Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Don't ever quit: lessons from a sled dog puppy

When things go wrong as they sometimes will;
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill;
When the funds are low, and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but do not quit.

Success is failure turned inside out;
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt;
And you can never tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit-
It's when things go wrong that you must not quit

-- Author Unknown

Etta is a fighter.

Etta this evening curled up on my bed with her litter mate, Parker, behind her ready for a long winter's nap

A week ago, I was driving to the emergency vet clinic and didn't think she'd make it for the 40 minute drive to get there. Now, she's giving her siblings a run for their money, eating well and enjoying puppy life. It took some diligence on both our parts, and there were lots of feedings with goat's milk Esbilac from a medicine dropper every two hours for the first few days. And there was a $500 vet bill at the end of it. Right before Christmas.

But she was determined and stuck to it, despite the odds.

Sometimes it just takes a clear focus and a strong determination. Etta teaches something about not only mushing, but living.

It's a dog-eat-dog world out there.

No husky puppies were harmed in the making of this photo. It's actually just Lucy, our bottle-fed runt from last season (right) and Etta (left) "mouth sparring" or playing

Work hard. Play harder. And when things get tough, don't quit.

Oh...and sleep hard :)

For it's in sleep that dreams are made.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blessings and herding cats...er...puppies

"Herding Cats: A saying that refers to a task that is extremely difficult or impossible to do, due to one or more variables being in flux and uncontrollable."

Ahem. Operative phrase is "in flux."

So...for the holidays, we thought it would be cute to arrange all of the puppies around this little toy sled that I have in my living room. Except, there's just one thing we forgot.

Five week old puppies are always moving when awake. Or always watching something else that is moving.

Puppy photo shoot, Take 1

Yea...let's try that again...

Puppy photo shoot, Take 2

In the end, I had an entire small album of photos entitled Puppy Photo Shoot Out Takes. If you'd like to see them all, click here

Ultimately, we are blessed. Little Etta is pulling through. And though she is far from better, I think she will be okay.

Little Etta

From all of us here at the Ranch, Merry Christmas. May you sleep in Heavenly peace.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Life's cruel pageantry

We've had a bit of unfortunate news happen in the last 24 hours. Etta, one of Aspen's beautiful little puppies has become sick with pneumonia.

Beautiful Etta, named after Etta James, on her four week birthday

I came home from a very busy weekend doing dog sledding presentations at Lock 3's Winter Solstice Celebration and was trying to catch up on all that was neglected at my home all weekend. In doing chores, I prepared the puppies' meal and dished it out to the ravenous beasts!

Within minutes, Elise yelled out to me from the puppy room, "Mom, something is wrong with Etta! Come quick!"

What I found was a puppy who I thought at first was choking. I picked her up and began patting her on her little back trying to help her cough up whatever she was choking on.

But, from working in respiratory medicine at a children's hospital for seven years, I recognized right away that she was in respiratory distress. Her ribs were retracting just like an asthma patient who is in acute distress.

It didn't take long for me to head back out the door to the 24/7 emergency veterinary hospital. Her little paws clawed at my jacket the whole way while she struggled to breathe. As I handed her over to the vet tech, I broke down in quiet tears.

At only four and a half weeks of age, little Etta was intubated, poked, and x-rayed. I transported her to my vet today, who cautioned me that the prognosis was not good.

"Her lungs look pretty bad, and from what I can tell from the x-ray, it looks like she has a slightly enlarged heart," Dr Williams warned.

She is there tonight, alone, away from her mother and litter mates. She received oxygen, Lasix to remove some of the fluid built up around her lungs, and IV antibiotics.

"She sure is a little fighter," my vet remarked. At only 3.5 pounds, Etta is fighting for her life the only way she knows how: through pure instinct and a voracious will to live.

I kept myself busy today, trying to keep my mind off of Etta. But worry over her prognosis loomed in the back of my mind like a pesky mouse that would not go away. It gnawed at my psyche, filling me with anxiety, prayer and hope.

What is to be is not up to me, however.

So tonight, I dealt with the worry and the sadness in the best way I know how. I hitched up a team and hupped the dogs into the darkness for a fifteen mile run.

It was quite chilly under the nearly full moon. I watched the dogs lope along effortlessly, triumphantly, and marveled at their cheery steps and strength.

I thought of Etta and the amazing spirit of all sled dogs: how bravely, how tenaciously and instinctively they cling to life.

They fight. They run because it is their life.

My run tonight was for Etta. May she fight valiantly.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010



Snow, snow and more snow (on top of snow)!

“When it snows, you have two choices: shovel or make snow angels”

Or, hitch up a team and go for a ride!

Lucy, Snow Detective, is on the job

Nearly two feet of snow has dumped my little corner of rural northeast Ohio in the last 36 hours. It just keeps snowing...

the view from my front deck

...and snowing...

The boat ramp at the lake by my house

...and snowing!

Ruffian helped me give all the sled dogs an extra flake of straw for this chilly, three-dog night

So we did what we do best: we hitched up the dogs and went for a ride!

I forgot my goggles, so I had frozen eye lashes at the end of our run

I shot this of the sumac by our barn in the five minutes it stopped snowing today

All the snow proved a blustery background for some winter portraits of the girls.

Christmas card worthy?

And, in the quiet silence of all this snow, our hens decided to lay their first egg. Unfortunately it was broken when we found it, but still!

Our hens' first egg!

Here is a video of our run breaking trail. The snow was deep, so I allowed Sophie to drive a four-dog team instead of her usual two. Enjoy and

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.

Our lives can be summed up from our hands. The quality of our lives. How well we lived. How much we lived.

"Slave Hands" by Jack Delano, 1941

Hands give us self-reliance. They express love..

Or hate...

We use them to reach out...

To express devotion

Our hands are a symbol of our souls. Are we open?

Hands heal, nurture and provide.

Our hands tell our stories.

All of my life, I have been fascinated by hands. I remember as a child, watching my grandmother prepare tea in her old, drafty house, the skin of her quick hands looked like thin, weathered paper. Wrapping her hands around me as I sat on her lap, the gauzy skin of her hands felt so fragile.

You can usually spot a musher from their hands. My own hands make me look much older than I am because they're weathered, scarred, usually cut up somewhere and worn.

My hands are a sight for sore eyes! Manicure!

A mushers hands tell a story all their own. Hours spent scooping, preparing food, chopping meat, rubbing shoulders, massaging paws, and, most importantly, hanging on!

This is a blog post for my friend, TC Wait in Alaska and her poem "An Ode to a Mushers Hands."

My poor hands are cracked and torn
With calluses, ripped nails, and scars
Dry and scaly, tough and worn
They seem older than the stars

The winter’s cold has done its best
Leaving them tired, aching and sore
Even though they’d rather rest
They continue to do the dog chores

They scoop and clip and comfort
Giving each dog tender care
And when at the end of the day they hurt
Only after dogs do they get their share

I love my hands and wish them well
Ugly as they are to some
It pains me they have to go through hell
To allow my adventures to come

And here's a picture of what the snow belt of NE Ohio looks like from my front deck! I am sandwiched between three lakes and south of the great one, Lake Erie. And we definitely are feeling the effects of lake effect snow!

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Backyard Iditarod at the Portage Lakes Library: a photo album

Foxy loves babies!

After running 960 miles of the Yukon Quest in single lead for Wayne Hall in 2002, Foxy becomes a bit reluctant for me use her to demonstrate how to harness a sled dog!

Foxy loves all the attention she gets at our talks. She goes up and down the rows of chairs visiting the patrons for pets and hugs

Next stop for dogs at the library: December 14th at Firestone Park Library, 7 p.m.!