Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dancing amongst the Garden of Dawgs...

"Everyone clap for the wolf man, he's gonna set a record high... Everyone clap for the wolf man, you gonna love him til the day you die..." - Guess Who

Life is rarely 'normal' when one is a Freak of Nature. Everyone in their youth seeks to be a bit unique yet for some blessings can become a nightmare at times as well. Just over a decade ago I invited family and friends to a bar in Chicago as I presented a display of the Alaskan way- Dogmushing, the Iditarod, Freedom. At the time I was a golf caddy at Westmoreland C.C. barely making a few hundred bucks each week. You can only imagine what others must have thought about this city slicker's dream of becoming a modern day `Jeremiah Johnson`. In a few days time I`ll be seeing many of these same folks at another tavern in Evanston, my home town. Having travelled throughout Alaska's Greatland, racing more than any other dogteam on the planet, one views the world differently now. Each year I return to the `hood' to not only remember my roots and visit with old friends but to realize all that I have been so fortunate to have seen over the years.. I could never have imagined all of the beautiful sights, sounds, smells and senses over the 1,000`s of miles the pooches and I have shared together. What do I treasure the most? Which race am I the most proud of? That`s an easy one to answer- there`s nothing I enjoy more than waking up to the dawning of a new day. For this life is a gift to respect, enjoy and LEARN from.

I'm just a 42 year old kid still seeking to evolve. That's the beauty of Hugh- there's still so much to do! This time of year we wait for the rivers and lakes to break free from their winter ice cocoons so that travel into the bush will be a bit safer. Until then cleaning up the yard from last season's forays is our daily chore. Upon rising each morning, then downing a cup or 2 of coffee and watching the ladies on the "View" I head outside to get dirty. Truth be told- I'm just a caveman, I would not know how to survive if I wasn't covered in dog fur. My close dogmushing friends realize that Laughing Eyes Kennel's greatest trophy will never be 1st place in some race- it's our backyard!

Walking out the back door I descend down onto Annie lake with a five gallon bucket in each hand. A few hundred feet out is our water hole where we retrieve h20 for the pooches to lap up. Running water? Sure, we have a water pump that is powered by our generator and solar panels, yet why waste energy when you have plenty of your own to use? Heading back up to the doglot I get to gaze upon 'Heaven' each morning as the sun's rays bring the surrounding 5 thousand foot mountains beauty to life once again. Are the sheep having babies yet? Any griz around? Having mixed the water with some meat and RedPaw kibble our 60 plus pooches now enjoy their favorite part of the day. The yard is a chorus of hooting and hollering as the pooches run around their houses in circles- their inner beasts awaiting a chance to devour the day's prey. 10 minutes later there is silence except for the occasional slurping. Now its my time to unwind a bit.

Above our house is an old gold rush era horse stable that we have converted into a cabin for storing food and supplies. On the cabin's northern end resides my workout facility aka the basketball court. Hoops has always been a great way for me to loosen up these aging limbs of mine. Whether it's above freezing or 20 below, I always love hearing one sound- swish! Have to be careful with some of the dawgs however, especially Spencer who enjoys trying to puncture the ball. Our court rests above the house and lake, few sports arenas afford a view matching our backdrop. Watering and cleaning up the doggie doodoo are next on the list- this is done at least a few times each day. Some kennels brag about how fast they can feed and clean their dogyards, good for them. As time goes on I've learned to tone down the testosterone a bit and... relax. Is life just a race? Or a portrait we're seeking to make prettier each and every day?

I've been in the dogmushing world since '95 and have never seen such a beautiful community of canine athletes. There's a reason I'm such a hermit- we have 2 dozen kids under 2 years of age that are exquisite. Along with the other Dawgs, it's an honor to enjoy their beauty each day. One of the nicest comments I ever received was from another musher's wife who said, "Your dogs are so elegant Hugh." This year as I was approaching the starting line for the YukonQuest race, former champion Bill Cotter approached me saying, " Man, your dogs look healthy Hugh." Remarks such as these are worth a million trophies. It's a wonderful feeling to not only race but race with dogs that you have raised since their birth. As with humans, much of what a Dawg evolves into is a result of how they were cared for and not just genetics. How others can compete with dogs that they have to lease or borrow is beyond my beliefs. After all I moved north not just to be some dog racer but a true Dogman. This not only means raising and racing with them but ensuring that the pooches live long and healthy lives.

Much of the fun in dogmushing is not just how you interact with the dogs but having the chance to be a part of their pack. We usually have 3 or 4 pooches wandering around patrolling the premises and keeping all the younger pooches in line. Different litters are in various pens with the retired dogs enjoying their private area as well. We recently acquired a small Jack Russell named Ozzy that is a herding dog. We were hoping he would chase away any smaller varmits that were breaking into our stockpiles of dogfood. Considering he only weighs 20 pds. it`s comical to see him picking on other furballs that are three times his size. I`m just worried that one of our local Eagles might try to swoop down and snag him. This past winter we were fortunate not to have any wolf encounters around the homestead which was a blessing. Sometimes starving ones might sneak into the yard in search of some furry food. Every day at Annie lake is an adventure. Can you dig it!

" Climb the Mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." - John Muir

Enjoy the view, Hugh and the Laughing Eyes Kennel Crew


At 2:33 PM , Blogger Loon said...

You're an inspiration, Hugh, for following your dreams. Thanks you for sharing your beautiful world with us. You ARE a true Dogman! Congratulations on your success - being happy with what you have means you are a winner everyday! Keep up the good work.

At 5:23 PM , Blogger AussieAlaskan said...

I just got onto your blog this morning after seeing reference to it on Facebook. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this entry - makes me feel good. I'll be back. Regards, AussieAlaskan.


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