Thursday, December 17, 2009
I took 8 dogs from the yard out to the snowmobile trail and up into the Whitefish Range. It was so nice to be on the runners again. The dogs were excited for the sled and new trails!! We had a very warm and spring-like day which made the snow like mashed potatoes and not so nice as I would have liked, but it is so much better than the 4 wheeler.
After a 36 miles run with the first team, I took out a second team of 10 dogs and did 32 miles in the dark. Once the sun went down, the trail firmed up and we flew. There were a few scary moments when I could feel my brake hit a rock or stump and remind me that there really isn't that much snow yet.
Everyone had to wear booties today and the young dogs who have never worn them were not particularly excited about this prospect. But it was good that they wore them anyway as most of the booties were pretty worn from this abrasive snow. Tomorrow a reporter from the paper is coming out to check out the dogs. It would be great if I could take her for a ride, but I don't think it's safe yet. We still need a lot more snow.
As of yesterday, I am officially a full-time dog musher until the Quest is over. I am done at work and with school and can now focus completely on getting everything ready to go. And I bought a trailer yesterday so that I can haul everything we will need to Alaska. I spent about 4 hours on Tuesday cutting and packaging meat for food drops and will be doing some more in the next couple of days. Even though I learned how to do drop bags the Swingley way, I am trying to modify the schedule to go along with that and get food drops ready before the last minute. There are so many details that I never thought of until I was well in the midst of this preparation. But things are getting done and I have had a lot of help and support from friends, family, and community. It is amazing how, as we get closer to the event, that this becomes less about me and my goals and more about everyone else who has contributed money, labor, time, or words of encouragement. It is an amazing process.
It is 33 days until I head North and 50 days until the start of the race. It will be here and done before I know it. Now is the time to train hard and make sure that the dogs and I are all ready for our adventure. We will be spending many hours on the trail in the next few weeks.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
I got to observe during Diablo's procedure on Monday. They put him under anesthesia and then used the endoscope to look in his stomach. The endoscope is a camera on a long cable/hose type thing. It was amazing how far it had to go to actually get into his stomach. There is a cable they can slide into the hose of the endoscope that has little grippers. They were able to remove a few things from his stomach. It turns out, all of those things were pieces of the blanket he had shredded the day before. Dr. Barton was pretty sure his stomach was empty when we were done. We think that he must have passed whatever mass was in his stomach last Wednesday. But I have carefully monitored everything coming out of him since he got sick. So, hopefully, he is now clear and will not be eating any more non-digestible foriegn objects anytime in the near future.
While he was out, I had him neutered. I will spare the details of that procedure, but it was cool for me to see. I've helped with horse and llama castrations before but never with dogs.
Diablo has been staying inside for the most part since his surgery but went back to the dog yard this morning and spent the day with the sled dogs. I am going to continue to bring him inside a night for a few more nights until he gains back a little more weight. I plan on running him this weekend, and just maybe he will get back in shape to do some racing this winter.
This is a lucky little dog as I was sure he was going to have to have open-abdominal surgery and be out for the rest of the season. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he will stay healthy and continue to be my little monster dog.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
After running barium through his digestive tract, we were able to see something in his stomach. You could almost see the texture of the webbing from the collar. Since his digestive tract isn't actually blocked and it was getting late in the day before Thanksgiving, we opted to wait until Monday for surgury.
I thought I was going to be spending the next few days syringe feeding him soaked food and water. But, after Thanksgiving dinner, he started getting into the trash. When I offered him food, he devoured it. I have been feeding him small meals every 2-3 hours and he hasn't stopped eating. This is very good and hopefully he won't lose any more weight.
We are hoping that we will be able to remove the object/collar from his stomach by pulling it back up the way it went down. The vet is not overly optimistic that this will work as a collar is a fairly substantial object and the claws on the endoscope are not especially strong. If this doesn't work, he will have to have his stomach cut open. I am hoping for option one as this will mean a quicker recovery and less stress on all of us. But, if it has to be option two, I think I will be having another house dog for the winter. Wiley (my Border Collie) is not really happy about having another boy dog in the house. But I have always loved this little guy who came into this world kicking and screaming and is a little monster. Having him inside with me has been interesting especially the last couple days when he has been feeling better. I can't take my eyes off him even for a second.
I am sure all will end well with Diablo and I look forward to putting this week of too many vet visits behind us and moving forward with the endless list of "must dos".
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Time is just flying by and it is just over 10 weeks to the best part of this whole adventure. There is still so much to do before we head North and so many details to figure out. We have had a fall full of all kinds of weather, even a skiff of snow here and there. The dogs are ready for snow and sledding and the longer miles that those entail. I am ready for those things but not for all the extra work that is involved when the snow comes. Everything just takes longer.
A few things that have been going on:
I went to Missoula on Halloween to pick up 1000 pounds of meat for the dogs. I made it about a quarter of the way home before I had to stop due to a major oil leak in the truck. Brooke and Sean were kind enough to come and get me, Wylie, and 40 boxes of dog meat. My friend and fellow dog musher and diesel mechanic, Steve Riggs of Condon, MT, has been working on the truck to help get it prepped for a long trip to Alaska. It sure helps to have friends you can count on, though I feel like my IOU list is growing... The worst part of the whole ordeal was that I didn't get to where my Halloween costume I was so excited about. Watch out next year.
I sold Happy to my friend, Robin Beall, of Grand Marais, MN. Hopefully Happy will fit right in with Robin's team and help her to win lots of races. And then I will truely regret letting her go but at least I know she has a great home.
Patron stepped on a stick during a run that stuck over an inch into his foot. I thought for sure we would have problems getting it to heal. He spent one night inside with me and was raring to go the next day. He had about 12 hours that it was sore and hasn't looked back. These sled dogs amaze me with their toughness.
We are training about 80 miles a week now. Seventeen of the 19 in training now are running in lead and all the dogs are now responsible members of the team. I am very proud of how they are looking and doing. Though this is a fairly young and inexperienced team, I feel confident that we will have a successful trip and positive experience as we run the Quest. The next several weeks will be consumed with training dogs, planning race tactics, organizing food drop bags, gathering equipment needed, testing new gear, and, of course, working my "real job" and keeping up with the day to day necessities of eating and sleeping (though these are the first to get dropped when time gets short).
A few pictures from a run last week when my friend John Welch stopped for a visit on his way back to Fairbanks, AK. It is hunting season in Montana and I see more deer than the hunters do!
Monday, October 26, 2009
Some of the stars of training right now are the 2 yearling sisters, Voodoo and Margarita. The more we go and the harder I push the dogs, the crazier Voodoo gets. She pulls harder than anyone in the team, despite being half the size of some of her brothers, and spends every rest break barking, well, actually screaming, to go. She is running in lead and has one heck of a motor on her. Margarita is very smart and loves being in front and is already starting to learn directional commands.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Feeding time is the most important time of the day. And it apparently doesn't come often enough. This pup wants to make sure she won't miss dinner!
Friday, September 11, 2009
I still miss her everyday and wanted a way to keep her with me as I go down the trail. I was struggling with a name for the kennel when someone told me that Venus is the Evening Star. I knew instantly that it was perfect. So, the kennel is named for Venus, in her honor and in her memory.