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.