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August 30, 2015

Ten Past Eleven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As of August 29th, I have ten dogs who are eleven years old or older.  This includes all three of the Wise Bitches, Mitzi--turns 13 in November, Tempest--turned 13 in June, and Fondue—turned 14 in May and is my oldest.  The youngest of these ten, Shoshone and Sybil, were the ones who hit the 11 mark on the 29th.   Eleven is about the same as human 69 and 13 is about the same as human 79. 

One of the things that makes my kennel different from most that have tried to race competitively---I have done well for a kennel of Siberians with no breeding program---is that I keep my dogs for life.  I suppose I’d be willing to part ways with a dog but I’d have to be convinced that he’d be getting a better life than I give him, and I think I set a very high standard for sleddogs.  I run all of my dogs as long as I can, we have lots of yardtimes for them to mingle and play with each other, and I’m not the most remote musher in the world.  There’s a reason I know which dogs like to be hugged and which dogs don’t. 

With this and an age distribution that reflects my attempt at the Iditarod in 2009, I’ve lost seven dogs during the past two years.  Given how many old dogs I still have, I’m going to lose several more before this time next year.  It’s a statistical reality I understood as I put my team together----I tried to spread the ages out, but I still had seven six year olds and four four year olds on the team.  The team rounded out with two three year olds, two eight year olds, and a nine year old. 

Since then, I’ve added five dogs, all of whom are younger, but as a five year old, Lamia is my youngest. 

It was two years ago that I started training with A and B teams.  I’d differentiate later in the season, of course, but I had everybody running together for at least twenty hook-ups.  As everybody grew older, the ability for all but a few older dogs to keep up with the younger dogs dropped, and if I wanted everybody to enjoy running, I had to have a slow team and a “fast” team even as the season began.  I should add that I have video from five years ago with a team pulling the ATV against the engine at 12 mph.  Now, even my fast team does only 9 mph. 

One of the great things about living here is I can run my dogs year round.  My plan is to start running next week.  That’s actually the latest first day since I moved to Silly Lake.  Still, I should be fine.  I just have to get the A-dogs up to 15 mile ATV runs before mid-December.  I’d add that with Lamia and Omaha joining my fast team, it should be the strongest I’ve had in a few years. 

This coming fall will be the first time since I moved to Silly Lake that Jake won’t be starting on my A-Team.  Last year he started with them and kept up through December.  That was as a 12 and a half year old.  My first year with Jake, as a one and a half year old, he gleefully trotted at 15 mph.  He had no issues being in front of a team and he made decisions regarding trail conditions and footing that were no worse than I could make.  Jake was also submissive and had no issues with it.  Jake could run next to anybody.  With this, he had more miles in lead than any other dog of mine. 


One of the bits of wisdom I’ve gleaned over the years was that it’s okay to have favorites in a kennel.  These aren’t my kids.  They are my pack.  Between Jake and Jag being my first sled dogs, Jake having more miles in lead than any other dog I’ve owned, and his having a great personality, Jake was my favorite.  He passed away suddenly last January.

I don’t have a clear favorite dog now, but the three Wise Bitches, Shoshone, and Tok all vie for that.  They all get a bit more attention than some of the other dogs.  I also give Quid, my second oldest, a bit more attention than I might otherwise.  The reality is, just like what happened with Jake, I could wake up any morning and find that one of my dogs had passed away.  If and when that happens, I do want to have scratched, hugged, and kissed the dog the night before.  The moral remains, cherish the living.

   
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