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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Back to Winter?

April 24th, 2008; Spring has arrived!

April 26th, 2008; What?! Winter again?

I awoke this morning to snow! Now in November I would consider this a welcome sight; a blanket of fresh snow to brighten up the landscape and clean away the many shades of brown that can be seen from my picture window. I would be anxiously preparing the dog sleds for their first winter travels and the dogs would be restless in anticipation. But it's April 26th. The forsythia are in bloom. The mini iris' are poking the tips of their tiny leaves out of the ground to greet the warmer spring sun. Many waterfowl have arrived to make Oake Lake their summer home. And most of all, MUD season was over!

Although beautiful, the snow can melt and I won't feel cheated. This past winter was indeed a true winter. I could have done with a little more snow but it was as close to perfect as it could have been.

My records from last year indicate that winter announced itself again, after the arrival of spring, on April 9th. Now here we are, 17 days later than last year, wiping snow off our windshields. The brass clips on each kennel gate that keep the dogs from deciding to flip the latch to explore were even frozen this morning, making feeding a frustrating task. Does all of this mean we could be getting closer to having "normal" winters again? Let's see what next year holds. Until then, back to mud season!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Days of Leisure

Oken at almost 7 months old

Sweet Pea in perfect form

Zala at almost 7 months

McKenzie has been with us for over 2 weeks and is fitting in nicely




Icoa and son, Ilu


Journey at almost 11 months

Melanie with the Huskies



In action

Tuloon and Zulu

Fun times!

Zodiak at almost 7 months


Ball game

The dogs have been enjoying their days of leisure now that sledding season is over. Yes, it is still cool enough that we could run on our 4-wheeled cart, however the dogs really worked hard this winter and we all need a break.

Instead of looking forward to a day of running on the trail, the dogs get to anticipate that time of day when they all get to run free and play together. As you will notice in the photos, the blue "Jolly Ball" is the favorite toy.

Spring Clean Up in the Kennel

View of the old railroad bridge from the dog yard that is now a recreational trail.

East end of the dog yard

McKenzie and Oken are kennels buddies this week

The grass is just beginning to turn green to brighten up the dog yard

Tuloon and Zulu look on as others play

The west end of the dog yard

Klaus, Journey, Zala and Sweet Pea's kennel abut McKenzie and Oken's kennel

Today began the yearly ritual of spring cleaning in the dog yard. Even though we were gone over the winter, there was still straw left in houses from the fall and early winter. Leaves had fallen late from the big oak tree that shades the dog yard and accumulated in some kennels.

This time of year isn't very appealing to the eye in the kennel. Everything is brown and dirty. There are buds, however beginning to sprout on the trees and the grass is beginning to turn green. I can see the beginnings of some tiny perennials poking their heads out of the cold ground.

After the straw was taken out of the houses they were all hosed down to remove any remaining dirt. Then the kennels were raked free of straw and leaves.

Once the temps begin to rise, the shade cloth will need to be put in place, however, right now with temps in the 50s-60s, having more shade for the dogs in not a big concern and the breeze that sweeps over the lake keeps them nice and cool.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sixteen Dogs to the Vet..... at Once!

Copper and Blue will only go in style; in the cab with the musher

Yep, there are fourteen sled dogs in there

We were lucky over the winter to have had no serious injuries with all of the miles the dogs ran. Towards the end of the season, Ilu had a bloody pad after running on a crusty layer of ice over the snow. The very next day it had healed well enough for him to be raring to go. Sweet Pea was put on antibiotics late in the season when she developed some infected scabs on her nose after digging around in a tree stump. This didn't affect her ability to work. That's it!

Now that we're home, I wanted to get the dogs to the vet for a routine exam, have blood drawn on each to test for heart worm, other parasites and Lyme Disease(called a 4DX test) and to weigh everyone. I hadn't weighed the Tuloon/Bazil puppies since they were eight weeks old and when we returned home they were already six months old! Tukisi and Isis needed to have additional blood drawn to test their thyroid function. Tukisi has been on meds for his hypothyrodism for months and it was time for a recheck and I am speculating that Isis has developed the diseased based upon her appearance and behavior. Rabies shots for the pups, Copper and Isis were also needed. Since Phoenix was having a difficult time keeping weight on this winter, I wanted to have additional blood drawn to test for any issues.

I was happy to hear that all blood tests came back negative except for Zulu who has had Lyme disease since I got him seven years ago. He has continued to test positive for the disease which is typical and we did decide to treat him with a 30 day round of antibiotics based upon some joint soreness he has been displaying. The thyroid results for Tuki and Isis will take a couple of weeks. Phoenix's blood tests were all normal and his difficulty keeping weight on seems to have more to do with his genetics and was something I was told I shouldn't be too concerned about unless he begins to lose his work ethic.

It seems that since we returned two weeks ago, many of my dogs have plumped up a bit too much from less exercise and the fact that I didn't cut their food back as much as I should have. Ilu was the heaviest at 84lbs and maybe 5 over optimum weight. Zala is 6 1/2 mos old and was the tiniest at 42lbs and she could actually put on a few pounds. Her littermates, Oken and Zodiak weighed in at 60lbs each! Phoenix at that age was 52lbs and he is know 68lbs at 2 years old and is underweight by about 5lbs. Based upon the comparison with Phoenix, it looks like my 6 1/2 month old boys are going to big! Zala, on the other hand, may be a tiny peanut like her mom. Peanut or not, she is filled with drive and personality and will be an excellent sled dog, just like her mom, Tuloon, that weighed in at 52lbs.

Even the two little mascots came along to the vet. Copper has been pretty constant with his weight at 12lbs and Blueberry actually lost a few and is now down to 20lbs. However neither one of these two had to do much work this winter and enjoyed three walks a day with extra time to play in the snow.

Ice Out?

April 13th, 2008

April 16th, 2008

My records from 2007 indicate that the ice went out on Oake Lake here in central Minnesota on March 28th. Here it is April 16th, 2008 and we still have a thin layer of ice in the middle of the lake. It began receding from the shore over a week ago. A reversal of global warming? Time will tell.

With our new adventure at Gunflint Lodge this past winter, I didn't make it out on Oake Lake with the dogs. It seems I will likely not see the lake in front of my house by dog team for the next several years. The trade-off is worth it. Northern Minnesota is where we belong in the winter. Its refreshing to my soul to leave the hustle and bustle of a busy life in the country just west of a major city to go for several months, to a place where I forget what day it is. Where being outside 8 hours a day is the norm and when I do come inside, the physical activity from a day with the sled dogs on the trail catches up with me quickly and I fall asleep instantly upon touching my head to the pillow.

Arriving back to Oake Lake two weeks ago, I have tried to carry those feelings of serenity, peacefulness and calmness along with me; those feelings that I came to expect "up north". Being centered and grounded and really being present became such easy and second nature tasks. Appreciating the little things around me at every moment was just the way it was; a tree branch covered in snow, a snowflake, the daily greeting of a red squirrel, the vast view of the Canadian horizon.

Here at Oake Lake, the traffic has become horrendous, people are flitting back and forth and appear to be in a hurry to somewhere pretty darn important, very few smiles are seen on those wax-like faces and the pressure is on to make money to keep the sled dogs and their owner fed and afloat for the next three seasons before we head back "up north". Am I complaining? Maybe. But generally we all make our choices and I have made mine. I figure it will be an opportunity for growth. Learn how to keep those "up north" feelings here in central Minnesota until there comes a time, when there is a well though-out plan in place, to make a different choice.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tukisi Turns Nine

Tukisi, a Canadian Inuit Dog

Tukisi turned nine years old on Friday, April 4th. Tukisi, meaning "he who understands" in the Inuktitut language, came to Points Unknown at the age of four. He had never been in harness and appeared to have an issue in his gait. A visit to the University of Minnesota vet found that he either had a degenerative spinal chord disease which had never been found, to my knowledge, in a Canadian Inuit Dog or was in a previous situation where his muscles didn't develop properly.

We decided to delay any further testing until we were able to get him in harness and see how he developed. Once his muscles began to build up, the gait issue disappeared. Five years later, as long as he gets regular exercise, Tuki's gait is normal.

At the end of the 2006-2007 mushing season, Tuki quit working. His tug line went slack and he grew lethargic. As spring came, his coat didn't shed and it became dull and dry. Soon after, he was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Once put on the proper medication, this dog completely bounced back. He shed his harsh old coat to make way for a luxurious coat, much like that of a puppy. His energy returned in full force and he began his daily antics of "talking back" to his kennel mate, Isis and buzzing around the yard like a much younger dog.

Not knowing how the medication would affect his work ethic, we were eager for fall to come to begin training. Although Tuki's age has brought on the need for a slower pace, we were happy to see that he is still the steady puller he has always been since he joined us.

In addition to a having a good work ethic, Tukisi is full of happiness and practical jokes. He likes to bonk people from behind and put his mouth around their arm during play, ever so gently.

Happy Birthday to Tukisi!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

McKenzie has Arrived!

McKenzie, a Hedlund "gray" Husky from Kim Fitzgerald of Mush Knik Networking

Kenzie following daughter Journey around the kennel

First attempts at play

Onlookers from the adjoining kennel. L to R - Zala, Oken and Klaus

McKenzie, the Hedlund "gray" Husky , arrived at Points Unknown from Alaska yesterday. He comes from Kim Fitzgerald of Mush Knik Networking in Knik, Alaska

Due to a mistake at the airport, McKenzie almost ended up flying on to Denver instead of remaining in Minneapolis. Illo, another Hedlund "gray"Husky bound for Colorado, was traveling with McKenzie. As they were moving the crate thought to contain McKenzie to the loading dock for me to retrieve, I saw what should have then been Illo's crate waiting for further transport and wanted to quickly say hello and check on him before I left. Kneeling down to send well wishes on Illo's travels, I saw McKenzie inside! Northwest Airlines was quick to make the error right after it was uncovered. Shipping labels were quickly switched and after a hello to Illo, McKenzie and I were on our way home.

Upon arrival home, he was first introduced to Tuloon and then spent the morning in a small kennel with her that is detached, yet visible, from the dog yard so he could get used to the other dogs from afar. In the afternoon I moved him into a kennel with two girls. Sweet Pea and McKenzie's daughter Journey would be his new kennel mates. This kennel shares a long wall with that of another kennel so he could then become familiar with even more pack members.

After marking everything in sight, he and Journey began to play ever so tentatively while Sweet Pea ignored both of them and sat atop the play structure. The evening he arrived he was coming when I called him, snuggling up for scratches and getting close to my face to sniff.

This morning I was awakened by play noise in the dog yard. Looking out the window I saw all three of them, McKenzie, Sweet Pea and Journey, running around furiously, bumping into each other, play bow after play bow. They were having a blast and Kenzie had a big smile on his face.

While feeding this morning, our new fuzzy friend came up for scratches, sniffed my face then licked my chin as if to say "I kinda like it here, I guess I'll stay" as he nonchalantly trotted away with a big smile on his face.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

We're Home!

Sunrises over Oake Lake

We arrived home from our season at Gunflint Lodge last Tuesday. We've had a very fulfilling winter. The dogs are in the very best of shape and seemed to enjoy all of our adventures. At the same time, they appeared to be happy to be home, running free in their kennels with their friends and sunning themselves on top of their dog houses.

The lake in front of the house is still frozen but yet the Canadian Geese have returned. Its been fun to watch them land on the ice as if it were water. Some appear startled at this phenomenon and must be those born last season, coming back home for the first time. I spotted the first Blue Heron the other day and the Red Winged Black Birds are back in full force, waking me with their morning tunes. Just stepping outside to see what the ruckus in the dog yard was about, I saw a flock of Pelicans flying over the lake. They typically come later in the season but are back this evening!

I so enjoyed the wilderness of the Arrowhead region of Minnesota with all of its wild and beautiful land. Sunsets were spectacular. I've missed the sunrises over Oake Lake here in Central Minnesota and have been up early to enjoy several over the past few days since our arrival home.

The snow that was received the day before we arrived is almost melted, giving way to......MUD. Mud season is a season I could do without. The dog yard is a mess, in turn the dogs are a mess and when I enter the dog yard then I am a mess. Thankfully it only lasts for a few weeks.

Happy to be home yet now missing my winter home I grew to love over the past season. Will return the first weekend in May to do some dog yard clean up and attend the Gunflint Green Up. The Gunflint Trail is expecting over 500 people this weekend. Each will be planting 150 seedlings to help rejuvenate the forest after the Ham Lake fire last summer that destroyed over 75,000 acres of land in the US and Canada.