Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Trip to the White Mountains

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, some friends of mine and I did a training trip to the White Mountains. The White Mountain Recreation Area is a little less than an hour from my house; not far at all. It is a popular spot for dog mushers, ski-jorers (skiing with the help of a dog), snow machiners, etc. This is where I usually go once I start trucking dogs on a regular basis, vs. going from my house, where I am confined by running small teams due to the trail and road crossings.

Trucking dogs has advantages and disadvantages. The dogs like a new spot, I can run larger teams, the dogs get used to traveling in the truck and they learn some patience. But it is very time consuming and a lot of work. All the equipment has to be organized and packed, the dogs have to be loaded, then there's the driving time, things have to be unloaded and assembled once at the destination, dogs unloaded etc etc etc, you get the picture.

Here, the dogs have been let out of the dog box and are put on the 'drop chains' which I set up along the sides of the truck. I've packed the sled and have started puting harnesses on the dogs.

These are my friends Sarah Love and Clint Warnke. Sarah is a veterinarian who has vetted many many races in the Lower 48 and Alaska (mainly the Iditarod). She failed to keep her witts about her and decided to get into the dog running bussiness. She and Clint have some really nice and talented dogs. Clint has a long background of running dogs and has trained dogs for Doug Swingley (Montana) and Sonny Linder (Alaska). Swingley and Linder are two of the best mushers in the history of the sport. Sarah and Clint recently bought a trailer for the dogs instead of using a truck. The dog boxes are on the inside (should have gotten a picture!).

We each ran 12-dog teams and planned to run 26 miles in, then turn around and come back to the parking lot (all the cabins were full, thus we had to return to base camp in the lot). We camped overnight, then did the same run the following day. I wanted to run as many dogs as possible, but also wanted to continue to try to get my previously injured dogs to catch up to everyone else. So I brought little Kiana along and bagged her for part of the run. She's not able to run 52 miles yet, but she could run two, 35 mile runs. So I bagged her for the first or last 10ish miles.
Here, you can see the drop bag that I use. It encloses the dog so that they can't jump out of the bag, thus they are kept safe and contained. The big metal hook is the snow hook. I carry two of these and use them to anchor the team when I stop (each hook is connected to a rope that runs to the base of the gangline from which the dogs are connected). The dogs are nut jobs, serious nut jobs. They don't like to stop. So I need good hooks to secure the team.

Kiana doesn't like being in the sled, hence the stink I that she gave me.

Here's the start of the run. It's about 1 pm and a beautiful day.

The White Mtn. National Recreation Area goes on as far as we can see. There's a 100 mile loop that goes through the Area, but I've never taken it due to low snow conditions. Some day.

Here's a great picture of the mountains in the distance and the full moon coming up, with the rose hue of the sunset behind me. No that's what I'm talkin' about!

(notice that Kiana is now in the team and has stopped giving me the stink eye).

After this picure, my lends froze open and that was that. So I put my camera back in my inside pocket. I thought I did, anyway. It turns out that I didn't get it into my pocket at all, it fell down my bibs and out my pant leg without me noticing. Now you have to understand something. It's a little cold out; about -20. Life is different at -20. You can't use your bare hands. You have many many layers on. You have a big hat, then your parka hood, plus a neck gater and a parka over all that. Then you have to unzip things and try to look down and find that little pocket on the inside of the bibs (I use that pocket because it's warmer for the camera). And you can't really feel anything because you have gloves on. Anyways, I lost the camera.
But! Sarah was quick on the draw and picked it up behind me. She then took advantage of the situation and took some pictures of her own. Notice the frosted lens.

A self portrait. Funny girl.

Another full moon through the trees shot (don't know why it's on it's side, I swear I rotated it).

Two beautiful shots of our view.

This is nearing the turn-around point. The run back to the truck was in the dark; hence the constant wearing of headlamps by mushers up here. We're constantly in the dark and refuse to let it slow us down. And the dogs love it!

The dogs did really well after both runs. Training with series of runs is really important, as distance races are just series of runs. Plus I needed to teach the 2-yr olds how to camp. They needed to learn that when I stop and set straw down, it is time to rest and quit being a wild maniac nut job. Stop and rest. Everyone did great both during the running phase and the camping phase.
Our first race is coming up very soon. The Copper Basin starts January 9th. This is a 300 mile, very challenging race, possibly harder than Iditarod. More on that later.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Solstice 2009!

It's taken me a while to get the videos off the camera, onto you-tube, then onto a post. yada yada yada. These are just more clips taken during recent training runs, but I thought I'd show you what mid-day looks like, then a late afternoon run. It's the shortest day of the year afterall, let's celebrate! Actually, I don't mind the short days here. Julie is always teasing me about the number of headlamps that I own - but hey, they keep me outside and happy. I figure it's like Eskimos and their many words for snow; a northern musher has many headlamps for all the different situations in their dark world.

I'll try to talk louder in the future. I'm still figuring it all out - how to hold the sled, hold the camera, push the correct button, hopefully don't freeze the camera (I've done that.... camera doesn't like that!) etc. Now I need to find the microphone or shut up.

The most interesting comment I had was that the dogs really like running in the dark. I don't know if it's the cooler temperatures or just the change of senses or what; but they like the dark. I've just started puting Sadie up front in lead. First of all, she's hillarious. She's like a little kid up there, laughing and having a good time. But she was also playing 'Kill the Musher' on this run; meaning that she wants to go fast, especially on turns, down hills, around trees..... anything that makes the musher work a little harder to control the sled and hang on. Little buggar, she is.

Ok, once again, happy belated Solstice!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2010 Iditarod Rookie Meeting

The rookie meeting for this years race was held on the weekend of December 5th/6th in Achorage. There were 24 of us rookie types there, with a wide range of backgrounds. Some newbys with few years of racing experience (like me) all the way to my friend Dan Kaduce, who could write a book or two on the subject. Dave Decaro has been handling for Jeff King for a few years and also knows more than I'll ever know about training and racing dogs. I was really happy to see my friend Colleen Robertia there. She is a talented and driven gal with some great dogs; most, if not all, rescued or demoted from professional kennels. Michelle Phillips is another gal who is as tough and competitive as they get. I'm sure she'll be vying for the Rookie of the Year! There were two guys from Scottland, Newton from Jamaica, and guy from Ontario, and the rest of us yanks from all over the states (even Chicago). The scottsmen are leasing teams from Dean Osmar and Rick Swingley and Newton is training with Lance Mackey. These kennels are as good as they get; and yes, there is a slight twinge of envy and/or jealousy. But! I dig my mutts big time and we're going to have a great time.

The first day of the meeting was held at the Millenium Hotel, the headquarters of Iditarod in Anchorage. We heard from Mark Norman (the race marshal), Dr. Stu Nelson (head race veterinarian), Dee Dee Jonrowe, and Lance Mackey among others. They talked about dog care, race logistics, equipment, race strategy and more; more than we could mentally digest actually.

The second day was spent at Martin Buser's in Big Lake, about 1.5 hours north of Anchorage (if you don't know, Martin buser has raced in 25 Iditarods, has won 4 times, and still has the fastest recorded time). Martin shared really great information on equipment, feeding, dog care, training techniques, trail conditions, and the overwhelming topic of how to pack your drop bags. 'Drop bags' are large sacks of everything we need between the start and the finish of the race. We'll have 20 checkpoints before reaching Nome, with each checkpoint supplied with 3 drop bags, straw and fuel for our cookers (to heat water and make a soup for the dogs - their main meals..... more on feeding later). Our drop bags have to be packed and finished in Febuary, when they will be taken away and that's that. No changing. We better have enough food, dog snacks, dog booties, people food, hand warmers, batteries, veterinary supplies, underwear, socks, runner plastic etc etc etc etc etc.... you get the idea, in each of those bags for each of the checkpoints. So it's a bit stressful, especially for a rookie, to figure out exactly what and how much to put in. Oh, and you can't bring the food back; that stays in the villages. They do their best to get our gear and non-food items back to us. So premium kibble is running a little over $1/lb. Shipping is close to $1/lb. So this makes drop bag planning a sporting operation!

Dog talk between Emil and Martin. Notice the exercise wheel in the puppy pen.

In the afternoon, Pat, a search and rescue dude from Nome came in to talk about some tricky sections on the coastal portions of the route. Specifically, he talked about the section between White Moutain and Safety. Now, I've been watching the Iditarod for a few years, and I have some good friends who routinely run the Iditarod, but I really had no appreciation of this section of trail. The media is always camped out at the Happy River Steps, or the Dalzel Gorge, or the Burn; places where you see mushers crash and burn, I'm sure to the delight of some camera man who just flew in on a helicopter. Why don't they talk about the BLOW HOLE!? Probably because the media can't get there when it's bad. Scared the crap out of me. There's a little mountain range between White Moutain and Safety, with a nook between the hills. A high pressure can develope on the inland portion and a low pressure over the Norton Sound. Well, you know what happens with that; can just blow a gasket through that little nook, like over 100 mph winds. Pat had stories of people losing their snow machines to the wind. I mean, the machine was blown over and out to sea. My eyes opened a little wider at that story. So, I think they wanted to scare us a little so that we wouldn't 'go for it'. I'm not sure who they think is going to 'go for it,' but it certainly won't be me. My goal is not to be Rookie of the Year. My goal is to finish with happy musher and happy dogs (ok, and preferrably not in last place). To my mom and dad, if you read this, it will be ok. We will have weather reports in White Mountain. We will know when not to go. I will not be blown out to sea.

So in a nutshell, the rookie meeting made the race real for me. It gave me the steps I need to take to get organized. It also gave me both the fear of god and even more respect for the race than I already had.

Martin's new house. I wonder what his day job is? And, it's so far from the dogs...... retirement or just more dog handlers?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Small Fish in a Small Pond

I don't know how or why, but this little fish made it on ''. Maybe it's just a small pond. Benedikt Beich, who handled for and ran Aaron Burmeisters (Iditarod musher) dogs in the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod, asked if he could interview me. 'Sure, what the heck.'

So check it out:

It's surreal to see yourself on the screen!

Speed Bumps

Where the heck have I been? It's been a while since adding to the blog, so I'll try to be better about keeping up. Things get a little crazy though!

So we've had a couple of speed bumps during the last few weeks. Running dogs and racing have taught me two invaluable lessons though, 1: patience and 2: obstacles are to be figured out, not allowed to dominate the situation.

Speed bump number 1: tweeked my back, dang. This sport seems to be done in the prone position most of the time. You bend over the pet dogs, bend over to feed dogs, bend over to check on dogs, bend over to bootie dogs, bend over to scoop poop... you get the idea. So I had to rest a little, a bit of ice, and the following (especially drinking more water):

It seems that everyone in this sport has a bad back. I just need to work smarter, not harder. I'm one of those 'strong back, weak mind' sometimes. So I'm coming up with little tricks around the yard to make things easier and not dependent on me bending over.

I'm doing much better now, almost normal. Back to training dogs. Also back on the 4 wheel. We haven't received any new snow since that storm a month or so ago and the ground is starting to show.

Speed bump number 2: Mr. Snake, who was doing fantastic, had a seizure during a run. Seizures in dogs aren't an unusual thing at all, but one should not (and cannot) take a dog to Iditarod that may have a seizure. He's quite fine and just wants to get back to training; but he will have to go back to my friend Bob who runs recreationally. He'll probably never have another one again! So the biggest, strongest dog gets to go on semi-holiday, even though I'm sure he'd prefer to work for a living. Dang.

Speed bump number 3: The first race of the season, The Sheep Mountain 150, was cancelled due to lack of snow. I suppose the lack of snow is more disconcerting to me than the race being cancelled (it's Alaska in December, we're suppose to have snow); but the race cancellation is a bummer also. I was going to run the 2 year olds, just as a series of training runs. But we will just have to arrange some camping trips in the White Mtns to teach the punks how to rest and camp between runs.

None of the speed bumps are serious. My path is still in the same direction, and I'm sure I'll have many bumps along the way and will certainly have some big speed bumps in the race! Now I'm just back to training for the next race, which is the Copper Basin 300. This is a very, very tough race. I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Have Sled, Will Travel

Fairbanks received a good size dump of snow almost a week ago, and my trails have just barely enough to switch to a sled. You need a good base of snow in order for the snow hook to take hold and the team can be stopped; especially when there are two road crossings like I have to deal with.

There are 2 great advantages to the sled over the 4-wheel. It's quiet, and the dogs have to work a bit more honestly. So instead of me just throttling along at 9 mph and the dogs either pulling, or coasting; they have to pull to get me up the hill. The dogs also love the sled (I guess that's a third advantage). I think they like the freedom of being able to find a groove a bit more than with the big, heavy 4-wheeler going exactly 9 mph all the time. They like to put on the power sometimes, then back off other times. One of the leaders will perk up her ears and everyone is right there with her; they have more fun with this sort of flexibility.

The disadvantage of the sled is that I can't take a 12 dog team out. I can control the team very easily with the 4 wheeler, thus at the road crossings I'm not worried. 12 dogs on a sled with low snow would be a disaster. So I've broken the 24 dogs into 3 teams of 8. Each team has at least one adult leader and at least one 2 yr-old leader. Then the rest of the dogs are evenly divied up based on age and size. An 8 dog team is still a bear to get out of the yard right now.... I work up a sweat, no matter how cold it is. The trail is very bumpy, narrow and windy and those little buggers are worked up into a frenzy when it's time to take off.

I've included a short video of the dogs running at the 25 mile turn around, just to show the sled and the scenery on a beautiful, crisp (around 20 below 0 deg F) day of training.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Two Year Olds.... and Snake

A little scheduling snaffoo allowed only one team to run today, so I thought I better run the 2 yr olds. They take more miles to get fit, compared to adults, so just need more miles on them before a race. This also means that my leaders were 2 year olds. I was hoping for minimal requirements for any decisions to be made up front, no loose dogs, and no other dog teams. Well, we had one loose dog, 2 dogs on leash that we had to pass, and a couple of gee/haw options. Venus and Grumpy did great.

It also snowed like craze today! Inches and inches. Most of the run was unbroken trail, much deeper snow than in the pictures. It was also going up hill. This was hard work for the dogs so I just took it slow.

Grumpy and Venus at a rest stop, half way through a long run (32 miles). The dogs popped the brake on the 4-wheel right after I took this and just about ran me over.

My swing dogs, Kaligan and Kora (both part of the K litter). Kaligan's hogging her side to get at some snow cones.

This is Snake and Kaltag. Snake is a brother of Beaver, Sadie and Pepsi (he's an adult, either 4 or 5 years old). I'm trying him out. He's a big strong dog and has a lot to say during stops.

Kaltag is ready to go!

Weasley and Kobuk.

Wizard (brother of Weasely) and Kiana (more K dogs).

Muggles (brother of Wizard and Weasley) and Diamond in wheel.

And we're off...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Training on the Pipeline

Thought I'd share a little Alaskan trivia by showing you what the pipeline looks like:

We're on the pipeline service road, and the pipeline must be buried over on the right. This runs along a ridge, about 1500' feet above the valley where we start. It's snowing just lightly and about 18 degrees - warm for Alaska and the dogs, perfect for the human.

Nikki feels good and is rolling around in the snow. That's a happy dog.

A short break for the dogs at the half-way point in the run. They're looking great and Venus is wondering why I'm stalling.

Judy Currier's dog Weasley. Now that's a good looking dog!

Here's a short video of us going back down to the valley on an old mining road. I'm trying to keep the 4-whell from going into a washed out gully while holding the camera. The dogs always know when the musher isn't paying attention; they keep looking back, wondering when I'm going to get back to work. This team has most of the 2 year olds, 8 of them. They look great and ran strong the entire run.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dog of the Day - Kora

Kora may be the smallest dog on the team; it's a close race for smallest shrimp with Venus. She may weigh 35 pounds..... after a big meal, a really big meal.

Kora is one of the 'K' litter that I bought from Dean Osmar; she is two years old. She has also turned out to be a fine leader. I put her up front with Reeses (also in the picture) and it is pure finesse. They are both light, athletic little dogs. A very nimble front end.

I was a little surprised to see Kora take to lead so easily. Her personality isn't a 'take charge' one. She's a bit submissive; a very gentle little dog. But when she's in lead, she never looks back, never questions anything, and never seems to get tired. Just goes forward constantly, with gusto.

She's made the A team so far due to her enthusiasm and her abilities as a leader and cheer leader. She may not be a powerful dog physically, but she will always help the team get up and go forward! She's also a fun dog to have on the team. Always smiling, always happy to be there, and very affectionate.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Think It's Winter

Well the snow has finally come. There's not enough for a sled; you generally need a good half a foot to make some sort of a base to set the snow hook (the brake). No brake, no stopping, no control, scary/dangerous ride.

I'm finally able to get on some of the trails. It's still pretty bumpy, but doable. This is a beautiful, clear rosy morning in Fairbanks.

I have a 10 mile loop through the valley, then come back to the hood for the rest of the run. I have a 25 and a 44 mile loop also, which go to the top of one of the ridges in the background of this picture.

The view behind me. People often think that interior Alaska is dark and overcast. It's actually quite clear. And the clearer it is, the colder it is. After a couple of days of overcast and snowy days, we are now back to cool and crisp and great sunrises and sunsets.

Sunrise light and the snow highlighting the Equinox Trail up Ester Dome.

Tomorrow we'll do some 'hill' work in the hood. I'll get a little video on non-bumpy surface. I'll also go over some of the hardware while we're taking pictures.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dog of the Day - Hailey the Shredder

Hailey is a pretty little girl that I bought from Bill Cotter when she was just turning 2 (she's now 4 years old, just starting her peak athletic years). She's small, between 40 and 45 pounds and can lead or be in the main team. She's one of those dogs who you 'never see.' In other words, she never has any issues, injuries, fights, bad days etc. She just goes and goes.

Oh wait, I DO notice her when...... she shreds something! She has gone through many o' harnesses. And just TRY and put a coat on her when camping. Shredded. During the GinGin 200 (2008 race, a particularly bad weather race), I was giving them extra rest after running 100 miles in -55 degree conditions (yes, that is 55 degrees below 0 - cold cold). We had about 40 miles to go to the finish. I came out from the checkpoint cabin to pack up and leave, to find my two leaders laying down quietly, but not connected to the rest of the team. Someone had found them wandering around tied them to a wooden stick near the front of the team. Hailey had shredded the line between the main gang line and the 2 leaders. And what's funny, I don't think I've every, even once, actually seen her in action. She is a very secretive, stealth shredder.

In spite of her little destructive pattern though, she is a very solid dog and has a secure position on the A team. She always pulls and has finished every one of the 8 races that I've been in (totalling over 1800 miles), with a substantial contribution in lead position. She's never been injured and has always had a great attitude. She has also led the team through some tough conditions. Finally, she is really cute and all the dogs think so too.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Training in the Alaskan Burbs

Last year at this time, I was traning on trails that climb 1200 feet to the top of the ridge just north of the house. But we had snow then. Now we don't. The trails are EXTREMELY bumpy. I tried to go up them last week, and decided that the 4 wheeler may fall apart if I did that again. So I am continuing to build miles by running through the neighborhoods around the house. It's not a bad thing; and thank god I don't have just one 'out and back' to repeat 10 times a day.

I've taken some video clips of the runs and rest, trying to introduce the dogs and give you a glimps of 'the day in the life of a distance musher' and the dogs she owns. A couple of the files are large so I had to load them on YouTube and provide the link for you to watch them.

The first video is just showing the dogs running and taking some turns. This is what I watch for hours while training...... and I never, ever tire of watching the dogs.

The next video is the team during a little rest stop.

The third video is a short clip of what it looks like right after the dogs have been hooked up - crazy. Everyone is amped.

The next video is the beginning of the run with the second team.

The final video is the second team during a rest, and highlighting some of the more outspoken dogs:

I'm learning all this high-tech stuff as required, so there may be an easier way of showing videos. You will notice if I figure this out.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dog of the Day - Nikki

I've had a busy week. A very busy week. I'm training two dog teams and still working as much as possible. So life is a little hectic. I guess I'm making excuses as to my lack of blog updates. I'll just put a lid on it and get on with the blog.

Today we're going to celebrate Nikki!

Nikki is a 3 year old female out of Dean Osmar's kennel (Nikoli - Lazor offspring, ie, very good breeding). I know I say this about everyone, but she really is a wonderful dog. I believe she could hang in some of the best of teams out there. What I love the best about her though is her attitude. The girl is always happy and ALWAYS excited to go. She is very driven.

I got her from a man named Don who invested a great deal of time and money to form an Iditarod team; he bought dogs from to the top mushers (Osmar, King, Gephart, Mackey). For reasons out of his control, he had to dissolve his kennel. I've picked up a few dogs from him and have been happy with all of them. He is also a kind guy and has kids, thus the three dogs that I got from him were already very social, happy dogs (the others are Bullit and Pilot.... and I should have gotten more!). Nikki is one of my friendliest and outgoing dogs. Loves people and loves to be loved.

I bought her 2 years ago this November. She was a yearling (about 1 1/2 years old). November is well into the training season and I was running 25 miles at the time; too long to just throw in a yearling who hasn't been running. So on my first run, I brought a drop bag along (a bag that you put the dog in and carry her along on the sled/4-wheeler...I'll show you one later) so that she wouldn't have to run the whole 25 miles. Well she never did show any fatigue, but at 12 miles I thought I better bag her; didn't want to hurt her. Well she would have none of it! She was impossible. Pretty much went ape s*&^t. So, fine, back in the team you go. She finished just fine and has never shown me much fatigue since. She has been in every race I've been in and has been stellar. The only one she didn't finish was the Taiga 300 (2008) due to an injury. It was terribly warm and she pulled a muscle in her shoulder when she fell off the trail trying to scoop a snow snack (they scoop all the time, this was just a bad spot in the trail - bad luck). By the way, 'scooping' is when a dog dips down or to the side and scoops a little snowcone into their mouth. They do this contantly and can hydrate themselves amazingly well this way.

Nikki is a team dog, meaning that she's in the main team, not a leader. She can lead, in fact she lead in my first race when I was a really dumb rookie and made many mistakes and needed a leader. I put her up there and she helped get me home. But I don't put her up there routinely because of her only flaw: she can't poop and run at the same time! I mean she REALLY can't poop and run. Brings the whole team to a stop, abrubptly. And if I'm off in la la land (like at 3 am during the second day of a race) and can't get on the brake quite in time, I end up with a bit of a tangled mess. To top it off, she's a frequent pee-er and pooper. I don't hold it against her, just can't have her in lead.

Almost all of my dogs are spayed and neutered. I've never bred dogs, as there are lots of good dogs out there. I also just don't know if I want more dogs! I've got a young team and can race and play around with them for a long time. Thus, here is Nikki, getting spayed, by me, yesterday. And to my vet friends: she's my dog so I can wear or not wear whatever I please (thought I heard a mild gasp at my not wearing a surgical gown). I'm pretty fancy with my dogs in that I do them in a clinic. I've spayed/neutered a LOT of huskies on clients' kitchen tables (they wouldn't otherwise be spayed/neutered) and have had no problems. My experiences as a mobile vet in Alaska could be the topic of an entirely new blog. Now there's an idea!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dog of the Day - Dill

Dill did such a great job today, that I thought I should start a 'Dog of the Day' category. He was surrounded by two-year olds.... punks that don't really know anything and just get excited to go... and go anywhere and everywhere. Today we did a little 'gee-haw' training. Part of the run is going through a neighborhood with a grid of roads. Dogs can easily fall into a routine, just like me. But we've started incorporating figure eights and all sorts of unpredicatble turns in order to teach the dogs 'gee' (right), 'haw' (left) and 'straight on' or 'on by'. Dill was THE MAN today. He was flawless. He got almost every turn or straight away with a single command. He was confident, loping and and just digging the days drill. This is really important practice to both instill 'gee' and 'haw' in a leader, and to also teach the younger dogs directions so that I can rely on them when choices have to be made.

I bought Dill in the spring of 2008 from Aliy Zirkle and Allen Moore. Allen ran him in Iditarod 2008 and had to drop him about half to two thirds the way through because he just wouldn't eat well. I tried him out in my first 300 mile race, the Taiga 300 (2008). He did just great for me and I've relied heavily on him ever since. To put his name in context, he is one of the spice litter. His sibblings are Rose(mary), Spicy, Chilli, Garlic and Nutmeg. I generaly call him 'Dill Weed', unless he's being a hard-headed butt, in which case his name can be contorted into all sorts of things that probably shouldn't be printed in a blog.

Dill has led for me in the majority of over 1200 miles of racing last year. He IS the MAN! He's also a really nice guy. A bit stuborn, but I'm not one to fault him for that.

Dill in lead, looking at me for the 'hike!' command to get going again after a rest stop. He and Venus are wearing blinkers on their collars because it's dark when I start the run in the morning, and I make sure they are very noticable (we run quite a bit on the neighborhood roads).

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Dogs, Part 1

This is the start of the dog introductions. I'll keep adding better pictures while training. We're also practicing with the new digital camera that Julie got for her birthday (thanks Mamma Nancy!).

Beaver: 4 year old male. Swingley lines. One of my main leaders. He's got an amazing work ethic, will go wherever I ask him, gets along with everyone, and is a joy to hang out with. He's a muscular box; all heart and lungs, not leggy but strong strong strong.

This is Dill, scratching his back on his house. He's my other main leader. He is very focused on his job, but is also full of funny antics. He's 5 years old and from Aliy Zirkle's kennel.

This is Nikki, a 3 year old female (Dean Osmar, Nikoli/Lazor breeding). She is a great dog. She's leggy, has great endurance, and is always happy to go. Overly affectionate.

Sadie is a 4 year old female, sister of Beaver (Swingley lines). She is solid, muscular, hard working and serious about going forward! Same work ethic as Beaver. She's always the first to tell everyone that it's time to get going during a training run rest stop. Also, a very dear dog.

Pilot is a 3 year old female. A squirt of a dog with a huge heart. She is the hardest worker pound for pound. She's a Jeff King dog out of Uksi and Demi (her original name was Pirate, I didn't like it and changed it to Pilot, for pilot light, the energizer, cheerleader and spark for the rest of the team). She is always always banging on her harness to go. She is also always happy and always wagging her tail.

Grumpy is a 2 year old male of Buser lines. I'm training him for Russ Bybee, and Grumpy is helping me finish Iditarod in good fashion. He is a wonderful dog. Contrary to his name, he's a very pleasant dog to work with. He's also a great dog. Beautifully built, a hard worker, and is a solid leader (he's also quite a looker!).

Venus is a two year old female (Osmar: Scout/Fancy). Simply a beautiful dog. She's another squirt (I seem to collect little females), but she is a born leader; strong-headed (yet quite the drama queen), assertive, very motivated and just a great little dog. Her coat is a nice as is gets (once she sheds out) and her appetite is non-stop. I'm looking forward to challenges just to see how she does out in front.

Kaligan is a two year old male (Dean Osmar, Kusko/Frosty breeding). I have the whole litter, and he's both the jester and the best working dog of the five. I wasn't sure he would make it to adulthood he was so accident prone as a pup. But here he is and he's a great dog.

Kobuk (Osmar, Kusko/Frosty litter) is a 2 year old male who is the sweetest dog I've every met. He is a love, who is also a solid working dog. He has a great coat and prefers to sleep outside of his house, even when it's 40 below; go figure.

Diamond is a two year old female of Gebhardt lines (Red/Seal). She is a bit crazy but is starting to grow up and settle down a little. She's got a beautiful coat, great appetite, and loves to run. She should be a solid dog on the team..... and she lets everyone know when it's feeding time.

Wizard is a 2 year old male (Zorro pup) owned by Judy Currier. He looks like a bad ass but he's quite sensitive and happy. He's all business on the line though and I can't wait to train him this year. He's a beautiful, athletic dog and will be a big help for the trip to Nome.

Weasley is a 2 year old male, brother of Wizard (Zorro pups). Weasley is a beautiful, strong dog. He IS a bad ass (with a sensitive heart). Judy is very generous is letting me train these 2 year olds, and I'm sure they will be major part of the team.

Well that's it for now. I have several dogs to add (the rest of the K litter; more adults, Bullet, Hailey, Reeses, Pepsi; and Muggles (another Judy Currier dog). I'll get some action shots and try to record some videos. It's hard to film and handle dogs at the same time though!

Thanks for following!