Thank you to all sponsors and fans for your support and encouragement. Without you, not only would Evening Star Kennel been absent from the 2010 Yukon Quest, but this incredible sport and these wonderful dogs would become a thing of distant memory. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I hope that you have enjoyed following this amazing event.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Athletes: Detour

Yes, I do have a lead dog named Detour. And she's one heck of a lead dog to boot. Detour is Whitney's sister and came from the Swingley kennel. Both of these girls are Peppy pups from his last breeding season. Detour came to Evening Star Kennel with five pups. The only one still running with us is Boggle. The others have become pets or now run with other mushers.

Detour was the best yearling leader I have ever seen. And I have seen a lot. Last year, she ran lead in my Seeley Lake team for over half of the race. She never balked at anything. She always wants to go faster and will go no matter how deep the snow is, even if it is well over her head. This year Detour has learned turning commands of "gee" and "haw" and is better than ever. No doubt she will be in the Quest team next year.

Last summer, Detour became a mom again. Doug Swingley's El Toro was the stud. The pups were born on July 5, 2008, about 10 days after the expected due date. I think she was so afraid of the fireworks that she held them in for a few extra days. She was HUGE and so uncomfortable. Detour had her pups on the floor next to my bed and I got to watch my first litter of my pups be born. She is an excellent mother. I will introduce the "Tequila pups" later but expect to see them in the team next year learning how to be leaders like their mom.

Detour is one of my main go-to leaders. She has a special place in the kennel and she knows it. She is one sassy lady with the other girls and lets them all know she is queen bee.

Yesterday, Detour gave me quite a scare. I had 7 of the adult females out for a free run next to the ATV. No one can keep up with Detour and she is the one who sets the pace, in front as always. Except now, Charlotte can keep up with her. And Charlotte decided to pick on Detour and Detour didn't like it. They ended up in a short scrap which resulted in 2 puncture wounds on Detours left front leg. She must have nicked an artery because there was a lot of bleeding and it was pulsing. I picked her up and carried her home as fast as I could. My friends Brooke and Sean gave me a hand to get her cleaned up, and I was so surprised to see that she only had 2 tiny little holes. Everything else is intact and she will be fine. For now, she is happy to get the special treatment of sleeping on the floor next to my bed inside the house.
So watch out for this tough little dog. And don't be fooled into thinking we are going the wrong way when you here me say "Detour" as we head down the Yukon Quest trail.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Athletes: Shilo

Shilo is definitely a special dog in my life. She led my team under the arch in Nome to finish the 2006 Iditarod. She has always been my girl in her mind and mine.

Shilo was one of the 60 puppies that I raised in 2004-2005 while working for Doug Swingley. She was always a shy pup in the pen but had beautiful eyes and was so soft when she let me touch her. That summer, she went to Juneau, AK with me to run tours on the Mendenhall glacier for folks from the crusie ships. She had a lot of issues with the bright sun hurting her eyes so she started spending a lot of time in the tent to stay out of the glare. Needless to say, we got attached.

When I took the dogs home from the glacier, I didn't have much hope for her making the pup team, due to her small stature and the fact that there were still over 40 pups who hadn't been sold at the spring sale. Doug ran her a bit and commented that she was a very dynamic dog. As a man of often few words, that is saying something. So Shilo made the early fall cut and was a good little leader and so made the early winter cut as well.

Shilo ran the Seeley 200 with me that winter for my last Iditarod qualifier and the IPSSSDR in Wyoming as well. Then we headed to AK. Doug wanted me to leave her out of my Iditarod team and put one of the bigger boys in instead. I couldn't do it. And I was so glad in the end that I didn't. Shilo ended up being one of the 3 dependable leaders on the second half of the race. We went straight through Safety (22 miles from Nome) after running 55 miles from White Mountain. We stopped for a couple of minutes there to sign in and pick up our number bib. On my "Ready guys", Shilo screamed and banged in her harness. I pulled the hook and we were off.
Shilo never lacks in enthusiasm and is always ready to go and very vocal about it. If she is not in lead and the leaders are not doing what I ask, she barks and screams at them. When Doug decided to sell Shilo after racing season 2008, I was fortunate enough to get the first call and so Shilo is mine, and she will grow old with me on my couch.

Shilo has a few funny quirks. She doesn't like to lie down to sleep when we are camping unless I lay down next to her. She likes to come inside and will sleep in the middle of the bed all day if I let her. She likes to be co-pilot on any roadtrips we take. Shilo loves the puppies and always wants to play with them. She knows, and rightly so, that she is special. This little lady will likely lead the team a good portion of the way from Fairbanks to Whitehorse in next year's Yukon Quest.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Athletes: Herbert

Herbert came from my "big brother" and his wife, Warren and Kate Palfrey. Warren and I ran our first Iditarod together in 2006 and I always look forward to the few precious visits we get. Herbert was one of the first pups Warren and Kate raised from Doug Swingley's Filbert after she moved up to Yellowknife, NWT to join them.

I got Herbert last year when he was just 18 months old. He is always a goofy boy and makes me laugh almost everytime I see him. I was a superstar in my Siskiyou team this year and was solid start to finish.

Herbert can be a picky eater and is hard to keep enough weight on, but he makes up for these by being the hardest worker in the team. When I take him to the line at hook up, I always have to remember who it is I am handling as he will jerk my shoulder out of socket in his excitement if I get lackadaisical in my approach. He loves his job and doesn't hesitate to chastize the dog next to him for being a slacker.

Herbert is a handsome boy and is all muscle. I expect him to continue improving as he grows up. Watch out for him in lead next year. When he decides to go, he speeds up the whole team.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Athletes: Boggle

Boggle was the youngest dog on the Siskiyou team this year. He was only 16.5 months at the start of the race. He has done very well this year but was having trouble with sore wrists which I have found to be very common with young dogs. Boggle ran the first half of the Siskiyou and was still having fun when I decided to leave him at the halfway checkpoint. I figured he has a lot of years ahead of him and there was no need to push him too hard this year. He was very excited to see me 12 hours later at the finish line.

Boggle joined Evening Star Kennel in October 2007 when he and his sisters were about 5 weeks old. They were still nursing and stayed in the pen for a few more weeks with their mom, Detour, who was so excited to wean her hungry brood. Most of Boggle's sisters were very tiny and now have great pet homes. His sister Yahtzee trained with us this year and now lives with Bino Fowler in Oregon.

Boggle was a funny puppy and loved to eat. He inhaled (literally) his food one evening when he was about 8 weeks old. I had to do the doggie version of the heimlich maneuver on him. His tongue had turned blue and I thought I was going to lose him when he finally expelled the one little kibble stuck in his trachea. Twenty seconds later he was screaming and struggling against me to get back to the food pan. That was scary and I am glad that he hasn't done that again. But I do like sled dogs who like to eat.

Boggle has done very well his first year and I expect more good things from him in the future. Hopefully next year he will improve on the leading ability he showed me earlier this year. Keep an eye on this young lad. He's a keeper.