Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Going Back to School

“Out of the mud I crawl, out of the slime I climb…Evolution!” - Stov

Like many of you, September is a time of change: a new grade, school, employer or place to live. Up here in the Northland the colors are already turning. Within weeks the mountainsides and valleys will be adorned in a golden hue. Purples and reds with a bit of orange here and there will engulf the landscape. This is the time of season for gathering- wood, fish, food and other provisions. Hopefully the winter snows are not too far off. As mushers, the anticipation of traveling by sled is beginning to pulse through our veins- the ecstasy shall always be worth the agony.

Being a dogmusher is definitely not living the ‘simple life’; caring for 60 pooches on a daily basis is no picnic after all - though it often seems like one. We live in a world of filth. Dog fur, mud, poop and stinky doggy breath are all a part of each day’s equation. Our ‘sandbox’ is the dog yard, within it lies an energy like no other, a community of canine frenzy. Feeding time is when the poopers really go wild. Whether its kibble, fish or meat the ‘beast within’ is unleashed every time we saunter through doling out the day’s cuisine. Once fed and watered we then pass through watering as well as cleaning up. This process is performed 2-3 times per day depending on weather and our expected travels. At times this might be mundane yet our furry compadres continually place smiles upon our faces just by being who they are.

The greatest question a tourist ever asked me was, “With so many dogs how do you make sure that each of them gets enough LOVE. ‘Well’, I say, “Let ‘em play!” Anyone who has ever been wise enough to stop by for a kennel visit will initially notice that there are from 3 to 6 pooches constantly roaming around. Our pet black lab Deyaah, a few retired poopers as well as a few yearlings or race leaders. Socialization creates harmony. There might be the occasional skirmish yet a social pecking order is established amongst the Dawgs. The main reason we’re able to do this is ninety percent of our pooches are either neutered or spade. Some may believe this takes away from the dog’s spirit, which is debatable. Many of the top racers have dogs on their squads that have been ‘fixed’ for various reasons. I do know that it does help to keep weight on as well as fight against cancer as the pooch ages.

It also ensures, at least at our kennel, that he or she will have more freedom to frolic around whether in the lake or the large pen that we rotate dogs in to run around and loosen up. We have a litter of 3 month old pups in the pen that are enjoyable to view as well. Omen’s 3 month old pups have a pack mentality- running around, eating and sleeping as one entity. The laughter they provide through their daily shenanigans is heartwarming. Then there’s Malaki, Mahoosic, Sophie, Mischief, Nathan and the rest of our ‘couch potatoes’ always whining to come inside and act domesticated. Our front door is a doggie turnstile, as we rotate different souls to and fro. As the temperatures become colder we’ll be putting our new dog barn to good use, shielding the pooches from the consistent high winds that blow across the lake coming from the ocean to the southwest. It’s still fairly warm during the day thus we wait until after seven in the evening to hook up a squad for a short ten-mile jaunt. This is the season of conditioning; the real training shall shortly commence once we’re properly in shape. Last year our training regimen was lacking woefully and it showed in the season’s pitiful race results. Add to that the fact that half of the dogs we competed with were new to the long-distance racing environment, and a difficult learning experience was the result. Life is about perseverance, learning by seeing how others succeed and adapting their notions to fit your own unique vision. That’s why having the chance to watch guys and gals like Lance Mackey, Deedee Jonrowe, John Baker and Ed Iten operate is uplifting, for they are always experimenting, searching for answers as well. All in hopes of enjoying that elusive ‘magic carpet ride’. Last year we forgot how to dance; this season we’ll flow one step at a time. Seeking to follow 3 very important virtues: to Listen, To Learn, To Live.



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