Friday, April 3, 2009

Meet Tuuli

This is Tuuli, who is to be the newest addition to Lagniappe Kennel. I am picking her up from Bree Little tomorrow while I swap leased dogs out with her. Jake Berkowitz and Jeff King both ran leased Little dogs in this year's Iditarod, and now it's time for them to go back to their home. I'll be facilitating that.....and will be acquiring at least one dog along the way! Also while I'm out and about I'll be looking at two dogs that Zack Steer has for sale -- Saturn and Pluto. More later on these two.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

News about Zed

Not long after I wrote the last post, the temperature came back up above zero. We had probably a week of "normal" weather, and then here we are below zero AGAIN! I ran the dogs last night and it was -15. Brr!

Well, so this post is supposed to be about Zed. Mr. Zed had been waking up on the mornings after his runs and he was visibly quite sore in the hind end, either lower back or hips. The other night when Matt got back from running the dogs, Zed screamed as Matt went to take him out of the dog box on the truck. That's when I decided that it was time for a veterinary visit to see what was going on.

On Monday I hauled him in to our vet, Dr. Joe Grohs, whom I really respect. After recounting the problem to him, Dr. Grohs decided to take several x-rays of Zed to see if any defects were visible. We gave him a combination pain killer and sedative and plunked him down on the x-ray table. A few shots later we had what we were looking for. I joined Dr. Grohs in the developing room to see how the x-rays turned out.

The vet clinic's x-rays are digital, so they can be saved on a computer or emailed. Dr. Grohs was nice enough to give me a copy of the x-rays so I could keep my own set. I'll be posting one as soon as I can. Anyway, to make a long story short, we determined that Zed has spondylopathy of his last lumbar vertebra. That is to say, he has some calcifications around his vertebra that are slowly encroaching on the next vertebra and may eventually fuse the two together. This is probably the origin of Zed's pain and it means that he will be laid off for the rest of the season, if not permanently. We will x-ray him again in three months and see if there has been any progression, and then again three months after that. Hopefully his vertebra will fuse and he will be pain-free because of that. Then he can get back to running.

I have to say, this makes me pretty sad and disappointed. Zed was really my main man, my go-to guy who really gave me a solid front end to my team. He was training Zak and Skiff to be leaders as well. Now I will have to make do with the younger guys running by themselves, which could be really interesting! Last night Zak and Skiff were in lead together and things went off without a hitch, but we'll have to see what happens when they're put into a hairy situation. Will they be able to be the strong leaders that I need them to be? I guess we'll have to wait and find out. Only time will tell.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Life below zero

Bonnie and me at the Knik 200 Start

Just before leaving

Teams lined up for the start of the race

Mike asks me if I'd like to help him harness dogs

The dog yard these days

The past week or so has been brutally cold for us in the Anchorage area.  Granted, folks in Fairbanks deal with temperatures much worse than this (as they are currently doing!) but for Pete's sake, we don't live in Fairbanks!  Currently my thermometer here at the house is reading -17.5 F.  The dogs are all snuggled into the straw in their houses and not too many folks are outside doing things today.  Bonnie and I were exceptions.

This morning we went to the Knik 200 sled dog race in Knik, which is just across the Knik arm of the inlet from us.  It takes about 45 minutes to get over there even though as the crow flies, surely it's only a few miles from where I live.  The temperature at the Knik was a balmy -25 F.  Folks were bundled to the hilt and I saw more fur on people than I've seen in a while.  Fur is a wonderful, wonderful thing!  Mike Suprenant was running the race and of course, like we always do, Bonnie and I got roped into helping him get ready and get to the starting chute :)  We never can be just spectators, I swear!   But anyway, we got Mike safely out of there and spent the rest of the time taking photos of random mushers.  Jake Berkowitz, Allen Moore, and Karin Hendrickson were among those that we knew.

Well, here are a few pictures of life below zero.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Welcome Strider / Tweek!

Tweek taking a nap

Yep, you guessed it, we have another addition to Lagniappe Kennel -- a wonderful dog that belonged to Eric Rogers of R Northbound Dogs . His name is Strider, and he's a two year old (will be three in March) who was having trouble keeping up with Eric's Iditarod team this year. We decided to give him a try in our team and see how he liked things. So far, so good! We ran him 20+ miles yesterday and he seemed to fit in very well. He was a cinch to harness, line out, and run -- he kept his tug tight and was a real cheerleader whenever we stopped.

Eric reported that Strider (we call him "Tweek" after the Southpark character who can't sit still) was very much "his own dog" (i.e., very independent). He's a very sweet guy but he seems to lack focus. We've decided to keep him in the house as much as possible in an attempt to get him to really bond with us and pay more attention to humans. I don't think he had ever been inside before, but he's adjusting pretty well, even settling down for a nap when nothing is going on.

Tweek is a Lance Mackey breeding (Thunder x Nasty) and is unrelated to the rest of the dogs in our kennel, although he looks very much like Zed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Fun Run in Kasilof

Bree smiles for the camera as we get ready to go

Getting ready to pull the hook

Well, dear reader, Wolf has gone home to the Littles' house! Yes, that's right, he was totally healed as of his last vet visit and got a clean bill of health. We drove him down to Jon and Bree on Saturday and used the trip as an opportunity to get out on some new trails with our own dogs. Many thanks to Jon and his handler Josh for showing us the 20 mile loop from Jon's house. It was a bit rough but was loads of fun! I was only able to snap some pictures as the sun was dipping behind the horizon -- it seemed to be the only part of the trail smooth enough that I could fish the camera out and take some photos. Zed and Clover are in lead, followed by Zinger and three of Jon's yearlings that ran the Sheep Mountain 150 just a few weeks ago. 6 dogs total and we were cruisin' at a pretty nice speed!


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Little Update

It's been a while since I posted a blog update so I figured it was high time to let you know what we've been up to! The weather here has been really crummy, with highs just above freezing. This has turned our roads and trails into icy runways that can be quite dangerous to those who aren't wary. Nevertheless, our runs have been averaging about 17 miles, thanks to Matt, who has been putting in most of the hours training the pups.

Interestingly, Zed has been laid off for a week due to an apparent lower back soreness problem that has cropped up twice within the last few weeks. No problem, right? Well, no, if you consider that Zed is my only experienced leader (now that Balu is retired to being a yard Nazi) then it poses a potential problem. That means I have youngsters up in the front of the team! Zak and Skiff have really stepped up to the plate in this situation, running lead together and proving to us that they do know their gee-haw commands, and how to head-on pass. I've been really impressed, as we are running them without necklines, so when you call a command you really get to see both of them respond individually without interference from the other. Pretty neat!

The Sheep Mountain 150 is this weekend and I plan on going to watch. The entry field is full of top-knotch contenders so it should be a fun race. Matt has volunteered to help out in the race so he'll be working at the start and the Eureka checkpoint. I'll try to take photos this weekend and post them to the blog!

Until then, think snow!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another Eventful Week and a Wolf Update

Zed (foreground) and File' (back left). Think they're related??

All of the dogs tethered. Wow!

The last week has been pretty action-packed. I had a dog run away, we had our first run on sleds, my sister-in law came for a visit, and Wolf had his splint removed, just to name a few things that happened. I guess I shouldn't just lump that all into one sentence and should expand a little bit. :)

As for having a dog run away, the run last week should have started out well. It really should have -- I was prepared to the T even though I was running without the aid of Matt (who was out of town). Well we made it to the trails uneventfully, at least. But that's about where it ended.

Bonnie decided to join me and ride on the back of the ATV for the short, 5 mile run that I had planned. Because she's not too familiar with my dogs and where I usually put them in the team, I hooked up mostly by myself. There must have been a dog in heat in the staging area before us because I simply could not get Zed to focus. He wandered around sniffing here and there and managed to wrap the entire team around the pole at the staging area rather than keeping them lined out like he was supposed to. I, being my brilliant self, decided that the tangle was too complex and I needed to start undoing tug lines. Zed was first, and I turned him loose because he wouldn't go anywhere. I thought. I looked up to see that he was trotting away, down the trail away from me. DRAT! I threw the rest of the dogs back onto the drop chains and took off down the trail on foot trying to get Zed to come back, to no avail. About halfway to the point where I turned around, I was tackled from behind. What the ???? It was Clover, she had gotten loose from Bonnie and had come bounding down the trail after me. Oh great, another loose dog! Well, lucky for me that Clover used to be Ruth Iten's loose walking dog. She followed me right back to the ATV where I decided I'd go look for Zed. Just about the time I got all of the dogs unhooked from the ATV, I turned around to find Zed milling around in the midst of them. UGH. I was absolutely disgusted and I told him so!

We hooked up and took off for a nice run that included a same-direction pass of a Siberian team. I'm not sure who it was but it was no trouble at all and made me breathe a sigh of relief that at least something went right.

Later that night I decided to bring a dog in for some one-on-one time. I picked Skiff because the other dogs had been beating up on her, and I thought she deserved a confidence boost. Skiff is an interesting dog. She seems almost skittish, but she's really not, she's just confidently cautious. She's not scared in the least. New situations don't seem to bother her, and being inside was certainly no exception. I left her loose and didn't really pay too much attention to where she was or what she was doing. After about half an hour, I realized I hadn't seen her anywhere or heard her at the other end of the house. Where was she? I peeped in my bathroom and, lo and behold, Skiff was there, in the bathtub, making herself perfectly comfortable. What in the world?? I picked her up and took her out of the tub but it seemed that she wanted to be somewhere secure (high?) because she immediately climbed onto the bathroom counter top. Silly, silly dog! I relieved her by taking her back outside and she immediately went into her dog house. I just never know what they're thinking.

Skiff in the tub

Skiff on the counter top!

Several days later I learned that my sister-in-law, Rachel, would be coming up to Alaska for a whirlwind visit. Well, I thought to myself, this calls for breaking out the sled! There is still not enough snow in Chugiak to use the sled, so away we went to Nancy Lake, about an hour North of us. I put Rachel in the sled and we ran 9 miles on a closed, unplowed road. To say that it was snowing a little would be an understatement -- there was a veritable blizzard going on! It was so hard to see that I had to pull my hood down as far as it would go and stare at my wheel dogs rather than look where we were going. Never fear, Zed was in lead (with Clover) and I didn't think he'd lead us astray. He didn't disappoint.

Rachel and me before heading up to Nancy Lake

The sled post-run

Rachel post-run

Off the topic of my own dogs, it's time for an update on Wolf! He is doing so fantastically well that he doesn't even have a splint on anymore. His pressure sores from his bandage are healing very nicely and his fur is beginning to come back where they shaved him for his surgery. Every night Wolf gets to spend a few hours without his "hat" (his Elizabethan collar) on. I don't think he really needs it anymore, but until those wounds are totally healed, I'll keep it on him just to be on the safe side.

With so much time in his kennel, Wolf probably has a lot to think about -- like how he'd like to collect things off of the floor in the bedroom and stash them in his crate. Seriously. The other morning I found him with a hat and one of my slippers. He was babysitting them in his crate and looked pretty disappointed that I took them away from him. Silly dog. I'm so proud of him for being such a trooper through this whole ordeal. Here's hoping he makes someone a fantastic recreational sled/bed dog!

Wolf with his loot (my pink slipper and a hat)
Until next time...

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