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...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bad things come in threes?

Well when it rains, it pours. It's been a pretty eventful week and maybe, just maybe the bad stuff is over with by now. Here's hoping, anyway.

Last Thursday Matt and I were excited to get out to the trails right after work. We were so efficient getting the dogs brothed, then loaded and out to Beach Lake Trails that we were there by about 6:40. After getting everyone unloaded and on their drop chains, I went back to the ATV to crank it up, only to find that something wasn't working quite right. The throttle seemed to be stuck and I couldn't get it to move for anything. Oh brother, it was frozen. Sigh. With a little help from Eric, who happened to also be at the trails, we all stood around and put our warm hands on the part that we thought was frozen -- the cable. As long as the choke was on, the ATV would idle but the throttle still wouldn't move. After a few minutes, the boys felt something "give" in the throttle and all of the sudden the ATV roared to life -- but this time the throttle was stuck OPEN! Thank goodness the ATV was in neutral because it was screaming wide-open and after a few minutes of letting it run this way, hoping that whatever was frozen would thaw, the exhaust began to glow a red-hot orange color. Uh-oh, time to shut it off!!

After some standing around scratching our heads, we decided to put our dogs on Eric's drop chains on his truck and to head to our friends' house and pick up their ATV to use instead. After all, we already had gone to the trouble to get all of the dogs out there and harnessed; we might as well run them. Eric didn't mind us leaving our dogs on his truck, so off we went to Bonnie and Jim's place where we picked up their giant trailer with their dog boxes and their ATV on it. We looked like a train coming down the road!! Our poor little Dodge Dakota had no problem pulling the trailer but it looked pretty overwhelmed by its size.

We had a false start on our way to the trail, as we forgot to take our lines off of our ATV and there were no lines on Bonnie's ATV, so we had to turn around and go back to get them. Finally we made it to the trails and got in an uneventful 8 mile run with a really, really nice ATV (so much that I felt spoiled by it.) Then it was back to Bonnie's to drop off their trailer and pick up ours. We rolled into our house at around 11 pm and were some really tired puppies.

I neglected to mention that when we got back from running the dogs, Eric wandered over and pointed at Zak and File' and said
"Was one of these dogs tied at the back of the truck?"
"Yep" I answered. "Why?"
"Because someone ate the wires to the trailer and the plug and the wires to the truck."

Uh-oh. That would be File', miss puppy who cannot keep her mouth out of trouble. Hmm. Well that gave me cause for concern, as I thought that what she ate would probably be passed in her stool but I wasn't sure. File that one away for another day......and homeward we went.

On Saturday we took the dogs out for a really fun 9 miler on the newly-repaired ATV. It was a glorious evening and we really had a good time just being with the dogs. That is, until we got home. When I wandered into the house, I noticed that there was a big, empty bottle sitting in the middle of the floor. Hmm. What's this? Advil?? ADVIL????!????! One of the dogs ate Advil! Who ate it????? There was orange vomit scattered throughout the living room, pointing to the fact that someone was already sick from it. But who? There were three dogs loose in the house and any one of them, or all of them, could have partaken. To the bathroom we went with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and everyone got dosed to induce vomiting. Picture it: three dogs throwing up all at once. It's a winner, I tell ya.

Only Dollar showed any signs of having eaten the Advil, so to the emergency vet we went at 10:00 PM on a Saturday night. Yeah, you know that one's gonna set you back a pretty penny. We trucked into Anchorage in a huge hurry because Advil can be very, very toxic to dogs, especially having effects on kidney and liver function. Within an hour she was on IV fluids and was under observation for the next two days.

So I thought that we had gotten the bad stuff out of our system.......but remember when File' ate the trailer wires??? Yep. You guessed it. On Sunday night, I looked outside to find her moping in her circle, clearly looking unwell.

Indoors she came for some R&R in the heated house, but still she was listless and she showed no interest in food. She would drink water but would simply throw it up within minutes. I was very worried that she had an obstruction, so first thing on Monday morning, to our normal vet we went with File' in tow. GOOD LORD I am getting tired of going to the vet!!

After some barium, x-rays, blood work and a bout of diarrhea, the doc concluded that File' actually has coccidia. Apparently all dogs carry coccidia, but young, stressed dogs can have bouts with infection and can become pretty seriously sick from it. This is not to say that File' doesn't also have something funny like trailer wires in her stomach (she might still) but she definitely has coccidia that are upsetting her GI tract and have her stomach and intestines all inflamed. (Rolling eyes) WHAT ELSE????

That wasn't a dare, I swear. I'm perfectly content with this set of three bad things. Let's not start another set!!!

On a different note, Wolf is doing very well. Thanks all of you well-wishers out there. :) He has a checkup tomorrow and I'll update the blog when we get word on how his recovery is progressing!

Until then - tootles!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Back in the A-K!

Matt and I recently returned from a little over a week-long trip to the lower 48. The time away was refreshing and rejuvenating but I was glad to get back and see my pooches. I think they were pretty happy to see us, too!

We got in pretty late on Saturday night (got home around 1 AM) but Sunday morning we were up and at 'em early. After busily unpacking for a few hours, we checked on all of the dog equipment which was now covered in a thick blanket of snow. The ATV, amazingly, started right up and Matt took it up the hill twice just to run it a little bit without any dogs in front. Later in the afternoon we went to pick up an intriguing visitor who is scheduled to stay with us for a while -- Wolf. Wolf is from Jon Little's kennel. He is one of the survivors of the unfortunate incident that Jon experienced a few weeks ago. If you don't know about it, check out Jon's blog at

Wolf is supposed to stay off of his feet for the next 3 months and that's where we come in. Jon and Bree didn't have a suitable place to keep him sequestered easily at their house, so we've agreed to keep him as an indoor house "pet" for the duration of his recovery. He has several checkups scheduled for the next few weeks, so we'll keep you updated on hir progress as we find out more about how he is healing.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Welcome Bowie! And Indi looking for a Pet Home

Please welcome our newest (and hopefully last, for a while) addition to Lagniappe Kennel -- Bowie! Bowie is from the kennel of Jon and Bree Little of Kasilof, Alaska. She is out of Jon's "Adidas" (see below) and Jeff King's "Tater". I don't know too much about Tater except that he was highly regarded by Jeff's handlers. Adidas was one of the dogs that Jeff leased from Jon for the 2008 Iditarod -- in fact, she ran the race 1 month pregnant (ladies, that would be like you being 5 months pregnant!)

Here is a little info on Adidas:

(from Jon's website

Adidas-- Leader
Iditarod finisher
Age: 4

She's a big female, and the first pup I chose in a litter split with Dean Osmar, partly because of her intensity, partly for her size and partly because those sad-looking eyes remind me of her mother, Kazan. She's been described by another musher as having "a head full of rocks" but she isn't stupid, just head strong. If that toughness can be harnessed, she may prove valuable.

Hopefully Bowie will prove to be similar to her very valuable momma! She is already showing great promise. We put her in team for the first time at the tail end of a run (2 miles left) last night and she took to running like a fish to water. She looked like a little rabbit running down the trail alongside Balu. She's got a little something special about her -- you can tell. Look for great things from this little gal!

In other news, our own Indigo ("Indi") is looking for a new home -- someplace that will spoil him silly and treat him like the wonderful pet that he is. Indi has decided that he would rather lounge around than run (which is fine with me, I certainly won't make him run) so we're looking for a great family for him to spend time with. He's 4 years old, up to date on shots, loves to give kisses, knows how to sit and usually comes when called. He's a real lover. He might like to skijor at a back country pace. He definitely would love to be a walking buddy. If you are interested in Indi, please email me at and put "Indi" in the subject line. Indi has flown in an airplane before, so he should be fine to be shipped. An application, small adoption fee, and references will be required.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunny Days are Here Again

At least for now, the weather has turned nice. Saturday and Sunday were both sunny and cool. The low on Sunday night got all the way down to 25! That means ice on the dog water buckets and signals to me that we are rapidly approaching the time when I'll have to be feeding twice a day rather than just once.

On Saturday the Chugiak Dog Mushers Association (CDMA), which is my local mushing org., held a fun day with a gear swap and a poker run. I am a board member so I showed up at 12 noon, when the gear swap was set to begin. There wasn't really anyone there at that time but by one, folks started trickling in. I got volunteered to be a "deck" out on the trail and give everyone who came by a card for their poker hand. So imagine me 1 mile out down a trail in the middle of the woods carrying a deck of cards. Can we say "useless" if a bear happened to appear??

Sunday Bonnie and I tried to go to Eklutna but after driving the half hour all the way to the parking lot, we pulled in and found that the lot was completely, totally full. Not even a place to park and there was no way in Hades that we were going to run dogs with all of that traffic. It was a shame because it was really a beautiful day to be out at the lake. So instead we headed back to Chugiak, where I took these photos. We run through a really pretty, dappled sunny section that I took photos in, I couldn't help it. It was so cheery! Zed was in single lead, followed by File' and Zak, then Balu and Clover, Calvin and Zinger, and Indi and Skiff.

I don't know if I've mentioned it, but it's pretty muddy out at the trails. See Zinger's face for proof. She was right in the middle of the team. You can imagine the puddles that we run through in order for her to look this way -- pretty monsterous!

Zinger poses with a muddy face

Clover was a little further up in the team - meaning she got less mud on her.

For now, we'll continue to bask in the sunny, clear days that nature has doled out, even if winter is coming soon! Enjoy what we've been given :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Winter is Coming

On my way to work this morning I took these photos. Looks like it's time to put those snow tires on soon!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Soul Dogs

"When I was a young girl I believed in soul mates; now I believe in soul dogs." - Joyce Freedman

It's been obvious to me since Dixie's passing just how much my dogs really do play a special role in the life of dog people. Dogs touch us in ways that are simply indescribable to those people who don't share their lives with canines. Their devotion, their enthusiasm and their humor are all little gems that enrich our very existence. Dixie's death has caused me to reflect on these things and has given me renewed appreciation for each one of my four-legged fur-kids.

I honestly never expected to really miss Dixie; she could be a real pain. She had separation anxiety, awful teeth, a penchant for chasing fireworks, and the often-annoying habit of "WUFF"-ing at you whenever she decided she needed something. I often cursed at her under my breath (or even audibly) as she could be quite demanding and her insistence increased in volume dramatically within a very short period of time. But my expectations were folly -- how could I not miss that dog? How could I not miss the sweet pestering, the soulful brown beagle-eyes, the warm snuggle on a cold winter morning?

Perhaps as I began to slowly amass a bakers' dozen dogs, I took for granted just a little bit about each one. Each has his or her own special qualities that make him or her an individual, but in my eyes they began to become a group, a pack operating as one being. They were fed, watered, and picked up after at the same time. Free play time in the yard came as a group, and so did running. But since Dixie has departed, I've taken extra time to see every single one of my dogs as an individual. My appreciation for all of them has been heightened and I've noticed qualities, both good and bad, about all dozen of them. Skiff gets my heart with her fond nibbles and licks at my nose when I lean over her and her quiet wherewithal whenever she is being handled; File' makes me smile with her exuberance and joy simply to be alive, much less to have a nylabone; Zinger tells me that she is unequivocally happy with her woo-woo-woos that she throws my way when we're hooking up to run; Clover has more energy than should be legal in a sled dog and she's always ready to give a little more; Zak gives me quiet sidelong glances and begs to be petted and talked to when I walk past him; Zed literally smiles when it's time to hook up for a run or when we are trotting back into the staging area from finishing one up; Calvin trusts in his mother without question -- and I'm probably the only person who is privileged to have his true love; Balu enjoys his station in life as the Senior dog and the ruler of the dog yard; and finally, Indi is just plain happy to BE.

And so, I have to pass on what I've learned in the past weeks, which is to love and be loved. Appreciate, accept, and embrace differences in your dogs. And strive to be the person your dog thinks that you are!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Blog to Follow

Just wanted to share a new blog that I found today -- for all of you animal crazed people like me who would like to be vets in your next life. Written by a Wasilla vet, this blog is quite humorous and gives a pretty accurate view of the 49th state.

Happy reading!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The things we do for dogs...

Mud, mud, mud. That was the state of our dog lot as of a few short days ago. Matt and I decided finally to drop over $1K on gravel and supplies to gravel the yard! No problem, right? 3 dump truck loads (30 yards) of 3/4 minus sized gravel later, one backhoe, and countless trips with the wheel barrow, we finally had a gravelled yard. Yes, I drove a backhoe. For six hours yesterday, actually. When I closed my eyes last night, all I could see was the *#!% backhoe and my hands were twitching as I was trying to "drive" it. I think I had nightmares! Matt documented the occasion. I also took pictures of the "after" for you to see :)

Me operating the backhoe. Ack!

The new, neat yard. Ahhhh. Clean.

We were also hard at work getting the dog truck finished this weekend. Woohoo! It is ready to go. Not only did we make a 3-dog box insert for under the dog box (preventing us from having to put a difficult-to-manage second level of dog boxes) but I also received my personalized magnets for the dog truck. How cute is that?!

The Dog Truck. Matchy-matchy :)

The new dog boxes in the bed of the truck. Doors aren't on just yet (coming soon).

We took the dogs out for their third run of the season last night. I put Zak in lead with Zed and man, am I proud of that dog. I think we have a real leader in the making. He is happy to be up front and he is learning his commands. What's really funny is that he likes to lie down any time we stop, especially if there is water involved. Silly dog!

Stay tuned for more runs -- fall is definitely here. The leaves have changed, there's snow on the mountains, and the rain never seems to stop. Happy mushing!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Trip to Colorado and First Fall Run

Last week we took a wild, hare-brained trip down to Colorado to pick up a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser that Matt bought while down in Colorado Springs on business. It was a one-way flight followed by a few hours of sight-seeing and visiting with some friends of ours. And we took Indi with us! Yes, he flew down in a kennel and accompanied us on the way back. The day after we arrived, we set out on our way back to Alaska. On our one sight-seeing day, we visited the Garden of the Gods near Pike's Peak (it was too cloudy to go up on Pike's.) Indi and I paused for a photo opportunity in front of some of the neatest geology I've ever seen.

On Sunday (the second day of our drive) we drove from Calgary, Alberta to Grand Cache. We made a slight detour through Banff and Jasper parks. Imagine my surprise when we got a little outside of Calgary and found that there was SNOW on the ground -- in August! The snow stuck all the way until we got into the park, when it turned to rain. Seeing snow really lit a fire under Matt and me. We realized how much we needed to get done when we got back home in order to start training the dogs.

We stopped at Lake Louise and walked to the back of the lake, at the terminus of the glacier. Indi accompanied us, of course, and several times he decided to go for a swim in the glacial melt water. It had to be no more than 35 degrees, seriously. Ice water! But he loved it.

Fast forward to Sunday the 7th -- My Dad popped in for a visit at the tail end of a fishing trip. Of course I couldn't let the opportunity to take him for a run with the dogs pass us by. Matt and I put it in high gear and got the dog truck finished and everything ready to go just in the nick of time. On Monday afternoon we took Dad out for a 2 miler -- the first run of the season. I think he had a good time, but he did tell me that I was nuts and that it was too much work. :) I ran the dogs in half-harnesses for the first time. They were a little wild and crazy. I'm not sure if it was due to it being the first run of the season, or due to them not wearing neck lines, but it was a tad nuts. Oh well, they'll get better as the season goes on. Needless to say, they had a BLAST. It was the first time that File' had run with the team, and it was my first time to run Skiff, Zak and Zinger. Everyone was fantastic and pulled. Gotta love those dogs!

We finished up the run, watered everyone, and headed back home. Whew! I was pooped. "Dog wrangling", I call it. It can really wear a girl out!

We should be out for our second run tonight. More photos (and photos of the newly finished dog truck) to come!

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Smile for a Monday

On the days like today, when it's tough to get out of the bed and get started with life, sometimes it's nice to think of the blessings that each and every one of us has. The things that I like to think of are the things that make me smile -- my silly ferrets doing their "dook dook dook" noise while they run and act silly in the living room, Guy carrying around a pink and green stuffed elephant the size of a mouse (literally) because it's his "baby doll", or even a just sunny afternoon drive home from work.

I've posted some things that make me smile -- I hope they make you smile, too!

Indi smiles for the camera, mid-walk at Beach Lake

A sunny day drive home from work

As for Lagniappe Kennel news, we're almost done with refinishing the 6 hole dog box. Photos to come (hopefully tonight!) AND -- File' was in harness for the first time last Thursday. I hooked her to my skijor belt and off we went for a 2 mile jog up the road and back. She was all business and put her head down and pulled like she had been doing it all of her life. What a good girl (as I told her repeatedly!) Footage below. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rest in Peace, Dixie-Bear

Today we are saddened to say that we lost our very first member of Lagniappe Kennel, Dixie.  Dixie was adopted from the animal shelter in Nashville, TN in the fall of 2001.  For the last eight years she has graced us with her (sometimes Prima Donna) presence.  I have never had a dog who was a bigger pain, yet was so unconditionally cute.  She will be missed.  See you at the bridge, Dixie-Bear. We love you.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

File' and the fishcicle and Lagniappe Kennel Sled....Ferrets??

It's the dog days of summer and not a whole lot is going on in our dog lot. Most of the activity is outside the lot -- like getting the dog boxes stripped and repainted, lining up gravel for delivery, etc. So I decided to add a little action to the day on Friday by throwing a frozen King Salmon head to File'. Good gracious, that dog can eat. I felt like I was watching National Geographic video of lions eating. This girl was seriously going to town!

File' tears into the salmon head. Mmmmm...

Saturday was my birthday (happy birthday to me!) and I rewarded myself by acquiring something that will make me smile and giggle and will make me very happy this winter -- a ferret! I used to have a ferret but gave him to a friend who was in love with him. I miss the silly things. So I found a ferret, Syke, in Palmer. He needed to be rehomed and he's perfect for me. He's a white eyed black (so not albino in that he does not have pink eyes). He's very sweet!! Today I found him a roomie, a little female named Jinx. So we have Syke and Jinx. What is this, 80's phrases? Totally unintentional. I love them! Granted, they can't pull a sled, but they snuggle and do funny ferret things. They'll definitely be good winter entertainment. Right now they're curled up together in their nap sack, asleep.

Happy Ferret Day!

Jinx in her nap sack

Hey, what's all this picture business?  And who is that dog? (Cass)

Syke sleeping on his back

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

After many days of reflection, it dawns on me that dogs will be dogs.

I've had a quiet last few days. I've been shouldering kennel burdens by myself since Friday of last week; frankly, I expected it to be a little trying but I've grown accustomed to the routine again and am able to dispense with the chores pretty quickly. I think that the dogs are happy to see me in the dog lot again -- Matt usually does the evening feedings so they haven't visited with me very much lately. As soon as we go back to feeding twice a day, I'll be doing morning duty before work as well as running them with the ATV some.

My rejuvenating, peaceful weekend consisted of chores, some shopping, laundry and housecleaning, punctuated by lots of napping. In the evenings I was able to take some time out to have a glass of wine and gaze out the window at the dogs playing in the yard. Most of the time watching them makes me smile contentedly. On rare occasions, watching them gives me a heart attack. I've had two such instances within the last few days.

Firstly, last night I peeked out the window to spy on File'. She was having a blast playing with her bone. Or so I though. Upon closer inspection, I saw stuffing all over the ground. WHAT? How had she managed that? Someone had apparently gifted her with the closest dog bed, which she drug to the center of her circle and attempted to shred. Heart attack number one. I slipped on my boots and ran outside to chide her and put it back where it belonged. She didn't do too much damage.

Later on, I heard Zinger barking in the yard. She, her brother Zack, and her kissing cousin Clover have unique barks. They all sound similar but I can tell them apart without looking simply by the tone of their voices. I knew that Zinger was up to something before I even saw the reason for her barking. She only barks when she's playing or when it's feeding time. I had already fed, so I figured she must be playing with something. When I looked out the kitchen window I saw that she was batting a toy around on top of her house, nipping it, throwing it up in the air and swatting at it again. She was busy talking to it while playing with it. What kind of a toy was that? Small...brown...oh NO. It was a POOP! My dog was playing with a poop on top of her house!!!

"ZINGER!" (no response) "ZINGER!!" (still no response) "ZINGERRRRRR!!!!!!!!!" (she pauses) "Don't play with that." (blank stare. swats at the turd again.) I sigh and close the door, shaking my head.

What in the world gets into these critters? I love them with all of my heart and soul and they repay me by doing things like tearing up their dog beds and playing with pieces of poop!! They make me scratch my head day after day. And so, after much Zen meditation and many quiet hours spent contemplating my dear pets and how I much love them, and why they do the things that they do, I have come to a simple conclusion. It all boils down to one thing: Dogs will be dogs. :)

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Lazy Weekend

This past weekend was a pretty relaxed one. Matt spent most of it putting vinyl siding on the garage (pics to come) and I spent most of it running errands and goofing off. I took quite a few walks with dogs and enjoyed our bonding time. I even walked Indi up to the unnamed lake near the top of our mountain and let him go swimming. I wish I had taken my camera so I could have gotten some quality photos. Instead, all I had was my camera phone. I'm posting the photos and video anyway, even though they were a little blurry. He's not doing anything spectacular -- unless you consider the fact that most sled dogs don't like going swimming! Indi loves water, although I think he takes dips mostly because he wants to cool off under that heavy coat of his.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Trip to the North Slope

On Saturday the 26th I was one of 110 people fortunate enough to be able to take a trip to the North Slope to visit ConocoPhillips' Kuparuk River Unit. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, because the tickets for this trip are drawn lottery-style. Matt didn't actually win the tickets, but his friend Maria did. Both Matt and Maria were going to be on the Slope over the weekend, so Maria gave one of her tickets to her husband and the other one to me. I wasn't really sure what to expect out of this trip, but I'll say that I was definitely pleasantly surprised.

I had an early check-in at the Shared Services desk (the airline that services BP and ConocoPhillips). To be parked at the airport and checking in at 7:30 was brutal for me, but I managed to do it. I snagged a Starbucks before boarding the plane, but little did I know that unlike today's commercial flights, I'd be treated like royalty on this plane. Shortly after takeoff, the super-friendly stewardesses came by and gave us all cinnamon rolls that were the size of my HAND. I kid you not. Yes, I scarfed it down in record time. We also had coffee. Yum.

About 45 minutes into the flight, the captain came on and informed us that we were about to pass Denali. Sure enough, I looked out the plane and saw THE mountain to my left. The pilot did a fly-by for each side of the plane so we could all see it. It was an absolutely incredible sight. Only the top 2000 ft. or so were visible, but it was stunning nonetheless.

Denali from my seat in the plane

I was content to doze off after our mountain sighting. Another half-hour later, the pilot let us know that the pipeline and the Dalton Highway were visible below us, and we descended to about 3000 ft. to fly over them and sight-see. Incredible! We were near Galbraith at the time.

Pretty soon we were on the ground and were deplaning and loading a bus to ride to the camp. When we entered the camp, I saw Matt's friend Maria greeting passengers. I poked my head to the right of the line and saw Matt waiting for me. Score! I had a tour guide. After a short safety meeting, the rest of the passengers went with an official ConocoPhillips tour guide but Maria's husband (Matt) and I went with Maria and my Matt for our own personal tours.

The first order of business was to grab a hard hat, some goggles, ear protection, and to be fitted with a Nomex suit. Dead sexy, I tell you. Then we headed out to one of the drilling rig camps to grab some lunch. All free, of course. After we stuffed ourselves, we drove to the drilling rig and watched as some of the workers pulled pipe. The rig foreman gave us a tour of the drilling rig from top to bottom. I saw where the drilling mud is made, mixed, and distributed. We ventured onto the platform where work was going on. Scary!! Huge equipment and very heavy, loud, and quick-moving. A dangerous job, for sure, if you're not light on your feet.

Standing on the rig looking upward at the pipe

Coming down off the rig. Look at the tundra behind me - how pristine! They are SUPER careful and there are so many regulations......the area looks virtually untouched.

Under the rig. The thing is moveable!! HUGE tires. Supporting 11.75 MILLION pounds!

After we finished visiting the rig, we headed over to the Seawater Treatment Plant (known as STP.) As we pulled up, Maria warned us that polar bears were frequently seen in the vicinity. In fact, the STP has a CAGE in front of the door to the building. The cage stays shut and when you walk out of the building, you're supposed to check for bears before opening the cage. I kid you not. There was actually a polar bear at STP shortly after we left!!

We toured the annals of the STP and learned how the water is treated and is used in oil recovery. It's as cold as 28 degrees when it enters the plant in the winter time! Of course, there is always driftwood and debris present, so the water has to be filtered. Some funny little prehistoric-looking critters called amphipods also get screened out. I picked one up to snack on. Yes, it was alive. No, I didn't really eat it. It was just my own "Man vs. Wild" moment.

Mmm, tasty snack. Lots of valuable protein.

Matt and Me in front of the Arctic Ocean

After the STP tour, we headed back to camp for a snack and a tour of the camp. Working there would be a pretty sweet deal if you could stand the hours!!

We boarded the plane at 4:30 and headed back to Anchorage. I didn't take any photos on the way back. In fact, I slept most of the way. But ConocoPhillips was generous enough to provide an evening snack and free adult beverages on the flight. I did wake up enough to fix myself (and drink) a Crown and Coke. Yum.

All in all, it was a delightful day! I was so very impressed with Conoco. The wildlife is alive and well. Caribou are abundant. Geese are everywhere. Wildlife has the right-of-way and cannot be harrassed (or hazed, as they call it). Yes, we did have to sit in the truck to wait for a gaggle of geese to cross the road. Annoying but necessary.

I say THUMBS UP for the Gas line!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Depressing Weather and a blurb about Balu

Ok folks, get ready for some depressing news. This is the coldest summer that Alaska has had in a good, long time. I'm talking, cloudy, overcast days with highs in the 50's. This morning it was 48 when I woke up. Hello? July, anyone??

I knew things were getting bad (and I wasn't imagining it) when the Anchorage Daily News posted this:

Yep, they confirmed what I suspected. 2008 may be the year that summer never arrived. The dogs love it, but I gotta say, it makes for an awfully nasty, messy dog yard. The amount of mud that we have out there is insane. We will be putting gravel down in the yard this fall, and the sooner the better!

Tomorrow I head north to Kuparuk for a tour of the North Slope drilling grounds. I won a ticket and I'm pretty excited! I will be sure to take photos while I am there (and on the way, if it's clear and I can see anything out of the plane. Supposedly we fly right past Denali.)

In the meanwhile, I'll entertain you with a little bit of history on Balu.


Curled up for a nap on anything he can find

Balu doesn't really have red eyes. He has blue eyes, but it's dang near impossible to get a good photograph of him because the flash always gives him red-eye. Oh well, use your imagination :)

Balu came to me from Eric Rogers of R Northbound Dogs. He is the most senior dog in our sled dog menagerie, at the ripe old age of nine. Balu ran the 2006 Iditarod with Eric but was dropped in Ruby due to a lack of drive. Thanks to the quick thinking and superb care of my friend Bonnie (who housed Balu as a dropped dog), Balu made a trip to the vet and was saved. He actually had an undiagnosed stomach ulcer that developed while he was on the trail. Without Bonnie's help, Balu surely would not be with us today. Balu also started the 2007 Iditarod with Eric, but Eric scratched due to several broken bones. After coming home from the race, Balu retired to live with us at Lagniappe Kennel.

Balu has bloodlines that trace back to Gareth Wright's Pluto, to whom he bears much resemblance. He obviously has some sprinty hound in his background, with a lighter build and flop ears, but make no mistake -- Balu is still quite a large dog weighing in at about 65 lb. He can run anywhere in our team but spends most of his time running in lead. He is a trained command leader but is not stubborn enough to impose his will on an unruly leader-in-training. Truthfully, Balu is easily distracted from going the way you tell him to, and if the other dog wants to go a different direction, all bets are off! I am encouraging Balu to think more on his own this year, as I plan to run him without a leader neckline, forcing him to listen and follow the other leader's example (usually Zed's) less.

Balu has one of the nicest personalities of all of our sled dogs. He was an excellent puppy-sitter for File' and had a ton of patience with her. He even allowed her to sleep with him in his dog house. He can be a bit of a tyrant, though, to younger males, as he is the only loose sled dog in our yard, and is not hesitant to give any other dogs a piece of his mind. Albeit, quietly. :) Just a lot of "barking" -- in quotes because Balu is debarked. It's more like a clacking of teeth.

So, farewell until I return from Kuparuk!

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