Monday, March 21, 2011

Meet Miles: new Diamond Dogs education dog extraordinaire!

Four months ago, on November 17, a very special little guy was born in the "Jazz" litter. Little did I know what a very cool little dude he would become.

Meet Miles.

Miles at four weeks of age

No, he's not named after a measurement of distance, but this is a great coincidence for a sled dog to have in a name, because he will run hundreds of miles in his lifetime.

Miles was named after jazz musician and trumpeter, Miles Davis

As our educational ambassador and retired Quest leader, Foxy, has gotten older, I've been looking for a special dog to take her place as an educational animal for my dog sledding presentations.

Foxy at a recent dog sledding talk at the Mogadore Branch Library

Miles started coming to talks with me and Foxy from an early age.

Miles at a library talk at 10 weeks of age

He has such a great disposition and hams it up for an audience.

Miles loves to entertain. He thinks my sled bag makes a perfectly comfy place to hang out during our presentations

We have nicknamed him "Smiles" because, if you talk to him at all, he literally smiles.

Miles demonstrating his winning smile

Miles has a great life. At four months old, he wakes up early, plays hard, and sacks out hard.

Miles often sleeps with his tongue hanging out of his mouth :)

Miles is super cuddly and loves his brothers. I have really high hopes for Mr. Miles for taking over Foxy's place and adding to my growing awesome little team next season!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A new mushing photographer on the scene

There's a new photographer on the mushing scene. One who is only 12 years old.

His name is Sigurd Utych, and he's from Newberry, Michigan.

I met him recently at the Tahquamenon Country Sled Dog race. He immediately saw the Canon 7D in my hands and honed in on me like a hawk.

"Nice camera!" he said excitedly. "Can I hold it?"

He handed me his Canon Rebel and I handed him the 7D. "Wow, this is like my dream camera," he said.

Sigurd has a passion and focus not many 12 year old's share. And he conducts himself completely professionally. Not only did he shoot photos of me and all the mushers at the race, at the end of the day, he approached me and asked if I wanted him to send copies of the photos.

Well, the disk arrived in the mail today, along with a piece of hand torn paper with these words handwritten:

Photos by Sigurd J. Utych
S.J. Photography

Thank you, Sigurd! You did an exceptional job, and with your focus, talent and drive, you will go far.

My team and me leaving the starting chute at the Tahquamenon Race. Photo by Sigurd Utych

Heading down the trail. Photo by Sigurd Utych

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Epiphany: enjoy the ride

One of the things I love about mushing is how much it teaches you about what you're truly made of. To meet adversity and accept challenges, even if it's with your tail between your legs, is something many people could benefit from learning.

During my only real race this season, the Tahquamenon Country Sled Dog Race, I had a sort of "epiphany." In the 3 hours and 35 minutes or so it took to run the course on those beautiful trails I love, for the first time ever in my years of running dogs, I thought I could stand on the runners for hours and hours; I never wanted our run to end. I began thinking during that run that I did not care at all how long it took us to finish the race. In fact, I stopped more than once, hooked down, and walked up the line to give each dog praise and watch the beauty of their tails wagging and the smiles on their faces.

We didn't have the fastest run, but it was absolutely, totally flawless - not a tangle or mishap in any way shape or form. Considering that team of dogs is ALL under three years old, and one had just had a litter of 8 puppies in mid-November, I was very happy with their performance. We probably could have finished in quicker time, but ... I really didn't want it to end.

This season has been full of challenges, and meeting them squarely and with grace has sometimes been difficult. And, suddenly, the entire season has started to come to a close, and I've really only competed in one race.

But I'm beginning to embrace an entirely different mind set.

Running dogs is joy. Racing dogs is stress.

I just want to run my dogs in joy.

In other news, we have welcomed a new pack member to the Ranch. Meet Freya.

In an ironic twist of fate, Freya is Etta's grandmother, one of the beloved puppies we lost recently. And Etta, it turns out, was the spitting image of her grandma, right down to her partially lined eyes that gave her the appearance of having black eyeliner on.

little Etta

I like to think of Freya coming to us through a little angel of Etta. Freya was a rescue from two counties away - a sled dog from good lines who was being bred repeatedly by people who didn't know anything about sled dogs. Freya is now spayed and recuperating well in the comfort of a cushy crate in the girls' room.

In other news, tomorrow is the start of the Iditarod sled dog marathon across Alaska! You can check it out here:

Until next time,