Saturday 28 February 2015

Carmack's Wifi of NorthWapiti

Carmack's Wifi of NorthWapiti
August 18, 2006 - December 10, 2014

It has taken me so long to post about Wifi because even after 2 1/2 months, the events of that day are too overwhelming, and I consider it one of the worst days of my life.

An hour after the picture above was taken, Wifi died while in harness.  Despite extensive testing by our vet and consulting with sled dog vets, there is no explanation of why he died, and there are no detectable issues that the owners of his relatives should be concerned about.

I have always been a pretty open book when it comes to the comings and goings of the kennel - but there are some things and some days that are so close to me, that I keep them private.  This is one of them.

His breeder, Kathy Copeland, commented after being notified of his passing that he had to work very hard for a piece of my heart. He did - and like most things he worked hard at - he succeeded. I adored him.

A good piece of my heart went with him that day.

Race To The Sky Recap

I have a long history with the Race To The Sky.

I vividly remember lying in the upstairs loft bedroom in the lovely log home of my friends Jackie and Chris Marshall reading about it in their back issues of Team and Trail magazine. I was in awe of it and the mushers that ran it.

In 1996 I tackled it for the first time. It wasn't pretty, but I finished in 4th place, I think (placings really don't matter to me, so the details have faded with time). I ran it a few more times, with varying amounts of success, the last time being in '02. I did go back in '07 (?), I believe and run a very successful Seeley Lake 200 over much of the same trails.

I've always vowed I wanted to go back. The folks around the race are fantastic and the trails, although challenging and really 'skyward bound', are incredible.

I was pretty happy at the thought of getting back this year, but when training conditions and weather proved less then perfect for my dogs, I knew the trails well enough to know that pushing the dogs was not going to be something I was interested in and I dropped down to the 100 mile race.

So, eight dogs, Bet, myself and friends Julia and Keri pointed the dog truck southward for some adventure.

I wasn't too stressed by the lack of snow on the journey down. I've done this trip a lot of times and there is rarely snow south of Calgary and in northern Montana ...

.....but when we climbed up and over the Continental Divide and into Lincoln and there was STILL NO SNOW, I will admit to some fretting.

That evening in Seeley Lake, by the time we got everyone settled in, we were all too lazy to go out for dinner, so what a fantastic surprise when a 'gift pizza' arrived at the door!! I was in such shock, I forgot to tip the delivery guy. Still feeling bad about that (it's the Canadian in me!).

Many thanks to Shelly Young Lewis for the treat! Although the pizza didn't have a 'card' attached, I was told the gifter was from Iowa and only one person in Iowa knows me well enough to nail my pizza order - so don't deny it Shelly!

The race organizers were having to pull rabbits out of their hats to get this event off the ground due to the weather. The final revision had a 6pm start time from a trail head in Seeley Lake. It was a truly less then ideal venue.

I will admit to some SERIOUS reservations as my Neos squished through the slop at the hookup area. However, one of the things I've learned over the years is not to judge the horribleness of a trail until you have seen it for yourself.

I've never done a night time start and got to admit, it was really cool. The dog's Head-Lites collars looked fantastic and I got a lot of positive feedback from officials and other mushers!

Very cool photo of the team taking off by fellow musher Trevor Warren. .
 The lights and noise quickly fell back into the dark and I was immersed in the fantastic feeling of a nice night run on a good trail with a nice team of dogs. I threw some music on my iPod and just enjoyed the evening.

A few teams passed, I passed one team and repassed another over the course of the evening. It had been about 8 years since I last ran this trail and I shocked at how well I remembered it.

The first 30 miles were simply delightful - even the few miles of road with glare ice on it was 'do-able' and nothing to panic about (although it was very nice that there was a volunteer there to help us off the road and back onto the trail).

The last 8 miles into the checkpoint were alittle more challenging. It started with a few miles of gravel road that had some traffic on it. The trail crew had dragged some snow down onto the left hand side of the trail, but it is drilled into my dogs heads to run on the right side of gravel roads. I didn't feel it was right or fair to mess with their heads here, plus I was worried that if a vehicle was about to pass, they may dart to the right, thinking that that was where they were suppose to be, so I got off the runners as much as I could to minimize the damage the gravel was likely doing to the sled plastic and toughed it out.
I know it was discouraging to the dogs, so I tried to stay very upbeat with them.

When we popped off the road and into the fields the trail was pretty undefined and difficult for the dogs to sort out.
Neo was working out of his 'pay grade' and I could see him starting to doubt himself as a leader so switched Boo into lead with Missy.

I certainly regretted leaving See at home for the next 5 miles or so (See had recovered from her sore toe, but I decided to play it super safe and leave her at home) . Missy and Boo are decent leaders, but they are not in the same league as See is. I had mistakenly assumed that this trail would be pretty 'basic' for leaders, but the weather changed that.

Luckily the dogs are used to muddling their way through stuff with me in training, so when I could only marginally sink a snow hook, I could still run up front and get them moving the way I needed them too.
(BTW - have a mentioned how sweet it is to run and manage 8 dogs?)

As we were coming into the Whitetail Ranch checkpoint, I watched the headlamp of a 300 mile musher working the nasty climb and switchbacks up Huckleberry Pass. I've love to give that trail a go again one of those days - but not that day, in conditions like we were experiencing.

The dogs rolled in strong and I was having a great time.

Julia and Keri acted like veteran handlers, rather than the rookies they were. Everything I needed and asked for was there waiting. We had the dogs fed, bedded down and tended to in record time - it helped that there were no problems with them, just some preventative care and spoiling!

Julia 'dog sat' while Keri walked up to the ranch with me. Over the years the Ranch has been owned by a number of folks, all with differing levels of musher hospitality during the race. This year was top notch - flushing toilets; great food; and warm, dark place to sleep. I even scored a couch and was able to drift off for an hour and a half or so. Heaven.

We went back out 3 1/2 hours into the layover to prepare and offer another meal. This one was lighter on food, heavier on liquids. Happily, everyone ate everything.

We pulled out on schedule after our mandatory rest. Missy and Boo were back up front and both seemed more biddable after dinner and a break! Understandable - I'm much the same.

We got to experience a lovely sunrise as we worked our way back across the fields and roads.

Funny how nothing seems as bad after some good rest!

The temps warmed up fast. When the sun was out, it was pretty tough going and I used a few streams and puddles to give the dogs a nice drink.

I turned on some podcasts and just enjoyed the day and the trail with my team.

Didn't enjoy this so much, but it was actually better than the night before.

I hadn't been thinking too much about the 'race' aspect of Race to the Sky. Our season hadn't turned into much of a race season, due to training/weather, and we were just making the most of it - but about 8 or 9 miles from the finish I caught glimpse of another musher a ways ahead of me. I studied them for a bit trying to sort out who the red anorak and dark dogs belonged to and realized it was Steve Madison.

Steve and I have a bit of history - and although it was hot enough that I didn't want to push the dogs hard,  I decided it would be cool to beat him.

I didn't want to pass too early, as I didn't want to give his dogs the opportunity to coast behind mine to the finish line, so I laid back and let the dogs gradually gain. I didn't think he had seen me, and as it turns out, I was right.

About three miles out, I passed, sure enough, Steve's dogs tucked pretty nice behind mine. Time for me to get to work, I poled and pedaled most of the last three miles to make sure I had enough of a lead to not be repassed at the line.

Beating him that day didn't tell much. I know he has had a rough winter. We agreed to leave our real rematch for another day! ;)

The dogs were perky and happy around the truck, which was nice to see in the heat. The girls had a meal waiting for them, as well as a latte and food for me. Sweet.

Not the 'race' I hoped for, but still a great time. And now my appetite is whetted for the real deal!!!

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Wednesdays with Chibs - Bet

Howdy Ho Everybodies!

Welcome to Wednesday's with a new special guest.

Today's special guest is one of the Poutine of Anarchy... CHIBS!!!

Um... Chibs?

Chibs... we're rolling, we're doing the interview.

shhhhh Auntie Bet, this is the best part!!!!
Get in the interviewing chair!!!

Ok Ok!  I'm in the chair... what??
Ok Chibs, how are you today??


Um... Chibs??


What have you been doing lately, isn't it great to have the Musher and friends here... ack!

What are you doing?

I'm sitting on you Auntie Bet!
Yes, yes I know you're sitting on me, you're supposed to be answering questions for the fans!

We don't need fans in here, it's cool enough, why would we need fans in here?
I'm talking about all of the peoples that follow the bloggity blog and want to know neat things about you!

OOOH, the peoples... hey have you been eating jerky?
NO!  So tell the peoples what you've been doing lately!

Ummmm, we've been running and playing, and we got to play with a sled thingie and stuffies
You mean stuffs and things, right.

Yeah, yeah, whatevers
What else have you been doing and can you stop crushing my trachea?

Oh, sure, whatevers, hey is that food on the ground?
I don't know, why don't you...

... go find... sigh

Ahem... excuse me but...
Is that your thing?
It's in my spot, please remove it.
This whole gig really isn't going like I planned you know.

Sunday 22 February 2015

Alaskan's Olena of Anadyr

 Alaskan Olena of Anadyr
July 28, 2000 - February 21, 2015

It was a dog lifetime ago that I stood on the front steps of Howling Dog Farm in Alaska, chatting with Natalie Norris. Mark and I were returning a dog to her that we had leased. We had had a nice visit and Mark had run to the truck to get Keesa. Natalie and I were making small talk as we waited for him to return.
She had a litter of puppies on the ground from my two very favourite Anadyr dogs. Wanting to outright ask for one, but not being brave enough, I 'casually' asked what she was going to do with them. She said she was keeping a few and would like to find some 'good' homes for a couple others. "What do you consider a 'good' home?", I asked. "Well", she said, with that typical Natalie pause, "one like yours". Moments later when Mark arrived back on the scene, the deal had been finalized and Olena was coming to live with us. I could not have been happier.

Fourteen years have passed since that day - a dog's lifetime - Olena's lifetime, to be precise.

I can't begin to tell you all about Olena. She was a unique and complicated dog. My long held nickname for her 'Evil' led many to believe she was a mean dog. She wasn't, in ANY shape of the word - but she was bossy, outspoken and very 'concerned' with status. Were she a human I likely would have found her tiresome to be around, but she was a dog, and her 'honesty' and uniqueness made me smile, even when I was yelling her name and rolling my eyes.  Man I loved that dog.

She never finished an Iditarod, but it didn't matter, she carried her weight, and more, in any team she was in.

And, of course, her biggest contribution to our kennel was easily her offspring. She had 4 litters for us - two planned and two unplanned. Turning your back on her when she was in season was not wise. I still have not been able to figure out when she and Squeaky managed to 'hook up' for the 'Copper Basin' litter.
Olena has children in Canada, the US, England and Sweden - and grand children in even more countries.
Eleven of the 16 dogs on my '14 Iditarod team had Olena in their pedigree.

I'd tell you to 'Rest in Peace' Olena, but you would find that painful boring. You thrived on chaos and loved to create it when there was none.

I wish the heavens 'Good Luck' upon your arrival!

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Wednesdays With Jax - Bet

Howdy Ho Everybodies!

We're back at North Wapiti Kennels central and getting back into the swing of things.

There's snow.

It's cold.

The Poutines of Anarchy have grown twice their size since we left... or it just seems that way.

I wanted to start a new "thing" called "Wednesdays with..." and invite one of the Pretty Curly Tails in for a bit of coffee, perhaps a snack, and interview them so everybodies out there in the bloggity blogosphere could get a feel for what it's like living on this side of paradise.

Today's special guest was Jax of the Poutines of Anarchy Litter.

Hi Jax!

Hi Auntie Bet!!!!!

Welcome to Wednesdays with Jax!  How do you like the small cloud?

I like it, it's very nice, it's comfy, it's cushy and all that... oooh tail!
Yes, that's your tail... so tell me, what did you and your brothers and sisters do while we were gone?

Ummmm..... we played... and ummmmmmm... itchy ear, itchy ear
That's nice, um... can you look at the camera while we do the interview sweetie?

OOOH what's that up there?  The sky isn't blue up there, and there aren't any birdies...
Um, no, that's because we're in the house now...

House is nice, I like the house, the house is soft and squishy

Is that door made out of a tree?  That's a nice looking tree door.

Um... did you ask me a question?
Ok, since this isn't going very well, let me come over there and interview you, ok.

Ok Auntie Bet come on over
Ok, so what did you... um... what are you doing?
Don't climb on me, I'm trying to interview you!

Were you eating some kind of tasty jerky treats lately?
No, no I wasn't... haven't had... hey I'm interviewing you!
Look at your FABulous collar, where did you get this fabulous collar!
Um... it's my good collar, the kind I wear when I want to feel special and...
I want it, I don't have a collar that nice, can I have it???
You don't have to yell at me Auntie Bet!
I'm sorry Jax Poutine, come back so we can.... ugh... what are you doing now???
There's a toy back there!
I'll give you the toy in a bit, we have to oooooof
I smell jerky treats again Auntie Bet!
Ok, so maybe I had a few jerky treats on the trip back here
They smell so tasty!
Well... um, yeah, they were
Got any more????
No, no sadly they're all gone, there were only a few... dozen... sorta
That's ok, I still love you Auntie Bet
geez... I'll get the Musher to order some more... just don't tell the other Poutines, ok?
Yep, mum's the word Auntie Bet... as long as I get the whole bag!
Sigh... please join us next Wednesday for Wednesdays with just me, laying on my cloud...

Interviewing is very tiring.