Saturday, December 02, 2006

On the way home, Sophie (loose white dog on right), decides to attack the leaders. Posted by Picasa

Tamra taking the new puppies out for a run. June-Mari and her son Mischief are in lead. Posted by Picasa

Playing with puppies after their first run ever. Posted by Picasa

Up, Up... and Away!!

Nothing like the beauty of a dogyard after a steady night of snowfall. The dawning of a new day begins yet again. Once Laura, our handler, has begun to feed the yard their morning meal of meat broth and kibble I saunter down to the lake to retrieve our daily ratio of water: six 5-gallon buckets worth. The hole in the ice must be checked consistently as we sculpt away with an icepick. Suddenly the water shoots up from below the frozen surface. Wood for the dogfood cooker must then be brought forth from the surrounding landscape along the shore's edge. Add some meat scraps and fat to the metal container and within an hour or so you have a doggie stew fit for a king. Each day this is how life typically begins around our kennel. The men who taught me how to feed dawgs this way are native Athabascan Indians Curtis Erhart and his legendary father Lester. Not only did they show me how to feed properly but how to survive during the far north's harsh winter season. I often think about these gifted mushers as I stare into the fire as the embers crackle way setting off heat. (In Boy scouts as a child back in Wisconsin my buddies and I would call this form of entertainment- PyroPsychology.) Having the opportunity to train with and live in various native villages throughout the Alaskan interior was a great honor. Those folks will never realize how often they are missed.

Iditarod Champion Joe Runyan wrote about Lester in his mushing book. How Lester always dreamed of having the greatest dogteam in the world- don't we all. As time marches on one's goals in life change with the flow. Sure it's great to place high up in the standings. May we all hopefully realize how lucky we are to live such unique a lifestyle. Our kennel here on Annie Lake, I believe, is one of the most beautiful in the world- a true slice of heaven on earth. We may never have the 'greatest dogteam' yet the surrounding landscape is...? Is...? GORGEOUS.
A typical run takes us from the kennel, across the lake through ten miles of twisting tree lined trail- and then the workout begins! For the next twenty minutes or so the team of pooches will be heading straight up. Once we have reached the Alligator lake valley the view is exquisite as we meander back and forth reaching the lake after an hour's time. The elevation, around 4 thousand feet offers an alpine environment with trees interspersed. Just yesterday morning I noticed Blondie and Molly lifting their heads back and forth staring up at the sky as they sniffed away. "What are you goofy gals up to?" I glanced down to the left and 100 fet away a dozen caribou are staring at us we intrude into their playground. "Morning y'all- how we doing today?" Moments later we descend down the final few hills of our rollercoaster ride and onto the lake. This early in the year we'll take a short siesta with the younger pooches for some chow and a quick sauna. The older kids aren't even warmed up yet and will continue on down the trail. After all the funnest part is going back DOWN the mountain.

Though we're just barely into December this year is already been much more gratifying than last season. Not only nice snow conditions but a great assistant have made life much more enjoyable for Tamra, the pooches and myself. While I'm out training our racing dogs, consisting of 3 - 12 dog teams, Laura trains the younger pups as well as our retired pooches with 6 mile runs around the lake. It's a great opportunity for leader training. Every night Tamra comes home with a truckload of goodies for the pooches as they greet her with a chorus of yips and howls. Through adverse times you come to realize how lucky you are to be a part of such a precious community of furry friends. Each evening as we enjoy our own dinner and perhaps a movie we are surrounded by a roomful of love. Omen, Deyaah, Marcellus, Sophie, Darkie, Junie-- add a puppy or two snoozing alongside one another on the warm cozy couches is truly a sight to behold. For us it's the ending to yet another beautiful day. It's no wonder we can't wait for the sun to arise once again for who knows what tomorrow shall bring? One thing is certain - it will most definately be entertaining and... GORGEOUS!!