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Monday, June 28, 2010

Big Step!

Displaying her recent catch

Wild Iris

The Swamp River which will be one of our dog sledding routes

Simple Beauty

Brent met us at the parcel earlier than our scheduled appointment and spent an hour walking around the parcel and providing multitudes of local and much appreciated knowledge. That's good service for you!

Measuring the driveway entrance

Our recommendation

Neil removes a tree that has come down over the driveway

This is exactly why I love winter. There are beautiful sights all around but living up in the northwoods year 'round would not be tolerable without a bug shirt a few months in the spring and summer! Maybe some folks are "tougher" and can do without such apparel. To them I say, "See you on the dog sled in the middle of the lake at 30 degrees below zero with a howling wind!" I'll take the later any day. Darn bugs.

Neil and I spent the weekend in northern Minnesota at what will be the new Points Unknown "facility" in the not- so-distant future. The first step was to meet with the driveway contractor to discuss the new driveway! This will be put in place this fall. In addition, the building pad will be cleared.

It was a breath of fresh air (literally) to get away from the hustle and bustle and spend the weekend at a much slower pace. On Saturday we spent ten hours just hiking around the property and marking way points on the GPS for dog sled trail entrances. It's interesting how different the terrain looks in the summer. We walked over a half mile past one trail entrance before discovering our error. Aside - bringing the map along would have been a good idea but then again, we wouldn't have gotten as much exercise and it was a perfect day for a long hike.

During this hike, we had the pleasure of being spooked by a large grouse that launched himself up in the air upon our approach. A lone wolf heard us coming and must have ducked into the woods only to return back to the trail after we passed as we didn't see his footprints but for the last 1/4 mile going in but did see them on several other occasions, going out.

A beautiful red fox showed herself to us along the Arrowhead Trail early that morning. She had been hunting and held her trophy in her mouth as she trotted along. While hiking on the Points Unknown parcel, a loon kept us updated on its whereabouts in the distance.

While up north, we met some wonderful new people and also spent time with some old friends, all of which we will eventually be able to call our neighbors.

Play Time!

White Feather and Zodiak appear to have been superimposed on the background but are actually in flight across the yard!

Zala, supposedly pregnant. She reminds me of her mom, Tuloon (to the left), during her first pregnancy. She is as fit as a fiddle, acts pregnant and shows nothing. Here she is in her 48th day.

White Feather

Wimzi at 5 months old. She is close to 23 inches at the withers and so far, has the build of her grandmother on the Zulu line side. Grandma Jessie is also on the stocky side. At this age, it is any one's guess. Her sister Sasha has always been all legs even though she is shorter than Wimzi and is taking on more of grandpa Zulu's characteristics. Who knows. Wimzi could sprout some longer legs compared with her heavier build at any time!

Woofer stalks Journey

And she pounces!

That's my girl, Tuloon!

Oken, Journey and Woofer

Journey and Illo

Journey in action

Illo and Wimzi exchange a glance

All the girls stare at Illo, the new guy.

Illo and Journey chase White Feather. This is her favorite game!

All photos by Neil Slaughter

Topa and White Feather Turn a Year Old!

White Feather (AKA, Woofer, Wifi and Woofie)


Our 2009 Tuloon/McKenzie Hedlund Husky litter, that included our own Topa and White Feather, turned a year old yesterday. They are both such wonderful girls. They were in harness for only a few short runs last year to get their feet wet. Both showed an excellent work ethic including an intense drive and focus and enjoyed being out on the trail with us. They even got a chance to do some winter camping with no complaints.

Our 2010 fall training season begins once the temps consistently remain below 50 degrees. White Feather and Topa will now be full members of our team and we are so looking forward to fall training with them! Each will be tested in various positions in the team this fall to determine where they excel and where there is room for improvement.

Both have been to obedience class this spring and have learned the basics. They continue to learn a little bit new each day as we continue to learn from them.

White Feather continues to be the "social butterfly" as she can be out in a play group with every group and gets along with every dog in the kennel. Topa seems to have issues with Journey and Zala continues to have issues with Topa so, due to these personality conflicts, she isn't playing unattended with either. Topa's favorite friend, however, is still Blueberry and she protects him like her own.

Happy First Birthday to White Feather and Topa!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Illo's First Day

Look at that smile!

Nose to nose with Blueberry

More sniffing

Illo and Blueberry

Copper has conveniently perched himself on top of the sofa so he can watch the rabbits and stay away from the newcomer. I know he is thinking, "Not another one! When will this all end so I can have the house to myself?"

Illo spent a few hours in a kennel with Sweet Pea today. He was able to see all of the other dogs from afar and get used to the new sights and sounds around him. Before feeding time, each kennel was let out to play and they were able to meet Illo through the kennel fence. Klaus(Zulu freight Alaskan line) and Klaus' personal assistant Oken(Half Hedlund/Half Zulu line) showed a bit of concern over the new addition, hackles raised as they peered into the kennel to check out the newcomer. Illo turned his head to the side yet kept his eyes on the two boys while he uttered a low growl as if to say "I'm doing my best to avoid any issues with you guys so leave me alone". After allowing the dog body language to be displayed for a short period of time, I stepped in with a gruff "No!" as I clapped my hands to shoo Klaus and Oken from this kennel fence. Each time after when the boys came near, displaying only curious behavior, they were overwhelmingly praised.

Illo got his turn to come out and meet White Feather and Journey first. These two girls are omegas and were very interested in getting Illo to play as they poked him with their noses and backed away, play bow, chin lick and another nose poke. All Illo wanted to do was discover his new territory. When he settles in after a few days, I'm sure he will begin to play, I can see it just below the surface. He was then introduced to Topa, Wimzi and Tuloon. Topa quickly found her place below him. Wimzi, the puppy she is, got distracted shortly after making contact with him and bounded away. Tuloon on the other hand, made darn sure Illo knew she was the queen as she strutted around, peeing and scent marking with a lively little dance after scratching the ground as she trotted away. Dogs "shake hands" by sniffing each other. Tuloon would have none of that. It was just way too soon to be allowing some strange dog to shake her hand. "No thanks", she growled as she again marked, scratched, danced and went her merry way.

Illo ate all of his meal and he and Tuloon were the chosen ones to spend the evening in the house. Illo walked in as if he had always been here but it did take him a few attempts to make his way onto the sofa, as he tested our boundaries. "Do they mind if I do this? I'm not so sure so I'll just put one foot up, look around then walk away. I'll try two next and see what happens." Then he was making a fine nest in the sofa cover.

Earlier in the day, he had met the little house dogs through the fence and showed all positive signs of acceptance. We were very pleased. He was so calm and laid back in the house, we decided to let Blueberry out of his kennel to meet Illo face to face. When that went well, out Copper came. Illo focused on Blueberry as they appear to be similar in status while he ignored the obvious alpha of the pair which is the tiniest Copper. One false move from Illo and Copper gave him a stern growl and stiff posture, to which Illo would slink away.

As I type, Illo and Tuloon are patrolling for rabbits in the back yard and between shifts, Illo comes to the window with those big brown eyes, ears back and tail wagging. "Is it time to come back in?" So I'd better got let him in.

Illo just fits. He is so typical "Hedlund Husky" and it feels like he was meant to be here and always has been.

Illo Arrives!

Illo, our new 6 1/2 year old Hedlund Husky

Illo arrived this morning! He originates from Kim Fitzgerald, the founder of the Hedlund Husky Preservation Project and Mush Knik Networking. Illo is our Phoenix's father and is known to be a steady leader and, typical of the Hedlund Husky, a mild mannered boy. He brings new Hedlund blood into our kennel as his sire contains Joe Redington Sr. lines. Joe Redington Sr. is the "Father of the Iditarod" and produced traditional Alaskan Husky lines. We are so excited that Illo has joined the Points Unknown family and if all goes well, we are considering him as the sire of Topa's first litter!

Neil drove eight hours 'round trip over night to meet Illo's transportation in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Upon his arrival he ate some kibble and spent some time checking out his new back yard with Sweet Pea who will be his kennel mate until we discover others with which he may like to socialize. He even got a long brush from Neil and seemed to enjoy it.

His build is amazingly like Sweet Pea's who is not a Hedlund Husky but our own Zulu line Alaskan Husky. Illo is about an inch taller. The facial markings are very similar with Illo's white flash between the eyes being narrower. His head is wider and his eyes are smaller. Although Sweet Pea has a dense winter coat, Illo's appears even more dense as, compared with Sweet Pea, Illo has not yet fully shed his winter coat.

The dog yard didn't erupt when we took Illo into the back yard as it does when new dogs visit the kennel. They must have sensed he was one of them. He did get a tour of the kennel area and met each dog through the fence. At this time, everyone got a bit excited but they soon quieted down. Illo and Sweet Pea are now in the kennel that abuts the dog yard but touches no other kennels so that he can get settled in and not have nosy neighbors until he gets used to all of the new things around him. Tonight, Neil and I will let dog groups out so that they can all casually meet through his kennel fence.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kennel Visit

Amanda and I discuss the kennel set up.

Jasper, Amanda's wolf hybrid rescue.


Neil is at first unsure of Jasper.

Jasper is also a bit unsure of Neil. Jasper's expression reminds me of something one might see in an animated film. He's got a very nervous smile here.

Trying for some obedience hand signals.

Covered porch with misting system.

Large play area.

5 month old Tempo

Tempo and Bandit


We had the pleasure of visiting a small sled dog kennel during our mini vacation to Ohio. Amanda and her husband Byron live in a beautiful area abutting a park with their four dogs and one semi-wild "canid". Amanda's dogs, except for little Tempo, are rescues. They are pets first then non-competitive racing sled dogs second. She is also heavily involved in Wolf Hybrid rescue. I was amazed to discover there is a great need for this in the area!

Editorial - The practice of inbreeding wolf with any dog for the purpose of producing a house "pet", in my opinion and based upon my experience, is irresponsible and dangerous. In many states it is also illegal. Many of the sled dog lines, racing and freight alike, originating from historical Alaskan villages, contain wolf from many generations back. This is a part of their heritage and only remnants of this heritage can be seen in our modern day sled dogs. Interestingly enough, a high content wolf dog has proven not to make a good sled dog. Although Points Unknown does not participate in this practice, there are well meaning people out there working to recreate traditional lines of working sled dogs by inbreeding wolfdog into various Alaskan Husky lines.

Wolves and dogs are natural enemies. Just imagine what must go on in the mind of such a high content mix. The constant torment of a wild animal wanting to be in the wild and the domestic dog wanting to be at your side or on your bed. This all depends, of course, on what genes the animal is dealt as genetics is like a crap shoot and no two wolf hybrids are the same just as no two domestic dogs are the same.
Many present day dogs still display physical wolf-like traits such as a gait, a coat, a stance, etc, however the behavior is what actually sets them apart from their wild ancestors. The behavior of a wolf or a wolf hybrid is very different than that of a domestic dog.

Years ago I spent several years volunteering at a private wolf refuge where the socialized pure wolves were used for educational purposes and the wolf hybrids were rescued from those people who kept them in an irresponsible way, thinking it grand to have such an animal. Some dogs don't do well in apartment living much less a wolf hybrid or pure wolf! I had some of the most amazing experiences in my life working with these animals and also some of the most horrific. Having said all of that, they do exist and thank goodness there are people like Amanda to help pick up the pieces of a situation when it goes terribly wrong.

Amanda and Byron's kennel set up was spectacular. Amanda has done extensive research on the matter and it shows. Her dogs have a fenced-in and covered porch all to themselves with the beginnings of a misting system in place. Her kennels are attractive yet functional. The play area encompasses quite a large area and was constructed with two layers of heavy duty metal cattle panel fencing. The second layer goes up and above the supporting posts. Why? This is very interesting. Because if a dog tries to climb the fence, once above the top of the posts, the fencing becomes unstable because the posts no longer support the fencing. The dog looses its footing and does not then make it over the fence. Kudos to you, Amanda!

Three Legged Shake

You would never guess by watching him that Copper only has three legs.

He had been swimming in the lake on one of our Ohio hikes and here he begins the shake. Neil captured a series of photos from this shake.

Mini Vacation!

Great Aunt Mary, one of our smiley hosts. What a character!

A visit with Grandma Fretwell and the other side of the family.

Cousin Jan with Shelby

Blueberry romps through the tall grass.

This is Ollie!

Copper tried for hours to coerce Grandma Newman out of "his" chair.

Copper actually looked right at home amongst the garden ornaments.

Shelby, the Aussie mix, is very camera shy. It took Neil several attempts to get a good photo of her before she darted away.

Shelby at the top of the waterfall.

Neil and I got a chance for a quick get-a-way last week. Ohio was our destination which is an approximate 800 mile trip by car. The little house dogs came along while the sled dogs remained at home for this short trip. We intended to visit some of my family and also to make a very special trip to a small sled dog kennel that just happened to be near our destination, where the owner is interested in joining our Hedlund Husky Preservation Project.

We stayed with Grandma Newman, Great Aunt Mary and cousin Jan and did a lot of catching up. Jan has two wonderful dogs and we spent a lot of time taking long hikes together. Ollie is a Golden Retriever and Shelby is an Australian Shepherd mix and they both got along perfectly with Copper and Blueberry. Copper, being the littlest of the bunch, had to be, of course, the boss and reminded Ollie on several occasions.

A large family gathering also took place with the "other side" of the family and we visited with cousins that we haven't seen for years. The wife of a cousin mentioned she has an uncle that runs sled dogs and has some land in northern Minnesota close to the Canadian border where he goes to run them. The name didn't sound familiar but what a small world it is!