Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Mud bog dogs

So, yesterday sure FELT like winter was here. It was cold and windy and almost zero degrees (may have felt colder than it actually was because I was outside, wet and dipping my hands and arms in ice cold water to spawn fish - don't ask!). There was a light rain, and I swear I saw snow. It may have been wishful thinking, because mostly things were drizzly and wet from the freakin' rain. But... as you can see from this photo from today, this is the first snowfall on those mountains. Plus it's the furthest down the mountains the snow has ever been!

The temperatures are now cool enough that I can get the dogs out mid-afternoon and not have to worry too much about the heat. It was about 11C today and I took the crew out in two teams. We did 7-miles each and they all looked good. I even gave both sets of leaders a little detour up a small, rather steep hill near the end and they all picked up on it no problem. Rupert seemed to dig the steepness of it and just motored the team up it! Rupert was a dog on fire today!!

One bonus of the rain though, is the nice puddles (or mud bogs) along the trail. The dogs like the nice cool off on the trail (which is perfectly located just over halfway) and had no qualms tangling up all the lines and getting mixed up amongst each other to get a nice refreshing... mouthful of mud. That's my job anyways, "Official Line De-tangler."

This looks like I run the dogs in a fan hitch (like the Inuit do, all together rather than two-by-two). But, no. I don't. I let them stop and frolic in the puddles in the fall and spring for a bit of a cool-off. It makes for happy dogs and is good for my wee "pigs" - George, Gracie and Lucy - who for some reason, feel the need to lay down in every single puddle they come across!

Mud-faced Gabe

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Trails, trails and more trails...

George and I head out for a bikejor/another trail scouting mission. She did pretty good doing the one-dog bikejor thing. It's nice to get out one-one-one with the dogs and do some "bonding" - remind them that they're ALL special!

I let her loose as we weaved our way through the bush looking for a certain trail. At some point I took a wrong turn and ended up looking at this. Not much of a visible trail there, yet that didn't stop us from following it for a few kms! After a bit of backtracking, we found the correct trail. Anyways, that's part of the fun for me, not knowing where the heck you're going!

Ahhh, the beauty and serenity of the Yukon wildernes...

And the inner Albertan (prairie girl) comes out in me as I admire the grain field. Beautiful!

George had a heck of a time keeping the local squirrel population on their toes. She was leaping up the trees, and very excited that she had a completely new population of squirrels to harass. Woohoo! (she didn't get any by the way...)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Never a dull moment...

Ripper and Gabe brilliantly leading us down the trail. Gabe was really great today and was pretty forceful with his stubborn sidekick. When Ripper refused to go a certain way (the way I wanted to go), Gabe just yarded on the neckline and drug him over. Way to go Gabester!

Apparently I was taking too long with my whole photo thing. Here Ripper is getting a bit wound up and starts to unleash his inner maniac. You can see I am really concerned (as is Gabe) as I kept taking photos of this barking mad dog. This is Ripper showing his true personality - a freakin' maniac!!

I don't know what's going on here. It looks like Ivy is giving Loki the Heimlich Maneuver. That or quite the opposite, she's trying to choke him. Ah, I chalk it up to the very scientific "Kooky Puppy Behaviour" - it's known to infect young sled dogs who have too much energy and don't know how to stand still when we take a break. It usually clears up after 1.5 years old. Or, never as in the case with some of my dogs...

Sunday, September 18, 2005

O 'ye of little Faith!

I think the dogs must have been reading the blog about the last run(at least someone is!). Just when I thought I might be in for a bit more than I thought training-wise this fall, Jack & Harris reminded me how GREAT things can go!! Here they are raring to go with George in behind, Gracie and Lucy in wheel and Kuna the big white beast comes along.

So the next day I took these guys out on the same run and attempted to do the exact same thing I did with Ripper & Co. Keep in mind, none were out on that run the day before. They did brilliantly. I was able to get them to navigate their way OFF the trail, over to run alongside a fence, and over branches, some smaller fallen trees etc.

Here's a bit of what we faced. Not a huge mess, but they did veer off a perfectly good trail into this. Most importantly, there was no visible or obvious trail, so communication between us was pretty important. They then looped around to head back to where we came from (dogs are not real crazy about going BACK on the same trail for some reason, but then again, neither am I). They did it all based on my voice commands, and I didn't have to get off the quad once. Man I was proud of those two!! It's really cool to have them know exactly what you're thinking and react to it. They were pretty proud of themselves too, as you can see here.

Kuna enjoys a nice self-imposed backrub after a fun, cool run.

Lucy always lays over top of the bowl. Must drink water. These guys drink plain water really well in the warmer months, and have no problem sharing bowls! Often there is 3 or more drinking out of one bowl. Awww... if they only showed that much affection and tolerance for each other ALL THE TIME!!!!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Oh yeah, it's our annual "forget and surpress any memories of commands" time!

Fall around here is just flying by. Leaves are rapidly coming off the trees and laying the path for winter. This time of year for me is so rejuvinating and energizing, I just love fall. I only wish it lasted a bit longer up here...

There's nothing better than getting out with the dogs on a cool, crisp fall day. Although, it wasn't too cool and crisp here yesterday. It was actually too warm and I cut out running the 2nd team because of the heat which was almost up to +15C.

This time of year is always a bit crazy and wild when taking the dogs out. For me anyways, (I dare not speak for all mushers!) the dogs are wild, goofy, impatient, hyper and forgetful. Last year, they did great things out on the trail-less river getting me home in tricky snowstorm conditions, all because they listened really well and we all worked together. Well, fast forward to yesterday when we seemed to be working AGAINST each other. And this is on a measly 4-mile run.

I had Ripper and Rupert in lead here and Rupert is pretty good with commands. Ripper is great at keeping up a great speed and works like a demon all the time, and knows commands, but really really would rather be the decision-maker than listen to me. He is so freakin' stubborn and headstrong, we were really battling it out yesterday. I was cutting the run short because of the heat and attempted to get them to do a turnaround off to the side of the trail and loop back the way we just came. I had to go up and lead them over that way, which is ok, 'cause we've never turned there before. Then the battle began as Ripper and I *argued* on which way we should go. I had them all lined in the right direction, then I'd run back to the 4-wheeler only to turn back and see Ripper swinging them back to where they were headed before. They know you're far enough away that they can sneak back. So I went back up to the leaders and led them back once again to where I wanted to go, run back to the quad, and... once again - Ripper takes matters into his own... paws. They're back to where Ripper wants to go. This happened FIVE TIMES!!!! But as a wise not-so-old musher once told me, "never let them win!" during these battle of the wills.

I kept at it, bound and determined to be more stubborn than Ripper. And as stubborn as I am naturally, I soon found out it was very difficult to out-do that dog. However, perseverance on my part paid off, Ripper gave in and we were on our way. Rupert was really trying to get Ripper to go the right way the whole time too, but Rippers strength (mind AND body) was too overpowering for him. But yay! I got my way!

And this was just *one* of the obstacles we encountered. I won't go into detail on the disastrous highway crossing where Ripper tried to get everyone to run DOWN the highway...again...

Rupert after the run. He thinks things went smoothly! (I won't tell him otherwise)

So, my advice to any newbie dog trainers out there, and one I need reminding of every so often is the key to this all is... PATIENCE, PATIENCE, and yes, more PATIENCE!!!! It's so easy to get frustrated, but we're all in it for the fun, so the key is to make sure the dogs are having fun.

I think the consensus on that run was that it was a good, fun one as you can see by these guys shortly after we got back.
Loki and Gabe:

Octane and Sage who also had a fine time:

As frustrating as it is at times, this is the part of working with dogs that I really love - the training and seeing them improve as a team. We're going to keep working on these screwy turnarounds and I'm gonna throw a lot at them this fall. I just hope we all come out alive!! :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Why dogs are awesome

Best friends of the human variety are great. Don't get me wrong. However, I've yet to find a friend who would lick chicken soup off my floor so I don't have to clean it up. And Gabe is no slacker in the cleaning dept. He suctioned all that moisture out of the floor so efficiently it was like I had a professional carpet cleaner in here! Awesome.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Signs of winter approaching and other nonsense

Is this great or what? First snow on the mountains near my work. A few of us totally sane people at work were doing the happy-happy-joy-joy snow dance! The sun worshippers looked at us with disgust. But that's ok, they'll be hibernating as soon as the snow flies.

This photo wasn't doctored in any way. The colours were so creepy and orange this evening, I tried to capture it on the camera. Turns out it was the eerie calm before the wicked freaking storm that followed. Just when you thought it couldn't possibly rain ANY more...

And there go the geese!

Ah, this was an entertaining evening. I came across a sleddog game on SDC and gave it a whirl. It is hilarious, as you burn around this track while you look down on your team and attempt to control them. Suffice it to say, the only way I could get ahead of the other team was to totally cut them off and drive them off the trail. Hmm... good thing I don't race much.

So Rupert found it fascinating. The dogs in the game were whiny and barky and almost as annoying as him!! And um, Ivy was not too thrilled, as you can see from her sweet expression towards the Rupert. Man, she looks like she's gonna rip a strip off that poor guy. Dogs can be so weird. How dare he invade HER space!?!? I think he was getting a bit to close to her couch and her human for her liking.

But that's still a no-no. So here she is noticeably affected by the semi-scolding she just got. Little brat. But, she really does have a sweet, cuddly side! Really!

And... you can see Rupert is REALLY affected by her fierce-ness as he keeps glued to the laptop.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Training begins

Bear with me, I'm trying to figure out this new way to upload photos and they may seem a bit screwy...

Finally! Got the 4-wheeler back today with lovely brand-spanking-new tires and it was ready to roll. The dogs were really needing to get out as they were trying to drive me nuts in every way possible lately. Too much unexpended energy makes for hyper, trouble-making huskies! So here we go...

Team #1 with Jack & Harris in lead. Those two are goofy brothers who tend to *playfight* as we are hooking up. A bit annoying, and someone not familiar with them may think they can't stand each other! But, they just show their love for each other in a unique way.

Here is Crazy Sage (upper) and Calm Ivy. He goes ballistic at hookup while she is rather reserved. Fast forward to while we are running and take a break - she becomes the unleashed maniac!

Team #2. Kate, looking very mature and serious. Loki is looking happy and content. Nice, for a dog who wouldn't let me get this close to him a few months ago. Kate and Rupert led this crazy team out. Somehow before we left, Rupert managed to get completely OUT of his harness!?? I noticed it lying on the ground behind him just as we were about to go. Don't know how that happened. Then on the way out, he and Kate were tripping over each other down the driveway... what chaos! That's normal though, and actually a pretty tame first day of training! And after that, things went smoothly for the rest of the run.

Night eyes:

A happy devilish looking Ripper.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Man, these mornings are getting coooool!!! Nice to see, although it's a bit of a bummer to see the summer leaving, without really having had a summer.

Either way, it's dog training time! Yesterday I took out the pups, with a couple of veterans and they did pretty good.

Here's the first run - Rupert and Ivy start out hard:
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Oh yeah, notice that white furball off to the side? I hadn't realized Gabe was loose as I was harnessing up these two. Talk about being able to tune things out. He was barking non-stop practically in my face, but I remained totally oblivious until the last second before we left. I was already on the bike with the other two jumping and lunging to go, when I looked up and saw him facing us barking and bouncing around like a maniac. I figured I'd just let him join us. He's a sled dog through and through, and these old guys go out practically on auto-pilot. I figured he'd stick pretty close to us.

(Sidenote: in fact, the craziest thing I've witnessed was running a team of 10 dogs with an older loose leader in the kennel I worked for previously. These dogs were taught to poop on the run -being race dogs- and this one retired guy while we were running up a hill, started taking a crap while bouncing along beside us and not missing a beat. When all the time, he was totally free to stop, crap, then catch up! It was hilarious. The funniest thing was the proud (and relieved) look on his face after the fact.


Gabe sure did stick with us! He just kind of slid over into lead position... nice! Are these his old leader tendencies kicking in??
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In fact, that little brat ran wayyy up ahead of us all the way and near the end, looked back at us, almost mockingly as if to say "what's taking you so long?!?"

Next it was Sage and Kate's turn. Keep in mind, and I can't say it enough, this old girl (on the left) is THIRTEEN YEARS OLD!!! But she is still always fired up to go, and does well even with these young overly energetic pups. She's a valuable trainer, as she will not take crap from anyone.
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Sage has this habit (which is he slowly growing out of), of attempting to turn in every freakin' driveway we pass! You can see him trying to veer over slowly and sneakily. But Kate wasn't having any of that. Nuh uh.

And what happens when your dogs are going so FAST...
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I'm sure the neighborhood didn't even see us, we were going so freakin' fast. ;0)