Rob's Blog Archive

May 10, 2015

New Kids on the Block










I built up my kennel to run in the 2008 Iditarod.  Unfortunately, a hip with 1 cm bone spurs kept me out of it that year, but I did run in it during the following year. 

Unlike most mushers who run that race, I keep my dogs for life.  At the time I ran in the race, I had realized that this would mean that I’d end up with a lot of dogs growing old at the same time.  I tried to spread things out as much as I could, but I still ended up with two big clusters.  In 2009, they were the six year olds and the four year olds.  Those of the former who I haven’t lost will turn thirteen over the next six months.  Those of the latter will all turn eleven by the end of August.  Given the ages of my dogs, it is very unlikely that I’ll have everybody one year from now. 

I’m also hoping to try again to skijor the Iditarod Trail this coming winter.  The only dogs from last season I could count on to do this would be my two youngsters, Prudhoe and Gaiya.  Youngsters is relative.  Prudhoe will turn eight in October and Gaiya, my baby, just turned six. 

Even before last season started, I planned on getting new dogs come spring.  I do keep my dogs for life, so who I get is a long term decision.  Beyond that, I am looking to get dogs who really can make it from Willow to Nome---not necessarily racing, but hard headed enough to shake off day to day soreness as well as be comfortable in a new campsite every night.  Basically, I don’t need a good racing dog, but I do need a good working dog.  Getting new dogs is not a simple task. 

And so, when Zev Shvarts, a friend since he ran Race to the Sky in 2008, posted that he’s selling some of his dogs, I dropped him a line.  He said he had two girls he thought I’d like:  At seven years old, Omaha was a little older than I wanted, but she finished the Iditarod on Bob Chlupach’s team.  Lamia, a four year old, was perfect.  Beyond their ages, they’re both big, about the same size as many of my males, so I expect they’ll do quite well on a three or four dog skijoring team. 

We arranged for local hero, Jessie Royer, to bring them down.  I met Jessie just outside of Missoula after she pulled a near all-nighter driving from Shelby to there.  A bit punchy, Jessie was quite rightly proud of the fact that she’s only the fifth woman to break into the top five in the Iditarod (Susan Butcher, Libby Riddles, Dee Dee Jonrowe, Aliy Zirkle, and her).  Jesse also commented that the two girls she brought down were particularly easy to handle, not that that surprised me.  Still, it was nice to hear.

The socializing done, Jessie handed me a gray dog, a black dog, all of their vaccination records, we said good-bye, and went our way home.  She had less than two hours.  I had less than one. 

I had set up houses and tethers for Omaha and Lamia the day before, so I just walked them on a leash from the truck to their new homes.  Like pretty much every dog raised in a racing kennel, they were brought up in a tethered yard, so it took only a minute to figure out their range of motion and that it included the tops of their doghouses.  I’m not sure about all dogs, but Siberians love to lie on top of their houses.  Omaha and Lamia found the roofs of their new abodes quite satisfactory.

I waited a couple of days before doing the first yard time with them.  I wanted to let them adapt at least a little before dealing with the stress of sniffing everybody’s butt and having theirs sniffed by everybody.  Seeing what happened the first time, I’m sure waiting wasn’t necessary.  Me, a new yard, and new dogs around had some small effect, but not enough that the delay made a significant difference. 

It took both two yard time sessions before they realized that everybody gets a treat when they get hooked up to their tethers.  Omaha impatiently waits for hers, hoping I skip a couple of dogs and hook her up.  Lamia follows me around hoping either that I slip up and accidentally give her a treat, or that whomever I do give a treat to drops some pieces that she can scrounge.  She is joining Tempest and Fondue who also do this.  The girls have fit in very well.

Beyond this, however, I’m delighted to see that they have one of the things that I’ve liked the most from the Chlout dogs I’ve had, they have a certain goofball charm.  They smile through everything while still trying to optimize their personal circumstances.  And, optimization has a sense of humor.  They’re still getting used to everybody and everything, but I expect to see them start to play games with me at any moment---Gonja used to love to whack me when I was feeding and had my back to him.  Omaha is thinking about it. 

Starting in 2009 and ending in 2010, I lost four dogs over a six month span including my two housedogs, Dawn and Tenaya.  Toward the end of that period, I got a rescue, Cameo.  Now, Cammer and I haven’t seen eye to eye about a lot of how she behaves.  She’s narcissistic with a bit of a star complex, and has never really been able to pull as well as my racing stock dogs.  She’s not going to be the star in this kennel.  With this, she’s very smart, well adjusted, and very hard headed.  Getting a new pup did wonders to cheer me up.  With her, I really learned how new dogs can fill some of the void losing others leaves me with. 

I lost Ghost, Zappa, Otter, Sima, Vixen, and Jake during a span of nineteen months.  We never forget friends or relatives or dogs we lose.  However, perhaps the biggest thing that helps us cope is an intuitive understanding that we are part of a circle of life.  Omaha and Lamia joined the Silly Lake Pack on April 26, 2015.  Omaha and Lamia, welcome to Silly Lake!

 Rob's Blog Archive Index
Rob's Blog | Writing | The Dogs | About Rob | Mushing Terms | Equipment | Sponsors | Instruction| Videos