Saturday, September 24, 2005

Rainy Day

It rained all night and seems to want to rain all day. This has put a stop to training, temporarily. I do not really fancy getting soaked with cold rain and splattered with mud kicked up by numerous dog feet on the run. Too bad. I was hoping to run three teams today. I ran two teams yesterday with all the youngest dogs, and I wanted to get some of the older dogs out as well. This rain is good for the trees, though. I have read that if the soil is dry, you should water trees before transplanting them, so this rain will help prepare the trees that I will be harvesting from the Targhee National Forest. As soon as the weather clears - which is supposed to be on Monday - I will go search for my four little trees.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Fall Colors

The leaves are starting to turn on some of the trees. I have one small aspen that has turned yellow, and the largest aspen is showing signs on some of its leaves as well. On my training runs today, I enjoyed looking for signs of color around the neighborhood and in the mountains. There were several stands of aspen that were clearly changing color and a few other trees that I could not identify from a distance. Usually the bushes and undergrowth are the first to change color. I have been seeing evidence of this in the woods for the last couple weeks. I love the deep reds and oranges that most of the undergrowth displays. The fireweed was one of the first to turn; I have some of that in my own yard and almost missed it because it bloomed and was finished so quickly this year.

I ran two teams today. The first team was led by my four-year-old standouts Switch and Breaker. They are tiny little girls but are super fast and very trustworthy. The team behind them contained all of our Holly puppies who are just about to turn one year old on October 3rd. These pups are our best hope for the future, having two genuine superstars for parents. The mother, Holly, was a top dog for champion musher Neal Johnson, and the father, Pinto, was a top dog for champion musher Buddy Streeper. This was the puppies first run since the move, and they did really well.

The second team that I ran was led by Olive and Dallas, our five-year-old Siberian Husky standouts. These two girls are very solid leaders and have the speed to keep up with any of our dogs. The team behind them contained all of our Abba puppies. These guys will be two years old in December, but they have not had a lot of training yet. Cinnamon and Cloves pulled especially well, and Nutmeg and Allspice were fairly solid as well. Cloves gave birth to a couple of puppies this year, and it looks like she is back in good form now. Although our Holly puppies are the best litter I have ever seen, taking to harness work like pros, it was clear that the second team, which was almost a year older, had more power.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

House Dogs

Mike and I have dogs because we love dogs, so naturally we also enjoy having dogs in our house. In fact, we would have all the dogs in the house if we could, but some of the dogs are not safe with cats. We truly love our cat, so we only allow dogs who are safe with the cat to be in the house. Right now we have two regular house dogs, Rose and Mary, who are housebroken and trustworthy. I am now in the process of training two more dogs, Current and Abba. We also have Goldie and Fresca who have been house dogs in the past but are a little too hyper for me to want them in a house that is still full of boxes and other stuff scattered around. Once I have everything unpacked and in its place, we will have more room for bringing more dogs in.

A funny thing happened with Abba just now. This is only the second day that she has ever been in the house, and so she is just learning house rules and how to behave in the house and around the cat. Our cat Eggnog got playful and came running around the corner right in front of Abba who jumped several feet in the air and backed up a few paces. Eggnog thought this looked like the behavior of a potential playmate, so she did a mock charge, and Abba skedaddled all the way to the back door. Eggnog thought this was great, so she put on her best playful pose and approached a little closer whereupon Abba screamed in fear and flattened herself against the door. Now I know I shouldn't be laughing at her genuine distress, but it is just so funny to see a full grown husky screaming in fear of a playful cat. Now Abba is hiding under the desk at my feet and Eggnog is sitting on the counter feeling rejected.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Transplanting Trees

I would like to plant more trees on my property, both for scenic value and to provide protection from the sun and wind. I found two tiny pine trees that were growing too close to our largest aspen, so I began by transplanting them to a position on the southwestern edge of the kennel, just outside the fence. This seemed like a good place to provide shade in the summer and a windbreak in the winter. Later, I found three more little pine trees that were growing too close to the bigger pines. Mike helped me dig two of them up, and we transplanted them next to the first two trees. Today I dug up the last and largest of the little trees and put it at the end of the row. The five newly transplanted trees range from one foot to three feet in height. I have been watering them every day and removing some of the nearby sagebrush to give them plenty of room.

It takes a long time for trees to grow in this climate, but I look forward to seeing the trees grow from year to year. I will also be acquiring more trees. I have gotten a permit which allows me to harvest four trees from the Targhee National Forest. The maximum height allowed is six feet, but the odds for successfully transplanting are better with smaller trees. I will be harvesting evergreens and will probably plant them near the highway to make a nice border for my property.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

More Training Runs

I have now gotten almost all the experienced leaders out on a run. For my second run, I used Amtrak and Comet in lead. They are both older, experienced dogs that I knew would be somewhat responsive to commands. They did a fairly creditable job, which was a good thing since I did not have Mike's help this time. Convincing them to run in the grass took a lot of patience, but once we got that settled, they were real good at taking commands for the rest of the run. There is one spot where the trail departs from the old road and runs right up to the main highway, going through what looks like a gravel pullout before veering back to the old road. That seems to be a trouble spot for all my leaders. They all think that they are supposed to go out on the highway there. However, it only takes one or two runs for the correct route to become a habit for them, and I do not expect to have any trouble after that.

On the third run I used Luna and Fresca again, and the rest of the team was rounded out by a group of experienced team dogs and up-and-coming leaders. The only leaders still left to learn the trail are the nine-year-old Siberians that I use for training puppies. I expect to get them out next week, and then I will start training all the young dogs along with my experienced race dogs.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

First Training Run

Today was a red letter day. We finally got everything together to be able to run the dogs. I parked the dog truck next to the kennel to give me a solid object for picketing the dogs and snubbing off the ATV. I put my most reliable leaders, Luna and Fresca, at the front of the team, and Mike rode on the ATV with me to help control the dogs. The rest of the team was composed of all lead dogs so that they could learn the trail and be ready to lead other teams. Some parts of the trail are tricky, so it was good that I had Mike along to help move the leaders over when necessary. The route runs along an old paved road, but there are ATV tracks in the grassy ditch alongside. Nonetheless, it took a bit of convincing to get the dogs to run in the grass instead of on the pavement. Mike walked along with the leaders until they understood that they were supposed to stay in the grassy ruts.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Sled Dog Seminar

I spent the weekend at a terrific sled dog seminar in Montana. I go to this seminar every year, and it always gets me fired up about training dogs. Lance Mackey, winner of the Yukon Quest, was one of the main speakers, and he was very down to earth with lots of pithy wisdom but also entertaining, with a great sense of humor. Doug Swingley, winner of four Iditarods, was also a speaker, and as usual, everything he said was a nugget of wisdom.

In addition to the informative talks, it is always nice to see old friends and converse with like-minded mushers. Some friends flew out from Maine for the third year, and it was great to see them again. Mike and I took the scenic way home, which was about 50 miles further but well worth it. We went through the Bitteroot valley, which I think is among the most scenic places in Montana.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Wanderer

We have a visitor in our yard. A big white fluffy dog has decided to camp out here. He appears to be a purebred Great Pyrenees, possibly as young as six months old. He refuses to leave, so Mike has tied him up so that he will not get hit on the highway. Our attempts to find his owner have been unsuccessful. He is a very sweet, calm fellow, but we do not need another dog! Besides which, all our dogs are barking at him because they know he does not belong here. It makes for some very sleepless nights.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Too Many Females

We like females here at Black Hole Kennels. We really do. They don't pee all over everything. They are easy to housebreak. They tend to be more responsive and compliant to commands. Most of our best leaders are females, and even our smallest ones are still tremendously strong. We would be happy with a team of all females. However ... this is the time of year when it seems like all the females in the yard are coming in to heat. For days on end I am rushing around checking everyone to see who needs to be moved into the bitch pen. There are 14 spots in the bitch pen, and I have never had more than 13 who were in heat at the same time. Still, the bitch pen is currently full, and there is only one dog in there that I would feel safe moving out. So only one more bitch is allowed to come into heat. I have three more bitches that could be coming into heat at any time, and there are two bitches who will be done with their season fairly soon, so I think I am okay. Nonetheless, it is a nerve-racking time, making sure that everyone stays "safe".

Friday, September 02, 2005

Bless This House

Today our house was blessed. Our pastor came over along with several friends and performed a blessing ceremony. Since this is the first house that Mike and I have had together - and possibly the last - this was a very special and moving experience for us. We all prayed over the house, and the pastor anointed the threshold, and then we all shared communion together. The kennel was also included in the blessing, and we had a good time visiting with our friends.