Thursday, October 24, 2013

2013-2014 Race Schedule

I'm afraid I have not been a very good blogger.

However, I intend for that to change.

The team and I have big plans for this race season.  It's been almost a month since the weather cooled down and the dogs are getting settled in to our training schedule.  It's been a bit sketchy planning runs this year as I have began my college education at Boise State University (Creative Writing major), but so far we are averaging four runs a week which works out pretty well.  This is the first race season I'll be training a 12 dog team - it is so exciting that my Alaska puppies from 2012 are old enough to join the race team!  Running these guys has been a breeze; a very talented group of pups.  

Team Warren 2013-2014 Race Schedule 
*West Yellowstone Rodeo Run - December 12-14, 2013 - the A team (me!) will run either the 22 mile/8 dog race or the 12 dog 35 mile race, depending on which I feel is best at that point in training.  the B team (my mother) will run the 8 dog.
*Darby Dog Derby - January 18-19, 2014 - 30 miles/8 dogs - (A and B teams)
*Eagle Cap Extreme - January 22-25, 2014 - 100 miles/8 dogs - (B team) 
*Cascade Quest - January 31-February 2, 2014 - 100 miles/12 dogs (A and B teams)
*Race to the Sky - February 14-19, 2014 - 350 miles/12 dogs (A team) / 100 miles/8 dogs (B team)

My mother and I have joined together (along with my younger brother who runs a small sprint team) under the kennel name Team Warren - it made more sense to have one kennel name for both of us as we both are focusing on distance racing and my mom decided that she would like to run the Iditarod once so we have that shared goal as well.  

I will be unable to attend the Eagle Cap Extreme as it happens to be the same week on which semester two of college begins.  I'm already signed up for Race to the Sky, though, and really excited to be running such a long race.  It is definitely the premier event for Team Warren this year.  I've had to put my Iditarod goals aside for a bit in order to secure my college degree but during the meantime I'm building up our kennel with quality dogs and participating in races in the lower 48 so that when I do graduate I can focus a year on running the Iditarod with (by then) experienced dogs. 

During the meantime I've been working on getting ready for the snow season. The dog truck will be getting new custom (SLEDDOG) license plates and a Team Warren logo on the doors.  Additionally, the 10-dog box will be getting a new coat of paint this month so it matches the truck, since the truck box is no longer enough to transport our entire race teams.

I need to wrap this up now as I have a spanish class to get to (last class this week), so let's wrap up with a photo of young Rosemary, who has been the best yearling leader in October's training.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Summer plans - North to Alaska

In about 5 weeks, my dogs and I will be traveling north to the 49th state.  I have been exceedingly privileged to obtain a job at Jeff King's Husky Homestead, where, from May-September, we'll be living as I care for Jeff's dogs and help out with the daily tours.  I am extremely excited and enthusiastic about this summer; as I'll be spending it in a northern paradise (Denali) and working with some of the best Iditarod dogs alive today. I'll be learning from the "winningest musher," Jeff, and have the opportunity to meet some really interesting people with all the summer traffic.  And I'll be avoiding the summer heat of Idaho and finally get to stay in Alaska for more than a few weeks. A real adventure awaits.

Zorra, Bessie, Sprout, Hadrian, Mango, and Robin will be accompanying me on this Alaskan journey.  Breena will remain in Idaho, as her breeding rights were more or less leased to my mother for the summer.  At least some of my dogs may occasionally run on the tour team and as such I'm hoping to keep them in great physical shape over the summer, so we'll have a head start on training next fall.  The plan is to pick up some new dogs over the summer, preferably from Jeff's lines.  Any dogs Jeff decides to place elsewhere over the summer are possibilities, and I'll watch the sale pages of Wolf's Den Kennel (Mike Santos) and Apex Kennel (Jake Berkowitz) with interest as well.  I intend to run a 12 dog team during the 2012-2013 season, and would prefer to have a couple alternate dogs additionally, so I don't end up short dogs like I did this past winter.

Bessie will be pregnant during the journey north (due date being uncertain since she still hasn't come into heat).  I am very pleased to have the opportunity to raise a litter at the Homestead, as puppies raised there receive amazing socialization and are thus very friendly and pleasant to be around, as Sprout has proved to be.  Since Bessie and Sprout are both from Jeff's lines, their offspring will fit in well with Jeff's litters.

Upon arrival in Alaska all the dogs will be switched to RedPaw Dog food, which I intend to feed indefinitely afterwards.  I am looking forward to getting my team onto a top-notch feed.

We will be departing Idaho on the 23rd of April, and should arrive at our new home in Denali very late on the 27th, or possibly on the 28th if weather and road conditions prove difficult.  It is indeed possible to encounter snow on the Alcan Hwy or even the Cassiar during April, although we would much prefer rain.  Once arrived, I'll have a day or two to get settled in, meet Jeff, Carrie, & crew, spend some time with Aunt Valerie and cousin Demetri; before starting work on the 30th. The first few weeks will be spent with tour setup (also as I meet the dogs - all 30+ of them! :) ) after which tours begin on the 14th of May.  At some point I'll be building doghouses for Sprout, Hadrian, Mango, and Robin, after the ground thaws enough to allow swivel poles to be driven in.  Because Bessie will be expecting puppies, I am currently uncertain as to where she'll be; may spend my off hours building a nursery pen.  We'll see.  Zorra, the house dog, will be living out of my trailer. 

This trailer is a camper trailer that Aunt Val and Uncle Jim have been kind enough to loan to me for the summer.  Jeff and I have agreed to park it next to the dog yard, so I can be a watchman of sorts during nights.  My trailer will have power so I can use my laptop and keep up with writing my novels and the classes they're involved with.  I'll also have access to a general employee area with kitchen and laundry.

All in all, a very exciting summer awaits, possibly the most extraordinary of my life -yet!  How wonderful that I can have what so few people possess -  a job that I actually love and enjoy.  So many people work their lives away at something that they've no enthusiasm for, no passion or desire, just plodding along until it's done and they can go home and await work's start the next morning.  I chose a different path, where I can do what I love - work with sleddogs and share my love for them with others  - and actually get paid for it.  How lucky is that?

There may be some question as to what I plan to do after the tourist season ends.  Actually, I have no certain idea of what will follow this summer.  It's quite possible that I may return to Idaho for the winter and run some of the longer races here, such as the Race to the Sky 350 or the Eagle Cap 200.  However, with the fragile state of being here, I'm uncertain that returning to Idaho will even be an option come September.  If not, or if a winter job opportunity presented itself, I could very well remain in Alaska permanently.  As with many things, time will tell.

Next post topic: Garrett the writer.

Monday, March 19, 2012

March Update

It's been a long time since I last checked into this blog.  I used to wonder why the owners of the blogs I followed updated their pages so infrequently, but now I understand: life gets in the way.  My 6 race dogs and I had a fantastic racing season and did so much better than last year.  I'll get to our race placement in a bit, but first, individual dog performances:
Zorra: A+.  Zorra was one of my first two dogs and is more bonded to me than any other dog on the team.  As such, I can always depend on her to give me everything she's got.  She ran swing most of the season, but I put her in lead during the beginning of Race to the Sky after Bessie made a bunch of mistakes.  She finished the race in lead and has led in every run since, establishing herself as a trusted leader.  I guess she is just a late bloomer so far as leading is concerned.
Sprout: A+.  Sprout joined the team in late December and has proved to be a valuable asset. He is a goofy, happy-go-lucky guy with endless enthusiasm, has an excellent build with long legs and nice paws, and pulls hard into the line just like his half-sister, Bessie does.  Sprout is a great publicity dog too since he is noisy and friendly at publicity vet checks, attracting petting and attention from spectators.  His sweet, goofy personality never fails to bring a smile to my face.  Sprout has ran everywhere except lead.
Bessie: A-. Bessie led during every single run this year.  She is an extremely driven dog and never ever lets her line slack, keeping her teammates lined out and ignoring distractions.  Bessie would have received an A+ rating, but for her behavior at the beginning of Race to the Sky, when she repeatedly took wrong turns and went off the trail randomly.  I am uncertain as to what the cause of this was, as she never leaves the trail during training runs.
Hadrian: A-.  Hadrian was my other original dog I obtained along with Zorra in 2009.  He has come a long way from the neurotic, timid creature who was terrified of me and resisted separation from Zorra with wild shrieks.  Hadrian is, along with Mango, one of the few non-Alaskans I've kept, as he performs more like an Alaskan husky than a purebred.  He ran everywhere except lead this year, and was flawless save for his unpleasant habit of chewing lines.  
Mango: B+.  Mango is other other seppala type dog I've kept.  Last year I ran him in lead a great deal, but this year he stayed mainly in team or occasionally wheel, as he has an aversion to passing (if in lead) which caused some trouble at Eagle Cap.  Otherwise Mango was a good, reliable team dog who doesn't cause trouble and works hard.
Breena: B.  Breena was another new dog this year, who joined the team in August.  She proved to be a hard worker, and initially I thought she would make a good leader to co-lead with Bessie.  However, Breena had other ideas.  Some days she would run perfectly in lead; others she'd flat refuse to run if in lead.  The last time I attempted running her there, she threw a complete fit and wouldn't run at all, anywhere.  I did not attempt running her in lead again.  She has been a good team dog and doesn't cause trouble otherwise.
Cobalt and Steele: Zorra and Hadrian's pups from their January, 2010 litter; these belong to my mother (Cobalt) and brother (Steele) but I borrowed them in January to use for the Eagle Cap Extreme.  Cobalt was flawless as always; Steele caused a little trouble during the second half of the race, but I don't fault her as Trevor had not trained as extensively during the fall as I did.

Hadrian's daughter from last year's April 30th litter (by one of trevor's alaskan females, not a planned litter), Robin, has been training and seems to have some prospect as well. She'll join the race team next fall.

Low snow levels in western America caused cancellation of many races, so my team and I only competed in three:
Darby Dog Derby (Montana), 20 miles, 4th place out of 6 (ran with six dogs, others had 8)
Eagle Cap Extreme (Oregon), 100 miles, 3rd place out of 6 (borrowed Cobalt and Steele from family)
Race to the Sky (Montana), 100 miles, 1st place out of 6 (borrowed two dogs from Aiyanna Ferraro, a friend of Trevors)

In addition to winning Race to the Sky, I received the Best Cared For Team award, which I feel is even more important than winning.  This is certainly a sign that I am doing something right with my dog's care.  I had borrowed two dogs from a friend of Trevor's, Aiyanna. One of these dogs was not very good at all, the other ok, although still not equal with my dogs.  We finished 50 minutes ahead of the 2nd place musher but I still wonder where we would have been if I'd had 8 well trained dogs instead of 6.

As for  2012 puppies: Bessie will be bred to Sprout as soon as she is ready (overdue by several weeks now).  This litter, based on Jeff King's lines and linebred on Jake Berkowitz's popular stud Solomon, will likely contribute heavily to a future Iditarod team.
 Steele has been bred to Sprout as well, and I will receive a stud fee puppy from this litter.  As a Sprout pup and a Zorra/Hadrian grandpup, I'm looking forward to getting this puppy.
Mom has leased Breena from me for the summer and bred her to one of mom's males.  Resultingly, Breena will not be accompanying myself and the other dogs to Alaska next month.

Next post: summer plans - North to Alaska!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The view from November 30

Today we ran 12 miles on the Lost Valley road.  The trail runs past a man-made lake which in past years contained a lot of fish, until it was drained last year.  Seemed like a big waste to me, but now it's full of water again.  This time of year the lake is frozen and the roads and campgrounds around it are usually unplowed during winter, so it makes for a good sleddog trail.  This year, however, the road has been plowed past the the lake aways, so today's run was just through the pine forest.  It's a pretty run, with snow-covered trees, white winter skies, and happy dogs.  Bessie was single leading today and was wonderful as always.  About half the run was in the dark, and during that winter night I rewrote the classic Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas" with a mushing theme:

♫On the 1st day of Christmas my truelove sent to me: a puppy in a parka
On the 2nd day of Christmas my truelove sent to me: two mukluks and a puppy in a parka
On the 3rd day of Christmas my truelove sent to me: three basket sleds..........and a puppy in a parka
On the 4th day of Christmas my truelove sent to me: four booties................and a puppy in a parka
On the 5th day of Christmas my truelove sent to me: five gold snowhooks..........and a puppy in a parka
On the 6th day of Christmas my truelove sent to me: six huskies howling..........and a puppy in a parka
On the 7th day of Christmas my truelove sent to me: 7 handlers handling.........and a puppy in a parka
On the 8th day of Christmas my truelove sent to me: 8 mushers mushing..........and a puppy in a parka
On the 9th day of Christmas my truelove sent to me: 9 team dogs trotting........and a puppy in a parka
On the 10th day of Christmas my truelove sent to me: 10 wheel dogs pulling.....and a puppy in a parka
On the 11th day of Christmas my truelove sent to me: 11 swing dogs loping......and a puppy in a parka
On the 12th day of Christmas my truelove sent to me: 12 lead dogs leading.......and a puppy in a parka.♫



Saturday, November 19, 2011

First Snowy Run

It snowed all this morning and well into the afternoon, so conditions for running the sleddoggies on snow, with sled, were definitely improving.  As it usually does, the snow was having a very uplifting affect on my mood.   The sight of everything covered in a white blanket, as more of the white stuff continued to fall, brought a smile to my face and before long, enough snow (3-4 inches) had fallen that I felt confident we could attempt a run.  However, I decided that since I wasn't sure how well the fresh snow was going to pack down, I'd take just four dogs rather than the usual 7-8. I also used out tobboggan training sled since this, although heavy, operates better on fresh snow than my big long race sled.
  The change in weather had my sleddoggies feeling pretty good too.  It was a given fact that Bessie would be coming along, as she is my best leader and the only one I trust 100% to take good care of be and the rest of the team.  Although Breena has been co-leading a great deal the last few weeks and doing ok, I chose to let Hadrian co-lead today.  He's a super enthusiastic guy and doesn't get distracted as easily as Mango does. Zorra and Breena were the wheel dogs. Soon we were streaking off, not nearly as fast I prefer to run, but understandable considering the ungroomed trail and number of dogs on the team.

  Running alongside the hwy is always interesting, because in addition to being able to watch the mutts run, you also get to enjoy all the attention from passing motorists.  As usual, lots of people were gawking as they drove by, one girl was taking pictures with her cell phone (and wildly waving), another guy gave me a thumbs up, and the rest just stared.  The dogs and I are obviously a novelty to most people. Musher-public relations are always important (we want the general public to sympathize with us and *not* listen to the lies of the animal rights community) so I waved back enthusiastically to every viewer.   Kind of weird though because I saw three or four different veicles which contained three or more elderly men, just struck me as odd.  Maybe there was an old persons club meeting going on today in town? 

  We ran about five miles, all I wanted to go under the circumstances.  In retrospect, i should have taken all the team, save Sprout who is still in Alaska, but still, it was fun enough.  It always is.  Afterwards, my brother Trevor took out his five dogs and one of mine (Boogie) and did the same run, and when he was hooking his dogs up, my four teammates were yapping to go again.  They weren't tired at all.

  Dogs fed, gear put away, npw I'm back inside making spaghetti. Musher's got to eat too you know! :)



Thursday, November 17, 2011

The difference between an Alpha and an Omega

Now, this post has nothing to do with the silly children's movie that came out last year.  Rather, it's on the subject of relationships, whether between two dogs or between two people.  If you've been around a group of dogs (and I'm assuming most of my readers will have) you'll know that they'll have a pecking order worked out.  There's the alphas; the strong, smart dogs, sometimes aggressive, sometimes not, who boss around their fellows and are the kings and queens of the pack.  Then there's the omegas, who are lowest in the the pecking order; the weak and cowardly, less intelligent, always submissive. Mango is the omega in my kennel - he's very sweet, but not very smart and very submissive. The rest of the dogs will fit somewhere into the middle, submissive to alphas, dominant to omegas.  In my kennel, Hadrian has always been the alpha male.  When he came here, there were no male dogs on the place, and Hade staked out his claim then and has held onto it ever since.  He's a cocky, macho dude, but isn't aggressive.  If any of the male dogs are involved in a fight, it's almost always the lower ranking males, because Hadrian is the established alpha, and the others respect him.  He doesn't need to reestablish his status, it's concrete.  When a new dog comes in, there's usually some minor squabbling; depending on how cocky or submissive the new kid is.  Just like how students will test a substitute teacher to see what they can get away with, the current pack will test the new dog to see whether he'll give in or stand up for himself. When my newest dog, Sprout, arrives from Alaska next month, this is what he'll have to go through.

  I've found that the way a dog pack operates is quite similar to how a family or group of humans get along with each other.  In the traditional family, the father was the alpha and the wife and children were expected to be submissive and give in to whatever the father wanted.  Growing up as I have, I've had to deal with a number of older males - my dad, my (maternal) grandfather, friends of the family, etc. who always saw me as a "lower ranking dog" to boss around.  My dad wasn't around for much of the year and other guys would see me "lacking" a father figure and think they needed to step in and fill in the blank.  I've never much cared for those kind of men, the macho guys who think women and younger guys should be subservient.  It's just gotten worse over the years; now my parents are divorcing and moving on, which solves some of the problems.  But not all.

  Yesterday I made stew for dinner and was in the kitchen, waiting for everyone to come to the table, and talking to an older guy, Pete, who's a friend of my mother's.  Well, in the middle of that, my grandfather came in, and as he often does, barged in and started telling me "Just say yes sir" despite the fact that Pete and I weren't arguing about anything, just talking.  Now, this isn't the first time he's jumped into a conversation and given me his unwanted opinion on whatever it is we're talking about.  Before I've always ignored it and gone on with things, but yesterday, I was tired of always putting up with this grouchy old fellow who always has treated me like I had about as much sense as a grasshopper, so I told him very calmly "This isn't any of your business, thank you very much."  At which point he got mad and left the house (never did eat any dinner).  My mother wasn't pleased about it but Pete sided with me so she got over it and we ignored my grandfather for the remainder of the evening.  It might not seem like much, just a small petty disagreement, but I felt very good for the rest of the evening because I'd taken a step in a different direction.  Instead of just doing as I'd done in the past, begrudgingly rolling over and showing the white flag, just like Mango does, instead of acting like a submissive little omega, I stood up to one of the people who'd been bullying me and felt **** good about it. When a new dog comes into the kennel and the current residents size them up, there's two possibilities as to what might happen.  If the new dog is unconfident and scared, it will roll over and give in, accept it's lower rank.  But if it stands up for itself, stands up to Hadrian and his pals, then they'll respect it and the dog won't be pushed around like Mango is.  It's the same way with human relationships - if you always back down and differ to those who boss you, then they'll keep on treating you the same way.  But if you stand up for yourself, then you might well earn the respect of the person.