Sunday, November 27, 2005

Early Morning Light

One of our local papers has a series going on right now entitled "Every Yukon home has a mountain view"... or something like that. People are encouraged to send in photos proving this fact. Here is mine!

This is a shot from my loft/bedroom (if you can call it that) window.

The big dog yard below. I can look out and see what those little troublemakers are up to at any time. They usually hang out under the tarps. The closer to the cabin, me, or more likely.... FOOD, the better.

Usually though, early in the morning, it's just these two goofballs, Ivy and Sage, beating each other up. You can see those black and white fluffballs in the lower left.

Back to my "novel" - 1,500 words to go!

Oh, and also - check out the individual dog pages (lower right on sidebar), for detailed descriptions and photos of each pooch! I've got from Kuna to Rupert done, so if you want to know more about any dog, click on their name.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Writing and dogs... the perfect combination

It's going to be a busy last week of November around here. I've got a couple small PAID writing gigs due soon and one thing I'm taking on that I've never done before is this little writing challenge thingy. It's called the "National Novel Writing Month" where a bunch of crazy folks attempt to write a novel in a mere 30 days. Thanks to Jean (link at side) for making me aware of it. So Nov. is the month. You can see my little participant icon off on the sidebar there - click on it if you're interested. Hell, if you're feeling completely insane, sign up now to write your novel in less than ONE WEEK!!! For what its worth, the novels are very likely to be complete and utter crap, but that's ok. That's the beauty of it - little editing and proof reading, nothing but spewing out a lot of words. Something I excel at! The whole point is just to get out those words. Quality control can be dealt with later. I have a sneaking suspicion my novel might end up in the wood stove.

I've just hit 41,000 words and the goal is to get to 50k. Right now, Marie from Hay River and I are neck and neck! Will we finish? Hell yeah! A big hello goes out to my new northern Nano writing buddies! We range from Baffin Island to Inuvik and many points in between. Anyone else in the north that wants to join a northern writers group? Let me know!

Anyways, must share some photos, otherwise the universe might just collapse.

It's official. My dogs are just weird.

Gracie, not only laid right out after a run (we didn't go that far, she just rolls all over the place afterwards), but licking the oh-so-tasty-rocks/snow on the ground.

When licking won't do, she starts gnawing. But she's just lazy enough that she won't stand up to eat the ground like a *normal* dog...

Then there's the little "tart" - Ivy. She can't get ENOUGH of these boys, Jack and Harris. She was out of her mind with excitement licking and pawing at them, and the ever-so-popular-dog-pick-up-method of shoving one's butt in the other's nose.

The poor boys. They looked more confused than anything. They're mostly around the three sisters who tend to put them in their place, NEVER flirt with them or act submissive. They didn't know what to make of a friendly, flirty female. I think I'll have to let these guys play together more.

Jack looks posessed here. But he's one happy demonic dog! Ivy next to her new buddy.

Bit of ice on the trail. The dogs all went over it no problem. Sometimes they may slam on the brakes as if to say "Are you insane?!?! I'm not running on THAT!!!"

We won't let the spring-like conditions stop us.... noooo.

Regardless of conditions, it was a fun run. I was keeping the 13-yr old Kate out of the faster, longer distance team because, well, she's old! My god, she's 13.5 yrs old!!! But she was doing so well on those 8 mile runs looking like she wasn't even tired when we got back, so I thought I'd see how she did on this 15-miler. Well, not only did she finish as strong as when she started, she LED the whole way, dragging Rupert around corners and yanking him whenever he slowed, or leaned over to dip some snow. We all loped into the homestretch like a team on fire! It's great to have these runs once in a while. Anyways, she is amazing and I thought I'd brag about this freak of nature. Here she is on the left, with her boy, Rupert.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Ivy: hide-n'-seek GENIUS and the new dog hotel

The other day Ivy had disappeared. Oh no, not outside... INSIDE the cabin. And for anyone who has been here, you may know there are not a lot of hiding places for dogs. I was looking inside, then outside, but I was sure I saw her come in. Then I came back in and heard a little rustling in the cupboard-thingy...

Looks kinda guilty eh?

She was lured under there because that's where I store some corn oil. They often get this stuff in their food and totally love it. She was sneakily hiding under there licking the oil remnants off the jug.

Little brat. But isn't she friggin' adorable!??!

In other new, and er, EXCITING goings-on around here...

The doghouse-that-has-turned-into-a-dog-condo building went well yesterday. This fully insulated bad-boy is going to keep some certain dogs toasty warm this winter.

Sage approved. Do you know how hard it is to do some work with 8 loose dogs running around you, jumping on everything, playing on top of your wood, stealing your hammer and gnawing on it, attempting to run off with mouthfuls of insulation, and oh! A box of screws... can we eat that too??!! What the heck, let's try!! Yes... they certainly tried my patience during this endeavour, but I prevailed!! Three hours of work and yelling at dogs to "give that back!" and "leave that alone!" and "get off the wood!" and "stop eating insulation!" and I was spent.

Ok, so the front isn't all that pretty. But, keep in mind that it's not quite done yet. I ran out of plywood and want to make a nice door, and add yes, a PORCH onto it!! I've noticed in the brief time it's been up, the dogs like it, but wanted to see what was going on outside. They just kind of stood right outside of it for awhile. So I'm gonna add some pallets on the ground and then a lovely awning. Oh, and all that exposed insulation had to be covered up, because as I'm slowly realizing, anything "new" in the yard is edible.

So I've got a little "wall" on the inside you can see - but in the back they can go to either side. It's pretty cozy in there. I know this because I spent quite a bit of time in there unintentionally. It turns out when 8 dogs follow you in, getting out through the dog barricade isn't easy.

The view from the back. Not too shabby. It doesn't even look too horrid. Slap a coat of paint on it in the summer, and it'll be the new thing in custom doghouses, you just wait and see.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Sunday Ski

Well, well, well. This weather just plain SUCKS right now!! It's warm, often above zero, was RAINING last night, what the hell?? However, I'm not going to dwell on it, nope. I'll just be happily be in denial of the melting snow and this crap weather, and refuse to come out of the cabin till it looks like winter and I see white stuff falling from the sky again....

So let's take a moment to reflect and look back at last weeks ski excursion with Stephanie. Ah, the snow, look at the snow, the glorious snow!

Took along a few of my pooches for some free running and frolicking. Kuna is doing his best ostrich impression, and quite often buries his face in snow for no apparent reason.

Steph zooms downhill, and didn't even wipe out! Darn. That's why I had my camera out...

Someone's got a new digital camera.

Man, this skiing WITHOUT dogs thing is wayyy too hard.

So, we hooked the dogs up! It was a little too late though, as these guys had just free ran for a while and were a bit tired out. But I was determined to get Steph hooked on skijoring. As much as she fought me, thinking she was going to get dragged down the driveway, we finally got her attached to Gracie and George. She didn't believe me that it wasn't a big deal, these guys don't pull too hard... until she gave it a go. They bounced along at the slowest trot in the history of trots - a speed I could have walked beside. But, at least Steph didn't feel out of control, and she's game to try it again - so, a success!

I took them down the driveway first, but had to pose for her landlord before we left. In case you're wondering why Kuna is sitting so pretty and politely out in front, staring into the distance, no he's not a well behaved dog. He's just a pig. And Steph's landlord was right in front of him with a pocket full of cookies! He knew the cookies were there and the landlord was instantly his new best friend!!

Ahhh, good times. I remember those great snow days, of, oh... 4 days ago!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

First challenge of the season

Our first 20-mile run (and the longest run for the pups). Can we do it?

Hell yeah! (well, it wasn't without it's shaky moments, but nonetheless, we made it!!)

This was a blast. Let me start at the beginning though. We went up to the Fish Lake area, and started the run from Ray's place. Here's the team. Most likely all thinking "Hm, this is a new one...where is she taking us now?"

"Fear not my canine friends", I tell them - this will be FUN!! I took Ripper, Rupert, Jack, Harris, Ivy, Sage, Loki, Octane and Lucy. I was really only concerned about Lucy making it, but if she got tired I thought, I'll just pack her in the sled. Turns out Lucy was one of the biggest surprises and the most consistent throughout the whole run!

Can't complain about the amount of snow here.

So this was the earliest we have done a run this long. Normally we don't focus on distance too much mostly 'cause a good chunk of my team the last couple years really didn't LIKE going this distance. So we didn't. But, with the 3 new pups, and 6 others I knew could do it (ok, I wasn't too sure about Lucy), I figured it would be a good *challenge.* I'm so conservative at jumping up huge distances, it's almost ridiculous. But then again, I don't want to throw anything too crazy at them. Maybe I hold them back too much, but I do what feels right for us at any given time. They've been doing great this year, especially with our new "cheerleading squad" (Ivy, Sage and Loki), so I figured we'd take it on as a challenge and just do it at whatever pace the dogs were comfortable with.

The day was beautiful and even cleared up for the beginning of the run. It was about -15C when we started and dropped to about -21C by the time we returned. Here's Ray hooking up his team of look-alike-brown dogs:

The beauty of this picture is kind of lost on the fact that Ripper (in lead, on right) is squatting and taking a huge crap.

This is significant, believe it or not. Later on I found out Ripper had explosive diarrhea. It was unbelievable. And it really didn't stop. I think it was due to some moose meat the day before, but it really didn't affect the other dogs, so who knows. Anyways, needless to say, Ripper was not in his top form today as he grew weaker later on. This was a major bummer, 'cause he's one of the strongest most excited dogs on the team.

Ray and team up in front. Ripper's looking spunky and happy here. He and Rupert were fired up and doing really well leading us up this hill, er... MOUNTAIN overlooking Fish Lake.

So it was partly true when my parents used to tell me I "always had my head in the clouds..."

Looking down on Fish Lake:

It was after this, about 14 miles into the run where we hit a bit of a "roadblock" - a mental roadblock that is. We had a snack, a bit of a break, then the dogs started to get sluggish. Ripper was now really off his game, and I was switching leaders trying to get something to click. This was not good. We had one more really freakin' steep hill to climb and I had no idea if we would make it up or who would get us up it. Rupert had kind of lost his drive too. I tried Harris and Octane who did well for a while. They made it halfway up the hill, then kind of lost it. We took a lot of short breaks up there, I was running at one point BESIDE the leaders. Then later, I was PUSHING the sled more than these guys were pulling it. It was a bit of a mental stress for them, but I acted like we WERE HAVING THE BEST TIME OF OUR LIVES!!!! "Isn't this fun guys??!" "Good job, we're barely moving, but let's keep that attitude up!! Yay!!!" "Oh this is so much fun, I can't get ENOUGH hills - woohoo, bring 'em on!!!" then under my breath "#$*&@#('in hills!!!!" Yes, I probably sounded like a lunatic, but I was beyond caring at that point. I just wanted us to get through this on a positive note.

Then I decided to try this: Ivy and Sage were still shrieking to go at every little break we had, so I thought - why not? Let's try one of them in lead! So I gave Sage a try first. Here he is with Jack:

And would you all believe that Sage charged up that hill like a dog who has run lead dozens of times before!?! This is not an easy situation to throw a young, BRAND new leader into. But I knew mentally, this dog is tough as nails, and nothing really fazes him. I had a feeling he could handle it. It took him a few minutes to figure out what he was doing, but my calling them up and seeing Ray's team ahead was all he needed. I was so proud of him!

This is just after the big heinous hill where we took a needed break. I don't know if Jack is tapping into his inner distance dog, but he was immediately digging out a nice hole, and preparing for a nap!! (although, he also does this at hookup too, so maybe he's just weird?)

And in behind to the left is Ripper curling up ready to bed down. But his illness was really showing now, so we packed him up and put him in Ray's sled for the rest of the run. Poor guy. You know you've got a sick sled dog when they sit IN the sled bag and go to sleep instead of freaking out and trying to bust out.

We gave them a good 10-15 minute break here until all were looking pretty rested and ready to go. I find I have to be careful with Jack in lead, sometimes he just doesn't like it up there. So I put the screechiest little raccoon I could find up with Sage:

Yes, I was crazy enough to put both pups, Ivy and Sage in lead. Together. But this idea was just crazy enough that it worked. This is where the team as a whole really picked it up. With about 5-6 miles to go, we were now back on track, everyone was pulling and we sped up, things were looking good! A bit later, Ray gives me trail directions telling me there is a left up ahead then this short, but really steep hill, where "you can't really brake, so just ride it down. And oh yeah... hang on." And with that he's off and basically drops out of sight. Great. I've got 2 pups in lead for the first time, we're going off a "cliff" and I'm supposed to just hang on and enjoy the ride? When we came to the top of this hill, half my dog team just disappeared over it. And when I saw it I braked at the top immediately and pretty much froze, going "holy crap" - this was the steepest hill I've ever seen. The dogs are all kind of hanging down this hill wondering why they are stopped in the middle of it, but I had to get up my courage to go down it. It loooked MUCH worse than it was, and it was actually fun. Though, later Ray commented on how he looked back to see "my dogs just stopped mid-way down..." - heh, I had to confess that no, I stopped them out of shear terror. I'm not ashamed to admit it dammit.

Ray's team:

And here we are finally, four hours later, on the home stretch. It was a long time out there, but not too bad a time considering the freakin' mountains we climbed up, then rode down, and the little hills in between. This hill training is really what we need, since we spend so much time on the river and flat ground around my place. So, the dogs kept up their great pace and the renewed enthusiasm lasted till the end. Ivy had to be switched back into the team about a mile from the end, as she started to get a bit unsure of herself, so I moved her back and told her how amazing she was! She is more of a "thinker" than Sage and I didn't want to overdo it with her. She immediately felt more comfortable back there and got back to her screeching enthusiasm. So Octane went back up with Sage and we made it back to the truck looking good.

I can't stress enough how well these pups did. They just blew me away. And the whole team in general, while they all had their "moments" persevered through the run and looked really great after they were snacked and watered at the end. I've talked to a lot of people about this, who say it'll take them about 4-5 runs to really figure out how to pace themselves (they kind of all went crazy for the first 10-11 miles) at this distance. So I'm excited to see how we improve as time goes on. And Ripper is doing well now, looking forward to the next run. Good job team!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hill Work!

I like to let everyone run around before I hook them up. After a crapload of work, my whole cabin and dogyard is fenced off now, so I can let all the dogs do this. The dogs usually come to the stake-out chain when I call them. Even shy little Loki is so excited he comes near enough where I can snag him!

So we were attempting the big hill this day! For anyone who has been paying the remotest bit of attention to this blog, you will note that this run is the one I "scouted" out on the bike earlier in the fall. It is a 10-mile round trip, with a nice fairly steep hill near the beginning. The rest is a windy, downhill thru the trees and makes for a nice run.

But, this time I was taking everyone!! That's the biggest line I've ever run, 13 dogs. That's a hell of a long line. That means my leaders are about 45 feet ahead of me. That's a long ways away, but some people regularly run teams this size or larger. I like to refer to them as "crazy people."

This is the front of the line... see the 4-wheeler and dogs wayyyy back there? Yup. It's long. Holy crap.

So we got off to a great start. Hookup was smooth and the dogs were all very well behaved. It was a blast having everyone with me.

There, up ahead, is where we were heading. Can you see the outline of a snowy trail through the trees winding up in the middle of the photo?

No? How 'bout here? Yes! There it is!!

Turns out my 4-wheeler, without 4wd, with NO chains, had a heck of a time getting up that big hill there! Luckily there were 13 dogs working their butts off to get it up. I had the throttle going full-out and my tires were spinning, I was just about to get stuck in the steepest part. But those guys just dug right in and dragged us up. I was quite proud of them - each and every one of them worked hard. I'm not really sure what I would have done if it hadn't made it up...

Yay, the we reach the top. Look at that view Ripper!

*Ripper turns to take in the scenery*

Yet another view from the top.

And that was all the photos I got till near the end. The trail was so bumpy and crazy I really had to pay attention just so I didn't get thrown off the quad.

Now they're starting to look like sled dogs!! This was actually only about a -10C day.

All in all a swell run. This was a few days ago, and we've had a ton more snow since. Next time - we're tackling this on the SLED!!!

Monday, November 07, 2005

First Skijor of the Season!

Nov. 7/05 - first skijor of the season. Not bad, not bad at all...

So I harnessed up my trusty skijoring dogs (er, not really), or rather, the three sisters:

Here's Ms.-can't-contain-her-excitement-Lucy ready to go.

I decided to take Lucy, Gracie and George, since I thought this team would work out well for the first skijor. They're all the same size, small and don't kill themselves pulling. Which means they'll stop when I ask them to, they'll eventually slow down, get bored and flit off the trail, etc, etc. But they're fun little freaks! And... they also like to go as fast as their little legs will take them, which is always fun.

Now, notice the small pieces of GRAVEL!!??? I should have perhaps taken closer notice of those before I left. There was one short section where there was a bit more gravel, as I was soon to find out...

Cut to, oh, about 60 seconds later when my ski caught a piece of that gravel and I landed flat on my arse before I knew it.

Note the dogs and their *concern* for my well-being. That's Lucy looking off into the trees like she sees something more interesting than ME flat on my arse! Then nice thing about these guys is that they don't keep screaming down the trail with me bouncing along behind. They're extremely laid back and merely waited till I got my stuff together, shook the snow out of my pants, and got back on my feet.

And wow! Lookit that river. A few days of -20ish weather and the ice has really started forming. Nice!

It seems to be "Lucy Day" - here she is sticking her tongue out at me:

Gracie looking back, happy as usual. I like running them all side-by-side like this and they really seemed to like it as well. They have a lot of freedom (and less tangles!) without the necklines, so I think I'll try this more often.

When we made it back to the truck, it really felt like we ALL could have done a lot more than the few miles we did. They were looking at me as if to say "huh? That's it?" But I think it's wise to ease into it till I get my "ski legs" back! Gee, I'm getting smart in my old age.