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> Gearing Up For A New Mushing Season
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Swanny 
Posted: 12-Aug-2007, 10:31 AM
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It's been a while since I've posted, but I'm still lurking in the background enjoying the board as I always have. It's been a busy summer for me, with a lot of my limited "free" time spent making improvements to my kennel.

Now things are changing a little bit up here. There are definite signs of fall in the air. The mornings have been downright crisp, into the mid 30s (F) on some mornings though the mercury climbs quickly each day toward the high 70s. My training partner and I have succeeded in running one team during one of those cool mornings, which is a start. Not much of one, but a start nonetheless.

As the weather starts to shift toward our fall patterns, things are also changing out in the dog yard. The dogs are much more vocal than only a couple of weeks ago. Usually they'll howl together three or four times a day but the past week it's been more like 8 or 9 times (they are singing now even as I write). My diggers are digging more fervently than before, and I'm finding toys and bones scattered all around the yard as they play more vigorously.

The older dogs are moving more, trotting around their circles then stopping to sniff the air before trotting some more. darling Daisy, my 11 year old leader, is acting like a puppy jumping up and down off her house as though trying to prove to me that she is ready to run. The yearlings aren't quite sure what is going on, but they too recognize that something exciting will be happening soon.

I've been going over equipment, making repairs here, replacing worn lines there, double checking everything. I'm sure the good folks at Cold Spot Feeds (a popular local feed store that caters to dog mushers) are just delighted, as the last time I was in town their parking lot was full of dog trucks, some that I recognize well.

I've ordered a new sled, a traditional wooden toboggan sled more often association with the late 18th through early 20th century than on modern trails. It should be arriving in October, just in time to start training on snow. There is only one guy in the whole USA building such sleds commercially and I'm really looking forward to receiving it. I'm sure it's going to require me to learn a whole new set of tricks to run it efficiently.

This year my goal is to run the Chena Hot Spring Centennial Run. This is an event that is part race / part historical reenactment. The goal is to travel from North Pole to Chena Hot Springs resort while reenacting the year 1905, when the hot springs was discovered and the resort founded. It is usually the last mushing event of the season, occuring the first weekend of April. Winners are selected by a panel of judges based on historical authenticity rather than speed.

The trick is, this is a passenger race. Each team carries both a musher and a passenger over the trail, which covers approximately 77 miles over 2 days. The overnight camp is part of the contest, with teams expected to maintain their historical presentation throughout. You can learn more about the "race" at http://chena-hotsprings.h993011.serverkomp...etenz.net/race/

Being a reenactor for, oh, about 35 years, and carrying a light-weight passenger who is also a very experienced reenactor should give us an edge in the authenticity department, but the real challenge will be in training my small team of freight dogs to make the trip within some fairly tight (for them) time frames on trails that will no doubt be soft and punchy. The first day's trail is usually not too bad, running mostly on flats and river ice. The second day offers much more challenging terrain through hill country with all the hazards that late-season running can present.

That is then, and this is now. I have a few projects to finish around the house and kennel. This time of year it is rare to have visitors and even the lodge sees few locals as we all are in the same situation. Winter is coming fast, we can feel it in our bones just as our dogs can feel it, and each of us has a million unfinished projects to complete in a limited amount of time. The clock is ticking and it's time for me to get back to work. My dogs are hollering to be fed.

Swanny


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stevenpd 
Posted: 12-Aug-2007, 10:43 AM
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Good to hear from you Swanny! Sounds like things are progressing towards winter very nicely. It's all going to depend on if you can everything done before the first snowfall.

What happened to your filming debut?


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Swanny 
Posted: 12-Aug-2007, 11:16 PM
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QUOTE (stevenpd @ 12-Aug-2007, 06:43 AM)
What happened to your filming debut?

The documentary is planned to air on The Weather Channel some time in 2008. I'll be sure and post the dates once I learn them.

Swanny
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Swanny 
Posted: 20-Sep-2007, 11:46 AM
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I just returned to my place of employment after a VERY busy two-week "R&R". My two weeks on / two off work schedule offers both disadvantages and advantages, and one of the advantages is that I can come back to work in order to rest up from all the fun stuff I did while off.

Lynn Orbison and I spent a lot of time training dogs on both the Sacco cart and the four-wheeler. I tested out a new digital helmet cam, figured out a way to mount it on the four-wheeler, and we are finding that having the ability to review recordings of our runs is a very valuable training tool. I've posted reports from most of my own dog's training runs on my Old School Alaskan blog.

Nels, my Hedlund husky yearling, had his surgery. He was cryptorchid, which is a fancy word that means neither testicle descended into the scrotum. To be neutered he required an abdominal surgery similar to spaying a female. The surgery went well and he is healing nicely, but of course he had to spend most of his time just laying around the house, which drove both of us a little bit nuts.

The other yearlings, Rose and Kia, are both progressing very nicely. I'm especially impressed with Rose as she is a wonderful "natural" sled dog, has a great work ethic and has even run up in lead a couple of times. Before Nels went under the knife I had a chance to run the "Mitten Twins" side by side, and they were AWESOME together.

My leader, the Darling Daisy, was pretty stiff and sore after her first run. Our veterinarian, Dr. Jeanne Olson, checked her out and we've decided to put her on monthly injections of Adequan. Adequan is an injectable drug similar to glucosamine. It's actually less expensive to give her a monthly shot than to feed her dietary supplements, and absorption is much more certain when given subcutaneously.

Within a couple of days after her shot she was dancing and prancing like a puppy, and she's been on several runs since then with additional problems, so I think we are on the right track there.

Unfortunately, my husky/St. Bernard mix, Chinook, isn't going to make the team this year. He's a wonderfully strong, enthusiastic dog, but he isn't fast enough to keep up with my aboriginal village dogs, and he ends up wearing himself out just trying. I'll keep working with him at weight pulling and carting, so it isn't like he will just languish around the yard, but I really love the guy and hate that he is going to have to stay home while the rest of us go out to play.

It really was a tough decision to make, but it isn't fair to Chinook to ask him to keep up with much faster dogs, and it's not fair to his team mates to ask them to slow down off of their natural pace to accommodate him. Just because it is the "right" decisions doesn't make it an "easy" decision.

Dropping Chinook left me a little light on dog power and I with only 1 leader I have long been short on dogs that can run up front, but nature abhors a vacuum and the Spirits always respond to a need - sometimes in very interesting ways. As I was preparing to return to work I took Kia and Chinook over to Lynn's kennel to board. Lynn came dashing out of her house, trying to pull on a light jacket and all but screaming at me. "Swanny, you have GOT to look at this dog."

As we were walking she told me the story. Another musher who fosters rescued sled dogs was leaving town for an extended visit Outside, and asked Lynn to take in two dogs. At the time Lynn was at her own "day job" and very harried, and almost refused but then decided "what the heck." She agreed to take them in. It turns out they are both dogs that Lynn can place VERY quickly.

One will be going to a skijorer in Michigan who is looking for a second Alaskan husky to run with a dog he previously acquired from our rescue. The second one is a dog named "Gump" who just happens to be a perfect candidate for my team of Stardancers.

Gump is a pretty typical looking up-river aboriginal village dog, about 70 lb running weight, mottled gray with a dark saddle, an understated mask, brown eyes and tulip ears. As we walked over to him he seemed to look me up and down, and then trotted over, leaned against my legs, and looked as though was saying "OK, I reckon you will do.".

I didn't have time to run him on the Sacco cart, but I did have time to give him a pretty thorough exam while Lynn told his story. Without going into great detail I'll just say that Gump has the conformation of a great working dog, and a wonderfully calm temperament that will fit well with my team.

Gump came from village lines, whelped by a musher and his wife who at that time focused on trap line and freighting work (they've since been racing more than working). After his first season they felt that Gump (then a two year old), was a pretty good trail leader, but didn't quite fit with their plans, so they sold him to a trapper working in the Fortymile River country.

He led that guy's team for a few years, but then the guy starting hitting the bottle. That is an expensive addiction for someone trying to make a living on a trap line, so it didn't bode well for the dogs. By the time the original breeders heard of the situation, several of the dogs in the drunken trapper's kennel had already died of starvation and neglect. The original breeders chartered a bush plane, flew in feed and straw, and when the surviving dogs were well enough they turned them over to the foster who ended up placing them with us. He's been leading her rescue and rehabilitation team for the past two years, and says he is truly a brilliant and even tempered gee/haw trail leader.

All the time Lynn was telling me the story, I was poking and prodding and looking him over. Through all that he never so much as offered a tongue flick or any other sign of stress. He just stood there enjoying the attention. I was really impressed.

I won't make a final decision until I can run him to see if he's willing to work for me, but it's about 98% certain that he'll be coming into the team. I'm certain enough that I've added him to the list of dogs to receive veterinary exams, vaccinations and so-forth when I return home from work next time. He's 9 years old, the same as Sheenjek, so I'm sure he has some good years left and I know he'll be a lot happier having plenty of excellent quality food and lots of insulating straw in his house.

So, that pretty much has us caught up to date to all the news from the Stardancer kennel.

It seems like everyone in the area is getting a good start on fall training. Aliy Zirkle and Allen Moore are running teams each morning and everyone in their yard is looking healthy and happy. I saw Rick Swenson training on a four-wheeler with a new handler. Their dogs were running well and his handler seems to be learning her job well as well. It looks like we are all getting a nice start toward our favorite time of year.

Swanny




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Swanny 
Posted: 10-Oct-2007, 10:06 AM
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I had an opportunity to run the new guy, Gump, on the Sacco cart yesterday, and he seems to be an awesome dog. He didn't slack off a single time the entire run and got along very nicely with my darling Daisy. It looks like he's going to make the team with no problem at all.

I also ran the Mitten Twins together and they were AWESOME. Nels hasn't run in a while as he was recovering from surgery and then I had to go to my place of employment (yuck!) for two weeks, but the lack of mileage hasn't bothered him at all. He and his sister Rose gave me a fast two-mile ride that was only a couple of mph short of what my training partner's racing sprint dogs did.

It's early in the training season, but so far I'm very pleased with our progress. I can hardly wait until we have enough snow on the ground to control the teams on sleds. Then we can really stretch 'em out and see what they want to do for us.

I'm making an effort to keep my blog updated with training reports. If you'd like to follow along just go to http://oldschoolak.blogspot.com/

My four-wheeler was in the shop for some badly needed maintenance and repairs, but I got it back last night and am delighted. Now when I hit the brake it actually stops, and doesn't lock up on me.

Today we will have three mushers all training from the same yard. Edie Forrest will be bringing her racing team over to run with Lynn Orbison and I. I'll be able to put my full team on the gang line, and I'm really excited about that. I think it will be a LOT of power up front.

Swanny
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Rindy 
Posted: 10-Oct-2007, 11:16 PM
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Hey there.. It's been awhile since I posted in this thread but thought you might enjoy these pictures I received today.

I thought these were some fantastic photos. It has a good ending. smile.gif Slainte

Stuart Brown describes Norbert Rosing's striking images of a wild polar bear playing with sled dogs in the wilds of Canada's Hudson Bay.
The photographer was sure that he was going to see the end of his huskies when the polar bear materialized out of the blue, as it were:Obviously it was a well-fed Bear.. The Polar Bear returned every night that week to play with the dogs..


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Dogshirt 
Posted: 14-Oct-2007, 07:33 PM
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We just got back from our first race of the year. Our club has 2 cart races in Oct. and the first was this weekend. My wife ran in the 4 dog class both days, with a Saturday time of 18:24 for just under 3 miles, and a Sunday time of 16:06. This gave her 2nd place for the weekend thumbs_up.gif biggrin.gif and a good start for the season. Not too bad for as warm as it's been here.
I have posted a few pictures in my album if anyone wants to look.


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stevenpd 
Posted: 15-Oct-2007, 02:26 PM
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Sounds like a good season is coming up!

Sorry to hear about Chinook, Swanny. I know its hard sometimes.

Here's to the new teams!

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Swanny 
Posted: 16-Oct-2007, 09:32 AM
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QUOTE (Dogshirt @ 14-Oct-2007, 03:33 PM)
We just got back from our first race of the year. Our club has 2 cart races in Oct. and the first was this weekend. My wife ran in the 4 dog class both days, with a Saturday time of 18:24 for just under 3 miles, and a Sunday time of 16:06. This gave her 2nd place for the weekend thumbsup.gif biggrin.gif and a good start for the season. Not too bad for as warm as it's been here.
I have posted a few pictures in my album if anyone wants to look.


beer_mug.gif

That's a nice looking team, Dogshirt. Did you intentionally select leaders that lead with opposite feet (one left footed, the other right footed)? If so, was that something you were able to observe from the sled, or did you have to watch them while someone else drove?

I can tell you which foot most of my training partner's dogs lead with, but I've never been able to accurately determine which foot my own leaders prefer, just because they are so darned hard to see from the sled or rig.

Swanny
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Rindy 
Posted: 24-Oct-2007, 03:59 PM
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I enjoyed looking at your pictures Dogshirt.

Swanny, so sorry to hear Chinook didn't make the team.

I can't wait to hear more. I always have enjoyed this subject. Good luck in all your races.

Slainte
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Swanny 
Posted: 10-Nov-2007, 11:05 AM
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Time for the newest update. Training is going strong, with my team doing training runs on a two day on / one off schedule. We don't quite have enough snow to safely run on sleds (not enough to securely hold a snow hook), so we are still running with four-wheeler ATVs.

There have been a couple more changes in the Stardancer team. Kia, the big beautiful alaskan husky / malamute mix foster dog from LCAR has decided that she doesn't like working for a living. She loves to run along with the team, but never puts any effort on the tug line. She reminds me of a politician's trophy wife - beautiful to look at but worthless on the trail. My training partner and I have decided she will be most appropriately placed in a pet home. She is available for adoption through Loving Companions Animal Rescue in North Pole, AK. She is a spayed female, up to date on all her vax under the current AAHA guidelines and in perfect health and is very comfortably housed in either Lynn's yard or my own (alternating) until we find her the perfect adopters.

The "Mitten Twins" (Rose and Nels) are coming along famously, taking turns running at lead and learning the game very, very quickly. My training partner and I are also training a yearling for a mutual friend, and Amazing Grace is still living up to her name. She is more than capable of trotting 30 or 40 miles per day, each and every day, and loving every minute of it. Our short training runs aren't nearly long enough to tire her.

Mid-distance musher Tammi Rego has loaned me a little dog (compared to my big village-dog bruisers) named Dutchess (misspelled on all her paperwork). Dutchess was whelped by Ray Redington Jr., and is a painfully shy little girl to handle, but awesome up front of the gang. She's a no-nonsense leader who has places to go, and is very good at training my younger dogs. She and Daisy take turns running lead with the yearlings, so everyone gets ample work, but also ample breaks from the stress of teaching while leading the team.

When Gump came on the team he was way behind in training miles, so out of shape both physically and mentally. He's growing stronger with each run and is doing just fine. I don't expect he'll spend a lot of time in lead for another month or two, though. He is truly a perfect gentleman to handle.

Sheenjek (the Megamutt) and Seamus have been doing yeoman's duty in the wheel position. Sheenjek reminds me of the stereotypical Irishman who works hard all day, grabs a beer or two after work, and is willing to engage in a recreational brawl at any opportunity. Actually, he isn't as snarky as he was last year and seems to treat both the twins with a (relatively) gentle hand.

Although Chinook didn't make the team, he is still getting out for runs with slower teams two or three times each week and is loving it. He really likes being the resident pet dog. With him I'm focusing on strength training for weight pulling.

My new sled finally got here from Minnesota, but we don't have enough snow yet to run it. I do have it rigged and ready, though.

I'm still posting frequent training reports on my Old School Alaskan blog.

Swanny
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Swanny 
Posted: 20-Nov-2007, 12:38 PM
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I'm Gonna Race 'Em

The end goal for our season is to compete and do well in the Chena Hot Springs Resort's Centennial Run, a two day, 74 mile reenactment of the 1905 discover (by Whites) of the hot springs. The winner is that most historically authentic team to finish the race by 4:00 pm Sunday.

As a long time historical reenactor, I'm not worried about the historical aspect of the event, but my village freighting dogs are not fast - just steady, so I am working them up to be able to do the course within the proscribed time.

The organizers of the Centennial Run really like mass starts - in which all of the teams launch at the same time. This makes the staging and starting area a very chaotic and distracting setting in which to try to prepare for and start the run.

Dogs can only do what they've been trained to do, and I have been looking for an event in which I can expose them (and myself) to a similar circumstance, but my work schedule and the local club's race schedule were very much in conflict.

However, the first fun race of the season, the Two Rivers Tune Up, was postponed due to low snow conditions, which means that I will actually be off work and able to run my team in that race.

I'll be running in the six dog class (10 miles). I'm planning to take 3 yearlings and 3 older, steady, experienced dogs. The goal is to make it as much fun as possible for all the dogs, especially the "young 'uns", so that they will be comfortable and confident the next time around.

Now, my freighters aren't likely to place very high in the standings, there are some very fast sprint teams running in this event, but I'm confident that we won't make fools of ourselves, either.

Swanny
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stevenpd 
Posted: 20-Nov-2007, 01:54 PM
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Go! Swanny, Go! thumbs_up.gif

Although, is it my faulty memory or do I recall accurately that you were not going to race?
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Swanny 
Posted: 21-Nov-2007, 08:13 PM
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Well, let's just say there's been a little change in plans, and leave it at that. S wink.gif

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stevenpd 
Posted: 21-Nov-2007, 10:10 PM
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Enough said . . . rolleyes.gif
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