Monday, January 30, 2006

Sunday Skijor!

First off - anyone interested in Yukon Quest mushers, check this out. My latest profile is on Kyla Boivin - the young Yukon-born bush-kid born and raised on a trapline. Having a dog team is like having a right arm for her - it's just something she has, and has always had. She's full of energy and kept me entertained throughout the whole interview. Then she tried selling me some dogs... mushers eh? They're all the same!

Onto yesterday's snowy skijor. There really IS snow out there!! Woohoo! It's about time...

Here I took Gracie, George and Kuna out for a fun skijor. They missed out on the river sled run the day before so today was their day to frolic in the snow. It was tough going on this trail. The snow was fairly sticky and fluffy. We slogged along for a bit, then ventured out onto the road. Sure, it was a bit gravelly, but the speed we were able to pick up was worth dodging those little annoying rocks.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. And was only about -23C (-13F), but felt much warmer in the sun. I rather like the long legs that shadow gives me - though it kind of reminds me of some of the characters in the Tim Burton film, Nightmare before Christmas. And no, I don't have a hunchback - heh... that was just the backpack I was wearing.

Running into a wee bit of gravel. Damn you snow plowers! The dogs are just waiting till I decide what the heck to do. I wanted to make it to the river, but the road got progressively worse. Add that to my sticky skis (hmm... must wax those), and I decided to head back.

This was funny. This is coming back down the road to my place. Notice how the two *rowdies* Gracie and Kuna, are looking off to the side? George is in the middle, totally focused on her JOB, unlike the other two yahoos. Well, they were interested in one of the neighbors yards. Or more specifically, the neighbors dogs, who often come out and chase/attack people and dogs walking by.

Well, one day, Kuna taught these neighborhood bullies a lesson. I usually have him attached to the sled going by here, as any dog showing aggression towards him automatically triggers the "must kill..." sensors in his brain. And these dogs often came out in a threatening way to me and the team. One day, Kuna ripped his snap right off and made a beeline for the most aggressive dog. Kuna pounced on him while the other stood wayyyy back, watching - not really wanting to get involved. There was a bit of a scuffle, then he realized we were getting away from him, so he jumped off the *bully* and ran after us - like this was a totally normal part of the run (it's not!). I usually flip out at him when he initiates a fight, but this time, those guys really had it coming. They've torn more patches of skin off of local dogs, that some people carry sticks while walking by there. The other dog wasn't hurt, as I did see him get up and sheepishly run back into his yard. Later I learned how they really did learn a lesson.

Gracie's lost interest and is focused on running, but Kuna just can't let things go.

"C'mon... I dare you to come out!!"

He KNOWS they're over there somewhere. Luckily since that day he "stood up" for us - when they realize it's us coming, or if they see him, they hightail it back into their yard.

He finally gives up. Even though this incident happened over a year ago, he's still obsessed with that yard everytime we go by.

Proof that I did not run them far enough - it's playtime! Gracie initiates the fun, no doubt mocking the big guy for his slightly too small harness (he's chewed all the ones that actually fit him).

Kuna about to go in for the kill (or practice for when he next meets the neighbor dogs?). He's quite agile for a 90lb beast.

Gracie survives the assault and insists on her post-run butt-rub.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

C-C-C-C-COLD!!! And Sage's new favourite hobby...

Hot damn! It's cold out there. We hit -40 for the first time this winter. I quite enjoyed not seeing the ol' 40-below. One good thing about it,is that it is quite convenient to write about it because I don't have to do the metric/non-metric conversion. It's the little things that make me happy.

40 below (C) is 40 below (F). It's just that easy.

And when the temps hit this cold, I really can't look outside at my frosty dogs and feel good about it in my nice warm bed. So....

At the risk of sounding like the "looney dog lady" (could be worse I 'spose, plus I just don't care!!) - here's photos of EVERYONE in the cabin. Crew #2 up above - there is 7 there. I think Octane is just out of the shot off to the left, by Loki.

Crew #1 over this way! You can the other 7 here. See how little space they take up? I've got 1/4 of the cabin left, PLUS the loft!! I realized, holy crap! I can fit, like, 3-4 more dogs in here!! (don't worry, it ain't happening...). But it's funny what you can do when you lose your mind.

It was really cool. We were like one big happy, cozy family last night.
(says the looney dog lady)

Other entertaining stuff. For Sage anyways. Turns out he's a bit of a tv fan. At first I thought it was the ever-so-exciting program on wildlife in the Rockies. He shot up and stood 3 inches away from the tv when he saw these bighorn sheep:



And more sheep

I thought it was natural he was interested in the wolves...

And he also showed a bit of interest in this carnivorous gnawer...

But he also liked the owl...

And the eagle...

Even the clouds held this young guys interest...

And... then I realized, yup, he's interested in anything in that big square box

"Hm. Buildings in Toronto... I've always wondered what Toronto was like."

"Yes, yes, the police. I've heard they've got quite the high crime rate there"

It gets worse. Much worse - girly shoes!

"I quite like that shade of pink. If only I had some feet that fit in there. Oh well, I've got nothing to go with those anyways"

This is as extravagant as he got - diamonds!! Shortly after, he turned around in circles for 10 minutes before lying down, reminding me that yes, he really is part-canine. He didn't move or even glance at the tv again for the rest of the night. Freak.

Verification once again, that yes - my dogs are weird. I have nothing to do with this behaviour. I merely observe and document...

Monday, January 23, 2006

Great run... until the "punk" chewed everything in sight...

We had a fun run across the river today. That is, until one certain punk (thanks for that word Sue - it totally fits her, ALL the time!), decided to chew on her fellow sled dogs tuglines and necklines. See said punk and said chewed tugline dangling in mid-air in front of her:

"Whaaa? Me??!! I din't do nothing!"

Look at her trying to avoid eye contact... don't interpret that as her lack of interest in my scolding.... noooo, she really learned her lesson this time. Oh yeah.

It all started out just fine. I took the whole crew (13 in the team), but once again decided to use the 4-wheeler. Just to see what it was like on the other side of the river before Laura and I decide how many dogs to take on the sled later this week.

Heading out on the river.

Robert Service fans - check out Lake Laberge!

Trivia: this lake is over 50km (31 miles) long; between 2-5 km (1.2-3.1 miles) wide. It's quite dangerous to summer canoeists due to it's high, unpredictable winds and the fact that it is always flippin' FREEZING!!!

Back to winter - the trail looks deceptively SNOWY eh? Well, there is not a lot on the ground, unfortunately. Great for skiing/skijoring, but taking a big team requires being able to set a snow hook. And that is impossible here. So, we'll stick to 6-8 dog teams. For now. There WILL be more snow. I just know it. Or, maybe I'm blissfully ignorant!

A few welcoming, yet deserted cabins as we come off the river.

Looking back on the team. Here I was able to tie to a tree. This is the start of the "village." Anyone who followed my blogging adventures last year will be familiar with it. It's a really cool old First Nations fish camp. I like to get out and explore it every year, but with the maniacs screeching their heads off and being totally impatient, I barely even checked it out as we zoomed by. Next time!

Complete with my favourite - dilapidated cabins!!!!!!!!!

Now, my plan was to stop and take a little break here. This run was about 16 miles or so, and I just wanted to go at an easy pace for the older/slacker guys. I gave them a bit of fish each, but as it turned out, NO ONE wanted to stop and break. Ok, they did for about 49 seconds. I had to pick some snowballs out of some dogs feet, and stood there, hunched over a dog at a time hanging onto feet as they lunged and catapulted themselves forward. The pups (Ivy/Sage) were the worst! They had no idea why I was picking these gigantic iceballs out of their feet. They didn't even care that they were there actually. But, this is pretty new to them. So we really have to work on the definition of B-R-E-A-K!

And this is when Gracie decided to start chewing anything she could get her sharp little teeth on. Now, I'll admit, that group of 3 sisters have been known to chew in the past. George and Lucy especially. Gracie usually seems to be content yanking the whole team back with her own wee-but-impressive-Gracie-strength. Well, today was a good day for chewing I guess. I was back at the quad, unhooking it, when I saw Octane turned around facing me. As if to say "umm, why am I able to do this?" He looked really confused! Turns out his tugline (which attaches his harness to the mainline, or gangline) was off thanks to the brat behind him. We have been stopped for literally, about 8 minutes by now. And they were so freakin' wild, my plan on "waiting them out, hoping they'd calm down" was thrown out the window. Basically, they were driving me nuts.

So I put Gracie's tugline on Octane (knowing she'd stop pulling at some point, although she hadn't yet), looked back to see Lucy's neckline gnawed off too!! Now she was behind the gnawer, so it had to have been either herself or George beside her. Either way, I let out an exasperated "Aw, crap!!" and just left it, since she wasn't going to go far. She's good at running without a neckline. So I ran back to the quad, unhooked from the tree - which seriously took about 35 seconds. I look up and that little #&$! (guess who?) had chewed off BOTH Octane and Loki's tuglines at warp speed! So that's 3 tuglines and one neckline in about 2 minutes. Nice job gang.

We got going and things from then on went just fine. Thank goodness. Ah, what's a few tuglines when you're having so much fun??!!?

And the superstars - Rupert and Kate leading the whole way. They did great - although there was really only one trail to follow out there. And Rupert only stopped to take a crap a couple times, balling up the first 6 dogs or so. For those who don't know, sled dogs can crap on the run. I'm not so picky and will stop to let them do the deed if they want (some really could care less). And with most dogs, you'll know it's coming. They kind of *signal* you by bouncing around weird, looking back, hopping funny, they may stop pulling briefly, and most of mine do this. But Rupert has this uncanny ability to run along and with absolutely NO warning, SLAM on the brakes instantly and take a crap. And when he's in lead, it can be problematic! That was one of the things that drove his original owner nuts. Even if I have my eyes right on him, by the time my brain signals my body to brake the sled or quad, he has stopped, crapped and been run over by a few dogs behind him. Luckily, each time today we made it out of that mess tangle-free.

And don't worry, ol' Rupert has never been hurt after one of these "Shit n' Runs!"

Friday, January 20, 2006

Coldest skijor of the season

It's Lucy - haha! Lookit that big dopey face!! She was a happy pooch. This was their birthday gift. Yeah, that's it - drag me on my skis at -25C (-13F) you lucky dogs, you! Lucy's game for anything, so we headed out to the river, FROM my yard. On skis. For the first freakin' time this winter!! It actually worked. I only did a faceplant (and splits, which until that very moment, didn't think I could do...) once, on the way back. That darn gravel in the ditches. Why the sand the highway, I'll never know. Sure does nothing to help my skiing, that's for sure.

Here's Ms-gotta-entertain-the-monkey(monkey=me in this case). She couldn't get enough rolling around and snow bathing. We would stop and there she'd go again, flailing all over the snow like she was having a seizure. George is looking at her, as if to say "enough already you freak! You're an embarassment to the family..."

Ah, the beauty of the river. Flat is good.

George - her usual "happy " face. She's so serious, but is very good about staying out front and attempting to be a good sled dog. In fact, on the way back (we did about 8 miles), the team was slacking a bit. Gracie was starting to do her usual, predictable "doo-dee-doo... 6 miles, I'm bored, how else can I be entertained...) slack tugline thing, which just meant I had to work hard, which is ok. So we were skiing along, and then all of a sudden, George leaned over and it looked like she either licked or nipped at Lucy almost as if to tell her something. And I swear, these 3 INSTANTLY picked up speed all at the same time (like they all share a brain...), and they were all loping full-out, pulling like maniacs!?! What the hell? Just outta nowhere. I swear, these guys think and "scheme" more than we give them credit for.

Here they are after they picked up speed. I know, it was just in time to hit this grassy section... see, they WERE scheming!!

Rounding the corner. I love how they run practically on top of each other. Like one big 3-headed dog.

And then the rest of the gang couldn't be left out. So we did a little river reconnaissance to check it out with the 10-dog team and the team mascot, Kuna, off to the side there. It's great taking him out on the river, 'cause then I can let him loose without unexpectedly running into someone or another dog team. I can see for miles!

Believe it or not, I was on the 4-wheeler here. Not sure of how the river would be for the sled, I took the quad just in case. And although there still isn't enough snow to set a hook, I can get out on the sled now with a 6-7 dog team. It just seemed wrong, being on the river on a 4-wheeler. Just weird. And noisy. Oh, and COLD!! When I got back after this excursion, it was -29C and I thought I had frostbite on my knees! That's pretty much the one part where the wind really hits. Bring on the sled I say!

And the dogs were really excited to be out on the river. They hadn't been out there this year, so it's like a brand-new trail all over again. For me too! Wahoo!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Happy Birthday Gracie, George and Lucy!!!

So it's the girls' birthday... um, yesterday. Thanks to Tamara wishing Franklin (their brother) a Happy Birthday for reminding me (bad dog owner). See what happens when I lose the dog focus for ONE day!!???!!!

Anyways, yes - Jan. 16/2000 was the day these little black fiesty goofballs came into this world. It was a chilly -40C day and there was a litter of 8. The mom "Devil" (which may explain it all about these guys), was a natural and kept these little darlin's in line. Until they became too unruly. Then, even she needed to get the hell away from them. I seriously remember one time when I went in there to scoop poop and came out like I had been through a war. I was exhausted, and torn apart as they were TOTALLY out of control and hyper. I believe I also came out of there weeping as well.

They took shoelace-eating and hair-grabbing to a whole new level. I remember when these four were the only ones left - even then it was insane. Franklin and Lucy were the two shy ones who kind of kept to themselves in the corner of the pen. They'd would, however, come over to investigate, or tear at your pants while the others had you occupied. Then there was Gracie and George, hoo boy! They made me want to run out of there tearing my hair out myself! But, as we all know - they all have their sweet sides. Even if they are maniacs 99% of the time. I'm glad to say though, that these guys are doing so well, considering they were an unplanned, unwanted litter. They had a rough start (Franklin esp. - until Tamara took hold of him), but things have worked out great for them - and us. I know we're grateful to have these little turds.

Which brings me to my picture-taking-frenzy. How many FREAKIN' pictures does it take to get a good picture of three certain little monsters?!?

I'm have no idea! Bcause I never GOT a good one of all three!!! I guess having 4 other dogs in the cabin didn't help as I was trying to corral these guys, the others were curious as to what the heck I was up to. They'd come over, I'd shoo them away, then one of the girls would take off. I'd get them back together, and forcefully hold them into place. Later, I resorted to using my feet and legs to keep them together. I guess it didn't help that it was almost their dinner-time and the big ol' bucket of slop (er, dog food!) was in the corner of the cabin distracting them.... *sigh*.....

If they didn't feel the need to totally be ON TOP of me all the time, this might have worked out.

So here's some previous pics of these three:



A fun skijoring trip with all three: