It’s been an incredibly warm fall season but if you’ve spent any time in Minnesota, you know that winter can be a day away! Last year, we were able to run the dogs on a bunch of Thanksgiving weekend snow. Sorry to all of the snow-haters out there but we’re hoping for the same this year! One surly insane thing about dog-mushing, it has made us long for winter! We had fun yesterday packing down some trails, prepping for snow. The twins had fun bouncing over the marsh bogs – this picture is funny because the girls are still in their horse-riding gear. Animal lovers to the core. One thing that has the girls especially excited this year is the addition of a Junior Beargrease Race in Duluth! More to come on that. Hike!
Although the sleddogs would love to be outside with the dropping temperatures, they’re pretty excited to be in the stalls for the night and out of the wet dog-yard! A few new dog bones help the situation too – as you can see by the look on Jackson’s face! It’s funny – we saw this same level of excitement building last year when summer turned to fall. The dogs absolutely know that the season they live for is about to begin. Hike!
The other day, my daughter and I stopped out to the barn to feed the sled-dogs; no time for playing, just feeding – which we’ve become extremely proficient at. My daughter grabbed bowls and began filling them with kibble as I got the meat bucket out of the fridge. A cup of kibble, a scoop of raw meat, topped with water – It should have been a smooth ten minute in-and-out feeding. Only, it didn’t turn out to be…smooth. Why I wore white pants with a white matching visor remains a mystery so please don’t ask. Maybe I’m subconsciously refusing to succumb to farm life – or at least look like I am. Regardless, there I was, carrying a half-full 5 gallon bucket of thawed meat soaking in blood – dressed in white. When I raised the bucket up to the table to fill the bowls… you guessed it – it slipped out of my hands. The bucket hit the floor and ALL of the juices roared up like a tsunami! I took a direct hit. Head-to-toe, smattered in blood. Chloe stood right in front of me in shock as I looked back at her in horror. Later, she said she wanted to laugh immediately but didn’t know if I was going to cry. But, I didn’t cry (yet) – instead, looking and feeling like a crime scene with my daughter’s huge eyes starring at me – I burst out laughing. While I ran around looking for anything to wipe my face off with, Chloe laughed harder and harder. At my expense, it was a really funny moment we shared and I learned a lesson in choice. I could have chosen to be mad but in that moment, I chose to laugh instead. And it was good! After that, as I was home cleaning myself up, I thought about my late grandma. She had spent a great deal of her time trying to teach me how to cook and she’d always thought it was so funny that I was intensely grossed out by raw, bloody meat. From her vantage point in heaven, she must have gotten the biggest laugh of all! So, in that moment, thinking about my grandma, I chose to lift my face to heaven and laugh with her – crying at the same time. And it too was good. Laughter is truly the best medicine – especially if you’re going to be a musher in white!
On kind-of an ironic side note, I ordered a new mushing jacket this year… and it’s white! Hike!
When summer came and the days quickly became too humid for the dogs to run, we felt like we were blessing the pack with a summer vacation. A whole season “off” to rest and lounge and play – a dog-yard mini-retirement of sorts. How sweet of us. Sled-dogs however, are type A canines on steroids. They are exactly as their label implies: working dogs. They don’t fetch for fun, eat for pleasure, feel gratification by chasing down the UPS truck, or long to bask in the sun on a front porch. With hundreds of years of arctic pulling ancestry, sled-dogs have formed genetic traits apart from any other. Recent DNA analysis has confirmed a unique molecular signature in the modern day Alaskan sled-dog. With the fur and endurance of a Husky/Malamute, the speed and nose of a Pointer, and the intelligence and work ethic of an Anatolian Shepherd, today’s sled-dogs have evolved into a new breed of dog. So yeah, this explains a few of the mishaps and injuries this summer. Here are a few things we’ve learned for example: trying to “play” with sled-dogs before they’ve eaten will result in them jumping up at you and breaking your nose; wearing sandals when a dog fight occurs can end in broken toes; and sporting a white shirt while feeding raw meat will definitely have parents talking when you pick up your children looking like a walking crime scene. Although the dogs seem happy, “vacation” is most definitely a foreign antibody to the sled-dog’s system. They are restless and beyond eager for cooler weather. One more month of this cruel season and we’ll be able to get some dry-land training in to please the pack!
With the abrupt ending of winter, the spring showers have brought more than just mud. We’ve now had our sled-dogs for over a year so it’s been interesting to watch them as they’ve changed throughout the seasons. Around Thanksgiving last year, their demeanor changed with the temperature. They instantly knew that their season had begun – and their drive to run and pull kicked into high gear. With limited snow and only one race to run, they proved themselves by coming in first place! And with that, spring seemed to reign in; a quick end to a pretty nonexistent winter. I’m not sure if the the dogs are retaliating, bored, or just a little depressed. They’ve started digging holes, breaking chains, becoming finicky eaters, and for some reason… peeing on more things than usual. When I gave one of the boys clean water a few days ago, he walked over and peed in the bucket – apparently saying, “take that.” I said, “Umm… that’s your water, buddy… not mine.” And concluded that we’ve never claimed to have the brightest team of dogs! Still, I decided to get their buckets off the ground and hang them from their houses just to help keep them from drinking their own urine. I broke at least two fingernails in the process. Now that’s love. Pearl and Eddie have also decided to become kibble connoisseurs. Pearl will only eat her food if it’s placed on top of her house – if we put her bowl on the ground, she scoops hay into it. Must be an Alaskan thing. And ever since Eddie he won his race, he’s developed an ego. He lounges around and prefers his food to be dry – not soaked. We all concede because, well, he is awesome. We’ve also come to terms with the seemingly never ending spring mud and have come up with a simple solution – we dress accordingly. I’m guessing summer will be a time of play, along with a little training if the weather permits. Hopefully this aging team can pull out many more races next year. When that late November wind blows, I have every confidence that their innate senses will kick in and give us a few more victories!
Fox news ran two different stories on the girls’ involvement in the Iditarod this year. I posted the first story a few weeks ago and here’s the other one that has been aired in at least ten other cities. Our girls aren’t big fans of being in the press but they do think it’s cool that other girls could be inspired to follow their own unique dreams!