Over the past few days the temperature has warmed from a brisk -20f to a very balmy +20f, and with the warmer weather has come more snow. During the past three days we have gotten about 2-3 inches of fresh snow, while not much it has helped to smooth out our rough trails a little. The dogs don't seem to mind a bumpy trail but my knees and feet are rather tired of all the bouncing and jarring.
I have slowly increased the dogs mileage over the past week from about 20 miles a run to just over 30 miles a run and they are loving it. They look great and return home from running still wagging their tails and barking to go. This group of canines is undoubtedly one of the most athletic I have gotten the privilege of training in my 16 seasons of running dogs. I hope to be doing 40 mile runs with them by the end of the week.
With all of this new snow and the warmer temperatures it is necessary to put booties on all of the dogs feet before every run. Dog booties are made out of a fabric called cordura and are worn on the dogs feet kinda like socks, they are held in place by a strip of Velcro that goes around the dogs leg and attaches to its self. They help protect their feet from rough snow and ice and also wet snow that will stick to the hair on their feet and pack into snowballs between their toes which can rub and create painful sores and splits that will some times bleed. While it can be time consuming and very costly at just over a dollar a boot to bootie up the whole team it is well worth it to protect their feet. A bootie is only good for about 100 miles before it wears through and becomes useless, needless to say we go through a lot of booties in a season.
Some dogs have what mushers call "good feet" which means that they don't tend to get snow balls or sores on their feet and their feet require very little maintenance to keep them healthy. While other dogs have "bad feet" which means they are more prone to getting snowballs in their feet and usually require more maintenance like dog booties on every run.
On long runs I will stop the dogs about every two hours for a snack, its just a quick stop only about 5 minutes or so. The snacks aren't very big only about a 1/4 of a pound or so of meat per dog. I give them things like frozen beef, fish, or chicken, I try to avoid really fatty snacks especially when its warm (above 0F) that would make them sluggish. These short breaks allow me to briefly check dogs and make sure they all still have their booties on and what not.
I have added quite a few pictures to the end of this post in hopes to give you an idea of what I see on a daily basis during my training runs behind the kennel located northwest of Fairbanks Alaska. These photos were all taken over the past several days, I hope you enjoy them.