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!

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