Northern Blast Sled Dogs

Carol & Alan Pepsick

Home & Blog

Northern Blast Sled Dogs is a small kennel of Siberian Huskies located in Estacada, Oregon. Most of our dogs are training for mid distance races, while the rest run recreationally or are retired.

Our kennel is not a business. This is only a fun hobby for us as well as this website. We will post updates, events, pictures and stories of our times on the trail. Start by checking the blog below. You can add comments to my Blog entries, Photo Gallery, Video's, Calender, and Guest Book. Updates will be listed here. Sign up as a member (located on the sidebar) and receive automatic e-mails whenever the site is updated.




Recent Updates

11/7/15: Blog posting titled: More Of The Same (scroll down)
11/7/15: New video on the Video page: First Training Run, Fall 2015
10/19/15: Blog posting titled: 3 Dog Blog (scroll down)
9/20/15: Blog posting titled: Past Due (scroll down)



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More Of The Same

Posted on November 8, 2015 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Started my fourth week out of work quite miserably as my back seized up again. Over the past year, I have had days where my back just feels sore or sometimes tight with minor pain, but it hasn’t been this severe since the forest fire last year. But maybe I should back up here a bit...


…on my last blog, we were waiting for Spirit’s cytology results that day (Monday) regarding the growth that she has. Those results came back as benign! Whew! So now I will just continue to monitor it.


On Friday that week, we were able to do this!:



Yes, we got our first run in! The difficult part was not taking my main leader Kwyta as she was still battling pneumonia. Normally she gets the first lead (or more) of the season. Although Spirit and Rosie were both cleared to run, I decided to leave them home as well mainly to keep Kwyta company as she would have been left alone on her side of the kennel and taking her with us without running her would have been torture for her. This plan also made our first outing a little easier, with less to deal with. Hook-up was as crazy as ever though, with dogs screaming their heads off, chewing on tug and neck lines, and tangling themselves in their harness out of excitement to go; but once we were moving it was smooth sailing. 14 dogs ages 4-10 and not one issue. Fun!! What was cool about this run was I put Joy in lead. She is such a wonderful leader and it was great seeing her lead the big team again. I partnered Kwyta’s daughter Ana with her. The look in Ana’s eye the few weeks prior as well as her behavior was telling me she desperately wanted to go running again. She was a great choice and her and Joy did well together.


CLICK HERE TO SEE THE TRAINING RUN VIDEO . This video can also be found on the video page.


The next morning, unfortunately, Spirit had a moderately sized seizure about 20 minutes after she had received her meds. This was a bit devastating to me as she hadn’t had a seizure since she first started 3 years ago and I couldn’t help but think it was the stress from not taking her running that caused it. It also put a damper on a great day of running. It seems we can’t have a good day around here without a bad day cancelling it out. Spirit recovered well, I reported it to our vet, and have kept an eye on her.


However, I think the stress of yet another health issue went straight to my back causing pain and tightness. I felt it as soon as I came in, quite chilled, after sitting outside in the wrong clothes for far too long with Spirit. The next 10 days were bad with a couple days in there that were a little better. Better enough to allow me to take Kwyta to the vet for her follow up x-ray except the day I took her in for her scheduled appointment they were having an emergency situation and rescheduled us for the next day. Of course, right?! The next day I was able to take her back and her x-ray showed that her lungs were clear and she was cleared for running except we haven’t been able to do that because of my back! It’s always something. Oh wait, maybe I shouldn’t even say that. Too late…


…as Joy had a seizure one week after Spirit did and one month after she had the two in a row. This is such a time consuming ordeal as Alan and I were up all night with her until she felt comfortable enough to be left alone, which takes hours. The vet and I decided to increase her dose of medication. She hadn’t had an increase in 3 years. Not only do I not want her having seizures every month but we can’t go through that process every month either. So far she is doing well on it and I hope it stays that way for several more years. Meanwhile it makes me concerned that Spirit might have another one now. If she does we will have to increase her medications as well but that would be her first increase.


I have been wanting to post this update for a while but it was just too difficult to stay that focused with back pain, and what a waste these last couple of weeks have been. All my plans for work in the kennel as well as around the house have been on hold as I just mostly sat. The last couple of days have been much better however as I am able to do more out in the kennel and I can tie my shoes a lot easier! We have also missed out on a number of great running days as the temperatures have been low with plenty of rain to keep the dust down. I hope we can get back into training next week, this time with all the dogs, as I continue on with my little employment break.


3 Dog Blog

Posted on October 19, 2015 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Well our fall training is not off to a very good start, in fact we haven’t started at all. On my last blog I posted that I had given my notice at my job. I was really looking forward to a little bit of peace and relaxation for the first week or two with the absence of so much stress, and to also kick off our fall raining, but it seems that wasn’t meant to be. I am just glad I wasn’t trying to perform my job as well during these last couple of weeks.


The first weekend after my last day, I could tell Spirit wasn’t acting well so I checked her temperature and found she had a low grade fever. Of course it was on Sunday so our vet was closed. I decided to closely monitor her temp and if it got to 103, which is high for her, I would take her to the hospital. Luckily it started to go down instead and she started acting normal again. Unfortunately while taking one of her temps I discovered a good sized growth on her underside so I took her to the vet the next day. We decided to get a cytology on it as we did with her sister Rosie in the summer. When the vet brought her back into the room she stated the fluid she removed was infected and that would need to be cleared first. So I took home a bottle of antibiotics for her to take twice a day, along with her seizure meds, and I also had to heat pack the site twice a day. Follow up at the end of the antibiotics.


Because of Spirit’s lump I decided it would probably be good to check Rosie again and found she had grown another, but small, growth. Well Rosie needed a vet visit that week anyhow to follow up on her liver values as reported in my last blog. So later that week I had to put Rose on a 12 hour fast, which meant the whole kennel got to fast, it is just easier. I took her in for blood work and brought her home. She ate a small (fatty) meal and returned to the vet 2 hours later for another blood draw. This takes some planning and uses up an entire morning. Results would follow around the end of the week. The vet also checked her new lump and felt it was more superficial so we decided to keep a watch on it.


When we got to the end of that week, Saturday morning, I saw that Kwyta, my main leader, had vomited up her meal from the night before and she was acting like she did not feel well. I took her temperature and it was 104.3! Luckily our vet is open on Saturday and I was able to get her in that day. Chest x-ray showed that she had pneumonia! So I came home with 2 different antibiotics for her for an extended amount of time. It was also suggested that I try a technique of moderately patting with a cupped hand on her rib cage to help loosen up the fluid in her lungs. I do this once or twice a day and have no idea if it is helping but I do get a funny look from her afterwards. She will need a repeat x-ray at the end of her course of antibiotics and this takes her out of training at least until then.

Ah, this is what leaders do. Taken a few weeks ago, sisters Looker (L) and Kwyta (R) holding down the picnic table.


While at the vet with Kwyta I received Rosie’s bloodwork results. It does indeed show that she has a problem with her liver. This puts us in a tough spot for her as the next course of action is more extensive, and expensive, testing. If those results show that she has a liver tumor, treatment is surgery followed by chemotherapy. Rosie is a 10.5 year old dog but with no outward symptoms of having a problem. You would never know there was something going on with her. The vet said it is hard to predict but she could do well for a year or longer before showing any symptoms of a problem. We will put this on hold just for now. We need a little time to make a decision. I did get her cleared to do light training however.


Spirit returned to the vet this past Saturday for her follow up. The vet was very glad to see that her growth was down to about half of its original size and she was able to get a good sample for cytology this time. We should receive results today to see what the next recommended step is for her. A benign result would be wonderful and make the next decision so much easier. Spirit was also cleared for light training and the vet felt her condition was the better of the three girls.


During this time, Alan and I were able to get the quad and trailer checked and prepared for fall work. We also were able to get up to the trails to do some clearing and maintenance as needed. Hopefully we will be able to get our first run in this week, although it will not be easy leaving Kwyta behind. I wouldn’t mind waiting for her except everyone else is a bit antsy, especially the boys who are out of their minds with so many girls in season and I think a run will do them some good.


So, that is all, for now…


Taken a few days ago, best friends and sisters, Rosie and Spirit.

Past Due

Posted on September 20, 2015 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)

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. be continued.

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

Updates From The House

Posted on March 29, 2015 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Here's an Alan update: After a couple of reschedules, for one reason or another, Alan finally had his (4th) surgery 4 weeks ago. The surgery went well and he now has 2 pins and 2 staples holding 2 bones together allowing them to fuse. He has to be completely off that foot for the first 6 weeks of recovery so he has been getting around minimally on crutches, and apparently they don't make crutches out of wood any more. :D  Anyhow, it is all a wait and see now. The doctor doesn't know if he will experience pain later on and if the staples will need to be removed although he feels most-likely they will. Nor do we know how this will affect his overall movement or his job. We do know he will never be able to do a deep squat where his heel lifts off the floor. Meanwhile my responsibilities have picked up with chores, chauffeuring, and I have been giving Alan a blood thinner injection every day and finally gave him his last one on Friday. Thanks goes out to Rachel who comes by 4 days a week after school to help with the dogs. This topic will be continued later as we learn more.

Meanwhile the weather has continued to be warm and mostly dry all winter. I have heard frogs croaking the entire season! I purchased a new winter jacket this year and have only worn it for a week and I have not pulled my winter boots out at all. This was definitely the year for Alan to have this surgery as training in this area has been horrible and races have cancelled left and right, while some were rescheduled to later dates only to eventually be cancelled as well. The two main races I would have done did go however, but the conditions were poor and warm. One of the races I have never done before and would have been pretty disappointed if my first try were in these conditions as mushers were running their sleds on gravel in places. So I still have a little hope left that maybe all of this will come together for us next year. Something else we will have to wait and see on.

So at the beginning of February I had time to tune into the 1000 mile Yukon Quest from Whitehorse, Yukon to Fairbanks, AK. I strongly kept my eye on the three mushers we spent the weekend with in November in Lapine, OR organized by Henning Bartel (see my blog posting titled Return To Henning's Mushing Extravaganza) Brent Sass, Mike Ellis, and Hugh Neff. I am so happy to report that Brent won the Yukon Quest!! What a great comeback after his accident last year that forced him to scratch from the Quest just prior to the finish line and what could possibly have been his first win (I thought he WAS going to win). This was well deserved as he has put in so much time and effort. Mike Ellis, running our favorite dogs of course, his purebred Siberian Husky's, finished in 10th place (out of 26 starting teams). Mike still holds the fastest time on this race for Siberian's and although he didn't break his own record this year, finishing in the top 10 is still a huge achievement especially considering Mike was ill with pneumonia the last half the race. I really don't know how he did it and did so well.  Hugh placed 5th this year. Seeing Hugh in the top 5 is a normal sight as he is also a past champion of the Quest. It sounds like he was having a few physical problems of his own, so to place so high shows the type of musher he is and how well trained his dogs are. I was also watching a few other mushers that I like seeing on the trail and it was certainly fun to follow them all but I am most happy to see how successful these 3 were as we got to spend some time with them and help support them on their journey. Congratulations guys!!! It was a great race!

Then in the beginning of March the 1000 mile Iditarod started. I was glued to my computer for the 3.5 hour ceremonial start as I watched all 78 mushers take off. This blog is a bit old and I had not gotten around to completing and posting it. Here's what I wrote about the Iditarod after the ceremonial start:

Brent and Hugh are in this race. Brent was forced to pull out of the race last year as he recovered from his accident. This year his team is so well conditioned at this point and totally amped from their Quest win, I have a hunch we are going to see great things from Brent and his Wild and Free team. I must note that due to poor snow conditions the actual start of the race has been moved to Fairbanks. This changes the first 600 miles and might give Brent the advantage as these conditions are what his dogs are more used to. Looking forward to see how this works out. Hugh is always a top contender in the Iditarod as well so I am keeping an eye on both of them. Unfortunately Mike was unable to swing the Iditarod onto his schedule this year and Karen Ramstead stated she will not be running the Iditarod anymore although she is there as a judge this year. Karen also runs purebred Siberians and we have had the honor to meet up with her a couple of times as well (see past blog postings). There are several other Siberian teams in the Iditarod this year including Rob Cook who also just came off the Quest capturing the red latern (last place, 16th). If he can complete the Iditarod, Rob will be the first musher to complete both races in the same year with Siberians.

Now that the race is over, here is what happened:

Brent's starting position was 73rd out of 78 mushers meaning his team had a long wait before leaving the starting chute. One team leaves every 2 minutes so this would put Brent a couple + hours behind the first team out. Of course this is all worked out when the mushers declare their 24 hour rest as an appropriate amount of extra time is tacked on to each mushers stay. After the 24, everything is even again. Despite this, what was impressive about Brent was that his team was doing so well that he landed in 5th position by the 3rd checkpoint! I think all us fans watching were thinking first place for Brent this year. Then it all went wrong. Brent was disqualified by the race marshal; he was out of the race. Shock and disbelief hit everyone hard and hundreds of  comments swarmed the internet within an hour. This turned out to be the biggest controversy of the race and the only one who handled it well was Brent although he was clearly very disappointed. The fans however were outraged and the rest of the Iditarod became hard to follow after that.

The reason for the DQ: Brent, like a large majority of the mushers, was carrying and using his IPod to listen to music while traveling to help pass the time and it can keep sleep deprived mushers awake. Brent's IPod has wifi which has the ability, if available, for 2 way communication and 2 way communication devises are not allowed on the trail. Brent knows this of course and left his cell phone with his dad and didn't even consider the wifi on his IPod. The race marshal admits that he doesn't feel Brent was using it for cheating and that he knows others are carrying the same devices but he will not seek them out, and although there are other punishments available including just a verbal warning, Brent was completely singled out and disqualified. All that time, hard work, and the incredible expenses that went into getting him to that point, and it was all ripped away in a single moment with a single unjust decision. Fans were mortified and felt bad for Brent, and Brent felt bad for his dogs. It is hard to find all the right words to describe how poor of a decision this was and it will be interesting to see what happens next year.

It took many days to start following the race again after that but my interest lacked it's normal enthusiasm and I read just enough to get a feel where most mushers were at. Hugh finished the race well placing him in th top 20. This was a nice comeback for him after having to scratch so close to the finish last year because of a terrible storm. Rob Cook did complete the race making him the first musher to do both 1000 mile races in the same year with Siberians.


So now we are officially into the spring season, but there was no spring weather to look forward to as we have had it all winter. Here are a couple of recent yard videos:

Having your dogs respond to you is always so important. I use a simple whistle to call them. Here is what their wonderful response looks like.


An underground apartment complex went up in the small yard courtesy of Three Sisters Construction Company. And here they are at work.


March is our big birthday month at the kennel. Our Leap Year LItter turned 7! (Faith, Kwyta, Joy, Looker, Lizzy, Bounder) And Drew turned 9! But the biggest surprise to me is our first litter, the Northern Litter, turned 10!!! (Spirit, Tundra, Rosie) How can that be? They have always been such good picture posers for me and here is what I captured on their 10th birthday:

L-R: Tundra, Rosie, and Spirit.

The girsl (Rosie and Spirit) are sitting pretty while Tundra stands tall.



Summer In January

Posted on January 25, 2015 at 9:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Here are some of my first summer pictures of 2015. Oh, but's JANUARY!!!

Unbelievably warm temps this weekend. It was in the 60's by 9:00am this morning but the dogs seemed to be enjoying themselves anyhow.

I will start with the 2 ends of Ana:


...and funny. She can fit her whole body in that hole.


Sisters Lizzy and Joy.

Lizzy and her aunt Rosie.


Sisters Lizzy and Looker. This is a good shot of the huge size differnce between them.

Orbit and his daughter Nezi.

Love this little curtsey type sit by Nezi.


The rec team knows how to enjoy their time off. Joy, Rosie, and Spirit.

So does Looker.....

......and Drew.

Lizzy having fun in the sun.

This is an interesting picture. Ana turned her head way back to look at me so I took the shot. But what also showed up in the picture was this beam of light pointing right down on her.



Bounder and 2 of his nieces, Ana and Nezi.

It's not easy to get a good picture of Eagle.


Cree. He and his sister Ana are two peas when it comes to digging.


Orbit made an attempt at that little curtsey thing too.

Ahh, that's better.


Happy Cree.

The amazing Orbit.

Apache is pretty amazing too!



I got Eagle to sit still for about 3 seconds for this picture.

Here is a fun little play sequence between Cheyenne and her father Orbit.

Whop! And he's ready for it too!

All done.

She is such a cutie.

Lastly, here is an Alan update. His insurance issues have now been resolved but his surgery will still be pushed back. There will be more to come on this once everything is more clear.

Keeping The Site

Posted on January 13, 2015 at 12:25 PM Comments comments (0)

After my last posting, I received several requests to keep our blog going. So for now I will keep the website up and running. ;)

Also as requested here is the first update regarding Alan's status. He was scheduled for surgery last Thursday but due to some insurance issues, it has been postponed and a new date has not been set yet. Not a great start! Unfortunately this glitch pushes everything back.

So, as mentioned in my last posting I will try to use this time to update other parts of the website and I have already been able to start on that. OUR HUSKY HISTORY page was a bit out of date so I have updated some pictures, descriptions, and formatting. I have added a few older pictures that I recently scanned from our early beginnings. I will share those here as well but they can easily be viewed any time on Our Husky History page which also makes for a great reference page if you want to know how we acquired a certain dog or what their status is.


August 2004. These are our first 4 dogs along with an old rickety cart we got for free, minus the drive to Washington to pick it up and the repairs that were needed. This picture shows the first time we put it all together for some trial runs on the property of Lee Hills Snoshu Ranch. One of us would drive as I am here while the other ran alongside to monitor, then Alan and I would switch. Next it was time to hit the trails.

Fall training 2004, Barlow Rd. Historical Picture. Our first year training back when we used to use a picket line (shown here) attached to the front of our truck which made parking a littler trickier. Loved training on sandy Barlow Road with its twists and turns and so easy on the feet but it doesn't allow motorized vehicles so we haven't been on it since we started training on the quad. All but one dog is now diseased in this picture. In the foreground is Lee Hills dog Sunny, who was Holly's father. I really liked Sunny. He was the only dog in this group who had previous training, he just hadn't been training for several years and he was ecstactic that we were getting him out again. His talents stood out amongst this group and when I started training my own 3-dog team, Sunny was my leader. I also liked his personality and he had the most unique eyes. He was parti-eyed, both eyes were marbled, a swirling mixture of blue and brown. He also had purple blotches on his tongue, a trait that was passed down to 2 of his grandchildren, Spirit and Tundra, and 2 of his great grandchildren, Faith and Bounder. After this one year of training with us, Sunny retired himself happily at the age of 11. If you happen to own the 3rd edition of The Siberian Husky book, look in the back at the ads. About 6-7 pages from the back cover on the top left is Snoshu's kennel ad and pictured is a gorgeous picture of Sunny. I always admired this picture, it used to hang on Lee's wall in her home. Behind him is his son Skadi, half-brother to Holly, and this little family group were the 3 on my first team. Skadi was long-legged with a nice build but he had no running experience until we clipped him in at the age of 5. He was one of the two dogs that Alan and I started off with, with skijoring (1-2 dogs pulling you by the waist while you cross-country ski). Skadi trained with us until we moved onto our own property. The 3 dogs in the back are 3 of our first 4 dogs (pictured above) and all 3 came from rescues. On the right is Stuart, in the middle is the white dog Comet, and on the left is Po, the only one in this picture not diseased but is retired. To learn more about these dogs, be sure to review Our Husky History page.

And some more pictures taken from this past weekend.

You never know what you might find when you walk into a dog's kennel.

After letting the dogs out to play I walked in to Cheyenne's kennel to do the usual scooping and found that she left her chew bone perfectly balanced upright on her dog house. She would have to have jumped off after setting this up and apparently she did so without disturbing it. I knew this dog was talented. :D

Lastly, I started a new hobby during the fall, dog related of course, thanks to Rachel. When the Native American Litter turned 3 in August, the litter she helped out so much with, she showed up with a birthday snack for each of them and Kwyta. They were homemade bones (biscuits). I asked how she had made them and she replied with "a Bake-A-Bone maker". She said it was just like a waffle maker. I was intrigued. We looked it up online and ordered one. After spending a weekend making several batches, I ordered another. It comes with a book of recipes that are easy and fun to make. It cooks 4 bones at a time and they cook for about 8 minutes. One batch is supposed make 24 bones but I usually get more than 30. With the two makers I can do a whole batch in about an hour. I really like knowing exactly what ingredients goes into them and then serving them fresh right off the cooling rack. The dogs go nuts for them. I recommend this to anyone.

I made this batch on the weekend. This is the first time I made chicken (which I added a litte cheese to) and it was a big hit. I have made the following flavors with no complaints: Bacon, Tuna, Cheese (cheddar), Mint, Carrot, Potato, Peanut butter, Apple, and Cottage cheese.

Pictured are the Bake-A-Bone makers with the cooling batch of chicken bones.

Reality Bites

Posted on January 3, 2015 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

I haven’t been blogging because we haven’t been training, so I thought I would share our current situation. Once again this season has not gone as planned (or hoped for), turning out the same as the last couple of seasons with a few more emotions mixed in.


Alan is still out of work from his last (third) toe surgery in the spring. We were able to get some training in mid fall, but his toe pain has continued. When more pain showed up in his leg and hip, making walking difficult, our training stopped and he has been using several different types of therapies to try and relieve the pain. So now he is scheduled for his forth toe surgery this month. This surgery will be the most severe and a last option for him, followed by another 2 months or more of recovery. If it finally ends his pain that will be great; however we do not know how it will affect his job. Ideally, the goal would be to return to work and get our lives back to normal. If this doesn’t work he may need a transfer, if one is available, which will change the game for us. So the immediate future is an unknown.


Unfortunately, running dogs is a two person operation for us, so I have not been able to train the dogs on my own. This makes me feel horrible for them and I have agonized over some tough questions, in my own mind. Should I rehome the younger ones? Would they be better off in a better running home? Would they be happier? Would they understand? Can I give my babies away? So far the answer is no, I cannot. But is that what’s best for them? This is a difficult and stressful situation.


Had I known just a few short years ago that this was to be our future; I would have made some different choices. So, I have changed my goals or the direction I initially started. Seeing how our future is uncertain, I have decided I will not be taking on any more dogs nor will I be doing any more breeding’s. It is still my hope that (eventually) I will be able to run the dogs we have but at what level I do not know as I do not know how strongly Alan will be able to participate. At any rate, we are on the downhill side of this sport and I would like to at least do the best we can with what we got.


Had Alan not been going through his issues another unforeseen problem landed in our path that has affected me significantly and probably would have affected our training. With all the recent changes in the healthcare system, the office I work for decided to change the electronic charting system we were using. I was well aware that this change would take place in November and I was expecting the switch to be a little bumpy but was looking forward hopefully to an improved system over the one we were using. Instead, the system wasn’t even similar to what we were using and I found it exceptionally difficult to use with little help and training while trying to maintain a patient load; I was very overloaded and nearly walked away from a job I have held for 12 years. In order to complete all my tasks I was going in early every day and coming home late every night, generally with a headache or a stressed back, feeling very frustrated and totally exhausted. I would need the weekends to just relax and try to recover so that I could return prepared to do it all over again on Monday. I am not sure I would have been able to endure this as well as an intense training program with the dogs, and would have been quite upset if this had interfered on a good training year.


So, perhaps it worked out that so many things went wrong all in the same year. The season started with hot untrainable windy days which helped fuel the forest fire that was way too close to home and burning our trails and stressing me out, which led to my back seizing up, both causing me to miss a lot of work and eating up my vacation time that I normally use for training and racing (which would have been a problem later in the season). Then Alan’s ongoing toe/hip pain, and finally my issues at work, which there is some improvement now that the whole office has figured out the basics, but the system still isn’t as friendly as I hoped and it involves a lot more effort to perform the same tasks. Not something I was looking for at this time. Of course, we can also throw in some more unfriendly weather throughout the season which didn’t help training. The weather seems to have become a new trend over the last several years in this area. This was also factored in when making my decision on the future of training dogs. It seems the only way to do some serious training would be to move to a better area with better temperatures and weather. Do we want to do that at this point? How successful would we be/would it be worth it? Selling our home, finding a new one and setting up a new kennel, getting new jobs and starting at the bottom of the totem pole with benefits (ie: vacation time) and possibly pay…YIKES! Would it be worth it in the end? If only we were 20 years younger. Right now we have too many unknowns.


I also feel bad about a couple of mushers that I would like to mention. First is Rachel Chester, our young mushing neighbor who has been so helpful to us. We started off with some good training together this season that I was hoping to continue with as we could be helpful to each other. I hope she is able to continue on with her training and work towards her mushing goals. Second is Sheryl O’Rourke. We have been trying to get together the last couple of years for some overnight training but I have not been able to keep up my end of the bargain. I hope she is able to get in some overnights despite this.


All these thoughts, decisions, and emotions weigh heavy on me daily as the unknown surrounds us. I write all this only to inform you, the reader, for those who may have followed along. Please understand I am not looking for advice or for someone to help resolve our issues but thanks for thinking of us. Also, I have considered taking down this site since things have not worked out as I had planned. Or perhaps I could use the down time to make some updates to a few of the pages and see if I can at least have a little fun with that. If I am able (motivated) to make some updates, I will post about about it here. (It’s hard to stay motivated in this situation.)


So I will end this with some imagery. Here is a video of one of our last runs this fall:




And a few pics I have taken. Thanks for tuning in.

These first few are stills of the same training run in the video.

I found this diamond or Christmas tree shape the team formed interesting.

Sunbathing girls. L-R: Joy, Kwyta, Faith, Ana, and Drew in back.

You think these boys like hanging out together? With the whole yard to run around in this is how I found them. These 6 are all the boys on my team. L-R: Orbit, Apache, Eagle, Tundra, Bounder, and Cree.

"I have a bone to pick with you." I have chew bones scattered throughout the yards. It's not uncommon to find someone chewing on one but these 3 chose to get together for a group chew. From 3 generations: Kwyta (L) and her daughter Nezi (middle) and her mother Spirit (R).

There is a story with this pic. My great nephew from Michigan, Drake, has this school project called FLAT STANLEY, who is able to travel anywhere and bring back stories to the school. Flat Stanley landed on my doorstep probably expecting a sled dog ride. Since we are not training I had to be creative and so I took several pictures of him around the kennel. Here he is with Rosie who was the only one who could tolerate him (without me worrying about her eating him), but as you can see she is trying hard to be a good sport. Good job Rose!

PARTING SHOT: Northern Blast Historical Pic. I have been going through the pre-digital camera pictures and doing some scanning. This one is from 10 years ago, before we had our own kennel and before we were known as Northern Blast. Back then we were still working out of Lee Hills Snoshu Ranch. Here I am with several of our firsts. Our first dog truck - only 6 boxes on a Ranger which was already too small 1 year later; our first sled - purchased sled that is; and our first sled dog, Mack, who is still with us and will turn 12 in May.

Return To Henning's Mushing Extravaganza!

Posted on November 10, 2014 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (44)

Had a wonderful Halloween weekend at the home of Henning Bartel and Marguerite Warren in LaPine Oregon, as they, once again, hosted an unforgetable mushing weekend. If you follow this blog you may recall that last year Alan and I also attended the first running of this event when Henning brought out Alaskan long distance musher Brent Sass as the guest of honor. So how could Henning top that?

This year Brent returned along with Mike Ellis who we met last year at a slide show presentation organized by Henning as well, and also this year Hugh Neff joined the fun...or maybe created the fun. (See last fall's blogs on Brent and MIke.) All three have run in many mid-distance races as well as both long distance races: the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod with Hugh winning the YQ in 2012. We were in for another unforgetable weekend.

A few changes for this year was the good food provided for our meals was catered in, Henning allowed 15 teams to sign up this year opposed to the 12 allowed last year, and he also allowed 3 people instead of 2, for each team. We took advantage of this last change and asked Rachel Chester to join us. Also, we brought 17 dogs with us this year, last year we only brought 15, so the rec team was able to run meaning we brought the quad and the scooter. With more people and dogs we needed and extra vehicle, so I drove the jeep down while Alan drove the dog truck, and we set up 2 tents. Whew, what an operation!

Early Halloween morning I picked Rachel up and we all arrived at Henning's early afternoon. We had time to set up camp, greet all that were already there and then take a late afternoon run. Here are some pictures of our campsite:

I picked this site from Henning's options as it was a bit more secluded from the other groups which worked out well for the 6 girls we had in season and all the miserable boys!

Our campsite.

Since our group has grown making hook-up time crazy and time is so short, I hardly ever get pictures of the dogs on drop chains anymore. That's what makes this weekend so nice. With plenty of time the dogs finally shift into a more relaxed mode so I was able to get some pics.

Front to back: Tundra, Orbit, Cree, Apache, Kwyta, Rosie, and Joy. Faith was also on this side but is not visible in this pic.

Same side taken from the back of the truck. Here Faith can be seen lying down behind Rosie (3rd dog up).

On the other side of the truck we have: Bounder, Eagle, Lizzy, Ana, and Cheyenne. See next picture for more.

And the same side take from the back: near is Spirit, followed by Looker. Unfortunately Drew and Nezi can't be seen between Looker and Cheyenne.

Rachel got to use our mountaineering tent. It was so great having her there. An extra set of hands and eyes was so helpful.

Here is what the rest of the camping area looked like, seen from our site. In the foreground (right in front of our site) is the outgoing trail we would take on training runs, right off of Henning's property. Doesn't get much better than that!

When we weren't running dogs or attending to them at the truck, everyone would gather at Henning's shop for food or around the fire for conversation. Seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and of course hearing stories or listening to the answers of all our questions from Brent Sass, Mike Ellis, and Hugh Neff.

Group chat at the fire.

Hugh hamming it up with Alan.

Funny close-up of Brent. Directly behind him is Neal Bowlen from Utah. We met Neal at this event last year and he helped organize this years event. Neal will be trying to qualify this year, with his Pawsatch team, to do the Iditarod in 2016. Next to Neal is the guy with the vision, Henning. He built it and we all came.

Why can't I ever get a good picture of Mike?

A Memorable Moment

It happened on the first day we arrived. Most of the mushers already there went out on a late afternoon run just as we had. We made it back in before dark by design. As dusk turned to night we learned that two mushers were lost and neither of them had headlamps with them. They were Connie Starr out of Washington, who I met last year at this event, and Courtney Perrson out of British Columbia, Canada who I met this weekend. The rest of the mushers respond. Mike and I jumped on our quad and drove off of Henning's property in one direction while Betty Carlson went another. Neither of us had any luck finding them. What was lucky is that they were in phone contact with another musher in the group and they were able to send coordinates of their location back. After mapping it out, Henning had the best idea of where they were, 9 miles away! He and Alan jumped in his van and drove off to their rescue.

Crammed in the back of Henning's van is Connie, Courtney, a total of 9 dogs combined and both of their training carts. There couldn't have been 2 better people to find themselves in this situation as they both handled it so well and came back with upbeat attitudes.Their dogs were just fine and also did well with the circumstances.

Another Memorable Moment

On the third day, after performing a total of 4 runs in that time, we found this:

For the first time EVER, we wore Eagle out. We were wondering why things were so quiet and found this boy out like a light while still hooked up to the truck. Never before had we ever witnessed this so we had to get several pictures as proof.

And a moment we would like to forget also took place on the third day. After our last run of the weekend, the dogs had plenty of rest and a good meal and then Lizzy had a seizure. She has never had one before and if you are keeping track that now makes 4 dogs for us. It would be difficult to believe that these are all unrelated when they are all related to each other. She pulled out of the seizure fairly quickly and was right back to normal. Right now we will just watch her and see if this progresses or if this was a one time event.

Unfortunately I did not take near the pictures I wanted to and not one video. We lived in the moment during the weekend and did not do a great job recording it. Out on the trail I was busy watching for other teams, of which there were many (for us) and making sure we didn't get lost ourselves. On Henning's trail leading off his property he has a trail cam set up. Normally he catches pictures of deer taking advantage of his trail, but not this weekend! Here are some cool shots he got of us:

Flying past the trail cam. Rachel is on the quad with me. She came along on all the runs with the big team which was helpful while passing other teams on this narrow trail. The easiest seen dog in this picture is little Lizzy right in the middle. (Curtesy of Henning's trail cam.)

Love how Faith is just a blur in the foreground. Lizzy and Cree are well seen towards the back. (Curtesy of Henning's trail cam.)

Here's one of the team moving away from the camera. Easy to pick out big, and lightly colored, Tundra back on the right. (Curtesy of Henning's trail cam.)

Final Thoughts and Images

This is such a wonderful event! The perfect place to meet with great people, to learn from the best, to train on fabulous trails, and to share good food and conversation. It was the perfect place to be! I would like to thank Henning and Marguerite for hosting this again, Neal and Melissa Beers for helping to organize it, and to the three special guests who took time away from their own training to come to Oregon and share their friendship and wisdom with us: Brent Sass, Mike Ellis, and Hugh Neff. I am looking forward to watching your teams progress throughout the year and following along from afar on all your races and adventures.

Rachel with the guys, L-R: Brent, Mike, and Hugh.

Alan and I with Brent, Mike, and Hugh.

Group shot. (Curtesy of Pawsatch Mushing.)

Past, Present, and Future

Posted on October 26, 2014 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Another 6 months has gone by and this blog has been very quiet. It does not mean the past 6 months have been quiet however. So, in trying to catch up, I will just stick to the highlights.

First a quick recap: Last season proved to be another poor training season with many interruptions. My last posting showed our last training run of the season, in February, after a short lay-off. I never got my sled out for a single sled run and we had no training in the spring so we only got about 200 miles out of the season. So I was looking towards the future with hopes of a better season in the fall which is where we are at now. Here is what happened in between:

In April we lost one of our two oldest dogs, Comet. Comet, our white Siberian with pale blue eyes, was one of our original rescue dogs back from when we started this whole mushing game. Most likely he was a bit older than originally estimated as he appeared to be much older than the 12 years he was supposed to be, and it was time to let him go. He was a strong sturdy boy that I loved wrapping my arms around. He ran on our recreation team generally in wheel position which he liked the most but he also knew how to lead if needed. Kind of an odd duck, he usually separated himself from the other dogs while in the yard, lounging in the sun, and secretly watching the antic's of the others and laughing at them under his breath. After all, they were funny dogs, and he was well...Comet.



Just a few weeks later, in May, we lost our other oldest dog, Holly. This was tough loss as she was our foundation dog for the Northern Blast lines. Mother, grandmother, and great grandmother to our 3 litters, her presence would surely be missed. Holly was never a racing dog but she sure gave birth to them, a trait that grew stronger with each new litter. She was, however, great with puppies, even with pups we brought home that weren't hers. I was most concerned with her own kids at her passing, especially her daughters whom they shared a kennel wall with and her granddaughter Kwyta who looked out for her, but all is well. The kennel carries on as she is strongly remembered. Her health situation was unfortunate. We were still in the process of getting her meds under control but the disease was working faster than we were and she passed at the age of 13.5yrs, and I believe Lee was waiting for her on the other side.


Holly and her pups.

Holly and Comet

Alan went back to work after his 2nd toe surgery only to find he had no improvement and that it was still difficult to perform his job. So he went back in for a third surgery in May and has been off of work since. This time not pushing it too soon, his doctor has added two extensions to his recovery time so far. He needs to return as pain free as possible to perform his job. Currently he is off work until November.

The heat of summer finally hit around late June, and once it arrived it stayed hot. The dogs got their normal summer time break of digging holes and wading in the cool pool water. I was hoping to get out and do some hiking this year taking a different dog each time but by mid morning it was just too warm and I was only able to squeeze in a couple of short hikes. Usually I use the summer to go over gear and get everything ready for fall training, but the hot sticky summer made this more difficult to accomplish. Also, I always try to start training in August but there was never a cool enough day to do so this year. We were able to make it up to our local trails once, on the coolest day available, to do some trail maintenance.


Funny pic of Lizzy, Rosie, and Joy. They are posed identically to the smallest detail. "Simon says..."

Ana made it a point to dig as many holes as possible this summer. She connected this one to another one under the board which allowed her to go in and turn around. She is having a good time while Kwyta and Nezi seem a little concerned.

Our first litter still hanging out together: Tundra, Spirit, and Rosie.


Cheyenne and I on a short hike at nearby Eagle Fern Park.

Ana and I hiking along an old favorite, the Salmon River trail.

Relaxing on the hill: Lizzy, Rosie, Kwyta, Spirit, and Joy.

We had a couple of kennel visitors this summer, including this guy, Bandit. This is Rachel's baby who we watched for a few days. All the other dogs accepted him easily and he fell in love with Cheyenne while he was here.

"Let's circle around Aunt Rose!" You never know what you are going to find when you walk into the yard like this: Rosie, center, circled by 4 of her nieces. She is like a second mother to them. Starting at 12:00 and going clockwise: Looker, Lizzy, Kwyta, and Joy.

I tried to get some pictures of the Native American litter as they turned three years old on August 1st. Love this one of the girls: Cheyenne, Nezi, and Ana.

Cute pic of Ana. Cree (L), Nezi (R)

Unfortunately it is a little blurry but it was the best one I could get of all 5. Apache, Ana, Cheyenne, Nezi, and Cree.

The girls always just want to have fun! Nezi, Ana, and Cheyenne.

Filthy from head to toe from one of her hole digging jobs, but still a great picture of Ana.

Girls in the sun: (lying) Drew, Lizzy, Joy, Rosie, Spirit, Looker, Kwyta, (standing) Ana, Cheyenne, and Nezi.

Faith: "Help, it's got me, and it's pulling me in!"

A little fuzzy. Orbit (center) with his sons Apache (L) and Cree (R).

Not a great picture, but will have to do. Cousins Eagle and Orbit.

Uncle and nephew. Tundra and Bounder hanging out together.

This is funny. Scroll back up to the first picture in this section of summer time pictures and you will find the one of these three girls: Lizzy, Rosie, and Joy. Taken on a different day I guess these 3 really enjoy each others company. They are laying in the exact order as well.

The hot summer and east winds led to a vary dry forest and then tragedy struck mid September. A large plume of smoke rose from the forest nearby and we watched it spread across the sky from our yard. We were to learn that our local training trails were on fire and it spread quickly over the next several days. More than 5500 acres burned (and are actually still burning as I write this). More than 1000 firefighters from 17 states were on hand to help. A field on the outskirts of town turned into tent city for the firefighters to bed down in between their shifts, reminding me much of a basecamp of mountain climbers. Driving through town you could see groups of firefighters hanging out together in front of the grocery store or one of the pizza places. The community changed as the fear of the fire approached our homes, and any sound of gunfire was actually traumatizing as this is what caused the fire. Everyone stayed in communication with each other and so many were willing to help each other as needed. We also received offers of help from friends, family, and co-workers, when it looked like we were going to get caught up in the evacuation process.

Part of the fire made a jump putting it even closer to our area. Evacuations were taking place just 2 miles down our road and when an incorrect map appeared showing a road just in front of as evacuating, my neighborhood sprang into action. We were all packed and had plans in place in just  a couple of hours. Then the map was corrected and the immediate threat was gone, but evacuations were still taking place just 2 miles away, and that jumped fire was still close. I had purchased a bike in April and did as much riding as I could on our local roads, roads that were then roadblocked due to the fire. That's how close it was.

Our truck remained packed for nearly 2 weeks before we finally converted it back to the normal training equipment. I took a couple of days off of work because of how close the danger was. Our yard was filled with strong smelling smoke for weeks as ash fell onto everything the first many days. 22 water buckets in the kennel had to be changed daily. Kwyta was treated earlier for her normal August cough she tends to get every year. But the smoke from the fire reactivated it and she has been having difficulty kicking it and is still being treated with medications now.

The following pictures were taken from our yard:

The day after the fire started.

The sun seen through the smoke.

This is a back fire set by the fire fighters to keep the forest fire from spreading.

The same back fire several minutes later reflecting the setting sun.

A day after the fire started helicopters with hanging water baskets finally appeared making trips back and forth all day, right over our house, to help put out the fire.

The next day planes also showed up to put fire retardant down onto the fire. I had never seen so much air traffic over our house, and travelling so close to the ground that I ducked when the first plane passed by. This bright yellow plane is etched in the minds of many.

One week later we were still seeing this:

When I felt safe enough I returned to a busy day at work. Strangely when I would hear a plane fly over I could feel my heart start to race and a need to run outside to see it. Then I would realize I am at work and that it is just a regular passenger jet. The next day, Friday, the 7th day of the fire, I woke up with a stiff back and by lunchtime I had to come home. From an old injury, I truly felt it would smoothen out over the weekend; after all I had done nothing to aggravate it. I was to learn what the power of stress can do as my back only worsened to a point that I could not move without severe pain. I could not get out of bed, I could not walk, and with any attempt of moving I would have to grab onto things to get me there. Going to the bathroom was an adventure I will not even write about. Changing clothes and attempting to put on shoes were out of the question and laying down was the enemy as I could not get back up afterwards so I slept in a mostly seated position in a recliner with a heating pad. I had never experienced anything like this before and I had to take a whole week off of work. I was able to make it to a doctor during that time who ruled out anything dangerous and put me on a handful of medications I had never had before to help with the symptoms.

When I finally returned to work I was doing better but was not 100% yet and that first week was a tough week back as I was making up rescheduled appointments. The dog yard chores was difficult and I was limited to what I could do. I could not change water buckets and even walking the yard scooping poop was difficult. So Alan had to do more than his share but he was still recovering from his surgery. What a mess!! Meanwhile we weren't training the dogs and even if we could, our training grounds were still on fire. Did I happen to mention what a mess this was!!!

It also remained hot the rest of September and the first part of October. When it finally cooled enough to train, my back was still bothering me so we waited. But two weeks ago we finally got started. Saturday was still a little warm so we went to the new Cabela's store that just opened up here. All I can say is WOW! But on Sunday we got our first training day in. Because of the fire however we had to go to Still Creek Rd to train. This area is the original place we used when we first started training so many years ago. Unfortunately it makes for a longer drive for us and there aren't nearly as many good options for us and my larger team but it will have to do. The team did really well. We were able to go back on Tuesday and Thursday as well. I was concerned about the temps because it was just barely cool enough but none of the dogs had any issues. The Tuesday run was difficult regarding the area however. We ran into workers on the narrow road cutting the brush back on either side of the road. They said it was too dangerous for us to park anywhere between their signs which is right where we needed to be. So we continued driving until we came to the last of their work crew parked all over the road. After finally getting past them we drove until we found a suitable place to pull over and park. Unfortunately this would mean I would not have a turn around place for my large team at the halfway point. So we decided that Alan would drive 3 miles ahead after we left and find another place to park to pick us up there. This was a very easy downhill run for us and Alan did not catch up to us until we just hit 3 miles. I told him he could go another mile ahead and we would meet him there. A different way to run for us but it worked. When we packed everything up and was ready to leave, we decided to just continue on from that point and exit the road at the other end. Along the way we saw for the first time all the parking spots we used to use that the forest service has now blocked off. We took the first option back to the main highway until we ran into a barricade. The forest service closed that way off with no warning ahead of time. The only way we could get out of that narrow area was to unload the quad, detach the trailer, turn everything around and put it all back together. How very disappointing and aggravating. We returned to the training road and continued on further to the only exit left out of there which we were able to do but continued to see more closed off parking areas along the way. Now my limited training grounds have even less options than I thought so I am not happy with the forest service.

First fall training run of 2014 on Still Creek Rd. Going through Summit Meadow with a washed out MT. Hood in the background.

First fall training run of 2014 on Still Creek Rd. A small taste of fall colors.

First fall training run of 2014 on Still Creek Rd. Drew and Kwtya (lead), Looker and Cheyenne, Nezi and Ana, Faith and Lizzy, Cree and Eagle, Apache and Orbit, Tundra and Bounder (wheel)

VIDEO. First fall training run of 2014 on Still Creek Rd.

The Thursday training day went much smoother. Work crews were still out but they didn't interfere with where we were trying to go. We were also able to map out a place for us to do our first campout which I had scheduled for this past week. Getting 3 training days in one week was a great way to start and probably the first time I was able to do that since last October! The dogs had adequate rest in between so they did well with this schedule. Last weekend we were supposed to train Saturday and Sunday but it was a bit too warm for us although I do know other locals did make it out. But even so, this time Alan woke up with back pain and stiffness most likely acting up from the work related back injury he had 4 years ago. Probably not quite as severe as what I had but still bad enough to make doing most things difficult.

Then, also last Sunday, I further sabotaged us by making a dreadful error. Somehow, without realizing it, I let two dogs into the yard together who should never be. I didn't understand why it sounded like a fight was breaking out and when I went to split them up I still didn't realize who I was dealing with until I had my hands on both of them. Faith and Looker! How are these two together?! Their fights are the worst I have ever seen and getting them apart is nearly impossible. The other dogs that were also out were circled around us watching. Suddenly Alan appeared out of nowhere and tackled them to the ground. I was able to peel Faith away and put her in her kennel. Alan was yelling for me to hurry up and I wasn't sure why since we had split them up. I hurried back for Looker and realized Alan had blood running down his arms. As I rushed Looker off to her kennel I saw that she too had a stream of blood running out of the back of her rear leg. Within a few moments I had 3 patients and at least two of them were in critical condition. Alan went up to the kennel gate and I raced back and forth between him and Looker trying to get their bleeding under control and kicking myself in the process. I grabbed a chair for Alan to sit in. He had taken Ibuprofen prior to this for his back pain so it was more difficult to get his thinner blood to stop running and I was concerned about him passing out. I often have to deal with patients passing out or nearly passing out at my job, but never under these circumstances. I was equally concerned about the amount of blood pouring out of Looker and I hadn't even checked on Faith yet.

When I finally got the bleeding slowed down on the two of them I check on Faith to find she only had a small abrasion on her lower lip. I cleaned and bandaged Alan's wounds of which he had several on both hands. Clearly this was painful and he was unable to use his right hand for nearly 2 days. Looker suffered a tear in the loose skin at the Achilles tendon. I have been irrigating with an iodine solution several times a day, and later added antibiotic ointment to her treatment. Now a week later and the wound looks clean and she puts normal weight on her leg. After using ice and an antibiotic ointment from his surgery Alan's hands looked incredibly better 2 days later and he regained use of his right hand. He is still suffering from back pain however. Unfortunately this whole episode created a very gloomy mood over the kennel for many days that I think has now finally lifted. Of course what doesn't help and I have not mentioned yet is that 6 of our girls are in season, including the two who had fought. So the kennel was already in a highly emotional state and I am smearing Vicks on our 7 intact males every evening to try to keep some peace at night. 

Our campout was supposed to be last Tuesday and Wednesday. We should have gotten two more runs in plus the overnight experience which half of my team has not done yet. The temps hovered in the low to mid 50's for both days, just a little too warm for me, and Alan is still having back pain so we did not go. The only bright side to this was the storm that moved in with strong winds and driving rains which would have made for a miserable campout, we were spared.

Because of the weather we missed out on 2 more runs this weekend as well. Hopefully we will be able to run on Tuesday as this will be our last opportunity to train before the big LaPine weekend. Similar to what we did last year, organized by Henning Bartel on his property, this time with three mushers as the guests of honor. It is something I have been looking forward to since he made the announcement in the spring, but now I am bit a hesitant. Will Alan's back be well enough by then? We will be sleeping in a tent on the ground. How will the dogs do after recent events? How big of a disruption will our group be with all those girls in season? I might need to run the dogs in 2 teams. I enjoyed myself so much last year but I am a little worried this year. We are taking the rec team as well this year and we also invited Rachel to join us. I am hoping all will go well.

Once again I had large plans for us this year but I already feel we won't be able to do what I have put on paper. I will probably need to modify our goals soon but I just haven't made any decisions yet. At this point we can only continue to take it a day at a time and see where that leads us. Oh, and keep the blog more current would be good.  :)

February/March Update

Posted on March 25, 2014 at 9:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Ahh, finally back to the blog. First we had a technical glitch that kept me from accessing the website for a while and I planned on doing an update in February. When I finally did start this the Iditarod began and I was completely sucked into it so this has been on hold for a while. Now that the Iditarod is over and the dust is starting to settle I can get back to it.

In the month of February we had too warm of weather to train followed by an extreme downpour of rain. I am used to training in the rain, but there's a limit. During this time it snowed on Mt. Hood which is good but not enough to get the sleds out. Next came a winter storm which dumped a significant amount snow at our house for the first time this year. (Significant; meaning any amount more than a dusting.) This snow storm ruined our dirt trails and dumped feet of snow on the sled trails. With that much all at once, teams couldn't plow through it. Then an ice storm came down on top of the snow, bad enough to close my workplace. During all this (and even continuing now) we have also had extremely strong winds too many times to count knocking down large quantities of branches in our yard which the dogs have been having fun with. Keeping water buckets free of pine needles and other debris has been a constant challenge.

When the weather finally took a break and the ice and snow melted in the lower elevations, we finally were able to get a run in on dirt while waiting to hear if the sled trails were finally groomed or not. This was our only run in February and no racing for us at all this year. Then Alan finally returned to work from his surgery in December and he really felt the effects from his first full week back so we stayed off the trails so he could continue to recover. They also, once again, changed his work hours so we are getting used to a new work schedule. After several weeks of continued pain, and while we continued to stay off the trails, Alan received a cortisone injection which has helped him at work but he comes home sore after being on his feet all day, not leaving much room for anything else but rest. So at this point, it looks like our training season is done for the year.

So February became a month for all those other things that we HAD time to do. We were able to tune into the 1000 mile Yukon Quest race rooting for Mike Ellis and Brent Sass. We met these two at the seminars we attended at the beginning of the training season (see my previous blogs). Unfortunately, both were met with unexpected circumstances and each had to scratch from the race. Brent suffered a severe head injury ending the rest of his season, but sounds like he is recovering well.

We were also able to complete our taxes (usually a timing inconvenience), complete our kennel inspection for our license renewal (another timing inconvenience), and pick up a ton of dog food. Then, the whole beginning of March, we were able to tune into the 1000 mile Iditarod race, as we were rooting for several mushers. Unfortunately, Brent was unable to race. But Karen Ramstead (also see previous blog on her seminar) as well as Mike Ellis were both in it. This years trail was incredibly tough as Alaska significantly lacked snow. Large parts of this already difficult trail were down to bare ground or ice and later in the race a ground blizzard hit with high winds only adding to the difficulties out on the trail. We heard reports of numerous broken sleds and many mushers suffering serious injuries including many broken bones, which ended their races. Karen, unfortunately was among the injured with a severely sprained and swollen hand ending what is suppose to be her last run in the Iditarod. Mike, along with many other mushers, got pinned down at one of the checkpoints for many hours when the storm hit. He suffered frostbite to one of his eyes, which affected his race later but he still managed to finish the race. His descriptions, pictures and videos of the trail are unbelievable and well worth a look. If you are on Facebook, go to his Team Tsuga Siberians Face book page. The first set of pictures (there are numerous sets) begins on March 18, Willow-Nickolai, and the first video was posted on March 19, also Willow-Nickolai.

The dogs are doing well although we are still fighting a bit of the never-ending eye infection, and we are still trying to get Holly stabilized with her medications so we have had a couple of trips to the vet with her. 5 girls came into season making the boys miserable. After weeks of smearing Vicks on the boys to mask the scent of the girls, we are finally coming to the tail end of it all and gaining some peace back in the kennel. Well, that about sums it up. So many different circumstances this year that created another odd training season for us. I'm not sure where that leaves us for next season but for now, it's time for spring.

VIDEO CLIP: from our February quad run. We never did get the sled out this season.

Pictures from the yard during our little piece of winter:

Cheyenne: "I got this, even with snowcover."




Sleek Cheyenne





Group shot

Fun in the snow, sisters: Cheyenne, Ana, and Nezi

Faith having fun with the boys.

Apache with a snow nose.

Eagle talks to Cree who is trying to get in on his fun.


Tundra, he has to do at least one pose on the igloo.






The hills behind us.

After all the storms we got our last training run in. (see video above)


The ever popular picnic table, always a great place to hang out.

Top L-R: Kwyta, Joy, Nezi, and Rosie. Bench: Spirit and Lizzy. Ground: Looker.  Notice all the pine branches lying around from the numerous wind storms.