Takes a village to raise a dog yard!

Three years ago, when we were toying with the idea of getting our own team of dogs, we read a blurb on Sleddog Central that warned something like, “Don’t do it! You’ll end up moving and acquiring more and more dogs until you’re broke!” We laughed and thought, NEVER! Now, here we are. We sold a home we loved in leu of a farm with acreage – and just purchased three more dogs. Loving every minute of the adventure [so far].

For the dog-yard, we decided to clear out the space behind a pole barn, which had obstacles to say the least! But, before I get into that, I feel the need to explain a dog-yard. In south-central Minnesota, dogsledding is a rarity so many people aren’t familiar with Alaskan Husky dog-yards. All of the dogs have their own dog house and are tethered to a swivel when they’re not having free time or running. This is not cruel. This is not cruel. Not…cruel. I was painting a picket fence the other day and I had to keep picking lady bugs out of the paint to save them – just as I continually jump off the riding lawn mower to remove toads from my path. I digress to show that animal cruelty is not a part of who we are. Back to the yard. There are many reasons for the set-up: separate homes give the dogs a safe feeling while still being close enough to one another to feel like a pack, when each dog has a separate space, it’s easy to interact with them – often, we sit on the doghouses with each dog. Another big reason is diet. Sleddogs eat an enormous amount of protein and need to be healthy to run at the pace they want to. Everyday when we clean up the yard, we can see who’s digesting well – if they were all together, we’d have no idea who wasn’t feeling well. But beyond the factual explanations, our dogs are happy. Pure and simple. Sled-dogs aren’t typical dogs, they’re working dogs – that are happy to work and please. I read an article once from a person obviously ignorant about sled dogs; it said that the reason sled dogs run is because they want to get away from being chained up. These types should visit our dogs. We let them off of their tethers and they don’t sprint around like they’ve been locked up – they go pee on everyone else’s houses, then often go back to their own. Now, if they see a harness or the sled being taken out – LOOK OUT! They love and live to pull. There’s a lot of genetic research out there about the subject and makeup of a sled dog; here’s one site if you’re interested in diving deeper: https://www.genome.gov/27540617/

Okay – so here it is: our dog-yard! Yay!

 

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This is going to be our dog yard!
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We had to clear out several trees and discovered that the ground was full of metal parts from the old farmer. Scrap metal guys came and hauled most of it away. Whew!

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Another toy for the project.

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We copied some ideas from Martin Buser’s kennel with the gravel base for drainage.

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After YouTubing how to install a chain link fence, the work begins. This was a much bigger project than we expected.

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Sleddog wannabe

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Manitou Crossing kennel has a great dog running area off of their dog yard. We expanded our yard a little for free running space and will fence in more wooded area next year.

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Setting the posts. What an exciting day! The post hole digger was another needed toy.

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Water run into the barn! Instead of having a trench dug from the well to the barn, we opted for water boring – it was done and cleaned up within a day.

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Setting up the kennels. We plan on having some inside the barn too for those really rainy days or hot summer days.

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4 separate kennels that can all be opened into one another. For dogs who might be naughty – or maybe for puppies!

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Space under the barn overhang for sleds and morning coffee with the team.

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Yay! Dogs are here! Loving the space. *Pearl keeping lookout.

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Since our dogs had been kept on dirt, the gravel was hard on their pads. We brought in sand for each dog area and it helped right away. This is Jackson.

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A toy for the boys.

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Finished! Now… the trails!

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Girls have big dreams!

And lastly – our three new additions! Rouge, Crash, and Rockstar!

When sled-dogs stop.

I’ve said so many times, “the trick isn’t getting them to go – it’s getting them to stop!” Sled-dogs naturally LOVE to pull. It’s what they do. It’s who they are. When our dogs are lunging in their harnesses every time they’re about to run, it’s hard to imagine a time when they would actually just stop – mid trail. But, in the rare instances, it happens… and there’s absolutely nothing a musher can do about it. With a lot of factors to take into consideration, (weather, illness etc.) this was apparently the case for a few teams in the Iditarod this week. Here’s a link to a pretty insightful article that highlights the fact that it really is all up to the dogs.

http://www.adn.com/article/20160316/lesser-known-iditarod-tussles-and-sit-down-strikes-dogs

Dallas wins Iditerod again!

Early this morning, in true Dallas form, he ran alongside his team into the town of Nome – winning his 4th Iditerod race! I loved this video because it not only showed the win, but it showed happy dogs and the list of things that the judges have to check off in order to win. A musher must complete the race with specific items – including mail to Nome! The video also catches a still-caughing Dallas, as he’s been fighting a bug for the entire race… highlighting his drive all the more. Mitch Seavey came in 2nd place, Minnesota native Brent Sass was poised to take 3rd but something must have gone wrong. A much anticipated Aliy Zirkle is expected to come into Nome sometime after Mitch. Berington twins are still out a bit…  excited for them to come in!

Why the Iditarod attack makes me so angry

In the middle of the night this weekend, while running down the wide Yukon River, a man on a snowmobile intentionally attacked two Iditarod racers and their teams of dogs. First, the man went after Aliy Zirkle – apparently coming after her several times, clipping her sled and dogs. She defended herself with a wooden trail marker and feared that he was trying to kill her. As she escaped, he turned his sled and light towards her and revved his engine – supposedly taunting her. Next, he went after the next musher on the trail – Jeff King. He came at Jeff so fast and so close, that a lead dog of Jeff’s was killed and three or more others wounded. Instantly, the man was gone, no looking back. In the midst of Jeff providing first aid to his dogs, he saw a part of the snowmobile that had been broken apart and he kept it for the police. This helped in identifying a local man who claimed he’d been out drinking and doesn’t remember the events. Somehow however, the man claims that he kept his light on Aliy to make sure she was okay. Then he went on to attack Jeff? Hmm.

I.. we… everyone – is heartbroken over the attack and the tragic loss of Jeff’s dog, Nash. It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t had sled dogs, but there’s an indescribable relationship that develops between a musher and their sled dogs. You see… sled dogs aren’t “pets” per say. They are working dogs that have centuries of DNA desires to pull and please. People ask, “how do you get them to pull?” The answer is, you don’t. The question should be, “how do you get them to stop?” Pulling is what they love to do. And when a leader is developed – it’s a pure asset to not only the musher, but the team as well. So, losing Jeff’s dog  – in such a horrific way – is devastating on so many levels.

All of that being said, there’s something else about the attack that makes me so angry. It’s the Aliy Zirkle aspect. In the world we live in today, there are still young girls out there that still love to experience what nature has to offer. Girls out there that love adventure and animals and life without media overload. For girls such as these, the women of the Iditarod embody the characteristics of a role model. Aliy is no exception – she is actually the rule. She is kind, competitive, and utterly fearless. When a majority of the mushers stay at the race checkpoints, Aliy is known for camping alone with her dogs outside of civilization. How many women would do that in the middle of Alaska in the winter!? Fearless. So when details began emerging about the attack on Aliy, my heart broke because of the attack on her fearlessness. I pray that this does not stop her. That it doesn’t inhibit her spirit. I pray that adventurous young girls out there don’t get discouraged by one sick individual. You see, it’s more than an attack on a couple of racers, it’s an attack on the dreams of young people who hope to accomplish an extraordinary adventure one day.

We cannot tolerate far reaching acts of violence like this – no matter the excuse. I’m sick of excuses, aren’t you? But… what to do, what to do. First, I will continue in prayer. Second, I will have faith in the justice system – *because it’s Alaska;) Third, I’m going to write to some of the Iditarod racers and thank them for being role models. Role models need to be encouraged. And fourth, I won’t stop seeking adventure for my kids! And… I’ll give my dogs an extra treat today. Get out and enjoy creation – it’s an amazing thing.

Hike!

Twins in the paper

 

The twins were in the paper this week – and exactly one year ago too! Last year at this time we were in Alaska for the Iditarod – where the girls got to be dog handlers for the Berington twins during the Iditarod ceremonial start. No Iditarod for us this year, but the dogsledding passion isn’t waning either. Here’s a latest story on the girls and what they’ve been up to. Sure is fun to be part of their adventures!

http://sunthisweek.com/2016/03/03/lakeville-twins-propel-toward-adventure/

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Community & People
Lakeville twins propel toward adventure
Published March 3, 2016 at 8:50 am
Teen mushers set sights on Alaska

Carlie and Chloe Beatty’s cocker spaniels are finding life a little more relaxing these days.

Years before the 15-year-old identical twins’ parents, John and Cheri Beatty of Lakeville, surprised the girls with their own team of sled dogs, Boo and Lucky often found themselves roped in as substitutes to fulfill the girls’ dog sledding aspirations.

“They pulled our sled to the ice houses, but they can’t pull much,” Chloe said with a shrug.

Identical twins Chloe and Carlie Beatty, 15 of Lakeville, are pursuing their passion for dog sled racing. (Photo submitted)
Identical twins Chloe and Carlie Beatty, 15 of Lakeville, are pursuing their passion for dog sled racing. (Photo submitted)
Even as children, no common dog could ever match the twins’ interest in the sport first ignited by a speaker who shared polar exploration tales with their third-grade classroom.

They became so enamored with dog sledding that their teacher, MaryAnn Laubach, bought them the book, “Born to Pull: The Glory of Sled Dogs.”

The girls devoured the information, practicing basic commands and reveling over the picturesque winter scenes of mushers and their dogs.

Cheri said she and John first considered the twins’ intense fascination with the sport a fad, but it became apparent their interest was far more than casual; Boo and Lucky were far from the only ones to be lassoed into mushing practice.

“I got a note from the teacher asking me, ‘Could you talk to your twins because they’re making all the kids be their sled dogs and the kids are wearing out their mittens because they have to run on their hands and feet,’ ” Cheri said, laughing.

She added many of those friends still fondly recall the special names each was bestowed by the twins as a member of the playground sled dog team.

Those imaginary adventures were hardly enough to satisfy the girls’ longing to experience dog sledding for real, and Chloe said they begged their parents for a real opportunity to try dog sledding.

Cheri said they finally decided to oblige, thinking the experience would satisfy the girls’ curiosity.

Her online search presented a musher on the Gunflint Trail near Grand Marais, and soon, the whole family was there for a weekend of instruction.

“He was this guy who lived in a teepee,” Cheri said. “He was really cool.”

Carlie and Chloe reveled in learning how to harness and care for the dogs.

“Being with the animals is like a connection that’s like amazing,” Carlie said. “We just love being with them.”

Seeing their excitement, the instructor offered to take them on an adventure instead of the standard swoop around the lake.

The family traveled into Canada, through the woods, over hills and lakes as the sled team eagerly tore ahead.

The sweeping scenery, excitement of the dogs and gentle sound of the sled skidding across the snow did not quench the twins’ desire for the experience, but grew it.

Its allure proved to be contagious.

“That’s when John and I were like, ‘OK, this is really cool,’ ” Cheri said. “I think for us trying to get it out of their system we got hooked on it.”

Once their parents joined the twins’ passion for the sport, opportunities ignited.

The family took more dog sledding adventures when at their cabin in Ely, then in 2014, the Beattys purchased their own dogs and Chloe and Carlie competed in the City of Lakes Loppet Race for the first time.

Despite their team of older, experienced dogs, sold by other mushers because they were considered past their past prime, the twins’ passion proved to be bolstered by uncanny natural talent.

Competing against mushers with years more experience, Carlie placed fourth and Chloe won the entire race.

They have gone on to compete in additional dog sled races, and are planning to compete in the legendary 1,100-mile Iditarod dog sled race in Alaska as soon as they qualify at age 18.

This year in the Loppet, Chloe came in third place and Carlie was a second later, earning fourth place, despite some confusion that took them a couple miles off course.

Cheri credits the girls’ speed and agility to their years of extensive gymnastics training and their fast sled exits to run every hill alongside the dogs.

As unique as a set of mushing twins are, they are not the first.

When a surprised Cheri saw a television show featuring another pair of blonde, blue-eyed twin dog sled racers, she quickly connected with Kristy and Anna Berington of Alaska online.

A friendship began and at the Beringtons’ invitation, the family traveled there to meet in 2014.

The Beringtons also invited Carlie and Chloe to be part of the opening ceremony of the Iditarod last March.

Cheri said dog sledding has sparked much more interest in winter activities for the whole family, including ice fishing, skiing and winter camping.

“It’s pretty cool for us to be a part of this whole experience,” Cheri said.

Laubach, their former teacher, invited the twins back to her Lakeview Elementary classroom last year when they shared news of their dog sledding adventures to the next generation of third-graders.

“I’ve been watching them grow up on Facebook,” Laubach said. “It’s just been really, really fun. These two girls have so many opportunities. They have done things some people never do in their whole lifetime. It’s just so fun to watch what they’re going to do next.”

Subaru Dogsled Loppet Race 2016!

The race through Minneapolis this year was a 13+ point to point race – beginning in Theodore Wirth Park and ending on Lake Calhoun. The “+” part of the 13 miles is due to the route being pretty confusing – causing the girls to add a few detour miles! All in all, it was a great experience on a beautiful day, with a grand finish in Loppet Village on the shore of Lake Calhoun. The girls did an amazing job and the dogs exceeded our expectations. Chloe came in 3rd place and Carlie came in one second later taking 4th place.