittle more then a year ago I started taking some yoga classes from my friend Gabi, who, along with her husband, Martin, runs Athabasca Yoga. I gotta say, purely from a physical standpoint, every musher should try this. Mushers abuse their bodies horribly and I know mine has benefited GREATLY from yoga. I'm certainly far from a pro at the whole thing. My creaky, abused body pops and groans it's way through class but every month my body gets a bit more 'bendy' and the popping and groaning seems alittle less.
I even had a list of exercises in my 'trail book' that I tried to do in every checkpoint or on every break I took on Iditarod last year. They really made a difference (thank you again Gabi!!!)

Anyway, the last few months I've been taking an hour and half long 'intermediate' class every Monday night.
Gabi is forever reminding us that it is not about comparing yourself against what the person next to you can do. We are all built different and have our own issues. It's about improving and stretching your own abilities.  Good message.

The past few weeks running dogs I've been running Wifi in lead a fair amount. He's an 'interesting' dog. He's a REALLY good leader. He will take the team by all kinds of distractions without issue, knows his commands, and sets a darn nice pace but STOP and a whole 'nother side of Wifi comes out. His A.D.D. side. Seriously, I'm sure he actually has A.D.D. When stopped he spins, he rolls, he vibrates, he darts off the trail, into the woods, etc, etc.

Wifi off in the woods, while See lines out the team.

Yesterday he put in a simply brilliant run in lead and then while we were putting the team away he drove me crazy as he 'spun out'. As always, I kept putting him back where I wanted him and made him stand up front on his own for a full minute before unharnessing. His eyes were wide and crazy. He seemed to be trying but just could not stay still.

Wifi in front of a 16 dog team on a great run yesterday.

 This morning as I was feeding dogs I was contemplating Wifi and where I wanted 'to go' with him. I completely believe having a nice, well disciplined team. I believe in training dogs, not just 'running dogs' (in fact, that is a concept I speak about a lot when talking to other mushers) - but I also believe that every dog is an individual. I want my team to be a group of unique individuals pulling together towards a common goal - not an army of clones.
As I was thinking about all this I kept going back to my yoga class from last night. It occurred to me that I shouldn't be comparing Wifi to my other leaders. He is "built different and has his own issues'.  I need to recognize and appreciate him for what he is and help him grow within his own limits.
He has come a long way over the years and he really is a leader that most would kill to own, but he is not a robot. He is a individual - a unique, slightly crazy individual.
Don't get me wrong - just like I don't make excuses for my body, I'm not making excuses for Wifi - I'm just recognizing him for what he is. I will continue to push him to 'grow' but I will also think about what is important and critical for the safety and success of the team and balance that with Wifi's 'needs'.

The light in me sees the light in you Wifi - even if your light is a flashing disco ball.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Four Seasons.....

....with my favorite soul in my favorite spot.

My Day Yesterday

Yesterday I took my dogs for a 'walk'....

Had coffee and caught up on some reading...

Watched the local 'nature channel' for a bit...

... took a bit of a nap...

...and then took the dogs for another walk.

After dinner I rounded off the day 'offering my body up' to my neighbour who is studying to become a massage therapist to practice on. She's a quick study - good thing as my back is pretty much a mess after sitting on the ATV for 4 - 6 hours a day!


Saturday 24 November 2012

Win This Poster

Bids are now being accepted on this awesome one-of-a-kind commemorative poster signed by at least 48 Iditarod Mushers.

To find out how to bid, click this link

Friday 23 November 2012

Because You Asked - Bet

Howdy Ho everybodies!

This isn't the biggie big announcement I teased on the Facebooks, but it's still plenty biggie big, so pay attention!

Ya know, I can't count the times we've heard "ooooh I love that photo, I wish I could have it on a card", or "ooooh, I really wish I could get a copy of that picture", or "Oooooh, you have the most beautifulest most wonderous, and smartest with the best ensembles non-roving Border Collie in the world".

I can't get enough of hearing that last one, but anyhooo, yeah we heard your pleas for copies of really cool photos that the Musher has taken.  You all did know that in her past life she was a photographer, owned her own shop and all, then threw it all away to mush the Pretty Curly Tails... right?

Well, now is your chance to get all of those really cool Musher photos for your very own on cards and stuffs and things!

You want this?

Art Prints

Well, you can get it here at Karen Ramstead's Fine Art America Store

You want pretty scenery stuffs and things like this?

Sell Art Online

Yep, you can get it here at Karen Ramstead's Fine Art America Store

What?  You want puppies?  We've got puppies, and ME!

Photography Prints

Where can you get it?  Why of course, right here at Karen Ramstead's Fine Art America Store

Don't see one you want?  E-mail the minions at Musher Minions

Let us know what you want, we'll slap it up there for you, and now you too can have Pretty Curly Tail cards and posters and pictures, and stuffs and things of your very own to hang on a wall, send to friends, or just gaze upon my beauty at your work desk!

To make it even easier to find, we even put a flashy button on the blog at the top right so you can shop whenever you want at  Karen Ramstead's Fine Art America Store

- Bet

Monday 19 November 2012

Tales of the Trail 2012 - Nome and Beyond

Getting into the finishing chute in Nome is always a surreal experience. The emotions are big and confusing; your body is exhausted but your mind in overdrive; you are used to being mostly alone and now multiple people are wanting your time and attention.

In his normal dependable and reliable manner, Richard was there waiting. Everything was organized and under control, which was a huge comfort.

Our time in Nome was quick, which was a bit of a relief to me. I was still struggling with accepting congratulations for a race I wasn't particularly proud of. At every opportunity I sought to switch attention to what I was proud of - my dogs. Tess had really come into her own on this race. She ran lead - double or single  - for so much of it. Huge responsibility!! Young Smartie and Turtle did fantastic. Astro, who I seem to not often give the credit he deserves, forever silenced the doubts. The amazing Jinx - still one of the best storm leaders I know; young Boo; my 'trail Casanova' Wifi; handsome, quiet and dependable Wolvie; silly Bang Bang; and Crunch. What can I say about Crunch? Still gives me a knot in my throat to think about how incredible that boy is.
And of course...I'm just as proud of the six dogs - Charge, Tramp, Roscoe, Q, See and Rocky that gave it their all, but for one reason or another didn't finish this time.

In addition to my dogs, there are always others that need to be thanked for an event like this. Truly, no dog team ever gets to Nome on their own - especially mine. I'm so blessed to have so many wonderful, kind and capable folks around me.

Richard and Penny were HUGE in allowing everyone to follow me. A few months back I was clearing up my iPhone and got a huge kick out of reading the texts that went back and forth during the Race between the two of them. "Thanks guys" for all you do for those that follow Facebook and the blog - and especially for all you do for me.

And to all my wonderful Musher Minions; my family; my long suffering husband, Mark; Richard's patient wife, Kim; Donna Quante; all our Sponsors; our supporters; and all make it possible, for which I am very grateful.

Now the question comes about the future.

I think if one more person asked me about my future plans this spring/summer I was going to scream. While it is a fair question that I owe folks an answer to, I needed to just let things 'simmer' for awhile so I could sort them out.

Honestly, I had gone into this Iditarod thinking it would be my last and planning on announcing that in Nome - and right up to ..... oh..... about Shaktoolik.....I was okay with that decision. However, over the past 8 months or so I know that I can't 'hang my hat' on this particular race.
Sadly, that doesn't mean that Iditarod '13 is in the cards. Unfortunately, personal finances (like a $12,000 new roof for the house and garage that was about 3 years overdue) dictate stepping back from Iditarod for this year.  I will, however, be back in 2014 - and yes, it will be my final Iditarod (yeah, yeah...I know....Mark doesn't believe me either.... but I believe me).

But, no Iditarod doesn't mean no racing. The dogs (and I) need to race, so we are excited to announce that we intend to go back to the 200-mile Eagle Cap Extreme in Joseph, Oregon and the 300-mile Canadian Challenge in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan this winter.
I am also looking at potentially, depending on schedules and finances, doing a few other races this season.

No fear, we will be Facebooking and blogging as always...and may even have a few surprises in store.
I hope you will 'join' us - one way or another!!!!!


Tales of the Trail 2012 - Safety to Nome

The checkers in Safety were my friend Philip Walters and his brother, Jeffrey.  I met Philip on the Don Bowers race this winter. He is a super nice guy and I like him a lot. He was cheerful and upbeat - really what I needed.
I was not pleased to be taking a break in Safety, but I knew I had no other option.

I took care of the team and wandered up into the 'interesting' little bar that serves as the checkpoint. Philip and Jeffrey offered coffee and a couch next to the warm stove where I could nap. I took advantage of both.
I did fret a fair amount over how long to stay here. I want to get going and get this over with but needed to give the dogs enough rest to stand a chance of straightening out their heads.

Finally, a headlight on the incoming trail and a slightly competitive internal voice that I had zero business listening to at this point in this race spurred me out.

Philip asked for a picture with me before I left. I was flattered but honestly couldn't figure out why anyone would want a picture with me. I wasn't feeling proud or confident in myself at all. Although it is still painful, I've looked at that picture a lot since the race. I see so much in my face.

The team left about as badly as they came in. "They'll get in the groove" I kept telling myself.  They didn't.

Our trip over Cape Nome likely would have been faster if I walked it myself but we got over it.

There is a spot on the backside of Nome that is special to me. I've always stopped here to have a moment with my team. I take the time to thank the dogs for the journey they have given me. This year was no different. Although the journey wasn't what I had hoped for, it was certainly not the fault of my dogs. It's never the dogs' fault - and heck, although the going got tough they stayed on their feet and moving forward because I asked them to. They may not have done it particularly fast, but they kept moving for me. That is a huge thing. I was, and still am, very proud of them. I'm always proud of them.

Everyone got snacks, hugs and kisses.

This is also the spot that I scattered Snickers' ashes in '08. It was my first opportunity to 'visit' with and have a little chat with her. Hard to believe she has been gone 5 years.

I straightened out lines and called up the team, hoping that the few veterans I had left would realize where we were or that the rookies would realize a 'big checkpoint' was ahead. They didn't.
In fact, it was the first team I've ever driven into Nome that didn't pick up and get excited in the last miles.

As always folks followed the team along the roads, honking and waving. I waved but honestly, I would have preferred to just sneak into town.

I really wanted Tess to bring the team into Nome in single lead, as she had been doing for so much of this race, but she hates crowds, so I put her up front with Jinx, hoping she would be okay that way. She deserved to bring that team into Nome.
She was doing okay, but as we started up the ramp off the sea ice (which is next to the Subway) a bunch of kids clapped and cheered. That was too much for Tess and she slammed on the brakes. I jogged up front and put young Smartie in her place. "Whatever", said Smartie to the crowds, the traffic and the cop car with the flashing lights.

We trotted into Nome and under the famed burled arch.

Friday 16 November 2012

Nothing Up My Sleeve - Bet

Howdy Ho everybodies!

It's your off season non-roving Border Collie Reporter, Bet, here!

Sorry for the lack of interwebs communication lately, what with the pesky new roof thing, and draaaaging Brittany Handler to the hospital to remove trees from her head stuffs and things, and more blah blah blah things.

The Facebooks were all atwitter with a video the Musher posted about Nana the world's smartest dog.

Here's the video in question.  Go ahead and watch it, I'll sit here patiently until you are done.

You back? Wasn't that amazing (yawn).

I have to paw it to Nana, she does do an amazing amount of tricks and things... and stuffs.  That whole pretend to pee on someone's leg thing... yeah, that never gets old.  But smart?

I'll tell you what is smart, and it's not doing a whole bunch of tricks when someone tells you to do them.

Here is smart.

Smart is washing out of Baa Baa Sheepie Thing Herdy School and finding a gig playing with puppies

 Smart is being able to perfect your ninja creeping skills by stalking the puppies

sneaky sneaky sneaky heeeeee

 Smart is being in charge of preparing for sled dog races by being an integral part of the packing process

Someone has to count the booties

You didn't pack the waffles, you're going to need waffles!
Smart is having a cool Musher that gives you FABULOUS ensembles

Oh yeah, you're just jealous

I like my Uggs better, but these would look good on you (details coming soon)

You can't go wrong with blue.  It matches my furs

What?  We're not going clubbing tonight?  But I just got dressed!
Smart is supervising your peoples to make sure they do a good job

Your laptop would probably work better if you didn't use it as a snow hook... just sayin

She always gets that wrong
Smart is having your very own professional crampy toes massager and toe nail painters

yeah, eat your heart out Nana

Are you sure this color goes with my ensembles?
Smart is getting to travel to exotic locations and staying in swanky hotels that deliver pizzas right to your door!
Is my peanut butter, double cheese, waffle, burger, shrimp pasta pizza here yet?
Would someone put another quarter in that "magic fingers massage" machine thing
Smart is having various and sundry places to practice your mad napping skills

Hey, turn off that light, I'm concentrating here

Are you taking a picture of my butt?

 And finally, smart is finding a home with the best Musher in the world that fixes me the bestest most tasty things to eat, and lets me sit at the table too.

I hope that's decaf.  I've been having some problems sleeping lately

 But the bestest, best smart thing is simply enjoying the day with your bestest best friend in the world

 So you just go ahead and do all of those fancy tricks Nana... I'll just keep enjoying the mundane life of a Pretty Curly Tail herder.

- Bet