Monday, January 31, 2011

New Leader

We have a new leader. Her name is Montana. You should see her run. She runs like it is the most important thing to her. She can really motivate a team; when she’s got the fire to run so does the team. When she gee’s, they gee; when she haw’s they haw. It’s beautiful teamwork and it’s exactly what you need in a leader. I think with her we’ll go far…

…until the team catches her, and then we’ll have to find a new leader.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Training Run

This weekend we were unable to get out to the snow (which is probably still in poor condition anyways), so we did some cart training from the house. Since we recently moved into the neighborhood, we are still scouting the best places to train. Saturday we went out along Summerdale Road to get to Soft Rock Road. It is a stressful run because of the blind hills, cars on the main road, and many horse/dog/llama distractions along the way. Once there, though, soft Rock Road is a fairly good, dirt road run with few cars but the slight incline makes it a bit challenging with only 3 dogs. Let’s just say there is a lot of running behind the cart to help keep them moving. Sunday we ran up Peppergrass to the canal road (going south). It is quite a haul to get up Peppergrass, and all (musher included) were extremely fatigued at the top. Once we got on the canal, though, was a great run! The south canal road is flat and dirt; much better for their paws than chip seal and gravel roads. There are minimal or very distant distractions, no cars to worry about, and it is so peaceful. I loved it and will be running there more often. The only down side to the south canal run, though, is that about three quarters a mile down the way the road is broken where the canal meets a small draw. I was hoping to take it all the way to Soft Rock for many more run options (running farther along the canal, running Soft Rock Road, and running on the state land recreational use trails/roads). There may be an option to run down a rudimentary road to the bottom of the draw and back up but I need to speak with the landowner first. The north canal run is an option but it will be a bit more eventful as there is a pasture of 10-15 llamas. For some reason, the dogs are more fired up about these Dog Killing Llamas than any other animal in the world. Until next time!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Drying Out from the Darby Dog Derby

Now that the lines, harnesses, bags, boots, clothes, dogs and musher are drying, it is time to write about our exciting and soggy weekend. This weekend we competed in the Darby Dog Derby. The event included 8 dog/26-mile, 6 dog/14-mile, 6 dog/7-mile (no participants), and 4 dog/4-mile races as well as a 4-mile skijor. Fourteen mushers and three skijorers showed up and showcased their talent. Our team competed in the 4 dog/4-mile race. It was our first race and it couldn’t have been any more fun. We met many mushers including Trent Herbst an extremely friendly and inspirational Iditarod veteran and his daughter Lila, also racing for the first time.
Saturday the trail was getting light rain but still in good condition and I decided to run Blue which, in retrospect, was not the best decision. Halfway she was showing her age and was dragging the team back. I considered throwing her in the sled but, because I’ve never put any of them in the sled before, I decided we’d hobble in; it was not the time to test it out. We dropped Blue the next day and ran only Okanogan, Kona and Tensaw. It was raining when we left home and it was raining even harder when we arrived at the race start. All mushers were soaked through before the races began. The race was still on but, because the trail conditions were poor and extremely slow, the mid-distances races were dropped down in mileage. Since we were the slowest team Saturday, as I expected, we went out first in our class. Tensaw did better in the rain that I thought he would but Kona did not like it one bit and shook off every ten steps.
About 200 meters after the turnaround, I came upon three other teams in my class and had near tangles with each of them, no thanks to Tensaw, so I decided to pull the team aside and let them pass, which they most certainly were going to be doing in short order. It was a nice idea in theory except that once I started the team up after the other three passed (two of which were fellow Siberian teams) my dogs found new motivation and stuck right with them. I had to continue to brake the dogs until we made nomad’s land. At this point it was a mess of passing and re-passing, for each time a team would take the lead they would find no more dogs in front of them and they’d slow down prompting another team to pass and run into the same issue. The finish for the three Siberian teams was a photo finish with Deb’s team crossing first. I had an immense amount of fun with Deb and her daughter Sierra who made the trip all the way from Utah, and another young musher and his mom from Potomac, MT. I hope to see them in the future and wish them all the best on their season. Our team, as was predicted by me from the start, won the Red Lantern award (the last team). Despite the weather the Darby Dog Derby was a success. I hope the other mushers felt the same, spread the word and return next year.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Scratch that...8 puppies (so far).  So apparently I was a bit premature in posting yesterday.  Paluk is taking her sweet time whelping her puppies.  I want to say she's done now and resting but she's proven me wrong before.  They are the cutest little things I've ever seen.  I've included yet more pictures because pictures are the best part.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Puppies have arrived

Paluk, such a brave, tough little mommy, had her puppies last night.  Four healthy, squeaky little bundles.  They had more fur and color than I thought they'd originally have.  She stayed up all night licking each and everyone numerous times over.  I've included some pictures but they aren't the best.  Paluk was a tad nervous when I'd pick them up.  I do understand her though and only picked each up for a short time to check them over (and take these pictures).  Keep checking back for more pictures.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I was cruising about checking out the North Wapiti Siberians today (like I do many days). I was reading about their dog, Barq. On his profile it says "he is one of those dogs that you can just put into a team and forget about. He just goes about his job without question or complaint." This comment made me think of Kona. I had to double check and make sure it wasn’t Kona’s profile I was reading. She is a wonderful dog and too often I take this for granted.

When I first met Kona she quickly became my least favorite of Cobey’s three Siberians because she did my biggest doggie pet peeve (pun intended), she jumped on me. But after a few years of constantly having my attention drawn towards the idiosyncrasies, quirks, and bad habits of the other dogs, I came to realize (long awaited for by Cobey) that he was right, Kona is the best dog. Kona is extremely smart, exceptionally friendly (hence the jumping, she wants to be your friend that bad), the best listener, and the hardest worker.


From the moment we put her in harness ‘til the moment we take it off, Kona gives 110%, consistently. When a run is not going smoothly, Kona’s name is rarely called (except when followed by a "good dog"). Sadly, she is often forgotten because, like is said of Barq, you can just put her into the team and forget about her. Usually I’m too busy wondering what Tensaw is distracted by or trying to get Okanogan to ‘gee’ instead of ‘haw.’ Unfortunately, I shouldn’t forget about her, and should instead focus on her, praise her more and let her teach our dogs good behavior in and out of harness. This is what I intend to do. Kona deserves more recognition and this is why I wrote a special post just about her, so everyone could know what an exceptional dog she is.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

More Puppies!

In a few weeks our team will be running in the Darby Dog Derby. It is a local race in the Bitterroot National Forest put on by the Bitterroot Mushers. I entered the team into the 4-dog, 4-mile race. Last week I took our two newest dogs to the vet to get their vaccinations and as I sat with Paluk (see pictures above & below) in the waiting room I began to think the barrel shape I thought was a part of her confirmation might actually be a pregnant belly (especially since it appeared bigger). Minutes later my suspicions were confirmed and I was getting a crash course in pregnant dog care and whelping. Since that day Paluk’s pregnancy has become glaringly obvious and she is no longer training with the team. After contacting Mark, we learned of the date of conception and determined she is due the weekend of the Darby Dog Derby. We prepared a whelping box last weekend and have been feeding Paluk more in preparation for her puppies. Winter is not the ideal time for a litter of pups, especially since it’s been especially cold the last few weeks. I’d love to keep the puppies, or at least 3 (so Cobey and I could each have a 4 dog team next season) or at least one. The more I say that the more raised eyebrows I get from Cobey. And I know my comments are wishful thinking because we are not yet set up and prepared for 9 dogs. Hopefully we can find good homes for the puppies. If you’d be interested in one of the puppies please contact us at

Monday, January 3, 2011

Building the Dream

In mid-December we packed up the truck and headed to Pray, MT to pick up our new dogs, Okanogan and Paluk. The roads were clear and we pounded out the drive, arriving at the Chico Hot Springs Resort, headquarters of the Absaroka Dogsled Treks, by late afternoon. There we met Mark Nardin and he led us to his home and kennel. Mark and Sharon have a well run outfitting business with some very talented dogs (mostly Siberian husky). He led us over to Okanogan and Paluk. Paluk is full Anadyr Siberian husky, 6 years old, noisy and very friendly. Okanogan is an Omar/Ramro Siberian husky, 5 years old, and extremely timid but Mark claimed she is a different dog in harness (and boy was he right). After some introductions, questions and discussions we definitively decided to purchase the dogs and were soon headed back down the road. That night we stayed at a hotel in Bozeman. Letting the dogs out to do their business was a loud endeavor that, I’m sure, caused many eyes to peer out windows; though I avoided checking this notion because ‘if I can’t see it, it isn’t there’.

We are now home forcing this chorus upon our new neighbors. We try to keep them quiet the best we can but sometimes you just can’t stop an eager dog from talking/howling when it’s feeding time. Nor can you stop them when you’re not at home. Though like the old saying (rephrased), “If a husky howls in the kennel and you’re not around, does it make a sound?”

For the inaugural run we went to our old familiar trail, the Nez Perce Road up the West Fork of the Bitterroot NF. In that way, at least the trail was familiar for Tensaw, Kona and I, hopefully making it the easiest place for the new dogs to adjust. The run went really well. We only went 3 miles, too short for the new girls but we did not want to overrun Kona and Saw, who are not in as good of shape. Okanogan turned our team of 4 around with 2 simple commands. “Okanogan Haw” followed by “Come Haw.” I was so impressed I decided then and there my future team will consist of nothing but Okanogan offspring! Paluk on the other hand, while she pulled well, showed no leader qualities on this run. She may need more time to adjust to her new home/team, or she just may not lead for us; only time will tell. Tensaw didn’t have much motivation that day but, like always, Kona pulled hard the entire way.

Since that run Okanogan has struggled to adjust to her new home. She is still nervous and doesn’t have much of an appetite. On runs she will “haw” but not “gee.” I am surprised the more we go out the trail how similar Okanogan and Kona are, which at first I would not have guessed. Okanogan and Kona have similar gaits (same with Tensaw and Paluk) and both are very eager to pull. I look forward to many more runs with these two and the rest of the gang.