Thursday, February 28, 2008

Iditarod Countdown Begins!!

I can't believe that the Iditarod is already here.  It's HERE!  Today is the day of the Start Banquet and the mushers will draw their bib numbers to find out their starting order.  Things will get underway this evening at 5:30 when the no-host bar will open.  Dinner will start at 6:30.  Matt and I have tickets and will be sitting at our friend, Eric Rogers' table, I hope.  We are at table 66 anyway.  I had such a good time at the banquet last year, and I expect that this year's will only be better.  I just hope that the speeches are on the short side...some of these guys can get pretty long-winded.

Tomorrow is the day of Bonnie's Open House, which will be hosting quite a few mushers.  We'll have our local celebrities, Eric Rogers (veteran) and Mike Suprenant (rookie), Yukoners Sebastian Schnuelle (veteran) and Hans Gatt (veteran), Michiganers Ed Stielstra (veteran) and Jake Berkowitz (rookie), German Rudi Niggemeier (rookie), and the famous Libby Riddles, who is not entered in the race. Bryan Bearss (veteran not running this year) is also supposed to be stopping by for a visit, and Tim Osmar (veteran) may also be stopping by. I have heard through the grapevine that at least two tour buses are scheduled to stop I really want to go to this thing?  Well, I have to, I was threatened and I fear for my life if I don't.  I am planning on showing up really, really early and helping Bonnie get set up for the party.  I imagine I'll probably be staying really, really late also.  The party runs from 1 - 6. 

Saturday will be very busy with the ceremonial start downtown.  We'll have to get there early and set up Eric's area and get to work getting the dog, the musher, and the Iditarider ready.  Lexi will be driving Eric's tag sled and Jim will be driving Mike's tag sled.  It should prove to be a fun time for all (that's probably an understatement!)  Of course, Sunday is the restart in Willow.  Don't worry, I'll post updates between now and then, detailing our hectic few days!  I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to actually be a musher in this three-ring circus.  Crikey.

Shifting gears here, I took my own dogs out for a quick 2-mile run last night.  They did GREAT.  Balu and Clover were in lead.  My goodness, Clover is one incredible dog!  I am always amazed at her drive.  She runs like someone set her tail on fire!!  The girl really loves to go, but she's easy to handle.  I suspect that she is beginning to learn her "gee" and "haw" and "on by" commands, too.  She's going to be a quick study, I hope.  She is a truly lovely girl, and I plan to get two more just like her!!  Dan Huttunen actually has two dogs that are almost a repeat breeding of the one that produced Clover (actually, same sire but the bitch was Clover's mom's litter mate.  Doesn't that make them double first cousins or something?)  I went to meet them last Sunday and fell in love with them.  They are also four years old and seem to have Clover's delightful personality.  Right now their names are Zinger and Zack, but since we already have a Zed, I think that will be too many Z's to keep we'll probably rename them.  I'm up for any ideas that you all may have.  Right now I'm thinking we'll use Clover to be like "4 leaf clover" and we'll go with an Irish theme.  Maybe we'll rename Zack Guinness and Zinger Baileys or Limerick or Shamrock or something.  St. Pat's day is coming, you know!!

Oh, one last bit of excitement to share from last night.  When I pulled up in the staging area, a nice lady came over to tell me that there was a musher who had lost a dog during a run and was out on the trail looking for her.  She described the man as having a huge beard and he had said that he was an Iditarod musher.  Hmm, I thought to myself, could that be Trent Herbst?  I'd never met Trent, but he has some of Zed's kids and grand kids.  The musher's truck was still there when I finished my run, so I figured he hadn't found his dog.  I went back home and dropped my dogs off, fed them quickly, and loaded an airline crate to take to Bonnie's so she could take the puppies to their photo shoot this morning.  The more I thought about it, the more I felt bad that the poor unknown musher was out there by himself looking for one of his lost Iditarod dogs.  I decided to take a chance and drive back out to the trail to see if he was still there.  Sure enough, I saw a headlamp in the parking lot when I pulled in, and I rolled down my window to ask if he had found his dog yet.  He uttered a sad "no, I'm still looking for her."  "What's your name?" I asked.  "Trent" was the reply.  Well my goodness, what terrible circumstances to meet Trent in person!  I had emailed him a few times to say hi and wish him luck and to find out more about Zed's pups, but now we were meeting in person.  After making a few phone calls for ideas of what we should do, I decided to drive down to Beach Lake and take one last look for Star (the dog) before I started making more calls to organize a search party.  As I pulled into the parking lot at the lake, I saw the reflection of a set of eyes looking at me -- and something else reflective -- a harness?  At first I thought I was seeing a fox, but the eyes didn't run off, they just slowly moved to the right, toward the dumpster that stays in the lot there.  I stopped my truck and hopped out to get a better look.  Well by Jove, it was a dog!  She was hiding behind the dumpster and I wasn't sure that she would come to me.  Trent had said that she was shy.  But I used my friendliest voice and I grabbed a bag of Yummy Chummies and rustled the bag, hoping she'd realize that I had something good to eat.  Slowly, she plodded over to me and got just out of arms' reach.  I held my breath and slowly reached for her harness.  Just...a few more...inches....AHA!  And I had her.  She got lots of pats and I told her that her dad was VERY worried about her.  Into the crate in my truck she went and we sped back to the staging area to make our special delivery.  Trent was so excited that he gave me a big hug.  I was very relieved for him.

Man, that was a lucky find, and I am glad that we had a happy ending.  Sometimes that's enough to make your day.  It did mine.

Until next time!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tonight was the puppies' first baths.  It was quite a funny sight to behold!  Everyone was good, but the general consensus was that baths are highly overrated.  These puppies are very expressive -- I'll say that.  I'll let you decide who had the most fun...

Snuggle me, please.  I'm wet.

Why me?


Well, word has it that I'm the best lookin' guy in the whole litter!

***Breaking News***

***This just in***
The Cajun Litter may be featured in a publicity shoot on Thursday!  More details to come...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

There's Nothing Better Than Good Friends and Good Times

Last night I had a last-minute, impromptu get-together at my house.  I wasn't sure of how many people would actually show up -- everyone seemed to have scheduling conflicts initially, but by the end of the evening, there were nine of us parked in my living room.  Bonnie, Jim, Eric, Marti, Steve, Bryan, Lexi, and her husband Jim, as well as me, all sharing good conversation, good wine, and marginal food (hey, beggars can't be choosers!)  Suffice it to say that I had a blast.  I don't know why I haven't done this more often!  I guess I am always worried about our driveway (which can be a beast if it's icy or if we've gotten a huge dump of snow recently) and our road and everyone's ability to access my place, but last night the conditions were perfect.  Thank you, all, for making me realize how much I enjoy you being my friends.  You're the best!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

File', Gumbo and Boudreaux
Gumbo snoozes.  Hard.

I visited the puppies tonight and shot some video of them drinking water, which was a cute thing.  But I also got this footage of Boudreaux acting like and absolute goober.  He just sits there munching on the blanket until, suddenly, he springs upwards and sideways in some kind of flippity flop.  After he recovers, he decides that he needs to investigate and eat my cell phone (which I was using to video.)  Check it out! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Quick Update

Rosemary and Thyme waiting their turn at Vet Check

Boudreaux being cuddled by Matt

I don't have much time, so this will be a quick update.   Besides, Blogger is being RETARDED and is not wanting to upload photos.  Grrrrr.....

Eric had his first pre-Iditarod vet check last Thursday and I was able to work through lunch and take off early to help.  It was pretty neat getting to see a little bit of "insider action" for the vet check -- I had never been to one before.  I held almost every dog while they had a jugular stick, then Eric usually held them on the table for their EKG.  I think that everyone came away with a clean bill of health.  You can see that Rosemary (left) and Thyme (right) were anxious for their turn!!

I took my own dogs out early on Saturday morning.  I was actually planning on taking them out on Friday night, but I accidentally fell asleep at 7:30 PM and then woke up at 2:45, a very confused chica.  I couldn't figure out whether it was day or night!  After I got my bearings, I set the alarm for three hours later, then got up and loaded the dogs to take them to the trail.  I am still struggling with having them slow down and putter out in difficult conditions, like deep snow or small hills.  I am doing my best to try to work with them through this, but I will admit that I am scratching my head a little on this one.  Everyone's advice has been the same -- stop them before they begin to slow to a stop, and rest them until they are READY to go again.  I have been doing that, but it just doesn't seem to be working.  Hmm.  Oh well, we'll figure it out together.

I got the chance to check on the puppies again on Sunday night.  They are now 4.5 weeks old and are still growing like weeds.  You can see that Boudreaux had his picture snapped while he was being held by Matt.  He has such a cute, expressive face, and absolutely does NOT mind being held.  I really like that...granted, it may mean that he turns out to be lazy :)

Tonight, I sit here wondering what the heck is up with this weather.  It has been almost 40 degrees ABOVE zero for the last few days, and as you can imagine, we've had considerable snow melt.  Sad.  Things are messy and the dogs are wet.  I feel sorry for them.  I brought Balu in tonight to have some personal time.  During this indoors time, I found out that he likes scotch.  He wanted some, as a matter of fact, and I had to tell him unequivocally NO, that he was not old enough.  9 years old is hardly the age to be drinking scotch :)

Until next time!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What a Difference a Harness Makes!

Last night I took the dogs out for a short (but not quick, due to the
trail conditions) run on the alternate side. I had recently bought a
new Manmat half-harness for Clover so I can give Lexi's harness that
I've been using back, but I realized that the harness also will adjust
to fit Balu as well. It took a little extra bit of iron rope to tie
onto the tug of the new harness to make it the right length for my
lines, but I got it fixed up pretty quickly and we headed out to the
trail. Soon, Balu was sporting the new red Manmat harness and my, he
looked handsome!

I decided to put him up into lead with Calvin for the first part of
our run. Shortly after pulling out of the staging area, we made a
right turn onto the trail that heads down to Beach Lake. I was
absolutely astounded by what I saw before me -- my funny-looking,
blue-eyed, orange dog, a habitual trotter and a relatively slow
leader, was LOPING down the trail. LOPING!! In the year and a half
that I have known this dog, I have never seen him use any gait but a
trot while tooling down the trail. No matter how fast you were going,
Balu would trot or pace along, sometimes switching from one gait to
the other and then back later, but never loping. Here was a dog
before me that was ambling along at a slow lope and looked comfortable
doing it. I was absolutely flabbergasted.

All I can figure is that all of these years, he has been running in an
X-back harness and perhaps there has been something about that harness
that has made him uncomfortable at a lope, so he has simply stayed at
a trot or a pace. Well, he's like a new dog now. I will be
interested to see whether he gives up the pacing bit or keeps that up
-- I'll have to pay more attention the next time that we run, maybe
put him closer to me so I can see him better.

I hope to go out again on Thursday night, but the forecast is calling
for high temperatures and some rain. If that happens, the snow will
be hard, crusty, and icy, and conditions may not be safe for such a
novice as I. I hate to say it, but I think that this may be "the year
that I didn't get to run much." <frown> Ah well, hope for the best!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Puppy Update (Yukon Quest info to come later)

Boudreaux (slightly fuzzy)

Gumbo is getting big!

Tasso and Boudreaux

Right now I am at work and don't have access to all of my Yukon Quest photos. We had a really fun trip and it was full of adventure -- but I will have to leave that for another time! Right now I'll just update you on the puppies.

I saw them last night and they are up and are pretty mobile. They are definitely cute by this point and look like small dogs (no more sled rats, eh?) I heard some little growls and grunts and they are beginning to wag their tails. It's really amazing to watch them grow and mature.

I managed to snap a few pictures and two videos. I hope these work! For right now you'll have to click on the URL to see the videos. They are nothing remarkable but you can see how mobile the puppies are now. :)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Computer Issues

Ah, what a lovely weekend I just had! It seems a shame to be back at work slaving away when I could be at home enjoying the company of my four-legged companions. I suppose I have to earn a living somehow, right?

On Friday I received my long-anticipated Olympus Camera (Stylus 790SW which claims to be freeze-proof, drop-proof and water-proof to a depth of 10 ft.) I promptly made excuses to use the camera to take pictures of everything from dogs to...well, dogs. :) It wasn't hard to find a subject, as I'm sure you can imagine. I took pictures of Calvin, pictures of Indi, pictures of anyone who would stand still long enough for me to get a snapshot. I used the opportunity to fiddle with the various settings on the camera and try to experiment with what yields the best results in various conditions.

Some of those pictures will be posted just as soon as I can get the computer to cooperate!!

Also, on the puppy front, the pups are...hmm, how shall I say this...pooping? Yes, pooping is a good word. They seem to be pooping on their own now. Not something you'd necessarily consider a landmark event, but something that can be quite startling when you aren't expecting it and when it ends up on your sweater. Don't laugh...Bonnie gets mad at you when you do that. Believe me, I know :)

Until later - when I get the computer fixed so I can upload the pictures!

Friday, February 1, 2008

It's COLD's cold here! I don't think it has gotten above zero at my house for a few days. We are in the shadow of the Chugach mountain range and we don't get any direct sun, unlike most of the Mat-Su Valley and the parts of Chugiak that are near the Cook Inlet. It was almost -10 this morning when I fed on my way to work, and it's just about there again. It's currently 6:24 pm and the sun has been totally down for about an hour.

It was -4 last night when I ran the dogs at the trail, but I was dressed appropriately. I stopped to talk to Bryan Bearss while I was out, and he probably thought that I looked like some sort of freak show (Matt always says that I look "Chinese" when I go out to the trails because everything is brightly-colored and nothing matches. Hey, you can't be choosey when it's freezing-a** cold outside.) Last night, I was wearing fleece leggings, insulated ski pants, and arctic quilt lined Carhartt overalls, along with two long underwear shirts, a shetland wool sweater, a down jacket, and a fox fur hat. I was just fine except for my mittened hands, which got chilly on the short 2-mile run. (The dogs did great, by the way. I only stopped them one time, and that was so they would be rested and ready to charge up a little hill that has been slowing us down lately.)

Being dressed appropriately to feed is a whole different matter. I will readily admit that I am the type of person who likes to do things the EASY way (as long as that's an appropriate thing to do. I still like to do things CORRECTLY.) I tend to feed the sled dogs on my way to the car to leave for work in the morning. Since I am the office manager, I'm usually dressed casually but I try to look at least somewhat professional. This usually means a pressed shirt of some sort. So, picture me feeding the sled dogs in dressy jeans, street shoes, and a pressed shirt. Usually I have on a jacket or a coat, too. Yes, I do this even in -10 weather. I know, it's insane...but I just can't be bothered to get all suited up in the Carhartts and trudge around outside in snow boots. Being underdressed (most of the time) to feed means that I scurry around and get my business done promptly. It's not my time to socialize with the dogs -- that is later in the day. I just feed and get on with it (if Clover is barking, I do stop and stare at her until she stops. We are working on cutting that junk out. So far, she's doing REALLY well.) Sometimes, I feed the evening meal right when I get home from work, so this means I'm still in my work clothes and if it's -10 like it was tonight when I fed, that means I really get a move on!! This evening I wasn't wearing gloves, so my hands got a bit chilly. Feeding in work clothes also means that it's very important that my dogs know that jumping up on me is totally inappropriate and unacceptable. Nobody jumps on Mom anymore except for Clover, who arrived with that tendency. She is also improving in this area, but she still has a ways to go.

Yes, in any dress, -10 is brisk. It's the kind of weather that makes your fingers turn into what feels like fat, frozen sausages. It makes the breath freeze on the hair framing your face. It makes metal painful to touch with your bare hands -- and you'll realize this in less than one second after you do it! No, -10 is not my favorite weather...but it's part of life in Alaska. And I DO like that. :)

Folks Who Follow Lagniappe's Blog