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!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fall Training 10/4/09

We're starting to get into our routine of fall training. The weather has been so variable lately it's been hard to train much. My temperature cutoff is about 35 deg. F. The dogs, or at least MY dogs, get too hot when it's much over that. I also don't have any water the go through, so I just have to stop often when they are warm.

This is one of the teams, stopped at the only remaining bit of snow to cool off in

In lead: Hailey and Venus (2-year old)
Swing: Sadie and Simon
Next: Beaver and Pilot
Next: Joe and Hazel
Next: Kaltag and Diamond

Miss Venus is ready to go!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Summer Vacation

During the summers, I send some dogs to tour operations. The dogs get to run around rather than being bored and hot in the Fairbanks sun, and, they are fed by someone else. Here are a few pictures of the operation above Girdwood, Alaska.

This is Bullet. She is an attention hog. I've learned to not take it personally; she loves everyone.

This is Nikki. She's also very friendly. Actually, they're all very friendly. Nikki's one of my better dogs; leggy, has a lot of endurance, and is always enthusiastic.

This is Dill (black dog) and Beaver. These were my two main men last year. They led during the majority of all my races. Dill is out of Aliy Zirkle's kennel and Beaver is a Swingley dog. I love them both!

I'll put more pictures up when I figure out how to make them larger!