Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Road Tripping with the Puppies

"Oh, you're Hugh Neff. I've heard of you- the guy who loves what he does..." - Alligator lake snowmachiner
Morning everyone,
Returning from a short trip south to Atlin, B.C. Went with my friend, fellow Quest veteran Paul Geoffrion. Our buddy Normand Casavante has been renting Hans Gatt's kennel there this winter- talk about being fortunate. No one has done more for the sport of dogmushing in recent history than Hans. Not only a multiple race champ, Mr. Gatt also builds sleds used by nearly half of the Iditarod field -75% of the Quest teams. Hans is from Austria and his intellect is a polar opposite to mine. The only trait we have in common, besides loving dogs, is... the ENERGY. Though ten years my senior I've seen Hans standing in place- Jogging- and this was 5oo miles into a race. One year after Sheep Mtn., a short training run in December that numerous teams partake in, we witnessed him (after caring for his pooches) put on a running outfit and head straight up a mountain!
The trails in Atlin were in nice shape, especially for yearling training. It's nice to get the lil' poopers away from our casa- they tend to get a bit bored having run the trails around here all winter. The leaders of our 8 dog team were Tyler and Delilah- each 2 and 1/2 years old. Their mom Omen is now retired, she finished in lead coming into Nome 4 years in a row. This year Tyler made it to Eagle Island during Iditarod. His sister Ms. Delilah finished the Iditarod as well as the Quest- now that's a Diva. Following them were 6 yearlings: Griffin, Amigo, Nemo, Capone, Frasier and lil' Ms. Gypsy.
Considering most of these pooches had not run over 15 miles all winter it was interesting to analyze their mindthought. One of the greatest misconceptions of our sport is that it's all about breeding/genetics. Folks like Lance and Sebastian are proving how proper, consistent training creates powerhouse outfits. Life isn't just about having 'superstars'- teamwork creates that positive energy to fly on down the trail. Speaking of being positive our Quest buddy Normand, a French Canadian, is amazing w/ his pooches- they truly are a pack. After our 1st run, a short 10 miler sunday evening Normand sang all the dogs to sleep w/ his harmonica- a mesmerizing moment. The following morning we would run 35 miles which I was a bit worried about. For 6 of the 8 pooches this would be their longest run, in fairly warm temps. too. During 'spring training' we're constantly rotating the dogs around to see how they perform in different spots. The wonderful surprise of this trip was lil' Gypsy. This tiny 35 pd. black female is named after... me. Now most folks who pay attention to what the media tells them would think that my nickname is "Huge Mess" but 10 years ago I was given the name `Gypsy Musher`by 2-time Quest champ John Schandelmeier. Up to that point I had lived in 8-10 places all over Alaska within just a few years- hence the nickname. To me, the Greatland and Yukon are the funnest playground on this earth of ours. Gypsy was wonderful to watch in lead yipping and yapping, rolling around on the ground whenever we stopped to take a breather. I thought she was a bit young to race this past year but am having 2nd thoughts now- just hope Annie and Delilah like her too!
Muchas gracias to Hans, Normand and my good friend Paul- was a fun way to begin training for next year. Most folks might believe we only run pooches up here in the wintertime. Why not all the time- it`s what they love to do after all. Heading out to feed the yard, catch you all- sooner or later, Hugh and the DAWGS http://www.laughingeyeskennel.com/
P.S.: We are now full for our upcoming May school tour. Next one will be in October, send us a line if you're interested in a show like no other- guaranteed to put a smile on everyone's face!


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