Friday, November 30, 2007

Baby, I'm ready to go!

The dogs' training season is in full swing now, which is sometimes difficult with two kids and working full-time. But we've managed to get in about 20 miles this week.

All this running makes for hungry doggies! So I've upped their calories by feeding them my own concoction of doggy stew - which they love! It's boiled white rice and chicken livers mixed with about 10 cups of kibble and warm water. On Thanksgiving they enjoyed turkey meat and gizzards. They're living large.
After a wonderfully crisp late afternoon/evening six mile run tonight at West Branch State Park, the dogs especially enjoy their doggy stew. Above is a picture of them chowing as the sun sets.
The first race is January 5, a 19 miler. I leave for the UP on the 26th with Brie, Mandy, and Jack and maybe Foxy. There's a foot of snow up north already I hear. I can't wait! Baby, I'm ready to go! It will be the best Christmas present ever!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Great training day!

Last night, it was 22 degrees here. The moon was full and the sky was clear. It was gorgeous! Foxy and I hung out back in the moonlight last night in the wonderful cold. Today I hooked up and went for about a 4 1/2 mile run. My dogs need LOTS of training if they're to run their first race in January, and now that it's wonderfully cold outside, I plan on running as much as possible.

Lisey bundled up and came with us today. Little snow bunny loves the cold too :-)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving, Zoe!
Silly Sophie
Silly Elise
Thank you, yummy Turkey!
Papaw and Elise, Thanksgiving '07

Elise, Courtney and Sophie, Thanksgiving, '07
Elise, Autumn and Sophie (Chris in background)
Zoe (pug), Elise, Kristen, Sophie and Joe

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A sad anniversary

Since Kahlua died a year ago this week, my life has changed dramatically. Five more dogs have entered our lives. At the time she died, she was one of four; three of those we added within four months of the end of her life. We went from one dog, to eight in less than a year.

It’s as if I knew I would lose her, and I was rapidly trying to fill the void that would be left from her passing. But, as usually happens when attempts are made to rapidly fill a void, I haven’t filled anything, and miss her dearly right now, on the anniversary of her death.

Instead of confronting my feelings of loss and actively grieving, I’ve scrambled to fill up my life and avoid the pain of that loss. I was not aware I was doing this, of course. It just happened.

I had a sad realization tonight that perhaps I’ve surrounded myself with dogs in a futile effort to gain back the one dog I miss more than anything, my best girl, Kahlua. Truth is, I would trade any one of these dogs to have her back for just a day. When Kahlua died, I lost part of myself. She was with me through some of the happiest times in my life: backpacking, college, trips out west, moving to Wyoming, my first marriage and the birth of my first child. Losing her feels like losing a part of my identity and those happy times.

It's so difficult to quantify the emotional connection I had with her, to her. I’ve been unconsciously but frantically looking for that part of myself I lost last year. Losing Kahlua has caused a sort of early mid-life crisis in me.

My job is ending again in less than a month, which is also throwing me into an introspective, soul-searching frenzy.

Don't get me wrong: the feeling of running behind a team of huskies is something that I cannot describe and that there are no substitutions for. It's exhilerating and serene ...when it works well. When it doesn't work well, it's so frustrating. This has added to my second guessing myself and why it is I'm doing this expensive and time-consuming sport.

Kahlua died on November 24. I miss her. I took her picture, collar, and ashes down last night and cried for her. I miss you, my sweet girl.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Brie (left) and Newt (right) wondering how they ended up with me


Today was one of those days when I wondered: why dogs? Why THIS sport? Had a horrible tangle of a run today and if it weren't for my charm and good looks (JOKE) I would have gotten a ticket from a park ranger.

I guess what I'm learning is you take the good with the bad in this business of running dogs. Yesterday was great and I was flying high; today I came home and shed a couple of tears in frustration! Brie and Newt have absolutely no clue what "gee" and "haw" mean. Poor Mandy and Jack. I finally ended up just completely unhooking them because I was worried they were going to get hurt from the cable line. Enter Park Ranger. Two wild looking huskies running free, the other two in a hopelessly tangled mess, and me begging forgiveness. Luckily, he was nice.

I'm learning accidental breedings, tangles, mishaps, torn ears: they all happen, and sometimes it's all in a day.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

"Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward" - Vernon Sanders Law

I've been so bummed out about Newt, Brie and the craziness that has gone on at the LazyHuskyRanch bringing them home a month ago. There was a point when I thought I was done with dogs.

But then I realized it's up to me to provide the dogs direction and leadership. I realized Brie and Newt have an understanding of their place in the scheme of things and I removed them from that environment that was familiar to them: their blue barrels, their runs, their pack. They are happiest in their barrels. That is "home" to them.

Years ago at Frank's, I learned this lesson. How many lessons do we need to relearn in life!

I had a favorite in the dog yard at Franks, and it was Thor: a big black and white male who Frank said was part wolf. One day after dog chores, Frank laughed at me when I asked him if I could take Thor down to my cabin for the night. But, knowing experience is the best teacher, he allowed it, warning me first of Thor's importance as a wheel dog.

The night was a disaster. I tried putting Thor in my truck, which terrified him. I tried hooking him to a leash, which just about killed me. Once I got him to my cabin, he walked in and immediately peed on the post of the bunk and took a big dump in the middle of the small cabin floor. The smell was horrendous. So I tied him up outside.

Removed from the familiarities of his house, the dog yard and his pack, he howled all night long outside my cabin window. It was a long, woeful howl, a moan of one removed from the comforts of home, even though his home was only an electrical cable wire spool outside in a yard of 179 other huskies.

I swore then I'd never try to turn a working dog into a pet, that I'd never remove another sleddog from his element.

And I've done just that.

In the pack mentality, free from the familiarities of her house, dog yard, and chain run, Newt has become insecure, dominating and aggressive. She has attacked Mandy, Foxy, and her own sister, Brie numerous times since moving here, clearly trying to find her place within our pack, unable to balance running free with finding her place. But tonight, as we restructured our kennel with proper blue barrel houses and chain link runs, Newt became docile and quiet again. She was back in her element and comfortable.

I have learned so much in the last month about what I want, and what that means. It means sacrifice. It means acceptance (of dogs for what they are: incredible atheletes who are also wiley, crafty pack animals; of myself for where I'm at with so much to learn; of the frustrations of mistakes). It means tenacity and perseverance.

Why do I want this? When people learn I have eight dogs and enjoy the cold and snow, often they simply ask "why?"

What I get from this are qualities that I believe are some of the highest character-building qualities to life. I learn patience. I learn loyalty. I learn tenacity. I learn strength and endurance. I learn teamwork. I learn a sense of accomplishment and reward when the dogs have a good run and perform well; I learn a sense of frustration and sadness for mistakes I've made. I learn to own my mistakes and move on.

I'm back on track today and looking so forward to this winter again. I was spinning my wheels for awhile with angst and some let downs, but now I know where I'm going. I'm moving forward and heading up north soon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

how would I know that this could be my fate?

Tonight, I sat outside with the dogs. All of them gathered around me in the grass in the cool evening as the dew settled. Newt nuzzled me, scooting her slender head into my arms, along my legs, nipping at my sweatshirt like a pup looking for a teat. They were all tongues and tail wags, and though I came in dirty and visibly covered in fur, this is what makes me happy, helps me recover from long days at work filled with bureaucracy and bull shit.
I am so disappointed in so many things right now, disappointed in people, the corporate world of healthcare I've somehow found my way into, but mostly I am disappointed in myself.

I brought Newt and Brie home with the best intentions. And I feel now like I've let them down. I think Brie is pregnant from Jack. She has vomited twice just this evening, and once last night. I came home Friday to find Brie had gotten out of the kennel crate I've been keeping her in since she's been in heat. She and Jack were "tied" in the backyard, Chris asleep on the couch inside. Poor little Brie was screaming as Jack tried to withdraw and run away, a guilty look on his face.

Why can't I learn to not be so hard-headed? Although, the accidental mating wasn't my fault, I still feel like the most irresponsible person on the face of the planet. I came in so angry with Chris for his negligence, I could have spit nails; we ended up getting in one of the worst fights of our marriage about this situation.

Why can't I stay on track? How can it be that I have such good intentions for pursuing this dream, and I keep steering myself into these messes? I am so ashamed.

We were supposed to return Brie and Newt to the Caldwell's in Carp Lake this weekend, but now I don't know what we're going to do. And I'm afraid my reputation will be shot before runners even see snow this winter.

Maybe it's not the right time for me to pursue this dream, even though I've waited almost 10 years for it. I've been spinning my wheels: trying to find a way to keep my job; trying to find a way to "fix" this dog problem.

But like the dogs, things are simple. I need to stop complicating them. We'll either have a bunch of husky pups sometime around January 11, or I'll take Brie in for a spay.

As for the job, well, it's time to move on.

Monday, November 12, 2007

the original lazy huskies

Is there anything else to say?

Friday, November 9, 2007

The more people I know, the more I like my dog

There's never a question of where you stand with dogs. They are the only creatures who can be regal and silly at the same time. If they like something, they'll lick it, chew it, paw at it, sleep on it, or hump it, and their intentions are pretty clear by their actions. If they don't like something, they'll snap at it or bite it, and their intentions are pretty clear by their actions. And you know where you stand in the hierarchy of dogs. If you're alpha, life is pretty sweet; if you're not, you accept it or fight like hell to change it. But there's no political jockeying for the hierarchy. Where you sit is where you stand in the dog world. Nothing is more than it seems.

In short, I wish people were more like dogs. I'm really frustrated by people. I'm continually amazed by and fall short of "professional politics" and I don't want to climb a corporate ladder. If I don't like something, I'll usually snap, or bite, and if I like something, get the picture.

People suck. I want a job where I can do what I do best: hang out with, love on, and take care of dogs. This is why I love my grooming job. It gives me a little bit of my fix.

Brie, the little grey girl in lead above, is now in heat. Life's been crazy at the husky ranch lately, with all these hormonal huskies. I'll be glad when the brooding bitches settle down and things get back to normal around here.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Cool days :-)

There's nothing like a good fall run to put things back into perspective and make me feel myself again. It's sad how one dog in heat can ruin dreams! :-) Up front in these pictures are Mandy and our new dog, Brie with Jack taking up the rear in wheel.
When I was done running, I took some time to wander around Mogadore Reservoir with Foxy and play with my camera. What colors! I feel the need to repost a poem I wrote years ago, in the fall of 1994:
The Progression of Autumnal Equinox
It is the "x" that stands out, as sure and spirited
as a red-tailed hawk. It is horse riding in
October, the strong animal full-throttle between
the legs of a Libra. It is crow-call and hardening
Earth; it is the last refrain before a flush of
tired leaves give in to their vivid death.
It is roaming into obscure places to meet
Eve of All Hallow. It is tires kicking up leaves,
and smiling silently at their weightless succession
as they fall and scatter behind a girl in a black car.
It is the smell of wood burning stoves
filling noses cold from the days that chill,
that chill. It is an amber hue that glorifies death,
and covers the hills that surround my home.
It is an ancient Celtic whim,
an impetuousness that lands in a series of words
in three stanzas.

October, 1994
Shannon (Mugrage) Miller

Saturday, November 3, 2007

"This is not my beautiful life..."

This is the face of a harlot. A wonton hussy. This is Newt.

I'm really in a bad place today. I'm in this place where I'm questioning what the hell I'm doing, second guessing myself in every possible way, but mainly about mushing.

Mushing has been a dream I've wanted to fulfill for nearly 10 years, and suddenly, starting when I was in the U.P. a couple weeks ago, I started wondering if I've got what it takes, what I'm doing spending $400 on a pallet of dog food and who all these crazy beasts are jumping around in my yard. Our neighbor's dog jumped the fence, and I woke to him barking in our yard at 5:30 this morning. Newt is in heat; he could smell Newt's phermones, apparently. He jumped the fence about five times today. He woke Elise up, and as I tried to get her back to sleep at 5:30, I thought to myself: what the hell am I doing? I scoop poop before I feed my family every day after work, and my parents think I've gone nuts. Sometimes I think I've gone nuts. I can't even start thinking about how much money I spend on these animals every month. Vaccinations, food, medications, supplements. The damned dogs eat better than we do!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

"I am not a pretty girl/ that is not what I do. I ain't no damsel in distress,/ and I don't need to be rescued..." Ani Difranco

This is what's known in our house as "mouth sparring." Two dogs, usually Marley and Karma (pictured here) act like they're going to attack each other in play. They use their mouths like two people in a fencing match. They rarely ever even touch their teeth to the other one's body. They just act. It's done very quickly, so to get a photo shot of it is pretty rare. :-)

Mouth sparring exists in the human world as well, only instead of playing with teeth barred, we tend to throw passive aggressive barbs that really do hurt.

You are so convinced of your infallibility, of yourself as the "expert" and that I need to be taught that you do not stop to consider what you've not considered. Maybe you should open your mind.

Things I deplore: egos. Materialism. Sexism. Stereotypes. Politics. Cattiness. Selfishness. Jealousy. Constraint. Micromanagement.