Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ban ignorance, not breeds

I spent several hours shooting with Chris and our friend Blue for the Greater Akron Humane Society yesterday. And here's what struck me: Pit bulls. Dozens of them.

A humane society volunteer gets some love from a beautiful female pit bull

A boxer pouts behind its cage

And more pit bulls...

And more pit bulls...

And more pit bulls...

And of course...a husky.

I shake my head as I type. So many dogs in the world go to homes of people who do not understand the breed. Or, as is the case with pit bulls, they blatantly abuse an entire breed for their own greed, with dog fighting, etc. So many shelters are full of the same types of breeds: pit bulls (confiscated, misunderstood, abused, or the remains of a life "off track"), beagles (notorious runners), huskies (notorious runners and escape artists).

And cats.

Beautiful cats, discarded.

Cats, all eyes.

Cats, waiting for us humans to get it right.

Please, ban pet stores: adopt a shelter animal. And don't discriminate based on breed.

The Heart of a Dog
If only we all had the heart of a dog, we would learn stuff like

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

When it's in your best interest - practice obedience.

Let others know when they've invaded your territory.

Take naps and stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting, when a simple growl will do.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.

When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout run right back and make friends.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.

Be loyal.

Never pretend to be something you're not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

This piece was taken from Canine Crusaders

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New site for some upcoming changes!

"I wish I'd see a field below
I wish I'd hear a rooster crow
But there are none who live downtown
so the day starts out so slow." Regina Spektor

Soon, the Lazy Husky Ranch will find itself across from one helluva field: a 100 acre corn field.

We've been searching, and praying and thinking about relocating the ranch for quite some time. Anyone who says prayers aren't answered isn't doing it right.

Our prayers have been answered. Shortly, hopefully in May, we will move the ranch from our one acre plot of land to a seven acre, cathedral-ceilinged, beautiful ranch far away from the outskirts of Akron where we currently live. Complete with barn on the premises, which will be home to chickens. And maybe a rooster. And maybe a goat. I've always loved goats. :-)

What this means is: I will finally be able to run dogs right out of the yard this coming fall! I have spent so much time this last season trucking the dogs to and from our training site. What this also means is I can finally move forward with developing the kennel and becoming more competitive.

To say I am excited is a gross understatement!

To celebrate and help with the development of the new kennel, I've launched a new web site, the new electronic home for the Ranch. I will still be posting to this blog, but will also keep a more specific blog on this new site just related to training and training theory.

Take a listen to this song, quoted above, and transport yourself to the 100 acre field that will soon be below our property!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Post Copper Dog blues and my love affair with the Upper Peninsula

Highway 41 at the tip of the earth just south of Copper Harbor in the Upper Peninsula

Forgive my absence. I shot over 850 pictures, just like this one above, last weekend. Aside from driving 1,800 miles in four days, sleeping in my truck and chasing teams, I've overwhelmed myself with all these fantastic photos!! I can't edit them fast enough.

If you are interested in seeing the whole gallery, please visit my gallery site here

I have an ongoing love affair with the Upper Peninsula. From the second my eyes spot the Mackinaw bridge peaking on the horizon, my heart jumps with excitement, for crossing it is crossing over into an enchanted and beautiful land.

Be forewarned: these images are powerful, inspired by the amazing landscape of this remote and beautiful land, and my love for it.

I love the stunningly beautiful places, like Marquette on a clear day.

Marquette Oar Dock in downtown Marquette, Michigan

But I love equally the places that are distinctly U.P., like 4 Mile Corner. The Four Mile Corner Market used to be a little shop where a hunter could get various sundries and permits. There is still a link for it on the web, from its more lively days.

But now, it is for sale, a casualty of a depressed eastern U.P. economy.

The remains of the Four Mile Corner Market

Anyone from the eastern U.P. knows this landmark. I was first told about this landmark by my friend, Tom, who introduced me to this area four years ago. It is a navigation point connecting M-123 and CR-407, a cross road of sorts. M-123 goes to Whitefish Point and to friend and author, Len McDougall and his lovely girlfriend, Cheanne Chellis, also known as the place where the wolves live. M-123 also goes to SledDog Lodge, part-time home to Jim and Jennifer Warren and several mushers who train from the lodge every winter.

CR-407 heads west, to the home of mentors and friends, Bob and Jan Shaw, and, next door to them, mushers Mike and Cathy Murphy, where I got my beloved leader, Yeti.

And in between are miles and miles of trails connecting the cabins of Iditarod veterans, Al Hardman, Tasha and Ed Stielstra and other mushers.

Four Mile Corner is a haunting little place that evokes an air of mystery. It's a location that I've wanted to shoot for a long time, but the timing has never been right. For me, as a photographer, it is sheer magic when the way I picture an image in my head ends up being in reality exactly how I pictured it. This is one of those images. The sun had just fully dipped behind the horizon and it was clear and cool. The sky lit up behind this old gas pump, and the lighting was perfect. I raised my tripod, and shot this:

I don't know why this image takes my breath away, but it does.

This past weekend, I went on an amazing journey. I took M-41, a winding, rock-lined county road all the way to where it ended in Lake Superior, to the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, just a ferry ride away from the pristine Isle Royale and took a hike on the grounds of Fort Wilkins. A remote and frigid army settlement during the 19th century, Fort Wilkins was built to protect settlers and copper mines from the native Ojibway tribes....or so I'm told. I couldn't help but tear up as my mind imagined what went on here:

A creepy door of a creepy building on the grounds of Fort Wilkins

Cannons still remain on the grounds of Fort Wilkins, creating a haunting backdrop for some otherwise stunning scenery

I believe there are places that are "home" more than our own home towns can be. My heart draws me to the U.P., and I cry every time I leave it.

It's true: I am in love with the frigid beauty called the Upper Peninsula.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lake Superior looks like a glacier breaking up. Indeed, in many ways, it is. I am literally at the ends of the earth at the northern-most tip of the Upper Peninsula in Copper Harbor, Michigan.

Only, it's not cold for the second weekend of March. In fact, it's downright balmy for these parts at this time of year. The water surrounding Copper Harbor is full of break up, and my hair hangs in ringlets, curls soaking in the moisture in the air.

Ice break up at Copper Harbor

Road trips offer possibility and often perspective. I welcome the opportunity to follow M-41 all the way to where it ends in Copper Harbor. The chatter from mushers is that the only real thing to combat this weekend is the weather. Unusually warm, rainy conditions have all but deteriorated the trails, leaving mud and slush. Equipment usually reserved for hauling snow out is used to haul snow in.

Brian Tiura looks tired and frustrated as he discusses rerouting the course with Race Marshall, Pete Curtice. For this having been his first race, and the first Copper Dog, he sure has had to combat a lot.

As I'm having lunch at the Tamarack Inn, Lloyd Gilbertson and other mushers chatter about the first hundred miles.

A dog from Lloyd Gilbertson's kennel rests in its dog box at Copper Harbor

Musher Geri Minard says, "It felt like crossing over several state lines, the trails were so different. It went from slush, to hard-packed snow cover, to gravel, to mud, and water run off." Amanda Vogel concurs. An additional challenge last night was a thick fog that settled in the Keweenaw. Vogel reports that the Can-Am trail was worse, however. Global warming?

A sign hangs in the Tamarack Inn that says "Fishing stories told here." Ice huts still line the coastal waterways here, and some boast pulling whitefish, trout and pike over 30 inches in length from these icy waters.

The restart from Copper Harbor is tomorrow at 8 a.m. instead of the original 9 a.m. start. Despite trail conditions, competition is still stiff. Ken Josefsen is the one to beat, with a total elaped time of 8:03:18 and an average speed of 11.18 miles per hour.

Stay tuned!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Live from the Copper Dog!

I'm super stoked to be heading to the first annual Copper Dog 150 in beautiful Calumet, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula! Race Director, Brian Tiura has invited me to travel with the media crew for the weekend from the race start throughout the checkpoints. Watch live streaming video from the start of the race on this site. Click the link below to watch the start at 7 p.m.

The link to watch live feed of the Copper Dog 150 start is

UPDATE: In an age of "tweets" and status updates, the demand for live feed journalism is very real. But, believe it or not, there are places untouched and unspoiled by cell signals and wireless. I'm very disappointed to report major technical difficulties in trying to stream live video of the Copper Dog start. I will do what I can to stream video from the Copper Harbor checkpoint on 3/13. Check back!

Bib 7 musher Mike Barnett gives his leaders a pep talk before the 150 start

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"In Just spring when the world is mud-luscious and puddle wonderful" e.e. cummings

Transition is difficult for me, I admit it.

Transition from sleeping to waking and visa versa. My body resists the transitions from consciousness to semi-consciousness.

I am probably the only person alive who finds spring unsettling. Transition from winter to spring has always been a challenge.

So, today was particularly confusing. Spring was positively seeping around every corner, and yet, it was the start of the Iditarod today.

I try to embrace every season. Really, I do. Except spring. I bristle.

Spring is the messiest of seasons. It's a sloppy toddler with enormous feet who spreads mud everywhere. Spring is wet. And dank. It smells bad - all that wet and dankness.

Today I ventured for a three mile hike with Gwennie in the puddle-wonderful thicket of spring. This was her first solo outing with just me since the puppies were born. It was gorgeous and obnoxious: a blinding sun filled the sky. There was still a good snow base in the woods, but evidence of spring thaw was every where in the bubbles below the frozen pond.

Spring gurgles to the surface, gasping for air like it nearly drowned. Calling attention to itself. Such drama. Spring. Even the name itself - "Spring" - is an obnoxiously dramatic onomatopoeia.

But I suppose spring will spring whether I like it or not, so I try to embrace it.

What better way to embrace it than by having a puppy reunion in the snow!

Lucy frolics in the snow with her siblings

Bolt, 9 weeks

Amanda and Bolt, 9 weeks

Kerouac and Lucy got to frolic with their sibling, Bolt, who is near us. Her other siblings are now far away in Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa. But we are so happy Bolt is still nearby at our friend Amanda's small "farm." The puppies went exploring in a major way this weekend, and discovered the fun of playing in a wood pile...

Lucy and Kerouac exploring the wood pile

And the strange delight of chickens!

Lucy boldly ventured right into the chicken coop. Bolt has been afraid of Amanda's chickens, but she figured if the runt was undaunted, she could be brave and enter too!

They played with each other, and with each other's toys...

Kerouac inside Bolt's crate with her Kong toy! Trying to look inconspicuous

And they grew tired of playing with each other and got crabby as only siblings can do.

Lucy may be small, but she's learned how to dish it out when she's had enough of being picked on!

At the end of the day, all puppies were super tired from several hours of romping together.

Lucy sleeping

Except for Bolt, who is like an Energizer bunny!

Bolt trying to sneak up on a sleeping Lucy. Go to sleep, Bolt!

Puppies weren't the only ones who became sleepy after the play date.

Byron, Amanda's husband, stuck to napping with Lilly the kitty during puppy play time

May your transitions into slumber be peaceful, puppies (and Byron)!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"I can't go back to yesterday, because I was a different person then." Lewis Carroll

We are made up of the days that come before today. Our personal histories, and the people who come into and out of our lives for various reasons help shape and change who we are.

One of my favorite quotes is this one above. Change is the only constant in life. Rolling with those changes is sometimes difficult. But the atmosphere, the weather, even our own cell make up is all different today than it was yesterday. A few days ago, buckets of snow fell and I was breaking trail with my dogs. And today, the sun sparkled in millions of glinting smiles in millions of crystalline flecks of snow! Is it really March? Can it be?

The dogs pad around in the snow, which is now nearly an ice rink. They celebrate the sun; they celebrate the moon. They have squabbles, and forget them almost immediately. Dogs are masters of change. They adapt. I recently learned that huskies can actually change their metabolism to suit their environment and the food available in that environment.

We can learn a lot from dogs.

Our own squabbles and dramas of our little lives really are insignificant. When I am presented with a challenging situation (which usually involves people), I always ask myself one thing.

"Will this matter five years from now?"

Nine times out of ten, the answer is no.

People reveal much about their characters in how they treat animals.

Are animals something to be bought and sold, turned over the way some people flip houses? Are we motivated only by what that animal can bring to us, whether it be money, fame, some idea of success?

Dogs are loyal. I can communicate an idea or thought to my dogs with just my posture or the way I look at them. They know me. They trust me and my judgements. They look to me as their leader, and they trust that.

We can learn a lot from dogs.

My dogs are "lifers." They come to the ranch, and, as long as I have anything to say about it, they will die on the ranch. I do not keep dogs solely for what they can bring me (money, fame, some idea of success); I keep dogs as part of an extended family. And I am loyal to that family.

Today, there was a squabble in the kennel over a nasty, soggy tug rope toy that had been laying under several layers of snow half the winter. As the snow has melted, it as revealed misplaced and discarded pieces of yesterday: a toy car, a piece of a stuffed animal, this tug rope.

Like children, the dogs were eager for this new discovery and tore after it during free run time today. Marley, the Aussie, and Yeti, my leader, met at the tug rope equally.

There was a showdown.

Yeti reached for the rope first, inciting attack. A sudden tangle of fur and growling testosterone ensued.

Trick: if you want to separate two dogs who are fighting, grab the tail of one of them

I grabbed Yeti's tail. Confused, he stumbled to regain his balance, in doing so, let go of Marley. I checked both dogs. Marley was protected by his woolly-mammoth coat. Yeti, however, had a chunk taken right out from under his right eye.

But, within five minutes, Marley and Yeti were scampering around the yard together, having completely forgotten about their squabble. Water under the bridge. Dogs don't dwell.

We can learn a lot from dogs.

I can't go back to yesterday, because I was a different person then. All I can do is move forward and look to tomorrow. And walk away.