Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Farm of Two Tails

This tale was related to me by my sister, the proud owner of two of our pups, and Mother of a wonderful family.

Her husband travels for his work and is often gone for long periods of time. His job is a dangerous one, high atop huge turbines attached to monsterous windmills creating clean wind-powered energy for a better future. Sometimes if you are lucky, you can see a humongous flatbed truck hauling what you would swear was an enormous prop for some weirdly gigantic airplane. Really this is one of the blades for the windmills he works on. It is humbling to see the magnitude of these wind generators and you can imagine standing on top of one you would feel like you are in the stratosphere, looking down on a tiny world far away. Wind could easily rip you off your lofty perch and dash you to the ground below, or break the prop lock and the engine parts could crush you. It is a dangerous place to be. Yet there are souls who go there, brave the dangers to provide us a better future of clean energy.

Ric is one of those souls, and as you can imagine, he spends a lot of time away from home working on windmill farms. It is a rare year when he can be home before Christmas, so Karen takes comfort in the company of her two teens and the two huskies who have become a part of their family.

Mordichai is the black and white boy, he loves spending his time out in the yard playing and watching the livestock. He's the talker and the independant one. Kyree, the silver and white girl, is more of the homebody and has become Karen's shadow and constant companion. On occasion if Karen leaves her behind, Kyree has the tendancy to pout by showing her a cold shoulder. But Kyree has a wonderlust, and will go for a run if allowed near the gate to their farm, so Karen occasionally has to leave her in the house while she goes out.

The Saturday before Christmas, Ric was allowed to come home, and was on the phone with Karen as he was getting close to their farm. Knowing about Kyree's tendancies to try to slip out the gate, Karen left her in the house to go open the gate for Ric. Immediately after they parked by the house, Mort began to tell Ric how happy he was to see him and probably something along the lines of 'where have you been?' in husky talk.

Unaware of what was going on outside, Kyree was getting herself all in a huff for being left behind, and as soon as she saw Karen enter, she turned her curly tail towards her and began to stalk away. But Mort's commotion caught her attention and she turned around incredulous to see Ric. Normally the quiet one Kyree is not very vocal, but she was so overjoyed to see him, she forgot about being in a huff and being quiet. She woo-woo'd and pranced, jumping and running in circles around him. For her it was the best Christmas present ever.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas, Dog Sledding and Poo

It snowed again here, and the ground has been covered in a nice white blanket that hides where the dogs have done their business. It was with some relief however, that I managed to watch Zena long enough to see that she had poo'd and not been stopped up from whatever she swallowed. I doubt we will know for sure what it was, as there was no evidence to be had. This kind of leads me to believe that she didn't swallow a wad of cloth, but maybe a hoof or chewy. So she's a happy puppy once again, free to run and play with the other dogs in the snow.

Thursday, I took out Freya, Bandit, Yukon and Bucky on the pedal cart for a 4.5 mile run up past the donkey farm and almost to the chicken farm and back. All four dogs were still looking great as I got them inside, unhooked and fed their snacks. I love these dogs! They are not only great runners, but great friends and companions, each with their own unique personality and style.

Freya is shy of strangers, but once she decides you're ok, then she loves to be petted and cuddled. She has an oddly baritone voice, and loves to woo-woo. She's a funny girl though, when all the puppies and dogs have come in to rest and she thinks they need to go outside and play with her, she will come in and whine at me. What she wants is for me to come outside, so all the dogs will go outside too and she'll have someone, or lots of ones to play with. Freya loves to run first and foremost of all, but her second love is playing. She will forgo food in order to run or to play. Thank goodness there is enough downtime with the other dogs that she finds time to eat well.

Bandit is the loveable big goofy guy dog, but he's also a thinker and a great lead dog in training. He has gee, haw and leave it down pat, and is working on Line Out and Come Around. He loves to run and to lead, he was born for it, and it shows. He's big, fast, strong and has wonderful endurance, but tends to grind his toenails when he pulls, as he does so with every ounce of his being, so I have to bootie him up on his back paws. He has a wonderful bass voice, and I love to hear his incredibly deep howl. It sounds like you would imagine the earth would howl if it could, so hugely deep and powerful. But he also has his plaintive little howl when he wants attention that sounds so much like his father, Yukon's "Oh!" You would hardly believe both sounds come from the same throat. He loves to be cuddled and has the most wonderful smile.

Yukon is still the philosopher, but has lately become confident in his place as alpha male. He is almost lovingly worshipful of G'kar and backs down to him and treats him like a living ancestor god though. Which is surprising considering he has taken to bullying the younger dogs to steal their treats or toys. We chastize him when we catch him doing it, and his attempts have become far less frequent, at least when I'm around. To me this says he has at last become comfortable living with us and with his new home, enough so that he has begun to make this his domain. Since he is almost as large as Bandit, yet much older and wiser, he is beginning to assert his dominance in the pack. This is really a good thing for him, and it shows us that his confidence and comfort level is high. I still remind him I'm leader though, and ensure he lets me pet him and/or take his treat without complaint. (I periodically do this with every dog to be sure there is no aggression towards people for any reason. If they are good about it, they get petted, praised and their treat/toy/chewy back, if not, they are chastised, and they get their treat/toy/chewy taken again until they allow it without protest, then they are praised and left to enjoy it in peace.) Yukon loves to hug, coming up to you with his little "Oh!" and leaning on you with his head resting on your arm, leg or shoulder in a doggy hug. He adores it when you hug him back and love on him. He's a very loving dog and is becoming another shadow following me around when I'm home.

Bucky is a wild child in harness! Once he knows he's going on a run, he gets so excited, he grabs a hold of the neck or gangline with his mouth and starts trying to pull on it so we get going. Sometimes this gets out of hand, and he has to be chastised with a strong NO! and forced to sit down. Then he gets Line Out training until we can get the rest of the team hooked up. When he's out of harness, he is the most cuddly TV puppy you could ever want. He loves to curl up next to you on the couch, put his left paw and head in your lap and smile as you pet him. He'll stay there all day, or until Freya calls him out to play in the yard.

Friday we went and picked up the Ham, mashed potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin pie, ice cream and whipped topping for Christmas dinner that we had ordered from the grocery deli. But in order to figure out how long to warm the ham, we had to know how much it weighed, and Jim had thrown out the receipt. So, I volunteered to stand on the scale, get my exact weight, then do it again with the ham. Thus we figured out the weight of the ham. I'm not sure what is so fascinating to men about Poo stories, but here's mine that he had to tell to his parents. Since this has already been made public, what the hell?

After getting the weight of the ham, it turns out I had the sudden urge, and rushed to the bathroom for a while. When I returned, I was curious as to how much my weight changed after taking a poo, so stood on the scale. I told Jim I lost 4 pounds. He didn't believe me, so I proved it to him, as he was witness to my first and second attempts to stand on the scale. Incredulous he thought this was funny and worthy enough to share with his parents on Christmas. And thus I learned never to share my scientific curiosity with a man.

Sunday I got Samantha, and Moon in lead with Demon and Princess in wheel. Samantha talks the talk and acts like she really really really wants to run on the team, but as soon as you tell her to Hike Up, she acts like she has no idea what you want, and starts sniffing around like she's out for a stroll. Princess was screaming in frustrated rage to get moving. Samantha knows the commands and can follow them well, but she has problems getting started/motivated. James got out in front and ran a few paces, and dutifully she started after him. Once she started running though, she easily picked up the pace and after tangling a few times got the show on the road. I took them past the railroad turn off, but the place I intended to turn them around for a short run, someone had thrown out what looked like a rancid deer hide (sans internal so not a carcass but just a failed tanning project?) and of course Samantha wanted badly to roll in it. Moon, Princess and Demon wanted to keep going though, and pulled her away from the sweet smelling prize. I let them run another two tenths of a mile so we would be running before reaching that wonderful distraction on the way back. Turning around was almost as much fun as starting, and I finally got the dogs untangled, facing the right way, and trying vainly to get Samantha to start running towards home again. I ended up having to run with her a few paces again, snatch the gangline to keep their pace down so I had time to quickly hop in the seat of the cart before they left me behind.

True to my fears, Samantha again veered for the hide, but Moon was on that side and pushed her back when I said Leave It. What a good little girl Moony is! Pouting, Samantha pulled the rest of the way home. If she didn't need the exercise, I'd stop putting her in harness, but she tends to bulk up when she's not running. Next time though, she won't be in lead, I'll try Princess and Moon in lead.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Underpants Gnome...er Siberian

In an attempt to find out what Zena swallowed, I scoured the yard, but did not see anything significant until I went out with Zena to watch her. She immediately ran for the furthest igloo on the left, darted inside and came out with a small scrap of cloth. I chased her down until she droppped it (no easy feat), and it appeared to be a piece of James' swim suit. Had she swallowed the rest of it? Time will tell I suppose.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Weekend Follies and the Zena Scare

Saturday was a crisp 11 degrees F, and I was eager to get the race team out for some exercise (Freya and Bandit in lead, reversed sides so I could try out a theory from SDC, and Yukon and Buck in wheel). When it was light enough to see, I pushed the atv in to a position I thought would be easy for the dogs to pull on to the road and get the atv started. This turned out to be one of the worst decisions I could have made. Not only did the dogs have problems pulling the atv through the snow, they couldn't pull it up the slight lip of the roadside. Only with the combined efforts of 4 dogs, Jim, James and me did we manage to get the atv on the road, and not without a lot of blood, sweat and colorful metaphors.

After getting the atv on the road, we had to rest and recover a bit before getting started. With James helping push, we could not get the atv started. The dogs were trying very hard, but got discouraged, so I made the decision to unhook them from the atv and let them pull James and I back to the house and in for a snack.

By this point, the atv was all the way to the bottom of the hill and not looking too good for any prospects of being pushed or pulled back up it without mechanical help. While Jim went back to get the truck, I manhandled the thing in a k-turn around and tied it to the back of the truck for a tow back up the hill. Even with the truck assist, I still was unable to start the atv. It rolled over a couple of times, but let me know that it was absolutely NOT going to start in the winter when it was 11 degrees. With a few more colorful metaphors, I gave in to my urge to want to buy another pedal cart from Tractor Supply, the adult size now that they made them.

When we went shopping later, though, we decided not to pick it up because we really didn't want to tie it down to the roof then leave it in the parking lot while we went in to Walmart to finish shopping.

Sunday bright and early I drove down to TSC with James and picked up the new pedal cart and brought it home. Since he had expressed his desire to get in to mushing, I let him take out the puppy team with it, Samantha and Moon in lead with Ace and Yukon in wheel (Yukon was there for pulling power since James is a pretty big boy). Samantha and Ace started out necklining until I got in front of them and ran ahead calling out to them. Moon was ecstatic to go, and was whining that the team wasn't fast enough for her. They soon passed me though, much to Moon's delight, and took James down to the .75 mile mark where somehow he broke the brake lever. I caught up to him there, helped him unstick the brake and turn the team around. I ran in front of them again to get them going and get him back to the house.

While I was showering up, Jim and James took the cart back to TSC to replace the broken brake. Hopefully this one will last.

Monday was back to work, with a little dusting of snow and another winter stormwatch on the radar for the afternoon. The storm was delayed, however, but at 4:45 I got a frantic call from Jim that Zena was choking! Fortunately she was still able to breathe albeit not too well, but was in dire straights. I told Jim to take her immediately to the clinic. He thought it might have been a piece of hoof she swallowed, I was hoping that was not the case. As soon as I was out in the parking lot I called James to see if I could determine what happened, or what she might have swallowed. Unfortunately she had been outside and ran inside in distress, so it was uncertain what she may have swallowed.

Jim got her to the clinic, but by the time the vet was able to examine her, she had managed to swallow it all of the way down, so was out of danger of choking. However, now we need to keep her under surveillance to ensure she does not get stopped up. Sure wish I knew what she had swallowed!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

LBL Sled Dog Dash The Journey Home

After the race, trophies were passed out, and congratulations. It was heartwarming the concern for me even though I was probably more embarassed than anything else.
The snow kept falling, and though we wanted to stay longer, I knew it was going to be a long journey home. We started out on the highway around noon local time, for the five hour drive. The highways were a mix of slush, salt and water, but fortunately not slippery so we made pretty decent time.
We stopped for lunch and a potty break for the dogs in Central City, then continued on. The storm kept pace with us the entire journey and it was still snowing beautifully when we arrived home. Although the roads around our place had not been plowed yet, we managed to manuver the trailer into the driveway after a bit of a struggle with traction, and unpack the essentials. The rest of the dogs were ecstatic to have 'mom' home!
I love the homecoming greetings of my huskies. Each of them says hello in their own little way. Moony with her circular winding tail and woo-wooing, Yukon with his cute little "Oh! Row row!", Demon with his "I ruv roo mom", Ace with her insistent jumping and trying to lick my face. Buck with his pushing everyone out of the way to nibble on my nose. G'kar with his "Rah, roo roo, bark, bark, bark" and Samantha with her "Bahroorah"(which means, 'glad you're back, now give me a bone'). Zena simply waits for them all to get out of the way before she pushes her way towards me and curls up next to me with a sad stare and a wiggly tail.
Bandit though, took exception to the other dogs coming to me, and started growling at them. With a sigh, I had to reprimand him only to receive a hurt look. It was surprising to see, but I knew he had to know that any show of aggression is not tolerated, though I was touched that he felt so possessive of me. He's a wonderful boy, but too big to begin to think he's alpha and needs to protect me. After the reprimand, he did not growl again, and after a few minutes of being passive towards all the other dogs, I praised him. Guess he is starting to feel his oats, so we are going to have to keep a close eye on him during the next heat to be sure he and Yukon do not get in to it over the girls. Next heat should probably be a bit easier as Yukon has taken to sleeping in the dog cave, and it will probably be pretty easy to separate him and Bandit from the girls and each other if he's in the crate and Bandit in my room.
Next month is the Blue Ridge Dryland Challenge. I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

LBL Sled Dog Dash

Thursday around 2pm my son and I headed out to Western Kentucky for the Land Between the Lakes Sled Dog Dash. With us, we had Freya, Bandit and Princess. I decided to leave Yukon home #1 because I hadn't been able to secure a 4 dog rig prior, and #2 it would be a bit crowded with 4 dogs in the truck. As soon as I pick up a 4 dog rig though, Yukon, I promise you are going, and more stuff will be packed on the trailer to accomodate you!

This is Lake Barkley, one of the Lakes surrounding the area we were mushing.

Bandit and Princess enjoy the view.

We checked in to the hotel, then drove around a bit trying to find all the places we needed to be on Saturday. Grand Rivers is a great little town with very friendly folks who were excited to meet some sled dogs. For a time, I felt like a celebrity as I cruised around town, only it was the dogs that were the real center of attention, so I guess that makes me a roadie for them?

Princess was in her element, gliding from person to person in her royal cuteness. We then went out to Nickel Branch and got to run a bit on the dirt road and trails before heading back to the hotel prior to going out to eat at Sharlotte's where they had a marvelous Fully Loaded Potato Soup. Believe you me, this soup is worth the trip if nothing else!

James said he didn't feel great, so I left him at the hotel with Bandit and Freya and took Princess with me to the Mushers' Tails campfire meeting. It was there I met Brett Brock, the man I had bought my Dryland Mushing T-shirts and Sweatshirts from. He had two gorgeous boys, one long coat and one medium, both black and white. They were very eager to make Princess' acquaintence, and though she greeted them, she seemed none too keen to be anything more than acquaintences. We chatted for some time, swapping stories and talking geek.

On the way back, I snapped off some shots of Grand Rivers all lit up for the holidays. I wished that James felt well enough to come along, as I would have loved to walk around and get some better pics. This too was well worth the trip. Every house, shop, tree, fence, and lamp post was lit up in a fantastic array of lights and colors. Even the harbor across the highway had almost every boat lit up. It was amazing.

I can't imagine the amount of time that went in to stringing all these lights!

Bandit Freya and Princess roughing it in the hotel.

Santa and Mrs Claus came out to see us Saturday morning at the Meet and Greet. Despite the rain there were a lot of warm and friendly folks. It was a great time.

Some Junior mushers and their pups.

A sort of visible pic of Bill Bordan's Iditarod jacket... sweet!

Rodney and Brett sipping coffee. Jeff is the one in the green hat.

The parking lot and pavillion that was the starting point for the race.

Brett and his two boys.

One of the juniors coming in to the finish line.

JJ (?) getting ready for the 4 dog.

I can't remember this guy's name, but he was running Jeff's team and rig.

Rodney's team and rig. As you can tell, it was just a wee bit wet.

Jeff's team.

Saturday I did pretty good with a 8.15 time for a two mile run.
Sunday it snowed, the bridges were icy, and my rear brakes had frozen solid. Not to be daunted, I got my team to the start line, but Freya and Bandit were being freakishly scared despite my trying to calm them, so it took a couple seconds to get them untangled and ready to start.
We blasted down the trail, perhaps faster now that Freya knew where she was going. We turned at the first point towards the first bridge even faster than before, but this proved to be my undoing. I could not straighten fast enough to make it to the bridge straight on. I hit it at an angle and my rear tire slid out from under me faster than I could put my feet down, but the dogs weren't ready to stop yet. I slammed onto the concrete and was pulled into the iron supports. Thank goodness for the training I've had on breaking my falls, as I instinctually cushioned the impact by rolling into a ball, then flatening out to keep from bouncing.

I knew I hurt, but couldn't tell how bad because of the cold and adrenaline, so I slowly took stock and tried to get up. So far so good until I put weight on my left leg. The knee I had chipped before nearly gave back out on me, so I made the decision not to continue since I didn't know if I had hurt it bad or not.

Monday, December 6, 2010


It started snowing Wednesday night, and by Thursday morning we had a light dusting on the ground. It warmed up and melted off, but then started snowing again Thursday night. Friday we had about an inch on the ground and it snowed all day, but the ground underneath was still warm, so we only accumulated about two inches.

Saturday it snowed again all day, but we still didn't get any more accumulation. Dreams of a real sled began to fade, but I got the four dog team out Sunday, Freya and Bandit in lead and Princess and Yukon in wheel.

Problem is that the ignition switch on the ATV froze in the off position. The dogs made it down the hill ok, but not up the next hill. The ATV and I were a bit much for them, so I jumped off and tried to help push uphill, but the road was all ice. The ground had finally frozen. James ran up to help, but the dogs were hopelessly tangled in their eagerness to keep going. I went forward to untangle the dogs, then went back and grabbed the clutch, but my feet slipped from under me on the ice. It took about all I had to get the dogs and ATV up the hill, but by then I and they were tired beyond belief.

So, I turned them around and headed them back to the house for only a half mile run. I finally managed to get the ignition just out of the off position, but was unable to start it on the short downhill. We ended up leaving it at the bottom of the hill on my land by the bridge and letting the four dogs pull James and I back up the hill.

When we got in the house, I asked James to go get the booties that Princess and Bandit had shed along the road while I unhooked and unharnessed them. As soon as I had unhooked Princess, she ran to the fridge and began whining. With a laugh as I unhooked the rest of the team, I opened the freezer. Princess dived into the freezer head first into the box of frozen meat patties... LOL. She was whining eagerly and trying to dig out hers when I pulled her back, got one and gave it to her. She snatched it as if she were starving and nothing else would satisfy, ran off and hid in the livingroom to eat it. With a shrug I gave Yukon his, and Freya hers. Bandit is such an easy going dog, I didn't want Princess to take his as she had already gobbled hers down before I got to him. So I took Bandit and his patty to my room and shut them in. Princess tried to get Yukon to share but he was having none of that, neither was Freya. That girl is all about the treats.

It snowed again all Sunday, and it really froze over. It was eleven degrees this Monday morning at the house. Even the creek was frozen over with snow on top. They say the cold will be with us for some time. The dogs and I are very happy.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend

Thursday was cold and rainy, so we stayed indoors and tried to keep the mud from being tracked through the house. We ate at the buffet instead of fixing an elaborate dinner at home. Less cleanup and more variety, win-win in my book.

The pups all got a hot dog treat when we got back, and lots of loving.

Saturday we had a dusting of snow! It was great to see water flowing in the creek again! So, I dragged out the gangline for the ATV and bootied up Bandit's back feet, he wasn't too happy about it at first, but he was so eager to run he ignored the booties. Bucky was his usual screaming whining, neckline biting and yanking self. I really need to get him a chain neck line to break him of that, especially since he yanked so hard, he pulled Yukon's collar off! Good thing he was still hooked up via his harness and was more interested in pulling than running off.

The ATV hadn't been started in 3 weeks, so it did not fire up on the downhill. This slowed the team enough to have trouble getting up the next incline, so I had to jump off and push until they got going with enough momentum. At the next slight downhill I tried again, and it fit started and coughed, and I finally nursed the engine to life alternating between choke and gassing it. We went to the ~1mile mark, and turned around since the dogs had been pulling hard the majority of the way. It was good strength training for them, I suppose. That ATV never truly come fully out of gear when you pull in the clutch all the way. The way the rigged the cable prevents it. I stalled on the turn around, but was easily able to re-start on the downhill and give an assist on the two remaining inclines.

The running dogs all got their frozen meat patty treat, and passed a full checkup including feet. Bandit still had his booties on, and no damage to his rear claws this time. I think he forgot about them because he gave me this really odd look when I took them off. With happy smiles they found their favorite places to nap for a couple of hours.

Sunday I got Princess and Ace harnessed up and got out with the bike, but Ace was having none of it. We went the .25 miles to the bridge, but she just did not want to pull, so despite Princess' protests, we turned around and went back to the house. I switched out Ace for Xena who seemed eager at first, but once past the bridge she began to pull back. Princess was furious that she had to return to the house again, but I didn't want to force either Xena or Ace. She forgot her irritation and frustration when she got her frozen meat patty though, and forgave me for cutting her run short. One good thing is that Princess did pretty well, ignoring the neighbor dog when I said 'Leave it', executing a good Haw, even though she did get confused when I asked her to turn around and go back to the house. A few more team runs with her and I think she will make a great leader. She sure does love to run!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Trailbreakers' Dryland Challenge

It was a long trip up to Kirtland Ohio, but well worth it! My friend Kathy and I had an absolute blast! We met some awesome folks and thank all those who helped put on this event! I know at least I will be back next year.

I participated in the novice 2-dog bikejor with Bandit and Freya as my pullers. They were frightened of all the people at first, so I sat with them and calmed them down. With a little more confidence we headed in to the chute after the first two drivers. Bandit and Freya took off like a shot, all uncertainty gone in the joy of running. Of course it helped they were running away from the crowd.

The course wound around a scenic park with a pond, then in to the woods on a moderate incline. At the top of the hill there was a switch gate. The man immediately in front of me was there at the top with a large great pyranese, and the first driver was coming back through the gate at the same time. The pyr lunged at the lead team, and though it didn't reach them, there was a bit of a tangle. Freya saw this and was quite reluctant to approach the junction. When the lead team straightened and passed us, she decided to follow them, which I ended up pitching in to the dirt which pushed the pipe I was using to keep the gangline from wrapping around the wheel into the back tire, and I had to try to pull it back enough to keep going. Of course this left me with the rope hanging dangerously close to the tire. This caused me to tangle, and I had to straighten it up before continuing on, and convince Freya to pass the great pyr.

We managed to make it past, and went into a pleasant loop through the woods with a minor downhill and some left over halloween decor that was rather amusing. Back around to the switch gate and Freya seemed a bit flustered that I wanted her to take a right turn out of the woods instead of go around the loop again, but she got it after I pulled her lightly and repeated the Gee command. She ran past the pond, but when she saw the person taking pics she shied again, and the slack rope tangled around the tire again, so I had to stop and straighten it and fix the pipe as best I could and continue on. We reached the bottom of the final hill, and started up it ok, but as soon as Freya saw all the people at the chute, she started pulling back. Bandit pulled her forward though, and I encouraged her to keep going, and we finally made it to the finish line with a time almost four minutes behind the leader. As slow as that was though, that put us in second.

We hung around to watch the rest of the heats, meet more people and just generally enjoy the day. Princess was a little star, loving all the attention and being the perfect Siberian Ambassador. Freya was acting cold, and Bandit too seemed to be uncomfortable in the cool weather, so we put them in the truck after watering and feeding them. We came back every once in a while to walk them, but for the most part they seemed content to curl up on the seats and sleep. I swear Freya thinks she's a tropical husky. One of the only black colored dogs I've ever owned that loves to sunbathe in the heat of summer. After the heats, we packed up and went back to the hotel where I worked on fixing up the pipe on the bike. We ate chinese take out, and drank a couple of beers as we reflected on the events of the day. Both of us tired and happy.

Sunday after we got up, Princess started howling, and didn't stop until she was put in the middle of all the people at the site. Silly little girl! She always has to be in the middle of everything!

Sunday's heat went much smoother, and Freya seemed less afraid of the people, though she was still a bit shy. She was all business though when we got to the start line. As fast as the takeoff Saturday it was nothing like the rocket launch Sunday! Both dogs leapt into the harness, loving the chance to run again! Knowing the track made a huge difference, and we zoomed around the arc, through the gate, and around the loop amazingly fast! Coming back out of the woods, we met the pyr in a head on pass, which was a little hairy since Freya is a left hand dog she tried to stay to the left of the trail where the pyr was, so came a bit too close to the huge dog that lunged at her. This scared her and rattled her confidence. Though she was eager enough to put the pyr behind her, she began to lose faith when she again saw the crowd at the finish line. This time though, Bandit was confident enough to pull her through it, and with encouragement from the crowd and me, she trotted across the finish line almost four minutes faster than Saturday. I praised and hugged her when we got back to the trailer, happy that she was able to overcome her fear. She has come so far from the feral puppy she used to be! The meat patties went down quickly, and after both dogs were watered and rested, Freya again begged to be back in the truck. So I put her in, and sat with Bandit for a while, proud of my handsome strong prodigy!

The weather started to warm up, and disappointingly, this caused the rest of the afternoon heats to be cancelled after the one dog pro bikejor. But it turned out good for us as we were able to attend the final ceremonies and hit the long road home at a reasonable time. All together, it was a fabulous weekend and I had the time of my life! I'm really looking forward to the race in Kentucky next month!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Playing Catch-Up

It's been hectic both at work and at home, training and hunting are pretty much mutually exclusive, but I've been trying to do both. We had the 11th and 12th off, so I got in some bike runs since I will be running the novice class 2 dog bikejore at Kirtland this coming weekend. My two racers will be Freya and Bandit, and I'll probably take Princess as a sub in case one of them is injured or gets worn paws.

Freya and Bandit went out on a 5 miler with me Thursday and man can those dogs pull! It was very difficult for me to get started as they kept pulling the bike out from under me before I could get on it. But finally I was able to get them to stand still long enough to throw my leg over the bar and stand on a pedal. I'm sure I don't need to rave again about how great they are, but I so truly love those two as a team! Only once did Freya get a wild look in her eye as her ears perked and her head came up to sniff the wind. A quick "Leave it" was enough to keep her from chasing whatever it was she detected. We flew past the mile and then the two mile, and almost to the top of the mountain before I asked Freya to turn around. She executed a neat come around, and it was racing down the mountain, back around by the mini-railroad, past the hunting trail and to the house. They only slowed as we approached the driveway. Bandit had run so fast and pulled so hard, he had worn one of his rear nails down to the quick. It had barely had a couple of drops of blood, but I fussed over him as he ate his frozen meat patty.

Friday I took out Yukon and Buck, but Jim got up to help control the dogs long enough for me to get on. I only took them four miles as I did not want to see a repeat of the ground down nails. Buck and Yukon though enthusiastic runners are not real good at "leave it", so we ended up stopping a couple of times due to squirrels and a deer. Even so, our time was incredibly fast, and I'm very proud of my dogs!

Saturday was the first day of modern gun deer season, so I took the morning off to try to get us some venison. However, I was up a little late, and watched the small herd take off before I had even loaded. Didn't see another deer all day. Sunday I was up early enough, but the dogs kept whining, and fidgeting, and the wind kept changing directions. by around 11 it was plenty clear there would be no deer, so I came in gathered up the hubby and went on our weekly grocery excursion.

Princess is a very well behaved show dog, but she can run like the wind, so she is ideal to take as she will sit quietly and calmly on the sidelines as well as be more than capable in the harness. She loves people and attention, and is a perfect ambassador for the Siberian breed. So tonight the packing begins.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Those who follow the blog know I have a 15 year old boy G'kar. He's a cranky old man that pretty much doesn't like other dogs touching him, guards the food bowl, and generally makes a nuisance of himself around the other dogs. But he's a wonderful old companion to me, my shadow and loyal support. The first Siberian I've raised from a pup that I taught to pull (others previous were pets), he and I have been through a lot together, and I love my crotchety old man.

Lately though, he's been showing his age, and arthritis has been hard on his hips. He still likes to play fetch (his favorite game), but not for as long as he used to. It has been hard to watch age catch up to him, but good to know he has been healthy and happy enough to make it this long.

Enter the youthful, large philosopher Yukon. He's now going on his 4th year, is 65 pounds, and a giant among Siberians. He has always been a gentle dog, and a very great disposition, a thinker, but from the moment he met G'kar, he was content to let him be dominant. Yukon tries daily to get G'kar to play with him, though G'kar scorns his efforts most of the time, lately he has actually enjoyed running back and forth through the yard with Yukon. They sleep near each other and have become pals even if G'kar doesn't like admitting to it.

Remember I said G'kar normally doesn't like to have other dogs touching him? This morning I found Yukon with his head gently propped over G'kar's arthritic hips, as if to keep them warm for him so he wouldn't be so stiff. G'kar was smiling, and it seemed pretty obvious Yukon was trying to help him be comfortable. I smiled to think that Yukon too knows that G'kar is nearing his twilight years and needs all the help and love he can get, even so small a thing as to help keep his hips warm on these cold mornings.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Deer xing

Saturday bright and early, I was cooking breakfast, Princess got out, she had not had any discharge for 3 days, and appeared to be out of heat, but I was intending to keep her away from the boys for another 5 days. Well, she found Bandit and teased him into a tie... There was no discharge after the tie, oddly enough, and I'm hoping this mating won't take. Even though her birthday is Thursday, I did not want to breed her for another year and did not really intend for Bandit to be her partner even though he is the perfect sled dog and excellent disposition and enough difference in bloodlines to be ok. I had rather hoped for a show mating, but we shall see.

This accents the need to have two separate yards and not just a do-se-do with the boys and the girls with internal gates. I've been saving up money to buy a rig with, but I'm probably going to end up buying another fence and putting it up myself. This I'm thinking would probably be best to have out front and into the side where the forest is for plenty of shade and running room. It will also help to keep the boys and girls separated during heats, and allow for elbow room between Samantha, Freya and G'kar.

After breakfast digested some, I took Princess and Freya out for a five mile bikejore. Saturday night I went in to work for a power outage only to find out I was not needed. So I went home. Sunday early I was called in after the power up, but the problem was external to my system, so I went home again. On my way back, I decided to check out the road that I was thinking of using to get in a 5-7 mile run, turns out it was 7 miles, very windy and twisty with a lot of houses. Though I didn't see any loose dogs, there were enough houses on that route to convince me it might not be such a good idea. By the time I got back to the house, there were deer in the sideyard grazing away. I marked the time and as I pulled in the drive in preparation for next weekend's hunt.

Sunday I took Princess and Bandit for a 3 miler to see how she would do with the extra miles after thoroughly checking her feet, plus, I've heard that if they exercise a lot after a tie, she's much less likely to have any fertilized eggs settle in the uterus. She was so excited and screaming to run Sunday, heh, she's one enthusiastic runner! She kept up with Bandit the whole way, and loved every minute of it. Bandit is simply a powerhouse. I barely had to pedal at all, even up hill, they were going too fast for me to give the two of them any benefit. What great dogs!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bikejore and ATV run

Friday evening it was 52 degrees out, and I decided it would be a good time to get Samantha out under no team pressure. She and Demon needed some exercise so I harnessed them both up and hooked them up to the bike. We took a liesurely pace that both dogs felt ok with. When we got a little fast for Samantha, she pulled back, and I stopped us for a second until she felt comfortable going again, and we picked up the steady fast trot. Demon seemed minorly frustrated with the stop, but it did Samantha a world of good to know we were not going to outpace her. She became much more confident and pulled the rest of the way. We went about 1.25 miles before turning around and coming back. Both dogs were happily smiling the rest of the evening, especially after eating their frozen meat treat. Checking both their paws, they did not show any significant wear, so with some relief, I gave them each a rub down after they had finished their snack. Both dogs love their rub down, and it is one of the things they look forward to when they get back. As soon as they had both finished their snacks, they came to me, leaning on me and waiting their turn.

Having had a lot of experience with pressure points and massage (no formal massage training, but a significant amount of martial arts as both student and assistant instructor), rubbed down a lot of horses and lots and lots of time petting dogs, I've learned what helps a dog relax and loosen up its muscles after a run, and I employ this rub down after every run no matter how insignificant. It helps in bonding with them as I check for any injuries, worn paws, etc, and the dogs love it even though they don't always like me messing with their paws.

Saturday I was a bit under the weather, so didn't run the dogs, much to their disappointment, however, Sunday I felt pretty good and harnessed up the race team (Yukon and Buck in wheel, Freya and Bandit in lead) to the ATV. We went about 2 miles, turned around and came back for a total of 4 miles. The whole run was very fast, and ready to start timing them. The team had no significant wear on their paws, were happy and still rearing to go, so next run will be longer. Later on in the afternoon Bandit got to hang out with James and I as I stoked up the grill for marinated pork chops (we have a 30 foot training lead). We did some recall training with him, and he was very reliable when I called him, but not so much for James. ah well. He's such a good dog.

G'kar is beginning to worry me. He has started limping noticeably on his left hip. Because of his arthritis, I've been giving him an asprin and a glucosamine biscuit every day. Last night he had significant indigestion and this morning he didn't even want his biscuit. So I had some bones that help with digestion, and gave him one. At least he ate that, but I'm worried now that he may not be able to handle the asprin any longer. I will have to watch him today and see if it is just a fleeting thing. I may have to change him off from the food I feed the rest of the dogs and get him something with less protein and fat content. He's over 15 now, and we know he is on borrowed time. He still loves to play, but he has days where we see his age and pain. His eyes are definitely cloudy, but he still sees movement and contrast well enough to catch a tossed treat, or find his dark squeaky ball against our off-white carpet, but sometimes he loses things like his biscuit on the carpet, or other similarly colored objects. His hearing is slowly fading and when he used to hear the whisper of his name from across the yard, now we have to yell loudly to get his attention in the same room. He still adores me and follows me around like a second shadow, but every now and then he doesn't get up when I do, but waits until he knows I'm leaving the area before rising. How old is too old? I keep asking myself, and trying to find the fine line between quality of life and my selfish need to know he's there. Losing his lifemate and pal Valkrys has aged him rapidly, and even though he likes Freya and Princess, and tolerates Samantha because I tell him he has to, he just hasn't been the same. I know he misses her even though she was getting cranky in her old age, but I think he understands now why.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What have we been up to?

We have lots of training to do. And work has not been cooperating. The weather can't decide whether to stay cold or go back to summer. We have 3 out of 4 girls in heat, and the fourth looks like she's trying her darndest to join in the fun. Thank goodness we only have two unfixed boys.

Due to finances I decided it just wasn't practicle to go to Minnesota's East Meets West Dryland Challenge this weekend (/cry), but hopefully I'll be able to make it next year. This year I'll head to the Land Between the Lakes Dryland Challenge, The Music City Challenge, The Serum Run (hopefully) and the Mackinaw Mush. That should give me and my dogs enough experience to hopefully compete with the big dogs.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Six Dog Run

This goofy boy has made himself a solid member of the team.

Friday evening we tooled around on the ATV, taking turns to race around our fields. It was a lot of fun up until my son was having trouble shifting. When I hopped on to see why, the shift lever popped off. The bar had broken, and we had no way to shift. So the ATV was stuck in 2nd gear.

Saturday, I tried to rig the gear shift back on at about 06:30am with no luck. Failing that, I tried to start it in gear. No luck with that either. So I tried rolling it downhill for a start, but not being on the steep slope, it didn't want to roll very far or fast and no luck there either. I was pretty sure though that I could get 6 dogs to pull the ATV anyway, even if I had to keep in the clutch the whole way, so I pulled out the gangline and attached the extension I had found stuffed in the shoe rack in the closet. Rousting Jim and James, I set about harnessing up the dogs.

Samantha was just begging to go, and she had done really well with the puppy team. I thought that we wouldn't be going very fast, so it would be ok if she joined the team for today. Climbing up and down the hill though was not too fun, and I was puffing and sweating in the 39 degree temps. First out were Yukon and Samantha, Yukon in wheel and Samantha in swing. Then Princess and Buck, Princess went in swing with Samantha and Buck went in wheel next to Yukon. He still is a little wild to get moving, and was giving Jim a hard time, so when I went back up the hill to collect Freya and Bandit, I made sure James knew the urgency. Bandit was all excited and kept jumping up in the air as I took him down the hill. Man is he a huge dog! Eleven month old monster puppy and built for power and speed! It still blows me away how big he has gotten and he still isn't full grown!

Buck became unmanageable as I started hooking in Freya and Bandit, so I had to pause to help Jim control him. He was frantically chewing at the neckline and howling like a mad thing. Samantha was whining in anticipation, pulling on the line, and Princess was yowling most un-doggy-like (she has never sounded like a dog... weird puppy, or should I say wyrd puppy?). Freya was yowl-yelling and Bandit was jumping like a grasshopper on steroids. Once straightened out, I told Jim and James to get out of the way while I gave Freya the "Hike up!" command. WOW! I was barely prepared for all six dogs to leap forward in their harnesses and almost yank the ATV out from under me! Even without the engine assist, we quickly gained speed across the field. Before the hill, I dumped the clutch and started the engine to give them a boost up the hill.

Freya executed a perfect Haw when asked to take us out of the field and onto the mountain trail, then a perfect quick Gee on the trail. A hundred feet and another good Haw and off we went! I tried to keep the speed down for Samantha since she's not a very fast runner, and I could tell Freya was a bit flustered going so slow. But I also wanted to go a good distance, so wanted them to conserve their energy. We went all the way past the donkey farm and part way up the mountain to the chicken farm where I knew it was a good place to turn around. It took a moment for Freya to turn Bandit around, he didn't want to. But once he got the idea they both brought the team around in an untangled come around! They did excellent, and I was able to man handle the ATV in an untangled 3 point turn.

Coming back down the mountain, I had to hold the team back for Samantha, as she was starting to slow even more. This finally brought home to me that I need a rack to hold a dog bag and some way to get dogs back to the house on the ATV should they not be able to make the run. So, I encouraged her as I kept the team to her pace, but at the 4 mile mark, she put on the brakes. I had to stop the team and let her rest up a bit. We started up again after a few minutes, down to a slow trot back to the house. The last leg up the hill she started limping, and I had a couple of cars come up behind me back on the road. I called for a haw over and tried to get Samantha to trot the last tenth of a mile to get off the road, but in retrospec I should have stopped and got her on the ATV somehow. She rubbed a spot raw on both front paws when she tried to put on the brakes.

Feeling bad for my misjudgement, I got her up on my bed (her sleeping place at the foot of my bed) and treated her raw spots with antiseptic cream and bootied her up to keep her from licking them. I then snacked all the runners with raw frozen hamburger (they love that part!) and made sure Samantha was able to eat hers in peace. I checked her paws and re-applied antiseptic cream later in the evening. By Sunday morning her pad on her right foot had turned black again, and did not seem as sore, but her left paw was still sore, so I treated her again. Sometime during the night, she had shed both booties and the puppies tore them up. Ah well, at least Samantha was not limping any more, and seemed to be walking around fine. By Sunday evening even her left pad was black and looking healthy again. Samantha let me know she had laid down long enough, and went out in to the yard with her evening biscuit.

I felt terrible for allowing her to hurt her paws, and promised I'd not have her run with the team again. From now on, she either goes on hikes with me or on the bike solo so it is just me and her, and I can stop when she wants. It was two lessons to me, one that I needed a dog bag for my runs, and two that Samantha, no matter how much she wants to go, is just not cut out for the team. She's a great dog though, and my best companion, but I can't let that cloud my judgement again.

On the converse, Princess did fabulous with the team, and didn't even seem slightly winded by the time we got back. She's just an amazing good looking girl, and will be a great sled dog even if she doesn't sound like one. Her pads showed almost no wear even though she was tight and leaning on her tug the whole way. Buck once again proved his worth as a tremendous puller and a good wheel dog. He was solid on the entire way! His pads were perfect, very little wear and his love of running is obvious in his frantic need to get moving. He's one solid dog, and almost as big as his dad now that he is almost full grown.

Yukon is solid as ever, and has such a great personality. He has found new purpose in being a wheel dog, and runs much more consistently. Not sure if this is due to his 'demotion' or if he really enjoys being wheel better. I think it is the latter and not the former, mostly because he seems happier all around now that he has been running wheel. Guess he's not the responsible type.

Bandit! What can I say? He's awesome! He's a leader like his mother, has the drive of his mother, the strength and speed of his father plus some, and is just amazing! I can't say enough good things about this yearling. I'm ever so glad I got him back, and put him on the team! He has learned very well from Freya, and responds to commands as quickly. If I had sixteen dogs just like him, I think I would have to move to Alaska and see how he would do in some distance runs. For a Siberian he's huge, fast and strong, weighing in at around 70 pounds, he's solid muscle, yet gentle as a lamb when out of harness. He's a goofy love-bug and nothing phases him, not even fireworks (true story). It's a real priviledge to watch him mature.

Freya is still the backbone of the team, the prime mover and motivator, that wonderful running girl! She's filled out to 45lbs of rock solid dog. She has grown into a very warm and loving companion as well, and never misses a chance for a good cuddle. Her low howl is still one of the most compelling sounds, and she never fails to grab all of the pack's attention when she does it. She's incredibly smart, quick and cute, who could ask for more?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Saturday Show and New Lead Dog in Training!

Long before I should have been up on Saturday, I had packed up the grooming stuff, dog dishes, water, food, show clothes, shoes and dog treats while a frantic Princess kept wondering why I kept forgetting her every time I went through the front door. Howl-whining in frustration, she had the whole house up at o'dark-thirty. She was quite relieved when I grabbed her leash on the final forray out the door, and pranced around to the truck with a massive grin on her face. She was so pretty with her fur all fluffed up from the groomer! She was stoked as we left the house at 4am.

We were barely down the road an hour when Princess decided she had been in the truck long enough and that she was sure we were there. She whined a lot, making me think she had to go potty. Not so... She ran around sniffing everything for close to fifteen minutes before I put her back in the truck, grabbed a cup of coffee from the convenience store, and got back on the road.

Disappointed we were not actually at a place where there were dogs and people, Princess sighed and curled up in the passenger seat and fell asleep. She did not whine again until about thirty minutes out of Murphreesboro, so I pulled over in a rest area and walked her around. Only took about a minute for her to find a suitable spot to pee.

We arrived on site at about 7:45am local time (we went from eastern to central time along the road) and found a nice convenient parking spot. As soon as we pulled up, Princess was ecstatic! She could see lots and lots of people and dogs! We were where she wanted to be, and she couldn't wait to get out of the truck! I took her for a walk around the grassy area, and let her meet a few people and wag her tail at a few dogs before putting her in the crate so I could sign us in. I then walked her around so that she would get used to the people and dogs prior to our ring time and hopefully wind her down a bit.

I found Judy right after picking up the number from the ring steward, and she invited me to crate Princess by her dogs. She was nice enough to hold on to Princess for me while I ran to get her crate. We had about fifteen minutes to spare after getting her crate set up, just enough time to grab her blanket and get ring side. The ring was packed dirt, so I wanted something to keep her from getting dirty. Princess loves to roll in dirt, and I'm sure that would not help her score.

Princess was ecstatic to be in the center of so many people and dogs. She's such a wonderfully social little girl and nothing rattles her, not even an aggressive dog five feet away. She completely ignores them in favor of the dogs that want to play. It's tough to keep a ten month old pup from playing with other puppies at times, but Princess is a very good little girl, and if I tell her no, she pouts for a minute, but is good.

In the ring she did fantastic! This was the first show where she didn't crab-walk, but trotted nicely beside me with a loose lead. She was completely still when I told her to stay stacked! And she was happy to be touched by the judge, didn't shy one bit. I'm so proud of her! She's a winner in my book! She got a ribbon for our class, but not the group. She loves the crowds, and loved meeting lots of people. She's a funny little girl and plays shy when she thinks she can get some food out of it, but is downright outgoing at other times.

She was ok with being crated next to Logan, at least for a while as I met with the folks of the Middle Tennessee Siberian Husky Club. They were some really friendly and great people. After their meeting, they shared pizza with all the Siberian exhibitors. We shared stories and socialized a bit until Princess decided she wasn't close enough to the center of the entertainment. I brought her out for some social time too, and she loved every minute.

With a five hour drive ahead of us though, I had to cut short our visit and say goodbyes. Overall Princess and I had a great time, and we thank the folks of the GMKC for the show and especially the MTSHC for their excellent hospitality and warm friendship. Hope to see you all again next show season (for us)!

The weather has changed, and the cold brings fall training leading on to the race season! This is what puts fire in the veins of myself and the dogs! We live for this! Running dogs has been the greatest experience ever in my book.

The only thing that was close for me was riding hunter-jumper class with horses, but those horses weren't my companions. I loved them and they liked me, but they weren't mine, not like these dogs.

It's different when you live with a pack. Eleven dogs share our house, our land and socialize freely with us and each-other. We are the best of friends, and they are my companions and I their protector and provider.

When we run, it is as a team and something extraordinary happens. It is like being of one mind, and you really get to know what these dogs are all about. It is primitive, joyful, exhuberance, an unabashed love of running, chasing that imaginary prey, being one with the pack. It is timeless, a glimpse of the world before mankind, a glimpse of the silence, the cold and the snow, it is the hunt and the anticipation of a full belly and the warmth of companionship, the safety of the pack with a strong leader and protector. It is a feeling, a oneness that you'll never forget. It is like awakening a long dormant part of you that longs to be free. This feeling of oneness, of freedom and taste of the wild is like an addiction you crave, for it is life in all its gritty realism, not the fantastical unnatural world humanity has made. It's like finding a piece of your soul that has been missing all along, and you never knew you were missing it until you experience the wholeness of yourself. This is what it felt like to run the race team Sunday.

Since the weather was cooperative and in the 40's, I let the family sleep in until the dogs couldn't wait any longer and let me know in no uncertain terms that it was time to run! So, I went outside and put new gas in the ATV. It took about 7 kicks this time, but it fired up without having to be clutch started. So I let it warm up a bit before backing it up to the top of the drive in preparation of hooking up the dogs. I then let it run a bit more before turning it off and putting it in gear to help hold the dogs while hooking them up.

I then picked out the harnesses for the race team and rousted Jim and James to help hook up. Yukon had been dancing around the house for a couple of hours, but as soon as I picked up the harnesses, he started to bounce as well as jump and dance. Now I don't know about you, but a bouncing, dancing 65 pound incredibly athletic husky is an amazing sight! That Yukon can piroette in mid-air with such grace and style to miss the electronics, the TV trays, the chairs, counters and most amazing of all, all the other dancing puppies is simply astounding! He can clear five foot dividers with limitless ease, and yet has never once attempted to jump a fence. The strange dichotemy confronts me every time he does 'the happy dance'.

And yet this expression of pure joy is such a loveable aspect of Yukon's character. More and more he is loosening up and expressing his playfulness, which warms my heart. It only now begins to show me how much of a shell he had put around himself before I picked him up out of his situation. His happy howl is probably the cutest howl ever, his little "Oh!"

James started putting the dogs outside that we weren't taking as I harnessed up Yukon, Freya, Buck and Bandit and put their leashes on. Yukon is a very well mannered dog, so he's always the first one out, mostly to make it easy on Jim who holds them after I hook them up until the team is ready to go. Next is Buck, who is tough to control, but since he too is in wheel it is easier on Jim to keep the two dogs together. Bandit and Freya come out together, because once they are both hooked in, there is no stopping the team.

Hookup went pretty smooth this time and thanks to Jim, who has been teaching Buck and Yukon to keep lined out while waiting for the other dogs. As soon as Freya and Bandit were ready, we took off like a shot! I wish we had a speedometer on that ATV! I got the engine cranked and running within the first hundred yards, but let the team pull down hill. Bandit and Freya executed a perfect "Haw" at the bridge, and I applied a little power up the hill to help keep momentum. At the turn off by the mini-railroad, both Bandit and Freya did a sharp Gee on command, flawlessly.

We went all the way down to the donkey farm (about 1.75 miles) before I asked Freya to come around. She was reluctant to turn around, and wanted to keep going. Maybe next weekend we'll try the 5 mile loop, but I need to remember to grab the squirter to keep loose dogs away from the team. With a 3 point turn, we were headed back to the house, loping the whole way. Back by the mini-railroad, Freya and Bandit did another flawless Haw, and down to the bridge, it was Bandit that kept the team on course with a tight Gee, where it was obvious that Freya again wanted to go down the hunter's path. One slight tug on the neckline from Bandit though, put those thoughts out of her mind, and it was race up the hill to home.

One of our fastest and best runs yet!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Off to the Groomer Again

Princess was off to the groomer again this morning in preparation for the show in Murphreesboro tomorrow. Goind to be a loooong day starting at 0300 tomorrow morning. Our group judging is at 0830, but there are a quite a few breeds ahead of the Siberians. And there are going to be a ton of Siberians there! 15, the most I've seen yet. Of course there is a specialty from the Middle Tennessee SHC, so there should be a lot of beautiful dogs!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

ATV Second Run

Sunday morning was another perfect morning for running dogs, so eagerly I dressed, fed the dogs, gave them treats and medicine, fed myself, had coffee, and waited for dawn (it is a bit dangerous riding around here while it's dark, and the dogs get me up at 4:30 am every morning irrespectful of the weekend). By the dim twilight between dawn and the time the sun actually climbs above the mountain ridge I uncovered the ATV and again began the ritual of trying to start the infernal machine.

This session ended with another careen down the hill towards the stream, dumping the clutch and applying the gas, only this time I was wisened up to its tricks and did not let it stall out! I kept the engine reving relentlessly (and probably annoying my neighbors, but well...). I zipped up to the top of the hill and let it run for a bit to warm up before shutting it back down, locking the brakes and going for gangline and dogs.

With the gangline in place, I rousted Jim and James to help with the dogs as I began harnessing up the dogs of choice. This morning was the race team, but since Buck had run yesterday I wasn't sure about putting him in harness until his exhuberance overwhelmed me (read as knocked me over and began giving me a husky face bath whining exicitedly). So, knowing that tired huskies tend not to get into trouble, and Bucky did more than his fair share of that, I harnessed him up with a grin and put his leash on (I leash up the dogs that are going on the run to make it easier to separate them from those not going. The dogs not going are shuffled one by one out to the back yard where they won't interfere or try to get out while taking the running dogs out to the gangline).

Jame began herding puppies and dogs outside besides the ones I've named for Sunday's run, Freya and Bandit for lead, Yukon and Buck in wheel. The dogs put outside began to howl and whine in disappointment, which was also quite noisy. Jim grabbed up a bunch of the cheap hot dogs that we buy for training the dogs, and chopped them up quickly and stuck them in his pocket so he could help control the team while I put them in position and hooked them up. First out was Yukon. He's always pretty mild and easy to control, so it only makes sense to have him out first. Jim got him lined out and ready in no time. Next out was Buck, who is a bit less easy to control, but being in wheel would make it easier on Jim to hold the two rear dogs than one front and one rear. Jim finally got him lined out and sitting calmly until I came out with Bandit. Bandit and Buck is a chemical mixture that is volatile in the extreme, so Jim yelled before I got up the hill to have James bring out Freya at the same time to minimize exposure to Buck and Bandit's wild antics to get going.

I still had to stop prior to climbing aboard to try to talk some sense into Buck that was screaming and biting at his neckline to get going, but he hardly heard a word I said... While talking to him, Freya and Bandit had enough of standing around and both leaped forward dragging the riderless ATV with all 4 tires locked up... scrambling and holding on to the gangline, I leapt back to the seat and jumped on before the team began dragging it further. Several kicks later and I just let the dogs pull the ATV in neutral with no engine, and man did they pull! We flew down the slight incline to the bridge as I tried to dump the clutch and start the ATV to no avail. They pulled the ATV up the next hill and around the corner without the engine. On the slight downhill there, I tried another clutch start, no good, but this didn't bother the team in the slightest! They continued to race on down the road, picking up speed again.

For the third time, I tried to clutch start the ATV without luck, only this time it stopped the team, as there was not enough incline to keep rolling. This is when the car came by, so in retrospect it was a good time to stop since Freya didn't want to Gee Over since she was already on her half of the road...I jumped off and pulled tight on the gangline to be sure she didn't turn in front of the car. The man driving was amazed at the sight of the quad being pulled by three rather large siberians and one medium sized one.

"That's quite an outfit!" He yelled out the window with a grin.
"Thanks!" I replied, not sure what else to say as he politely drove past slowly.

Freya decided since he was driving so slow that she was supposed to follow him, so she came around haw right behind the car. Since we had already hit the .75 mile mark and they had been pulling hard the whole way, I decided it would be ok to shorten the run time and turn around. If I had the engine fired up, I would have kept the team going, but at that point, they had been moving me and the ATV by sheer dog muscle and determination!

Keeping the gangline tight up against my thigh I hoped would keep it from getting wrapped around the tire axle again while I manhandled the ATV turn around. Not so! Despite my best efforts, the gangline decided it liked being wound around in the tire axle... But this time it was by far easier to unwind as the carabiners did not get bound up in the hub of the wheel.

Then, there was something on the side of the road that Yukon simply had to have, and of course, Freya and Bandit were curious what would distract the usually stoic Yukon, so they balled up and started digging in the dirt...

This reminded me of several colorful bits of language I hadn't used Saturday as I untangled them and got Freya pointed to the house. But by the time I got back on the ATV, the interesting patch of dirt had them in a ball again... Two more repetitions of this behavior and Freya finally figured she had frustrated me enough for one day and did as I asked and kept the team lined out and ready to head back.

On the slope down to the bridge, I tried again to start the ATV... nadda. I knew the run uphill was going to be a bear, and I was probably going to have to help push the heavy monstrocity uphill, so I jumped on the kick start five times before it finally roared to life... figures... So for the last two tenths of a mile, the dogs did not have to pull...

All in all though, I was very proud of them and amazed at how the team did in this new configuration! Yukon pulled much harder in wheel than he generally does in lead after the initial rush, Buck was as solid as ever, pulling his heart out and not stopping unless the whole team stopped. Bandit was great! He was not distracted by anything until Freya was, and he was quickly learning the routine and commands from her. He will be an awesome leader as well as an amazing powerhouse runner! Freya, as always was beyond amazing up until she decided that whatever Yukon was in to was even more fun than running. But again, that girl is definitely the star of the team!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The new ATV First Run.

(pic to come) Friday we bought a used ATV to run the dogs with since my pedal cart burned out a tire and I had to finally admit that it was much too small to be safe anymore with the race team. With it I've learned a couple of new things about myself and my dog team. #1 I'm really not as young as I used to be, but I still know how to have fun! #2 My race team is a LOT stronger than I originally imagined! Other things I've learned will be more entertaining as I tell you what happened.

Saturday bright and early it was boardering on 50 degrees, and I was eager to try out this new toy, but also cautious. I put on a sweatshirt and uncovered my new prize. Flipping out the kick start and thumbing the choke to max, I attempted to start the ATV.

An obvious sput of the engine was all I received for my trouble. More determined, I jumped on the start pedal with all of my weight! It sputted again, but still nothing. I started jumping up and down like a monkey on crack, but as stubborn as I was, it was even moreso. Sweating and puffing I sat on the seat, trying to figure out how this thing liked to be started. I tried putting the choke back off, I tried giving it gas while kicking, I tried putting it on the reserve tank... still nothing.

Determined not to let a machine get the better of me, I began rolling it down the hill towards the stream. Halfway down, I popped the clutch and the engine sputtered then caught to my delight. I suddenly realized how close the stream was to my perilous course though, and strained to change the direction, barely missing the line of saplings and briars. Congratulating myself, I spun the ATV around and started back up the hill about a foot before it died.

There was all manner of colorful metaphors running around in my brain at that moment. So, I jumped and I jumped on the kickstart again and again. At that point in time anger had replaced stubbornness, and I was going to make that sucker start no matter what! So I slowly turned it around jumping on the kick start to make it move. (It was a bit heavy to push uphill) Facing back towards the stream, I managed to get it rolling again and popped the clutch. This time it roared immediately to life, and I gassed it hard to be sure it wouldn't sputter out. The trees mocked me.

I got them back by smacking their branches with my forehead, but I was moving and I'd be damned before I let that ATV quit on me again! Hoping the neighbors weren't watching and having the hillbilly entertainment of their life, I climbed back up the hill powered by the 250cc engine. I spun it around in a 160 degree arc as if I was a pro, and shut it down so I could hook up the dogs.

The gangline I had was set up for 4 dogs, but I had an extension somewhere that would hold two more dogs, so I searched and searched and scrabbled through mounds of ropes and junk you collect in sheds that somehow multiplies and has little junk piles of its own, but could not find the extension. I searched through my closet, the front closet, laundry room, and the bits of mushing gear whereever I stashed them last. No extender.... No way was I going down to the bee and spider infested barn that early in the morning. I needed more coffee....

With a sigh I realized I was only going to run 4 dogs, and since this was the first time with the ATV, I thought it would be a good idea to take the slow team. With the brilliance of a two day old planarian, I thought it might be grand to give Princess a try at lead, so hooked her up next to Samantha. Ace had not yet been on the team, so I was determined to give her the chance, so hooked her up in wheel. To have some kind of pulling power, and because Buck is always so full of energy and I wanted to tire him out, he went next to Ace. So, I had 3 rookies and a so-so leader on a 4 dog team. I thought everything would be ok after I got going, but the problem was, getting going.

This time the ATV started up, but the puppies tangled themselves irreparably. So I stopped the engine, got off and unhooked them one by one, untangled the gang and tug lines, got back on, and by the time I got the start pedal out, they were tangled again. This happened about 4 times before I finally manged to get the ATV started again before they tangled up. Princess was so eager to get moving, she pulled Samantha along for the first quarter mile, and I think Samantha was lulled into a false sense of security which was broken by a quick dart to the side of the road where a deer carcass lie in abject temptation. It was a smell Princess could not resist and the other puppies dutily followed their leader.

Despite the many hours of show training, Princess is still a dog that wants to roll in dead things. She proved this to me Saturday.

Several more colorful metaphors later I had them back moving, for a couple hundred yards when Princess found something else interesting off the side of the road and tried to drag the team up the side of the mountain. So, I straightened the team out again, but by the time we hit the three-quarter mile mark, I gave up and removed Princess from lead and put Bucky up front.

I also figured it was a good point to turn around at... This proved to be one of the worst come arounds in the history of sled dogs. Something yummy was hiding just over the burm of the side of the road, and the team kept coming back my way to check it out as I was trying to simultaneously urge them towards the house and 'manhandle' the ATV to turn it around. I ended up with the gangline wrapped securely around the front axle at least three times, and trying to pull the dogs away from the oncoming pickup truck. I'm sure wild tales are floating around the town of Stamping Ground as I type this. The old couple passed me with eyes as big as saucers and toothy grins as they waved in child-like glee. I'm not entirely sure that was a good thing, but I smiled and waved back as I tried not to use more colorful language at the hopelessly fouled gangline.

I'm not sure how long it took for me to unhook the line from the axle, but it was long enough for my son to walk lazily down to where I was cussing and ask me what was wrong. He held the dogs still so that I could pull the final bit off from the hub. We then proceded to untangle the dogs again, and I started up the ATV. Buck and Samantha still wanted to roll in the dead thing, and instead of going homeward, turned right smack around and proceded to tangle the gangline again. James helped me straighten them out once more and I asked him to start them off by walking them about a hundred yards down the road. So much more slowly than I would ever want a team to walk, we started out again.

James caught up with me again at the next place that Buck wanted to stop... Samantha put up a cursory resistance, but soon gave in to his interest. At that point in time, all I could do was laugh or cry. I opted for the former, and Jamed and I straightened out the lines and got the team going again. On the far side of the bridge, Buck and Samantha decided it was time for a bathroom break and headed off into the field to sniff for appropriate places. James and I coaxed them back on to the road and finally got them back to the house.

My Leader Freya

My leader Freya taking a well deserved nap! I love this dog! She has gone from almost feral puppy removed from her mother at 3 weeks and kept in a barn until she was 5 months old. This is where I found and fell in love with her despite the fact she wouldn't come near me. I felt bad for her, and had to take her out of that situation. I agonized over losing her for the first week she came home with me, she slipped her collar and ran away. I thought I'd never see her again when a neighbor a couple farms down had lured her in to a kennel with her other dog and called me! She had been on her own for almost 7 days!

We got her back home, and it took months just to get her to allow me to pet her without having to corner her. It took even longer for her to finally come to me for petting and love, but I never gave up on her. At ten months, she saw me take the other three dogs on a run, and she jumped at the fence screaming to go too! I gave in the next weekend and she let me know, she wanted it more than she wanted anything else in life! Within two months, she was leading the team with an enthusiasm, intelligence and exhuberance I could barely have imagined!

Today she is almost a different dog. She is loving, and loyal enough to bring tears to my eyes. The only time she got loose she readily came back to me as soon as I called her. Her attitude and excitement to lead and run the team knows no bounds.

She gave us a litter of pups of which, two now are on the race team, one of them ran lead with her Sunday and convinced me he is of the same calibur as his mother. Thank you Freya! My dreams would still just be dreams without you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

September 23rd When the Mood Strikes

Sometimes I wax poetic. I know it is a flaw of mine, but it's been with me since childhood.

Ode to my Demon Elvis

From the winds you came to me
Heart of the wild, soul of the free
The pain in your eyes no mystery
The person you loved left you in misery

With hopeful regard you came to my home
Trusted as I gave you a place to roam
Without a word you became my best friend
My staunch supporter until the very end

Your only wish was to see me smile
And to run mile after mile
Grateful for the food in your bowl
Your gentle love made me whole

Spirit of the wolf, singing to me
Speaking of our bond beyond eternity
You connect deeply with my inner child
And I join you in your call of the wild

Our howls lift gently with the wind
Timeless, ageless; without end
Ancestors hear our hallowed call
Around the fires of late fall

They join in our song of ages
Through history’s uncharted pages
A song before records began
When the first wolf came to the camp of man

Monday, September 20, 2010

Took the race team out Saturday and wow! Buck did great with the team!
He and Bandit were screaming to go, and according to Jim, they got a little snappy because we didn't get moving fast enough. Well, the attitude is great, the snappy, not so much, so will be working with those two, on that. It may be they were biting at the neck line in excitement, but still sounds like some obedience work is needed.
We went to the 1.25 mile mark (the donkey farm) and back for 2.5 miles the fastest yet! Only one problem on the way, Bandit stepped over the gangline, so I had to stop before he got rubbed by the line under the armpit. On the way back, Freya decided that she wanted to go through the hunting grounds behind us and turned off on the trail regardless of my 'Gee'... she's normally an awesome leader and does everything flawlessly. Don't know what wild hair got in to her Saturday. This caused me to lock up the breaks and burn out my right rear tire trying to stop the team. The tire popped, and went flat immediately, as I told Freya to 'come around Gee'.
She executed a perfect 130 degree turn onto the road home that time. Just goes to show you they sometimes have a mind of their own about where they want to go. Guess she thought she'd bring home the venison. So, for the last .25 miles I half ran, half rode leaning sideways up the hill home. But what a rush! I have my race team, and they are incredible!
Sunday was no run as now I have to either replace my right rear tier or get a new rig. The small pedal cart has done a great job for a year and a half, but it's time to graduate to a rig I can race with.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Last night we managed to make it to the class. Princess was full of energy and rearing to go (she didn't get her prior to class walk to calm her down), which generally means she was a bit unruly at first. This of course had me a bit flustered, so was probably giving her some wrong clues until corrected by our instructor.

Princess wore herself and me out, but once she was settled enough not to gallop every time I started out, she did great! She knows her stuff, and is getting much better about being touched by other people for reasons other than petting (judges checking her bite, her structure and whatnot). She loves to get petted and freely gives kisses, but isn't so fond of being poked and prodded. She sometimes tries to shrink away from unwanted contact. She started doing it yesterday, but a quick correction and a couple minutes with our instructor and she stopped shying away.

She really is a great pup, and judging by her reaction in harness will make an even greater sled dog! I have no doubt she is probably one of the most intelligent dogs I've had, and after having great intellects like Susie and Valkrys, that's saying a whole lot! She is at least as smart as Freya, and far less of a wild child. She is going to be a tremendous leader if she chooses to lead.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September 14th Weekend Run

Saturday I hooked up Samantha and Moon in lead with Princess and Buck in wheel to the pedal cart. Since Samantha doesn't like the x-back harnesses and is slower than the race team, this turned out to be a good match for Princess and Buck's first run and Moon's second. She kept a good steady slow lope that was easy for the puppies to keep up with and still pull on their harnesses. The pups and Samantha had a blast, almost as much fun as I did! Princess was whining to get going, and as soon as she is done with her show career, she's definitely moving up to the race team. In the meantime Buck will get his shot on the fast team this coming weekend hopefully (weather and time allowing).
Sunday I took out Freya and Yukon in lead with Demon and Bandit. WOW! What a team! Bandit is as frisky and eager to get moving as Freya, but thankfully more controllable! He had no problems keeping the pace with Freya and Yukon! What a powerhouse runner! Demon, on the other hand, was having definite trouble keeping up. He's a great dog and a strong puller, he just doesn't have the fast build. By the 3/4 mile mark, I halted the team to unhook Demon's tug line and let him just run along. He barely kept up, poor guy, so he is going on the puppy team for now. In a way that is a bit of a relief, as he is so shy he would be a lot of trouble taking to a race and I'm not sure I would be able to recover him should he ever get loose in an unfamiliar area.
The race team now consists of Freya, Yukon and Bandit with a possible inclusion of Buck. One thing is clear, though, as fast as they ran, they wore their pads slightly, so it is time to get booties for them. They are ready to hit up the circuit this year! So I'm planning on attending one or two non-pro events to see how they do and get them some experience before hitting the real competition. Their progress is so exciting! I wish I had a radar to clock our speed, cause man did we fly!
Trying to plan out what events to attend, though is a real kicker. The budget is the main constraint, and none of them are very near to where I live. So it's going to be tough.