Visiting Hours

23 July 2014    9.30 PM    78 F      Sunny and far too hot

The incredible summer weather continues in the tropical sun belt that Alaska seems to have become. Whilst I accept that may actually be a sweeping generalisation, I am sufficiently frazzled by the constant glare from the sun and high temperatures that I am assuming that all of the largest State in the Union is suffering along with us.

The seemingly endless supply of golden sunshine (as opposed to the more usual liquid sunshine a Scot expects in the summer, no matter where he lives) should have given us ample opportunity to get outdoors and do “stuff”. However, back in the dark days of Spring, we sat down and updated our hitlist – getting on the list meant a trip to the vets !  It’s really only in the summer we feel we can organise this properly and give the dogs the full recovery time we think they benefit from.

Our kennel now is rather larger than we ever thought it would be and whilst we feel we can give each dog the attention it needs and deserves, we really don’t want any unexpected puppies. Additionally, and selfishly, I don’t want to lose one or two of my best leaders because she’s decided to come into season a week before a race.  Now, I know that lots of mushers say their dogs don’t care about in heat females, they say just run them, it’ll be fine – and I also know of quite a few dogs that have been conceived on the trail. So, we err on the side of caution and sensibility and in the interests of easy kennel management, we spay and neuter a lot of our dogs.

We haven’t found any detrimental effect on drive or working abilities. What we have noticed is that the neutered dogs maintain bodyweight with less food, some of our males have definitely increased their tolerance levels of other males, they also don’t go off their food or sing/scream all night long and we no longer have to worry about who can be loose with who, when the girls are in heat. So, setting aside the cost in vet bills and the recovery time, it’s a definite plus for us to reduce the numbers of intact dogs.

All of this means we’ve had a steady stream of non-regular house dogs inside over the last few weeks. It’s gone fairly well, although we have gone the whole gamut from Oak who could be left for hours and every time you checked on her, she hadn’t moved a muscle to Nina, who couldn’t be left alone for more than 5 seconds before she’d be chewing TV remotes, books, pillows, clothes……………   The outside dogs all did remarkably well with their convalesence in the house, even if, at times, they would plainly rather have been outside.


Irina seems resigned to her fate
Irina seems resigned to her fate

The upside for the dogs and us has been a goodly amount of one on one time with dogs that generally seen in a group. The downside has been the requirement to take the recovering dogs for a walk several times a day. Not that I am complaining about taking any of them for a walk, I hasten to add. It is merely that, as previously mentioned in this very blog, Alaska in the summer is a mosquito haven. And mosquitoes are drawn to wounds and exposed skin, which meant that the poor post-op dogs had a much larger swarm than normal, hassling them each and every time they stepped outside. When we would get back inside, there was a decontamination process to go through, somewhat akin to an NBC screening. The next 20 minutes or so would be spent squashing and zapping any mosquitoes that survived the initial grooming and squishing upon re-entering the domestic haven.

ciara eyeCiara was one of those girls who really suffered from the attentions of the mosquitoes. It was doubly bad for her, as you can see, because she had had an eye removed and we couldn’t allow her to rub her head or scratch at the little biting monsters. Fortunately she’s a tough cookie and also very smart and she quickly realised that if she looked like she was going to scratch her eye, I would gently wipe her wound and remove all the bugs.

Ciara and Ruby in Sick Bay
Ciara and Ruby in Sick Bay

Ruby is one of my best leaders but has a terrible habit of coming into season in the middle of February. Not no more !


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