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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Introducing Rachel Sicheneder

Rachel cuddles with Q before a run

Rachel was born in the suburbs of the Twin Cities and some of her earliest memories are of camping in state parks and forests near her home. Her parents instilled in her a sense of adventure and respect for nature that has continued to be a foundation for how she views the world.  She attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA and earned a Bachelors in Biology. Her degree has taken her all around the world for research including Costa Rica, North Carolina and Africa. Despite the thrills of traveling, Rachel always felt drawn to Minnesota and the north woods and returned home in 2012. She went on an adventure with Points Unknown in 2014 and fell in love with the dogs and quiet lifestyle at Irish Creek Homestead.

Last year Rachel quit her job as a natural resource contractor to realize her dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. She completed her hike in the beginning of September and is excited to be once again back with the dogs and in the woods. She didn’t have dogs growing up and is using all the furry friends at Points Unknown to make up lost time. After her time up north she is heading to Officer Training for the Coast Guard and is crossing her fingers hoping she will get placed somewhere cold with sled dogs!

Please welcome Rachel to the Points Unknown team! She'll be with us through December, helping with fall and early winter training.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Passing of Special Friends

Blueberry at 11 years old, taken last winter.

Bazil at 11 1/2 years old, taken in early spring of this year.

It has taken me nearly two weeks to reach the point of writing about the passing of two very special furry friends. Honestly, it still has not fully sunk in and I have not been able to properly grieve either of them due to the busyness on the homestead since their passing. Since Blueberry's death was only a day after Bazil's and was completely out of the blue, I have not even begun the grieve. I am still in shock and filled with feelings of disbelief.

Dogs. Yes, they are dogs. No, they are not "just" dogs. Each and every one of these loyal, honest, beautiful, compassionate and passionate fuzzy beings that comes into my life holds their own very special place in my heart. My heart turns upside down when they depart. The loss is felt deeply. Each one comes into your life for a reason. You may not fully comprehend that reason at the time, but as time passes, it does become more clear. They each teach you something new about yourself; about life. And if you don't think they do, then you aren't paying attention.

Since they passed somewhat "together", I feel it fitting to memorialize them together. Where they close with each other while living? No. They didn't have much of anything in common, on the surface and had no relationship to speak of. I have yet to discover their similarities. Blueberry was a 22lb unique mix of Beagle, King Charles Spaniel and something with the whitest blue eyes you've ever seen.They were curious as they also had a very deep blue ring around the pupil. He was, in all aspects, an eccentric soul, beating his own drum, nose to the ground, sniffing, sniffing, sniffing. The beagle was quite apparent in him.

Bazil was from my very first husky litter in 2002. I raised him to 6 months old and then circumstances surrounding a poor marriage and subsequent divorce made it sadly necessary for him to leave me. He came back for a few weeks in 2007 when he bred Tuloon and we had a glorious time together. I remembered why I was deeply in love with this soulful dog and I didn't want him to leave. Several months after he departed, I packed up all of the dogs to head up north to spend the winter. I was told that Bazil got out of his kennel, jumped a fence, ran across a frozen lake, jumped over my backyard fence and was found sitting in front of my vacant back door, waiting to be let in. My heart was broken hearing this story. Surely this would have been an indicator of where this beautiful boy wanted to live.

Each year, there was a chance to bring him home, that was then eventually thwarted by the indecision of his keeper, until this year. My dream came true when, in early spring, I got the call that Bazil and all of his furry companions were available. Neil jumped in the cube van within a couple days of this call and brought them all back. Bazil came home! The reunion was filled with tears and wags of joy. At 11 1/2 years old, Bazil was no longer a working dog; his body had grown to frail. His mind was still sharp and his soul filled with light. He so enjoyed his daily free runs in our big fenced play areas, time on canicross hikes and moments spent in the house with us.

The spark in Bazil's eyes began to fade just four days before our trip to the vet. He appeared to long for another place. Perhaps a place free of pain. You see, Bazil was unable to keep food down those last days. He seemed less interested in food. It was confirmed at the vet that he had a tumor, likely cancerous, that had likely spread to his organs, making him unable to keep food down. I feared this would be the case. I just lost his sister, Sweet Pea, last month. The wound for me was still very raw. But despite how I felt, Bazil needed to be in a better place and after a few deep breaths and an "I love you, Bazil. See you later." I let him go there. After all, he did finally make his way back to me. He came home. Things had come full circle for us. I think this happened for a reason. I couldn't be selfish. He needed to continue on with his journey.

I came home from the vet that afternoon, feeling that hole in my heart, compounded by the fact of loosing Bazil's sister last month, as well. I walked the house dogs and went on with the rest of the day. Nothing seemed unusual, except this hole, and the house dogs helped to comfort me that evening.

I awoke to the sounds of Blueberry gagging as if something was in this throat. He did this on occasion when he would snatch a ball and roll it to the back of this throat and had for many years, every since I picked him up at his Second Chance Rescue foster home. There he was, a seemingly confident, yet somewhat standoffish, pretty 1 1/2 year old fluff ball. I searched for a friend on Petfinder for Copper in 2005 and found him! Interestingly enough, Copper never really paid much attention to him nor he to Copper. Blueberry was attached to my hip; my velcro dog. Where I was, he was there or would be shortly. He soon grew to be a big part of our puppy socialization crew here at Points Unknown and did his part to teach them what he knew. He came along dutifully on our remote adventures, either hiking in with his booties and jacket or being wrapped up in a heat blanket, in a crate, on the back of a snowmobile as we make our way into the cabin. He was up for anything and everything.

I didn't give Blueberry's gagging noise a second thought that morning because, as I said, it wasn't uncommon. What was uncommon, however, was that it progressed with more intensity and frequency. He lost interest in his food. This dog ALWAYS eats his food. He vomited, had runny stool and then when going to get a drink, he laid right down next to the water bowl as if not having enough energy to continue. At that point, I just thought he had a stomach bug but that we did need to get him into the vet that day. Off we went, fully expecting to bring him home and begin our evening routine of couch cuddling.

While waiting for the vet, Blueberry seemed to decline rapidly. I laid him on my lap, stroking his head and he walked away from me and laid down on the floor by himself. He was in pain and didn't want to be touched. This broke my heart. When he began to cry, my heart sank and I ran out to alert the vet that we needed her to come soon. A full exam found a golf ball size tumor inside Blueberry's throat. Based upon how he was presenting in the vet's office and everything that had gone on at home prior to the visit, she hesitated and was nearly in tears when she said that it was likely a cancerous tumor that had spread to his organs. He was in great pain.  She told us that she could give this news to any other people with less emotion but because it was us and we had just been in the day before, she couldn't hold herself back. Blueberry continued to cry.  I told Dr. Amanda that it must be done NOW. I did not want this little dog to suffer for one second longer. It wasn't fair to him, despite my wanted to spend more time with him. We just went into the vet for a stomach ache. He didn't get any special walks or treats or fun before we left. We just all hopped in the truck with the intention of us all coming home.

Blueberry left quickly and was at peace after an "I love you, Blueberry. I'll see you later." . I, on the other hand, was numb, in shock, and filled with feelings of disbelief. What just happened? What the hell just happened?

We returned home with Blueberry's collar and leash in my hand. I saw Claire through the window and shook my head as tears, again, began to roll down my face. What just happened?

I spent the next couple days looking at each and every one of our 25 remaining sled pets and 2 remaining house dogs wondering who was next. Was that sneeze, just a sneeze? Wait. What was that look? Was that a limp? I decided I must shake myself out of this state and quick for it was not a healthy way to move forward.

Now I sit, eyes filled with tears, writing the story. Feelings of closure are beginning to appear. The lessons, however, will still come trickling in. I look forward to those lessons.

September Birthdays!


Rayna from our Bassich line of Alaskan Husky, turned 3 years old on September 25th. She's a fantastic sled dog and leader, as well as a mild-mannered and gentle companion

Zala, Zodiak, Q and Oken turned 7 years old on September 26th. They are from our 2007 Tuloon/Bazil litter and are half Hedlund and half our Points Unknown Zulu line. They are all exceptional sled dogs with Zala, Oken and Zodiak being leaders. Q definitely has leader potential, however, since he returned to us only this past spring, we have yet to explore that potential.



Q baby


Rayna/Arrow Breeding 2014


 We just bred Rayna and Arrow and are expecting puppies around Thanksgiving! 

 Rayna is from the Bassich line outside of Eagle, Alaska who we brought in to the kennel to provide some genetic diversity to our line. At 75lbs and 30" at the shoulder, we're hoping she brings some size into the females in our line who tend to be in the 50-65lb range. Rayna is a strong leader that is eager-to-please and she's a quick learner. Her temperament is mild mannered and steady like our deep Hedlund line. Rayna has an exceptional build. We are quite certain that these will be outstanding puppies!

Arrow is from our Hedlund Husky line with a dash of our Zulu line mixed in for good measure. He's 31" at the shoulder and weighs 78lbs. He is as eager-to-please as they come and is such a happy, goofy boy. His work ethic is outstanding. Having just started his leader training late last winter, we can see that special spark in him that comes from his papa Oken, one of our very best leaders in the kennel. Arrow has the dense coat we look for in our traditional line of sled dogs and an excellent structure.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's a Bit Brisk

September 10th - official lighting of the outdoor wood furnace. It's a tad chilly outside at 41 degrees. In the house, we've got 65 degrees and falling. If we light the stove now, we'll have heat in a couple days when the water in the jacket of the stove heats up, then sends heated water through the underground pipe to the house. Finally, the fluid in the under floor heating needs to heat up and then we'll be toasty warm for the rest of the heating season!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

North Woods Garden Update: Late Summer

The straw bale garden is flourishing! The container tomatoes aren't doing too bad either.

Our first broccoli

Green beans

We have a melon! Now, if I can just remember what kind it is and then keep it alive now that colder temperatures are upon us.

The zucchini has been the most productive


The cherry tomatoes are getting ripe.

There are lots of tomatoes that only need to ripen.

I think the carrots would have preferred the straw bales instead of the shallow containers

I discovered that the stair step container garden didn't do nearly as well as the straw bales. We'll see if adding more drainage holes works for next year. Otherwise, the bales win!