Northern Blast Sled Dogs

Carol & Alan Pepsick

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Blog Time Again, Part 1

Posted on November 16, 2013 at 7:00 PM


Well I got behind on my blog again and so much has happened. I actually started this back in September so I will pick up where I left off and post this in parts to get information out sooner. This is PART 1: THE END OF SUMMER

August just slipped away. I had 8 training days marked on my wall calendar and we were not able to use any of them. The temperatures never cooled off enough to start training. The one thing that we did attend in August was the slideshow presentation given by Mike Ellis.




How great it was to meet this incredible musher who currently holds the fastest times for Siberian Husky's for both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod. Both of these races were included in his presentation as well as an introduction on how he got started and eventually moved to Alaska. But I really liked when he talked about the spring caribou hunt he and a small group of mushers did by dogsled. That was so interesting as it was the real deal, the pictures were amazing. It was also great to be able to ask him questions in person (as I have written to him a few times in the past). I had a wonderful time.


During August we also aired out the camping equipment as we know we will be needing it during the training and racing season.



Our cat Midas thought he would lend a paw with my -30 sleeping bag.


Also in August we had a third dog who started having seizures. This time it was Holly, just before her 13th birthday. Holly is Spirit's mother and Joy's grandmother but again the neurologist (by phone to our vet) stated that the 3 cases are unrelated and that because of Holly's age it is likely because of a brain tumor. We could find out with an MRI. We had noticed other physical issues prior which could just be the beginning of arthritis stiffness or possibly tumor related as well. We eventually put her on the same medication as the other girls and she has not had a seizure since (until just the other day unfortunately) . At one point I was trying to video her movement's and captured this picture as a result. As Holly makes her way up the aisle between her and Kwyta's kennel's, you will see Kwyta right behind her. Kwyta became very concerned about her grandmother during all this and she began to watch over Holly. Here she is escorting Holly to her gate, making sure she gets there ok. Such a thoughtful granddaughter and another plusmark in that wonderful package we call Kwyta.





As summer started to wrap up we barely survived the big heat cycle that most of the girls went through together. Well I should say the boys barely survived it, we just didn't get much sleep as we were often up every hour asking them to quiet down. The younger girls, now 2, were much different this time than when they were yearlings as they learned all about flirting and flaunting which drove all the boys, inlcuding the younger ones now, insane. I called our vet about putting the 6 main boys on an anxiety medication hoping to calm them down some, but they would have all needed complete exams first so we gave up on that idea. Then we heard our old friend, Lee Hills, would put vicks on the boys noses to mask the girls scent. Great idea but I figured they would lick it off. So, each night I put a dab at the base of their throat and behind each ear where they couldn't reach it and it would create a vortex of vicks around their head. I also had them sniff the jar to immediately clear the sinuses. This really worked well! Not 100%, but well enough. (Current update: here we go again! A second heat cycle with a smaller group of girls.)


Here are some end of the summer pictures of the dogs. The boys were much more difficult to get pictures of because during playtime they would just wait outside the gate that separates them from the girls yard, hoping we will let them in; and if I went into their yard they would follow me around as a group which doesn't make for any great pictures. I was only able to capture these of them:



Boys gathered at the gate.




Waiting, hoping to see the girls.




Here's a pretty good picture. L - R: Orbit, Apache, and Eagle.




And the only other decent picture I could get on the boys side. Bounder and Tundra on the platform, Apache sitting on the ground, Orbit laying down.



The girls yard was much different:



Lizzy sporting her summer wear.




Ahh yes, this is the life of my two main leaders, Looker and Kwyta. (Current side note: while Kwyta is having one of her best training years ever, Looker just isn't on her game.)




While the girls wait for fall training to start, they get in a little gangline practicing, without the gangline. Notice how Kwyta inserted herself into the front position. Behind her is Lizzy, Joy, Spirit, and Rosie.




Nezi (L) and her aunt Faith.




The face of Kwyta.




Beautiful Ana.




Gorgeous Nezi.




The sun glistens off the shiny coat of sweet Cheyenne.




Sweetheart Drew.




Best Friends Forever: Spirit and Rosie.




And when you can't find your best friend, grab her daughter instead. Lizzy and Rosie.


I thought I would throw in these pictures for a different perspective of the kennel, although not for me. I probably spend more time in the kennel while it's dark than I do during the day, and here's what it looks like:



The boy's side.




The girl's side.


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Now, so I don't get too far behind while trying to catch up, here is a brief and current update for November:


We haven't been as plagued this year with so many issues as we were last year, but still just not getting the training in that we need. Although the temps are improved, there was still too many warm days. We haven't had quite as many health issues thankfully, but Alan has been getting a lot of overtime. In fact, that is one area that is actually worse than last year. I will leave out the details but it has certainly made an impact on our training.


So we try to get out when we can. Right now we are running in the 15+ mile range which is about 10 miles shorter than the runs I wanted to be doing by now. The dogs aren't getting into the type of condition I would like to see with so many gaps in between training and we are running out of time. We will know soon enough where we stand.


I would like to make a couple of mentions however. Kwyta is right on this year. She is so into the training, has done a large majority of the leading and teaching her kids. She has lots of energy and strength, powering 14 dogs up hills, and really hitting her commands. Her kids have turned out to be very strong as well. Tight tugs in all situations while hitting mileage they have never seen before and Ana does really well up in lead with her mom. I can tell she is starting to pick up on commands. Very happy with these 6.


I also have to take a moment to mention Joy. Now at age 5, Joy has become the dog I thought she was going to be by the time she was 3, before her life was interrupted with the whole seizure and medication issues. With all that under control now she has been showing how talented she is. She is in great shape and light on her feet. Her leadership is rivaling Kwyta as she is doing single lead of her little team. It is all such a shame that she can't train and be in the bigger races with the rest because she is outstanding! I think she is enjoying what she is doing however so we will continue to make the best of it. A little more about this in a later blog.


SCARY INCIDENT

Lastly I have to write about yesterday's incident. After 10 years of running dogs, this was a first for us although we have always known this to be a possibility for any musher. After we hooked up my 14 dogs to the gangline (connected to the quad), I gave the "ok" to go but immediately stopped the team as I could see Orbit's back foot was somehow so tangled in his tug line that he couldn't put his foot down. I pointed it out to Alan so he could help him but Alan stopped at the two dogs in front of Orbit instead, Apache and Tundra, and started shouting to me. I wasn't sure what was happening. By the time I got off the quad and to him he had Tundra's neckline undone and was asking me to help him create slack to undo Apache's neckline. Once that was done the back 6 dogs swung free and then Alan starting shouting for me to hook up the leaders as he was holding the remaining 8, and very anxious, dogs in his has bare hands and somehow staying on his feet! The leaders hadn't passed the truck yet so I ran up and hooked them to the drop chains. We then proceeded to unhook all the dogs and hooked them back up to the drop chains. During this I remembered poor Orbit and ran to him to find that his foot was still wound up in his harness and tugline that I had to free him of.


So for those of you who don't understand what was going on was that the gangline broke and unfortunately what happens is the dogs at the break are holding the line together as their neckline is with the front group of dogs and their tugline is with the back group stretching their bodies out and choking them in the process. An experience I hope I will never see again. Alan saw their faces and said he couldn't understand at first why Apache's and Tundra's tongues were hanging out of their mouths and what it was they were doing.


Once we made the gangline repair we had to hook all the dogs back up again. Apache and Tundra both appear to be perfectly fine and completed the 14.5 miles that we did. Another worrisome part during all the chaos, was Drew, who is in season, and was put right next to Tundra and when I saw her she was giving him the green light. I hope that almost being choked kept him from taking advantage of the situation.


Next blog will be about the fall.





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3 Comments

Reply ThomasSa
12:22 AM on February 14, 2017 
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Reply Carol Pepsick
12:04 AM on November 17, 2013 
Hi Kirk, glad you like the blog and the dogs. Alan does remember Slick. So here is the story with our girls. Joy started having seizures when she was 2. Because of her age group and her blood work was fairly normal, they felt she likely has epilepsy and was placed on phenobarbital. This skyrocketed her liver enzymes so she was removed off this and placed on a new medication called zonisamide which she was able to tolerate although her dosage has gone up a couple of times. Last year her mother Spirit started having seizures at the age of 7.5. She's considered too old to have epilepsy and too young for a brain tumor. Because her blood work is normal she receives the label of unknown etiology. Just love that one! She has been stable on the same medication. This year Spirit's mother Holly started having seizures just before her 13th birthday. Her blood work showed slightly elevated liver enzymes but this was ruled out as a cause. Because of her age the likely reason is a brain tumor. She takes the same medication. This medication is illegal at mid-distance races which is one reason Joy can't train with the big team. And also, any of these 3 could have a brain tumor, it is just more likely the older they are. As far as Looker, I am not sure what is going on with her. She has always been such a big player so we will have to see how that plays out. It is strange that we really got into this here when snow conditions are so much better in Michigan. The first race we went to (as spectators) was the Mackinaw Mush back in the early 90's. Obviously it made an impact. Thanks for posting and hopefully part 2 won't be too delayed as there is much more to write about.
Reply Kirk
10:53 PM on November 16, 2013 
Hi Alan and Super Musher Carol!!! I am so glad we got connected and I can see the progress of your kennel and might athletes. weather is so interesting... here it is cloder than last year the lake already froze over. So I love the photos.. your babys are beautiful.. cant wait to meet them someday soon... I was thinking about the seizures your babys are having.. did u meet slick? my white shepard/Labrador mix.. he had seizures and the 2 vets I took him to in Alaska said he was probably epileptic and there was a med for it but expensive and may not work anyways...he lived to be 13...wondering what med your vet gave you... keep up now on this blog :) hope your team is progressin g well.. I wish ou could run here there are numerous ones here and Canada.... past experience with my mato wolf mix and interactions I have observed over the years..I think Lookerhas relinquished her leadership to Kywata, may be intimidated by here skills and new found leadership this year... just a thought.. well good luck and stay healthy! glad no harm came from your incident... love ya guys.... when in the kennel give those boys and girls a hug from uncle kirk