Goodbye Fina


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8 November 2015     1.00 AM    24F   Cloudy

Gealach Mor Fina Tina 5 Sept 2003 - 7 Nov 2015

Gealach Mor Fina Tina 5 Sept 2003 – 7 Nov 2015

It seems only moments ago that our sweet baby girl was being born. Fina was one of the eight pups from our first litter and with her soft nature, beautiful looks and caring personality, she was quick to make an impression on everyone.

I can feel my tears roll down my cheeks whilst writing this, her loss amplified by what she had to endure during the last few months and the good grace with which she bore every thing. And that will be our lasting memory of her – a wonderful companion, a good sled dog and a calming influence.  Her gentle soul filled our hearts with tenderness and her beautifully plumed tail could bring a smile to my face at any time.

She died yesterday from a hemangiosarcoma that was only discovered because she required an emergency operation for a gastric torsion a few weeks ago. During that operation, the vets discovered that she was riddled with tumours and had to remove her spleen. Further exams and xrays revealed the horrible truth, the cancers had spread to many of her organs, including her liver and lungs. She recovered amazingly well from the torsion surgery, and with no less than the absolute grace we would expect from her, she took the many medications and potions we offered. We were told we might only have days with her, and yet as the weeks passed and she seemed happy and at peace, we were thankful and hopeful for a miracle. Sadly, that hope died yesterday.

Fina in Scotland, 2004

Fina in Scotland, 2004

Fina with the backing of her brothers

Fina with the backing of her brothers

Running in Alaska

Running in Alaska











Goodbye dear, sweet Fina, may you find peace with your brothers and may your spirit know how much you were loved.fina 2004


“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” V Harrison

Goodbye Ribhinn


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Gefrin Little Wing 21 Jan 2001 - 20 June 2015

Gefrin Little Wing 21 Jan 2001 – 22 June 2015


Farewell to Gefrin Little Wing, our beloved Ribhinn.
The old lady of the kennel, she was visibly distressed by our forced evacuation of the house on Sunday due to the wildfire in Willow. She struggled with the heat, and had a couple of small seizures during the first few days of our camp out at Underdog Feeds. As her condition deteriorated, I felt my only option was to take her to our vets at All Creatures Veterinary Clinic.  She stayed there from Wednesday and even after we were allowed home on Saturday, it was considered that she still needed the meds, care and attention of the wonderful staff there.
During one of my many conversations with the vets, it came to light that an anonymous someone had phoned in an enormous amount of money to cover the costs of Ribhinn’s vet bill . To that person, whoever you are, I say thank you so very much.

such a loving girl

such a loving girl

I had hoped to bring Ribhiee home today, but early this morning, our vet called to say that she had passed on in her sleep.
My tears are flowing again and the guilt of leaving her alone is crushing my soul.

She was a dear, sweet girl and will be sorely missed.

Head photo

Ribhinn April 2010

Bhu, Keetna and Ribhinn snoozing in the field

Bhu, Keetna and Ribhinn snoozing in the field

The Great Boot Debacle


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18 May 2015     4.00 PM    69 F    Sunny and hot

It might seem a little strange, on the face of it, to find yourself contemplating the qualities of winter boots on the warmest day of the year so far. Actually, I can already feel the sweat building up between my toes, just at the thought of trying them on.

Fortunately, I won’t have to put any of them on. Because they are all headed for the bin.  I’m not having a complete brain melt – although it is warm enough, but am actually, finally, being brave enough to discard a collection of boots that have failed me, in a variety of ways.

As you can imagine, like most sensible people, I quite like having warm feet. At a push, I’ll even accept cooler than I’d like, feet. I’m not terribly impressed by cold feet and I’m terrified of frozen, frostbitten feet and toes. Not that I’m thrilled by the prospect of having any frostbitten parts, just in case you think that’s open to debate. Accordingly, over the years, I have spent quite a lot of time and money on many different boots. Some have been terrible, some have been decent-ish, some have been good and one or two have even been pretty warm. Of course, the ambient temperature has a whole lot to do with that. What seems fine at 0 F ( a mere -17C) has proven to be surprisingly disappointing at -30 F.

However, the pile of boots heading out the door are all being chucked for one reason. It is a failing they all share, and it’s something that makes a winter boot, less than ideal for it’s purpose.

Boots not up to the tasks.

Boots not up to the tasks.

As you can see from the picture, they have all split which kind of defeats the purpose of an item meant to keep cold and damp out. The top two pairs, the Sorel and Baffin boots were proper winter pacboots.  I had a pair of Sorels in previous years that were pretty good. This pair lasted less than 3 months before starting to split along the seam where the leather meets the rubber, and also across the actual rubber base. The Baffin boots at least lasted the whole season before they decided to split in almost exactly the same spot. I guess I must just use my feet in a peculiar way. Presumably the boot designers don’t bend their feet when they move.

The Boggs fared a little better, and lasted almost a year before starting to leak, strangely enough in the same place as the Sorel and Baffin.  Now I’m really beginning to wonder about the way I walk. Lastly, the Keen boots. They did survive longer than the other 3 pairs and they also got worn a whole lot more than the others. In fact, for a large part of our sledding this winter, because it was so mild (relatively speaking) I wore my Keens and pair of Neos and my feet were pleasantly comfortable, as well as being better supported than when I wear my other usual winter footwear combo of mukluks and Neos.  I guess how disappointed I am in the big boot manufacturers quality is testament to  the fact that I have a few pairs of Steger Mukluks, including some  that are well over 10 years old and still in great shape and doing what is required of them.

I really like my mukluks, but they do have a couple of drawbacks.  They’re not great in wet stuff and the soft sole is wonderful and comfortable to wear right up till the moment that you forget you’re wearing them and try and kick a snowhook into the ice. Using the Neos as overboots solves both of those issues and really just leaves the one design flaw. Me and my weak ankle.

So, I did chuck out all of the damaged boots and I’m currently cursing my latest pair of rubber boots.  As you can imagine, we get quite a bit of water, mud and snow around here at various times. Everybody owns at least one pair of rubber boots, and here in Alaska those tend to be Xtratufs. Just to be difficult, I stuck with what I knew from back home, and bought Muckboots. Hmm, well despite the hefty price tag, they really didn’t last that long before springing a leak. They were replaced with the Boggs mentioned above as well as a pair of Ranger boots. When those gave up the ghost, I bought a pair of Lacrosse insulated rubber boots and they did really well all autumn but just yesterday, I noticed this………………. I suppose a generous application of duck tape will keep them going just now, but suspect that they are on their last legs.

My funny feet curse strikes again. Another pair of boots die.

My funny feet curse strikes again. Another pair of boots suffer a mortal wound.

Whilst doing a bit of reading as I try to decide which pair of boots to replace those with, I found that I’m not the only one with troubles. And it also seems that the fabled Xtratufs are maybe not so superior any more either.

So, who knows what I will buy next. Somehow, I suspect that unless I can stop walking at all, I’m going to be replacing boots on an annual basis -which just seems crazy. Therefore, if any boot manufacturer is looking to conduct field trials on the sustainability of their new boots, I hereby offer my services as a test subject.

I should also probably confess at this point, that the above mentioned boots are just a shockingly small proportion of my actual boot collection. I like buying boots, even if I do tend to wear my favourites the majority of the time. It’s always nice to have choices.

Silver Linings


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10 May 2015    1.00PM       62 F   Cloudy

It’s May already.  The last of our snow has just gone, it was clinging on stubbornly in a few sheltered spots out in the trees, but otherwise we have transitioned from winter, through break up into Spring.

The Serum Run trip I was supposed to be on, was this year’s cunning plan to avoid having to deal with break up. With my damaged knee being the reason for missing out on the trip, I was able to safely skip the worst of the mud and water due to being housebound because of that injury. Silver linings and all that !

Normally, I would have felt terrible at the prospect of my wife having to deal with all of the dogs and the thaw on her ownsome. But this year I didn’t feel so bad.  Not because I’m a horrible person but because she actually had help.  Her brother and his girlfriend had already arranged to fly over from the UK and spend the 4 weeks I was supposed to be away, with her here in Willow. Robert’s a very handy guy to know, not only is he a qualified general contractor, but he’s also real problem solver and hates sitting about doing nothing. So, he got stuck into the daily dogcare routine, and he also tackled my ever growing list of projects that I dream up and never quite get round to starting, never mind completing.

First, he had to find all the sump pumps and hoses that got put away somewhere safe last Spring and haven’t been seen since. Then it was a game to work out which ones still worked and which ones should have been thrown away. Next step is unravel the spaghetti tangle of the multiple hoses that somehow managed to have melded into one giant knot. Honest, I very carefully laid them out individually when I finished with them last year. Maybe. Oh, and I might have forgotten to mention to him that one or two of the hoses had been squished and had greatly reduced flow through the pinch point – which greatly irritates me and leads me to throwing them in jumbled pile in the corner- or cutting them up to make bucket handles. And then the fun task of placing the pumps in a good spot to get lots of water, but not where they, the hoses or the power cords can be reached by any of the dogs.  It usually involves moving dogs around, and then taking all the equipment out of the pen each afternoon when the dogs get their free run time. I’m assuming all went well, I haven’t seen any chewed stuff and I never heard too many complaints, other than how wet and muddy it was.

After wrestling with that task, I’m sure Robert was happier when he got the chance to turn his attention to actually building stuff. In his time here, he built 12 dogs houses, 7 decks, a dog apartment complex and best of all, he renovated our “dog room”.

The dog room is in our workshop and was intended to be an unheated indoor space for our original dogs to continue their loose living habits that they were used to when we lived in the UK. Those dogs were very well behaved and the dog room survived untouched for the first couple of years.  However, the inclusion of some of our younger American bought dogs soon changed that. Ciara was definitely the main culprit – well, at least she was the one that I continually caught, eating the walls ! It’s a pretty fair bet that she wasn’t alone in the practice – some of the holes were way out of her reach – so it would appear that she had accomplices, much taller accomplices, in the vandalism.  I had the thought to redo the walls with GRP panels. Enquiries at various hardware stores merely resulted in puzzled looks – apparently the stuff I was looking for is actually FRP  – oh so close, just the one letter out. Even with the proper name, I wasn’t able to track down a supply locally – and by locally, I mean within 50 miles.  However, I knew a neighbour had used the stuff in his own dog barn so I asked him where he got his from. Turned out he had lots of panels left over and we worked out a very reasonable trade and Robert was now able to complete the transformation, from badly abused space to super clean, functional dog room again.

Entire lower half of the room is clad in FRP, same for the doggie apartment complex.  Tough and easy to clean.

Entire lower half of the room is clad in FRP, same for the doggie apartment complex. Tough and easy to clean.


Yuri inspecting the second batch of new dog houses.They all passed the sniff test and most of them were christened by him.


The new decks getting put in place. Zury and Jak seem to have got the idea.

The new decks getting put in place. Boof, Zury and Jak seem to have got the idea.

April’s Birthdays


27 April 2015   2.00 PM     56 F      Cloudy

It’s not always that easy to remember birthdays. I always remember my sister’s, but as it is on the same day as mine, it’s maybe not that great a feat. I also always remember my wife’s – she may not get a present, but I always know which day she’s not getting the present on.

That lengthy ramble leads me to today’s post in celebration of Echo’s birthday. He turns 10 today and the Serum Run trip that I wrote about last week was supposed to be his big swansong before enjoying a long retiral. However, a couple of things may delay that retiral. The main ones are that Echo shows absolutely no signs of slowing down or any indication that he has lost any of his drive or desire. He is, without doubt, our strongest dog, our most enthusiastic eater and a phenomenal worker. He has so much energy that he positively vibrates at times. So, happy birthday Echo – enjoy your special snack today – yet another reason to celebrate teaching him not to snatch snacks and fingers during our training runs.  Thanks to Jeff and Susan for gift of Echo.

The Birthday Boy, Echo at 10 years old.

The Birthday Boy, Echo at 10 years old.

Of course, Echo is not the only dog having his birthday this month, so a quick shout out to the other 5 dogs that also celebrated turning another year older – or more accurately they celebrated getting a frozen herring – I’m fairly sure they had no idea why.april birthdays1

Fionn and Ciara both turned 6 on 14 April, Oscar also had his birthday on that day. He became an old man of 11. Oak turned 7 on the 15th and Ruya was 8 on the 25th.


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