Sunday, October 29, 2006

Say hello to the dogfather

Sam comes home tonight! Yippeeee! Unfortunately for some of you, he will not be making his usual stop in Kansas City. This time. But soon. We'd like to be able to make the trip together so I can meet all the fab friends he's told me so much about. I'm also dying to see Jon and Nancy's castle and meet their dogs. So not now, but soon.

Symposium weekend was great fun. Mushers from far and wide showed up to speak and give workshops, mingle and try to sell the latest in mushing trends. I saw the most perfect sled - flexible and lightweight, though sturdy - for just $2,800. I'll add it to my Christmas list. I saw a lot of dog mushers that I knew from Whitehorse and got caught up on all the Yukon gossip. You know, the usual. So-and-so sold this dog to so-and-so. So-and-so's shacked up with this musher...and so goes the drama. The highlight for me was meeting and hanging out with Wes Rau. I call him the dogfather. He's a physical therapist from Oregon who works on sled dogs (humans too, but mostly dogs). I had wine with him and some other musher friends on Friday and I let it slip that I was having ongoing back problems of my own. I have been seeing a PT, went to the doc for many, many tests, had X-rays...the works, but they found nothing. Well hell's bells if Wes didn't flip me on back and clickity click my spine a few times more pain! Unbelievable. I still can't believe it. What a guy. Today I took his spine, knee and hip workshop for sled dogs and brought Bull with me. I found out why Bull crabs to the left when he runs and was able to work on his back and hips a little. Great stuff. Now I can do these simple chiropractic moves on my dogs. Before the workshop was my first member meeting for the Alaska Dog Mushers Association. I got the race schedule and my first event will be a 19-miler on December 3. The ADMA is pretty much a sprint organization, but since we live right on their trails, I figured I should become a member and do some of their races for practice before the long distance events start in the new year. Let's all take a moment and pray for snow.
This evening I was invited to dinner by a woman whose book I reviewed for Mushing Magazine. She's a sprint musher and was in town for the symposium. As it ended up, Ken, Gwen and the whole crew were there so we joined them for some great prime rib and lots of funny tails from the trail. It was a great weekend and I resisted buying anything at the auction and trade fair. Now I'm waiting for Sam's plane after having frantically tried to clean the cabin (I'm the messy one).
So that's it for now from dog central.

Ken (on the left) talking dogs with Todd Capistrant between presentations at the symposium.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Upper deck, comin' up!

It was getting dark so these are kind of crappy. Here is a 180 view from the upper deck plus a pic from the back window. I wish we had some trees on our property. Maybe we'll plant some in the spring.
More later.
Peace out.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Shoe lace... tripped you again

The scene of the latest accident? Me, an axe, a pile of put it together...

Was it a prank I was trying to play on friend John by squirting ketchup all over the snow beside the chopping block?
(Evil laugh)
It actually didn't work. John looked at the 'bloody mess', looked at me and asked 'why is there ketchup all over the ground?'
Foiled again.
Now there's ketchup all over everything.
Spent the day canoodling the dogs and doing some chores around the cabin. One of which was chopping wood, which I love. I didn't chop anything off, don't worry. It's really nice to work outside on these nice, cold, sunny days. I gave the dogs their second dose of worm medicine today. It must taste awful as I had to wrestle them to ground and pry their mouths open to squirt in the thick, yellow liquid. The puppies (Sneaky Pete and Parker), which, let's face it, are a little weird, loved it. They kept snatching the syringe out of my hand and trying to get at the bottle. They really couldn't get enough. Finally at the end I let them lick the syringe clean, kind of like a kid licks the spinners when mum's baking a cake.
This weekend is the big sled dog symposium put on each year by the Alaska Dog Mushers' Association. (I'm a new member, thank you very much) The weekend involves mushers off all ranks, from Iditarod and Yukon Quest champions to novices speaking about everything and anything mushing. There will also be several vet and doggy physical therapy workshops. Should be fun.
Saw a funny bumper sticker today. It said: 'Keep honking, I'm reloading.' Made me laugh all the way home. Gotta love Alaska.
Will run dogs tomorrow despite having tweaked my back. The last training session was a tough one. With the new snow (not enough to actually bring out the sled, however) the four-wheeler is really hard to control. I got stuck a couple times and ended up having to push and pull (and swear) the contraption free. The second time I got stuck, I was off the four-wheeler trying to pull it loose. As soon as the dogs felt it move, they took off. Long story short, I ended up holding on to one handle bar, running beside the four-wheeler and doing to flying leap to get back on. If the Dukes of Hazard rode on ATVs, that is definitely how they would get on them.
Tomorrow I will take a less treacherous route to save my back...and my pride.

Ruffles and Raven (mother and daughter) crammed into one house. Too cute.

The Sneaky One with worm medicine on his face.

Raven and Ruffles with brother Strider looking on in the house next door.
The new kitchen. So much room, not enough stuff to fill all those cabinets.A peace crane garland that friend Becky made for the wedding party now hangs in a downstairs window.

The cabin as it looks today.

From the front.

The dogs' new Astrodome.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ronery. I'm so ronery.

Sam has left for his week-long trip to Indy to photograph the national FFA convention. It's a gig he's been doing for over 20 years. I thought it would be nice to have the cabin to myself for a while but I miss him already. Bull and I have had some in depth political discussions however. He's from the Healy. You can't blame the guy for being a little conservative. I mean, he's missing a front tooth for crying out loud.
It snowed a lot here over the weekend. It's the latest snowfall in 30 years. I'm going to run dogs today but I don't think there's enough snow to get the sleds out just yet. More four-wheeler training for now. I bumped the teams up to nine miles on Friday and they all handled it very well. The only mishap was on the second run when my leaders got a little confused on this new trail and there was a little tangle. I stopped the team and realized that the cable gangline was wrapped around one of the yearlings legs. I unhooked him and tried to free his leg but he kept trying to bite me. He was biting because he was scared not because he was being aggressive. So after a few seconds I knew that I would have to get bitten to get him untangled, so I dove it. My left hand and wrist have a puncture and bruises, but nothing serious. As soon as I got Wylie free he ran around acting like nothing had happened.
I puttered around the house yesterday then split some wood while the puppies played in the snow. They were born in February and live in a covered pen, so all the snow was a bit of a shock at first. Funny stuff.
Let's see...what else? Oh yeah, I cut the tip of my finger off while chopping onions last night. I think it's in the salad. I couldn't find it. I also think it's a sign that Sam shouldn't go away anymore. Last time, I cut my leg with a chainsaw. My finger's fine and I'm expecting another gruesome scar.
Greets to Chris in Oregon. Welcome!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What do you need a comb for?

You don't even have any hair!

If anyone, besides my sister and Krista, can tell me what movie that's from I'll buy you a Coke.

So, yes, I got fingerprinted today. For immigration, not the coppers. In case anyone hasn't read the comments on the previous post: I'm not a common thug (I'm an extraordinary one!), I wasn't nervous, I'm not all thumbs and I'm not thumbing anyone in the FBI...I'm only thumbing Sam. I'm not sure what that means so I'll move on.
The cabin is coming along. I bought a wreath. It's red and festive and hanging on the front door and I love it. I also got a doormat that says 'wipe your paws.' Sam said I should get one for the outhouse that says 'wipe your ass.'
If they don't find you handsome, they should at least find you classy. Good thing Sam’s both.
So I trained dogs again today and am really pleased with the young ones' progress. Bull has proven to be my most reliable leader. Sister runs with Bull but is easily distracted. Birds, sticks, the ground if it's in front of her she's got to check out. I've been running different adult dogs with my second yearling team and have had some really, really bad training sessions as a result. Dogs who are retired but were once great leaders were given to me to use but three now have turned my around on numerous occasions causing serious tangles and great frustration. Finally a couple of days ago, Ken gave me a younger leader to use named Kinga. She had a litter of pups several weeks ago and she needs to get back in shape, so I get to run her until she's fit enough to run with Ken's race team. She's a really consistent leader and has saved me of lead dog woes for the time being. Today I ran Kinga with a yearling named Pikea right out of the yard and they did great together. It's really gratifying to see these young dogs learning the ways of the trail and getting stronger while, most importantly, staying happy. Anyway, here are a few puppy pictures from today's adventure at Windy Creek Kennel.

The black one is Dingo. Dingo is my favourite puppy at the moment. She likes to bite me in the face, but who doesn't?
The little black and white fart is Jack. Jack is the runt in Kinga's (mentioned above) litter. It's all just too cute. The white truck is the dog truck. We finally got the dog box on so I can cart my dogs north to Windy Creek for training. (In case some of you are wondering, the actual truck was formerly known as "Great White." R.I.P.)
And last but not least, the brown dog is Pikea, my superstar yearling. He gets the gold star today for the running the entire six miles, start to finish, in lead. He ducked into the woods a couple times trying to get at some ptarmigan but Kinga kept him in line.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Immigration interview in the women's washroom

Not really. So. Here's the story:
Once upon a time, as in Tuesday, Sam and I went to our highly anticipated immigration interview. For those living under a rock, I am a (proud) Canuck and Sam and I have been working toward getting me a green card so I can live and work here legally. (A musher friend who works for the FBI was the one millionth person to tell me I'm crazy to go from Canada to here, congrats Bruce, but anyway...) In said interview they ask personal questions about your relationship to make sure that it's legitimate. We were warned that it could take two hours and that they could ask anything. We were even told by our immigration lawyer that the INS officer could spontaneously phone friends and family during said interview for verification. Even though Sam and I had nothing to worry about, I was still freaking out a little. We made sure we knew each other's family history, favourites, pet name it. I was scrambling the day before to get photos together of Sam and I looking all happy and in love. "I said SMILE, dammit!" (Sidebar: The only picture that was in focus of our one-and-only river trip this summer was of Sam in the back of the canoe pretending to hit me with the paddle, but we still took with us to show that 'see we like to joke around, too.' At least I hope he was joking.)
So we get to the courthouse about 30 minutes before our interview. We were a little too early so we sat in the truck for a while festering about what was to come. After about 10 minutes we leisurely made our way up to the third floor and starting looking for room 314. We found in a minute or so. It was the women's bathroom. WRONG COURTHOUSE!!!
Holy crap. Run, run, run down the stairs, out the door, to the truck. Drive like mad to get the 12 blocks (luckily it was only 12 blocks away) to the FEDERAL courthouse. Go through security. Wait for Sam to take everything but the kitchen sink out of his freakin' pockets to go through the metal detector...he really does jam those pockets FULL. Up to the third floor where the woman was waiting in the hall for us. We still had about a minute to spare and she was very nice. Then the interview began.
Her: "How did you meet?"
Me: "Uh, we met in 2001. I was a journalist in Whitehorse and Sam works for the paper here and we were covering the same assignment."
Then she asked me a whole flurry of good ones like: "Are you a terrorist, communist, nazi, felon?..etc etc
After about five was over!
FIVE MINUTES. All that worry for five minutes. We showed her a few pictures from the wedding, the family visit, building the cabin and that was it. I should have my green card in a few weeks. Crazy.
I've been running dogs every other day and the young ones have really caught on quickly. There are no more tangles, no more fights, no more chewed harnesses or lines. Life is good. Today it was snowing like crazy which had the dogs very excited. When I got back to town (about 10 miles away) it was sunny and dry; no snow, no rain. The sled dog vortex had me again.

Bull and Sister are my two best leaders and I'm looking forward to increasing the distance next week to see what they can do.
Still finishing up details on the cabin. (We're still cooking on a camp stove and have no phone.) But all is well in Fairbanks.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Happy (Canuck) Thanksgiving

Sadly, no turkey for us. Just leftover chicken stew. We're still cooking on a camp stove in the new digs as our range is not hooked up yet. Still lots to do, but loving life in the new cabin. I've been running dogs every other day and keeping busy fixing up the new homestead. Today was the worst and best day of running the dogs so far. The first run was disasterous. I won't get in to all the juicy details, but let's just say it took over two hours to do about five miles, a run that should take about 30 minutes, including stops. The second run however was fantastic. I put Bully up in lead just see what would happen and he was amazing! He didn't know the trails at all and he followed my voice commands perfectly. He worked hard and pulled the whole team from going the wrong way. He's a superstar. His only downfall is that he's old and therefore may not make it through the race season. I rubbed him down carefully after the run with some ointment and he's been snoozing on the couch ever since. I think it's a good thing that I've coddled him so much because now he trusts me totally and wants to please. It really showed today. Sister and Hazel were also in lead and did really well. Strider, well, Strider is fat and therefore out of shape. He's getting there however and I'm sure he'll be fine with more training. The yearlings all did well today with exception of a few tangles, chewed necklines and a fight or two. To be expected. Anyway, Sam and I got called for our immigration interview which will be on Tuesday. They'll ask us a bunch of arbitrary questions to see if our marriage is ligit (too ligit to quit)before doling out a greencard to yours truly. Toothbrush? Blue. Gitch? Briefs. How did we meet? Too drunk to remember. Where did we honeymoon? Too drunk to remember. What's your name again?....
Of course, I'm kidding. We didn't honeymoon. But if we did, lord knows I'd be drunk. Kidding again. Stoned, actually. I'm just kidding, mum. I remember the speech. 'Hugs, not drugs.' Stoned hugs are nice though. Yes, I'm kidding.
Anyway, must go. Gotta go smoke a big, fat....Gotta go clean the fridge. Clean the fridge.
Greets to Meg in Baghdad. Wear that kevlar! I'm wearing mine.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Welcome home

Well, we did it. We moved into our new house. We are home. There is some seriously good karma in our new cabin and I love it, love it, love it. It's so us. So cozy. It has what the French call a certain 'I don't know what.' We are so happy. The summer of stress is over and we are home. Ok, so there's still a mountain of work to do before winter, but we're in. We got snow here on Friday and man, did I panic. With no dog yard to speak of, snow is the enemy right now. We still have to clear a trail from the yard to the main trail AND build a dog shack before the real snow comes. The dog shack's main purpose will be a warm shed for me to work on my sleds and cook food for the race dogs. (The thought of horse meat and chicken skins thawing in our new cabin, didn't sit well with either of us, so we're building a shack for the gear, food, sick dogs etc.) Anyway, I'm using the computer at the paper and Sam's boss is hovering. (We have no internet at home yet....add that to the list.)
Happy belated birthday to Sam's sis in Wichita, Rebecca. She's around 38, I think. That's how old she looks anyway.
Pictures of the new cabin filled with our crap to come. (Sam's crap is now our crap by default. I, of course, have no crap to speak of. All my things are treasures. Winkity wink)
You all had me at hello (tear).
Sam took these photos . The shot of the aurora is on Saturday night (our first night in the house...I told you there was good karma) and was taken from our balcony. The one below was taken Saturday morning after the snow looking down from the balcony on the Nomad and Hazel Mouse.