Thursday, January 31, 2008

Yes, I'm Canadian, get over it

My cousin Aaron said I could put this photo on the blog.It's Aaron, on the right, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Aaron ran into the PM at a hockey game in Ottawa. It's all just so Canadian, I love it. I'm not a big fan of Harper, but the fact that he's so accessible is indicative of Canada. Trusting. That is, not paranoid. How else could the former PM get a pie in the face?
It's different here. In America. That's all I'm saying.
I miss my home and native land.
I miss good beer. And public health care. And Tim Horton's. And hockey-crazed Sens fans. And poutine. And the absence of gun nuts and war mongers. I miss saying toque and having people know what I'm talking about. I miss signs in French. And CBC. DNTO. I miss you Knowlton and Anna Maria! I miss the bumbling Yukon politics and laughing myself to sleep. I miss thinking that ANWR actually has a chance. I miss you, Canada (except Alberta, I don't really miss you.) I'll be home for good some day. Save me a double-double and an apple fritter.

A bucket in the hand is worth none in the woods

Take a look at your hands. What do they say about you? Mine are dirty most of the time. I have several rough, dry patches. I'm right-handed, but always wanted to be left-handed like my dad. Or at least ambidextrous. I wear my watch on my right hand. The top of my left hand has burn marks on it. Every night I get up a couple times to deal with the dogs (dogs in the house have to go pee, or they're too hot, or they want to play, or they whine for no reason - Roy - or they've already peed on the floor and are sloshing around in it) and while I'm up, I stoke the fire in the woodstove. In my semiconscious state, I am clumsy and careless and inevitably burn my hand. The latest ritual burn happened last night and is a big one.
My left thumb has a puckered, white scar all the way down, from tip to base, and is the results of a sugar-bush accident many years ago. I was cutting pipeline at the family maple syrup farm and sliced into my thumb. I staggered through the woods calling for my dad. He wrapped my squirting thumb in duct tape and took me to the hospital. The scar still looks new.
I wear four rings. Two on my wedding-ring finger; the white gold and diamond wedding ring that Sam and I picked out in Anchorage, and a gold band that was my Gran's wedding ring. On my right hand, I wear two rings on my middle finger; a silver ring with an amber dollop, and a gold band that belonged to my other Grandmother, who has since passed. I don't take my rings off very often, only to play my djembe.
Most of the time, my fingernails are dirty, that's why I keep them short. Before I got into mushing, my hands were quite weak, albeit clean. I'd have trouble with the pickle jar and such, but now after a few years of hauling wire-handled, 50-pound buckets filled with water, meat, kibble and dog shit (not all together) my hands are stronger. The first summer I worked as a handler, my hands hurt more than my other also-achy body parts during those first few weeks. I'd wake up in the morning and try to get dressed for another day of dog chores, but most mornings my hands wouldn't work right. They were all crumpled up like little monkey claws. Not anymore, though. I can crack walnuts with these puppies, now.
I can type fast. And play a few songs on the piano.
I have frostbitten my fingers a few times, but not badly. I've shot assignments and worked on the dogs at 20 or 30 below with no gloves on and paid the price. But it's impossible to put ointment on a dog's feet or change a lens with big gloves on. I froze my right hand to a door knob in Circle City, Alaska, a couple years back at 55 below zero. I wasn't wearing gloves. Again, I paid the price. The cost? A layer or two of skin. I take better care of my hands now. I recently spent $120 on a pair of big over-mitts to wear when mushing. They've been totally worth the hefty price.
You know what they say: Warm hands, cold heart...wait a minute...warm hands, cold feet? No, that's not right. Well, whatever, I've got warm hands at least.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

You can't spell funeral without fun

I threatened a reporter today. On the phone. Actually I left a message on his voicemail. Yes, I'm a coward. I told him if he didn't get me the story I was waiting for, to get the business section out to print in five mintues, I was going to slash his tires. Of course I am all about empty threats (and promises), so here I sit still waiting. I can go home when I get this one story. My old copy editor used to say that to me. He'd hover around my desk, sighing with his hands on his hips. "I can go home when you're done," he'd say. I hated it. But now I kind of know how he feels.
It's cold again. It was 44 below zero this morning.
I really have nothing to say.
I have some big news, but I have to wait until I know for sure so I don't jinx it.
Maybe I'll be more inspired tomorrow.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Saving the best for last

I finished! I was last, but I freakin' finished! I'm so happy. So proud of my dogs. Of myself. The trails were very slow with all this new snow, so we were out there for a lot longer than I thought, but we made it. Happy and healthy. I feel like I've been run over by a truck, so I'm going to try and make this short.
The Start.
I was nervous. Especially when, at the drivers' meeting, the trail crew warned about overflow (water) on a creek that was a foot-and-a-half deep. My stomach sank. Oh well, it'll be good training and practice on tough conditions, I tried to convince myself. I had extra boot liners and it wasn't cold out.
Sam helped me get the dogs ready (harnesses, booties etc) and they counted me down. I left 10th out of 12 mushers. They told us at the meeting the course had to be shortened because of the crappy conditions. They cut 20 miles off the second 50, so it was 80 miles total, not 100.
The first 50 miles.
We took off to a modest crowd of spectators and officials and I immediately knew this was going to be harder than I thought. Usually, when my faithful 10-dog team takes off, we're cookin' at 15 or 16 miles an hour. But the snow was so soft (Big snowfall, plus warm weather equals soft trail.) we were immediately just puttering along at a snail's pace. Darn.
Pretty soon, Carol Blevins and Aliy Zirkle (the first and only woman to win the Yukon Quest) passed me. I was last within half an hour from the start. I had to keep telling myself that it was OK. 'My dogs haven't gone this far, so this race is more of a training run,' I'd repeat in my head. It was a beautiful day, the sun was out, my best friends and I were seeing new trail...what could be better?
About 35 miles in, we hit some overflow (not the stuff they warned about, that was closer to the checkpoint) Bully balked a little but pulled the team across. I stopped on the other side to take off the dogs' booties which were now wet and icy. I stopped to snack them and they ate like maniacs. We lollygagged along, through wooded areas, on and off the Chena River and over creeks. We hit the spot with the bad overflow and it had frozen over! Hooray! About four miles from the checkpoint at Angel Creek Lodge, I saw something. It was getting dark, so I wasn't sure if my mind was playing tricks on me. No, the dogs saw it too. It was another team! I hadn't seen one in about five hours. We caught and passed another team. Even though we weren't really racing, it was the boost we needed. The other musher was struggling, so we stayed close together. About a mile from the checkpoint we had to cross an open creek. It wasn't deep but for some reason Bully didn't want to go across. Before I knew what was happening, he turned around on the team and a giant tangle ensued. I ended up dragging the big ball of dogs and my sled through the creek to the other side, where I set the hook, ran down the embankment, through the creek to help the musher behind me get his team through the water. He then came and helped me untangle my dogs. That's what mushing is about.
I got in for my mandatory four-hour layover after a six-hour-and-45-minute run. I know. It took a long time. Right away, I gave the dogs broth, meat and kibble and they ate and drank everything I put in front of them. Perfect! I made straw beds, checked some feet and went into the lodge to dry out gear and eat a cheeseburger. In the lodge I chatted with the other mushers. After a few hours, I went back out to the yard where the dogs were resting. I put ointment on their feet and rubbed shoulders and wrists. They were looking really good. I offered them more water and meat snacks and they ate it all up. I dropped Summer because she was the most tired, but otherwise fine. Sam said she screamed in the truck for the next couple of hours. "How dare you leave me behind!" I'll know next time to just leave her in the team.
We left the checkpoint at 9:06 p.m., right on time. The first 10 miles of our 30-mile run to the finish went by fast. The dogs were flying...or so I thought. Unfortunately, the guy we passed coming into the checkpoint scratched and went home, so soon we were last again.
The run to the finish.
Soon after leaving the checkpoint, the dogs tried to skirt the open creek again, which resulted in me getting dragged face-first through the water. No harm, just a red face and a wet sled.
We got passed soon after leaving the checkpoint by a team but caught up with him again and stayed on his butt for a long time. I thought about trying to re-pass and therefore not be last, but that was selfish. The dogs needed a little break and they don't care if we're last or second last. We gave up the chase and stopped. It was warm night with a glowing moon. I gave the dogs a snack and loved them up until each tail was wagging furiously.
The dogs and I were sore and tired but we were almost there and we knew we were going to finish. We arrived at the finish line shortly after 1 in the morning. Race officials and Sam greeted me but there were lots of other mushers milling around. I was only last by about 15 minutes, so that's not bad considering all the stopping I did. I was on Cloud 9. I snacked and watered the dogs and they gratefully jumped into the truck. We went home to our own beds.
The next morning.
I feel sore but happy. The dogs are a little stiff, but I'm working on that with massage and some free runs and play in the yard. I've unpacked my sled and the truck. Booties, mitts and boot liners are drying by the stove. Sam's homemade pizza with caribou for supper.
In summary, I learned so much on this race and with that knowledge, am looking forward to my next race: The Knik-Goosebay 120 on Feb. 15 and 16.
Congratulations to Rod, Abbie, Aliy and Molly on your great finishes. It was great sharing the trail with you!

Bully and Capiche waiting, waiting, waiting to get going.

Out of the chute.

Coaxing the dogs across an open creek. Sam was on the bridge waiting to cheer me on and take some pics...what a handler!

Feeding time at the checkpoint.

Me signing in at the finish line. We made it! All these photos were taken by Sam. Thanks, honey!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Solstice 100: Bring it on!

I'm trying to be brave. Really trying. But I'm scared. Not scared, nervous. My first 100-mile race is tomorrow. I worked on my sled until 11 last night. New runner plastic, tighter brake, more secure drag, clean sled bag. All my gear is packed. In the sled, which is not yet loaded on the truck. My sled weighs a ton. I've got all my mandatory gear: an axe, snowshoes, cold-weather sleeping bad, cooker, fuel, dog booties. I've got three different kinds of meat for the dogs: liver, beef fat and race mix. I've got kibble, both dry and soaked. There's some food for me and extra clothes and boot liners (there's open water, I hear). I've got extra lines and harnesses and dog coats, even though it's supposed to be warm this weekend. I've got a vet kit and a sled-repair kit. A knife and multi-tool.
The lineup is as follows: Bully and Capiche in lead. Kat and Strider in swing. Sister and Sally. Summer and Hitchcock. And Happy and Hazel in wheel.
I plan to stop after the first 25 miles and give out some liver. Then it's 27 miles to the checkpoint for a mandatory four-hour layover. Depending on how the dogs look coming in, and how well they eat and rest, I might stay longer. Then it's 50 miles to the finish.
I feel like I'm forgetting something. God, I need to calm down. I have to work for a few hours tonight. I guess it's better than sitting around worrying.
I just want to finish, I don't care if I'm last. Just finish with happy dogs. That's my goal.
OK, I'm going out to recheck everything.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Foot shooting and buck passing is their MO

I'm so irritated right now, I could just...spit! Personal relationships vs professional ones. That's what has my knickers in a bunch at the moment. Fucking bureaucracy. Liars. Passive aggression. Son of a...
I know this is all cryptic, so I'll stop. These race people need to get their heads out of their asses. That's all I'm saying.
In other news, I got stalked yesterday out on the trail with my team by three military helicopters. At first I thought I was going crazy. 'Why are they so close?' I thought as my dogs trotted over fields, ponds, bogs and through the woods, only to pop out of the bush and see the helicopters hovering there. Waiting.
'Oh Jebus,' I thought. 'Maybe they're looking for some crazy murderer who escaped from FCC! What the holy Christ is going on??!'
I found out later from Libs that the army was practicing their helicopter tracking skills. Huh? Yeah. So, perhaps they were stalking me. For practice. In case a terrorist tries to make a quick getaway on a dog sled.
This country cracks me up.

Oh yeah, we got eight inches of snow last night. Hooray!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

This is how we roll at nearly 40 below

Yesterday it got down to 37 below zero. At that temperature, everything hurts. The trucks, the dogs, and me. Chores are labour intensive because you have to wear extra layers on top of your extra layers. The dogs were cold. I fed them extra food and fat and added more straw to their already-packed houses. Eventually, I looked outside and couldn't take it anymore. Inside they came, eight at a time. Yes, it was chaos but boy, were they happy. And so was I. Today it has warmed up considerably and I'm working on my booties for the weekend race before I load the dogs up to go the vet for rabies shots. You have to have current vaccinations to race. I don't want to get into it, but I don't really believe in vaccines for dogs or babies. But, thems the rules, so here we go. Just a little prick. But enough about

Um, yeah, brrr.
Hazel giving Roy a smooch.

Hitchcock and Capiche on the table...bad manners...

Hitchcock on the counter....VERY bad manners...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Freezing the balls off my brass monkey

"Typical distance musher..."
This was said by race marshal Mike McCowan, with a shake of his head, to the crowd after I left the start chute in yesterday's race. I got to the race an hour early to get ready but futzed and dilly-dallied and chatted and then before I knew it, they were announcing 'Seven minutes until the start of the mid-distance class' over the loud speaker. Crap! So, I almost missed my start time but as the announcer was counting down 'Three! Two! One!' I burned it across the line and I was off. Long-distance mushers are notoriously late for everything and Mike knows that I'm an aspiring Quest musher. Well, I may not be ready for 1,000 miles yet, but I have the late-thing down pat.
There was only me and another guy in the 20-mile division yesterday but, wait for it, I won! Hooray! The dogs finished the course in an hour and 40 minutes. Not bad for distance dogs. I was looking over my shoulder the entire time as was Capiche up in lead. She knew. But we beat the guy by 13 minutes. After the race, Sam and I turned the team around and I went back out and ran the 10 miles home. Today, it's 37 below zero at our house, so no training. Tomorrow if it warms up, I'll take the dogs out for a 40-mile run. This weekend is the 100-mile race in Two Rivers and we are signing up for that one. After that, it's the Knik-Goosebay 120 in Wasilla at the beginning of February. Anyway, this was a good training race and good start to the race season. I had Summer and Kat, my new dogs, in the team and they were great. All the dogs were great, in fact. And with my new gear, despite it being 20 below F (-29 C) I was toasty warm on the runners. About two miles from the finish a musher in the open sprint class whizzed by me on the trail (he wasn't in my division, so I didn't care). He was whistling up his dogs to go faster. Short, loud blasts. And his dogs responded. When he passed us, my dogs responded too, and despite having just run 18 or so miles, they picked up the pace. We lost the guy on the hill coming into the field at the Mushers Hall, so I tried to whistle like that guy had done. I can't whistle like that, so I resorted to squeaking in a high-pitched voice to mimic a whistle. "KKWWEEEEK! KWEEEEEEEK!" It worked, and the dogs once again picked up the pace to the finish line. I just hope no one heard me. I sounded like a cross between a howler monkey and the dying cat parade.

Coming across the finish line. 'KWEEEEEEEEEK!'

Frosty love. My handler/husband Sam.

My eyelashes froze together at one point and I rode for a mile or so with one eye glued shut. A big thank you goes out to Libby, Theresa and Owen, and John and his family for coming out to the start to cheer me on.

Sam leading me to the start. Photo by John Wagner.

Fellow musher Alyssa helped me with my bib. I couldn't get my freakin' parka done up and they were counting me I look like I'm freaking out? I was. Photo by John Wagner.

Sam, the best handler ever, helps me hook my dogs up. That's Summer he's got in this pic. Photo by John Wagner.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

As cold as my withered, black spirit

Gall darnit! The weather has turned her back on me once again. It's cold and getting colder as we type/read. My race, my first race of the season, is tomorrow. But the cutoff temperature is 25 below. (Wimps!). The high (yes, I said high, not low) tomorrow is supposed to be 30 below. I'm taking a wild stab in the dark here, but I think the race will be canceled. I really hope not, as some friends and their families were going to come out and watch the start. My next race is next weekend and that's a hundred-miler out of town and a little less fan-friendly.
I don't mind the cold that much. My cutoff for training the dogs is between 30 and 35 below F. When it's colder, the dogs are more susceptible to injuries and frostbite on their, er, sensitive parts. I have sheath protectors for the boys and belly coats for the girls, and booties for all when it's that cold. I took the dogs on a 20-mile run at 20 below yesterday and Hitchcock's feet didn't do so well in the cold but everyone else held up well.
Me? Well, I do pretty well in the cold. I bought a new parka and some overboots called Neos and life is good at 30 below. For a musher, finding a good cold-weather system is difficult, especially when it comes to hands and feet. I have some specially-made gear just for mushing and a lot of heavy-duty wool, fleece and synthetic layers underneath my insulated bibs and parka.
Last year on the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest, it got down to 60 below for several days. Yes, this is the race I eventually want to do. No, I don't know how you not die at 60 below. (Trying to stay warm at those temperatures is fruitless.)
The nice thing about the cold is the night sky. When it's clear, the stars seem to pop and the northern lights are spectacular. The dog poop freezes quickly and rock-hard, allowing me to perform my kick-and-pick method. The dogs are nestled deep in their straw-filled houses.
Let's cross our fingers for a little bit of warmth. At 24.5 below we race, 25 below we don't.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Only this, and nothing more

There are few birds that have piqued my interest like the raven. I like Blue Jays and Cardinals. They're OK to look at. I like the bird that on spring mornings would sit outside my window in Maitland, ON, and make the most calming 'dee-doo' sound. That bird song always made me happy. I still don't know what kind of bird it was...maybe a chickadee? Regardless, those pretty, colourful songbirds are nice, but as of late, I've become a little obsessed with ravens. And not just because I've recently become reacquainted with Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem.
I remember my first winter in the Yukon back in 1999. It had just snowed and I was standing at the window of my basement suite looking in the backyard at my landlord's German Shepherds fighting with some ravens over meat scraps. I was amazed at, first of all, how big the ravens were, and secondly, how very brazen they were being with a pair of dogs that outweighed them by over a hundred pounds. They say ravens are the smartest birds. They are associated with many myths and much folklore and are an integral part of First Nations culture. Around here, many perceive ravens as simply scavengers and nuisances. You can't drive through Fairbanks on a winter day without seeing someone's garbage strewn about with a heap of ravens digging in, searching for tasty morsels. By the way, a group of ravens is called 'a murder'. A group of common ravens is called 'an unkindness'.
See? See what I mean? It's all just so interesting. They're elusive and oh, so misunderstood.
They play, they ponder and they remember. There are always ravens around my dogyard. They peck away at frozen bowls while the dogs watch them. Hazel will bark, bark, bark at one or two ravens that get too close to her circle but then another flies in and another, and inevitably, Hazel retreats into her house and the ravens have won. They pick over the snow where she has spilled her kibble-and-meat supper and they steal her caribou bones. At least once a day, I'm hoofing it through the woods looking for bowls that the ravens have carried off.
A few weeks ago, I watched a nature show on PBS about ravens. It said that they help wolves by flying over the forest, looking for weak or young moose. When they find one, they fly back to the wolf pack and signal that an easy meal awaits and the wolves gear up for a hunt. Since the ravens don't actually do the killing, they need the wolves. They fly overhead, showing the carnivores where the prey is. Once the wolves kill said prey, they have their fill and leave the rest for the ravens to pick over. It's teamwork, of a most interesting sort.
When I was running dogs on the Denali Highway, a raven followed us for several miles. It's common for them to key in on dog mushers because they know that eventually the team will stop and get fed and they'll be spilled food to feast on. But the longer the raven followed, I started to get nervous. What if I was the slow, weak prey that the raven was scoping out to go back and tell the wolves? It got dark and I couldn't see the bird anymore. I could hear the telltale squawk and coo, however, and I forced myself to think about something else.
Ravens: They are associated with death. With life. They are macabre. They are animated. They are intelligent beyond comparison in the ornithological world. Next time you see one, stop and look. There is more to the raven than meets the beady eye.

Sure enough, after writing this, I looked out in the dog yard and saw ravens. Here are some photos I took, in my PJs and parka, of ravens at our house. I made them black and white because the light was so blue and crappy.

Ravens are also used in symbols and logos across the north. These are from Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters in Whitehorse.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

They gotta let it burn. Or do they?

Thursday as I was driving down the Steese through Fox, on my way to the White Mountains up the Elliot Highway, I saw a fire. Plumes of smoke, both gray and black, rising from a cabin engulfed in flames. I thought it was a prescribed burn. You know, set on fire on purpose for some reason or another. I thought that only because there were people standing around watching it and no fire trucks in sight. I kept going and when I came out of the bush the next day I found out it was not a controlled fire, it was someone's home burning to the ground. The volunteer fire department, just two miles away, responded when the call came in and the blaze was just a small, smoldering spark in the garage. But they turned around and thus the fire grew quickly out of control and destroyed the dwelling. The fire department turned around because the cabin was on the wrong side of the highway. The cabin was 180 feet outside the fire district. The cabin owners don't pay taxes because they live outside the district and therefore don't qualify for fire service. I understand that the fire fighters' hands were tied. But seriously, they were there and they could have saved the home. They had the equipment, they had the water, but they turned around and went back to the station and the home is gone as a result. I know there has to be a line, a boundary. But how can the firemen and women sleep knowing what happened. I think about it at night and I have nothing to do with it. Apparently, for those outside the fire district, they can request the fire department put out the fire and be billed for it later. But, according to this home owner, the fire department never offered this option, one that he would have gladly taken to save his home. How horrible.
Of course, I'm assuming that the fire and the owners were all on the up-and-up. That is, that it wasn't some sort of fraud.
I know the fire department were just doing what they were told, but at some point, being a human being has to trump the bureaucracy. Doesn't it?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Just another post about me and my dogs

I took the dogs (shocking!) to the White Mountains for a couple days and it was fan-diddly-astic. The weather was a balmy five below Fahrenheit, about minus 20 Celsius, the sky cleared up at night and the aurora came out. I mushed 35 miles, camped at one of the BLM cabins and then did another 15 miles this morning. The dogs were amazing and got some great camping experience. We didn't see any wildlife but caught an amazing sunrise this morning on our way out. I just kept thinking 'This is why I mush dogs.' All the fiery-warm colours and the rich light on the snowy trees with the Alaska Range dotting the horizon made me feel all warm and fuzzy. I stopped on a ridge to soak it in and snap some photos before the dogs popped the hook and I had to dive for the sled. Serenity and chaos all at once. That's dog mushing.
Peace.Sister cooling off her face in the snow.

Best leaders ever.

Me! I love me.

So much beauty it'll make you cry.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I am stuck on Alaska, 'cause Alaska's stuck on me

Happy New Year! 2008. Wow. Crazy. My New Year's resolution is to be a better person...hahahaha! Just kidding. I've resolved not to make any lame resolutions. I am surrounded with such good people here (Sam, Libby, Theresa, Becky, Erin...) that I can't help but be better, so there. There is always room for improvement, yes, but I am who am. In a word: vivacious. Oh wait, I mean rowdy. No, maybe nutty. Sigh. Pick one.
So this week I've been running the dogs every day. It's been a mix of long and short runs with my 'A' and 'B' teams. That right, I have enough dogs to field two teams now. I got those three new pooches from Patty and they are amazing. Kat, the Susan Butcher dog, has surpassed all my expectations so far. She is so strong it's scary. She's all business and so far, a superb leader. Summer is a hard working, honest dog that loves to run loose and actually comes when she's called. A real sweetheart, she is. Sipsi is the yearling and is eager in harness but is young and needs a little discipline. She's adorable and eats like an alligator. She is also very good when loose and loves to play.
I'm not sure what races I'm doing, my plan changes every day. My first is this weekend. It's just a short 20-miler that I'll use for training. I think I'll head south at the end of January for the Tustumena, but am not sure if I'll do the 100- or 200-mile version (the races offers both). I would really like to go to Haines Junction, Yukon, for the Silver Sled 100-mile in March. It looks like a lot of fun. Who knows?
Sneaky Pete is out for the season with a foot injury. He's getting lots of couch time to help with the recovery. It's a disappointing loss for the team as he was my up and coming superstar, but that's the way it goes.
Anyway, here are a heap of photos from the past week.

We went out to a bonfire in Two Rivers for New Year's. Lots of high-powered fireworks. It was a little scary at times (like when a flaming, sparking, sizzling firecracker came shooting into the crowd, ricocheted off the house and back into the crowd) and I was worried I might become a statistic, but all was well and no one got hurt.


The big boom at midnight. As you can see I suck at firework photos, but in my defense, I was four beer in and had no tripod.

The boys setting up for the big show. Yee haw!

Look up, look waaay up. Ella was pretty ambivalent to all the noise and lights.

The girls. Becky, Erin, Rachel and moi.

Kat, the latest and greatest at Spitfire Kennels.

Sipsi, the yearling.

Summer. Her eyes are golden.

Hitchcock. Always with the woo-wooing.

Gus. Mr. Manager.

Roy in his favourite chair with his favourite toy.

Ruffles gets no respect, no respect, I tell ya.

Roy and Parker frolicking in the lower yard.