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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Three Rivers Park District Women's Event

Oken and mom, Tuloon, lead Deborah on her adventure.

Yesterday, Points Unknown hosted the Three Rivers Park District dog mushing women's event. Their Near Wilderness park facilities were used as a base for the event. The campus includes a wonderful wood lodge with an enormous field stone fireplace and several small satellite cabins, in which the women stayed, that is tucked back in a beautiful hardwood forest, just minutes from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. On the main agenda were ski lessons and dog mushing! The dog mushing took place at the Points Unknown kennel, just 20 minutes away from the base. Six participants joined us in the morning and five in the afternoon for some experiential learning on how to run a small sled dog team.

Getting to know the dogs.

With the help of Hailey and Rich, we introduced the women to the dogs so an amount of trust could be built before they began working with them. Sled safety was also a top priority. We discussed the components of the sled, how to use them and what they do as well as different techniques for mushing. Although the dogs would not likely listen to anyone but their musher, we were sure to cover some basic commands and what to do if they were out on the lake and needed a hand enforcing them.

Ilu LOVES all of the attention.

Harnessing the dogs was another time to gain some trust and respect from the dogs. Our participants did an excellent job and even were able to convince Journey that it was safe to be handled. Journey is often very concerned about people she doesn't know and does work best with our small women's groups rather than our larger groups. During those, she is allowed to hang back and watch. Ilu, on the other hand, sucks up as much attention as possible from whomever will give it to him! And, be aware, he also quickly sucks up gloves and other various dangling winter gear.

Harnessing begins.

The dogs are very accustomed to being harnessed by those they don't know. They will often times help teach our guests by almost harnessing themselves as they lift the appropriate leg up in the air to be inserted into the leg hole.

Ready to go!

The sled is secured to one of our two take off sites and the dogs are put in place on the line. Each dog gets several turns to lead with a partner during these events. Since we were headed out on the small portion of Oake Lake in front of the kennel, the remaining women, Hailey and Rich fanned out on the lake to make certain the dogs didn't take their new mushers on an unexpected adventure. If they headed for the bridge that would take them to the larger portion of the lake, I quickly zipped out on the recently purchased and very much needed, "new to us" Skandic work horse snowmobile to encourage the dogs to take another direction. In addition to the safety net the snowmobile provides, we can get some pretty nice photos of each team in action.

Diane and her team head back to the kennel.

Kathy requested a "moderate" experience around the lake so Zala and mom, Tuloon were happy to oblige.

Our new mushers were presented with a few challenges which included a head on pass with another team.

Oken, Topa and White Feather wait their turn. Topa and White Feather are now 7 months old and got to go on only one short run around the lake. Next season, they'll be all grown up and can do anything the big dogs can do!

McKenzie and Sweet Pea were on one of Regina's teams.

Yikes! Where's the musher? We're happy to say no people or dogs were injured when the sled got away from one of our guests. Having a relatively closed course for such an event ensures that the dogs can't go far if detached from their musher.

Deb with Klaus and Oken followed by Sandy with Journey and Zodiak.

Polly's team consisted of Klaus and White Feather.

Smiles from all team members! Sandy with McKenzie and Journey.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Zulu Grandpuppies Born 01/24-25/2010

The lone male with striking colors and markings

Black female

Zulu colored girl with white on left side of her face

Zulu colored dark face girl

Zulu colored girl with white flash between eyes

Lighter Zulu colored girl with white on right side of her face

Happy mamma Zimbi

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Zulu's grandpuppies that were born earlier that morning. Zimbi is the late Zulu's daughter and a sister to Points Unknown's Klaus and Sweet Pea and lives in a neighboring kennel. She gave birth to six healthy pups; five girls and one boy.

As for the sire, Phoenix was the chosen one and when his performance didn't give Zimbi's owner confidence that the job had been properly completed, Q, a Tuloon/Bazil puppy from 2007 was introduced into the breeding. This would not typically be done, however, since Zimbi is at the end of her optimal fertility window, he wanted to be certain that her precious genes were passed down before it was too late. The end result is a litter in which some pups may have been sired by Phoenix while others, by Q. DNA testing will be the only way to determine parentage. Either way, the two sires in question are of excellent lineage and have extremely good performance as working sled dogs and desirable temperaments and structure.

Two of the girls will be joining us at Points Unknown and we couldn't be more excited! Since grandpa Zulu passed away last week, the arrival of these pups is timely and has even more special meaning for us here at Points Unknown.

Monday, January 25, 2010



Laura from Boyd's Mason Lake Resort runs her own very successful animal rescue business called Catkins. It was little doggie heaven when she brought over to the lodge her 16 week old foster puppy Crumpet, who is a pug/chihuahua mix, to socialize with us and play with our sled dog mascots Copper and Blueberry.

Blueberry fell in love with this feisty little girl and for a brief second, I thought, hmmmm.... but no! We need to save room in the house for our retired sled dogs so no more little dogs at the moment. This means that little Crumpet is available for adoption! Please visit Laura's website at to get more information on Crumpet or to see if there might be someone else special waiting for you!

Flexi Leash Training for Topa

7 month old Topa on the picket line with the big dogs.

At the end of the 26 foot leash gazing across the lake

Running happily back after she understood we would not be moving if she was pulling on the end of her leash

After a day of mushing the big dogs, not so little, 7 month old Topa and I took to the lake to check out the ice house we had been hearing all about at Boyd's. Instead of canicross hiking with her and doing something she was now familiar with, I opted to try something new. I would begin her training on a leash; a 26 foot flexi leash.

The beginning of the lesson was predictable with Topa flying to the end of the leash as though attempting to rip my arm out of the socket. Knowing this would happen, I braced myself. When she hit the end of the leash I made a very low "ah" sound and stopped walking then I waited. At this point, all I want her to do is relieve the tension. After several seconds of no motion she began to whine and look back at me. I remained still and quiet. Then she came running to me. At that very moment my tone of voice changed to a higher pitch, I began walking again and she heard the words "Good girl, Topa!".

The same pattern continued over and over to the point she began hitting the end of the line then running back to me and circling me before she hit the end of the line again. Within about a half a mile, she no longer hit the end of the line with the same intensity and continued to circle me when she felt her boundary limit.

It took us twice as long to walk the one mile to the ice house as it would have otherwise but by the time we arrived, she fully respected the end of her leash. At the same time, she appeared to be learning to only get 26 feet away from me before coming back which was an added bonus not planned.

Of course, the lessons aren't over. We'll have to work on it several more times before it sinks in but it was a very good start!

Women's Retreat at Boyds

Pat mushing her team

Lauren lets her team rest while her passenger jumps out for photos.

At the truck waiting their turn

Boyd's elaborate Women's Retreat ice house

Rustic yet ritzy interior

The dogs and I just returned from a Women's Winter Retreat at Boyds Mason Lake Resort. Unfortunately, winter turned into a hopefully only momentary spring and rained out our second day of mushing instruction. Weekend temps began very close to freezing, making our Saturday mushing experiences rather warm with slightly mushy trails. By Sunday morning, the snow pack was saturated with water creating slushy trails that we and the dogs would sink completely through. There was standing water on the lakes.

Thankfully, the other activities for the weekend could continue as planned. The folks at Boyd's had plenty of other things on the schedule. Included were things like balsam fir wreath making, trap shooting, a cook out on the lake and last but not least; ice fishing. An elaborate ice house had been built just for the women retreats. No detail was missed from its knotty pine paneled interior to the crystal chandelier that was hung from the vaulted ceiling. A woodstove kept everyone warm while they sat at one of six seats in front of their ice holes watching the underwater video camera, sipping wine and chatting about the day's adventures. The walleye and perch were biting last evening. The largest fish caught over the weekend was a 24 inch Walleye.

Never ice fished? Well, no worries. Boyd's experienced ice fishing guides, Teddy and Billy will teach you everything you'll need to know. I think they even baited a few hooks and took off a few fish if you aren't interested in either but want the ice house experience.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Oake Lake Sky

The weather front moves in over Oake Lake.

Photo Shoot

Oken eyes

Journey and White Feather

Klaus stares up at the sky with eyes to match.

Klaus eyes

Klaus and Oken; the best of friends.

Something catches Oken's eye.

Beautiful Journey

The weather turned before Neil could let the Klaus, Oken and Journey group out for their photo shoot a few weeks ago so when we had a nice sunny day, I decided I would see if could catch these three in some poses.

Girl Scouts!

Everyone loved Phoenix!

McKenzie with his new friend.

Icoa and her friend.

The kennel buzzed with activity.

Twenty two Brownie/Girl Scouts spent an afternoon IN the Points Unknown kennel, literally. It was the first event of its kind at the kennel. We typically travel to other locations but decided this would be the perfect year to start a program for the Girl Scouts here at our Watertown, MN kennel location.

The girls joined us for a slide show in our sled dog building recently converted to a theater room. Straw bales acted as benches with three girls to a bale. The slide show gave everyone an introduction to the dogs prior to stepping foot in the kennel. An orientation on how to behave around dogs and safely interact with them was given then we all headed out to the kennel for a dog mushing demonstration. Chris, our handler, was the passenger as we hooked up five dogs to show the girls how excited these dogs are about doing their job and around the small portion of the lake we flew. Upon our return, the harness lessons began as each girl got a chance to harness and unharness a dog while safely confined inside the kennel just in case the first rule of dog mushing was broken - "Don't lose your team!" or in this case, "Don't lose your dog!". We're happy to report that no one lost their dog and they did a great job interacting with the dogs. We were sad to see them go but mentioned that if they'd like to bring their parents along next time they can always go out on an adventure with the team.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oake Lake Adventures

Welcome to Points Unknown!
Photos by Long Doan

Klaus shows Lan how to harness while whispering in her ear.

Klaus and Tuloon

Waiting to go.

Linda's Team

Rich's Team with Zala and Phoenix in lead.


Topa play fighting with White Feather

Sweet Zulu doing what he did best in retirement. This was the last photo of Zulu taken prior to his passing that evening.

We are so excited to be providing Oake Lake Adventures this year at our Watertown location!

There are two to choose from. Our guests spend an hour and a half with the dogs, learning to harness and work with them then we head out on the lake for a dog sled run. Running the team themselves while the musher sits in the sled is always an option, once out on the lake and after a quick safety orientation. Our second adventure is three hours in length and gives our guests more time with the dogs and two runs on the lake.

We hosted our first Oake Lake Adventure this past weekend. Temps were in the high 20s and low 30s which is great for guests and just a tad too warm for the dogs but they did great and everyone had quite a lot of fun as you've seen by the photos. Rich, our occasional dog helper and friend, got a chance to do his first solo four dog team run, following the main team and guests. Very nice dog mushing, Rich! It helps when you have a strong connection with the dogs and Rich truly loves working with the dogs.