Sunday, November 14, 2010

A tale of two dogs: "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans"

I recently added to the kennel with a couple of great dogs who have been a perfect fit here at the Ranch.

Tak, half-sister to our beloved Big Brown and Ruffian out of Joann Fortier's kennel, has been such a wonderful addition! She's beautiful, a good loper and a very hard worker.

Miss Tak in her kennel run

With her came Aspen, a very sweet, leggy yearling who I considered sort of a "rescue." She has great bloodlines, but the person I got her from was in over his head in dogs and needed to get rid of some dogs fast. So he offered Aspen for free, and I agreed.

Aspen in her kennel run yesterday. She has gorgeous, unusual eyes with bright blue on the inside and brown on the outside

Around the same time, my good friend and fellow musher, Amanda, bought several dogs from up north to add to her growing kennel. Several had been far up north working on an Alaskan glacier all summer and early fall. One of them was sweet-faced Linney.

Linney, who I brought back from the Upper Peninsula for Amanda a few weeks ago

About two weeks ago, I began noticing that Aspen was growing wide despite our regular 10 mile runs and a strict diet. I began to look at her more closely...

I began to realize, slowly, that Aspen was expecting! She had come to me in heat, and was quarantined for three weeks immediately upon coming to the Ranch in the "girl confine" of kennels, made from hog panel. But she had come from a kennel where she was tied out in the open with other sled dogs around. It became clear to me that she had come to me pregnant.

This photo, taken on November 12, shows Aspen's bulging middle

I wrote my friend Amanda an email telling her my suspicions. I guesstimated Aspen's due date of November 26 based on the first day I'd gotten her, which was from September 23. She could whelp any time, however, given that I don't know when she was bred.

Surprisingly, Amanda wrote me back saying how odd it was that I would voice concerns that Aspen was "with child" because she was beginning to suspect the same about Linney!

She offered these "before" and "after" photos as proof:

Linney before (left) and after (right): clearly pregnant

On Monday, November 15, x-rays confirmed that Linney had at least five to six pups and would give birth within five to 14 days!

Linney on November 15, enjoying life inside the Hoof & Howl Kennel home and growing fat

I often quote the famous John Lennon line, "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." Quite literally, life happened when I was planning otherwise.

No sooner than I added two great dogs to my race team, I was down one because of pregnancy. I intended to run in 8-dog classes all season, but already my race plans are compromised back to the 6-dog classes.

What can I do but make the best of it, and welcome puppies into the world any day now? And puppies are always cute, especially Christmas puppies!

Amanda, on the other hand, is very excited about Linney's coming litter! But she, too, feels torn about this unexpected gift.

"Right smack dab in the middle of race season, I will be caring for puppies and missing races and training time," Amanda says.

"But, I do feel that I'll learn extremely valuable skills that I'll carry with me for many years, so it is a fair trade-off," she continues. She admits feeling a very special bond forming with Linney helping her through her pregnancy and is looking forward to meeting her surprise pups!

Amanda and I are talking about naming Aspen and Linney's pups co-themed names. Aspen and Linney are both due within the next week or so!

Stay tuned for puppy updates! Mush Love!

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