Monday, November 22, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hey you guys!  There's something under my chair!

That's our new pup, Keegan.  Her name is Isis.

A New Pup and Our Growing Pup

Once again, much has happened since our last post. Life seems to be going too fast for me to keep up, even with a typing speed of 68 words per minute. We recently moved into our new house. We are now officially first time home owners. To us the most exciting aspects of this are…the land for our farm, the land for our dog team, and the land for our garden. The house is very nice too and other than poorly placed light switches (which I have a problem with in most houses) there is nothing that bothers me about the house. It is literally my dream house. It is exactly what I wanted and more.

So, now that we have our new house with more property, we need to fill the void with more dogs! To that end, we have become owners of a new puppy as well. Betty ’s Isis of ByDog (Isis) arrived this weekend from North Carolina. Cobey searched high and low for a female pup with certain attributes: black and white, with no widow’s peak, two blue eyes, and a white diamond spot on her shoulder blades. Our current, fairly well-mannered Siberians have these same characteristics and Cobey believes their personality traits are linked to their looks. So, with his reasoning, a similar looking Siberian is more likely to have the same disposition as our beloved ones; just a flowery excuse for him to get another pretty dog.

She seems to fit into the pack fairly well. She is a combination of all three; the voice of Tensaw (mixed with some terrier…odd), the beauty of Blue and meekness similar to Kona’s. We are attempting to house train her (for the few times she’ll be inside after her puppy life) and it is definitely trying (a precursor to potty training Keegan....?). After some initial timidness towards her new pack, she has learned to romp with them and tries to play. Though, every time one of them runs up to play with her she runs for the protection of her two legged beings. Keegan thinks she is a hoot when she playfully runs around the house but does not enjoy when she gives him her puppy affection (lots of licks).

Come December, when we hopefully have a proper dog kennel/enclosure in place, we will travel to Pray, Montana and pick up two command leaders, Pulak and Okanogan, from the Absaroka Dog Trek kennels.  I am particularly excited about this, for many reasons. For one, we’ll have enough dogs for the season. Blue is getting old and unable to pull the sled very long and Isis is too young to pull. Also, Pulak and Okanogan will hopefully teach Tensaw, Isis and other young dogs along the way to be leaders. I believe Tensaw has the potential; he just still gets a little distracted. Maybe in a couple years after following Pulak and Okanogan he’ll become more focused.

We have many grand plans but as of now none of it is for certain. But you can be sure of one thing, come the first snow, we’ll be with our 6 dogs, sled, and child headed up the trail.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Roaring Lion, Dusted Ice

Ah, finally, fresh snow.  And the first thing to cross our minds?  Dog sledding!  So Sunday we took the dogs up to Roaring Lion Road a short 10-15 minute drive from our house.  “Careful dear” is what Cobey cautioned as he stepped out of the truck because underneath that thin, new layer of snow was slick-as-it-comes ice.  We carefully harnessed the dogs, set up the sled and headed up the road.  Cobey was on the sled and I was on foot.  I took pictures of the pretty snowscape as I heard yells of “let’s go Blue,” “on by” and “leave it” fade away up the road.  I met them on the way back down the road, Cobey stopped the sled, and I got in the basket.  I thought the team would come to screeching halt after all 195 lbs of mom and baby hopped on board but I was mistaken.  Instead of Blue leaving slack in the line and just trotting along, all four (including Cobey) put their backs into it and took us down to the truck.  I was quite impressed though Cobey’s experience farther up the road left him less than enthusiastic.  On Tuesday it snowed all day and we decided to return to the same place for a quick evening run after work.  Just as last time we carefully set up and set out.  We were a little worried this time because as we drove up to the road we passed hordes of deer.  Luckily, none were encountered during our sledding adventure this time, but that will be a new mogul to jump when it happens and hopefully we’ll have good snow for braking.  The trip went much the same as last time other than I drove the team back to the truck.  Once again they pulled hard on the way back.  They have figured out the value of running fast to the truck because they get dog food baited water upon their return, and, to the Siberian Husky, nothings better than dog food…other than chasing deer.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bad Snow, Good Dogs

The snow this season has been minimal and most has melted and re-frozen creating a very crunchy layer of icy snow.  We’ve taken our team to the Nez Perce Road up the West Fork of the Bitterroot the last two weekends because of the low snow levels.  Last weekend, I tried out my new camera, a Christmas gift, and opted out of sledding; rather I cross-country skied up the trail to take pictures as Cobey and the team went by.  They seemed to have improved over last weekend.  It took only a few calls of ‘leave it’ and ‘let’s go’ to get the dogs to stop sniffing and run.  When they came by me, none of them veered off course to say ‘hi’ to me but continued on by and up the trail.  The Nez Perce road was where the dogs were first introduced to dog sledding last year.  I believe they’ve associated dog sledding with this location and know it’s not the place for ‘running free,’ which is what they get to do when we’re hiking.  Roaring lion, where we went early in the sled season, is a common place we like to take the dogs hiking, which probably added to their distraction level. 

This past weekend when we went up to Nez Perce again, I took the team out as well.  They were gung-ho about running and took off up the trail the fastest I’ve seen them go yet.  When Blue is fresh and excited, she charges up the trail.  I am so impressed by her natural lead skills.  Kona charged up the trail as well but Tensaw, on the other hand, just trotted; his head doesn’t ever seem to be in the game.  He can run fast and far when it comes to chasing critters and deer but when it comes to running in the traces he doesn’t seem to want to anymore.  They charged hard a mile up the road to the first turn around and wanted to keep going but I knew Blue would tire out soon and Cobey still wanted to go out with them.  None of them know, or at least care to listen to, gee’s and haw’s so turning the team often takes some effort.  Once the team was turned we headed back and Blue’s legs, or heart, were no longer in it.  I thought I’d give Tensaw a chance to run his guts out in the front, thinking, if he wanted to, his speed could keep the team going.  As soon as Tensaw was in the lead he slacked off even more but Blue pulled hard (as well as Kona because she always does).  Whom ever is in wheel seems to pull the hardest.  Tensaw never pulled hard but we finally got back to Cobey and then he took them out.  He put Kona in lead and she did well until they turned around and, once again, freaked out so he placed her back into wheel position and Blue into lead.  They made it back, albeit slowly.

At the end of the day, the usual thoughts about the dogs’ performance emerged.  I was ecstatic about Blue while Cobey was disappointed with her and he was, completely in awe of Kona, while I was simply impressed.  Neither of us was impressed nor disappointed with Tensaw.  These three seem to feed off of competition between one another, each wanting to be in front of each other.  I believe the fan formation could be helpful to them.  The team is small and none of them run hard for long in the lead position but consistently run hard at wheel.  If all three ran together side-by-side it may keep them in competition with each other and pulling hard.  Cobey and I will also need to trade off on our sledding adventures, i.e. one day only he will take them out and the next me, to allow for the dogs to go on longer uninterrupted runs.

The sled we got this year has a large sheet of thin metal attached between the runners.  It was originally put there by a man who used the sled to get out to his cabin and it was helpful to get through deep snow with.  So far, we have found it the opposite though.  Especially on this hard, frozen snow, it is extremely noisy.  It no longer scares the dogs but it makes it difficult to direct the dogs, we practically have to scream.  And the run is not quite as relaxing or enjoyable as it could be.  Our runners are also old and torn up.  We hope before next season to have the quick change runner (QCR) system put onto our sled and the metal sheet removed.