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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Canicross Hikes 2008: Willow River State Park

First overlook

Second overlook

Second overlook traffic jam

"On by" double beagle moment while crossing the bridge

Zodiak resting at the falls

Melanie and Annie

Rebeca and Lilly at the base of the falls

Chad and Katsu

Me with Zodiak

"On by" stroller moment

The second official day of summer brought beautiful, bright blue, sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 70s to low 80s today. There was a nice cool breeze to help with mosquito control, making today's Canicross Hike as close to perfect as you can get.

From the trail head we walked along the river then up a steep grade where the overlook views of the river valley below were spectacular. The trail then descended to the bottom of Willow River Falls where we rested the dogs, let them take a dip and ate a quick lunch before continuing down the trail. Once we hit the three mile mark we turned around, with the dogs in need of another rest at the falls as the temperature climbed. There were many good training moments along the trail to include a pair of beagles and a double wide stroller with more young kids in tow. All dogs did a wonderful job at "on by" which basically means, whatever it is, just continue to move by it without stopping or sniffing it.

Zala had been my trail companion for the previous hikes and now it was time to see what Zodiak could do. Being the typical boy puppy, he did show his age (9 mos) initially by wandering off into the woods or weeds or onto a deer trail, etc. But after the first couple of miles, he was eager to be up in front of the bunch. The blisters on my feet and my sore legs can attest to his pulling ability. Canicross hiking works muscles not often used.

Imagine having a dog attached to your waist, pulling as hard as they can while you are trying to resist the pulling and keep your pace to a hike instead of a run. This is where good training is essential and it all takes time. "Easy" is necessary to teach the dog for going down hills so you get to see the hill while on your feet. At times, the line must be taken off of the harness and attached to the collar for some steeper hills to ensure that you do stay on your feet. At times like this, obedience training comes in handy. The dogs pick up on things so much faster when they have other dogs around them showing them how it all works. This certainly helped Zodiak today.

After a total of nearly 6 miles, all pooches and people were ready to call it a day and we will all sleep well tonight.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Zulu Turns 12 Today!

Zulu, Spring 2007

Fall of 2007

Winter 2005

Zulu in lead in 2003 with kids Klaus and Bazil when they were yearlings

Zulu the magnificent, 2003

Zulu, the magnificent, came to Points Unknown when he was 5 years old in 2001. We were told he was a leader but for the first year and a half, he didn't show us that side of him. I was becoming frustrated with his lack of leader abilities and placed him in point position for almost a year. After which time, a light bulb must have been flipped on because he not only became a good leader, he has been the most exceptional open country leader I have ever seen! I believe it took him that long to adjust and feel as though he fit in and when he did, he showed us the real Zulu.

As I have mentioned many times over, Zulu will turn on a dime just as the command leaves my mouth. This command only needs to be uttered softly and he's all over it. The bond that has been built over the years between musher and this sled dog is beyond words. I can't thank him or respect him enough for all of this hard work and for leading us away from dangerous conditions on occasions too numerous to count.

Zulu officially retired in the middle of the 2007-2008 season. His mind wanted to go but his body wasn't cooperating. After longer runs he began to vomit and when lifting his left leg out of the harness, he would scream, likely indicating that the Lyme disease he came to us with may have been affecting his joints a bit too much for serious work. If the pain doesn't affect him on shorter runs, he will be helpful in training the new pups in lead this fall. Otherwise and until then, Zulu will enjoy the life of a part time house dog. He just needs to learn a few new house rules - don't eat toilet paper and don't eat the little dogs' stuffed toys. I also need to find him a job and teach him some more commands. He will sit and stare at me while I work at the computer or while relaxing in a chair endlessly until I give him a command, which he does instantly. I'll be teaching this dog some new tricks!

Happy Birthday Zu man!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tuloon Turns 4 Today!

Tuloon after returning from our winter adventures 2008

In lead with Klaus winter 2007-2008

Taking over Copper's crate thinking it a good place to have her pups

Tuloon with six beautiful and healthy pups in September 2007

October 2007

2005 after surgery. Still smiling!

April 2007

Tuloon at 4 mos old

At 8 weeks old

Picture sent from Alaska when Tuloon was 4 weeks old

The little princess is four today. We traveled to Alaska in 2004 to bring Tuloon, a Hedlund Husky from Mush Knik Networking, home. Shortly after her arrival she had an unfortunate injury when a well meaning teenager, more familiar with cats, tossed her like one. This caused a stunted growth of a bone in her back right leg requiring surgery. Miss Tuloon spent the majority of her first year and a half in the house, being waited on paw and foot and became very accustomed to this treatment, thus the nickname "little miss princess".

She recovered from her surgery and began training in the team and right up in lead with Klaus. It took some time to make her aware that it wasn't alright to just do as she pleased up there, that she did have to follow my direction. After all, I am the one giving the commands, not her. (Right?) She was just amazed, at first, that I would even consider stopping the team to walk up and inform her that I would appreciate it if she didn't do whatever she was doing at the moment. "How dare you", she must have thought, "I am the princess you know." Every now and again, she will still get a little stubborn about what direction she thinks we should travel but does come around more quickly.

Tuloon spent last winter up in open country lead with Klaus, taking some pretty challenging commands and working under a vast array of conditions. She earned a great deal of my respect. Prior to the winter she produced some awesome pups with extreme focus and drive, and all, for some odd reason, think they are somehow royalty, just like mom.

Happy Birthday Miss Princess!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Isis Turns 10 Today!

Isis - Spring 2008

Isis - Fall 2003 (with Amaruq)

Isis came to Points Unknown as an adult with very little socialization and no training. She went from just plain scared and unruly to a seasoned, well mannered sled dog in no time. She's now in her retirement years, beginning them this past winter when she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. She's content to roam the back yard freely with her friend Tukisi and take on all of the luxuries retirement brings as long as she does get to run in the team now and again.

Isis, like most Canadian Inuit Dogs, demands your full attention. She loves to be brushed but only as long as she's in control of the length of time she's being brushed, then its off to the business of patrolling the yard for chipmunks and taking a dip in the 65 gallon stock tank in the yard.

Happy Birthday to Isis!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Canicross Hikes 2008; Carver Park

The hike begins in a pasture and continues down through the woods to the Parley Lake. Zala makes sure the others are close behind.

A dip and a tangle in the lake

Once beyond the lake, the trail leads up to a picnic area.

Break time in the shade

Following the dirt road allowed us to be rid of the mosquitoes for the most part.

Coming upon the restored Grimm Farm

Temps were in the upper 70s for today's hike and there was high humidity. Many of the dogs attending had yet to shed their thick winter coats so we kept the hike relatively short at approximately 3 miles. Mosquitoes were also an issue today and were mainly a problem close to the lake which is a lower lying area. Once up on the road for our return, there was a breeze and virtually no mosquitoes.

Carver Park is a 3300 Acre Park Reserve. The park reserve is the home of the Lowry Nature Center which is the first public environmental education center of its kind in the state of Minnesota.

The trail we chose today took us right by the restored Grimm Farm. The historic Grimm Farm is where Wendelin Grimm, an immigrant from Germany in 1857, developed a hardy strain of alfalfa.

The park has rolling hills with vistas the overlook the many lakes. Thick forests abut the lake trails. Carver Park is home to many waterfowl and birds of prey.

Our "German" Sled Dog turned out for the hike, joining our Alaskan Husky and Siberian Husky crew. Conan is a German Shepherd and pulls as hard as any of them.