Dogs and ponies

Pooh

“I wonder what Piglet is doing?”
thought Pooh.

“I wish I were there to be doing it, too.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh


Hello. My name is Pooh.

Something is up. We have not been running for a few days. We haven’t seen snow flakes falling from the sky for a few weeks. I believe the season is over. So sad. Just when I got into it. I had a shoulder problem for a few weeks, so I could not run with my friends in February. And I so love to run. I may look a little chubby, but don’t let this fool you. I may be quiet around the house, but boy put me on the line and I am becoming “jumping” Pooh. I think the most fun is in the front. Following my musher with good-looking Johnny Cash on my side, that’s just great.

Well, now it’s back to the off-season. Less food, higher temps, rain, sun… Not sure what to do with myself. Ahh, there is always food. I love to eat. I could eat way more than what they put in my bucket. Then, I would look like a sausage. Can’t have that. Oh, well.

I am a bit sad that my musher is leaving in a few weeks. We got along well. He was no trouble. In the beginning I chewed a few neck lines out of excitement. Well, he seemed annoyed, so I let that go.

Man, I can’t wait for winter. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

How many days til Christmas? 266? Ugghhhhh…

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Inside Out

Breakup…

The end is in sight. The end of winter that is.

Daytime temperatures above freezing in recent days have softened snow and ice. As a result slushy ice floats down the creeks. A few weeks ago these creeks have been frozen over. In remote places without bridges these are significant times. Snow bridges disappear making overland travel more difficult.

The hillsides are shedding their white coats. The first few green leaves appear as soon as the snow is gone. At night frost comes back freezing our tracks until the next morning.

Rain is in the forecast. Soon, the muddy season is here.

Time to break camp and move to new stomping grounds.

This was a short winter with long working days. I will miss dog kisses, wagging tails, and the enthusiasm, honesty and fidelity of my furry friends. I wish I could bring them all…

floating

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Dogs and ponies

Viking

Viking-2

Hey, I am Viking, one of the strongest wheel dogs in the yard.

What?

I don’t look like a sled dog?

I have heard that a million times.

They always make fun of me.

I am an Alaskan Husky! Like everybody else in the yard. Just because I look like a Lab…

Anyways, I am even keeled. Not much that bothers me. I like our new guy. He always gives me a bit extra. I think it’s because I show my excitement, when the food arrives. Yep, I am a good eater. I have a thick fur. I am in good health. Life is good.

See my buddy Tiger in the background? We ran a lot together at the beginning of the season. He is blind! I have been very patient with him. He is so unruly at the start of each run. He barks and jerks as soon as he gets put on the gang line. Well he can’t see, so he thinks we are going to run any time now, even there is nobody in the sled yet. So, Tiger gets very anxious and that’s when he snaps at me, which our musher does not appreciate. So, for the last couple of weeks I have been running by myself. I like that. I have more space in the back and nobody is pulling the gang line sideways.

Viking

Last year I did bite another musher. I don’t actually remember why I snapped. Hey, it happened. Now they don’t let the kids getting close to me. Oh well. I have been good all year.

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Dogs and ponies

A day in a musher’s life

It is 6:30 o’clock in the morning. I don’t even need an alarm any more. Every day for the last 3 months we would get up the same time. A brief look out the window: A starry sky means long underwear, fresh snow on the ground calls for snow pants, horizontally flying ice pellets will be met by goggles and a face mask. Though before we leave the house a quick breakfast is in order. Nothing fancy, hot chocolate, bread and jam, sometimes an egg, yogurt, or fruit for variety.

Rubber boots, insulated pants, a long down jacket, mittens, goggles, face mask, hat?

Check!

Leatherman, knife, lighter?

Check!

And don’t forget the sunblock!

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Walking uphill to the kennel we are sometimes greeted by a howling wind out of the west. A few times we walked in a foot of fresh pow, more recently it is more like a dicey mix of rocks and ice… During the longest nights of winter it is pitch dark. Walking by the kennel we are greeted by some sentinel dogs, pacing outside their house, in any weather. The rest is asleep, staying out of the wind.

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It is now 7 o’clock. Time to take care of the dogs. Feed, scoop, harness and hook-up. Every musher has their own routine. I walk straight to the barn, grab an empty poop bucket and a shovel. While scooping some dogs greet me with wagging tails, other stay in their houses, watching me barely with one eye open…

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Then, when I come with the food bucket all hell brakes loose. Johnny Cash is the first one to spot me coming out of the feed room. A scoop or two for every dog. It’s all gone in about a minute. Some of my pooches don’t eat out of the metal can, some don’t like to eat in the morning, period.

Then there are some general chores mostly related to cleaning the feed room.

Around 9 o’clock our guest arrive. They get an introduction into the history of dog mushing and the story behind our kennel. Once they are dressed appropriately we greet and meet the dogs impatiently waiting for us. As soon as they see me arrive with guest in tow they start a storm: barking, jumping, and jerking on the gang line. Let’s go!

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We tuck some guest into our sleds, some will ride with a musher on the runners. As soon as I pull the snub line it all becomes quiet. My dogs put their head down and accelerate from 0 to 100 in a fraction of a second, if I let them.

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A 10 mile ride to the hot spring is ahead of us. The trail conditions are different every day. I bring different dogs every day. Except Clumber, my lead dog is almost there every day. Without him my life would be much more difficult. He always takes the right turns, keeps my team straight and is always happy to run. It takes us about 1.5 hours to travel 10 miles, with photo stops and little breathers.

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Once we arrive at the hot spring our guest go swimming for about an hour, then come back, have lunch. In the meantime the dogs rest. After lunch we head back to the kennel, mostly downhill. Going home the dogs run a bit faster. After returning to the kennel we say good-bye to our guest, and return the dogs to their houses.

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Another round of feeding, storing the sleds, some general chores and that was it, unless there is something to repair for the next day. Another 12 hour day comes to an end.

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Dogs and ponies

Hunter

Hey, I am Hunter. I am working here. This is my first winter in Wyoming. I live in Montana. We came to Wyoming in December to work as sled dogs. I think there were six of us. This is a big kennel. I have counted 160 dogs so far. My Montana friends ended up with the other mushers in the yard. My guy is ok, actually, he is pretty nice.

I didn’t like the food first. In Montana we all eat raw meat, none of this kibbles soup. So the first weeks, I think I gave my guy a little headache, because I was picking out the meat from my meals and left the kibbles untouched. For some reason I did not loose any weight. You may have already guessed it: I am a girl.

They also serve food here in metal cans, which I am not used to. I have learned to clean my can by now. I even start to like these juicy kibbles.

I am also young, just 3 years old, so I am still a bit playful. I believe my musher tries to teach me a lesson here and there. First he puts me in lead with this serious gentlemen, Clumber, who is all about business. Whenever I find something interesting on the trail, he just keeps pulling me along. Am I not allowed to stop and investigate? We also don’t stop for #1 or #2, even marking is not allowed while we are pulling a sled. So, whenever I run with Clumber, I am a good girl, because I have no choice. He is so strong! I believe, he is my musher’s favorite dog, although he maintains he loves us all.

I also think my musher doesn’t like it when I chew my harnesses. I am just excited and want to run. So when we are parked nobody pays attention to me. I can yap, I can howl, I can jump, nothing. So, then I chew. That gets his attention, although he doesn’t sound thrilled. So far I have chewed 2 harnesses. The first one, I destroyed completely. It looked like goulash, when I was done with it. I ran home with a spare harness. That was funny.

The second time I just chewed off the strategic tail piece of my new harness. Again, major annoyance. Now, he takes me off the line right away and I am home first, good deal. I also do necklines. They are so easy (smile) ! 2 seconds and they are gone. Come on, give me a break. I am just an innocent, young girl. Wink!

XOX Hunter

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Dogs and ponies

Cabernet

Hello. My name is Cabernet. I am a big dog! I mean BIG! I am wearing an XL harness, the only XL harness in my yard and I could drag my musher down the strip, if I weren’t such a nice boy.

I live next to Palenque, a nice lady, who is flirting with me all the time, well, who isn’t? My trail buddy is Spongebob. We get along alright. No reason to fight. We are wheel dogs, meaning we are the engine of the whole shebang. Our musher puts us usually on the second sled. With our other four buddies we pull 2 adults for 20 miles every day, no sweat.

I am not the youngest any more, so my eyesight is slowly fading, but I am not complaining. I do love to run in the morning, I have a good appetite and I am in pretty good shape for my age. True, those young folks like to run a bit too fast for my taste. I am more an endurance kind of guy. I could go at my pace all day.

I guess you figured out by now that I am a mellow guy. Don’t get me wrong, I am getting excited about work. You’ll see me with all 4 legs in the air, when we are stopped for too long. The other day we had this photographer Benjamin visiting us. He took a cool shot of me and my buddy Spongebob. I think, we look great.

Cabernet & Spongebob - ©2014 Ben Gately Williams, gatelywilliams.com

Cabernet & Spongebob – ©2014 Ben Gately Williams, gatelywilliams.com

That’s me in a nutshell.

Did I mention I ran the Iditarod in 2007? Quite a trip. We burned up the sled on the way… That’s a whole different story.

See you on the trail, Cabernet

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