Sunday, October 28, 2012

Meet the dogs: Summer

When I decided to switch from Seppala's to Alaskans, the opportunity that opened up was buying dogs from Katie Davis, a musher who ran the Yukon Quest on 2009 and made the hard decision to get out of dogs. She had some yearlings, three left the first time I went up, and Summer was the one I settled on first (I later acquired her sister, Rachel, who now runs with Lanette Kimbal's team). She's alway's been my girl and turned out to be a big, smooth moving and hard working dog. She continues to gain confidence, but during her first season led in a few races. I love her appetite, gait and how she continues to get better as we go. I regret that she had to sit out last season when I was in Alaska, but I'm so glad I kept her. Since I'm trying to keep a team made up of mostly males, Summer is one of the three females that I'm glad is on the team! And did I mention she's a nice, big (55lb) girl?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Meet the dogs: Griz


         Griz came from Laura Dangereau the summer of 2011. I remember the dreary, rainy day when I got him - he was so good in the car! He ran on her Iditarod team in 2009 (picture above), as well as many other distance races. He is best when running in team - anywhere but lead! He's pretty mellow, get's along with everyone and is easy to handle. Although not the biggest dog on the team, he's good sized. I'm not sure how old Griz actually is - somewhere between 7-10yrs old. If he's 10, then he's even more amazing! Griz paces, a little roughly, but when he trots he looks goal is to get him to trot all the time rather than pace.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

250 miles!

    Well, just over a quarter of the way to our Jan 1st goal! The dogs are muscling up nicely, eating well and I'm thinking I need to let them do a fun, short run on Saturday since we've been grinding away at 2-3hour runs the last two weeks. Attitudes are still good, but I don't want to push it when they're all doing so well...and to think that Zoomey and Duke went from 2 mile runs and started here at 7 miles and haven't looked back...I think they deserve an easy run for that accomplishment!   

    Last week has been busy - both with longer runs and getting my 4-wheeler tuned up (thanks to my older brother!) as well as getting the new (and badly needed!) front tires on. There is now snow in the mountains and with the cooler temperatures, it's time to make sure the dog yard gets ready for winter.
    The puppies have adjusted nicely to their new lives in the yard, I still need to have a couple more stake-outs made to move the boy puppies out of the puppy pen and finish a few barrel houses, but all in good time...the fall list just goes on and on and, once again, I did not get my dog trailer painted and it's been raining. Tomorrow I think I will get the paint and just make sure that it gets painted the next nice day...and we're running out of nice days! Oh, the life of a musher...

    In other news, Scott texted me that Mouse is finally in heat...which means Pepperjack puppies coming in a month or two! I've got to figure out a way to get her down from Alaska, but I'm so excited to get her here and see those pups!

    Have you ever noticed how HAPPY sled dogs are? I've been around several different breeds, but my Alaskan's make me smile the most. They are always eager to run, even when it's rainy and cold and miserable. They eat well, are low maintenance (no chewing, rarely jump on me - unless it's muddy! - and usually don't fight) and can never seem to get enough attention. All in all, they are confident, happy dogs. And it rubs off...
    Our friend's have a German Shepherd that has come to stay with us for a week and a half. Now, Saber is, apparently, a picky eater at home. Not here! She barks, bosses our collies and eats the sled dog food without qualms. A rescue, she's used to being inside and an only dog, but it's been good for her to learn to be an outside dog - I think she's a lot more confident this time than she was before.
    I must confess, the first time she came here I was told she was a completely different dog (in a good way!) when she went home, I had actually done pretty much nothing with her - and when I say nothing, I mean NOTHING out of the ordinary: i.e. food, water, etc. I can take no credit for any better behavior - it has to be the sled dog attitude rubbing off on her!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October Update

    We are still plugging away at miles of training. We are now at 18 mile training runs, hopefully bumping up to 22 miles on Thursday. Our first 18 mile run was an adventure. I put Razz (who led a bit for me in AK) and Duke (new from Lanette) in lead. We'd had a lot of wind and at the very top of my steep, narrow 4-wheeler trail in the mountains, we were stopped by a pile of fallen trees in the trail.
    This led to a huge tangle and ended with me forgetting that I'd put the 4-Wheeler in reverse and wondering (worrying!) why I couldn't get it started all the way down. I learned I can actually make it down safely without the engine on to hold them back...although I am so thankful for a team so well-behaved; with my Seppala's or a crazy sprint team I think I would've crashed into a tree.
    Our run, surprisingly, was rather fast for us at this time of year - 7.11mph. The dog's have been averaging 6.85mph which is about right since we go fairly slow up (they are dragging the 4-wheeler in gear) and then about 8mph down. The focus right now is settling everyone down, getting the team to meld and be comfortable. I was encouraged after a training talk with Scott last week - I'm on the right track! The goal is 1,000 miles in December, first race the 200 mile Eagle Cap in January and then, hopefully, Race to the Sky 350. I don't think I've ever been so excited for the season to get underway!
    There are leaders...and then there are LEADERS! On Friday I put Legolas and Mambo, Saturday Legolas and Summer. They take control of the team and power up the mountains, while leaders (meaning dogs that just run up front) are not so focused. One of the things I'm implimenting from Alaska is letting a few dogs really grow into the lead position. Legolas and Summer are the main two  I'm working on, as well as Mambo, Cougar, Razz and, later, Duke and Zoomey (once they get to know me a bit more). This, in addition to putting dogs in single lead, will do wonders for a dog that leads but just hasn't taken "control" yet. Of course, I've got a couple dogs that just don't take to lead - but that's ok. Once each dog finds his position and gets comfortable, everything goes so much smoother.
    In other kennel news, the seven pups are now on chains. They took to it really well, with less whining and tangles than I've had in the past (with Seppala pups). I can't get over how fast they've grown! They still go on walks, way ahead of me now, but are no longer the tiny things they were when they came here. And they are, by far, the best behaved pups I've ever been around (except for the squabbles that led me to get them moved out of the puppy yard). I just can't wait to see them in harness - they are so uniform and fearless! A huge thank you to Brad VanMeter for entrusting them to me...
    Well, that's all for now. My plan is to introduce each dog in a post, so you know a bit more about each of my team...but that's for another day!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

First Twelve Mile Run

    Today was our first 12 mile run - we now have 136 miles on for the 2012-2013 season. I love this time of year - the cool mornings, beautiful colors and patches of frost. Just 864 miles to go to reach my goal by Jan 1st!
    Races are lining up - the plan is Eagle Cap 200, Race to the Sky (if all goes well, the 350, otherwise the 100 mile) and then Ashton. I'm hoping the pups will be ready to go on a short race at Ashton to give them experience and then I'll split up my race team between a puppy team and a race team for the distance class.

Pictures from today's training:
Nearly to the 6mile turn around.

Mambo showing off after the run - isn't he a pretty boy?!!!


Nibbs and Griz in the background.

Jersey - keeping watch over the dog yard after the run.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Trip to Montana

    So on Thursday my older brother and I took a road trip to Butte, Montana to pick up the last two dogs - Zoomey and Duke - from my good friend and mentor, Lanette Kimball. I was really excited because Lanette has always provided me with good dogs and I haven't seen her in about a year (usually I only get to see most of my mushing friends at races as it is - so anytime seeing another musher at another time of the year is refreshing).
    We met later than originally planned, and spent a lot of time talking dogs. I think Lanette knows more about Alaskan Husky bloodlines than anyone else I know - as well as 30yrs of knowledge gained from working with dogs.
    Despite the hour change (in our favor on the way back!), my brother and I had to stop and get coffee to stay awake and were making good time out of Missoula when calamity struck in the form of a semi accident (we were maybe the 10th vehicle in line behind the accident). For over two hours we sat there, waiting for the state patrol to let us move on. The worst part - I forgot that I'd brought my book with me until the last twenty minutes! We came safely home and I had the dogs settled in and got myself to bed at 3:45am...yeah, long day.
    This morning I couldn't wait to run dogs, despite being completely hoarse. As Lanette told me, the dogs have amazing, fluid movement and made it around the seven mile run just fine - despite being used to flatter terrain and only having done two mile training runs so far this year!

Zoomey - 4yr old female. Goes back to George Attla's dog Grover, and out of John Barron's Slayer. She's very shy, but when she gets comfortable I'm looking forward to seeing her in lead!

Duke - 4yr old male. From Rodeo Vincent's kennel - rather unknown what his bloodline is, but it doesn't really matter since he runs well! Another leader, I'm hoping to move him up front soon as he is super friendly.