I left the warmth of the whelping room to venture to my second race this last weekend, the Tug Hill Challenge in upstate New York.
My little team at the start of the 4-dog pro class
My friend Amanda joined me for the seven hour journey north. Upstate New York reminds me of the Victorian era. The clean, pillared Victorian homes and red barns line the winding roads through the state to Winona State Forest - the site of the Tug Hill Challenge.
At the race, we had time to wander around and visit with the dogs and new friends. Like Jenn and her 10 year old up-and-coming musher son, Shea.
Jenn and her son Shea, who I predict will be working on the glacier by the time he's 18!
We met them first at the Punderson Sled Dog Classic the second weekend in January. From Pennsylvania, Jenn and her son are traveling some of the same race circuits we are. New to mushing, but not to a life with animals, Jenn and her family have a small farm and are always a big help.
We also had the chance to make new friends, like Roy and his sweet leader, who reminded me of my Yeti.
Seeing the different types of dogs is always a treat, especially at sprint races, which Tug Hill is. Sprint races are like the drag races of the mushing world. They're quick, short, challenging courses of usually only one mile per dog; for example, my four dog team ran a 4.9 mile course. The idea is to let the dogs go as fast as they can and get to the finish in a blaze. Sprint races are dominated by the sleek, super fast hound crosses.
A hound cross
My dogs are traditional Alaskan huskies, which are typically used in mid-distance and distance racing.
A traditional looking Alaskan husky peeks out of the hole in her dog box
What I learned this weekend is I can't really hold a candle to the hound crosses that dominate the sprint racing scene. The winning team finished the 4.9 mile course in about 15 minutes.
I finished in 17th place out of 27 teams, which for an Alaskan husky team made of two yearlings is good. I am proud of my fur kids and proud of my middle of the pack standing! Our overall time for two heats of 4.9 miles was 53 minutes.
Look at the joy on my fur kids' faces as they rocket out of the starting chute!
This week is bitter sweet for me.
The puppies resting in their first home, the whelping crate. They can barely all fit in it now
Several of the pups will begin adventures in new mushing homes this coming weekend. Annie and Two Star will begin their new life at Avalanche Kennel, the home of Jane Schramm in Indian River, Michigan.
Bolt will begin her new life with Amanda and her little recreational mushing team.
Maggie will begin her new life in Iowa with Tim and Angie Looney, joining Alice and Nick on their recreational mushing team.
And Ginsberg, sweet boy, will begin his new life with Kathleen Kimball-Baker in Minnesota.
It is truly bittersweet. The puppies have discovered two beautiful things this last week: the wonders of snow, and what a joy it is to run full throttle through it!
Annie at six weeks running through the snow
They have begun going outside to go potty and have vigorous play sessions in the snow with their mom. Then they all waddle back inside the whelping room and bed down together for a long winter's nap.
Gwennie sharing a cozy winter nap with her puppies
I will miss them dearly. They have brought such joy to my life, and watching them grow has been awesome. But I know they are all going to wonderful homes where they will do what they were born to do: run.
Bolt at six weeks
Stay tuned as I head back on the road, this time to my final race of the season in beautiful Marquette, Michigan to the Jack Pine 30!