This site is dedicated to my sled dogs, their well being and their care while we train for and run the 2007 Yukon Quest 300 dog sled race. Particularly it is dedicated to the memory of Talbot and Rocket, two of the most amazing lead dogs ever to hit the trail, now gone to better trails.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Well now that winter is drawing to a close, (although with the amount of snow we have I am not sure winter will be over till June), things are finally happening in the kennel in terms of getting the dogs out. Life with twins just is such a busy place and with working at a job away from home as well, it is challenging to get out with the dogs. Nonetheless, I am now running them to work and back each day which I really enjoy and so doe they!!! It makes for an early day, I have to be up at 5 to be out of the house by 5:30 and then out of the yard by 5:50-6:00. Really though, it isn't hugely diffeent than getting up at 4:30 to drag the generator out of the house so that I can plug in a block heater to get a vehicle going for 6:30. I usually don't sleep after that, so I might as well be up and out enjoying the fresh air. The trip to work takes about 45-50 minutes with 6 dogs, a bit slower than I used to do it running 8, but I don't really care as I am just out to have fun and the speed will pick up as the dogs get in better shape. I have six dog houses set up in a fenced storage compound at work, so I don't have to worry about being there every two hours during the day to drop the dogs as I used to do when I kept them in the trailer at work. Ultimately this will be my main source of transport to and from work next winter, as it is much more healthy for me and saves enormously on the fuel bills and wear and tear on cars and generators etc.
Sadly, since my last update (months ago), Maui has passed away. She had a tumour removed a few years back and it reoccurred. At 14 years old, I did not think it right to put her through the discomfort and pain of another procedure only to have it reoccur in another year or two. It was a sad day indeed for us, but we can be thankfull that she is not in pain and left us while she still had some measure of dignity. She has also left the kennel with some amazing offspring who are showing all her character and just as importantly her remarkable talent and confidence as a leader.

Well, I hear my two little angels have awoken from their afternoon nap and are more than likely feeling hungry. I'll deal with spelling and grammar later:>:>:

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Saturday, July 05, 2008


















Back in the Harness??

Life 8 months after Sarah and Adelaide’s birth.

Well it has indeed been a long time since I have done any posting, partially due to not having an enormous amount of time for computer work and also because we have been living back at the kennel since April with no internet access at home. However, there is a sattelite dish sitting in the front entry with all the attendant parts to hook us up to internet at home, but we just haven’t gotten around to having it set up.

First: Life with 8 month old “twinfants” (has it really been that long??) It isn’t the nightmarish ordeal that we were often lead to believe it would be by some other parents of twins….not by a long shot!!!! We are fortunate that Adelaide and Sarah are happy contented babies, easy to please and both have very good natured dispositions. They sleep through the night (most nights) and after Heather nurses them in the morning and goes off to work they often fall back to sleep till late in the morning. This is my opportunity to get the yard work done with the dogs and any other chores I can fit in around the yard. (Baby monitors are a miracle of modern technology, I can hear them breathing when I am out in the kennel and the other day I could hear a wasp by their crib…too bad for the wasp) Lately they have been waking up happy and then playing in their exersaucers (for any of you that don’t know what an exersaucer is, I suggest you go to the “toy’s “r”us” website and check it out:>:>:>) till I have Heather’s lunch ready and then off we go to see Mummy for their noon meal. Afternoons are pretty much dedicated to play time and once the mail is picked up and a hanfull of other little town chores done, that’s what we do. I put a sheet out on the living room carpet and let them play with their toys and often Papa’s moustache, nose, hair etc. It is a wonderfull time of the day for me as I get to interact with them on their level of activity and see all the day to day changes that occur. They aren’t crawling at all, as they seem to have figured out their own method of getting from point A to point B. Both of them have figured out how to lay on their backs and arch their bodies, supported only by the back of their head and their feet. They then kick off with their feet in the desired direction of travel, usually gaining 3-4 inches of distance at a time. I don’t suggest that you try this at home, as when I did, I found it to be quite hard on the back when you land with a loud “thud”!! It doesn’t seem to hurt them tho, as they are much lighter and more flexible than their parents are. Now, some would say that is just plain weird that they would do that, I just put it down to a highly developed set of problem solving skills!!! Often we have a nap for a while before Mummy gets home and the feeding routine starts all over again. Heather usually nurses them for a while when she arrives home while I get supper for both us and the babies…. Next interesting adventure….feeding time. We bought two booster chairs that strap on to a kitchen chair and have a tray that attaches in front of babies. Dinner for the girls usually consists of two pureed vegetables, pablum and a bit of pureed fruit. It is remarkably colourfull to look at their bibs and faces (sometimes our faces too) when supper is over, especially if Sarah decides to suck her two fingers in between spoonfuls or Adelaide decides to have a conversation in “raspberries” with one of us when she has a mouthful of food!! Wellington, Heathers Springer Spaniel, has figured out that feeding time for the babies is a good time for him to be on the alert for stray bits of food that might come his way. Babies have figured out that they have Wellingtons undivided attention at this point and reach out their sticky gooey fingers to grab his ears and fur, making it very difficult to keep their attention on the activity at hand. Oh well, it is family time at it’s best. The rest of the evening is dedicated pretty much to babies and possibly watching a movie etc and bed time for them comes at about 9:30. Depending on their level of activity during the day and evening and a variety of other unknown factors, they often just drop off to sleep quickly…but then sometimes not!!! On occasion one or the other decides that it is party time and sleep is just not part of the program. This can have several effects, ranging from the other baby waking up and joining in or getting upset and crying which sometimes causes a tandem crying fest. Often (believe it or not) one of them will be partying away, trying out their newfound ability to vocalize vowels and consonants together, interspersed with crying bouts and the other just sleeps contentedly through it. As I sit here typing, I can hear Adelaide chattering away and practicing her new found ability to stick out her tongue!!! Sarah is sound asleep.

Soon, (July 28), I will have to return to my employment with Parks Canada. People have asked me how I like being a “stay at home Dad”, (I prefer to just think of myself as a parent) and I have always replied “GREAT, I wish I could do it forever”. I often (months ago) would throw in the caveat “ ask me in early July, I may be singing a different tune”. Well, here it is early July and I am far from singing a different tune, on the contrary, I am enjoying this period of time being home alone with the babies probably more than any other time in my life. I can’t really explain exactly why, nor do I care to for the most part, just suffice it to say that this is the most rewarding, happy time in my life.

Ok, so the title of this post is “Back in the Harness??” and since this blog is primarily dedicated to the dogs, I guess some explanation is due. The dogs are doing well and have survived this long period of relative inactivity (for them that is) just fine as far as I can tell. I had pretty much figured out ahead of time that when the babies arrived there would be little time to run them the first winter and was content with that. They have had the best day to day care and feeding possible, given that most of the winter has been dedicated to learning the roll of new parents and finishing the addition to the house, (cabin indeed…… not any more, especially since the arrival of Heathers furniture from Ontario in early May). We were able to get out a few times with them and once even loaded seventeen dogs, two babies and all the attendant gear that both need for a fun day of dog sled rides at the Beringia center. However, it will soon be time to get back in the harness and resume where we left off, albeit at a modified level.

The younger dogs (Haley’s two litters and Pixies litter) are quite ready to start their careers as serious sled dogs at this point. Balancing babies and dog activities is a challenge that is looming around the corner, but I know we can do it. I would still like to run the Quest 300 and possibly eventually the Quest itself, however that is not on the radar screen for this year unless something totally unexpected occurs. (Winning the lottery would be one such unexpected thing, however, I hear you have to buy tickets to have a chance at that;>). I would like to spend the winter training the young dogs along with the older dogs and bring them to a point where they (and I ) can do a 100 mile race by spring. Depending on how things go, I would like to have them ready to run the Percy de Wolfe Junior dog sled race in March. Now, contrary to how the name sounds, it is not a race for Junior Mushers, (Right…I bet you were thinking that I figure my daughters are such overachievers that they would be ready to race by next spring, right! Hah fooled you, didn’t I ? Anyone knows that you have to be out of diapers before you can race or they will freeze to your bum:>:>:> So, next year….) but rather a shortened version of the Percy itself. Instead of going to Eagle and back from Dawson, the Percy Junior goes from Eagle to 40 mile and back (100-110) miles total. I think it is a manageable goal for a few reasons, one being that I have quite a few young dogs to train and a 100 mile race might be more possible than a two or three hundred mile race. The other main reason is that I am not sure how much time I will be able to devote to training the dogs this winter as Sarah and Adelaide (and Heather:>:>:>) will need my time too. Hopefully we will find ways to spend time with the dogs and babies both. If I keep my goals reasonable, I feel that it will be enjoyable and fun for all, rather than frustrating and no fun for anyone at all. Sarah and Adelaide have had their first dog sled ride, just a short one with Mummy holding them in their lap in the basket. It put them to sleep!!!

Check back soon as I am going to try to keep a bit more regular posting schedule even if I do have to type it at home and go to town to do the posting.

Last but not least, thanks again to everyone, family and friends alike who have supported Heather and I and the Babies in ways too numerous to mention over the last year. Your generosity, support and encouragement have been beyond words in helping us to adjust to this new life we have chosen.


Bye for now. Sean

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Well now that the lakes are frozen and we can't chase float planes again till spring, we turn our attention to our canine friends. Now when you watch this little video clip, it may just appear that Taz is an exceptionally smart dog....Right??? Well this is only partially true... it is also in part due to Taz's diet, a large portion of Icy Water Arctic Char. Yep folks no kidding, its brain food, and not just good for your coat. So Jon... look out at the next CHT race, the TAZ is definitely on her way:>:>:>:>:>

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

It has been a tumultous month, but we have finally landed back in Haines Junction and are settling into our temporary home fairly well. We left Kamloops in a rush with just over two hours notice that there was a plane on it's way to pick up Heather and the Babies to transfer them to Whitehorse General Hospital. A minor panic ensued as we had to pick up car seats for the babies to be in on the plane. Fortunately we had searched out what we wanted for car seats the day before, so it wasn't a big problem other than the time crunch with a medevac jet on it's way. I was fortunate to be able to make it out of Kamloops that night and make the late flight to Whitehorse the same evening and was reunited with the rest of my family at about 1:15 am on Tuesday. A couple of days later our pediatrician told us we were ready to leave.... well maybe for him we were ready to leave!!! It was a bit of a daunting thought to be taking these two babies home to a place we didn't know and be all of a sudden...parents. Prior to this, Adelaide and Sarah had had constant monitoring, feeding and care regardless of our prescence. Nonetheless, we made our way hom eon Thursday and have been figuring things out as we go along. It is now a week since we came home and with the assistance of friends, family and the local nursing station staff, we are making our way through parenting 101 with reasonable success. Sarah and Adelaide are now more than a pound heavier than their birth weight, so we seem to have the feeding part of things sorted out for now. We are learning to do things a bit more efficiently each day and the fine art of napping is becoming an imperative to us. We have a great deal to be thankfull for, healthy babies, a supportive family and friends and a community that is very excited about these two babies. I can't thank everyone who has helped us enough and when Heather asked what we could possibly do to thank people appropriately, the only answer that I could think of was..." be the best parents that we can so that hese girls are a positive addition to this community". I can't upload pictures from home, but I will do so at first oppurtunity.

Cheers for now.

Sean

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Friday, November 23, 2007


It's a bit of a quiet day here today, catching up on paper work and other details, Heather has been napping the last hour or two, letting her body heal from the surgery and preparing to go up for the 5 oclock feeding and then again maybe at 8 pm. Now I have a bit of time and since there seem to be quite a few people following this blog, I thought I would share a little piece of the Yukon with you. This is what we do for fun on a Sunday Morning...chase float planes down the lake and into the sky. :>:>:>:> Yes we are an odd lot us Yukonners, given to all kinds of mischief when we get a chance, but always there to help each other when the need arises. It would be nice if everyone reading this could come for a visit and a flight over the mountains to experience the beauty that surrounds us there, but I know that is not possible, Hopefully this little video will suffice to give you a taste of the Yukon. I think it will be a great place for Adelaide and Sarah to grow up, no lack of places to explore and things to keep young minds active and indulged. I am sure, with all the support we are getting while we are away, that they will have lots of supportive adults and friends to help see them through lifes curves and twists on those occasions when Mum and Dad don't have the answers.

Enjoy this little piece of the Yukon that we want to share with you.

Sean





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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Life in the Nursery

We go up to be with the babies a couple of times a day and are learning to change, bathe and feed them and although we would dearly love to be home right now, it is a good oppurtunity for us to learn as much as possible from the nurses in the Intensive care Nursery. It seems there are a million or two tricks that they know and it is hard to absorb all they try to impart. Heather and I are getting caught up on rest, which some say we should enjoy as it won't last........ The next leg of this adventure is to have the family transferred to Whitehorse General Hospital till the girls are feeding without a tube. At present they take about half of their feeding from a bottle, or Mum and the rest through a feeding tube. This is, we are assured, normal for premature babies at their stage. I see changes on what seems like a daily basis, Sarahs' chin seems to be filling out and she seems more alert and observant the last day or two. It is really fun to see their facial expressions and the way they move their arms and legs, I wonder what it must be like to be in there and have these two people come and change and feed you a few times a day. They seem like quiet, happy babies, hope that doesn't change.... well the happy part anyway:>:>:>:>:>

Cheers

Sean

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Seems to me that this husband of mine is having way too much fun blogging about our new daughters that I just HAD to get in a few words of my own!! ahhhhh...he DOES have the right to be a proud daddy. These two little bundles are truely adorable & I find myself completely in love! I can hardly wait to get them home to the Yukon to show them off to Auntie Laura & Auntie Stacie along with all of our other dear friends!!

It's funny....I've been so excited about getting them home to Ontario in the spring to meet all of their cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Grandee & Grandad, but I just can't wish our days away... I'm loving every moment we have to snuiggle them while they are still tiny...everyone says that they'll be off to school & dating boys in the blink of an eye!! Look out boys, I'm one protective Mummy!!! ;)

Speaking of cousins in Ontario, Sarah Alexanda, you are sure to be pleased with your newest cousins!! Now remember, no favourites allowed ;) Sarah Grace shares you name but Adelaide Anne is just as precious! They BOTH have been asking about you & say they are really excited about taking you dog mushing with their very own team!!!!! Now THAT is a day I look forward to, having my nieces & nephews playing in the Yukon snow with their Northern Cousins!!!!!

To my Ontario friends & family.....who would have that I would ever find the love of my life & land on my feet with a family of my own? I though it was a dream that was a long time lost, yet here I sit, married to my best friend & Mummy to the two most beautiful babies ever born!!!! Though I miss you all with ever day that passes, I know that I am home now & Ontario has become a place to visit...which we'll do as soon as we can!! What better reason than to show off my family!!

To my Northern Familly.............We'll be home soon!!!! God, I miss you!!! & remember girls...have the Kilkenny on ice :):):)

Love to all! Hay....I'M A MUM !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Well .......Aunt Tori sent an odd phone message today, something about this site being dedicated to dogs and now all there is is baby pictures and how lifes priorities change...Well Aunt Tori, what you don't realize is that Heather and I never stop scheming about ways to keep mushing dogs. Soooooo..... the video on this post is us in serious training mode with Adelaide and Sarah's new lead dog London....that is, of course, training in between visits to the nursery to change diapers, bathe babies, read Dr Zeuss books and of course take lots of pictures:>:>:>:>

Enjoy

PS Thanks to Hans and the staff ( especially Janet, Londons personal tailor) at Duffies Pet Supplies/Tanzilla Harness in Whitehorse for Londons custom made attire.

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Guess what...???

More baby pictures...what a surprise right??? I think that is a statutory right of new parents and hey you always have the option to log off this site:>:>:>

Enjoy

Sean and Heather





So, one of the nurses made this nice card for the babies as they have been cleared for being transfered to Whitehorse General Hospital, we are now just awaiting a transfer there. The nursing staff in the Intensive Care Nursery have been so helpfull and kind to us.....Thanks:>>



















Right, so here is Adelaide once again giving the world the "high five"...or is she just saying "nooooooo Daddy no more pictures, your boring people....."
Here's Mum and .... ok so that is happening, yes Adelaide and Sarah do look enough alike that occasionally if we don't look at name tags, we get them mixed up.....I doubt that is an uncommon situation for new parents of twins and I am sure if these two litle ones have much sense of humour, (which I am sure they will), they will make life interesting for us.....
No Adelaide and Sarah are not joined together by a tube , that is Sarah's feeding tube which is laying on the bed at Adelaide's head. Their hair looks to be very fair coloured, possibly even blond, I wonder if it will change colour.
Right.... so you have to entertain yourself somehow in Kamloops when you have some time on your hands and it is Christmas season...... (Well almost)We got our best presents ever.just alittle early......
No we didn't put Adelaide in a Christmas Stocking... she wouldn't fit, so we just draped it over her.








No it isn't the same picture as above, just another high five from Adelaide, which is funny as her sisters name sake dog "Sarah" at home in the kennel gives some pretty good high fives...
The rest of the card that Evelyn made for the girls...Thanks

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I haven't been able to upload photo's from the computer that my sister Maureen left for us, but it has been so nice to have the use of it in our room and makes being away from family and friends at this time much more bearable. Adelaide and Sarah are doing well, very normal for babies who are 6 weeks premature. Tonight we give Sarah her first bath ( not actually her first, but the first one we will give her) Cindy, their nurse on duty last night showed us how to bathe them, so tonight we get to try it on our own. This will be one of many firsts I am sure and the difficulty for us may be disagreeing on who should be the one who gets to do it........ It is pretty amazing to hold these two little beings in our arms and dream about the day we get to take them home and all the changes they will bring to our lives. It is difficult at times to remember that they were born six weeks early and that, had things unfolded differently, we would not even be holding them just yet. Part of that difficulty is attributed to the fact that they are so healthy and big that they just do not seem like "premies or Prems" as they are called in the nursery. They sleep lots and it is difficult not to want to just hold them all the time. The nurses are pretty firm with us that they need to sleep lots as this is the time when they grow and develop. I guess we should try to look a few months down the road and appreciate the fact that they do sleep so much now, as we may wish they will at that point.

Thanks to everyone who has called, sent e-mails and looked after all the details that we are not able to at this time, you can't begin to know how much this means. I'll try to get to an internet cafe soon to put a few more photos out.

Cheers

Sean, Heather, Adelaide and Sarah

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007






I am waiting for some computer wiz kid to recover all the photos that the other computer wiped out from the memory card of the camera, so thought I would get a few thoughts down in the meantime.





Life has changed enormously since that day in July 2005 at Icycle Sports in Whitehorse. I was waiting in line to pick up my road bike which I had screwed up royally while trying to adjust the shifters. I asked the mechanic how bad the damage was and he said "not near as bad as the woman standing behind you". I turned around to see the smiling face of an attractive blond woman who seemed very friendly. She related a tale of being rear ended in Ft Saint John BC and having her bikes and car crushed pretty badly. Well of course, being a relative neophite in the cycling world, I felt it only appropriate that I should commiserate with her and come and look at the bikes, hoping only that I could bring some comfort to this poor souls day. So out we went and sure enough her bikes were pretty smashed up as was her car. Being the friendly and later I learned, the charming sort, she quickly had me engaged in a discussion about bikes, bike races and of course dogs!!!! Her Springer Spaniel was out of the car on a leash, sporting a jaunty scarf around his neck and appeared as friendly as she was, which helped keep me somewhat...spellbound. The conversation ended after a while with me handing my contact information to her trusted travelling companion Joanne with (apparently) firm instructions to make sure that Heather got the address and an invitation for her to come out for a dog sled ride after the snow flew. Well, low and behold the phone rang a week or so later and I quickly recognized the voice of this pretty woman I had met a week earlier. I took a look out the window and reassured myself that it had indeed not started snowing in July and wondered what she could possibly want at that time of year.... When I hung up (a couple of hours later), I was struck by the ease and comfort that we had been able to chat and converse. Of course she had reassured me that she was just looking for a friend and companion, since she was lonely because Joanne had left that day. Well, she did find a friend, a lifelong one, as did I and the world has simply not been the same place since then!!!





So here is a bit of an Ode to Heather Ann FitzGerald. It isn't often that you meet someone who has the sense of adventure that Heather has. I mean really, how many women do you know that pack up their car at almost 40 and move to the Yukon pursuing a lifelong dream. She is someone who shares many of the same simple fascinations that I do, the first snow of the year and looking at the temperature each morning and marvelling at how far below zero it went last night. Or, how about this..... in the midst of labour pains (which she did not believe were labour pains) wanting me to promise to tell her when I went out to the bathroom if the northern lights were out,. so she could come out and see. To go from city person to living in a small cabin in the northern woods is no small adjustment and then top it off by not running away after the first winter, but rather, making it quite plain that there was not much choice in the matter, marriage and fatherhood would look good on me, is no small feat!!!! I don't think I need to say more, other than, in her usual style of "do it big or go home", Heather managed to conceive twins, carry them to 34 weeks, get married in the midst of all this, put up with the construction of a cabin extension and then give birth to two very beautifull baby girls. She seems to be carrying on with her determination, in the learning curve we are experiencing as new parents. If nothing else, the last two and one half years has taught me that there are surprises around every corner if I am open to experiencing them.





Here are a few more pictures to share of our newborn babies, Adelaide and Sarah. Thanks to everyone who is assisting us with everything we need at this time from the McKellars looking after the kennel and cabin to Brenda for getting our temporary home in the village all set up for us when we arrive to the Parks Canada management team for allowing us the rent of this temporary accomodation. The Haines Junction Nursing staff and the medical community in Whitehorse also deserves huge thanks for helping us get these babies into the world healthy and vibrant. I could go on forever with thanks to everyone who has supported us, but I would rather share some pictures with you and leave you with this thought. You are all very close in our hearts right now and we look forward to being back home with our new arrivals.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007












As you may or may not know, Heather and I have been expecting twins, their due date was to be Dec 21 2007, but they decided to come early and were born on Nov 10 2007 at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops BC at 10:57 and 58 PM. They weighed 5pounds 3 ounces and 5 pounds 8 ounces at birth and are doing extremely well. I'll write more soon, but wanted to get a few photos out to relatives and friends.




Cheers




Sean

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Ray and Team on Pine Lake with St. Elias Mtn. Range in the background






St Elias Community School Dog Sled Rides.

On March 29 and 30th I had the pleasure of giving a short dog sled ride to approximately 100 of the students from St. Elias Community school in Haines Junction. To Say "I had the pleasure", is a bit of a misnomer as a number of other individuals worked very hard to make this a successfull event for students, mushers and of course the dogs. Laura Lucas and Ray Zaidan, both good friends from Whitehorse volunteered their time to bring their teams out to Pine Lake to give students rides. Fran Mackellar, a local musher from Haines Junction volunteered to both run one of the Fast Dogs teams and also handle dogs to keep the flow of activity through the turnaround area smooth and orderly. Heather played somewhat of a dual role as both a knowledgeable dog handler as well as the staff member in charge from St. Elias School. Her prescence made our jobs as mushers much easier, as she was able to keep the students moving and organized as well as giving them a good briefing on what to do and what not to do in and around the sled and the dogs. This allowed us to concentrate fully on making sure the dogs were looked after properly and that things progressed in a smooth and orderly fashion. Coming back to the turnaround area.


Yukon Junior Association of Mushers was the beneficiary of a generous donation from the school in exchange for this activity taking place, thus, Ray's, Laura's, Fran's, and my time was donated. I would like to extend a very heartfelt thank you to all those individuals who donated their time to make this event a success for both the students as well as Yukon Junior Association of Mushers. (YJAM)
Heather and one of her pups resting in the warm spring sun.

A few words about YJAM






YJAM was formed in 2002 by myself and a group of other mushers in order to help youth get started in the sport on the right track. Many of the founding members (including myself) had learned mushing through "trial and error" and shared a desire to help the next generation of mushers lessen the "error" portion of the learning curve in mushing. We have done numerous activities since our inception, but most notable is putting on the last three sets of time trials to select Team Yukon for the Arctic Winter Games and to organize the logistics of getting both canine and human athletes to and from the games in Fort MacMurray (2004) and Soldotna Alaska (2006). YJAM is recognized by Sport Yukon as the "Sport Governing Body" for Yukon for Arctic Winter Games activities and with little doubt will once again be sponsoring the time trials for Arctic Winter Games 2008 (Yellowknife NWT.) in December of 2007. Funds raised by this (St. Elias School event) and other efforts are used to assist youth in attending dog mushing competitions as well as purchasing equipment used in dog mushing.
Heather gets a "token" of Yunes's affection.




Over and above the money raised through this activity, the greatest success of this event has been that four students from St. Elias School have expressed strong interest in joining YJAM and learning the sport. My sincere hope is that at least one or two of these youth will follow through and be eligible to enter the time trials with one of the fast dogs teams for an oppurtunity to represent Yukon at The Arctic Winter Games in 2008.
Sean







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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

As the winter season draws to a close, I am finding a strong need to get some more training miles on last years puppies. They have had a few sporadic runs over the winter, but with training for the Quest 300 being the main goal, there has been little time for the yearlings.

Opinions vary from musher to musher on when the appropriate time to start training puppies is. Some say not before one year old at all, some say start lightly at 6 months etc etc. My routine has typically been to have them pulling a log or other object around by about 6 months to get the idea of what a harness and load feel like, but not much beyond that. There are a few key things I try to keep in mind:

1: Puppies, like humans, are all individual and will develop at different rates. Fiona and Casper are a good example. Casper seemed to take to the harness at one year old as if he had been born with it on and did not ever let his line go slack, providing I did not ask him to do something beyond his physical capabilities. His sibling Fiona, on the other hand, would pull like crazy for the first 4-5 miles and then have her head up, tail up and a slack line. Gut feeling told me that for some reason, Fiona was not mentally ready to do what I was asking. I decided to leave her out of the team for a while, only occasionally trying her, till one day, she decided that being a sled dog was actually something she wanted to do. This decision took two full seasons for her to make. She now is one of the hardest working dogs on the team. I believe that by not trying to run her till she was ready, I retained her trust and did not frustrate her or myself. I also believe that it did not give her the same oppurtunity to develop bad habits, which are much harder to correct than to prevent in the first place.

2: Keeping in mind that it is work, I do everything to make pulling a sled as fun and enjoyable as possible for the pups. I occasionally stop the team when all is going well to give them all a pat and some congratulations that they are doing a good job. In this way, I hope they get the message that when all goes well there is a positive reward in store. Part of this aspect is to be sure that they are not asked to run beyond their ability both physically and mentally. I have found that puppies have various attention spans for doing this kind of work, from very short to seemingly endless. Matching teams by attention span and attitude seems an elusive art at times. I also have to continually remind myself that they have good days and bad days too and not get too worried when a dog that normally pulls well seems off.

3: Keeping my expectations within reason is one of the hardest things for me to do. We all want a "race ready team" the first time they have a harness on, reality is quite different! Dogs seem to learn from each other, continuous (consistent) repetition, and positive reinforcement. Firm immediate correction of problems is probably one of the hardest aspects of puppy training to master. I do not advocate physical punishment when training as I believe it has a negative effect on the dog. I find the biggest thing to remember in trying to tie all of these aspects together is to remain patient and calm as the dogs will pick up on my mood and respond accordingly.

4: The biggest factor in successfully training young sled dogs in my opinion is to keep my temper and frustration level at bay when things don't go well. I had one of the biggest "ahaaa's" in this regard this past winter with Sarah and Bria. Being relatively new at leading this winter, they did remarkably well, but at times tried my patience greatly. On the way home from a two stage 70 mile training run, they consistently refused to take a new left hand turn which would have lead us up a 4 mile climb and then home. Instead they kept choosing to go back to the more familiar, flatter, shorter route home along the Alaska Highway road allowance. After leading them back around the corner four times, only to get back to the sled to find they had turned back to "their" trail, I lost my temper and let them know with a raised voice that this was not acceptable while dragging them back to where I wanted them to go. It instantly occurred to me when I looked into their eyes that they were now scared and furthermore would always have a negative association with turning this way if I kept up my behaviour. I changed my tactic and encouraged them to go the way I wanted patiently and with praise when they stayed where I wanted longer and longer till finally we got under way, going home the way I wanted to.

A famous Musher, George Attla, once said " if you want to get mad, go to the bar. Don't get mad at your dogs!"

Sound advice (the latter part anyway) I believe.

More on puppy training progress later.

Sean

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Bison Hunt update #4

Sorry, no photos just yet, but here are two good short web pages that give some more detailed information about the Bison herds in Alaska and Yukon.

http://explorenorth.com/library/yafeatures/bl-bison.htm

http://www.yesnet.yk.ca/schools/elijahsmith/bison/info/index.html

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Lots to tell, not much time...

This will be another short update while I am eating lunch. It is an amazingly bright clear spring day here in Haines Junction, no wind and at noon,-2.3c. As Heather and I discussed yesterday, these are the days that make up for the long darkness in December.

As per my previous post, the St. Elias School Group did, in the end, have a successfull bison hunt at 4:20 pm on Friday while travelling to their rendevous point on the Aisihik road. Successfull, to me, in hunting is enjoying the wilderness you are travelling in and coming home safely, it is a bonus if you have the privelege (and I firmly believe it is a privelege) to come home with the animal you set out to hunt. My guess is that many of the participants in this hunt had a good lesson in just that, "the bonus of bringing home an animal you had set out to hunt". When they broke camp on Friday morning, I would suspect that many of them were either dissapointed or had just resigned themselves to not being "successfull". Having hunted for the last 17 years, I can remember hunts that lasted 8 days without even seeing an animal that was legal to hunt and the mixed emotions I have had about coming home "skunked or empty handed". (My hunting partner put it quite succinctly one time after such a hunt when he said"That's why they call it hunting Sean"). I have since learned to remind myself of the gift I have of living in such a beautifull, majestic place and the privelege of just being able to participate in this activity. Not surprisingly, I have enjoyed hunting much more after every time I "tune myself up" with this lecture.

I was correct about some of the information in the first post, the bison were split into four groups in the 1980's to be moved to separate areas. The rationale behind this move was that if the original herd was infected with disease, there would be some "brood Stock" to replace them. The bison actually came from Elk Island National Park and their number in the Aishihik area is believed to be less than a thousand animals. The area is believed to be able to sustain 400 animals.

Reports from various group members all have differing individual accounts of how the trip went, but one important comment is constant, "the kids were a fantastic group to work with". They all worked hard, did their share of the work and participated fully in cleaning the bison once it was shot. Heather was somewhat dissapointed that she had come out by truck rather than going with the group on snowmachine when she found out that they had actually shot a bison. However, she was elated that she had been given a bison hide from another hunt which the hunter did not want. It is approximately 6 feet by 8 feet in area and by all accounts was very carefully skinned and cared for. The Conservation Officer who gave it to her was glad that it would be taken by someone who would appreciate it.

Heather found that the snowmachine riding was a tiring part of the whole trip, but from what I can tell, she did remarkably well to travel as far as she did with little prior practice. This is a characteristic of hers which I saw shortly after meeting her, namely, to accept new challenges and adapt remarkably well to totally new circumstances and lifestyle. Saying that I am proud of her accomplishments is an understatement.

The Bison meat will be divided up amongst the participants and a community feast held at the school sometime in the near future. Some will also be made into sausage for this feast. As far as I know, the students who participated will now learn the art of butchering and sausage making. My guess is that some reading this will have mixed thoughts about the value of such a program in the public school system, but in my opinion it is one of the best life skills challenges these students may ever receive. I am sure they have all learned a considerable amount about living and working in group situations which hopefully will stand them in good stead in the working world as well as just in their day to day lives.

I hope to have some pictures to post in the near future, so tune in again soon.

sean

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Successfull BisonHunt
March 23 4:40pm

I don't have much information right now, but apparently the St Elias School group got a bison this afternoon as they were travelling out to the highway. I won't know much more till later tonight when Heather gets home. Sorry I haven't had any other updates this week, but I have been down with the flu for most of the week, and have therefore not been near a computer.

Hopefully we will get some more posting done this weekend.

Cheers

Sean

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

St Elias Community School Bison Hunt update #1.



Although this doesn't have anything (directly) to do with dog mushing, as the season draws to a close we are starting to move into other activities. Heather is away this week with the annual bison hunt that our community school participates in.


A bit of background on the Bison hunt.


(Note: This information is given from a discussion with a local forestry officer and is subject to the vagaries of my memory, but overall it is correct).


Bison are not an indigenous species to the Yukon, but rather were transplanted here from Wood Buffalo National Park in the 1960"s. The federal govenment at the time wanted to preserve the bison in order to get them removed from the endangered species list. In order to do this, four seperate areas were required to move bison into, that had adequate habitat for the bison. The Yukon offered to participate and a herd of bison were moved to the Aishihik Lake area and corralled for two years. The offspring from this group was then released to the wild and the herd has been growing ever since.


My understanding is that the herd is approaching 1200 in number and may be getting close to outstripping the available food source, hence the annual bison hunt. This hunt is done on a "lottery basis" whereby a hunter wishing to hunt bison enters their name in a draw and if chosen is allowed to hunt a bison from one of two areas and only at specific times of the year. If they are drawn in any given year, they are not eligible for a draw again for five years. In this manner, the government is hoping to control the population of bison and keep it at a sustainable level. It is also my understanding that the bison have not yet been removed from the endangered species list. I will be checking with a renewable rescources officer this week (once he is back from the hunt) and may update or change this information if I find out some of it is incorrect.



Students at St Elias School who participate in this program go through a training regime which has them learn various skills. Although none of the students will actually do the "hunting", they are required to take the Hunter ethics and education course that is provided by the Yukon Government. They also learn proper operation and maintenance of snow mobiles as well as a number of other outdoor related activities.



Heather, as an educational assistant was chosen to go on this trip both as an "EA" and also because she holds a wilderness first aid certificate. Being the adventurous and enthusiastic person that she is, Heather has been anticipating this trip for weeks with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. The excitement part probably needs no explanation, the trepidation stems from a number of factors. She was concerned that, having only ever driven a snow mobile once, she would not be up to the task of doing a 135 kilometer trip on the first day and then various lengths of day trips for the five day duration of the hunt. When she went by my place of work yesterday morning she seemed to have things well in hand in the world of snowmobile operation from what I could see. I just talked to the school principal and was informed that they made it to their base camp safely yesterday. She was also concerned about being able to stay warm enough both during the day and at night. Gathering from the enormous duffle bag that I helped lug to the school yesterday I doubt this will be a concern at all. She has taken my new double goose down sleeping bag which should be more than adequate, especially given that they are sleeping in wall tents with wood stoves in them. She and I also invested a considerable amount of money this year in down clothing and proper winter boots which served us well during training and the Quest 300. Nonetheless, the temperature at home this morning was

-25c and was more than likely colder where they are.


I will try to post information daily as I get it from various sources. Please check back.


Sean
The black line on the map below shows approximately the route that they took yesterday to get to their base camp. I just talked to one of the parents who's son and husband are out on this trip and she had heard from them by sattelite phone last night. They had not seen any bison or tracks on the way in. A few of the snow mobiles got stuck in overflow on one of the lakes and a few people got wet getting them out. For those who do not know what overflow is, it is a layer of water below the surface of the snow that you don't know is there till you are into it. Some times when you realize you are in overflow you can get out of it by powering the snowmachine up to full throttle to get back on top of the snow, however, this is not always successfull. One of the causes of overflow is the weight of fresh snow on the lake pushing down, thus displacing water up to the surface. Usually, overflow will freeze when it gets to the surface, but this can take days depending on the temperature. Overflow can be a significant danger in that it can lead to hypothermia and frozen body parts if you become wet as a result of being in overflow.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Update on Fred and Silver Sled news.

Happily, Fred went to see Dr Rick Brown at Alpine Veterinary clinic (Fred's usual doctor and personal sponsor, Dr carolynne Fujda was away), to review his condition and try to come up with a course of treatment. Rick felt that Fred had probably not had a stroke as his vision and hearing did not seem affected and also his appetite and ability to swallow were fine. He felt that something (possibly a disc moving) had caused Fred to lose some of his coordination in his limbs. We decided against a course of testing to try to come up with conclusive results as considerable time energy and money might be spent and nothing concrete might be the outcome. More importantly, Rick felt that Fred's quality of life was still good and that provided Fred continued to show some signs of improvement and was not in any pain, he still was probably a pretty happy dog. Fred now gets prednisone every day and we see small improvements in his coordination on a regular basis. Fred is moving well enough now that when I let him off his lead to come in at night he runs for the house and doesn't stumble as much as he first did. Needless to say, Heather and I are both relieved and happy that the outcome of Fred's visit to the clinic was as positive as it is. For me this is a reminder that every day with these dogs is a remarkable gift that is not to be taken for granted.

Silver Sled.

Well what can I say about the Silver Sled??? Silver Sled is our local 100 mile race that I helped start and have remained an active player in since 1997. The 11th running of the Silver Sled was another major success in many ways. Despite the cold (-40c) Saturday morning, 17 teams turned out for the long race and 3 for the Chilli Paw (16 mile race). trail conditions were excellent and as the day wore on, the air temperature warmed up to the point that a light jacket and glove liners were adequate for me to stay warm. Unfortunately, Sindbad and Casper decided before the race to settle some sort of disagreement with their teeth as dogs are occasionally known to do. As dog fights go, it was not an exceptionally bad one, but Sindbad had to be left behind with Heather to get a few staples put in his cheek. Casper on the other hand appeared to be fine all the way to Silver City, not missing a step all the way. However, when I got there he refused to drink and just did not appear to be well at all. After much poking and prodding around, the vet technician on duty (Sandy from Alpine Veterinary services) discovered that he had a cut inside his mouth that was becoming infected. We instantly scratched and headed home to get Casper into a warm place and get some antibiotics started, which were kindly loaned to us by fellow competitor and dentist Paul Geffrion. As it turned out, Casper eneded up going to Whitehorse on Sunday night with Sandy and had his mouth stitched up and a drain put in his chin. He is now sporting a shaved chin and an elizabethan collar to prevent him from affecting the drain area. He is on the mend and will be going back in the kennel soon. Sindbads cut is healing well and the staple can be removed fairly soon.

Although one of the least enjoyable aspects of this sport, dog fights do occur occasionally, both among the males and the females. Much is said about them being the result of genetics, tension caused by females being in heat, poor training, hierarchy etc. Regardless of the cause, prevention is what I try to focus on. I am not sure what caused Casper and Sindbad's altercation as the season has been almost free of such incidents, so it really took me by surprise when it happened. Prevention in this case, will be to have them tied in such a manner that they can't get at each other from now on.

No matter how much one learns in this sport, the dogs will always show you that you have more to learn.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Trust

It is an incredibly important element of the bond between a musher and their dogs. Although it can't be quantified physically, such as blood pressure or heart rate can, it is, in my opinion one of the most important elements of dog mushing. My experience over the years has been that if I lose the trust of one of my dogs by not caring for it properly or getting into a situation that scares a dog badly, or any one of a number of other situations, it is very difficult to regain that trust and may well be impossible in some cases.

At the start line of the Quest 300 I had a few minutes in the starting chute with the dogs to be able to look them over, straighten out lines and just give them a pat and a hug and tell them that despite all the commotion and confusion of the start area, everything was fine. Sarah my little blue eyed leader gave me a look that I have never seen before. It was a peculiar look, somewhere between perplexed and (maybe) scared or possibly apprehensive. At the time I didn't give it much thought as there was so much going on and I was still a bit worried about why Fred had suddenly taken ill and had to be dropped. However, I do remember very clearly that it was not a look that rang any warning bells. A short while later, travelling along the Yukon River, after the team had settled into a brisk trot, I realized that probably what Sarah's look meant was that she was looking at me for reassurance that I was not going to ask them to do anything they were not capable of or trained for. I believe it was the look of 100% complete and total trust, looking for a bit of reassurance that it was warranted. I believe she knows that for her to do her job, lead the team, I must do mine, guide the team.This realization (if in fact I am correct), coupled with a strong emotional response from looking at this beautifull string of dogs all working to the best of their abilities brought me to tears for a short while. I found it overwhelming for a short while to have fully realized that although my leaders were 65 feet away from me attached through a series of cables and ropes, we shared a communication and cooperation that allowed us to travel through terrain we had never been through comfortably and safely. It is not a response that I can explain logically, nor do I care to, but it was sobering in that it made me realize just how delicate this whole scenario was in terms of me being the "leader/guide" and they relying on me to make all the right choices and decisions.

Of all the lessons learned from the Quest 300 this year, that one will remain with me forever.


Thanks to Scott Chesney for these two photos.

Sarah and Bria resting at Braeburn


Entering the Braeburn Checkpoint at -30c.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Afterthoughts from the Yukon Quest 300

A week has passed since the Quest 300 and many thoughts still go through my head about the whole experience. Most notably, did I do the right thing by scratching in Braeburn?? Invariably, the answer always comes back "YES" I scratched for a number of reasons, but first and foremost, is that I did not feel that we (myself and the dogs) were as prepared as we should be to complete the whole 300 mile race. After resting the dogs and myself I decided that we had had a great experience to this point, had stayed on the "upside" of the learning curve and most importantly the dogs finished as healthy as I possibly could make them. The vets were more than pleased with their condition and their recovery when our time to leave Braeburn was close, but I still chose to end the race on a happy note for all. We learned many valuable lessons from this experience, which will stand us in good stead in future racing and mushing adventures.

Experience shows me now that the dogs need more multiple runs back to back to get comfortable with the idea that we won't be returning to the yard or truck after two runs every time. I believe they would have gone to Carmacks and beyond had I asked them to, but I really was concerned about breaking their trust in me, something which I refuse to take chances on doing no matter what my personal goals are. There were a few minor injuries that were attended to, but with the excellent support and advice given from the Quest Vet Team, these were not obstacles that were insurmountable.

My own camp activities and logistics need some refining so that the dogs get maximum care and rest and I get the same. Practise, in this case, definitely makes perfect!!! I felt that it would be wiser for the whole teams sake to do some more training runs with camping breaks built in, to build these two elements of the sport to a higher level. Our tentative goal now is to train some more and run the percy De Wolfe race in Dawson (210 mile qualifier) in March.

A few other lessons stand out from the Quest 300, some of them are lessons I accomplished throughout training and in the race and some of them are lessons I will incorporate into my dog care and my mushing practices overall.

1: Don't try something new in a race without first practicing it in training. The new thermal underwear that Heathers parents sent prior to the race were not tested out before hand and as it turned out were considerably warmer than I had anticipated. Not that that was a problem, but had I tested them before the race I would have realized that I could have worn one less layer of the regular clothing I had been wearing. Pretty much throughout the first half of the run, I was running with my parka open to prevent sweating. Thanks so much Pat and Donald for that wonderfull gift, you can be assured they will spend many more miles on the trail.

2: Stick to training routines and speeds. I found that for at least the first 25 miles I had to be on the brake almost constantly due to fast hard trail conditions and the dogs excitement at the new trail and activity. After that they pretty much reverted to our somewhat slower training speeds on their own. It was very tempting to let them run faster for those first 25 miles, but I had been warned that this was not a good thing to do, especially in the first part of a longer race. Furthermore, because I wasn't sure how the dogs would do over multiple day runs, I wanted to remain on the conservative side till I could get a feel for how well the dogs were standing up after a day or two. As it turns out, it was good that I did this as I believe it is part of the reason the dogs were so well rested at the end of the mandatory rest in Braeburn. One of the vets actually mentioned that he felt that, given the dogs state of recovery at the end of the mandatory layover at Braeburn, I could have run the first stage at a faster speed. I am glad that I found that out by being conservative rather than the other way around and risking injuring or burning the dogs out because of inexperience.

3: Don't hesitate to drop a dog if you think something is wrong and don't know what it is. This lesson was driven home very hard at the start line when Fred had to be dropped from the team at the very last minute. We are still not sure what happened to Fred, possibly something neurological, but after I left the start area Heather realized that Fred was not very stable on his feet at all. In the excitement and activity of the start area, I might have mistaken Freds condition for the fact that Fred is often timid and maybe the excitement and commotion of the start area was overwhelming him. As it turns out, had I taken Fred, it is likely that I would have had to carry him in the sled almost all the way to Braeburn. Fred now lives inside the house, where he is warm and comfortable and will be assessed again by a vet very shortly to try to make a conclusive diagnosis of his condition and if possible a course of treatment.

I will continue this post shortly, but would like to close by saying a very heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported the team in this endeavor, without your support, emotionally, financially, and in all the other ways it was always there, this would not have been possible.




Photos: Courtesy of Darren Holcombe of Sarah and Bria resting at Braeburn, (above). Although young dogs and only into their first year of leading the team on a regular basis, Bria and Sarah performed brilliantly from Whitehorse to Braeburn ( as they also did during training). My biggest concern for them was the noise and activity level at the start area and in the starting chute, but Sarah and Bria went through the whole start routine (even being first out didn't phase them) without a hitch.

Hagrid, (below) finally lays down to sleep after 20 hours on his feet from Whitehorse to Braeburn. Hagrid had perfected the technique of sleeping on his feet during training and at camp from Whitehorse to Braeburn, but finally figured out that laying down worked better!!! This was a significant concern to me as Hagrid is a hard working dog and as we all know, rest is an important part of any sports activity, regardless if you are a human or canine athlete. I tried every trick in the book that I knew to teach Hagrid to lay down at rest points, during training, but to no avail. My next move at Braeburn would have been to leave Hagrid with my handlers so that he would get proper rest Hmm...I wonder if Hagrids offspring (12 of them) will be as tenacious about learning this lesson.


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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Not much time for Blogging right now, as we are busy running longer runs (50 miles and up), cutting meat and packaging it for the food drop next Saturday etc. The snow continues to fall in small amounts and training is going well. There are still 13 dogs in the pool, so it will be interesting to see who makes it and who does not. The dogs all seem happy and are holding their weight well with the longer runs.

Even though time is short, I would like to thank my Sister Eileen and her partner, Marcello who live in Montelpuciano Italy for sponsoring Fiona, one of the team dogs. More about that sponsorship at a later date.

Also, Heathers Siblings and their spouses, Kim And Karen, Roberta and Tim, TJ (SP?? I will get it right I promise ) and Scott and Tory and Leo have sponsored Sindbad, one of the wheel dogs. Hopefully there will be a bit more time next week to expand on these sponsors and their dogs, but once again, thanks to all of them for the support.

Happy training.

Sean

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Monday, January 08, 2007




Just a short training update. All is going well as we move into longer runs (yeterday they comfortably did a 40 mile run and a week or two ago a 60 mile run). What is more important than that though, is that so far there are no real serious injuries happening. Duchess had a sore shoulder a few weeks ago which seems to have cured itself quite nicely, so she will be worked back into the team this week to see how it is doing. We actually aren't 100% certain it was a shoulder at all, as there was no sign of any problems the very next morning, but to be on the safe side we treated it as if it was a shoulder problem, hoping it was just sore muscles. Some of the older dogs are showing their age now and have been put into the "puppy training", shorter distance mode as they just don't have the energy they used to have. They have all earned this well desrved rest!!


Fred however, seems to be defying all odds for a twelve year old dog with a thyroid problem. The day after the 60 mile run, Fred went in for dental surgery to remove 8 teeth (this is Freds second dental surgery, the first one a year ago removed 18 teeth, indications are that he probably just has genetically poor teeth). The vets were very impressed with Freds physical condition for his age and found no problems with the "geriatric blood panel" they did prior to the surgery. Fred got a week off and did a 30 mile run Friday and a 40 mile run yesterday and was able to keep up without any visible problems. I am really hoping Fred will make the team, but ultimately because of his age, another tooth that they couldn't remove and the recovery from this surgery, I will let the vets advice guide my decision.

Dr Carolynne Fujda, Freds personal sponsor and overall team vet will be looking at Fred this week when she is in Haines Junction for a mobile clinic and hopefully we will have a better idea whether Fred will be running in the Quest 300 this year or not. (There are some photos of Dr Fujda on the sponsorship page examining Fred prior to his surgery, feel free to have a look).


I am finished work this Friday for five weeks to work on longer runs and do the many tasks I need to do to prepare for this race. It is a huge learning curve for me, the dogs and of course Heather, who looks at me like I am a stranger sometimes when I finally get in the house to eat or sleep. Without her support and encouragement, this would seem like an overwhelming task, even though it is only a 300 mile race.


Happy training.


Sean

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sponsorship Update

Anything that happens in the world of dog mushing is truly a "team" effort and so it is with covering the cost of running a race like the Quest 300. Sponsors are sometimes the last people to be recognized and thanked. With this in mind, I would like to thank the following business and individuals for "sponsoring a dog on a blog"!!





Dr Carolynne Fujda (Lots of Latitude Mobile Vet Services based in Whitehorse) Has sponsored Fred, one of the team dogs. Carolynne has worked with Fred for a few years, most notably last year when she had to remove a number of teeth from Fred's mouth. Carolynne has helped us many times to solve medical concerns about the team, give advice and consultation, perform surgery and vaccinate the dogs, over the last three years. She has always shown an extremely high level of care and compassion for the dogs and has a very gentle and calm "bedside manner" with the dogs which quickly gains their confidence, particularly when they are sick or injured.





Pat and Donald Dodds have sponsored Sarah, one of the lead dogs (right in above picture). Pat and Donald (as you may have guessed) are Heather's Parents and spent time with us this summer at the kennel for their 49th anniversary. Pat could make a living as a sled dog groomer and the dogs fell in love with both of them very quickly. We invited them to fly to the Yukon for the start of the Quest 300 as an anniversary gift for their 50th this year, but it did not work out. We are sure they will follow their "lead dog's" progress from home in some way. Pat and Donald picked Sarah as a dog to sponsor because they have a grand daughter by the same name.

Thanks To Pat and Donald for the support they give, financially and the encouragement they s0 freely give to pursue this race.





Maureen Morrison has sponsored Bria, another lead dog. Maureen, apart from being my sister, has always been one of my biggest supporters in life and has always been there to help when possible and always there for advice and suggestions.


Joanne Cox from Oshawa Ontario Has sponsored Casper. Casper is a wheel dog, one of Maui's offspring. Joanne is a really close friend of Heathers and came to visit last summer, so is farmiliar with the Fast Dogs. Thanks Joanne.


And last but not least (by any stretch), Icy Waters Limited Arctic Char in Whitehorse has sponsored Buster, another lead dog!!! I have been feeding arctic Char (by products from the processing plant) from Icy Waters for two years now, the dogs love it in any form (snacks, mixed with kibble, frozen or thawed) and their coats, energy level and overall health reflects this. I would very much like to thank the staff at Icy Waters for the wonderfull service they provide when I show up at the plant to pick up fish!!! Oh yes, they are also often seen out on the Copper Haul Twister Race course standing in the wind and cold as we zip around the twisty windy course in the pursuit of the trophy and other rewards, A big thank you for this.

Please visit Icy Waters web site at http://www.icywaters.com/default.aspx





Thanks to all of these sponsors, you make the Quest 300 a possibility for the Fast Dogs Team, by being part of the team.





Please see the sponsorship info site (go to "my complete profile" above left for a link to the site )for more information on these sponsors or if you are interested in sponsoring a dog on a blog.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Sponsor a dog on a blog??? What's that you say??
It's really a simple concept for the most part that lets you get involved in the 2007 Quest 300 dog sled race and have something to show for it.
Given that I believe "it's all about the dogs", and that I am trying to keep the "spotlight" on the dogs themselves, I am inviting you to get involved with the Fast Dogs and the 2007 Quest 300 by sponsoring an individual dog.
Regardless of whether you sponsor a lead dog, a team dog or a wheel dog, your sponsorship will contribute to the care and well being of the dogs and give the team the best chance possible to complete the race with happy healthy dogs.
If you are interested in participating by sponsoring a dog (or two), please check "my complete profile (upper right) and click on "Sponsorship info fastdogsquest300"

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

We are still doing ten mile runs at night, last night it was -30c, lots of stars and the dogs are getting pretty comforable with ten mile runs. My other coach and mentor Darren Kinvig has helped me to put a training routine together which should help us get the required training in the time frame left. Sooooo...starting this weekend we do twenty mile runs for a while and then throw in a few thirty mile runs and see how we do.

As this whole adventure starts to take shape, more and more pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place as people come forward with ideas and advice seemingly out of nowhere. That kind of support and frienship is an amazing boost to the confidence level i feel about me and the dogs and our ability to make the Quest 300 a reality which ultimately is a stepping stone to the Yukon Quest itself.


Keep watching.

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Monday, November 20, 2006





November Training



Just a short note on training to date this month. We've been out much more regularly this month than previously, first on the ATV with 18 dogs and now with 10 dogs on the sled. Snow conditions aren't great, and within a week we had blown out one set of runner plastic and part of the aluminum rail that attaches it to the sled. Being a sport where adaptation to changing conditions is the norm, I had a friend cut a piece of 3/16 steel into two even lengths that I screwed to the runner bottoms. Rocks and gravel are no longer an issue!!! We are still only running ten miles at a time, which will likely move to 20 on the weekend. The dogs did well at the Copper Haul Twister Race in Whitehorse on the weekend, placing 4th and 9th and averaging 2-3 miles per hour faster than we are training right now, again, with no injuries or major sore muscles. Nonetheless, even though I am anxious to move the mileage up, I want to make sure they are ready, mentally and physically. My friend, coach and mentor (one of them), Bill Stewart looked at the dogs when I was in Whitehorse and said he thought they looked in good shape for this time of year, except of course, Fred, who is always a bit on the thin side because of his Hypothyroid condition. We will work on that one with Fred.


Next week, I will likely start running them to work and back. This means getting up at 4:30 am to water the dogs who are staying home, harness, booty and hook up the ten I am taking, run them the 6.5 miles to work and then reverse the procedure. I leave the dog trailer at work for them to stay in during the day. In the evenings I usually run them a longer route coming home. It makes for a long day, but I am awake when I get to work!!!

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