Sunday, November 10, 2013

Let It SNOW!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow, is the song we are singing here at the kennel. There is about a foot on the ground and more beautiful white flakes in the forecast and falling. Training is going well here with some welcome snow on the ground excitement is in the air. We have using the four wheeler to train the dogs so far, but we just got enough snow to start running sleds, so as of tomorrow we will be on sleds.

My oh my, this fall has been a busy one, but then again they all are with so much to do in preparation for the coming winter. Sorry for the lack of blog posts lately, I will now do my best to catch you up on the happenings at the kennel this fall. Back in mid September I took all of the race dogs to Eagle for a week to do some fishing and dog training. With the help of some friends and their fish wheel we were able to put up over 800 chum salmon for the dogs to eat this winter. Salmon is an essential part of the dogs diet, it is not only full of good nutrients, omega 3’s and energy for the dogs it also has a high concentration of water in it and when fed raw and frozen along the trail it helps to keep the dogs hydrated. I hung most of the fish on my fish wrack in Eagle to dry a little before trucking them home. I also filled a freezer with fish so that they’d keep all of their moisture for feeding the dogs on the trail. The fish that were hung on the rack will be cooked into a fish stew with rice and poultry fat this fall and winter for feeding to the dogs while at the kennel.

I returned home from Eagle with the dogs in late September after a week of fun training, fish gathering, visiting family, and friends and even making some new friends. And then in early-mid October Robert and I made a quick overnight trip into Eagle (roughly 8-10 hours of driving one way) and picked up all the fish and brought them home to Fairbanks. Once back in Fairbanks we put all the fish in what we call a “fish crib” which is a covered structure that keeps the dogs, ravens, foxes, and other critters out, but allows some air flow and keeps the snow off the fish. They will remain frozen in the crib all winter and as we cook batches of salmon stew up every few days for the dogs their numbers will diminish and the goal is to use all of the fish up by spring or they will start to smell.

We cook the fish out side using a special type of cooker made from the barrel of a washing machine and an old grill grate. I build a small fire inside of the barrel (it is important the fire stays small otherwise it will burn the fish and then the dogs wont eat it) and set the grate on top. I then place a metal bucket with 4-5 fish and a few gallons of water on to the grate to boil and cook, when the fish is almost done I add the rest of the ingredients, and wha-la there you have it, fish stew.

The fish have been one of the more major projects around here lately, but not the only one. Running the dogs daily is fun and time consuming. There is always firewood to work on and water to haul. The rabbits also need daily attention, and with fall comes butchering season for both the rabbits and wild game. I am happy to say that along with rabbit, ptarmigan, and grouse we will also be eating caribou this winter.

In early October we got two more of our male dogs neutered and five more of our females spayed. Leaving us with only two intact males and four intact females in the whole kennel. By only keeping a few of our best dogs not altered we are able to better prevent unplanned breedings, and give the dogs a healthier life. Spaying a female eliminates the risk of her getting a pyometra (uterine infection) and also reduces her chance of getting breast cancer. Also altered dogs fight less and tend to be more relaxed with each other overall, and they tend to require less calories to keep ideal weight. All seven dogs went through surgery smoothly and have recovered completely and are running with the team again and on schedule for the upcoming race season. 

Training runs have been getting longer and longer every week with the dogs and soon we will start doing some mini camping trips where we will bed the dogs down on the side of the trail and feed them, then let them rest a few hours before continuing on with the run. This is training and practice for later in the winter when we take our longer trips and do some races.

Speaking of races this winter is shaping up to be a busy one. The team and I are now officially signed up for two 300-mile races, the Yukon Quest 300 and the Copper Basin 300.  These two races are known as some of the toughest 300-mile races in Alaska. The Copper Basin 300 will start January 11th, in Glenallen Alaska and the Yukon Quest 300 will start February 1st in Fairbanks Alaska. We also plan to run the Solstice 100 in Two Rivers, for the third time in mid December. And The Two Rivers 200 for the second time, it starts March 7th. And maybe we can fit some other races in there as well.

Until next time, happy trails.

Roughly 800 salmon hanging on the rack in Eagle.

Salmon and Eggs shortly before loading them onto the trailer in Eagle.

Out enjoying the new snow on a lovely November afternoon.

Ah, Sunshine!

The fish cooker at work.

A run with a view.

Going for a run in the beginning of last nights snow storm, we easily got 6-8 fresh inches from this storm.

Matrix and Tramp enjoying the snow.

The fresh snow in the dog yard as of this morning.

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