Rob's Blog Archive

August 11,  2019

Last Bitch Standings










Mitzi amazed me.  At fifteen and a half, she would still jump onto and off of her dog house.  The following winter, her movement was worse than the year before, but she clearly enjoyed life.  The best thing I could do for her was make sure she had a really thick layer of straw in her house.  A soft warm bed that she could and did rearrange let her rest comfortably.

Mitzi was semi-conscious when I pulled her indoors in mid-April.  She could drink and take drugs, but couldn't stand.   Indoors is better for nursing, but my dogs have always preferred living out in the yard with everybody else.  Mitzi spent the rest of her life in my kitchen, but she recovered enough to enjoy walks and a couple of yardtimes.  Her appetite peaked at half a cup of cottage cheese and had started to fall.  She could sniff around the last time she walked into the clinic and I could say good-bye to the dog I had had the longest. 

With Mitzi's passing,  Daisy was the only surviving member of my 2009 Iditarod team.  Training for the race, I only trusted Daisy to come to the team to be harnessed---I harness my dogs along the gangline.  It wasn't until the following year that I trained the rest of the team to do this.  Of course, with Siberian Huskies, this was before I opened the gate to the fenced yard.

As it ends up, Daisy is the one dog I have who will get iceballs on her footpads.  We have a routine.  I notice a slight hitch in her gait and I stop the team.  She hunches over and pulls the ice from her pad.  When she's done she looks forward, ready to rock and roll.   I yell "Hike," and we're off. 

2010-2013 were great years for everybody.  I ran two pretty equal teams and got tons of mileage in.  However, the dogs from the Iditarod team began passing away in the spring of 2013.  Between June of 2013 and September of 2017, I lost sixteen dogs.   In October of 2017,  I only had Daisy and Mitzi from the Iditarod team.

With just 14 dogs in the kennel, I ran only one team during the 2017-2018 season.  It was the first time since 2006-2007 that I had done that.   During the 2016-2017 season, Daisy was in swing for almost every run.  During the 2017-2018 season, she was in last team position, just in front of the wheel dogs.  She accepted being closer to the sled, but not without an argument.  Rather than coming anytime I called, she'd get close, then take a couple of steps toward the lead, hoping I'd put her there.  During 2018-2019, she didn't argue.

I ran the dogs less during the last two seasons than I had since I started mushing. My hip has bothered me more than I admitted.  That said, I'm optimistic I'll be much better come the start of mushing season this year.  Still, Daisy got to skijor for the first time this past winter. 

I got Daisy when she was just past a year old.  I was training for the 2008 Iditarod.  I asked my mentor, Bob Chlupach, the best way to deal with a dog who hadn't turned two.  Based on what he said, I figured I'd run her until she showed signs of stressing, and then back off.  Daisy never flinched. 

More than most dogs, Daisy has a favorite spot to be scratched, her chest.  When I'm in the yard, I make a point to swing by on my way out, just to scratch her chest and maybe give her an extra treat.    I'm not sure how many more seasons I'll be able to do that, but it's not many.  The moral remains, cherish the living.

Audio:     Last Bitch Standing

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