Thursday, March 27, 2008

Score one for the good guys!

My brain is rebelling right now. I am so frustrated by how my day at work has gone that I can't put a coherent thought together.
Anyway, I just wanted to post that, amazingly, Bark Magazine published my recent letter to the editor regarding an article about sled dog rescue. I am very happy that they decided to give "the other side" a chance to have their voice heard. I really wanted to be clear that, despite the tone of the article, most mushers do not abuse and misuse, then abandon dogs. We really are good people for the most part.

Posted is a scan of the letter.

Until later, when I might be able to function a little better...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Frohe Ostern!

Happy Easter, late.  We had a really nice weekend!
Matt and I took the dogs out on Friday right after work and they had a blast.  I ran the two mile loop and Matt ran the two mile loop when I finished.  I'm trying to (patiently) let him get the feel for the sled.  I don't have a lot to offer him in the way of advice, since I don't know what the heck I'm doing either.  At least I do know that he won't tie them to a tree and leave them somewhere! :-D  Yeah, that was low.  ANYWAY, as I said, the dogs had a good time.  Clover (Little Miss Vocal) was still whining to go out again even on the way home in the car.  That dog is a running machine!!
Saturday, I weaseled my way into a trip to Soldotna to meet Jon Little and his wife, Bree.  Bryan was returning some leased dogs and didn't mind having company in the truck, so I ducked out of renovation duty and made the trip down.  The drive was nice, but the weather could have been sunnier.  It was my first time to the Kenai and I do wish it would have been a little more clear.  Oh well, can't complain, it was still pretty out!  Once we got there, Jon and Bree were so gracious and visited with us for about three hours.  I got a good look at their dog lot and their dogs (not that I have a good eye for that sort of thing).  Their children, Salem and Sylvie, were also incredibly adorable.  Salem had an etch-a-sketch type toy with a magnetic pen and I think I must have drawn at least a dozen moose on it.  He kept grinning and thrusting it at me while saying "MOOSE!" and he was too cute to resist.  Jon, Bryan and Bree talked a lot about mushers and dogs, and I mostly tried to keep my mouth shut and listen. :)
Sunday was a pretty slow day.  The Iditarod TV show came on at 3, then we went to Eric and Marti's for Easter dinner.  It was a pretty delicious spread but thankfully I didn't indulge too much.  I am trying to shed my winter insulation and so far my will-power has been pretty good!
Today I dropped Calvin off at the vet so he could have a CBC, Chem 8 panel and a Thyroid panel done.  I have been worried about his general health for several months now.  We've had problems with intermittent diarrhea with him and even though he was dewormed (ivermectin and pyrantel pamoate, both) we have still had troubles.  He seemed a bit exercise intolerant this season, so I'm also worried about his thyroid.  My guess is that everything will come back normal, and we'll have a diagnosis of "Irritable Bowel Syndrome" and we'll have to manage this for the rest of his days.  Nothing is ever easy with my animals...
File' will also be going in at 4:00 for her second puppy shot.  I'm curious to know how much she will weigh. Calvin weighed in at a whopping 70.1 lb this morning.  I almost fell out!  I had no idea that he was that heavy!  He does not have an ounce of fat on him, though, he's just a big dog.
Will update again when I find out what's going on with Calvin...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Anyone want a puppy???

She's almost 9 weeks old, very cute, crate trained...


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The face of a Murderer

This is the face of a murderer. She has killed many things -- squeaky toys, kongs, and socks to name a few, but most importantly, File' has killed my sleep schedule.

R.I.P., Rip Van Winkle!

Ups and downs (but not mushing-related)

As the promise of spring begins to peek out from underneath our blanket of snow, I can't help but be a little inspired to be more active and ambitious.  I think it must be a natural reaction to the increase in the amount of light that we experience at this time of the year, when we gain almost six minutes of light with each passing day. My drive to work now gives me a front row seat to the gorgeous salmon pinks and melon oranges of an Alaskan sunrise; my drive home bathes me in an amber glow as I head West into the sun.  Sometimes I can't help but close my eyes and smile as I soak up the sun on my face.  (Don't worry, I don't do this while I'm driving!)
There's a glimmer of hope that accompanies this time of year and it makes me a little antsy both in mind and body.  I am itching to get outside and walk and jog with my dogs, but the streets and trails aren't always cooperative, as there is still much slippery ice out there.  My mind rambles with intentions for the coming spring and summer and I am a little inspired to begin making plans.  Yes, perhaps there are some visions of grandeur there as I think about the hikes I'd like to take, the bike ride in Denali National Park that I'm planning, and the fishing trips that I hope we'll be able to take with friends. 
Beyond the athletic activities, there's a thirst for mental stimulation after the long and dark winter.  I frequently make visits to the Chugiak / Eagle River Library and it's almost as good as taking a trip to Alaska Wild Berry :)  I have trouble deciding which few books to check out, so I usually end up checking out a large stack of them.  Could I polish up my Spanish this summer, so Sandra and I can continue our chats when we visit?  Could I manage to learn some German?  What about brushing up on my American History and my yoga?  Check.  Those are all in the works, but we'll see how many of them really play out.  I always begin with the best of intentions.
Juxtaposing the excitement I feel about the changing of the seasons, there's a little bit of a feeling of let-down now that the Iditarod is over.  For a week and a half, I was constantly glued to the computer, checking standings, progress, blogs, insider information and photos of the action on the trail.  Now that Deborah Bicknell finished as the red lantern, there's no more Iditarod news.  The burled arch has been removed, the snow has been scraped from the streets in Nome, and the world has moved on.  (Well, maybe everyone except for Lance Mackey.  If I were him, I'd still be celebrating my win!!)  I feel like there's a bit of a hole where the Iditarod's a bit sad, frankly.  But I suppose it gives me something to look forward to next year.
And so life goes on for all...

Friday, March 14, 2008


You are about to read something shocking. Something horrifying. Something you'll want to deny from the very depths of your soul. But you must read on anyway, because you should be concerned for yourself, for your family, and for kind strangers on the street. This fact that I'm about to share with you may shake you to your very core, but you owe it to yourself to be educated on the subject matter. So, here goes:

Puppies are innately evil creatures.

As is the case with so much of the general public, I am sure that you were unaware of this fact. You may shake your head and deny that such an idea could ever even be conceived, but after you've examined the evidence, you'll know that what I am telling you is indeed true. The danger cannot be denied.

I should begin by saying that puppies were, indeed, originally designed by an intelligent and benevolent being. They possess many qualities that lead some to believe that they are cute, cuddly, loving little critters who want to shadow your every move because they simply adore you; however, at some point in the refining process, something went terribly, horribly wrong. The final product was an evil genius’ technical masterpiece: a finely tuned demolition machine encased in a guise of sweetness and light.

Let’s examine the evidence, shall we?

Firstly, puppies are born as very small, helpless creatures who can do nothing for themselves. They are often covered with a fine coating of soft fur that may be any number of a variety of colors, all of which are appealing to susceptible humans. Newborn puppies’ eyes are closed for approximately ten days, giving them ample opportunity to play on human sympathies. It is our nature, you see, to pity the meek and mild and to develop affection for those who cannot help themselves. Puppies seek to make the initial emotional connection with humans during this early stage of life.

Sometime during the third week of existence, puppies’ eyes open and puppies take on an expression of sleepy disinterest. Their somnolence is endearing and often, humans will begin to pick puppies up, hold them, and talk to them during this stage. Most puppies’ response is to be very still and possibly even to fall asleep while a human is cradling them. This is a perfectly-designed ploy to deepen the emotional connection. Wise humans will be very wary, because this connection will later be used in the puppy’s mission to seek and destroy.

As the maturation process moves along, puppies initiate a number of activities that lead humans to believe that they are weak, clumsy, well-meaning animals that could never be capable of evil. They tussle, they tumble, and they learn to clumsily climb. They punctuate playtime with well-orchestrated “wipeouts” that cause humans to chuckle and muse about their lack of coordination. No educated human should fall prey to these tactics, but many have and many will continue to do so.

Sometime around the seventh week of life, puppies make their ultimate play – the play that puts them in perfect alignment to score an easy kill after it’s all said and done. They eagerly gallop to greet visitors, enthusiastically licking their hands and faces in what many would incorrectly interpret to be a loving manner. In truth, the puppies’ taste buds and sense of smell are beginning to reach their finely-tuned peak at this age, and wise puppies are merely sampling the buffet of humans, deciding which human looks and tastes the best. Once this decision is made, the puppy will go out of his or her way to endear him or herself to the chosen human in hopes that the human will “pick” him or her out of the litter.

Once the decision is made, the lucky puppy is in a prime position to begin to plan the veritable destruction of his or her new human or humans and their home. Typically this begins at a pace so slow that the human is unaware of the impending danger. Smart puppies initially transition to their new homes with every appearance of excitement and wonder. It is during the first night that the first assault on the humans will begin.

After the lights are off and the house is quiet, the puppy who had been silently and safely tucked away in his or her crate will begin to wail and whine mournfully at a level of 80 decibels or more. No manner of soft words will comfort it, and the terrible cacophony will continue until one of two things occurs: either the puppy will be placed in the bed with the humans (a wonderful location from which to disturb sleep while planning further assault) or the puppy will continue to wail until morning arrives (depriving the humans of vital sleep). This activity will continue nightly for up to several weeks, or until the puppy has adequately planned his or her next plan of attack.

Without fail, a puppy will begin to show “improvement” in the wailing-in-the-crate area, but this should be an omen of more terrible things to come. Often a puppy will lull a human into falsely hoping that the puppy situation is improving; instead, the puppy will move his or her focus to another area, such as biting.

It never fails that one day, a human will be lovingly be playing with a puppy when suddenly, a terrible attack is launched and the poor human is defenseless and unsure of how to respond. The puppy will viciously bite, rip and tear clothing or flesh from the human while wagging his or her tail in what appears to be a friendly manner. (In reality, it is an outward expression of the puppies’ joy at a successful attack.) The target of the puppy mouthing will rapidly expand until nothing, neither human nor household item, is safe. Shoes may be destroyed, furniture may be “remodeled”, electronic items may be “rewired” and fingers may turn into bruised, swollen stumps due to constant perforation by the cleverly-designed puppy teeth. Simultaneously, most puppies will begin their mission to destroy the house by soaking the entire dwelling with urine. No floor surface is spared as the puppy unpredictably squats and soils. Ten thousand dollar Oriental rugs have been ruined in this very manner.

And so, you see, between sleep deprivation, indiscriminate chewing, vicious biting, and home soiling, the puppies’ sole mission is to destroy humans and all that they own. I urge you NEVER to let your guard down. Do not fall prey to the great puppy ploy! Should you be so unfortunate as to do so, you will find that you are merely a shell of your former self, and that your home resembles a post-nuclear-blast site.

Unfortunately, once you have been taken by the puppy scheme, there is little to be done in the way of disaster mitigation. The only known cure is to ask for help from a responsible party who can guide you in the recovery process. The journey is long and the way is hard. So please, I urge you to save yourself the trouble.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

File' and Tasso Visit

Bonnie and Jim are still stuck in Rainy Pass, where they have been since Monday morning.  The weather has not been good enough for pilots to fly out, so there they sit.  This means that I can do whatever I want with the puppies!!  MUHAHAHAHA.

Last night Matt and I brought File' and Tasso over to our house for some socialization and exposure to a new environment.  They very carefully met all of the house dogs (everyone but Cass was more or less indifferent to them) and they got to walk on the linoleum and the bamboo floors.  Good stuff for puppies at this age.  File' was pretty bold and exploratory.  Tasso was content to sleep in Matt's lap for most of the night, but she did try to play with Dollar (the cattle dog) later on.  Cute cute! Tonight we will probably bring Boudreaux and Gumbo over, if the Fosters aren't back yet.

What are you?

Dixie snuffles the pups

Guy says "are those like dogs, only smaller?"

Tasso snoozes in the kitchen.  Look, she matches the floor!

File' is her usual acrobatic self

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ah, it seems like it's been about two weeks since the Musher's Banquet, but it's only been five days. How time flies when you're having fun! Let me see if I can recap a little bit of the madness from the past week.

Our friends Eric Rogers and his wife Marti graciously purchased our Musher's Banquet tickets for us and we were given tickets to sit at their table. Boy, am I moving up in the world! I felt bad taking a spot at their table, since I didn't really do anything to help Eric out this year. I didn't go on one single training run with him, and I only staged him out of two races. Not much work to earn two banquet tickets, I think. Oh well. The banquet was just as I remembered it to be last year -- fun, but long! Eric drew bib number 25, which meant that we would be able to have him out on the trail fairly early (at least in the top quarter of the race, almost) and that was a bit of a relief. Poor Dr. Robert Bundtzen drew the very last bib, meaning he'd be the 97th sled to go out. Interesting, since his kennel partner, Zack Steer, drew bib number 26, just one spot behind Eric. Zack and Bob's handlers would be waiting around a long, long time between staging Zack and staging Bob. Poor guys!

We actually had to leave the banquet around 9 PM, since both Matt and I had to go to work bright and early the next morning. Word has it that the banquet stretched on past 11 PM, so I'm glad that we left early. As it was, we got home after 10. If you're thinking that the banquet can get a little out of hand, I think you're probably right. :)

Friday, I went to work for just enough time to get paid for the full day (oh, did I actually type that?) and then hurried home to make my tiramisu cream cheese spread and run over to Bonnie's to help her set up for her open house. The hours were supposed to be from 1 PM - 6 PM but come 1 o'clock, nobody but Eric had shown up. I began to worry that maybe we had overestimated the number of people who would be stopping by (we had gotten word that two tour buses were planning a visit) but my fears were unjustified -- by 2 PM there was quite a crowd. There was a spread of food showcasing everything from various cheese and cracker combinations to roast turkey (courtesy of Marti), ham, pea salad, delicious spicy meatballs, artichoke hearts, veggies with dip, and spicy italian ham. was enough to make any musher drool!

Trish says she's ready for the party!!

By mid-afternoon, our expected mushers had made their debuts. At one point, Sebastian Schnuelle (whom Bonnie hosts each year), Eric Rogers, Ed Stielstra, Jake Berkowitz, and Bryan Bearss were in one tiny room tucked away from the main action, animatedly chatting about the trail. Sorry, I tried to get a photo but nobody would look at me, and I'm always hesitant to interrupt these guys. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in that room -- I'm sure that I could have learned a TON. It's always awe-inspiring to me to be in the presence of genius :)

I had quite a nice time doing my usual thing, blending into the background and listening to people chat. Occasionally I chimed in with an answer to questions like "Who is that dog?" or "Who is that musher?" I also had a lovely visit with Kim Bertrand from DRIVEN Sled Dog Photos. She was up from WA to cover a local musher, Laura Daugerau. We had many chuckles over being from the South and being new to sled dogs. I got to see pictures of her rescued Siberians and her dryland rig. Pretty cool stuff!

There were still folks arriving at 7 PM but by 8, everyone was pretty much gone. After an extensive amount of dish washing, Matt and I headed home to feed and take care of our own crew and to prepare for the Ceremonial Start in downtown Anchorage on the following morning.

By 8 AM on Saturday, we were parked and on a mission to find Eric's dog truck downtown. He ended up being assigned to what I'd swear was the WORST parking spot on earth -- 4th and H, nearest to the inlet. It probably wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't looked at the forecast prior to leaving the house. 14 degrees and sunny, it said, with a high near 30. Wow, that sounded great! I put on what I thought was too many layers anyway (boy I am glad that I did) When we found his truck, it felt like we were in a wind tunnel. It had to be about 10 degrees with a 40 mph wind!! Things were blowing all over the place. Poor Trish couldn't even keep her free food hot. The water in the chafing dishes froze even though there was a lit can of sterno beneath them.

We had some good help getting Eric's team to the start line. Lexi was to ride the tag sled behind Eric and his Iditarider, so when we got to the start line, she ran back to the tag sled and I ran up front to stand with the leaders. Platinum and Dash were in lead, and I'm proud to say that they were not affected at all by the ruckus of the Ceremonial Start! It seemed like old hat to them -- after all, they had been through this before and it was a piece of cake. Before I knew it, the count down ended, Eric and Lexi were off, and the ITC Security was yelling at us to clear the chute so that Zack Steer and his team could pull up unobstructed. I was disappointed because this meant that I couldn't stand and watch Zack from any sort of a decent vantage point. I did manage to snap a picture of Bonnie Steer as they went by, but security was constantly yapping at me to move, so that's about all I had time to get. This morning I finally got to watch Zack's start on the Indsider and it ALMOST made up for not being able to see it in person.

Bonnie Steer at the Ceremonial Start

Matt and I hurried out to Campbell Airstrip to pick up Lexi and the tag sled. Just as we were getting to Eric's parked dog truck, he came in off of the trail and Matt ran out to guide him and the team in. Yikes, we hadn't gotten there a minute too soon, because there was nobody else to help get him to the truck! After feeding and brothing the dogs there, we loaded everything and everyone up and headed back to Chugiak to rest up for Sunday. Well, I guess resting up is not exactly correct, since Matt and I did end up going cross country skiing that afternoon and took the dogs out to the trail that night.

Nonetheless, Sunday morning started bright and early and we were out on Willow Lake by 9:15. Word had it that the mushers were supposed to be on the lake by 11 AM, but most mushers were clearly running behind. Eric didn't arrive until nearly 11:30. It made no difference, as Matt and I milled around, looking at other mushers and their rigs, noting what one did different than another. We got a chance to "shop" in the community center, admiring Dave Totten's beautiful artwork and some lovely skin sewing displayed by a native lady. It was nice to have a little bit of "down time" before the madness began.

The wandering masses on Willow Lake at about 11:30 AM

Blaze (center) waits for her turn to be bootied

I suppose that I should mention that Lexi, the ever-capable and knowledgeable "General" was conspicuously absent from the Willow restart. It seems that she was extended an offer to work the Tour of Anchorage, which she no doubt gratefully accepted, leaving the rest of us to be in charge of Eric and getting him ready to go. I was pretty worried until I heard that she had actually devised a timeline for us to follow. That was a load off. I quickly took over as "Generalissima Leslie" and made sure that we harnessed, bootied, brothed, hooked up, and staged the team on time. Thank GOODNESS that everything went off without a hitch. I'd have to say that it was ten times smoother than last year's restart. The ITC volunteer handlers were nice and very willing to follow directions on how we did things. We had an efficient, controlled walk to the start chute with Matt leading the team. Once again, before I knew it, the count down was underway. I tried to yell "goodbye!" to Eric but he didn't hear me. I guess I didn't even give him a sendoff. Then he was off like a shot across the lake. Once again, I was shooed out of the chute so Zack could come through, so, can you guess? I got no pictures of Zack.

Matt and I decided to walk across the lake to watch some of the other mushers come through. I got some photos of Mike Suprenant and various other mushers whose names are captioned below their photos. I didn't get a snapshot of Sebastian but I did yell at him as he drove by, and he saw me and waved. Nothing like being recognized by someone famous!!

Kirk Barnum heads for the start chute

Warren Palfrey from Yellowknife comes off of Willow Lake

Ryan Redington comes off of Willow Lake

We left at around 5:30 and headed back to Wasilla to indulge in what is becoming a tradition for us after Iditarod Restart -- eating at Cadillac Cafe. A yummy hamburger and some fries....the day before my new "POST-IDITAROD" diet was to begin. Well, it's always nice to go out with a bang.

So, that leaves me here on this day, Tuesday, wondering where Eric and all of my "step furkids" are...last I saw, he was in at Rainy Pass. He dropped two dogs, Lycos and Jewels, at Finger Lake, so he's down to 13 dogs now. He should be in good hands, if he's still at Rainy Pass, since Bonnie and Jim are weathered in there right now. They were supposed to fly out to and back from Rainy Pass yesterday afternoon but I got word via radio phone last night that they were weathered in. More recently, I got a message this morning that they didn't expect to be able to get out of Rainy until tomorrow. This means that I am now a dog drop contact for Eric, since Bonnie is not here...I hope for his sake and mine that there are no more dropped dogs for a good, long time. Fingers crossed!

Updates to come as I find out more information...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Well, it's been a whirlwind weekend and so much has gone on -- I am absolutely exhausted!  So, no narrative tonight, just pictures from the last few days.  I will post some details about this wonderful weekend tomorrow.  It's been a blast.  Enjoy!

Sebastian's Tang lounges on a pillow at Bonnie's open house

Pat spoils Boudreaux with snuggles

Me with Callie (left) and Skunk (right), both Sebastian's dogs

Sebastian packs his sled while Bonnie helps (at the restart)

Andreas Moser smiles for the camera

Bryan gives Cub, one of Zack's dogs (Zed's pup) some love

Frodo (left), Jewels (center) and Basil (right) wait to be bootied

Mocha (left) and Rosemary (right) give big grins

Rookie Mike Suprenant from Chugiak leaves Willow Lake

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