5 4 3 2 1 Go

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16 February 2015   4.30 PM      Cloudy      37 F

Yes, it’s the middle of February and the temperature is a balmy 37 F and is forecast to remain around there for the next week or so.  It’s fairly disheartening to be wandering around the dogyard in just a flannel shirt and to feel too hot at this time of year. (Edit to add – well, not just a flannel shirt, I have trousers (pants for my N. American readers) and boots on, too )

As mentioned in a previous entry, training was going reasonably well and the team were looking quite acceptable.  The 5 leaders, Kaz, Kalekh, Quiz, Ruby and Rosie have been doing a sterling job and all contribute different strengths to the front end. Prior to the cancellation of the Knik 100, Kalekh’s face ballooned to twice it’s normal size – and as suspected, he had managed to do something that had infected his jaw and developed into a delightful abcess. This ruled him out of the 100 mile race, so when it was cancelled, I was happy that he wasn’t going to miss it, and I wasn’t going to have to race  it without him. It is times like that when I realise the importance I place on particular dogs.

And so, with the cancellation of the Knik 100, I decided to enter the Earl Norris Memorial Sled Dog race, run locally in Willow.  Offering a different format this year, of 2 days, at 30 miles a day  (actually 31.2) – it attracted 15 teams and included a couple of serious sprint racers, several local Iditarod teams and a couple of recreational teams like myself.

our race team jumping and barking

They certainly seem ready to go

Right up until the moment that the starter began my countdown, I was fairly sure that something would happen to ensure my 100% cancellation to entry streak would continue. But it was not to be, and after 5 years in Alaska, I was finally on the race trail. behind my own dogs and enjoying the moment.(whilst repeatedly muttering under my breath – don’t fall off where anyone can see you) .

The beautiful and hard working Brooks

The beautiful and hard working Brooks

Over the years, people have asked me what kind of team we have – and I have given the following reply – we have a mid-distance team, being trained at ultra long distance pace but at sprint distance.  It was also fairly apparent within the first 10 miles that I hadn’t quite got the right approach to the race – as several teams passed me I was trying to work out what was “wrong” with their sleds – then it struck me.  None of them were standing on their drag mats and a couple of them didn’t even seem to have them at all. It was sort of nice to finally get passed by Lisbet Norris and her Siberians and to see that not only did she have a mat, but she was even using it to brake a little.

All in all, it was a great race, the trail was really well marked, I thought my dogs did everything asked of them and I was impressed by their behaviour both on the trail and whilst on the drops at the truck, before and after the race. It was a first race experience for every single one of them and they handled it all with aplomb. We even managed to finish in the Top 10 and grab the last pay out spot.

Kazek and Rosie leading our 10 dog team.

Kazek and Rosie leading our 10 dog team in the 2015 Earl Norris Memorial Sled Dog Race

Goodbye Nadia

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4 February 2015     1.00 PM   -6 F  Blue skies and sun

Chatanikas Nadia 23 July 2002 - 19 January 2015

Chatanikas Nadia     23 July 2002 ~ 19 January 2015

It is hard to find the words to express the depth of our heartache following the recent passing of dear, sweet Nadia.

The hurt is amplified by the suddenness of her death. From happy and healthy to a mere shadow of herself in hours, she lost all mobility and awareness and despite extensive efforts from our vets and ourselves, it was all to no avail.

She came to us in Jan 2006 and took a little while to settle in to her new surroundings but once she figured out her place, she was a joy and delight to have around. A sweet natured girl, a willing worker and a fabulous companion.  We decided last winter that she should join the house dog crew and she moved in, without fuss or incident, just as we expected. It has been a blessing to have known her, to have shared these years with her and to have her be a part of our lives.

Nadia in Scotland

Nadia in Scotland

Nadia in Alaska- I guess she liked holding onto her dinner bowl.

Nadia in Alaska – she liked holding onto her dinner bowl.

 

Goodbye dear Naddy, go find Inka and all your friends from here and run free, my sweet girl.

 

 

An Update

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29 January 2015        10.30 PM    -4 F         Dark

So, where should I start ?

An apology or a greeting. Let’s be positive and say Happy New Year, welcome to 2015. Not too sure what exactly has happened to the days and weeks since I last managed to post anything – rest assured the lack of productivity on here has not been due to a lack of activity in the kennel or with our dogs – in fact the opposite is true.

As is traditional, let me share the New Year’s Day gate photo.

New Yer's Day Jan 2015. Not exactly stellar snow fall this winter.

New Year’s Day Jan 2015.
Not exactly stellar snow fall this winter.

Looking back at previous years, this is not the lowest snow level on January 1 that we have experienced, but it certainly is close.


 

What have I been doing in the weeks since my last blog post ? Well, it can be summed up in just a few words – training dogs, caring for dogs and worrying about dogs.   I set myself some goals in September

the rough plan was :

  1.  Do some camping/checkpoint training with the dogs.  Succeeded – well, one camping/checkpoint thingie done, should have done more, will try to……………
  2.  Enter the Willow Relay Sled Race (with TJ of Cold Canyon Sled Dogs as the other team) run in late Dec. Entered – race was cancelled due to crappy snow conditions.
  3. Enter the Knik 100  – run in early Jan Entered – race was delayed till Jan 31,  then subsequently cancelled – yes, I am that unlucky.
  4. Enter the Earl Norris Memorial Race – run in late Jan.  Starts on saturday – I’m about to enter – still not too late for it to be cancelled !
  5. Enter the Two Rivers 200 – run in mid March – unlikely to make this, besides every race I have entered since we moved to Alaska 5 years ago has been cancelled or moved.  If the Two Rivers people want to send me a bribe to stay away, I’ll happily accept. 
  6. Have fun.  Succeeded – more smiles than previous years, more miles on the dogs than previous years  (many, many more miles)
    "camping" at the truck. Most of them got the idea and rested.

    “camping” at the truck. Most of them got the idea and rested.

    The core group of running dogs, aka The Fabulous 14 have become The Terrific 13  – Tess decided that she wasn’t quite ready to make the commitment required to stay in the big group, so she got to start her summer holidays early. The Terrific 13 occasionally became The Troubling 12 and even dipped down to become The Alarmingly Low 11 for a short spell. However, those injuries seem to have cleared up and we are back to the full 13 as a training pool again.

Fingers crossed we get to keep enjoying the rest of the winter and that some more snow is on the way.

The Main Crew

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1 November 2014    1.00 PM     15 F    Clear and sunny

With all of the excitements of the winter ahead, with the plans we have to race and explore with our sled dogs, I thought it would be a good time to let you see some of the main running dogs.

We started training in September with a group of 30, which includes just about everybody in consideration for a spot on the “big team”.  In early training, it’s so much easier to get multiple teams out with the distances being that much shorter. As we progress,  the runs get longer and everything takes much more time to accomplish. Additionally, being an old fogey, there are only so many hours in a day I can cope with bending, harnessing and riding on an atv without my back grumbling to a greater or lesser degree.  (and it’s usually greater)

So, the solution is to whittle down the team numbers. Sometimes, that’s quite easy – a few of the older dogs are more than happy to step aside when we start going further. Queen’s pups, at 18 months old have been doing a fantastic job, but are too young to be pushed and will benefit from continuing to work, but at a reduced level. So, the young and the old are sorted,  the marginals are the hardest group to assess. Most of those, we know from previous years, like going out and doing a bit of work, but seem to be missing that willingness to push themselves – may be they are the smart ones! A few others just need a bit of additional time and effort to feel more relaxed and become part of the team.

Both of the races that we’re entered in, in late December and early January are 10 dog teams. With that in mind, I’ve decided to go with a main training pool of 14.  It’s big enough that it gives me a bit of a cushion, and it’s also about the maximum number of dogs I’m comfortable running on a 4 wheeler.

Meet the Fabulous 14  

Prepping For Winter

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30 October 2014   2.30  PM    18 F    Sunny

It’s hard to tell at what point autumn (Fall) becomes winter. I suppose the official designation of the Winter Solstice is as good a point as any. However, if we waited until then to accept that winter has arrived, it would be a bit late for most of the things that I should have done before “it” arrives.

So, whether it is still late autumn or early winter, morning temperatures hovering around 0F kind of make it a moot point.  It’s cold, it’s going to get colder and anything I want to find and/or use at any point between now (or hopefully very soon) and some time in late March or early April probably should be gathered up from wherever I have abandoned it around the property before it disappears under the copious amounts of snow we’re going to get this year.

As part of our ongoing kennel management strategy, we relocated some of our canine assets  (yep, we just moved a few dogs around the yard.) Part of that was to try and get most of the main string dogs closer to the hook up area and part of it was to ensure that the play groups didn’t get so large as to be potentially unsafe.

We also took the opportunity before the ground freezes completely solid to try and remedy some of the summer’s handiwork from a few of the boys. During one of our previous reshuffles, we somehow ended up with the 6 males from “The 6 Dog Pen” being stationed in “The Girls’ Pen”, as well as the group of 5 dogs that arrived from Seppala Kennels earlier in the year. It maybe seemed like a good idea at the time, but the chaos, destruction and hole digging that went on in the formerly, beautifully pristine and level girls’ pen was outrageous. The main culprits were Turov, Yuri and Echo.  Which makes sense because they were the 3 principal miners at their previous location.

Not a word of a lie - this is over 5' deep.  If Turov's chain was longer, he'd still be digging.

Not a word of a lie – this is over 5′ deep. If Turov’s chain was longer, he’d still be digging.

Lunar landscape - it never seems so bad in daylight.  Disaster awaits after the first snowfall.

Lunar landscape – it never seems so bad in daylight. Hard to navigate safely in the dark. 

 

And now, after 3 lorry loads of sand and a few hours with a skidsteer, it looks like this. We also fixed the other pen that they had tunnelled through.

Lovely, smooth and safe.

Lovely, smooth and safe.

Fortunately, or perhaps not, those 3 boys are all on the main team and have been moved to a new location, the descriptively named “Middle Pen”. So, they have new ground to work on, but the onset of the colder temperatures means we have been saved from major earthworks for at least a few months.

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