Monday, January 31, 2011

Of Vets and Doors

We made the decision to get Samantha fixed for a couple of reasons. In this pic you can kind of tell she has a slight predisposition to cross-eyed. With Moon Dancer very cross-eyed we didn't want any more puppies to possibly be cross-eyed.

The second reason is that she is the only aggressor in the kennel. Of any of the tussels that have broken out, she's been the initiator. Not that there have been any serious fights, but we wanted to take steps to be sure they never happen.

The third reason is to curb her wanderlust. She has been our main digger, so hopefully this will prevent any future excursions.

So Friday was the big day for Samantha, and I opted to work from home so I could be with her when she got back from surgery. She has always been a very loving dog to people, and needed lots of attention and re-assurance which she got. All weekend she has been fussed over. The pain pills pretty much knocked her out in the mornings, so she laid on my bed sleeping for much of Friday and Saturday. Sunday she slept half of the day and got a bit restless in the afternoon, so I let her wander the house under supervision as well as being leash walked.

Saturday while she was sleeping on my bed, I hooked up the race team for a 4 mile run with the cart. After I got back, I worked on cleaning and clearing out the livingroom in preparation for rennovations.

Sunday I got the door framed and wall divider built that I had been planning. This is a big step towards more secure separation of the boys and girls during heat cycles, plus making the room more accessable and less cluttered. Eventually there will be wood flooring and it will make people and dog care much less of a chore. It looks pretty good and very sturdy. A good day's work. Hopefully I'll be able to complete more of the rennovations planned in the near future.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bad Musher! No Biscuit!

So yesterday it started snowing heavily around 1pm, and since I had to work late, I decided I would head home and work from there. If everything went as planned, I'd end work, grab the sled and get in some sledding before it got too dark to see.

All went well, and I was able to complete our cut-over by 17:30 hours. Ecstatic, I harnessed up Bandit and Princess, mainly because this would be my first time with dogs attached to the sled and in case they got away with or without the sled, they have the best recall as well as being good pullers.

From the start I knew I was in for it when I tried to get Bandit to go down the hill and into the field/side yard from my house. The idea was that we would make a couple of loops around the yard and come back to the house. Bandit, however, had other plans. He was in harness with his favorite running partner and he'd be damned if he was going to only run around on our 3 acres! As soon as I gave the "Hike" command, he made a bee-line for the road. "Gee! Gee!" I yelled, and Bandit was having none of that.

Well to keep from looking like an idiot, I shut up and hung on as we hopped the ditch and went up on to the road. For a few hair raising moments, I was sliding a rail on the edge of the road headed for the speed limit sign, but managed to pop the runners up over the edge at the last moment. I let Bandit run down to the bridge before I rode the brake, telling him "Whoah!" He was not amused, and turned around to give me the plaintive look of a dog who has had their toy taken away. "Gee!" I said to try to get him to go into the field.

"Hunh?" I could see the gears spinning in his eyes. I carefully got off the sled, keeping a hold and reached for the gangline to keep constant pressure on it. I then crowded him and Princess off the road, and they got it. "Gee!" I said happily and the light bulb came on. They both took off into the field as I frantically grabbed the handlebar of the sled and jumped on before they left me behind. The ran along the creek back towards the house when I slowed them again and told Bandit "Gee". He turned around, and trotted back past me... ah well, I let them help yank the sled around, but I didn't do as graceful and ended up eating some snow. I finally managed to get the sled upright again and we proceeded back towards the far end of the field by the bridge. "Haw!" This time Bandit went left! I was so proud, but then he got into the thick weeds, so I jumped off the runners and helped push, only to find that without my weight to slow them down, they were much faster than I was.

I tried to get both feet on the runners, but missed, and ended up eating snow again, hands firmly wrapped around the handlebar. Something snapped, and I ended up with a rounded piece of nylon in my hands while watching the dogs tear off down the field with my sled and no me.

"Jim!" I yelled to my husband who had his back to me and his head down, so I was really yelling to his butt. "Get the dogs! Bandit! Haw!" I yelled, and obediently he turned left towards the house into Jim.

Disappointed I knew it would be a while before I could go sledding again. My first day on the runners with dogs and I broke the sled... Bad me...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Blue Ridge Challenge

Jim, I, Bandit, Yukon, Princess and Bucky headed out early Saturday morning for Abbingdon Virginia. We had hoped to make it for the Serum Run re-enactment, but time was against us, and we arrived after the end. We got checked in to the hotel, ate lunch and discussed what to do next as the flyer didn't mention the location of the dinner and I hadn't brought my laptop to check the location. Fortunately we ran in to Alice and family, so we got directions from them. Turns out it was less than a block away.

The dinner was in a place called the Harbor House in Abbingdon, and the back room had been reserved for the event. Jim and I had the shrimp, and Alice put on a great presentation of her beginnings, interest in Sled Dogs and the time she spent at a racing Kennel in Minnesota. Afterwards, Bill did the auction for the benefit of the rescue. I've been to a few auctions before, but never were they entertaining. Bill had most of us in stitches very quickly, and the night went rather quickly. I stepped out once in a while to check on the dogs and make sure they were doing ok.

On the fourth trip out to the truck, Princess had somehow wrapped herself in the seat belt. Thank goodness I went to check on her! I took her and Bucky for a walk, and all day Bucky had not gone pee or poop and I was getting worried about him. When I put them back in the truck, I took out Bandit and Yukon. The auction had only a few items left, but I really wanted to get to a place where Bucky would feel comfortable enough to at least pee. So we left, but again when I walked Bucky he would not pee.

Jim suggested maybe I put him on a longer lead, so I tied a rope to his leash, and we walked again. After another 15 minutes out in the cold, he finally peed, and peed, and peed, and ... well you get the idea. With some relief I took him back and put princess on the long rope and leash. She didn't need it, but had fun running around and around me. Next was Bandit. After he ran around and around, he finally was sniffing at some bushes around the building in the back of the motel when I realized he was no longer pulling on the rope! The rope had come undone and he was running loose! With my heart in my throat and a highway too close, I first called to him and sank to my knees (this usually gets the dogs to come to me), but Bandit ignored me. Fear rising, I ran into the briars in the dark night chasing a mostly black dog.

No matter what I called out to him, he kept running, but fortunately there was a fence. When he hit that, he turned around, and went the other way across the hill. Desperate I finally called out to him "Whoa! Bandit, WHOA! Come around!" To my utter astonnishment, he stopped in his tracks and came directly to me(in hindsight I should not have been so astonnished, but I was sick that I was about to lose him). I praised him profusely and petted him, relieved that he came back. We redid the rope so there was no way it could come undone, and I took out Yukon on the long lead.

When I came back I checked my legs to find I had really gone through the worst of the briars. Long scratches, deep punctures and lots of smeared blood made Jim freak out until I told him it wasn't as bad as it looked. He wanted me to take a shower to rinse off, but I told him that would make it worse. Last thing I wanted was soap in all those scratches until they had scabbed over. Finally I caved in and wiped off the smeared blood with a hot washcloth and was immediately sorry. By the time I finished, though, it was time to go to sleep, and sleep I did.

The pups got me up a bit later than normal, 6am instead of 5, so I took them each out for a walk, and by the time I got back, Jim was up. He went and picked me up some breakfast (a large waffle) and coffee while I showered and got ready. While I packed up everything, he ate his breakfast and we checked out of the hotel.

We followed the map to Iron Horse Campground, and after the scare I was a bit worried to note the trail ran paralell to the highway. Without Freya I was unsure if Bandit would obey commands well enough to keep him and the team safe and away from the highway on a sled. My inexperience with a sled could have spelled disaster for my dogs as it offered little control in the advent they took off in that direction. So I decided not to race with the sled and put my dogs at risk. Instead, I loaned the sled to Kelly so that she could race with her German Shepherd Bakko. To get the dogs exercise, I hooked them up to the cart and opted to run behind the racers and help out if anyone got stuck on the trail or were in need of assistance. I had a 2 mile walkie-talkie and a cell phone on me, and have been certified in CPR and First Aid.

It was quite fun, and we quickly caught up to Rodney while on the dirt, but as soon as we hit the deeper snow, the cart bogged down and Rodney picked up speed on his sled. Through it all Bandit was fabulous, listened and obeyed every command, including "Haw over" to go around the left side of a post, and Gee over to go right around another. When we approached the road crossing and there was traffic I told him "Easy, Bandit" and immediately he turned to look at me and slowed down. When the cars passed and the Sheriff stopped traffic for us, I told him "Hike up and On By!" and he shot across the road to the trail on the other side. I was tremendously pleased!

We came up on the crowd by the end, and Bandit's shy-ness caused him to slow, but I encouraged him with "Hike up Good boy!" and he shot past to the finish line where I reported there was no one on the trail. I guided them to the side of the trail to wait for Jim who was driving from Iron Horse to Damascus where we finished. I hugged and doted on Bandit for doing so well and was sorry I hadn't had enough faith in his training to run the sled, but really it was not the venue to try out. If something had happened, I'd never forgive myself. I was very proud how well he did though, and he proved to me once again, he was born to lead!

While I was hugging him and waiting, the local news team noticed I was the only one with dogs still out and in harness, and the only one on a wheeled rig. So I made the evening newscast, just wish I had a copy of it as I was still on the road home when it aired, and they didn't post that segment on their website. Ah well.

The journey home was broken up by stopping at the Tennessee Valley RV center. One day we will do these events in style. Bucky again did not pee or poop until we got him home. I'm keeping my eye on him to make sure he didn't do himself an injury holding it for so long.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bandit and Moon

Got the team out Sunday that I'll be taking to Virginia this weekend. Bandit and Moon Dancer (Moony pie) in lead, with Yukon and Bucky in wheel. I'll be running the 4 dog class on Sunday if they approve my pedal cart as safe.

Anyway, Moon was a bit slower than the team, but I kept them slowed to her pace so she did not get discouraged. Moony has a lot of heart, and kept her tug as tight as she could the whole way! She was a bit uncertain about the commands, but let Bandit show her what was what.

We made great time up to almost the two mile mark, and Moony began to tire on the big uphill grade up the side of the mountain. I pedaled to help out, but figured it was a good time to turn around and let Moon 'rest' on the downhill since most of the way home except the last .2 miles is downhill from there.

Bandit still hasn't learned the "Come Around Gee" command very well, so I had to get off the cart and lead him through the turn around. I repeated the command as they finished the line out and praised them before getting the cart turned around and brakes unlocked. Moony caught her second wind on the way down the hill, and we flew back to the house. She only remembered her fatigue in the last .1 mile, but seeing her 'dad' (Jim) waiting for her gave her that extra incentive to make it.

All in all, I think she'll do fine, and she did excellent for her first lead on the race team! She's been in lead with the puppy team, but this was her first experience with a full team of run-crazy dogs. I think she had a great time, as for the rest of the day she had a huge smile even though she slept for about three hours afterwards.

This time I put booties on both Bandit and Bucky's back feet, and though they each shed one bootie, their feet were both in good shape after the run. Moon and Yukon had minimal wear, so will probably not require booties unless we run on pavement this weekend. I know Moony will love to come along, as Jim will be coming this time. With both full boys going with me, James thinks he can handle the girls, we'll see.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Heats and Greets

The time has come round again where my girls are back in heat. The house has been sectioned off again, and we do-se-do the dogs shuffling the girls out and the boys in or vice versa.

The main problem is that Samantha and Princess want to be where I am all the time, so it gets tough when the boys are in with me. When the girls are in with me, Bandit whines to be in with me too, although I don't think his motivations are as pure.

What usually happens is that I end up with the boys in my room with Samantha and Princess in the crate when we sleep. This makes Freya unhappy because she normally sleeps at the foot of my bed, but is used to beign able to go out when she wants. In order to go out when she wants, she can't sleep in my room.

What usually happens is this: I go to bed early because I'm tired. I have the girls with me. Bandit whines and howls and shakes the gate sometime around 12am to 2am. I let him in, go fetch Yukon and get him in, let the girls out and go get a short nap. About two hours later, Samantha starts super-barking at the inside fence and trying to push it over (she's really really good at getting through gates and fences, I think she's the reincarnation of Houdini). This forces me to get up and let her in. About an hour later, Princess howls at the gate, and if you can imagine a two year old human crossed with an alien cat that somehow got transplanted into a dog, you would kind of understand that Pincess cannot be ignored. I get up, let Princess in and put her in the dog cave with Samantha. About an hour or two later, Freya gets lonely and starts whining and low howling at the gate. I get up, let her and Ace in, let the boys out and usually get about 15-30 minutes more sleep before the alarm goes off.

I get up, go to work, get home, eat, drink a beer, go to bed early because I'm tired... etc.

Right now, my dearest wish is that Princess and Ace would go in to heat too and get it over with all at once.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Place to Run?

This might be the last set of pics on the road! Yup, I talked to a neighbor the other day and found out there is a plot of land a little over a mile from my house that is owned by the county, 2500 acres worth that they've set trails for horses and allow primitive weapon hunts on. This might be a great place to work the trails into useable dogsledding trails. The neighbor was excited to learn that I trained sled dogs and offered to show me the trails in exchange for a ride on the sled! Sounds like a great exchange to me! And it will probably lead to talking to the county about making some non-snow trails that are good enough for hiking, riding, and carting on! I'm excited, and very hopeful this will pan out into a great exchange and an awesome new venue to train my dogs! Maybe even give rides to folks to see the beautiful Kentucky hills by dog-cart/sled!