Northern Blast Sled Dogs

Carol & Alan Pepsick

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Past Due

Posted on September 20, 2015 at 11:45 AM

It's well past due for an update. Life has been busy and a bit stressful so it was easier to put this update on hold. But with summer gone and fall finally here, it is time for some catch up.


Several events occurred in May:

First was the sad news of the passing of Terry Hinesly. We (finally) met Terry in 2010 at my first Eagle Cap race where he was the race marshal. Not only was he a fantastic race marshal but Terry had a way about him that made you feel you had been friends for a long time as we swapped stories when time permitted. But Terry was much more to Alan and I. It was the semen from his long passed lead dog Indy that we used for our first litter in 2005 and Terry was so tickled to find out about them and to meet them. Now with him passing, and Holly, the pup's mother who passed away last year, mentor Lee Hills who co-owned Holly with us and mentor Nola Randall who talked us into doing the breeding, both who passed away within the last few years,  Alan and I are just about the only ones left associated with that litter. That feels a little scary. RIP Terry, you will be missed.




Terry and I. Eagle Cap Extreme Race, 2010.


Second, Joy killed a bat in May and I had no idea how involved this event was going to be. I found it in her kennel in the morning so it must have flew in there during the night and she got it. Of course she had her Rabies shot although I knew she was due for a new one this fall. I didn't like that of all critters she caught a bat, but I felt she must be protected, right? This is why they get a Rabies shot, right? As an afterthought, I called and informed our vet. I expected them to say something like 'she should be fine, just watch her over the next 72 hours' but it was not that simple. There is certain protocol to follow and they had informed me that there was a recent case of a bat that had rabies in Damascas, a town just downriver from us. So first, did I still have the bat, yes! The bat needed to be sent to Oregon State University, with a fee, if most of the head was intact, so they could analyze the brain for rabies. Second, a strong recommendation that Joy get another rabies shot immediately (even though she should be protected?). Since she was so close to needing a new one I took her in for the injection and dropped the bat off to be sent to OSU. I also did not know if any of the other dogs had contact with the bat before it ended up with Joy so I was a bit nervous about that. But the result came back a couple days later that the bat was negative for Rabies. Whew!!!

Third, Alan went back to work in May after his fourth surgery in February. It wasn't long before he found he was in the same situation. He could perform his job but not to the new standard. He would come home dead tired after trying to keep up and started having toe pain again. In June, his doctor discovered he had an ingrown toenail on that same poor toe. This time Alan had an in office procedure to have a portion of the nail removed and a drain put in place which put him out of work for a few days. When he returned at the end of June he was approached at work regarding his performance and although it was noted that he had another procedure done that might help with a little more healing time, they put him back on leave in July.

This could not have come at a worse time because also in June I had discovered a lump on one of Rosie's mammary glands. At 10 years old I was reluctant to put her through a surgery and had the lump been benign I wouldn't have. But a cytology showed that it had cancer cells, though they were non aggressive. At that time I had arranged for Rosie to have her surgery at the beginning of July as I had already set up some time off during the Fourth of July weekend and would be able to take care of Rose easier as she would be in the house. Just before her surgery is when they sent Alan home. We went through with the surgery anyhow, of course, and Rosie did just fine. She also did great for the 12 days she spent in the house! She did not attempt to get into anything to my surprise, nor did she mess with her shaved belly and long row of stitches. Funny though she would not pee on the grass around the house. She felt this business had to be done in the dog yard. So we would have to walk her down to the yard for this, but that was ok because then her pack could see that she was ok. 

Also during the month of July, Alan took advantage of the time off to prepare the dog truck for the fall. He found the battery was dead, a bee's nest was in one of the dog boxes, and mice got into the storage compartment. Luckily they were just most interested in the roll of paper towels. He made all the repairs and got the air lift bags pumped back up just in time for us to pick up and haul one ton of dog food. Ahh, now that should get us through the fall and hopefully most of the winter.

During this time I made 2 needed upgrades. Our cell phones had been working poorly for some time and it was time for some new ones. Luckily we got a good deal on this and for the first time ever since using cell phones, our monthly costs actually dropped a bit. I also needed a new computer. I could take the old one in and have it fixed, AGAIN, or use that money instead to invest in something better. This is another reason I had not been working on the website as it was too time consuming with that old laptop. I got a good deal on a new laptop and have felt some of my frustration level go down and I took another step in the computer world as I started using flash drives. Such great little devices and now all the things important to me are safe. 

At the end of July, with strong help by his union rep, Alan attended a meeting at work and was given several job options to be placed in another department. Alan chose the box and crate warehouse of Safeway and started work in August. So far he loves it! The warehouse is normal room temperature so he can wear regular shoes, unlike the thick boots he was wearing in the frozen warehouse. This change has really helped his toe. The job is physical but he is not using his feet in the same manner. Now he doesn't experience toe pain nor does he come home exhausted. However this puts him back at the bottom of the pole which means he has to call in to see if he is needed to work and he could work days or nights, and so far he has worked every weekend. When Alan was in frozen, it took 2 years before he was put on a permanent schedule. Alan cashed in all his vacation and sick time during July so now he doesn't have any and we don't know how this will effect getting time off together and we are going to do the best we can with training this year. It will probably be a constant hit and miss with weather being the other factor to contend with. Overall things are much improved for him. 

During August I was able to go through our mushing gear which received little use last year. Few replacements needed to be made. The worst part of August were the fires that hit the PNW. A dry spring and summer after a non existent winter made for terrible conditions. There were fires everywhere and some mushers in Washington have been greatly affected. Several weeks ago, a shift in the wind brought smoke into the yard from surrounding fires bringing back bad memories of our nearby fire last year except the closest large fire this year was 40 miles away. Kwyta spent most of that weekend in the house to avoid activating her cough and she did really great in the house too! Now with this super dry weather also came some unexpected restrictions. Here are a few: no lawn mowing or using a chainsaw to avoid creating a spark. No outside burning of any type which is pretty typical every year, but also no b-b-qing unless you have a gas grill, which we don't. We have never spent a summer not grilling! It has been strange. 

Lastly in August, on the first, it is hard to believe that our Native American litter, our youngest dogs, turned 4 years old!! And they are all doing well and they still feel like puppies to me.




Puppy Pile! Sweet image of the litter when they were 5 weeks old.



So far this season, the temperatures feel more normal for the fall time. Some local mushers have already started training, we are almost ready ourselves. We got a new bale of straw to redo the dog boxes on the truck and their dog houses, as well as shredded cedar to line their kennels and walk ways. Mandatory grunt work. I redid the dog boxes on the truck a couple of weeks ago and then the following Tuesday we hauled 10 dogs to the vet for their rabies shots. The staff worked really well with us and we were done in under an hour. We are almost done changing the straw in all their dog houses as well and last weekend I started with the shredded cedar, only completing Faith's and Joy's kennels. I also had to take Joy and Rosie in for bloodwork. Both had liver values that were off on the bloodwork they had done last: Rosie's was from her pre surgical labs and Joy's was her annual bloodwork to maintain her seizure medication. Joy's came back normal but Rosie's is still elevated. We had the same problem with her mother Holly last year before she passed away. Rosie will be receiving further testing. 

Unfortunately Joy had a seizure early last Monday morning. This is the first time in several years and my first thought was the cedar but it actually may have been several stressful situations in a row (for her) including changing her bedding, that brought this on. I was up all night with her and took Monday off of work to get some sleep and to check on her. By Monday evening she had another seizure but not as severe as the first. We temporarily increased her medication for a few doses to break the cycle which so far has worked. Now that she is back on her regular dose we are watching her carefully to see if it will hold.

We have also started an early fall lineup of girls coming into season and for the first time a fight between boys broke out last weekend. To my surprise, I found brothers Cree and Apache in a serious fight. Alan, who heard me yelling at them while trying to get them apart, came out with our new management tool. An air horn. He blew that and the fight broke up immediately. Apache suffered several cuts on one ear and a broken toenail. They seem to be over it now but I keep a close eye on them. Fights, unfortunately, interferes with the overall peacefulness of the whole kennel, and another possible reason for Joy's seizure.

In mid-summer, announcements were made regarding Henning's fall training at his place. We have done this the last two years, meeting some elite mushers, getting in some good training with our dogs, and having just the best time. But with our current situation we decided not to sign up this year. A difficult choice but our future is too unknown. So instead we will contribute to our own adventures this year, whatever that may be.

I have written previously on how stressful my job has become and unfortunately this has not changed. We have become so busy we hired on another doctor and more support staff and took over some vacant space across the hall from our suite. They moved 6 of us over to this new side and I am one of the 6 so I had to get used to a new routine and the bugs still aren't worked out. The schedule is constantly busy, I come home exhausted and the last couple of weeks my back has been acting up although not nearly as severe as what happened last year. They are trying to adjust my schedule and responsibilities but so far this has not made a difference. Taking last Monday off didn't help as my schedule was packed when I returned with no extra time to get much else done. It turned out to be another tough week on top of a very tough year that has had me tossing around several options all year long and on Friday I finally made a decision. With Alan's full support, and after 13 years of work, I gave my two week notice. Of course, this decision creates more unknowns for us but I am hoping that only good will come from it. So...to be continued.

Now, how about we get going with some fun fall training! :D





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