Sunday 30 December 2012

Fish Break/Coffee Break

It's in 'the contract' .... Fish for the Curly Tails .....

Coffee for the Musher (when I remember to bring it along!)

Then back to business...

Monday 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas - Bet

When all of the gifts are opened,

And all of the food is gone,

You find it's not about the stuffs and things,

But the joy your friends and family bring.

To all of you, our extended North Wapiti family, we hope your holidays are shared by those who love you, and support your dreams and passions as much as you have supported ours.

We are forever grateful and honored to have you along for the ride, and look forward to another year of adventure and fun.

- North Wapiti Kennels-

Sunday 23 December 2012

Home Away From Home For the Holidays - Brittany

Since it's tradition to spend the holidays with family, I took TopDog and his daughter Skecher out on a sled. TD used the opportunity to teach Skecher some valuable life lessons:

 "Let me give you some tips about dealing with cameras."

"Give them your good side."

"Be sure to smile."

"Err on the dramatic."

"And never let them see you sweat!"

Happy holidays everyone!!

Saturday 22 December 2012

Laying Low - Bet

I've been laying kinda low recently for a reason.

I'm pretty sure you heard about that pesky little maple syrup incident a while back, right?

Somehow some devious thieves made off with the Canadian Reserve of all maple syrup stuffs and things!  INCREDIBLE!  How could somebodies do something so horrible to deny the peoples of tasty maple syrups!!!  How can anyone eat their waffles without syrups!!!

This was an outrage!!!!
Apparently some of the thieves were rounded up, no doubt someone in the group talked.... you just can't trust peoples nowadays.  The police were able to recover 2/3 of the stolen heist.  The investigation is ongoing, and you may be asking yourselfs... why do you have to lay low dear sweet adorable Bet....



Seriously, I had nothing to do with it... it fell off the back of a truck... or something...

Don't rat me out peoples...

- Bet

Tuesday 18 December 2012

The Chapter Closes...

(no fear - everyone is fine!!)

Cutting young dogs from my training pool is never an issue for me. There is always 'next year' for them. In fact, I love being able to give the dogs the extra time to mature, mentally and physically. I see so many behaviors in dogs that folks write off for physical reasons - he's dipping for snow all the time, she's backing off on hills, he's aggressive with other dogs, he has bad eating habits, etc, etc - that I think are just dogs 'acting out' because of being 'pushed too hard' in training. "But his brother is okay"....yeah, so what - he isn't his brother.
Each dog deserves to be treated as the individual it is. Having a relatively large pool of dogs to work with allows me to give a dog that extra time to just 'grow up'. I love it.

Now, cutting older dogs from the team is a whole different story. With young dogs, the future is still there, but with old dogs you are admitting that time is passing by. Admitting they are aging. 

Cutting older LEAD dogs from the team is yet another story. Cutting older MAIN lead dogs from the team is perhaps one of the hardest things I do.

On Sunday morning I made that call.

Jinx has been a solid presence in the front of my dog team for many years. In 2007 she was already a key leader, but when her half sister, Snickers unexpectedly passed, Jinx stepped up and took over main responsibilities in front of my team. Yup, other dogs were there lots too, but Jinx was the girl I looked to when the going got tough. My 'Go-To Leader' I called her.

I have, without question or exaggeration, put my life in her paws many times - she has never let me down in a jam.
She remains the most phenomenal 'storm leader' I have ever met. Many other mushers owe her for leading my team through storms so they could follow when their leaders wouldn't.
"How do you train a dog to do that?", one musher asked me after Jinx had pulled us both through a significant storm going over Rainy Pass on Iditarod. I smiled and shrugged. I didn't train her to do that, she just did it on her own.
Even this past year on Iditarod it was her that I turned to in the worst of the storm we encountered crossing Norton Sound - and it was her that trotted us across the finish line.

Now, don't get me wrong, Jinx is FAR from a perfect and flawless leader. She is moody, petulant, and temperamental. I've sworn at her and called her a variety of names over the years. I'm sure she has done the same in return. 
I liken our relationship to a crotchety old married couple that gripes and bickers, but underneath it all has tremendous love and respect for each other.
Although much was made over the years about her half brother Crunchie and how few people ever had the opportunity to be behind him in harness (I think there were maybe 2), the list for Jinx is about the same. She was 'my' girl. We have an understanding - a relationship that works for us.

I'd been seeing a few small signs here and there that age was catching up with Jinxie, but it was easier to acknowledge the signs that she was not aging - partially because I hate my dogs getting old - and partially because it is hard to 'give up' those great leaders that you have depended on for so long. They are 'crutches'.
After the '12 Iditarod I talked to her about retiring, but when training started this fall, she was doing well and remained in the mix.

But lately, maybe not to all, but to me, the signs were becoming more obvious. Her petulance was greater, a bit of a change in her gait......
I rarely put her in lead in training - she has never been a good training leader - but on Saturday put her in lead with 'adorkable' Turtle. She wasn't pleased with having to put up with his antics and made that perfectly clear to me. I eventually swapped him out for Tramp.  Jinx was happy with that and put in a stellar run over to our campground.
But watching her, I could see it.

When we stopped for a snack break, I went up front and told her this was going to be her last run with the main string. I snapped this picture to immortalize the moment - and maybe to help 'seal' my promise to her.

Over the rest of the miles on our run I waffled back and forth on my decision. Things would be going well and I'd tell myself I was crazy to retire her. Then I'd see something that reminded me she was 9 1/2 and be confident in my decision.
When Brittany joined us at the campground, I was going to ask her to do some 'juggling' of dogs in the main yard before I got back to clear a 'retirement spot' for Jinx. I didn't though.
When we got back to the yard I was going to move dogs around myself to make a retirement spot for her. I didn't.
But the next morning after feeding everyone, I unsnapped her chain and asked Brittany to move See up to Jinx's spot. Brittany did a double take and I admitted it 'was time', then bee-lined for the house with Jinx before I could change my mind.

Jinx spent a few hours hanging with us in the house. The leader that considered every night run I ever did a giant hunting mission and used to round corners with head up and ears forward hoping for some form of unsuspecting 'prey' to be on the trail even hung out happily with Mark's Stupid Cat. After a while though that infamous whine that every handler/helper around here knows all too well started. Although not a 'noisy' dog, Jinx has a whine that is about the canine equivalent of nails on a chalkboard and she is PROFICIENT at using it to get her way.
No 'house dog' status for this gal, she stated.

A gold watch, a gold gift like that could ever repay this girl for all she has done for me over the years. Smart, responsible choices for her as she ages will - and as hard as it is, that is what I'll continue to do for her.

Love you Jinxie. Thank you with all my heart. 

Sunday 16 December 2012

PCT, Hats, Stuffs and Things

Howdy Ho Everybodies!

I have to say that I am overwhelmed with the support of all of our wonderously, fantabulous fans!

In record time, nearly all of our Pretty Curly Tails have been sponsored!  I think this calls for some celebratory waffles for everybodies!

There is one Pretty Curly Tail that currently doesn't have a sponsor... poor Crackle, she's a bit dejected.

Why does everyone hate me?
As I recall, we had a problem getting her a sponsor last year as well, and frankly, she's developed a complex, what with recently not doing well in lead, and now the whole sponsor thing.  She's sulking in her dog house.

If you could see it in your heart to sponsor little Crack Baby, she would appreciate it, and we wouldn't have to listen to her sobbing into her pillow at night... heartbreaking... truly heartbreaking. [Breaking news!!  Peoples took pity on poor Crackle after I posted this story. She now has a new sponsor named Pam!  -Bet]


I know there are a lot of last minute Christmas shoppers out there who have no idea what to get their loved ones.

What says "love" more than North Wapiti hats and mittens!  Nothing, that's what!

Heather Minion has volunteered to brave the horrible post office to ship out as many orders of mittens and hats as possible to get them there before the holiday!  But you have to hurry and order before Wednesday!  We even have a new "youth" sized hat for peoples with smaller heads!

Here is Cricket modeling one of the youth sized hats so you can an idea of their size

Eh?!  Stylish! Chic!  Warm too!

So get on over to the North Wapiti Store (sorry folks, the bloggers hates me and won't let me code an anchor straight to the hats and mittens, so just scroll down and shop while you're scrolling down), we still have toasty warm and stylish vests, and hats, mittens, and stuffs and things available to wrap up and tell your loved ones that you care about them not catching cold.

- Bet

Saturday 15 December 2012

Nine Hours of Sweetness....

When I give presentations folk LOVE the pictures of my team messing up. Same on Facebook. I like to believe that it is not because you are all twisted sadists, but rather that you think highly of us and like to see that we go through the same struggles as everyone else!!
So giving you all the benefit of the doubt and assuming that is the case, I thought I'd share with you the tale of my run yesterday.

Our temperatures have been bouncing up and down something crazy this last week, so when they bounced up to about -10C yesterday morning, taking the team on a camping trip became the plan.

We started off our trip with Jinx and Turtle in lead but within about 5 miles Jinx made it VERY clear that she did not like working with Turtle. Jinx has a low tolerance for foolishness - and Turtle can certainly be foolish. I pretty quickly decided to put Tramp up front but debated a bit over whether to put Jinx with her or Turtle.
As I knew we had some 'obstacles' to pass like llamas, donkeys, cattle, horses, and a neighbour moving and burning giant 'scrap log' piles with an excavator right beside the road, I opted for seriousness over foolishness.

With that leader combination we were flying down the trails and roads.

We passed all potential problem areas with no issues and landed at the Forfar Campground around 2pm.


Brittany and Bet met us there with a meal for the team, which they happily snarfed down before settling in for a nap.

Brittany and Bet headed back home leaving me to spend a couple hours next to a campfire while the dogs digested their meal.

The addition of granola to soak up the butter and brown sugar in baked apples is a good one!!!!

The sun had just finished setting and the tiniest sliver of a new moon was sitting on the horizon surrounded by a surreal amount of stars in a cloudless sky when we began our trip home. The most AMAZING meteor streaked across the sky - far better than the most elaborate fireworks. Gorgeous evening!

I had just looked at the clock on my ATV and was pleased to see we were making great time home, when all of a sudden my team sharply veered off the road and down a driveway on the other side of the road. WHAT THE .......????!!!!!
I yelled at Jinx and Tramp to 'Gee Over' to no avail. Strange behavior for them on all counts.
As I shut the ATV off and silence and darkness washed over us, I could see the sparks and flames of the scrap log fires ahead and hear the huge bangs, creaks and crashes of the excavator. "Ah, they are scared of the excavator", I thought to myself.
I didn't think it would be much of a problem. Snap and Boo, who were in swing this run, had made it clear they didn't like passing that 'work zone' but we had successfully gone by it 5 times in the past week, including earlier today.
I told the girls it was all right and moved them back to their spots on the right hand shoulder of the road. They held their lines out, but the second I called them up they darted down the driveway again. This time they knew they were doing something specifically against my wishes, so they darted around a bit when they saw me coming up the line, turning the front 6 dogs into a tangle. Because their tangle created slack back further in the team, the remaining dogs tangled and I now had a giant tangle on my hands. GIANT TANGLE!
Jack and Irving who were running together because they don't like running together decided this was a good time to scrap.
I straightened out the fight and then methodically and carefully started working on the tangle, watching for traffic the whole time.
To begin with I was very optimistic that I could get my leaders to lead by the 'scary' area, but each time I got some semblance of 'untangled' and tried to move the dogs forward, the girls would duck back into the team and retangle us.
As the ATV doesn't track true enough for me to go out front and lead the team, some dog was going to HAVE to lead us by. I walked up down the line looking to see who seemed unperturbed by the noise, smoke, sparks, and my increasing stress level.
Oh - hello Turtle!

I put him up front with Tramp, but while he was willing enough to go forward, he was not brave enough to drag the feisty little white dog anywhere.

Wonder seemed pretty calm about it all, so she went up front with Turtle. This time Boo and Snap in swing dragged everything back into a tangle.
As I walked up the line I grabbed Astro and put him in swing with Snap. I sorted out the tangles for the millionth time.

This time we moved smartly down the trail.

LOTS of praise to everyone. I glanced down at the clock and was shocked to see that close to 45 minutes had passed.

The rest of the run was lovely. I put Tramp and Jinx back up front as they are better at hugging the right shoulder of the road, which is doubly important at night. The dogs were jazzed after all the time standing around and made good time on the move.

We pulled into the yard a little after 8pm. Everyone got fed, and tucked in their houses before I headed up to the house to grab a shower and something quick for dinner.

Many years ago I read a quote from an ABC Wide World of Sports commentator who described the Iditarod as (sorry, can't remember the exact quote) '50 minutes of boredom followed by 10 minutes of heart stopping action repeated over and over'.

Today was (approximately) 9 hours of 'sweetness' and 45 minutes of 'dripping in sweat', 'pull your hair out' frustration.

So, yup, that commentator got it pretty close to right!!!!

Wednesday 12 December 2012


 Yes Bet, you heard right. Waffles for breakfast!

Don't worry, I ALWAYS make some for you!!!

How could anyone resist those eyes???


Monday 10 December 2012

Heading to the Beach

Yesterday was SO COLD, but overnight temperatures warmed up A LOT. So much I thought we might head to the beach today.....

I love the beach at Long Lake...

Yup, that's me soaking up the sun ... seems things have changed at bit in the last five months...

But it was still pretty...

.... and the dogs enjoyed the camping trip .... far from a loss. Even if it didn't do much for my tan!!!

Happy Birthday Helen (smells of cookies) Handler

Ok everybodies!

Today is Helen (smells of cookies) Handler's birthday!!!!

I hope you all have cookies and wish Helen a big ol Happy Birthday!!!!

See you next month!

- Bet

Sunday 9 December 2012

Snapshots From the Kennel...

Temperatures here in the Tawatinaw River valley plummeted pretty good last night to -30C (-28F). Since the ATV (which is still what I'm training big teams on) doesn't like be outside for any length of time at those temperatures,  the cold is only supposed to last a day and it's been a LONG while since I let Brittany sleep in, I decided last night that we would feed the kennel a bit later than our usual 6am feeding this morning.

Since it was actually light when we fed, here are a few snapshots from the feeding this morning!

Bait surveying the activity in the garage from his favorite perch on top of the straw pile!

Cricket 'taste testing' the Curly Tails kibble.

Bet doing quality control on the soup!


Dasher enjoying her breakfast

A 'blur of Bet' 'herding' puppies!

Crunchie shows off his 'just woke up' look!

Wifi chowing down his soup.

Turtle patiently waiting for his soup!

Bet showing off her frosty eyelashes!!!


The view down the driveway.

"Let me back in the house NOW"