Well it may only be August, but we’re already thinking about Iditarod. While technically fall training doesn’t begin until mid-September, our tours have given us an excellent excuse to hone the skills of our lead dogs. Believe it or not, we’ve actually trained up several new leaders just by offering our summer dog sled ride. Plus, the colder weather we’ve been having here in Seward makes it very tempting to want to run our dogs further and further.
So, how has running a tour business helped us train our dog team and new leaders? It’s simple — the trails we run on. I think we have a pretty unique set up in terms of summer dog sled rides. We don’t simply take our guests on rides – we put on a show for them. We have a small network of trails and over the course of the run our leaders travel through 10 intersections — places where they have to listen to what we, the musher tell them, and they have to react to. It really hones the dogs’ understanding of our commands: GEE (right) and HAW (left). We’re discovering our Iditarod team will have a lot more leaders than we initially thought because we’ve had the opportunity to train them up each and every day.
We also recently expanded our kennel to get ready for Iditarod. Travis wanted a few older veterans to fill out our younger crowd of dogs. We went to Anchorage last Saturday night to pick up the new additions… the only problem? There were seven dogs and our dog truck is currently in the shop. Instead of fretting about it, we drove up in our small Honda CR-V thinking to ourselves, “How on earth are we going to fit 7 full grown dogs in our car?”
My second job as a waitress prevented us from leaving Seward until 11:30 and the dogs were coming down from Fairbanks with a friend. We didn’t arrive in Anchorage until 2 in the morning, shortly after the dogs arrived. We walked them around the Best Buy parking lot and loaded their crates on the roof of our car. All seven dogs seemed tired but they eagerly hopped in the back.
You’d think with seven dogs in the back of the car you’d hear a bit of grumbling from one of them, but the dogs, tired from their journey, were relaxed and fell asleep, almost on top of each other. We felt like we were on a family road trip with 7 kids in the back. There sense of belonging to one another kept them calm and they seemed to enjoy their ride down. But you could tell they were excited to get to the dog lot.
We’ve ran the new dogs several times so far. Joe, a sleek black dog with the tiniest feet I’ve ever seen, will certainly make Travis’ Iditarod team. He finished Iditarod last year with Braxton Peterson who finished in 28th place with a time of 10d 22h 44m 4s. Apparently, he was barking and screaming to go under the burled arch. We’re also hoping that Marshall, a large houndy dog, will make our team. He’s trained with Lance Mackey for the last several years but has never made his Iditarod team.
Betty and Midnight have officially earned the title of “Tourist Greeter.” They diligently monitor the driveway and come up to anyone willing to give them a pat on the head. After a particularly busy day, they retired on the couch together (shown below). While most people think it’s strange for a cat and dog to be such good friends, Midnight, the cat, is really more of a dog. He eats (or tries to eat) with the dogs on a regular basis and goes crazy over dog food!
Well, that’s all for now. The pups in the yard continue to grow and we’ve enjoyed letting them run loose to play with the big dogs. It’s always fun watching the bigger dogs interact with the little ones. Zema, one of our main leaders, is particularly obsessed with puppies. Whenever she runs loose visiting the pups is her number one propriety. It seems, more often than not, that she forgets that they are not her puppies much to the chagrin of their real mother. Still, it’s cute to watch how excited she is around them.
Until next time!