As we go through and wash all of the harnesses and jackets as well as pack away the gear and ready ourselves for summer, I like to reflect on the past season. The snow is gone for the most part, and summer is surly upon us as I get ready to purchase plants for my small garden. I can surly say this past season was one of the best I have had in a while. I knew when COVID-19 hit that I was going to steer clear of tours, as well as kennel advancements. The whole goal was to just working on training, teach Emma to art of mushing, do some junior races if she found herself proven enough, and just have fun with my crew. We did just that.
Last fall after a lot of anger and frustration, I decided to sell my ATVs. None of them would work, and one had electrical issues out the yang. For the longest time this caused issues with the damn thing starting and after many parts, I was done. I sold them all as a package and spent the money on dog food. Doing this caused any hope for falling training to slip through my grasps yet again. Throw the fact that fish was non-existent and it was rough. After this, I decided we were really going to slow it down through the winter months. We would only run 2-3 days a week, but really keep to it as well.
Last season my good friend’s daughter; Emma decided that she wanted to run dogs. She was 7 at the time. I played with the simple idea of taking her out a few times, and thinking it would be fun to do a few times, but then something happened. She really enjoyed it and wanted to stick with it. After discussing ideas with further teachings with my friend; Steve with Noble Paws, I came up with a curriculum on just how I was going to tackle this great feet.
We started last summer, and I have to say it was pretty intimidating. I had babysat kids in high school a handful of times to make extra money, but NOTHING prepared me for this. Emma is a kid who has a lot of questions about how things work, and an opinion to match. She also reminds me a lot of myself when I was her age, which convinced me to do this even more. I taught Emma absolutely everything from watering the dogs, scooping, feeding, and in return when all of the hard work was done, she was able to go play with the puppies as a reward. We continued to do this throughout the fall until we finally had enough snow and were able to put the water buckets away for the winter.
Once winter hit, we started slow. An amazing neighbor put in a fantastic loop in my front yard. I hooked up two dogs on the sled Emma was using, and let her go around the loop trying out different dogs to see if they had the confidence to try it. We hooked up a team of about 8 dogs, she rode in the basket and we went for a 5 mile run. We did this for about two weeks, taking turns of her standing in front of me on the runners. This took part of November and December. Then, we decided that tag sledding was work a go. We did this for about two or three weeks until she really got the hang of the feeling of the sled. When she started to get excited for races, we went out to mushers hall and she took out her first team of two. It was scary, but she was able to work through everything and did fantastic. As we went out on more runs she continued to do better and better, the fears slowly fading. I remember two days before her first race, Ellen and I took her, Gandolf, and Schooner out that evening. We threw a headlamp on her and told her she would have to do the loop herself. I feel like this was a massive turning point for her as later on in the season she would run up and down the driveway with Keko by her side in the dark without a headlamp.
When race time hit, I was only able to coach for the first hour that she was there at the race, due to having to work. Ellen did an amazing job transporting her, playing coach, and making sure she was ready to go for every single possible race she was able to do. She participated in two of the Interior Junior Mushers Association races and the full North Pole Junior Championship Races. We hope to do them all next year, but I felt it was perfect for getting her feet dirty so to speak, this year.
After the championships, we just focused on having more fun and really working on leader training. I can honestly say I have quite a few up and coming Rockstar’s those of which I am really proud of. Gandolf, Lily, Apache, and Tibby have really found themselves as somewhat strong leaders. I am hoping by bikejoring with them this summer, they are able to do even better next year. I enjoy bikejoring as it allows me to take one on one time with a set of leaders and really work on commands. It’s also a really good outlet for the dogs in the summer time during cool mornings. Maybe we will work towards doing the Funjor this year.
Just a few dog shout-outs for this year. All of them deserve praise as they all are amazing. My leaders of course get a ton of praise. Solid leaders, I feel like I can rely on consist of Piper (she’s probably retiring after next year), Katmai, Everest, Spitfire, Tibby, Pie (who will probably puppy train this next year), Schooner (who might have one year left), and Rontu. Up and coming leaders who have some more learning, but defiantly have been doing fantastic are Gandolf, Apache, and Lily. Dogs who have leader potential I would like to tap into consist of are possibly Trout and King.
Speaking of Trout; the dog that should receive the MVP award of the season is Trout. In my opinion, they all do, but something happened with Trout. About two years ago my good friend Brenda Mackey picked up Trout, Tahoe (who I also own), Yogi, and Ciggy (I think Ciggy has been renamed) from some people who had done a breeding with dogs who her dad, Rick Mackey had bred. After taking them back it was obvious that Trout was the worst out of the group whether it was lack of socialization or brunt abuse. For the first year, I had her, Trout would hide in her house. After receiving a sizable Lick Granuloma last summer, typically caused by stress I questioned her quality of life. I told myself that I would give her the season. I would run her like everyone else and see if things improved. Let me tell you….
So, Trout did a 360. The part before running was scary, but due to the other dogs being extremely excited, Trout would become excited. The more we ran, the more she came out of her shell. The more exciting everything became. Trout ended the season by leading the team for about ¾ of a run when I stupidly did not bring leader back up for the dogs I was working with. Trout did a fantastic job. She really came around.
All three of the Hawaii litter pups were all harness broken and did wonderfully. Pele and Kona took to it like naturals, while Keko may require some work. Bikejoring will allow for ample amounts of work as long as a pair her with a stern leader.
All in all, everyone did fantastic this year given our circumstances. I am very proud of everyone as we did what we set out to do. Have fun.
Rest In Peace My Friends
I would like to say rest in peace to three pretty amazing dogs as well as a heck of a human being. I lost Yankee, Dylan, and Mike all dogs I had received from Matthew Failor about 7 years ago. They were all pretty amazing dogs who had all finished Iditarod and really taught me so much about the work of dog mushing, especially in my very green days. I will have more deserved tributes to these guys on the rainbow bridge page I am working on.
The other who passed was my human friend; Mike Messing. Mike was a pretty special human. He did a lot of work rescuing sled dogs in need who were so shut down, and life was typically not kind to. I first met Mike when I was working at Holy Dog Pet Boarding about 7 years ago. Throughout the years he would talk to me about car repairs and where to find affordable parts as well as how to do certain repairs. We would talk about certain mushers who had dropped off dogs at different places and how damaged those dogs where. He also helped me catch Rontu 3 years ago. Mike was a pretty amazing human. When I was living on crappy Jones road he would allow me to run out of his yard, because Jones road is not safe to take off from. He will be dearly missed as the dog community has lost someone vital.
Plans for Next Season
Unfortunately with COVID still having an effect on our tourism season, the dogs will be staying home again this season, but maybe that’s okay. I have intentions on setting up an exercise yard with ample amounts of enrichment items for my four-legged friends along with allowing for smaller play groups. We intent on doing quite a bit of bikejoring this summer as well. My hope is that the ability to purchase fish will return, and the potential to purchase an ATV will be there. If everything goes as planned, maybe well start training by September 15th, or even October 1st by the latest, time will tell.
If everything pans out, I would like to do the Solstice 50, the Apline-65, a mid distance race down in the Mat-Su area, and either the TR 200/100 or the Percy de Wolf. (I am half Canadian so no restrictions there) Emma wants to go further, so I intend on allowing for her to go on some longer runs with me. This summer I hope to build my race sled. I always have a knack for building and fixing things, and fixing sleds is a huge hobby of mine. Hopefully, ill be able to pull this one off. Details to come. I also have a few other sled projects to keep me busy.
Lastly, I decided to try again with breeding Katmai. I tried last year and it didn’t end up taking. This year I decided to use two different males. My goal after this is to tester her progestogen levels to see if we can’t specifically peg when exactly she is most fertile. She has an appointment at the beginning of June. This time round, I bred her to Beacon and Everest. A lot of thought process went into this decision. If she takes, it will be worth a whole other blog post in itself, so stay tuned. Other then that, everyone is healthy and doing well. Here is to roads ahead.
Special Thank You To….
This season really couldn’t have happened without a special few people.
Ellen- Without you taking Emma to races, helping coach, all of the help you do with occasionally caring for the dogs, and our runs. Here is to next season and kicking butt.
Tom and Jennifer Tenney- Thank you for helping through the bits and pieces. As always your help is very much appreciated and I love you both
Marjie Richards- Thank you for your continued support. Your help with the dogs is always very much appreciated.