Northern Blast Sled Dogs

Carol & Alan Pepsick

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Posted on January 3, 2015 at 11:40 AM

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.

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