Sunday, January 31, 2010

People come and go, but my dogs are always a constant

Today was a gorgeous day for a run.

The puppies now have teeth and are four weeks old, ergo, the demand for kibble is increasing!

Puppy socialization: Bolt attempting to befriend Stripes

My days are full of all things dog: runs for meat, kibble, straw, running dogs, which got me thinking about how much we provide for each other.

Yes, I provide for my dogs, but they provide for me as well.

People come and go, but my dogs are always a constant.

Chris and Lucy

People come into each other's lives for various reasons. The Japanese poet Royokan said "We come and go, leaving traces so faint, hardly a soul notices."

Many people have come and gone, for whatever reason, in my life; some I miss. Some, not so much.

But dogs - my dogs - I know I can count on. They are my family.

My kennel might be small, but it is growing.

Kerouac will be a permanent member of the Lazy Husky pack

I have trained every one of my current racing dogs myself, most from puppihood. I know them and they know me - better than most people do. Most mushers say it's not lucrative to raise puppies - that it's more economical to buy proven adult race dogs.

Not me. There is nothing like hand raising a racing dog from "scratch." Teaching it all it needs to know, your ways, your voice.

When I come into the whelping room, all the puppies look up. They already know my voice

Yeti is a prime case in point. I got him as a four month old, awkward pup, super shy and scared. I harness broke him, and he's now running as my full-time leader. At two years old.

I am already looking so forward to fall training and harness breaking Gwennie and Yeti's phenomenal puppies. Fall training is my favorite time of year, when everything is a clean slate, and hopeful for the upcoming season.

And to those people who have come and gone, I say, "Happy Trails."

Elise and Bolt celebrate the puppies four week birthday

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chow hounds

Field of puppies, with Lucy in the center

Given that this is the first litter at the ranch, I wasn't really sure when to introduce food other than what was presented to the pups from their mama. I figured they would let me know.

When they were just two weeks old, I was holding Kerouac while mixing up some food for his mother, Gwennie, when he made it clear it was time. At least he was ready. He stuffed his face right down into Gwennie's food, practically inhaling it. So I decided to introduce the pups to some Eukanuba canned puppy food...

The following video is what ensued.

As I type, Lucy is sprawled on my lap, content after eating her "40" - 40 ml of formula, that is. She looks like a normal puppy now.

Lucy the Luck Dragon after eating her "40"

This morning when I went out to the whelping room to feed and clean up, eight tails swarmed me, wagging happily. So much love and puppy breath.

It's hard to believe they are almost four weeks old.

Lucy (left) and T.S. (center) lay with Sophie after school. Notice how much smaller Lucy is. Also notice that big pink belly of hers!

Monday, January 25, 2010

"Happiness is a warm puppy. " ~ Charles M. Schulz

Sophie and Ginsberg

This last Saturday, we celebrated.

We frolicked and we remembered.

Maggie and Annie "mouth sparring"

We sniffed the sweet puppy breath and gazed into their soft blue eyes.

Happy Three Week Birthday, Puppies!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Exceptional dogs

This is my favorite time with them: when all is quiet, late at night, after everyone else has fallen asleep. They wake up, make some feeble attempt at play or practice walking on their wobbly little legs before nursing and stumbling over, drunk on their mother's love. They sleep wherever they land.

Pile o' puppies

They twitch in their sleep, tiny feet, ears, eyes, whole bodies spazzing out. They huddle together - one twitching, sleeping mass of sweetness. Occasionally, one looks up at me with a cloudy purple blue eye. Someone growls. They dream.

Ginsberg is the hub of the mass of puppies tonight

Gwennie also twitches outside of the whelping pen, opting to sleep on the cold concrete than on the soft straw with her brood. Her eyes roll back in her head as she sleep, high on oxytocin delivered to her brain during nursing. Oxytocin, it's been found, is the feel good chemical of the century. It is excreted during lactation (of humans and animals) and helps us to relax; during nursing, oxytocin is the chemical that stimulates the "let down" response in the breasts that encourages milk to flow. As I watch Gwennie, I remember feeling that oxytocin rush. Though relaxed, she still rests with both paws guarding the beef shin I bought her today at the butcher.

Sometimes Gwennie tires of motherhood.

Gwennie looking a little stir crazy

After all, the pups are already cutting tiny teeth through the tops of their little mouths. In a frenzy that can only be described as having the same fervor as fish spawning in shallow water, the pups rush toward their mother's nourishment, little feet scrambling clumsily, mouths tenaciously hanging on, only to have her stand abruptly and walk away.

She is not indifferent, however; she is simply teaching little future sleddogs to eat when the window opens, and eat heartily.

Kerouac howling at only two weeks

Even little Lucy has found her way to the warm mass of puppies, hugging her sister, Maggie, in sleep for warmth. And she has found her way to Gwennie to nurse too, finally.

Little Lucy (rear, with the diamond shape on the back of her neck) rests with her litter mates

This experience - or any experience with baby animals - softens you. At least it has me. We all seem to be feeding off the oxytocin and feelin' the puppy love.

Elise in puppy Heaven: here at the Lazy Husky Ranch, we visit puppies in our nightgowns!

Gwennie and I have grown so close through the birth and whelping of her puppies; I know we won't ever part. She is an exceptional dog in all ways.

Monday, January 18, 2010

And now a quick update about Lucy

Lucy, actually content after a feeding on the eve of her two week birthday

I've been trying to figure out what character Lucy's little face reminds me of. I figured it out today!

Falcor, the luck dragon, from the 1984 film, The Neverending Story

I'm happy to report Lucy is up to 15 ounces and is doing well!

Thoughts on snow (and grudges, and dogs)

I just sat down. It seems days and nights are running together lately in a whirlwind of puppy squeals and feedings with Lucy.

Abigail Thomas says in A Three Dog Life that, "Dogs are never in a bad mood over something you said at breakfast. Dogs never sniff at the husks of old conversations, or conduct autopsies on weekends gone wrong. An unexamined life may not be worth living, but the overexamined life is hell. We talk too much."

It's true. We are the ones who hold grudges. Dogs are so utterly in the moment.

So, I just finished feeding Lucy, scooping and feeding the rest of the dogs and was tallying miles and finalizing my race schedule when, out of no where, Yeti and Jack had a huge dog fight. Then Chris's brain dead Aussie decided it looked like fun, and he jumped in the mix.

I admit, I'm not one to get overly excited about a dog fight. I've learned over the years when it's serious and when it's just mostly a noisy display of testosterone. So, I watched for about eight seconds to see if they were even serious or not. Yup, they were serious.


I set my kennel records and calendar down on the deck and moseyed over to pull apart the testosterone that had congealed into one mass of fur and teeth. I tied the boys up, but they seemed perplexed, having forgotten already about whatever was worth practically eating each other about not five minutes before.

Truth is, I'm not in a mood to get too excited about much of anything today, even a dog fight. I feel as flat as white paint, lacking luster and as apathetic and unforgiving as concrete.

This is what happens to me when the snow melts: I'm left to face a dull, gray, lifeless January in northeast Ohio. And the glorious foot of beautiful perfect snow has all but melted. Today, I'm definitely holding a grudge for January in northeast Ohio.

Snow is nature's highlighter, calling attention to the spaces in between - things often missed. Where winter without snow is drab and depressing, a snowy January is lively and festive.

Tonight, I am praying for snow. Until then, looks like I resume cart training with the dogs tomorrow.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lucy Update

For those of you who have been following, you know Lucy.

Lucy on day 13, still barely above her weight as a newborn

Her siblings have opened their eyes. Kerouac even decided tonight, at two weeks of age, he wanted to try some canned puppy food as I was preparing for his mama!

Little Lucy is still so small.

Lucy draped across her siblings, Bolt and Kerouac

But I think we may have turned a corner for this little fighter.

On a fluke, I decided to try feeding her with a medicine dropper. I had been supplementing her nursing from mama with a bottle and goat's milk, but she was not growing at all, still holding at her birth weight: 11.5 ounces.

Well, the medicine dropper worked like a charm!

The first time I tried it, she gulped down 21 ml, then 24, then 30 ml! She has gained 2.5 ounces in two days and looks content and, dare I say, comfortable, for the first time in her short two week life.

I am hopeful. She sure is a little fighter.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance" Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Two Star is the first to open her eyes

In a cloudy blue haze, their world flickers into focus. Only 12 days old, they've relied on their sense of smell to guide them to their mother. But now their world is opening.

This has given Gwennie some much needed respite - time to stretch her legs and get out of the whelping area.

Gwennie stretching her legs

The boys are blissfully unaware.

Jack being silly

Little Lucy still struggles. Though 12 days old, she is still 11.5 ounces. The other pups are twice the size she is.

I spend time toting Lucy around in my sweatshirt for warmth

This morning, we had quite a scare. Lucy was separated from the rest of the pups in the whelping crate again. She was cold, and for the first time, I actually considered taking her to the vet to have her put to sleep. But she has such a will to live.

When she gets chilled like this morning, it takes hours to bring her body temperature back up. So I cuddled with Lucy until she was warm, then gave her a bottle with goat's milk. Within minutes, she made it clear she did not want that bottle! So I took her back to Gwennie, and she nursed like a champ for 20 minutes.

But even her nursing sessions need supervision, because the other pups still bulldoze right over her.

Every time I think we're rounding a corner with little Lucy, she crashes again. I wonder sometimes if I'm doing the right thing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ten days old today!

Jack and his soon-to-be teammate, the aptly named Kerouac, met today

They wag their tails, bark and growl in their sleep, and yet, they're only 10 days old. Their eyes aren't even open yet, but they're exhibiting all the signs of dogginess.

Little toes line up to be tickled. It's true: I'm obsessed with their little feet - the feet of future athletes.

I marvel at these tiny, helpless dogs who will soon grow into strong, amazing athletes. They eat voraciously, already hearty and hungry for life.

Kerouac and Ginsberg

Maggie and Emma

They have definitely cheered me up.

Exhilarated from my 2nd place winning in my class this last weekend, I had planned to use my award winnings and enter another race, the Kalkaska Winterfest Sled Dog Race

But I've had this horrendous cough for over a month. And, over the last few days, I've noticed this sharp pain in my lower left rib.

Undaunted, I was able to muddle through the pain and race this weekend. But yesterday, while cleaning the whelping room, I felt (and heard) something POP in this same lower left rib. I fell immediately to my knees in excruciating pain. In tears and barely able to speak, Sophie, my daughter, called 911. Within minutes, paramedics arrived. Several x-rays and vicodin later, the ER doctor at the hospital said I tore the fascia, the linen-like tissue that connects muscle to bone, from the tiny muscles between my left lower ribs.... from COUGHING!

He sent me home with prescription pain meds and an albuterol inhaler. Apparently the coughing is asthma.

As I was discharged from my lengthy hospital stay this past September, I was told there would be residual scarring on my lungs from the atelectisis and other issues I had with my breathing, and that my lung capacity would possibly be compromised for awhile.

And, so it is. I'm back in bed, recovering.

But at least I have puppies to keep me company :0)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

2nd Place Finish!

It's been five years since the Punderson Sled Dog Classic has happened in the snow belt of beautiful northeast Ohio. Ironically, there wasn't enough good snow conditions for the race. But that definitely changed this weekend!

Snow fell, and fell, and fell steadily for days before the race, leaving an awesome foot of snow for the doggies.

Team coming out of the starting chute

Saturday saw beautiful blue skies and 22 degrees - perfect!

I am not a sprint racer, and Punderson Sled Dog Classic is a sprint race. Sprint races are shorter distances depending on the number of dogs, i.e. 2-dog = 2 miles, 4-dog = 4 miles, etc.

Punderson is exactly 55 minutes from my house, so I figured, what the heck, let's have a go at it! Big Brown and Ruffian are yearlings, so it's an excellent opportunity to expose them to a race. Dogs need to get used to all the other dogs, passing other teams, and....spectators. Lots and lots of spectators.

Big Brown loved getting acquainted with the fans...

BB reaches out for a pat from a fan. BB loves fans, both big...

and small

We had some snags on the first day of the race which significantly costs us some time. Mainly, a "team" of Airdales (yes, you read correctly) jumped my team as I tried passing them on the trail and caused a huge tangle. I had to actually hook down and unwrap Big Brown's back leg three times!

Here's a hint people: if your dogs are dog-aggressive, please do us all a favor and stay off the racing courses!

Then, my bar brake broke. I ran the entire winding, zig-zagging course without any brake whatsoever.

But, today, I had a virtually flawless run and made up time significantly. The trail set up nicely with the zero degree temps we had last night, and was hard and fast today...and so much fun!

Surprisingly, I won 2nd place!

Me with my 2nd place trophy! It will go right under the Jack Pine trophy from last year

And, more than that, I got to hang out with Amanda.

Amanda Stanoszek at the starting chute of the 3-dog class. Her team is made up of all rescues

Amanda is someone I've met through this blog!

Amanda and me at the Punderson race today

She is just getting into sleddoggin, but is hooked after her first race this weekend. All of her dogs are rescues! To think, they were days away from being euthanized, and now, they're livin' it up on the trail! What a great second chance!

Stay tuned as we head to another race next weekend!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Let sleeping puppies lie

Outside, snow piles up, no longer measured in inches here but feet. Sound waves slow. (to find out scientifically how, click here). The ground sparkles. It's 21 degrees out.

But in the whelping room, it's a balmy 75 degrees and cozy. Tiny bodies sleep haphazardly, however they land: across each other, upside down, twitching quietly in their sleep.

There's lots of activity in the whelping room tonight. Kerouac barked in his sleep, at 5 days old. Annie managed to climb out of the whelping crate already! And Lucy has been nursing like a champ next to the others consistently all day long.

Lucy sacked out with her siblings, Annie and Emma after a vigorous nursing session. Notice her size compared to the others

I am hoping all remains peaceful in the whelping room tonight - that I may finally get some sleep.

Sleep in Heavenly peace, from the Lazy Husky Nursery.

NEWBURY, OH Punderson State Park will host sleddog races this Saturday and Sunday

If you're not doing anything this coming weekend and are interested in checking out what sled doggin' is about, come to Punderson State Park in Ohio's main snow belt of Newbury, Ohio! I will be there with my fantastic four to compete in my first sprint race in the 4-dog Open Class.

Now, sprint racing is different than the kind of mushing I've prepped my dogs for all fall. But given the changes that have happened recently, I thought this would be a good, local opportunity to give the yearlings some race exposure - which is exactly what they need.

For more information about the Punderson Sled Dog Classic, click here

I am very pleased to see this race is receiving quite a bit of local media attention from news stations and publications such as the Akron Beacon Journal and Crain's Cleveland Business.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The struggle for existence is the fiercest fight

The struggle for existence: the automatic competition of members of a natural population for limited vital resources (as food, space, or light) that results in natural selection.

Though they weigh less than 2 pounds, their will to live and thrive is fierce.

There is a struggle going on in the whelping box right now. It is a struggle that connects these tiny creatures to their most ancient ancestors, as primeval and innate as the most basic drives. It is the struggle for life, and these little mouths will stop at nothing to gain ground.

Puppies might look cute.

But they're really vicious survivalists.

Their mission is simple: grab on, suction, and fight like hell to keep another mouth from overtaking. They push their way over, under and practically through each other, latch on, and hold tight with a most tenacious grip.

Little feet that will stop at nothing to claw their way over their sibling for survival

Unfortunately, in the struggle for existence, some get pushed aside.

Some, like Darwin, say this is nature's way of weeding out the weak. But I like to flip Darwin's own theory on him and say I think we've evolved from "nature vs. nurture."

Enter Lucy. She was named after an author, like the others. But I find her name doubly fitting because of Lucy, the skeleton that sits in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History who is cited frequently as evidence of evolution.

She should be dead, according to Darwinism. Where the other pups weigh in around 1.5 pounds, Lucy is still a scrawny 11.5 ounces.

She has always been a loner, a little wanderer. Maybe that's why she is so dear to me. On the second day of life, we found Lucy away from the litter, behind her mother's back. She was cool to the touch (newborn pups cannot maintain their own body heat for a week or so after birth), and stiffening. I thought she was dead. I quickly picked her up and did the equivalent of puppy CPR, rubbing her chest gently until she started crying out.

Another theory in survivalism: stick with the pack, for the loner will surely die.

Lucy in bed with me

So, I did what seemed right to me: I brought Lucy to bed with me to elevate her body temperature. I began supplementing feedings with bottle feedings.

Yesterday, when we all trekked out into the cold for a mama and baby vet check, the vet confirmed that I am doing all that can be done. All the others had their dew claws removed, much to Gwennie's distress.

Gwennie very concerned that her babies were in that little crate

I've felt like a new mom myself, up several times through the night for bottle feedings. Luckily, Lucy is still nursing from her mama, so she's getting important antibodies necessary to strengthen her vulnerable immune system. But I usually supervise her nursing sessions to ensure the other puppies don't push her away from her mom.

It's touch and go with her. One hour she is nursing vigorously like the others, and I think she's finally out of the woods; the next hour she is isolated again, cool, crying.

Lucy has really weasled her way into our hearts. I hope she makes it.

Otherwise, the other pups are amazing! They eat constantly and are growing and thriving.

Elise and one of the bigger pups, Maggie

Sophie and Maggie

Taking care of Gwennie and 8 pups, along with Lucy, has been a full-time endeavor! Mopping the whelping room, cleaning bedding, being up with Lucy, making sure Gwennie gets three hearty meals a day...I've been too busy to get the dogs out with the sled.

But I have decided to partake in a race this weekend afterall. Stay tuned!

With love from the Lazy Husky nursery.