Monday, February 28, 2011
If you recall from a much older post, White Feather had what we believe to be vaccine related head tremors after her first puppy shot at 8 weeks old. Thanks to Swanny, a member of our Hedlund Husky Preservation group and his partner Janece, an animal behaviorist, we were able to get her through those head tremors with a regime of natural supplements. White Feather is now 19 months old and we haven't seen a head tremor since.
Can you imagine our shock when a week after giving Illy and Aise their second puppy shot, Illy began to have head tremors! Since I thought (hoped) we would never see them again, I didn't keep the supplement dosage information and contacted Swanny again. Since White Feather's issue, there has apparently been some more research completed and a new supplement lends itself even better for this type of issue. We had been giving White Feather up to 500mg of Ester C once per day and 9mg of Melatonin three times per day. Ester C boosts the immune system and the Melatonin works with serotonin production in the brain to help calm it. The new supplement that is now taking the place of Melatonin in Illy's regime is 5-HTP which is the same natural drug found in Turkey. You know how you want to curl up on the couch and nap after a big Thanksgiving meal? It's the tryptophan in the Turkey that does that and 5-HTP is essentially the same thing. 5-HTP is more concentrated than Melatonin and works more quickly to ease the after affects.
Illy will be on 500mg of Ester C and 100mg of 5-HTP per day for the next month.
We've done an awful lot of puzzling over why this could have happened twice in our kennel and have come up with some similarities that are worth considering in the future. In addition to the fact that primitive lines of dogs seem to be more affected by head tremors after receiving a distemper shot, stress around the time of the shot seems to play a role. White Feather and Illy are related. White Feather's brother Tumac is Illy's father. We first noted head tremors in White Feather a week after the shot and at a puppy class where she was noticeably stressed.
We first noticed head tremors in Illy a week after the shot at a women's event when she was introduced to the drop lines and spent time with the big dogs. A drop line is a long cable with individual drop lines that are connected to the collar ring of each dog. That long cable is then connected on both ends to something sturdy such as a tree, a post or an ice screw. The big dogs camp out on these lines when we are away from home. Illy was noticeably stressed that weekend. Aise was stressed as well so why is Aise not displaying the same side affects? Topa, White Feather's sister, was also at the same puppy class that White Feather attended when we first noticed her head tremors so why did Topa not have them? Aise and Topa likely were just dealt a different set of genetic "cards" not as sensitive to the distemper shot.
As we have discovered over the years, vet medicine (or just plain human medicine for that matter) is not an exact science. There are so many pieces of the puzzle that it will likely never be just plain black and white. All we can do it our best with the information we have when we try to uncover the reasons and the treatments. Thank goodness for the help of others around us (Swanny and Janece) who know more about this than we do!
Illy has been on the supplements for over a week and did have a very low key weekend at our women's event last weekend. She remained in the cabin with the little house dogs when Aise went in to socialize at the main lodge but did get to meet nine visitors at a time while she and Aise hung out in their pen at our courses during the day. We specifically did not want her on a drop line this weekend considering the stress it caused her last weekend and she seemed to enjoy the pen and the visitors. The head tremors do appear less frequent at the moment.
Donna has been a BOW instructor for years after first taking one workshop as a participant. She decided this year to participate instead of instruct and one of the workshops she chose was dog mushing!
Joel ran his first team with a guest in the sled for us over the weekend. And this wasn't just any guest but the director of the BOW program! This shows how highly we think of him and his abilities with our dogs.
Neil is an integral part of our program and uses the snowmobile to assist our new mushers out on the trail.
Illy and Aise pose for the camera. They stayed in this small pen during the program and spent the evenings and over night in the cabin with us.
What a funny sight! After we had taken the puppies in for the evening, we realized we forgot to shut the door of their pen and saw that Tuloon had gone inside to rest on their straw beds.
Had we a video of this I'm certain we could have won a prize on America's Funniest Home Videos. The puppies played intensely for quite some time around and on top of Blueberry. He ignored it all and continued eating his Nylabone.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a woman's program called BOW or Becoming an Outdoors Woman. Points Unknown has been a part of the organization for six years now, volunteering our services and that of our dogs to teach women how to dog mush. This past weekend was the annual winter event held at the Audubon Center of the Northwoods, an Environmental Learning Center in Sandstone, MN. Points Unknown had a packed house with three courses, three hours in length and nine woman in each course!
BOW also has other seasonal annual events as well as numerous miscellaneous courses throughout the year that are so worth while so please do follow the link above and check out what they have to offer!
Thursday, February 24, 2011
GLARE ice! We shoveled piles of snow next to each do so they could have some traction and be off of the ice.
The back of our dog truck packed with gear. Each dog has their own full size crate to for sleeping and traveling.
Neil fills our jugs up with water at our secret watering hole. We take this fresh and clear northwoods water home with us and use it for drinking water throughout the year.
Jenn tries out the apple peeler. We made a huge batch of apple crisp when we were snowed in on Sunday.
The dogs took over the icy hotel parking lot and didn't take kindly to the resident Collie trying to reclaim it. Whenever the poor thing came out of his own house the dogs' barks would scare him back in.
Illy and Aise were on the drop chains with the big dogs for the first time. Juicy bones enticed them to believe that this is a good thing and is not scary at all.
Last weekend we had a very event filled and changing-by-the-moment women's adventure that began up off the Arrowhead Trail and ended back here at our Watertown location; the unpredictability of working with sled dogs and working around the weather and trail conditions!
The plan was to spend the weekend in the northwoods cutting dog sled trails on our remote parcel and running the sled dogs. The weekend did involve both items in the plan but not in the manner they were planned!
Neil and I arrived up north with the dogs last Wednesday evening so that we could spend Thursday making certain the trails we needed cleared were well marked before our guests arrived and we headed out to clear on Friday. Temps were in the 40s and the air was so thick with fog that my glasses would mist up every few seconds as we trudged along in the moisture filled snow that was up to Neil's waist without snow shoes. (Neil is 6'3") It was a hard-going day but very fulfilling as we literally "soaked up" the beautiful northwoods air that day.
The dogs were living out of the truck with us at a friend's hotel just waiting for their chance to run which was planned to be Saturday. Our guests arrived on Thursday night. These guests have become family as they have all joined us on at least one previous adventure. For three of them, it was their fourth! We planned a weekend of potluck with one person providing a different meal throughout the day.
Friday morning was spent under beautiful blue skies clearing a portion of our new dog sled trail. We broke for lunch with the sled dogs and waited for Jenn's tasty Indian dish to heat on the coleman two burner. After lunch we set out to try to connect two trails, taking us across a scenic drained moose pond. Having not been here from the beginning of the season, keeping this route clear, it was tough-going for the snowmobile. Albeit, a Scandic workhorse machine can do almost anything but the running water at the opposite end of the drained pond made us wonder whether it could float. The determination was that it wasn't likely so we set out on snowshoes to continue the connection but turned around within a few steps after deciding to investigate another route back where we began.
The snowshoeing experience on this day was far more pleasant that mine and Neil's the day before. With every step, we sank. But today, if stepping lightly, we remained on top of the hard crust, as after the high temperatures from the day before, those temps plummeted, allowing for a hard icy crust to form on top that kept us afloat, for the most part. I say, for the most part because while in the woods, it did seem that some snowshoes were working for their wearers much better than others. The longer the snow shoe, the more "flotation" one has.
After a full day of trail work, we began to pack up to head back into Grand Marais for the night. Jenn and Cheryl left before us and agreed to let little Copper and Blueberry out upon their arrival as they had been hanging out watching cable TV in the room while we were away. Neil and Sandy took the snomachine down the trail we planned to travel by dog team the following day to check out the conditions while Jenny and I stayed behind and packed the remainder of the items up and began to puzzle over how the cube van filled with dogs would make it out of the driveway with the sheer icy conditions and the downward slope that was present. We broke open one of the sandbags that was in the back of the cube van(dog truck) for weight and with an ax, began scoring the road in front of the driveway to create traction. After some intense work, it still appeared that we were in for some challenges.
Neil and Sandy returned to inform us of the icy conditions of the dog sled trail and also showed their concern about our driveway situation. It is not easy to maneuver a 24' cube van through a narrow, snow banked driveway exit on to a narrow extremely icy downward sloping forest road. Then Neil remembered that I had purchased chains for the dog truck years ago but had never used them. The question was; were they still in the truck? Yes! Thank goodness. Neither one of us had ever had to put them on before and didn't know the first thing about them, knowing that someday we could very well have to figure it out. Today was the day but thankfully, Jenny knew exactly what she was doing and had them on in no time so we both got a lesson we won't soon forget.
Jenny and Neil headed out in their vehicles first and would wait for us once up the hill. We slowly managed to ease our way out of the driveway and on to the ice rink of a road. So far, no problem! Chains! How wonderful! The we got to the hill that leads up to the gravel pit and we stalled half way up and had to back all the way down and try again. It must have been pretty awful for the chains to have been no help up the hill. Second try and we punched it up the hill. Now all we had to do was maneuver around a windy corner and down a steep hill to the Arrowhead Trail. The steep hill began extremely icy but half way down we would be down to dirt so traction shouldn't be an issue. At the bottom and before the stop sign, we're back to ice. Alright, deep breath. Neil would be down on the Arrowhead Trail watching for oncoming traffic in case we couldn't stop for the stop sign and careened into the middle of the road. If the truck weren't filled with our precious dogs, I would have been less on edge about the driving task before me.
Being very careful allowed us to make it safely on to the Arrowhead Trail. This road was not nearly as treacherous so the chains would come off so we would not do any more damage to our tires. Oh, no wonder we had troubles going up the hill out of the driveway. At this point, I discovered that there was a chain missing! Neil found it right in the driveway so it was of absolutely no use to us whatsoever. I do still think that one chain was better than none under the circumstances that presented themselves.
As we drove down the Arrowhead Trail we discussed whether conditions were safe for the dogs on our available trails and if we wanted to go through the experience we just did again the next day. The determination for both was a big "No!" There was a snowmobile trail off of the main road, however with it being a holiday weekend, those trails would be unsafe, as well, as a lot of snow had melted to the south and it was likely that many people and their snowmachines would drive north to find snow. Idea after idea was tossed around and the new plan was hatched. We would travel back down south to our Watertown location to run the dogs. There was a blizzard on the way that would bring measurable snow which would allow for safe running on the lake. So we packed up and headed south the next morning. Sadly, one in our party was not feeling particularly well and opted to head back to Wisconsin instead and would join us on another adventure in the future.
We arrived in Watertown on Saturday evening. The storm was supposed to begin that night and there was "supposed" to be measurable snow on the ground in the morning. You never can count on the weather. Our Sunday ended up being a restful day with lots of food and relaxation. This was indeed a mini vacation for me and Neil as we just don't have restful days! We watched the winds pick up and the snow come down but it wasn't adhering to the ice and therefore conditions were not yet suitable for running the dogs on Sunday.
Monday morning came and there was enough snow on the ice to provide traction in most places. It was still snowing and blowing but we were determined to get our dogs and our guests out on the lake before they left that afternoon! Two guest would take one team out first with Neil as support on the snowmobile then upon their return, they would swap over and take out another team so each person got to run a team. Did I mention how unpredictable machines are, as well?
I stayed behind to rest a shoulder injury that had occurred up north when reaching for the handle on the back of the cube van and missing a step, sending me to the ground with my hand still gripping the handle. A nice twist to the wrist and all the way up to the shoulder and neck will be a reminder of just how vulnerable to trauma a body is. It is also a reminder of how often you need to use all of those parts of your body and what a bummer it is when you can't!
So, back to unpredictable machines. Well, I guess it is pretty predictable that if they don't have any gas in them, they won't run. And the adventure begins. Jenn and Cheryl are out with a six dog team in the blizzard with Neil and Sandy as snowmobile assist in the event they were needed. Over half way around the lake the snowmobile stalls out. Neil and Jenn decide to walk back, leaving Cheryl and Sandy to run the team back home solo. The dogs know where home is, they consider. Yes, they do but they also know that there are two greenhorns in and on the sled so they did what dogs will do and they took advantage of the exposed vulnerabilities of our friends and began to take them on the adventure that they wanted to have which luckily for our guests, did eventually include home. Instead of heading around the perimeter of the lake, under the bridge and back home, they took them around some islands and up the other shore and then under the bridge. They then decided to abandon the original trail and break trail along the shore to get back home. I waited for them out in the blizzard on the lake and could finally see them coming. They all had smiles on their faces, even our disoriented mushers!
As we begin taking the dogs off the lines we discuss whether or not we should run a team out to pick up Neil or bring some fuel back just in case. While discussing, we see two figures in the distance, walking along the trail. Neil and Jenn were walking back, having abandoned the broken down snowmachine.
Sandy still needed her turn running the sled. This was her fourth adventure out with our teams so with a refresher, we were confident that she could be the one to run Neil out with a filled gas container and a seven dog team. This would then mean that she would be running an empty sled back with seven dogs. Seven of our dogs is a pretty strong team and the equivalent to twice that in comparison with today's typical racing sled dog. The conditions, however, would make it easy for her to stop the team if she needed to and the dogs would be breaking trail, thus going more slowly than they would otherwise. In addition, Neil would hopefully have the snowmobile up and running and then could be her escort.
Less than an hour went by and we see Neil and Sandy coming from the distance. Sandy looked very natural running that seven dog team and seemed to be having no trouble whatsoever! Excellent! And the snowmobile and Neil were back safely as well.
While recounting the events of the weekend I find myself feeling the exhaustion that one feels when pushing oneself to the limit as Neil and I have been doing all winter. It was certainly an action packed weekend. Our guests continued to have challenges that they could learn from all the way home and to their own front doors as they drove back in the midst of the blizzard. Sandy flew back to Colorado that night with only a short weather delay.
Well, it wasn't the adventure planned but it certainly lived up to the word. Adventure!