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!


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