Friday, May 27, 2011

May 27, 2011

Roper figures if he sits on my foot I'll have to pet him
Some images from the kennel this week:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Scenes from the K9 Challenge Sled Dog Race

I attended the K9 Challenge Sled Dog Race at the beginning of March.  It was the last race of the season and I hope will be the first of many times that I'll attend this great event.  I enterred a 4 dog team at the race which ran a 6 mile course which was perfect for us as this is the length course we'd been running in training all season.

Monday, February 22, 2010

February 22, 2010

Here it is February 22 already and what a different winter it has been from what we have experienced in the last two years, or any year since we moved here for that matter.  Snow has completely melted at our house and the ground is thawing.  The first crocuses are just pushing their leaves up hopefully through the soil surface.   A robin appeared in one of our maples a week ago and two blue birds have been investigating one of the bird houses.   I spotted the first ant colony becoming active out in one of the dog yards, worker ants tentatively working around the top of their mounded home.  Last year at this time we were still buried under at least a foot of snow.

Our last run on snow with the dogs was a little over two weeks ago at the Priest Lake Sled Dog Races, an event that we look forward to each winter.  This winter we missed our favorite trails through the woods, replaced by out and back routes on groomed snowmobile trails, a necessity brought on by the winter's paltry snowfall.  In spite of mother nature's insignificant offering this winter, we had enough snow to run and better yet it lasted the weekend.  We fielded two purebred teams in the 6 and 4 dog sprint classes as well as a skijoring team.   This year there were almost as many purebred as all breed teams.  For the first time Nova's young kids Rose, Pepper and Saffron led my 6 dog team in a race without the help of a more experienced alaskan husky leader.   Rose is the main leader of the group.  She is the dog on your right in this photo, still focused on the trail and the finish line.  They got alot of passing practice in this event which was good for them.   I don't think they were as excited about going out and back but then nearly all of our snow training trails are this way so it probably did not make too much difference.

I had alot of fun running my new 4 dog crew for the first time in the 4 dog purebred class.  This team is composed of three siblings and their half brother.  Cooper and her half brother McGee led the team with her brothers Ernie and Roper providing power and speed at wheel.  I don't have a picture of them from the race so this photo I took of them from my sled the week before will have to do.  These four dogs are so well matched it is beautiful watching them from my vantage point on the sled.   All four of them run stride for stride together.

Bob ran Ivan and Rolo in the skijoring class on a course that was the consistency of a snow cone the first day and a luge course the second.  He said he did not do alot of skiing the second day.

For now we have tucked our sleds away in storage, at least briefly, and we are going to dust off our scooters for the next few runs.  I'll miss the sled but am looking forward to a few scooter runs on local trails at Farragut State Park.  At least the driving time to the training runs will be short, under five minutes and the routes will be loops once again.  Farragut park has a several trails that we have tried and this time of year is perfect, especially first thing in the morning mid week.  Our current favorite is the "Lynx Trail" which is located on the south side of the highway and connects several of the Parks facilities.  The purpose of the trail is to allow visitors to walk from place to place without using the South Road.  The surface of this trail is very nice for the dogs and there is alot of opportunity for practicing directional commands.  We'll head over tomorrow morning so that all of us can stretch our legs a bit.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

January 31, 2010

The end of January has come and still winter eludes us in northern Idaho.  Warm temperatures continue and storms continue to bring largely rain rather than snow.  Nonetheless some snow remains in favored locations.  We've managed to get our teams out at Fernan Saddle and at the Granite Creek Snow Park.  Thursday we returned to Fernan Saddle where we enjoyed a bright sunny day and temperatures around freezing. 

I continue to work with the samoyed team, searching for another steady leader to work alongside Rose.  Several of the dogs will run in the position, but so far none as confident and driving as Rose.   Fortunately her abilities continue to grow and she seems unphased by whoever her partner is and whatever her partner might be distracted by!  Here she is lining out with Skye.  I am hoping though to develop some of the other dogs to be as focused as she is.  Rose has learned this role well from a couple of good role models:  Jezebel and Xena.

My 4 dog siberian husky team continues to be a joy to run.  So far I have 3 of the four dogs in lead, Cooper, Roper and McGee and all have done very well.  My favorite lineup is with Cooper and McGee in lead and brothers Ernie and Roper at wheel.  This matches up two pairs with very similar sizes and gaits, but really all of them work well together.  I am so impressed with the focus and athletic abilities of these four.  Their desire to run is infectious.  Ernie is a very driving dog, with alot of energy and not alot of patience at hookup.  His brother Roper is an easy gentle dog but he's no slouch once the command is given to go.  Young McGee is so much fun to run. Only a yearling, already he shows much maturity in every position he runs in. 

Fresh snow has fallen today, and we enjoyed our traditional pancake breakfast this morning, tomorrow we will celebrate the snow and drive up to Priest Lake for some more training runs.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

freezing rain and other stuff

Woke up today to a dusting of snow and freezing rain, sigh, welcome to the Northwest.  Sometimes it just seems like "mother nature" can't decide what to do.   First it will be cold, with wondrous fluffy dry snow, the next minute it is raining, the next it is foggy, then cold, then raining.....My least favorite would be freezing rain though!

Nonetheless because of the wonders of modern weather forecasting, knowing that this day might be a good day to stay put, we enjoyed two wonderful days on the trails in brisk cold temps and fresh snow.  Thursday Bob and I drove up to Fernan Saddle, which is above Fernan lake, and a very popular take off point for local snowmobilers on the weekends.  During the week, it is quiet and a wonderful place to snowshoe, ski or dog sled.  We've lived here and trained our dogs for almost 10 years before we discovered how nice this place was.  I think I always assumed it would be so crowded since it is close to town.   Finally last year we drove up with our snow machine and toured some of the trails.  The views were absolutely spectacular.  This year, with snow confined to higher elevations or very favored locations we have come back, this time with our dogs.

What a treat we were in for.  The skies were crystal clear and the views, well incredible.  From the Fernan Saddle area one can see in all directions, west to Spokane, Mt Spokane, Rathdrum Mountain, south and west towards Coeur d'Alene Lake, east towards Montana.  The snow was cold and dry.  The temperatures were brisk, in the low twenties, warm enough for our comfort but still cold enough for the dogs.

On thursday Bob and I both took sleds out and on our first run we ended up doing about 8 miles round trip.  It was one of those trips where it was just so beautiful I didn't want to turn around so I kept going....even though I realized that the dogs and I might regret this on the way back.  Most years 8 miles wouldn't be a big deal at all for this time of year, but we have not put that many miles on the dogs this year.  They seemed to have the same feeling we did as we were out, and were not eager to turn around.

It was so beautiful thursday, we drove back and repeated our adventure on friday.  Once again the temperatures were perfect, the sun was shining and we were treated to views in all directions.  Best yet the trail groomer left us with a track of perfect powder.  I took out two teams once again, first 6 samoyeds and second a mixed team of siberian and alaskan huskies.  Friday I started out with Rose and Donner at lead.  Donner had ended up in lead on thurs and I wanted to see how he might do right from the start.  Well, he let me know just exactly what he thought, not much!  So we stopped and Miss Willow took his place in the place of honor (I try to convince all of the dogs that but somehow they just don't seem to believe me....).  Willow led with Rose to our turnaround spot, at which point I decided to switch her out with Blizzard, Donner's brother.  Blizzard is one of my most rock solid workers.  I have not had him in lead much at all.  When he was younger, he was clearly uncomfortable with this position; however as he has run for several years, his confidence has grown along with his tremendous physical capabilities.  Blizzard was clearly quite comfortable with his new role this day!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from all of us here at the Dashing Kennel!    We rang in the New Year here with a quiet day at home, taking a break from preparations for the Nursery, Cedar Mountain Perennials.  We finished up work replacing the broken sled runner on my sled, which was alot of fun actually, our first venture into the world of lashing sleds and "major" sled repair.  The actual replacement runner was provided to us by the sled manufacturer, Johnn Molburg of Artic Star Sleds in Pennsylvania.  He provided with excellent instructions, down the exact length of each piece of rope needed to lash the runner and attach it to each stanchion.  It is certainly nice to have a better feel now for how to repair and replace parts on our sled.  It is certainly NOT rocket science :).

Sunday we enjoyed our first runs on snow, finally.  El Nino has brought a much dryer year than average to the Pacific Northwest.  Monthly moisture totals this fall have been progressively dryer.  Compared to our last two years, however, for us this is I almost hate to say a welcome respite from the constant drudgery of moving snow.  I am quite sure I will be ready for more next year with this break in the weather.  El Nino has brought lower snow totals to our area and our trails have been covered with ice in the last several weeks, bringing our training to a complete standstill.  Finally though we heard decent snow was to be found north of Nordman in the Priest Lake area, one of several areas that we enjoy running.

We met a couple of our friends yesterday at the Granite Mountain Snow Park and invited and met two newcomers to the area.  It was almost an all Siberian Husky rendezvous with the exception of my Samoyeds and Bob's alaskan huskies.  Bob, my better half, and avid skijorer took out three dogs on a sled so that he could get his first run on skiis in sans dogs.  I took 6 samoyeds out and then followed with a team of 2 siberian huskies and two alaskan huskies.

Our first runs were really quite nice.  The snow had a cornlike cosistency and had nice give to it which was perfect for a first time out on a sled.   Our dogs were definitely eager to be out on snow after a long fall on wheels. 

I had six of my 10 samoyeds that can run with me, including the three pups from the litter I bred in 2007 (Rose, Saffron and Pepper), Willow, and brothers Donner and Blizzard.  Of this group, Rose who has been working in the past year with an experienced old alaskan leader of ours as well as a young siberian leader, has matured into a nice confident worker.  My task now is to run several of the other dogs with her, mix and match.  A week ago, Rose's brother Pepper, who has also worked with our old Alaskan leader Jezebel, ran lead with Rose. 

Yesterday, Willow, a 7 year old was in co-lead.  Willow is not new to this role by any stretch of the imagination and she is a very interesting dog to watch in lead.  She is the only one I have seen in my kennel who seems to use her sense of smell extensively while she is working.  If teams have run ahead of us she will often be observed picking out certain portions of the trail and scenting periodically as she goes.   She is also the first one that seems to be aware of teams approaching or ahead of us.  Willow is also interesting in that at first she often does not always work as hard as the rest of the team, I don't know if the initial burst is something that she is uncomfortable with or if she is on purpose saving herself for a longer run as she did many of those when she was younger.  She always comes on very strong about half way through a run though, whether on an out and back trail or a loop.  I can always count on her strength to help guide the team home.   Yesterday we did somewhere between 6 and 7 miles, turning around at a road junction.  On the way home the snow was becoming softer and the dogs had a good workout.   On the gradual rise after the team crossed Granite Creek,  little Willow, and she is lean Samoyed, put her nose to the snow upon my request to push through to the top. 

For my second run, I took out Cooper and McGee, siberian huskies with Abby and Cody.  Cooper and Abby at lead, McGee and Cody at wheel.  Abby is a little red alaskan husky with a heart shaped blaze on her forehead.  When she was younger, she was painfully shy, avoiding strangers at all cost, ducking away from spotters or other trail help during races.  Over the years, this athletic little dog has grown so much in ability as a sled dog.  Ten years old now she accepts people with a wagging tail at the truck and confidently passes people and snowmobiles on the trail.  With her growing confidence her abilities as a co-leader have also increased coincidentally.  Rarely does Abby miss a command.  I never cease to be amazed at the athletic abilities of these dogs which can extend well into their senior years.  At 10 years old Abby is always pushing, and her strength far exceeds what one might expect from her diminutive stature. Cody is now 11, and his age has begun to show, but he still loves to get out.  Again though I am still amazed at what an 11 year old dog can do, they certainly don't have the top speed of their youth but their stamina is incredible.  This little four dog team did the same run as my 6 dog team, a great run to work out some of the kinks.  We took it slow in places on the way home in places as the snow had begun to take on an even softer composition.

We finished up our adventures with a warm cup of coffee, banana bread, and chex mix, shared stories and painted pictures of what we saw.  Judy saw several moose for the first time on the trail, having recently moved up to northern Idaho from Colorado.  She wisely gave them room to move off the trail in advance of her powerful 6 dog team.   As we closed sharing our memories of this day we look forward to our next day and the hope that a little more snow may fall in the meantime!

Happy New Year, and clear fast trails to all from the dashing kennel.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Saturday's Run

On Saturday we travelled to a place known as the Geophysical site north of Newport.  In winter this area is a cross country ski area.  Other times of year the trails may be used for hiking, biking, or well dog training!  Since the area is well drained and a thin layer of ice and snow blankets many of our other trails we decided to try this one.  The parking lot looked great.  We went over and checked out the trail map again to decide upon our route.  We chose the outer loop which has some somewhat challenging short steep hills for the dogs.  Many of our runs to date have been relatively flat.

After getting the dogs "dressed" in their harnesses and the cart outfitted with lines, I took off.  When I did so, I did without knowing the adventure that lay before us.  Within a mile or so we can to our first downed tree across the trail.  It was small and easy to get around.  We had come to several trail intersections by now and I was working with my leaders, Cooper and Rose on gee and haw commands.  Cooper is still getting used to my voice and how I give commands.  I don't think Rose really has learned hers yet.  They are definitely learning though!  After the small tree, somewhere before we reached the mile point, we came across our first large log.   I did not measure it, but it was at least 12 inches in diameter.  I asked the dogs to go ahead and they all hopped over and then stopped when I asked them to.  Now I had to get the cart over and get on it before the dogs took off.  Normally I have my dirt brake to keep the dogs from taking off with the cart while we are stopped but this strategy would not work here.  Sometimes my dogs are very patient and will wait for me to call them up after they have stopped.  This time however they were not patient and though I told them to "whoa" they were already starting to move.  So I grabbed the handlebars, and jumped on the cart as it went by.  This brought back some not so fond memories of homemade carts (we called them "death traps") and runs gone by in Flagstaff.  At the mile mark we reached the first short steep hill and fortunately at this point Bob showed up.  I say fortunately because if he passed us on the hill my team could hopefully chase.  Bob's team was not so inclined to race up the hill either.  Between the steepness and the trail surface, which was lumpy grass, we both had to get off and give our dogs some assistance.  That or wait a very long time before the dogs might decide that was the only option!

Several logs and a couple more hills later, we both arrived back at the truck and the dogs received their well deserved meat soup and the special treats, frozen hotdogs!!  I have not given the dogs hotdogs before but on a email discussion list I am on some people said that their dogs really like them as an after run or trail snack.  Upon the first sniffs the dogs looked doubtful, then they took the "dogs" in the mouths and their demeanor changed.  Tails started wagging and everyone was looking for their second hotdog!  It is definitely a winner!

Second run I took out the rest of the dogs, a second 6 dog team.  I had a new dog with me this run, named McGee.  McGee is just over a year old now and just being exposed to work in harness.  His breeder had started to work with him to ensure that he would be the kind of dog that would work out here.  So far I am very pleased.  This day he ran at wheel next to my boy Pepper. Pepper is really sweet boy, not a mean bone in his body.  He does have one bad habit I have to work on in races and that is trying to visit.  He thinks everyone is his playmate....errr not so buddy.  Otherwise Pepper is very steady in harness, his tug is always tight and he has a calm demeanor that I like.  I like a dog that knows its job, takes off with joy and energy but is not crazy to go.  Some people do like their teams to be crazy to go, lots of leaping, lunging, and jumping in harness.  It is just a preference really.  For some this is a sign of their team's absolute joy in running.  Quieting them is stifling their behavior.    At any rate McGee did a great job as a wheel dog.  I really felt the power through the gangline on this second team, a little more so than the first team.  That was a nice feeling. 

As this team drank their meat soup and later devoured their frozen hot dogs, Bob, I and good friend Luanne caught up with one another over cups of coffee. The weather had held for both of our runs, temperatures were very nice for training (certainly for people).  In spite of the obstacles we "lived" to train another day and definitely to tell stories (tall tales perhaps?) about our runs today.  So we and our dogs will look forward to more adventures ahead.  It is surely through those that we learn the most!