Monday, August 25, 2008

Weathering the Storm

Great weather day here. Low 40's with a strong westerly wind- the sky is filled with grey clouds releasing an occassional light sprinkle. Not ideal for sun tanning but if you're fifty pounds of pent-up canine energy there can be no finer autumn splendor. This time of season we're only running ten milers but within weeks our time on the trail will be enhanced significantly. Hooking up the team this morning Tamra and I had our hands full as Omen's, one of our main leaders, pups went ballistic knowing the journey was soon to come. Our main navigators for this trip would be Mr. Watson and our new star leader Sicily who we recently acquired from my buddy Mr. Ray "Babycakes" Redington. I have a feeling that we already owe him a great debt for sharing such a wonderful animal with us.
Sister Sicily has a look of wonder as she glances around Annie Lake's Majestic valley- "This isn't the way to Nome-Is It?" Behind her Nathan's playing with his brother Spencer, Tyler's pecking at his sister Delilah and my big man Oscar, as ornery as ever, chomps at the bit- leading not by the bellow of his bark but the exhuberence of his energy. Sure is nice to be back on the trail - summers have always been a bit depressing to me. This year it's been a refreshing treasure, free of the awful coastal rainstorms - these past few months have been an oasis to flourish from. Across the lake the aspen trees are a brighter shade of yellow by the day. A thousand feet above them the mountains have metamorphisised into a purplish hue- a wondrous mosaic of life to behold.
Added to this sense of adventure has been the beauty of Beijing on tv that has been amazing to watch these past few weeks. Not just the competitive events but the achievements of all who put on such a beautiful spectacle. Dogmushing's Olympians are the beasts we are so lucky to share the wilderness with each morning as we embrace the sunrise and every night as their chorus of howls send us off to sleep. Up here in the north our festive season shall soon begin. In other parts of the world some may hibernate indoors as the temperatures plummet yet for some of us this is when we forget how to sleep. For there is nothing that compares to living life to the fullest. Not for the sake of self accomplishment but honoring this amazing environment that we are so honored to call home. Time to fly, hope you are enjoying your ride as well! Hugh, Tamra and the Laughing Eyes Kennel Crew

Monday, August 11, 2008

the spirit of Favre

Having grown up in the Chicagoland area we were taught to hate the Green Bay Packers. Few sports rivalries have the animosity such as the Bears-Packers do. Yet, a kid named Brett changed all of that. It wasn't just his talent but love of the sport, the exhuberence of enjoying life that has put a smile on all of our faces over the last two decades. To see what has transpired over the last few days has been sickening. I pray that the dogmushing scene never changes from a celebration of our beloved pooches as well as our unique northern lifestyle to a 'business' that is all about money and winning-- and not the enjoyment of the journey that we are all so lucky to be a part of.

For the last few years I've lived in various locales on Alaska's coast earning money thru the tourism scene. This summer we've decided to change our routine as Tamra has been on the road quite a bit while the pooches and I have enjoyed the cool Annie Lake breezes. We even had some flurries up in the hills ( 4 thousand feet) last week. This year we have had few if any bugs- quite a blessing. Yesterday we signed up for the YukonQuest once again. Along with the Iditarod, these will be the 14th and 15th 1,000 mile races that Laughing Eyes Kennel has participated in since our 1st Quest sojourn in 2000. Not bad for a simple-minded chicago cityslicker. Hopefully, thru the good graces of the Great Almighty we will continue to travel farther than anyone else could ever imagine. "How do you guys pull it off Hugh? It's not like you're a top notch competitive musher after all." That's the whole key for our relative success- it's not about what musher I beat but how many dogs are smiling at the finish line. I've spoken with various newcomers recently to the long-distance scene and typically they all have the same desires- 'I wanna do good, maybe even win.' My reply? Tone it down a notch there compadre!

If anyone should know about being overly competitive, it's yours truly. I guess growing up with Michael Jordan and Da Bears has groomed me this way. Taking an objective review of my racing career and its rather obvious who my main competition is... Myself. To have been given such a rare gift, this journey we've embarked upon, and squandered it is a shame. Will this be the year we actually try to give an all out effort to do our best? Not in hopes of winning but enjoying the ride with our furry friends to the highest degree? Only time will tell. I do know that we're off to a wonderful start. We have two fellas from europe that will be running pooches with us this winter. Last year, in hindsight, we were lucky to even make it to the starting line of any race- we didn't find a handler until January, just one week before our 1st race. Tamra's already planning on doing a few of the shorter races as well. Our schedule will probably include the usual six or seven races though we're always looking for new events to check out. As the saying goes "Life without Adventure is not worth living..." Wishing you all well as we seek to show respect to Mother Earth as well as those unique treasures that lay within one's very own imagination.

Peace to you, Tamra, Hugh and the Laughing Eyes Kennel Crew

Friday, August 01, 2008

Stay Hungry, Stay Humble

Greetings fellow Dawg Lovers,
My apologies for our lack of communication this summer. We've had internet satellite recently installed so that we may now keep you more aware of our kennel's daily happenings. Been a relatively cool summer with temps. hovering in the 60's. Combined with a consistent breeze typically from the south and we have an ideal dog environment (no bugs). For the 1st time in the past five summers we made the decision not to perform tours on Alaska's coast. This will hopefully prove beneficial for the upcoming season. Only one litter of pups this year, 2 beautiful boys- Sampson and Spartacus. (Their mom is Delilah, father is Darkie)

We have plenty of yearlings to train up however- Flicka, Gypsy, Capone, Nemo, Griffin and Frazier are from Omen and Zorro. A few of these kids will do a bit of racing this year. The other litter we have high hopes for is out of Annie and Brady- George, Jericho, Amigo, Jester, Joker, Geronimo, Juanita and Juliette. We've been running our younger pooches with the 4-wheeler all summer though it's been a bit too rough on the lake to do as much swimming as we had hoped for.
Considering the fuel prices it's wonderful that we're able to work from the house now. This fall 2 people from europe are planning to join us for the upcoming season. Obviously last season was very disheartening. Not only with my father Phil's passing a week before the YukonQuest began but our lack of organization. It wasn't until mid-January that we found a handler- this year we plan on putting together a bigger and better team effort. Folks are always amazed when they hear we have over 50 dogs in our Laughing Eyes Family- how do you remember all of their names? It's easy, spend as much time as possible with them. Create the 'pack mentality' that the dog whisperer fella is always harping about on tv. Most importantly as pups create a bond to last a lifetime thru love and understanding. Out of all our dogs any problem pooches are typically ones that we have acquired from others who didn't establish a good relationship with the animal. Every night we'll have half a dozen dogs in the house in hopes of creating good social skills. Most of our dogs are neutered or spayed so that we are able to free run them often without worry of accidental breeding. (it also helps to fight against cancer as well) A dozen of our pooches are 10 years of age or older. Being able to spend more time with them during this slower time of the year has been a blessing.
Considering I've been promising to write a novel for years now- isn't it about time? Well, lo and behold, folks will be able to acquire a copy of "Misadventures of a Maverick Musher" this fall. Unlike others who often give advice on how to become the next champion musher, this book will deal more with 'racing for life'; appreciating not only our beloved pooches but the beauty of nature as well as appreciating our fellow man. After all, this simple ciyyboy from Chicago didn't migrate to Alaska in search of winning some lil' 1,000 mile race. We are in search of what it means to be a true 'son of the north' where life is about the journey and not just where you finish. During our school presentations this is a point that I often make to the children: " If you only care about winning- you know where you'll end up? All alone." Sometimes it may be difficult to share the beauty of each and every day with one another. If a conscious effort is made however it's easy- it all begins with a smile. Wishing YOU well on your journeys as well, Hugh,Tamra and the Laughing Eyes Kennel Crew p.s.: Just a reminder that we'll be in Chicago briefly in late october if your school would be interested in a presentation.