Northern Blast Sled Dogs

Carol & Alan Pepsick

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Time Keeps On Slippin...

Posted on January 20, 2014 at 10:40 AM

I have not posted on my blog for a while, because there is not much to post.

We have not done any training since the last time I posted due to Alan's foot surgery. He got his stitches out about 10 days ago and has been able to wear a regular boot but he still has some swelling. We did get everything set up yesterday to go on our first run back this morning but temps soared into the mid 40's!! We have been suffering from inversion quite a bit this season, meaning the temps are actually warmer the higher up in elevation. This really works against us. By the time we get set up, and at the higher elevation, it would be too warm, in a bright sun, for a team that is going to be overly excited to be back on the trail, so we stayed home. We'll see what tomorrow is like. 

I am off several days this week because the Eagle Cap Extreme race is this week which I had intended to go to. When I realized that we weren't going to make it, I put a couple of work days back on my schedule but still gave myself a few days off. I thought it might still be fun to go to another training area and stay for a few days and train but the weather has really left no options for this (within a reasonable distance). All local mushers are scrambling for training grounds. Most of us have not pulled our sleds out and those that have, has not found the greatest conditions or they don't last long. The local sprint races were cancelled as well as several other races throughout the PNW (with possibly more to follow). With the exception of more fog like this:

...we haven't had much moisture in the past month. The lack of snow is incredible. But there has been plenty of sunshine. Here's what my sled dogs have been doing this January:

So we are ready to get back into it although we will have to back our mileage down a bit to start, just waiting for the right day. Since we will not have enough training to make it to our race in February as well, we can wait for the right day. We will have to see if we can set ourselves up for a race I was looking at in March. However, it is here in Oregon so we will have to see what the snow conditions are like at that time.

The only thing we did work on over the last couple of months is getting rid of an eye infection that hit about 14 dogs in the kennel. It was difficult to get rid of as they kept passing it back and forth to each other. I have never had a health issue concerning so many dogs at once. Treating that many dogs was not fun. Finally, it disappeared about 2 weeks ago, but it returned in one dog a few days ago. Sure hope this is the last of it. Joy held out the longest before it finally hit her. Here is a very cute picture of her:

And I have to post this fun picture I captured last night. This is Faith's shadow against the back of the kennel during a low setting sun:

Lastly, one unfortunate event that did take place this month was the passing of one of our original mushing mentor's. Here is a posting I made on my FB page:

Good-Bye To A Friend And Mentor

January 11, 2014 at 9:52am

I was recently informed that an old friend has passed. Alan and I consider her one of our original mushing mentors and our tale is an odd one. Alan and I met her at the home of Lee Hills whom she was an old friend of. She was sort of passing through, if you call a 6 week stay "passing through", from Alaska working at DeeDee Jonrowe's kennel (who was an old friend of hers), on her way back to Australia, her homeland. We spent every day with her during those six weeks, often it feels we crammed a lifetime into that very short time. This was 9 years ago and we were just starting out in our first full year as mushers. We had spent all spring and summer collecting dogs and equipment and started cart training that fall, but everything changed when she showed up around Thanksgiving time.


She took us under her wing without us asking and poured as much information into our brains as we could handle. We learned about her dogs, Siberian husky's, as well as the dogs she worked with in Alaska. She would hand us books on dogs or on mushing and tell us to read them. She introduced us to the concept of form and function. Between her and Lee we enjoyed tons of stories as we sat, hanging onto every word, thinking that maybe someday we will have our own list of fun stories to tell. We shared many meals together as well as long conversations on a variety of topics.


For some reason she chose to come with us on our training runs to help us with the dogs. She wanted to handle for us at the local races and she has been the only person we have ever handed one of our teams over to so she could take them for a run. And she was there to see us off when we finally went on our first sled runs. From Alaska she brought back with her a foot ointment recipe and shared it with us. The memory of that night as we made a big mess in Lee's kitchen trying to whip up a batch of the ointment. Laughing while we worked, a little more of this and a spoonful more of that until we felt we had it right. Every couple of years Alan and I make up another batch of the ointment as I did early this fall and I just couldn't help but remember that silly day in Lee's kitchen.


Of course, being from Australia added another whole aspect to getting to know her. When she asked for a "couple of ticks", I learned it meant she needed a few "seconds" to do something. "Getting pissed" really meant "getting drunk", and "chucks (chooks) on the barbie" really meant "b-b-qued chicken". The accent also threw us for a while. For example "ee-glue pak" was the well known Siberian kennel "Igloo Pak". One of our dogs at the time was Keeper and we used to giggle at her pronunciation of Kee-pah. Probably our largest misunderstanding being new to the mushing world, was about this white team she often spoke of. We didn't realize there was mushing teams out there but this was when all the adventuring racing teams were hitting it big so we just assumed. She was always saying "team white" this and "team white" that, and we always wondered who are the other teams and are they all named after colors. Then one day we put it all together and realized she had been talking about the very famous musher Tim White. Now I wish I could go back and rehear everything she said about him.


But also being from Australia came with some fun. She gave us a boomerang and showed us how to throw it. Oh the fun we had throwing that thing around at Lee's ranch. And for mushers it has a second purpose, to scrap the ice off the windshield if needed. Today that boomerang still hangs from the rearview mirror in the dog truck. She also gave me a journal to keep my own mushing notes in. 


Her final influence on our lives was convincing us of doing our first breeding. That breeding was with Holly whom we co-owned with Lee at the time and who is still here with us now. The breeding was a surgical AI (artificial insemination), the frozen semen was from the same dog that she used, Terry Hinesly's Indy D. She brought a large amount of the semen back to Australia many years earlier and those lines still carry on today. So during a horrible ice storm in January, we all went to the vet together for Holly's successful AI. The next day, we all went to the airport together to say our good-bye's as it was time for her to head home.


Before she left she informed us that she had some issues she would be tending to and that she would not be able to be in contact with us for a while. I was hoping we would hear from her after a few months so we can tell her all about the litter of pups Holly had but we never heard from her. Years passed, we thought of her often and Alan and I would get into conversations throwing her words and expressions back and forth. Because of her I have made several more friends from Australia through FB, I wished she could have been one of them. I wanted to tell her how much our Tundra looks like her Shay, they were half-brothers, or what it was like training the litter of pups, and how we were inspired to do more breeding's, and then how I got into racing.


Then out of the blue two years ago, she made contact with us by e-mail. She found my website and left a comment on my Guestbook page as well. Our e-mails went back and forth for a while and it was so nice to talk dogs with her again especially after all that we had been through since her departure. I was glad she was able to view my pictures on my website and read MY stories and we also learned more about her along the way. The personality I knew before came through those e-mails: mysterious, bold, informative, surprising, strong, and someone with a great sense of humor. But now that time is over, and as I ponder this recent news I can't help but think that she was aware of her fate, and this is why she got back in touch with us. I am trying to learn what her cause of death was as this was not explained to me. If I hear back any more news I will update this.


Lee Hills, our other original mentor, passed away in the spring of 2012. I can only imagine what these two are up to together now. Perhaps just sitting around, telling more stories and laughing away!


Throughout this writing I have kept her name discreetly absent as I know she would have liked it that way. Anyone who knows her knows exactly who I am writing about anyhow. But I have to say she deserves so much more and so, with respect, I say good-bye Nola Randell, we will always appreciate your friendship and guidance, and we will never forget you.


 From our guestbook page:


"Would place my stamp of approval on this team any day. It's not what you do... but how you do it. " Nola Randell

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Reply Carol Pepsick
5:03 AM on February 1, 2014 
Thank you for your nice comments Kirk. A few of my short stories that appear on my Story Time page, first appeared in a local mushing newsletter. I received some great feedback which is one of the reasons I started this website, so I could share more of my stories with a larger audience. Not sure if they are good enough for a larger publication though, maybe some day. I am glad you are enjoying them. It WAS great to hear your voice the other day! Stay strong and I hope you have a speedy recovery.

KC says...
Beautiful story about your mentors.. it really touched my heart, carol you write so well, you should share these stories in other venues like the local newspaper, they are real and touching. By the way it was so great to talk with you both while I was in the hospital. I am home for now but will keep you updated. Miss you guys a lot! Much Love kirk
Reply KC
1:16 PM on January 30, 2014 
Beautiful story about your mentors.. it really touched my heart, carol you write so well, you should share these stories in other venues like the local newspaper, they are real and touching. By the way it was so great to talk with you both while I was in the hospital. I am home for now but will keep you updated. Miss you guys a lot! Much Love kirk