Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Day In The Life... of a dog musher

Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head...

So, I figured that I would make today's blog about what I do on a typical day here at the kennel.  Let's go back to Wednesday.  I got up early in the morning and went out to run the sled dog puppies.  I individually would harness each puppy to a car tire and run a short distance down our road and back.  All the puppies did really, really well!  They think it is so much fun to "go play with the tire."  After all 8 pups had a turn with the tire, which took about 2 hours, I went back in the house to catch my breath and mix up breakfast for the sled dogs and puppies.

Once I was done mixing up the meat soup and kibble for the sled dogs, I fed the house dogs; Thom, Faith, JB, and CheVelle; then immediately went out to feed the sled dogs.  Each dog gets their own helping of meat soup with dry kibble on top.  All the adult dogs wait patiently for their breakfast to be served, and my dogs sit, speak, and shake (or some combination thereof) for their meal.  The puppies on the other hand, are still learning how to be patient and wait for me to put ALL the food in their dish before inhaling it!  After everyone had been served their breakfast, it was time to move on to the dirty work.

As can be expected, with a lot of dogs there comes a lot of poo to pick up.  Picking up poop is not the funnest chore involved with mushing, but it is a necessary task to maintain a healthy environment.  It seems that the times I pick up poop in the dog yard, are the times I do a lot of thinking.  This particular time I was thinking of how when I have my cousins over helping pick up poop, they don't see all the poop always.  Even though I can see the forgotten feces as clear as day, they honestly did not see it.  This discovery led to my conclusion that dog mushers must have some sort of sixth sense, like "poop vision" or something.  From years and years of scanning the ground for camouflaged dog droppings, dog mushers must have developed this "poop vision."  There is also a fascination among dog mushers with our dog's stools.  To the non-dog musher, we would seem totally out of our minds and slightly disturbed, but as it turns out, poop is a very important thing!  A bad stool, or a stool not typical to that particular dog, is a great indicator of the dog's overall health.  We always want our dogs to be as healthy as can be, so us dog mushers are always studying the feces as we clean them up to be sure our dogs' bodies are functioning properly.  Dogs also seem to have "pooping paterns".  Mushers know everything about their dogs, for example, my dogs always have their special place where they do their business, these dogs tend to have a more 'organized' personality.  By knowing this, I'm able to pinpoint exactly where I need to look to clean up the poop.  Some of the dogs aren't as organized and let the poop fall where it may, which reflects on their care-free personalities.  I guess you could say that you can tell a lot about a dog by looking at his poop!

I then came into the house to eat some lunch, my first meal of the day, and do some school work.  I worked on school work until late afternoon when I went out to begin the long process of dumping poop buckets.  When I pick up poop in the dog yard, I transport the feces to buckets at the gate of the yard.  When all the buckets get filled up, I need to take the buckets to the "poop pile" where the contents of the buckets are disposed of to become new soil.  In the summer months I use the 4-wheeler towing a small trailer to transport the buckets, and in the winter I have to carry the buckets by hand.  Fortunately, I was able to use the 4-wheeler this particular time, probably the only positive result of our lack of snow.  It took 5 trips to get all the buckets dumped, 10 buckets each trip.  JB and CheVelle "assisted" with this; however, being herding dogs, all they really did was bark and run circles around the 4-wheeler as I was driving it.  By the time I was done with dumping the buckets, it was already totally dark out and it was time to get to the next task.

The final chore I had to tackle before feeding the sled dogs dinner, was cleaning the trailer.  I had to rake all the old straw out of the crates in the trailer and replenish them with new straw.  It is not a difficult task aside from the 3 crates that I have to squeeze into and pull the straw out by hand, but it is messy.  By the time I'm finished, I'm covered with straw from head to toe.

The last task of the night is feeding the sled dogs dinner.  For dinner, the dogs get what we call a "meal".  A "meal" is meat, water, and kibble all mixed together.  It is like chili for dogs.  Once all the dogs are fed, they go to sleep for the night and I retire to the house.  Another cool thing is that the dogs say "thank you" after breakfast and dinner.  They do this by all howling together after they have finished eating.

Just another day at the kennel!

click HERE to see a video of the puppies' tire pulling!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rodeo Run Race Results!

Last weekend, we had our first race of the season in West Yellowstone, MT! We ran the 8-dog 22mile course and received 6th place out of 16 very competitive teams! I had Bella and Alice in lead, followed by Otter, Super Cub, Emmett, Jasper, Kaycee and Ra.  We completed the trail in about and hour and a half both days, but the team was faster the second day even though we had to pass twice as many teams!  The dogs did really super!  It was also Bella's and Alice's first race running lead together! It was a very successful weekend and it was fun to see all of my mushing friends again. Dad ran the 10 mile trail after the race on Friday just for fun with Khufu and Cessena in lead, followed by Chewy, Stitch, Eastwood, Bronson, Tut and Newman.
Another exciting part of the weekend was that I found out that I was selected to be sponsored by Manmat Dog Mushing Equipment, so the doggies will be getting some new harnesses, collars, and other goodies!

Here are some pictures from the weekend:

Dad's team

Dad's team

At the start, many teams were towed to the start line by snow-machines since the dogs were pulling so hard

the front 6 dogs of my team, Alice is the one jumping in the air

Bella and Alice watching me at the start

Bella and Alice watching me at the start

Coming into the finish

Just after crossing the finish line

After the run thanking my awesome leaders

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

First Race of the Year!!!

The first race of the 2011-12 season is coming up this weekend, the 15th through the 17th, in West Yellowstone, MT.  This race, the Rodeo Run, is 20 miles with 8 dogs on Friday and Saturday.  Thursday night are the pre-race festivities and drawing for start position.  Friday and Saturday the first team will head out at 9:00 am.  In 2009, I ran in the 6-dog 7 mile class at this race with my dad's older distance team and got 2nd place.  In 2010 with my team, we received 7th place in the 8-dog 20 mile event.  Last year, we received 6th place in the 8-dog class.  As of right now, there are 11 other mushers signed up for he 8-dog class, but entries do not close till Thursday evening so more could come.  The 8 dogs I will be running in the race are:
Bella ~ Alice              
Otter ~ Super Cub     
Emmett ~ Jasper           
Kaycee ~ Ra                

We'll be training today and tomorrow, and then head down to West late Thursday morning.  Wish us luck!
On the trail during the 2010 race

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fall Training Videos

Here are a couple videos of our fall training this year with the team!
click here to see the videos on our Facebook page!

Also, follow the team and I on our Facebook page!

Fall training is over for this year because we are now able to train on snow with sleds!  Here are some pictures from our first sled runs:

Bella and Alice

flying down the trail!

After the run

Absaroka Mountains viewed from Paradise Valley
 Click HERE to see more photos from our first sled runs!