Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sponsor Appreciation Day

This season left a lot to be desired as far as snow. Despite being in the snowbelt of northeast Ohio, we saw very little snow. Luckily, I was able to drive to the Upper Peninsula often throughout the season for some sled time with the team.

Training for sled dog racing is not easy or cheap. Frequent trips to the Upper Peninsula for training, entry fees for races, not to mention dog food, vaccinations and vet care make mushing quite expensive. Fortunately, there are people who are fans of mushing who help support this fantastic sport through their generous donations throughout the dogs season and beyond.

Michigan friend SueAnn Henry, Cleveland native Robert Sadler and local Mike Freibert came to meet the dogs yesterday for an impromptu "Sponsor Appreciation Day."

from left: Mike, me, Robert and SueAnn 

Without sponsors like these, mushing wouldn't likely exist like it does today. A big THANK YOU to these and all of the sponsors from this last season. You make it all possible! And a special

to you!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn." Hal Borland

Sometimes at night, something wells up inside of me - this spring of words: an impetus brought on, perhaps, by spring peepers peeping in surround sound phonics all around the Ranch, or perhaps from the sound of the trains rumble ching-ching-ching, ching-ching-ching, ching-ching-ching in a distance that is not so distant. Perhaps it is this warm night air in mid-March that has me up late, beer in hand, singing the blues.

For whatever reason, tonight is one of those nights.

And on this night, random thoughts flitter-flutter through my head. Like where would I be without music? Like where would I be without my beautiful daughters? But, mainly: why is it so warm? 

The mercury reached a whopping 83 degrees here in northeast Ohio. Signs of spring are everywhere.

Toads caught in the act...notice the string of (no doubt fertilized) eggs

I haven't been able to harness break anymore puppies since my last post. It's been so warm.

Don't get me wrong: I try to embrace the seasons as they come. But where did spring go?

I'm sorry, but I think spring did, in fact, skip its turn.

Is it too much to ask, Dear Spring, for you to return just for a little while? Just so I can have a few short fun runs with the dogs?

Panting from northeast Ohio, and, as always, with

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Harness breaking the future athletes

Harness breaking puppies is fun. It's exciting to see future athletes take flight and fulfill their birthright as sled dogs. It's exhilarating and always makes me smile.

But mostly, harness breaking puppies is pure chaos and requires a lot of patience.

Last July we welcomed our best breeding with the union of Tak and Yeti, my main leader, in the Reggae Litter.

It's difficult to believe yesterday was their eight month birthday.

I begin harness breaking - or getting the pups used to being and working in harness - around eight months with light pulling and short runs of 1-2 miles. Tak's pups have been more than ready. On our free runs in the evenings around our property, the pups have become absolutely breath taking: all legs, loping like lightning and jumping through the pastures like long, graceful merry-go-round horses.

I decided to run the pups with their daddy and my all star leader, Yeti, on my light weight peddle cart rather than my four wheeler. It was a little chaotic. I put Rasta, the only remaining female I kept from the litter, up front in lead with her dad, and while standing waiting for take off, she began bucking wildly like a horse. Perry, the biggest of the males, I put in back, and he immediately became tangled. Meanwhile, Rasta started eating her neckline.



I unhooked Perry, re-situating him and called "ready?!"

Then, I grabbed my camera, jumped on and hit record. The following video is what followed! We finished a two mile run, and aside from a few shaky moments in the beginning, they got it on the first run.

*the music in this video is a song by Sean  Hayes, called, "Alabama Chicken."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Man, I ain't changed, but I know I ain't the same." Jacob Dylan

It's official: I removed the dog boxes (portable dog houses that fit on the back of my truck where the dogs ride) from The Black Mamba (my truck) today, calling an official end to my season. Incidentally, this weekend most of my friends are traveling to races that traditionally mark the end of the season as well: the Iditarod, and, closer to home, the Copper Dog 150.

Signs of spring are already emerging here at the Ranch - and our winter was hardly a winter to begin with. 

While I am saddened to see this hallmark season pass, I am so proud of my dogs and what we've accomplished together. I have spent more time with my dogs this season than at any other point in our lives.

We've covered hundreds of miles and hours alone on trails in the glorious fall of the Upper Peninsula and here in Ohio together. My team had merely 750 miles on them when we hit the Midnight Run trail, and that number pales in comparison to the miles other teams had on them for that same race, not to mention the thousands of miles logged on a longer distance team.

Given the number of hours dogs spend with their mushers every season, is it any wonder the bond between us is one of the strongest between animals and humans? 

My yearling, Miles, at the Chatham checkpoint during the Midnight Run

I took a nap yesterday - a glorious treat - and while napping, I dreamed of running dogs. It was a straight forward dream (no hidden Freudian meanings to decipher) of simply being on my four wheeler with the dogs lined out running as we have done for so many hours this season. I awoke from the dream when I got off the four wheeler and started moving dogs around on the line.

I suspect a person has to spend a lot of time doing something before it becomes infiltrated into a person's psyche enough to dream about it.

I know how to read all the little nuances in my dogs. I know the look Yeti has when he is about to stop my entire team to take a dump. I know when I call a command, Ruffian will answer me with a commanding bark of her own, as if she is telling the whole team they had better listen, or else! I know every 30 seconds or so, Gwennie will look over at her son, Kerouac, and they will smile at each other while running in tandem as if to say, "isn't this great?!" I know to put a cable neckline on Aspen. :)

Some of my dogs are small (Gwennie weighs 35 lbs; Big Brown about the same); some of the dogs are larger (Yeti is 66 lbs, and Freya is close behind weighing in at about 58 lbs), yet, we move as a unit, one flowing, cohesive flow of energy all working toward the same goal. Sometimes, the dogs look like horses on a merry-go-round, bobbing and flying through the air with such grace and beauty, they almost bring tears to my eyes.

I have not changed this season, but this season has changed me. The dogs have changed me. The trail has changed me. And I can't go back. These hours spent moving forward with my dogs have melded us and shaped me.

To all of my friends embarking on their final hurray, I am thinking of you and your doggies. Good luck, and ....