Sunday, June 24, 2012
Sunday, October 2, 2011
It started with the 6 a.m. flight to Juneau which seemed like a good idea when I was doing the booking. Get there early. Enjoy some time in the capitol city.
The trouble started as soon as we got on the plane. Well actually getting up at 3 a.m. was really when it got crappy but that's to be assumed. We boarded the aircraft and the plane was in a Disney motiff. As in Tinkerbell, Mickey Mouse and Pluto, Disney. Aaargh. I hate Disney. The very word makes me cringe.
This summer the Disney ship Wonder docked in Juneau and so Saturdays for us was Disney day. That meant untold numbers of children and inattentive parents at our dogsledding camp. Our dogs are friendly enough but a fast moving little kid or a squealing toddler triggers a prey drive in most huskies and Disney days set me on edge. I used to want to go to Disneyland. Now I'm quite certain I'd rip the ears off Mickey and slap the tiara off Tinkerbell's head if I did. I think I have issues.
The best way to cope with all the Disney crap was to close my eyes and sleep. Which I did. Well until I woke myself - repeatedly - because I was snoring. So was Darrel. And the guy across the aisle. Did I mention we were awake at 3 a.m?
We got to Juneau and saw our dogs. They look awesome. Fit. Muscled. And deliriously happy to see us. The feeling was definitely mutual.
The ferry wasn't leaving until the next day so we figured we'd head to the hotel for a nap and then do a bit of shopping. Darrel tried to start the dog truck. And tried. And tried. Battery(s) were dead. So we got a jump start and off we went. Straight to Napa - for windshield wipers. I don't pretend to understand my mechanic husband's mind.
The dog truck doesn't start with a key. Oh no. You tilt the steering wheel a bit and then manually cycle the glow plugs and then hit a toggle switch which will hopefully start the beast. here's what it looks like.
Next stop was the Super 8 Motel. Not fancy but it's clean and comfortable. And pet friendly. And the manager is awesome! We decided to have a 1 hr and 10 minute nap and woke up 3 hours later.
After we woke up we got some wine, ordered a pizza and just had a nice quiet night together. Next morning we needed another jump start. While I had breakfast with Naomi, from the summer, Darrel went and bought a new battery.
We loaded up dogs again at 1 a.m. and then drove. And drove. And drove. We grabbed a quick nap and then drove some more.
We arrived at the American border. Now I know we kinda look like the northern version of the Beverley Hillbillies but the border agent was a butthead. He asked us 3 times how many people we had in our rig, what we were transporting (despite all the canine faces peering at him), if we had run into any RCMP in Canada and how I knew Darrel. Makes me wonder if he had ever seen a musher before. Finally in Tok we dropped dogs again. Many thanks to the nice lady at the motel across from the musher's hall who gave us water for our canine crew!
After a quick bite to eat at Fast Eddy's we hit the road and made it home at supper time. It took us about 3 hours to get everyone settled and fed. And then we slept. For 14 hours.
I'd just like to thank Lance Mackey who gave us the dog truck. He is a generous man - even willing to loan us his good truck if the old beater wouldn't start. He only asked us to pay it forward and we have. And will continue to do for that's really the best way to live.
Here's the truck. We love it. Thanks Lance!!
Sunday, September 18, 2011
But today dogs arrived. They're on loan to us for the winter from our great friend Hal Barber. Hopefully they'll make the Quest team but if not, they'll at least get lots of miles on their paws. You see, some of the dogs who would have run on the team last year are a bit on the old side this year and I suspect I might be too. But I digress.
The rest of our canine crew comes home at the end of this month so I'll have some time to let this group stretch out their legs. They're mostly young and hyper which means that taking their pictures was a wee bit of a challenge. Two of them are from our kennel so it feels a bit like a homecoming.
I thought I'd introduce them.
He was born two summers ago in another friend's dogyard. And yes he is trouble. He really doesn't like other males, considers himself a bully really, so I anticipate he and I will be having some very serious talks. He considers himself a ladies man and loves people. Already he has endeared himself to me.
Next is Girl:
Remember Chrissy on the old sitcom "Three's Company"? Well that describes girl. She is very sweet natured but not the brightest bulb on the tree. She is also a champion digger which keeps her nails short but makes walking through the yard a bit of a challenge. Girl is the daughter of Pester and Diablo - both our dogs.
Third up is Blue:
Blue has blue eyes. And the only way I could get him to stand still for a picture was to scratch his little pinhead. Unfortunately that translated into canine ecstacy and he couldn't open his eyes. He is brother to Trouble and Bolt who you will eventually meet.
Kavik is the great-grandson of my dear Scotty, the most amazing lead dog I've ever owned and who left us on her eternal journey in the fall of 2005. In Kavik's eyes I see that same sparkle of intelligence and also, much to my chagrin, that wicked sense of humor.
Next up is Bolt:
I took 23 pictures of this dog. This is the only one that isn't blurred from his faster-than-the-speed-of-sound motion. I was told the only thing this dog likes to do is run. Not rest. Run. Run. Run. Well, this will be an interesting season of training.
And last, but certainly not least is Ami:
This little leader is all drive. She is a bit shy but not as much as I thought. I love shy dogs. The bond that develops between me and the dog is not one to be taken lightly and these dogs usually are the most honest workers on the team. I like her already.
And so there you have it. The new recruits. Tomorrow is our first run. I'm like a kid on Christmas Eve!
Sunday, August 14, 2011
The trail follows an old mail route, hearkening back to a time when freight was still delivered by dog team. It also mostly the same trail that legendary Japanese musher Jujiro Wada blazed to Dawson to spread the news of a gold strike near Fairbanks. I love history so why not run a race built on history?
The next few months will be pretty intense. Training, training and more training. And spending money. Lots of it. Running a race like this is not cheap and so in the next couple of weeks I hope to have some creative ways posted on here for folks to sponsor my efforts.
I'll be training 29 dogs of which 14 will be at the starting line. Spud, below, will not be one of them. He is directionally challenged poor thing.
Look for a complete list of dogs and other cool stuff in the next couple of weeks. We're winding up our season here in Juneau so I'll have more internet time. Until then, you can check out the race site at www.yukonquest.com
Thursday, July 14, 2011
It's fun too, to see our dogs through the eyes of the tourists who come to visit us. I am proud of our sometimes motley canine crew.
Mouse is one of our smallest sled dogs. She had a rough start in life at the hands of a callous individual who thankfully is no longer allowed to own dogs. She's a mighty 28 lbs but her heart and drive is as big as any of our other dogs. Her favorite nickname is crazy eyes to which she'll demonstrate a full on body wiggle.
Sasha is another of our unique kennel residents. Your guess is as good as mine as to what breed she actually is but she sure loves to pull. Remember the song "One of these things just doesn't belong here?" That's what runs through my head when I see her in a 16-dog team. She's a people pleaser though and is probably one of the most photographed "sled dogs" wherever she goes. Here she is:
See what I mean?
Sasha's nemesis is Solo, a female Malamute. She is what people expect a sled dog to look like. Big. Furry. This is Solo with her summer musher Naomi.
Then there's puppies. A litter was born three weeks ago. Not our puppies - had to say that so my husband won't panic! I am always amazed by pups. I can watch them for hours. Here's one just a few hours old:
And that is the perfect spot to finish this latest post.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
It started with loading dogs onto the truck. Thirty six very muddy dogs. The highlight was having Sasha put her back foot into my mouth as she tried to leap into a dogbox. Now I know what dog poop tastes like. Sigh.
After a very sweaty 60 minutes, we were finally underway. We stopped in Tok to let the dogs out for a pee and a stretch and as always happens in Tok, I got hurt. A dog's toenail caught my chin and there was a lot of blood as it was sliced open. Last time I dropped dogs in that tiny town my chin and my hand were cut.
We got across the border without incident and then pushed on to Haines Junction, Yukon where the credit card promptly stopped working. I spent 30 minutes on a pay phone, at 1 a.m., listening to bad elevator music and a cheerful recorded voice telling me that Wells Fargo valued my business and they would be with me shortly. Finally a nice young man somewhere in Arizona, assured I was in fact Peg Harpham and that I was travelling, turned the card back on. Good thing because we were out of fuel and weren't going anywhere until we got some.
We decided to keep driving, thinking we'd cross the border again at Haines, Alaska and then let the dogs out for a good long while. Did you know that they close the country at Haines from midnight to 8 a.m? We didn't either.
What followed was 6 hours of fitful sleep in the front seat of the dog truck. Fitful because it was snowing/raining and cold. Here's my cheerful self the next morning.
The country finally opened and we hit the border. The customs officer really hated his job. You know the type. Mirrored sunglasses he didn't take off even though it was cloudy and raining. Monotone voice. Even Solo, the wonder Malamute, didn't get so much as a pet on the head. Quite a difference from the Canadian officer in the Yukon.
As we are answering questions, Darrel's window falls completely down in between the door panels. At least it didn't fall onto the ground. We pulled ahead and tried to fix it - all under the watchful eye of US customs.
Here's the dogs stretching their legs in Haines, before getting on the ferry. This is how you manage 36 dogs at a dog drop.Before getting on the ferry we drove around Haines a bit. I needed to call my employer but didn't have a cell phone. No worries, because everyone we asked was willing to let me use theirs. That's the nice thing about Alaska - most people are generous.
Darrel decided to put fuel in the truck before we got on the ferry. Every old dog truck has idiosyncrasies and ours in no exception. The pipe into the fuel tank is practically horizontal, which makes using the nozzle at the gas station really tricky. You have to fuel very, very slowly. But if you have a jerry can and a hose, well, it's just like fueling up a regular vehicle! This is definitely not Sarah Palin's Alaska.
As we arrived at the ferry terminal we saw we weren't the only musher truck. The parking lot was littered with them. On the boat we were informed that there were more dogs on board that people.
Darrel and I napped, snacked and occasionally spotted whales. Here's how you nap on the ferry. Mushers can sleep anywhere!
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
160 Silver Salmon
In early August I put an ad in the paper for freezer burnt meat people will donate hundreds of pounds of food to our dogs. And then during moose season we get whatever can't be consumed by humans. There was a point last fall that every time I pulled into our driveway there were moose legs, ribs, spines and even a head or two waiting for me to cook up for the kennel. This fall I also got a bunch of moose hearts from the Anatomy teacher but I'll spare you the pictures in case you're eating! Needless to say our dogs are fat and happy.
Now I bet some of you are wondering if the cooking goes on in the house. Rest assured we are not that primitive! Like many mushers, we've taken a 55-gallon drum and cut it in half. The bottom is left as is where a fire can be built in it. Then the top is turned upside down and place on a sturdy screen welded to the bottom. And there you have a dog food cooker. Feeding dogs is a serious subject and mushers will either tell you everything they know or will keep their routine and recipes to themselves - particularly if they're trying to win prestigious races like the Yukon Quest or the Iditarod. Me, I will talk about dog food all day long. And don't even get me started on one of the by-products of food - and that is poop. But we'll save that for another day!