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> 2006/07 Dog Mushing Season
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Swanny 
Posted: 03-Sep-2006, 01:08 AM
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Lynn Orbison and I took the dogs out with the four-wheeler tonight. It was the first run of the season for my guys, and only the second for hers. Without really intending it that way, all 8 of the dogs on the first team we ran were either adopted from or placed into a sled dog rescue group from the Borough shelter. This run was about 3 1/2 miles total.

At lead we had my Daisy and Lynn's Bobcat (Bob)

Swing were my Sheenjek and Lynn's Valentine ('cause Lynn though running the big guy next to a much smaller dog is really "cute")

Team dogs were Swift (who isn't) and Pinky, both fosters with a rescue group in Lynn's care.

Wheel dogs were my Seamus (aka "Shameless) and Lynn's Dusty.

OK, I know I shouldn't be boastful, but c'mon - a guy should be able to brag about his dogs, right? Daisy is an AWESOME leader. Everything about this run was new to her - new trail, new musher(s), &c yet she was truly incredible up there. On several corners, including a three way fork in the trail, Daisy responded more quickly to the cues than Bobcat and actually shoved or pulled Bobcat into the turns. That's pretty astounding considering that Bobcat has run these trails for three or four years now.

Sheenjek, running in a frieght harness at swing, did really well too. He is such a powerful dog that when he hits the tugline something is either going to move or break. Fortunately, nothing broke and we moved very nicely.

Equal to Daisy's performance was wee Seamus, who repeated his incredible enthusiasm and great work ethic of last year. He never once let his tugline go slack - not a single time.

My two big dogs are a bit out of shape, they started showing it at about mile three when Sheenjek slowed and ran slack, and Daisy started pacing. At that point we slowed way down and just dog-trotted back to the yard. It wasn't unexpected as I was already warned that Daisy and Sheenjeck "haven't been run in a while". If we get any sort of decent snow at all this year they she back in top form by mid-winter.

The second team was also an eight dog team, all either race dogs or candidates for the race team. Leaders at the start of the run were Fine and Ice, at swing we had Truly and Glad, at team we had Foxy and Spruce and at wheel Lucky and Puma. It was a nice mix of older and younger dogs.

About a third of the way into this 3 mile run we switched Fine and Glad. Glad was crowding Truly and Ice won't tolerate that behavior in a running mate - it's always easier for one dog to train another than for a human to train it .

These racing sprint dogs are all about GO, so though a shorter run than the first, it was also a wilder run. They weren't happy at any speed under 15 MPH and on these rough dirt trails running the four wheeler consistently at that pace was a real challenge. Ice is also a tremendous leader and has a neat "trick". About 50 yards back from an intersection Lynn would holler "Ice, haw ahead (or gee ahead) - find it." Ice found it every time, even one that was so severely overgrown that I couldn't see it until the dogs made the turn.

Our last team was the geriatric team, 7 old timers and little Hope, who I've been doing some behavior modification work on. This was a slow, short run to keep the older guys happy and to give Hope a chance to learn her trade.

Hope was typically fearful when we harnessed her, but once we got her on the line she did very nicely. For the first mile she was a bit of a "rubber necker", checking things out and fighting her neck line a little bit, but then she settled right down to run and was as relaxed as I've ever seen her. She kept a tight tugline and only got the heebiejeebies once, when we passed by a group of seven or eight teenagers out for a stroll.

So - there were no fights, no tangles and no breedings. Therefore it was a successful first-run of the season. I learned important things I need to know about my new dogs which gives me a starting point for their conditioning, and everyone involved - both canine and human - had a GREAT time.

I also got to see some really nice new training trails that are very well suited for training gee/haw leaders - lots of intersections and different routes to choose from.

Swanny


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user posted image "You can't run with the big dogs if you still pee like a puppy".

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"Aut pax, aut bellum" (Clan Gunn)
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stevenpd 
Posted: 04-Sep-2006, 04:17 PM
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Sounds like a good time was had by all! This is difinitely going to add another dimension to the upcoming season.


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stoirmeil 
Posted: 04-Sep-2006, 06:19 PM
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How I'd love to see them run! It sounds like your beautiful new Daisy and Sheenjek are going to be happy, just from the way they are working. Their old owner would be real happy to hear about it. It's such a different idea about the way a dog "ticks," for those of us that are used to dogs as buddies but not as workers. It sounds like the two new dogs have a whole new lease on joy -- and all of you got very lucky.
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stevenpd 
Posted: 21-Sep-2006, 11:05 AM
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How are the teams shaping up for the upcoming season?
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Swanny 
Posted: 22-Sep-2006, 10:13 AM
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We are just getting started in training up here, hooking the dogs to a four wheeler and taking them for short runs. I ran my guys with Lynn Orbison's teams yesterday. Daisy performed exceptionally well - she is truly an amazing old girl.

Seamus also performed yeoman duty. We ran him with a faster team than before, and ran him further than we've done before. He kept a tight tugline the whole time and performed as though he's been doing this all his life. I s'pose that since he's only a two year old, technically he has been.

Sheenjek got a bit too rowdy with his running mate while we were hooking up, so we had to swap some dogs around on the line. He and Buddy apparently are none-too-fond of each other. He did better beside Mary, but on turns was getting a bit snappy with her so we moved him up front with Daisy. He ain't about to nip at his mama 'cause mama has been kicking his little butt all of his life. He ran well up there but didn't pull particularly hard. I think it's because his harness (a freight harness) is longer than Daisy's, which would require him to move a few inches ahead of her to pull. I'll shorten his tug line next time so he's actually running an inch or two behind the main leader, and see if that doesn't remedy the situation. Given his size and attitude, I s'pose it's possible he has some malemute in his blood and once he becomes more familiar with these particular dogs he'll settle down a bit.

We put Chinook on the team for the first time ever yesterday. Like Sheenjek he made "potty mouth" with his first running mate, so we moved a larger female to run beside him. He behaved much better (like his musher, he has a "thing" for attractive females). He went on a short run, about two miles, and settled in pretty nicely. He had a hard time keeping up that pace, but that's not surprising - all his work in the past has been at a much slower pace.

Because of the terrain I can't run them out of my own yard yet, so it's easier to take them over to Lynn Orbison's yard and run them with her teams. Once things freeze up enough to make my trails, and Mike Green's trails usable, they'll get more runs. Meanwhile as they become more familiar with Lynn's dogs I think these behavior issues will sort themselves out.

Swanny
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stevenpd 
Posted: 22-Sep-2006, 05:51 PM
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Thanks for the update! What's the latest scuddlebut for the up coming season? What's Lance been up to?
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Swanny 
Posted: 25-Sep-2006, 09:01 AM
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It's a bit early in the season for scuttlebutt, Steve. Lance is keeping a pretty low profile but there are rumors that he has been training teams on a four-wheeler. HA!!! Him and half of the mushers in Alaska......

Aily Zirkle and Allen Moore are just starting their fall training. The biggest news from her kennel is a litter of beautiful puppies that are a breeding between one of her command leaders and Lance's big grey leader "Hobo". I personally would like to see one or two of those puppies grow to size a bit larger than Aily likes to run on her race teams biggrin.gif . I'd be willing to pay serious money for such a puppy to train beside Daisy.

Based on the trail traffic I've seen, I'd guess there are at least a half-dozen distance racers already doing serious four-wheeler work with their teams here in Two Rivers. It's just way-too-early to determine how the dogs are actually shaping up.

Swanny

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Swanny 
Posted: 28-Sep-2006, 09:35 AM
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Lynn and I took three teams out "motor-mushing" yesterday, with the four wheeler. There was a light rain falling and the trails were a wee bit muddy. Lynn's current goal is to develop a competitive 8 dog team of all white dogs, but her white dogs were pretty much muddy gray by the time they finished their runs.

Daisy was, as always, a delightful leader regardless of her running mate. She is very quickly becoming the Queen of my little kennel. Seamus is always the cheer leader, hard running and hard pulling guy who would probably do as well with a sprint team as he does with my little group of freight haulers.

Sheenjek and Chinook are a whole 'nother story. I'm becoming convinced that Sheenjek may have a serious dose of Malamute running through his veins. Both of those guys wanted to scrap with their running mates before the run, and Sheenjek's interest in argument went to the point where we had a serious tangle at the start. It didn't help that Dusty, (Lynn's dog that Sheenjek fought with last time) decided that it was time for a bit of payback so came charging into the middle of the fray. No bloodshed (thank goodness), but plenty of uproar.

We finally got everyone straightened out. We moved Sheenjek up front beside Daisy because "Mom" ain't gonna take to crap from the "kid", put Chinook at team running by himself (no dog beside him) and once on the trail they settled in fairly nicely until Sheenjek figured out that out front he has a lot more directional freedom. He thought to take advantage of that freedom to mark trees, which got him instantly demoted to wheel.

At the wheel position he turned right on, keeping a tight tug and pulling like a champ. He was a bit of a slacker running higher up in the team, but at wheel one couldn't ask for a better dog - so - that will likely become his more or less permanent spot on the gang line. It took Chinook a while to figure out that he really did have to run with the team, at the team's pace. Once he did so things went pretty well the rest of the run.

Last night I moved dogs around in the yard a bit. I put Sheenjek and Chinook on adjacent posts where they can interact more (before there was a fence between them), and put Daisy into the free run pen with Seamus because they get along exceptionally well. Daisy thinks it is a promotion because the free-run dogs eat their grub and sleep inside the house while the tethered dogs sleep in their houses outside. One of my goals is to be able to rotate dogs through the two parts of the yard so that everyone gets a turn at being "inside" versus "outside" dogs.

We will be running again tomorrow and I plan to put the two big guys back at wheel. I'm hoping that by living with each other in the yard they will both settle down enough to run them together at wheel, and that they'll be so occupied with each other that they'll leave the other dogs alone. They were both very quiet last night, so I may put them into the free run pen later today for some free play time.

All of this kennel management stuff is quite a challenge. I can hardly imagine how Dogshirt or other mushers with larger yards manage to keep compatible dogs together or make those decisions about where to put who.... It has to be much more complicated than in my little yard and is well worthy of a tip of the hat.

Swanny



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stevenpd 
Posted: 22-Oct-2006, 11:57 AM
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Now that I have a moment to breathe, how goes the training?
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Swanny 
Posted: 23-Oct-2006, 12:41 PM
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I've been stuck at work and then work related training the past three weeks. I'll FINALLY be home again on Wednesday. Mike, the musher who boards my guys while I'm at work, hasn't been able to run them at all because of trail conditions. We finally have a little snow now though, so we should be able to get back into the swing of things pretty shortly.

Swanny
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stoirmeil 
Posted: 28-Oct-2006, 02:20 PM
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This is just for comic relief, but I didn't think it was worth openeing a new thread for. This is the runner up entry in the "Romance" category of this year's Bulwer-Lytton competition -- a contest for the worst opening line of a novel, named after the opening line of one of Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton's novels:

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

--Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)


Here's the entry:

"Sex with Rachel after she turned fifty was like driving the last-place team on the last day of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, the point no longer the ride but the finish, the difficulty not the speed but keeping all the parts moving in the right direction, not to mention all that irritating barking."
Dan Winters
Los Altos Hills, CA
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Swanny 
Posted: 19-Nov-2006, 08:25 PM
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Dang - I am stinkin' cold this evening. I figured I'd try to get caught up while my fingers thaw out a bit. I got home form work Tuesday morning and have been full-tilt-boogie all week. Most of it is of no interest here, but I do have my trail opened up so I can start running my guys out of my own yard instead of having to truck them over to Lynn's place.

In spite of the weather (-22 F) this afternoon I went out with Aliy Zirkle and her yearling team this afternoon. It was GREAT fun. Honest - it was. We had a total of 14 dogs on the line, 4 adults and 10 yearlings. These young dogs are so perfectly matched in size and gait that it's truly amazing to see. All but one of the yearlings are from Aliy's own stock. The "odd one" is a very houndy looking puppy that she more or less rescued from a yard in Bethel during the weather delays at the Kusko last year. She says "There was just something about the little gal that I couldn't resist." Considering she is so perfectly matched to her running mate I'd say it was a heck of a good match.

We did 18 miles of motor-mushing with an average speed of 8.1 mph, not blazing fast but a heck of a good workout when using the four-wheeler. Certainly long enough for us to come back with frosted gear, and the obligatory snot-cycles hanging from my moustache.

While out and about Aliy taught me how she trains her dogs to make safe highway crossings. That was really important to me because I need to train my guys to do that in order to run them back and forth to the post office and some wonderful terrain on the other side of the road from my house. She also showed me some trails I didn't even know existed, right near my own back yard. That can be very handy as I'm working up the mileage on my guys.

My work schedule is such this year that I will probably be able to help handle for her at the start of the Iditarod. If so I'll probably be bringing some of her and Allan's dogs home from Anchorage after the start. They usually have 20 dogs who qualify for the race and chose the final 16 at the last possible moment. Aliy said that last year the choice wasn't make until they were actually hooking up for the start and Allen literally pointed and said "that one!".

Anyway, I'll have to head home right after the restart, but that will make it possible to bring the dogs that don't go to Nome straight home to their yard. That way the handlers left in Anchorage to pick up and care for dropped dogs won't have to also care for the others.

That's all the news for now. More later.

Swanny
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stevenpd 
Posted: 19-Nov-2006, 11:01 PM
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Sounds like a good start for the season! Looking for more news as the season progresses.
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Swanny 
Posted: 21-Nov-2006, 10:40 AM
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Finally got everything together to run my little team out of my own yard, instead of having to truck them to Lynn's place. It was a matter of waiting for a particular creek to freeze over solid enough to make a safe crossing. Yesterday I took my gang of four out for a short (two mile) run to stretch their muscles. Here's the entry in their training log:

November 18, 2006
Very cold day today, about – 15 (F) at the start. This was our first time running out of our own yard, as a four dog team hitched in single file: 2 miles total to the public trailhead on Two Rivers Road and back.

Daisy (L), Seamus (S), Chinook (T) and Sheenjek (W)

Good points: Great start, Daisy took the early “haw” without a hitch, found the brand new trail down the powerline right of way very quickly and led the team like a champ. She really does seem happy running single lead.

All dogs ran comfortably at the same pace and seemed to be evenly matched in gait, certainly they were well matched at the start. I mixed up commands in the turn around, (called "gee" rather than "haw") but recovered quickly and Daisy forgave me very quickly. I missed the easiest “turn around” trail so we had to do a very tight “haw” at the main trail, which we managed without too much difficulty. I'm not sure I'd want to try so tight a turn on the sled.

On the home stretch all were willing to pick up the pace commendably. We managed the tight “gee” at the driveway without a problem and they went to “easy” on cue.

Bad Points: Very bad pass with an oncoming team about half way back down the main trail. Chinook and Seamus both wanted to "meet and greet". They didn’t ball up the other team too badly (for which I’m very grateful) but they got themselves into one helluva mainline tangle that took a while to sort out. We really need to work on passing and since Daisy doesn’t do “line out” particularly well & that is something else we’ll have to work on. Maybe she is accustomed to a different cue that I haven't figured out yet.

All in all, I can’t complain too loudly. The four wheeler started after 45 minutes of heat, the dogs ran nicely most of the time and no one got hurt.

Training Plan:
- Reinforce Seamus' and Chinook's "leave it" cue
- Set up passing situations with Lynn's teams so they can practice more often.
- Reinforce or train a "line out" cue with Diasy.

Swanny
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Swanny 
Posted: 14-Dec-2006, 12:10 AM
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I finally got off work for a while, and took the gang over to Lynn Orbison's to train today. We had a STUPENDOUS day of mushing in spite of some difficulties. We still haven't had any new snow, so the original game plan was to run large teams with the four-wheeler. Her machine died a sudden death (electrical malfunction) so the first team of 10 dogs pulled the dead machine home. It wasn't fast, but it worked.

Best of all though, Angel ran with the team. Frequent visitors here may recognize Angel as a near feral little dog that I've been working with in a behavior modification project since back in July. The first couple of miles were really scary for the little girl, but once she figured out she couldn't escape she settled in very nicely and by the end of this short (1.5 miles) run she was doing very nicely. She was as shy as ever when I removed her harness, but she immediately approached me for a tasty-treat. She truly is one of the most courageous dogs I think I've ever encountered.

With a dead machine and more dogs to run we decided to take a risk. We hooked up my four and two of Lynn's to a small training toboggan sled. Now. Lynn is a very petite woman and I'm a fairly hefty fellow logic dictated that she ride in the sled while I drove. The trail is very hard and fast, not nearly enough snow to plant a hook if we got into trouble, so.......

We put seven dogs on the line, my four and three of Lynn's. Using more brass than brains I pulled the quick release and hollered "let's go". Well, my head snapped back as they hit full speed in just about four steps and when I could finally think again my first thought was "Holy Cow" (or something similar). We hit the main trail at about 20 miles an hour. I stood with my full weight on the drag with absolutely no discernible effect, so ended up on the claw brake (the main brake that has spikes to dig into the snow). Finally I stood full weight on the claw brake and that's how we ran for fully the first mile, barely in control at all. It's a good thing there weren't any corners for a while.

Once the dogs settled got some of that excitement run out it was truly a pleasant ride. Being a trap-line and freight hauling dog Daisy likes to run at a solid trot, which moves us along at a more controllable eight to 10 miles an hour.

Here's how I logged it in my training journal.

QUOTE
December 12, 2006:
Wednesday.  Finally home from work.  About 0 degrees under overcast sky.  4.5 miles by Lynn’s estimate (which is usually dead on). 

My Daisy and Lynn's Bobcat (Lead), my Seamus & Lynn's Dusty (Swing), my Sheenjek & Lynn's Pinky (Team), my Chinook (Single Wheel)

WAHOO!!  First sled run of the season.  We left Lynn’s yard at about warp factor six on very hardpacked snow.  I was literally standing on the claw brake to keep them under control for most of the first mile.  Once they settled into Daisy’s traveling pace things were much more sane.  Passed a snow machine.  Dusty kept Seamus from going for a meet and greet and Chinook responded perfectly to his “leave it” cue.  It was a wild ride, but a heckuva lot of fun.



We ran out of daylight before running the third team, but we plan to run them tomorrow and if my guys are up for it, they can go too. We may take my toboggan sled instead of Lynn's though. Mine is larger, heaver, and has better brakes.

Swanny



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