Thursday, December 25, 2008

17 Oct 08

Everything is going fine and fairly uneventful (ground-hog day). There were a couple of events that were kind of "interesting". About 3 weeks ago, one of my teams came up on a black bear. He turned tail and ran into the woods and didn't look back. Of course the gun is in one of the bags on the 4 wheeler. I felt it was a good time to pull said gun out and display it in a more appropriate fashion for self-defense. Editor's note. One of the leaders during this escapade was Bear. Picture yourself trying to turn Bear (the dog) away from Bear the black bear. I needed a scotch after that. Last week, while running my second team we came up on a cow moose with 2 calves. Now as I saw the cow about 10 yards off the side of the trail. After I got the team stopped, I assessed the situation and then saw the 2 calves. The cow's ears were back and she appeared pretty pissed off. If I went forward, the cow could panic and run down the middle of my team as she had the angle. As I thought about turning the team, she charged my leaders. The leaders went completely submissive and laid as flat as they could on the ground. This saved them from being stomped. The cow continued across the trail and went about 5 feet into off the trail and started to turn around to mount a second attempt at my leaders. Editor's note: I keep a broken axe handle, from a 3/4 axe, bungeed to the top rack on the 4-wheeler. It's pretty much the handle without the head to the axe. It is there for quick access to fend off varmints like porcupines or to break up a dog fight. It's pretty self-critiquing the first time you try to break up a dog fight with your own appendages. Yes I have scars to prove it. Also, for those wondering about the gun, it's in the same spot as the bear incident. Back to the story. As the cow made her first attempt at the leaders, I jumped off the 4-wheeler yelling and screaming like a mad man and grabbed the axe handle. As the cow turned to come back at my leaders, I fashioned a charge at the moose that would have made General Picket proud. Normally I have plan for just about every situation and as I came up next to the team dogs behind swing, the moose was directly in front of my leaders. I realized as I was in a full sprint, that I am running directly at this beast with a broken axe handle and the gun was tucked nicely away in the 4-wheeler. Now in 2 seconds I need to figure out where is the best place to be so as not to get the ever living crap stomped out of me and still be able to inflict some damage to convince this moose to get away from my dogs with only a piece of wood that is shorter than my arm. About the time I got even with the swing dogs still yelling and screaming, the moose continued across the trail and about 15 yards into the woods. Her calves were never in any danger and were further off the trail. I check my leaders out and they were very fortunate that nothing happened. I walked backwards to the 4-wheeler eyeing the cow in case she makes another charge. This time, I display the gun in a more appropriate fashion. I get the team ready to go, I noticed the cow's ears were back again and she was positioned as before to charge the team. This time I draw said gun and am ready to defend my team and myself. As the team went by, she took a couple of steps forward, but decided against another run. Since then, I wear my gun and hopefully I won't have to use it. During tonight's run, I have Timber and Cyphers at lead. This is Cyphers first year running and neither of them have never lead. Bear is recovering from a pulled muscle and will be back next week and something is going on with Bogey. He will run, but is pretty flat at lead. Could be the 2 girls in season on the other team. We are about 4/10 of mile into the run and my glasses have partially fogged up. This happens until I cool off. I see a brown flash coming from the woods heading directly at my leaders and make out a moose without antlers. This time, I start yelling and screaming and by the time I am even with the wheel dogs, the gun is out and cocked. As she gets about 5 feet from my leaders, I have the gun pointed at her and she simultaneously stops and goes back into the woods. That's it for the last couple of weeks. The teams are up to 7 mile runs and we will most likely increase that next week. The trails are still muddy.

14 Sep 08

The temps were around 47 and overcast with a hint of rain in the air. Wepacked everyone up and headed for the trails. As we left the house, theclouds opened up and down came the rain in buckets. So we continue on ourquest hoping that the rain will stop or just maybe it isn't raining at thetrails. As we pull into the staging area, it's still raining, but there aretwo other dog trucks there. It was the same two trucks from yesterday.Everyone is busy getting 4 wheelers unhooked, gear sorted and dogs dropped.The rain continues with no sign of letting up. I noticed Karin Hendricksonis wearing her fishing waders again. Smart idea. Karen is signed up forthe 2009 Iditarod. Mary and I get the first team hooked up and off we go.The other folks are running larger teams, so it is taking them longer to getout.Team 1: Bear and Zia in lead with Alli in swing and Thursby and Tolby atwheel. The puddles have expanded, but that's too be expected with therecent rains. The trail isn't too muddy, but I am keeping a watchful eye onthe team so as not to injure anyone. Uneventful run.Team 2: Bogey and Velma in lead, Amizette at swing, Apollo and Timber atwheel. We manage to get a head on pass with Karen's 16 dogs. On the wayback in she caught up to us and I let her pass. It was two nice cleanpasses. Apollo isn't too sure about the puddles and tries to go aroundthem. Team 3: Luna and Gabby at lead (to start), Hawkeye at swing and Lasar andCyphers at wheel. This run took a little longer. Gabby wasn't running herbest at lead and was thrown off by Hawkeye running as far to the left sideof the trail as he could get. The leaders were running on the far rightside. Needless to say Hawkeye kept getting tangled in the gangline. Themost frustrating part was having to run up to him to get him untangledwithout falling on my backside in all of the mud. It's a good thing this isa small team or there could have been some damage to Hawkeye. I finallycan't take it anymore and I am looking at my leader options. Hmmm 2 rookiesand Lasar. Lasar is the tallest dog in the yard and a great wheel and teamdog. To my knowledge he has never run lead. He came to us from JulieCapps. There's a saying from work "When the going gets crazy, the crazyturn pro". So I say to myself "self, let's get crazy and put Hawkeye upfront". I have a saying "What looks get in theory is usually crappy inapplication". This is true in this case. Hawkeye is on the right side, butleaning so far to the left that he is pushing Luna into the left side of thetrail and throwing off the rest of the team. I stop the team and run up tomove them over and then comes a team for a head-on pass. I held the leadersuntil they were safely by and then moved Hawkeye back to wheel and movedLasar up front. The team was moving and looked like a sleddog team. I'llhave to remember this combo. As we come around a bend, I can see anotherteam coming at us and they are all over the trail. As the leaders meet eachother the other driver stops his team. This is the worst thing you can doduring a head-on pass because now his team is bunched up and completelyblocked the trail. Dog fights and tangles between teams usually happen.Not today. Luna moves the team completely off the trail to the right andboth Lasar and Luna kept the team moving and we pass without incident. As Ilooked back at the other driver, I could see his jaw bouncing off theground. He couldn't believe what just happened. It was a nice clean passand brought a tear to my eye watching Luna take control of the situation.My only input was a couple of "on-bys".We get the team back to the truck and loaded and back to the house to cleanup equipment and get out of the wet clothes. Training was suppose to happen this Wed, but the exhaust pipe for the dogtruck came in so it's in the shop getting fitted. I may have it back totrain tomorrow, but there is an issue with the way the gas nozzle wasmounted. Thus I might have to cancel training while the guy who did thewelding fixes that problem.

13 Sept 08

Today was the first "real" training run. The temp was a little warmer than I liked at 47, but it was overcast. The first couple of days of training are usually disorganized until I remember the routine. It was nice to have the new dog truck, but now I have to find places for all of the stuff. I foresee a couple of modifications next summer. Nothing that can't be worked through this year. The biggest help was having Mary being able to go out today. She didn't go out on the 4 wheeler, but stayed behind to water and harness dogs. This saved about an hour for me as I would have to drop dogs while I took care of the current team and then load the dogs not running. I don't like to leave dogs on the tie-outs while I am running another team.
As we pulled into the staging area, there was a sign stating a bear had been sighted. Not to worry as this is Alaska and believe it or not there are bears here. Wolves and moose too. I did have my Uncle Ruger along for company.
The staging area was muddy. I have seen it worse, but still everything will get muddy to include the new dog box. Today we are only trained 15 dogs as Waylon is still nursing a shoulder injury and I want to give him another week off. He is moving ok and the range of motion check I did was very positive, but still a week off now will save 3 weeks to a month off down the road.
The plan was to run 3 teams of 5. I have 3 strong leaders. Ok, they work for me. I have a few "trail leaders" or up and coming leaders.
Team 1: Bear and Alli in lead. Alli is Bear's Mom and the "queen bee" and although she knows her commands, she knows she is royalty. At swing was Velma and then Tolby (Alli's second litter) and Thursby at Wheel. After a mile, I couldn't take Alli's Sunday driving, so I swapped her out with Velma. That worked well. We were able to get 2 head-on passes and 1 tail on-pass. Not bad for the first run of the year.
Team 2: Bogey and Zia (Bear's littermates) at lead, with Amizette (Alli's second litter) at swing and Apollo and Timber at wheel. Zia started to develop into a trail leader last year, but still lacks self-confidence. She knows her commands, but relies on the leader next to her. Zia didn't seem to want to be up front so I swapped her out. Unlike Team 1, there aren't alot of options for leaders. This was Apollo's first run with me and Timber likes to be in the back of the bus. Amizette is a little over 14 months old and only been in harness 2 other times, but what the heck. She has tight tug and Bogey is a strong leader. Amizette did great. I really don't like running puppies at lead, especially rookies.
Team 3: Luna (Bear's littermate) and Gabby (Bogey's daughter) at lead, Cyphers (Alli's second litter) at swing and Lasar and Hawkeye at wheel. Through the first half of the run Cyphers kept pulling way to the left which through off the leaders and the wheelers. I swapped Hawkeye for Cyphers and that fixed that problem. Lasar is a little bigger than Cyphers and made a great wall. Hawkeye won the muddies dog award.
Each run was 2.5 miles through a bunch of mud puddles.