Goodbye Tasker

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16 April 2014    4.00 PM     51 F    Sunny

Gealach Mor TaskerToo    5 Sept 2013 ~ 4 April 2014

Gealach Mor TaskerToo           5 Sept 2013 ~ 4 April 2014                                                

If we were struggling before, to fully express the depth of our grief and the feelings of loss that we have been trying to deal with, than I am at a complete loss to know where to begin with the devastating passing of Tasker.
He had been ill for most of the winter with a GI lymphoma and was further diagnosed with a tumour on his lungs early in March, complicated by him also having contracted pneumonia. In November, Tasker had become a house dog, primarily to make it easier to treat an eye ulcer he had developed. Each setback he suffered, seemed to be unable to dent his calm demeanour and gentle nature. In the last weeks, as his body failed him, his spirit and character continued to sustain us and him until the end. True to his sense of belonging and his place in our hearts and lives, he chose the time and place of his departure, slipping away quietly with us beside him, at home.
The tears we had been fighting to quell, flowed freely and continue to do so.

Tasker, the magnificent, our beautiful boy.

Tasker, the magnificent, our beautiful boy.

As special as all our dogs are to us, Tasker will always hold a particularly special place as he was the first born puppy in the first litter we ever bred. He was a stunningly good looking male, a long coated piebald with a giant heart full of gentle, boundless love.

Tasker at wheel with his brother Takeo. His father, Vader is the teamdog in front of him, and his brother Teague is running lead.

Tasker at wheel with his brother Takeo. His father, Vader is the teamdog in front of him, and his brother Teague is running lead.

Goodbye, dear sweet Tasker, you will always be your mum’s special boy.

 

Log Home For Sale

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2 April 2014   2.00   PM  38 F    Blue skies and sunny

As much as we say there seems to be no reliable weather pattern in Alaska, it has to be said that generally, March is lovely.  We’ve been blessed with seemingly endless days of clear blue skies with lots and lots of sunshine. Our ever increasing daylight hours help too, and there’s just a general uplifting of our spirits, partly derived from Takeo’s continued presence and his bouncy good health,

Spring always sees changes around here. Our friends from Colorado who winter here in in Willow have fled back to their mountain retreat, the last few sled races of the season all take place soon, in the High Arctic, the Denali Highway or Chukotka, which is where our neighbours have headed off to, to race in the Nadezhda race. With the way our winter went, I pretty much put the sled a way a long  time ago, and have just spent most of the days playing with the dogs, setting up new play groups and making sure that Queen’s pups, now a year old, are well socialised and integrated with the adults. The early end to our season has meant that a lot of time of looking ahead and planning for next year has already taken place. A couple of the mainstays from my main team in our 5 years here will likely be stepping back as age catches up with them.  Oscar, who has been a solid, consistent leader (if a little headstrong occasionally) and Mermaid, who has been Little Miss Reliable, will both turn 10 this month and have earned the right to have a bit of an easier life. They will both get called upon to work with Queen’s pups when we harness break them this Fall.

It is also the time to go through our equipment and gear to see how things held up and what needs replaced. I guess the upside of so few sled runs is that I didn’t break or lose anything and that we don’t actually need to do too much. One ongoing debate is the one about switching from a cable-filled gangline to one made from Spectra/Amsteel (otherwise known as “ironrope”.)

One other thing that was reviewed was our other house. Ever since I went to New Hampshire for the winter of 2004-2005 with our dogs, we’ve had a lovely log home there, which was always held onto with the intention that one day, we might go back to NH to live. The reality is, with as many dogs as we have, it is just not going to happen. It seems a shame to part with it, but it is difficult to take care of a property from 6000 miles away, and if it hadn’t been for our friends over there, it really would be nigh on impossible. So, reluctantly, we finally decided to go ahead and put it on the market. It’s listed on MLS and a few other places too. I’d love it to go to a musher, as it is full of happy memories of my Winter of Adventure, as I called it.

The dogyard was built and fenced in for us by a local musher, and it worked really well for our small kennel. Anyone with only a few more dogs than the 11 I brought would likely be able to make the yard work without much effort.  A bigger kennel would need to expand or make changes, but as the lot is 5 acres, there is room to do that. It’s the last house on a dead end road and is only about 20 minutes drive from Plymouth.

Here’s the link to the house listing

http://www.newhampshirehomes.com/grafton/wentworth/home/135-Frescoln-Road,-Wentworth,-NH-03282/4339571

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Wentworth house front yard

wentworth yard

Dog “barn” at the rear of the house.

Roar for Joar

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24 March 2014       2.30 PM      37 F      Sunny

It’s hardly been the winter we had planned for ourselves or our dogs.  In saying that, it’s hardly been a season that could be described as winter for most of us here in Alaska. We’ve been inundated with images and reports from all over the US and Canada about extreme cold and copious amounts of snow. It has served as a stark contrast to the conditions we have been experiencing, where marginal snow and warmer temperatures than normal have combined to make every day living quite easy, but have made running dogs a bit more of a challenge.

In fairness, a fair number of our little pocket of trails survived and saw lots of traffic, with teams seen on them that don’t usually frequent our neck of the woods. As one of the few trail networks that remained usable, it was a rare occasion indeed not to encounter another team on our travels. Quite a number of these teams were in training for this year’s Iditarod, and as the race drew closer, there were many concerns raised about the trail for the actual race and the lack of snow cover over much of Interior Alaska. With a couple of weeks to go to the race, a decision was made by the organisers not to switch the start to Fairbanks, as had been under consideration, but to depart as normal from Willow.

The Ceremonial Start takes place on the first Saturday in March, the teams leaving for a short 12 mile run through the streets and parks of Anchorage, in front of an amazing number of spectators. As crowds are not really my thing, I have always avoided being in Los Anchorage, if I can possibly avoid it, however last year, our friend/neighbour Joar Leifseth Ulsom was running his first ever Iditarod and has asked me to drive the tag sled during his run on the Ceremonial. Joar is part of Racing Beringia and we’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time in the company of the RB crew. I obviously brought him good luck, as he finished in 7th place and was Rookie of the Year.  This year, he had entered again, and was obviously mindful of the positive impact my presence had on his previous result, so he once again asked me to be on the tag sled. Having survived last year’s run without dumping the sled or falling off, I was reluctant to risk my impeccable record of not trashing anything whilst in the public eye, but Joar insisted that I was the perfect anchor to slow his strong team down…………….  thinking back, that’s perhaps not the compliment I imagined it was at the time.

Downtown Anchorage, Joar, his Iditarider, and me draped in the Norwegian flag.

Downtown Anchorage, Joar, his Iditarider, and me draped in the Norwegian flag.

Joar Me Irod 14

Joar Leifseth Ulsom and Me. He’s the good looking young guy and I’m not.

Those of you who followed the race as they travelled across the Interior and up the coast, will have winced and worried with us as we saw an ever increasing list of scratched, damaged and broken mushers and equipment. This year’s race will live long in the memory and as time passes, more and more stories of the trail will doubtless appear. One of the things that has been indelibly marked on my memory, is the sheer number of mushers who have all said, with remarkable calmness, after the event, that they had never been so scared, ever and that quite a few of them felt sure they were going to die or at the absolute least, be very seriously injured. Some of the videos and images that are out there from this year’s race are extremely frightening and make me thankful that all of the people I count amongst my friends, running this year, all made it home safely.

Of course, I’m delighted to be able to claim some degree of credit for Joar’s wonderful result.  He finished in 4th place and I like to think that my presence made it all possible.  I like to think that, but of course, it is purely down to the amazing efforts of Joar and his wonderful dog team, not just during the race, but in the many months of training leading up to the start, as well as the care and attention he lavishes upon his dogs, all year round.

 

Goodbye Harry

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20 Feb 2014       11.30 AM      11 F    Blue skies and sunny

The emotional battering continues.

Tay Marr's Harry at Gealach Mor   6 May 2003  -  11 February 2014

Tay Marr’s Harry at Gealach Mor                                       6 May 2003  ~ 11 February 2014

Last week, suddenly and completely unexpectedly, we lost Harry.  He had been in fine shape and behaving as he always does.  One day, he seemed a little off colour, with no improvement the following day, he was brought indoors and we decided to take him to the vet the following morning. During the night, his condition took a rapid and hugely unexpected downturn and en route to the emergency vet, he simply passed away on the journey.

Losing any of our dogs is never easy, and each loss affects us deeply. Far from becoming easier, it seems as if the grief becomes cumulative, our emotions and hearts, heavy from the recent losses of Junior and Keetna are almost overwhelmed by this loss. In quiet solitary moments, we give in and allow ourselves to weep and to mourn.

Harry, also known as “the quiet man”, came to us from Bob & Tammy Davis’ Tay Marr Kennel as a 9 month old pup. He was one of the early arrivals in the UK on the (then) new Pet Passport scheme which meant he avoided having to do 6 months quarantine. He flew into the UK in March 2004 and then turned around and flew back to the USA with us in September that year, to spend 6 months in New Hampshire, before flying once again, back to Scotland. And of course, he travelled with us on our flight here to Alaska.

Harry at 10 months old.

Harry at 10 months old.

He was an incredibly well mannered dog, never caused trouble, never pushed his way to the front but was always happy to have some solitary attention. He loved having his ear scratched and would lean further and further into you to make sure you couldn’t leave. And as wonderful and gentle a soul he was, he was also a fantastic sled dog. He raced on our sprint team in both dryland and sled, he raced mid-distance in NH with me and was very much a part of our team here in Alaska with the greater distances we were running.  As a yearling, he ran single lead and continued to be a solid and reliable leader, although he seemed equally happy to run anywhere in the team. His one flaw – a tendency to chew his harness if it got put on too early.

Harry with his usual co-leader, Oscar

Harry with his usual co-leader, Oscar

There are no words to express the depth of loss, the brief recounting of a few memories pays scant tribute to impact that Harry and all of our dogs have on us and our lives. Each time, we agonise over our actions and decisions, analysing and second guessing each and every one of them, wondering what we could have done differently or better. The pain of the loss is one thing, the subsequent self doubt and insecurity that it brings, merely adds more misery and confusion.

Goodbye Harry, my quiet friend. May your ears be always be scratched exactly as you desire, may your meals always have just the perfect amount of water , not too much and not too little and may you always know you were loved and cherished by us.

Happy Birthday to “The Islands”

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6 February 2014   6.00 PM      5 F      Cloudy

As the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun – or you’re incredibly busy and distracted.

So, it came as a bit of a surprise to realise that Queen’s pups have just had their first birthday. Therefore, we’d like to wish many happy returns to Eris, Col, Raasay, Taran, Tiree and Tanera, who have been a joy and delight to be around.

Did  someone say cake ?

Did someone say cake ?

Queen and her 6 pups on their birthday.

Queen and her 6 pups on their birthday. 

 

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