A Man Among Women; A Story of Survival

Disclaimer: Men and women are created equal.  In no way does this blog suggest that one gender is superior to the other.  However, some of us are from Mars and some of us are from Venus (read the book if you don’t believe me!).  This makes us uniquely different.  So please don’t get your panties or briefs in a ruffle after reading this blog!

girlsIt was the start of the 2016/2017 season and our seasonal mushing family was lined up and ready to get underway. This year the family was different.  Different from anything we’ve seen in previous years.  Different in a softer, more feminine way.  Different because it was all women!

The kennel was about to enter the estrogen zone. I just hoped for all our sakes we were all on a different heat cycle.  Sorry, a little dog humor.  Seriously, for me this was exciting and I welcomed the estrogen comradery since I’m usually the only woman amongst an all-male crew.  I’m used to it though as I’ve been doing it all my life; golfing, snowmobiling and working in a male dominated industry.  A woman develops certain coping skills in those situations; a tolerance for toilet seats never being down, an immunity to musky smells, a very thick skin and most importantly the ability to wear the “bitch” hat proudly as you earn that label instantaneously just for having an opinion. So I welcomed this new change with open arms.

nervousBruce, on the other hand, had good reason to be a bit trepidatious about our new situation. He was born into a male dominated household and has worked in a very male dominated industry since he was young.  This left him ill prepared for estrogen overload.  It didn’t help that his wife had the above skill set and; therefore, further removed him from a world of femininity.  This new situation was about to rock his testosterone laden world.

We started the season with 4 women at the training kennel and if that wasn’t enough, in December, we threw in one more from South Africa just for good measure. Then when that wasn’t enough we had another one come visit during the TCSDR race.  This was on top of all the women who call him regularly during sled season to talk dogs. As a friend so eloquently put it, “Bruce was floating helplessly in a sea of estrogen.”

I wanted to prepare him, but then on the other hand I didn’t. He would not be getting a life preserver from me; I wanted to watch!  It was sort of like not being able to look away from an accident.  Horrifying and intriguing all at the same time.   Bruce was going to need to get in touch with his feminine side in a major way.  All the football games and endless sports talk that I endured over the years would finally be paid back; YES!!!

Initially, we didn’t notice the different dynamics of the team, but after a while they became more evident. Our first observation was the after dinner conversations.  They were far from the sports and political analysis of year’s past and more akin to the Vagina Monologues.  We referred to them as our after dinner therapy sessions.  To some men this would be their worst nightmare!  However, Bruce didn’t let us see him sweat.  He would sit in his lounge chair calmly listening, but I’m sure, there were times he was cringing in fear the conversation might take an uncomfortable turn.  To his credit, he was a great participant and willingly gave his male perspective on issues.  This was welcomed and, at times, met with silence and wide eyed stares when he missed the mark.  It didn’t faze him though; in true male fashion, he carried on oblivious.  He stayed engaged, but never gained an understanding of why we constantly talk about wine and chocolate.  From his perspective, “For gosh sakes it’s food and booze – get over it!”  Pshhhhh, MEN!

Bruce may have dug deep for some conversations, but he literally quit digging when it came to emotions and there were A LOT of emotions! The emotional dynamics of the team were a bit much for him and when they reared their weepy head he retreated like a gazelle from a hungry cheetah.  His cardio is top notch now.  This retreating, of course, left me in charge of placating the tears and mini-meltdowns.  Not something I can credit myself for cryingbeing very good at.  At times I worried these poor women would need therapy after the season was over as I patted them on the back with two fingers saying, “There, there; it’s ok”   When that didn’t work I was famous for, “Ok, it’s over; now get over it!”  Yep, Mrs. Sensitivity!  Just another coping mechanism from the male dominated world, but I had to toughen these chicks up!  If I didn’t, it was going to be a long winter.

I’m not sure if we succeeded in toughening them up emotionally, but physically that was another story. Bruce quickly learned chivalry would be the death of him.  When normally he might be the guy to do the heavy lifting for a gal, he realized that if he continued to do that he would be the only one doing the work.   He had to refrain from being chivalrous so that he wasn’t a lone man working while a gaggle of women stood around and watched.  This created tension when he didn’t transition back and forth for the sake of his marriage.  I’m pretty low maintenance, but I appreciate chivalry in my marriage. I recall carrying a box on top of another box of heavy gear walking in the snow while he stood and watched.  He got the look; however, he had done such a good job transitioning he had forgotten what the look meant.  Suffice it to say, I had a few doors slammed in my face as he exercised his new found freedom.  I understand though as he had to treat us all equal; Lord help him if he carried a box for one of the girls and not wifey; what a disaster that would have been!  He did so good that I fear it could be a long road transitioning back.

Some transitions were easy, but one area he never really got comfortable with was the girly giggling fits. Downstairs all you could hear was giggling.  He would announce he was gigglingcoming down out of courtesy, but most likely he feared what was so funny down there.  He is still not comprehending that sometimes it’s nothing specific; it’s just something that overcomes them.  Snow in the tire, that’s funny.  Food is funny.  Snow is funny. Shit, we broke the snowmobile that’s funny.  The list goes on.  Bruce; however, didn’t find much of it funny.

He especially didn’t find broken stuff funny. Mechanically, he was the only one with any mechanical skills.  As we went about our business breaking shit; Bruce was called upon to fix and repair it.  There were the emails down state;

Kennel – “The truck won’t start.”

Bruce – “What is it doing?”

Kennel – “I turn the key it won’t start.”

Bruce – “Did you hear a clicking noise?”

Kennel – “Clicking? What kind of clicking? I don’t think so.”

Bruce – “Is the battery dead?”

Kennel – “I don’t know.”

Bruce – “It will have to wait until I get there.”

Kennel – “Never mind, it started.”

WebThen there was the time the snowmobile wouldn’t shift out of reverse and he had to drive 5 miles home at night backwards. I wasn’t sure how he found time to run dogs.  He was a tornado of fixing some days ….”Bruce can you fix this?”   “Bruce, I need help.”  “Bruce!”  On the other hand, he certainly felt needed.

Feeling needed didn’t last long on most days. The women were very conscious of a clean space and went over and above cleaning up their living quarters and the gear.  I became self-conscious for my husband and worried that he would expose them to his manly habits.  “Don’t leave your shit laying all over the kitchen; the women eat here!”  “Have you bathed lately?” “OMG; I’m sure they heard that fart all the way downstairs!  Put a cork in it!”  “You can’t walk around in your underwear; there are 5 women downstairs!”  It was tense as nothing gets by chicks.  He was forced to slightly alter his ways.  Do you think I’ll get lucky and he’ll refrain from farting ever again?  Probably not; oh well, can’t blame a girl for wishful thinking.

Now I would hate to give the impression that this situation was full of negatives for Bruce as that simply wasn’t the case. There were plenty of upsides to his situation; so don’t feel too sorry for him.  One; he never had to do dishes or lift a finger to clean anything.  There were so many women; they were fighting over the dishes (some actually like doing them).  As for cleaning, there were a couple that like things clean and organized so they were all over that.  The cabin was like a scene out of Sister Wives some days.  Secondly, we provided him with plenty of laughable moments.  There was the night I had to park the truck and trailer after we moved it for the plow guy.  A 30 minute attempt that resulted in the entire rig jack knifed in a 90 degree parking position in the middle of the parking area. Between my poor backing up skills and the poor directions being doled out it was a task that became impossible to resolve.  Bruce was amused at the end result.  We provided hours of amusement with stuck groomers, drivers tipping over in the deep snow on snowmobiles and various other miscalculations.  So you see he avoided all domestic chores and had a lot of laughs; not such a bad gig.

We all had to be very careful though that Bruce didn’t develop a KING complex. Everywhere he went he had a harem of women in tow. You can imagine this guy walking into a local Yooper bar with 5 chicks. If you’ve never walked into a Yooper bar it goes something like this.  You walk in.  The 10 men sitting at the bar all stop, turn and look.  You can almost hear them thinking, “Who the hell is that?  They ain’t local.”  We raised eyebrows for sure.  Then to do it on more than one occasion; hell, Bruce is probably revered by the local men of Newberry at this point!  If that wasn’t enough to contribute to a KING complex, he is presently traveling with two women and only booking one room at all the motels.  Ohhhh, the looks!  Despite what it sounds like, we managed to keep him grounded in reality.  A reality that compelled him to seek ways to escape.

The realities of living with a house full of women taught him to appreciate those quiet moments alone in the woods where there were no women, no words, no broken shit, no giggling and he could fart to his heart’s content. Running dogs took on a whole new meaning this year.  Frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t decide to start running 50’s and sign up for the Iditarod.

I think we can safely say that Bruce got in touch with his feminine side, purely for survival. His manly man ways are ingrained deep and I have no concern about finding him painting his nails in the back room or having to share my chocolate and wine with him. Thank Gawd for the latter.  However, it has had a profound impact on him.  He’s already pussy hatconsidering an all-female crew for next year and at this very moment he is listening to an all-female sports show called Trifecta!  He has become a believer; “Chicks Rock!”  However, he’s thankful that the “Women’s March” occurred after we all dispersed for racing season as he was absolutely adamant the kennel would NOT be acquiring pink pussy hats!

Posted in Dog Racing 2017 | Leave a comment

The Cab Ride

crazyredneckinpickuptruckHave you ever watched a horror movie and screamed out loud, “Don’t go in there!”, “Run” or “He’s right behind you!”   Well, I have.   I’ve told the characters how stupid they were for not realizing that the innocent fella they were talking to was really an axe murderer about to chop their heads off.  I am convinced I would never be that dumb.  I would survive any horror movie!  Or so I thought……

We called a cab to take us from Evanston to the Salt Lake City Airport so that we didn’t have to drive the dog truck and trailer through the urban jungle; which would certainly stress all of us and the dogs.  The cab was scheduled to arrive at 10:00AM, but did not.  We called and the dispatcher assured us the cab was on its way they just had to stop to get something to eat.  They?  Whatever.  5 minutes later a woman in her late 40’s stepped into the lobby asking for who called the cab.  We immediately got up and told her it was us.  She explained that she came in because we probably wouldn’t recognize her car as a cab.   We looked at the SUV parked out front with no decals or any indication that it was a cab and agreed with her.   As she started to load our briefcases, we realized there was another woman that had come along with the cab driver.   I thought, “Hmmm, this is odd.  An unidentifiable cab driven by two women.”   Then I talked myself out of my mini-paranoia.  I felt comfortable with the two women.  There was no need to run.  This was not a horror movie.

We no sooner pulled out onto the main road and the two ladies got into a fairly animated conversation.  I only picked up a few things as I was trying not to be rude and had checked out.   The driver was basically complaining about some man and I got the impression he was the law.   Despite my efforts to check out, the driver started directing the conversation towards us and we got sucked into her private hell for the next 1 ½ hours.  She proceeded to tell us that just weeks ago one of her rides had called and complained that she was driving her cab drunk and had been drunker than hefretr passengers.   She was aptly pulled over by the police, who were harassing her, but she got in their face and told them to give her a breathalizer as this would be the only way to prove her innocence.  She claimed to have passed the breathalizer, but for some reason she was expected to be in court for this issue within the next week.   The first of many, many red flags started waving at this point.  I noticed the two drinks in the console and wondered immediately if they were truly just soda pops.

We quickly learned that this was not the first run in Cruella the Cabbie has had with the law.  She took us back through 25 years of her life starting with her husband dying from Marfans disease a year ago to back when she was with her drug addicted ex-husband straddled with a child.   It was about this point I realized I might have stepped into my own personal horror story and no one had screamed at me, “Don’t get in the cab!”    Cruella the Cabbie continued to explain that the law has been after her for years and years, harassing her and trying to get her put in jail all because of her drug addicted ex-husband.   She was accused of sexually abusing her children and of being StraightJacket2gay.  As a result the Mormon Church ex-communicated her and got her into trouble with the law.  “No one pisses off the church without some sort of harassment.”  She has been harassed by the law in three different states; which is why she lives in Wyoming.  She started in Salt Lake, but left and they kept giving her trouble everywhere she went and they were starting now in Wyoming.  She’s smarter than them though.  They won’t get her. 

Bruce and I were expressionless and staring straight ahead for fear she’d make eye contact and that would set her off.  My mind was going about 90 mph, I was wondering what he was thinking.    Cruella the Cabbie proceeded, “The spirits talk to me.  They told me one day the cops were coming.  So I told my daughter to get the hell out of the house because the cops were coming.   Sure enough they showed up.  Those spirits were right.  Ehh, haa ehhh, haaa!” She cackled with a dry smoker’s laugc0325_20090925h that sounded evil.  I asked, “Why were the cops after your daughter?”   She explained it was because she had run away and had been missing for a year.   This was the good daughter.  Her other daughter got caught up in meth for many years.  She was clean now, but she was a mess for a long time.  There is also a third and she is trouble too.   I kept thinking, “Lord, I’d be doing meth to if this lady was my mother.  Thank you for the mom I have!” 

Cruella talked non-stop the entire ride, but this was not the worse part.  As we were intently listening to certainly the worst horror story ever, we were acutely aware of thSpeedere fact that we were doing 80 mph on the curvy, mountainous highway to Salt Lake.  It wasn’t ½ hour into the trip and I was white knuckling the door handle.   These are not like Michigan highways; straight and flat.  They have 7% grades and severe ess curves requiring 50 mph speed limits.   Ms. Cabbie was oblivious to this as she set the cruise on 80 and approached the ess curves with 50 mph speed limit signs without ever touching the brake.   You could feel the gravity pull on the vehicle as we slung around the corners and I just kept praying that we would not roll.   “Then there was the time I was accused of murder!” You see her look in the rear view mirror.  “Holy shit, we are going to die!” I thought.    I was either going to die in the car or these two bimbos were going to take us down a deserted road and kill us.   I started to assess whether we could take them.  They were both very heavy set.  I figured Bruce could take the driver who was certainly tougher and I would take the passenger.

“Yep, the spirits came to me one night and showed me this gal drinking and falling down the stair cracking her head open.   So I told someone about it.  The next day I learned that she had gotten drunk, fell down the stairs, cracked her head and died.  So they thought it was me. Them damn officers don’t know crap.  I didn’t have any money to fight them so I had to put up with their crap.    The spirits watch over me.”    I asked, “Do all Mormons have conversations with the spirit?”   She explained fervently, “Oh no.  They don’t talk to everyone.   They’ve been talking to me since I was a child protecting my family.  I’m Native American ya know.”   I wondered why the spirits didn’t seem to want to protect her from the law.  I also hoped my spirits were stronger than her spirits.    I looked and we had 46 miles to go to Salt Lake.   I wasn’t going to make it.

We approached more ess curves.  I tried looking off into the distance to admire the scenery.  I was starting to think morbid thoughts, “At least the last thing I saw was beautiful!”   At this point the passenger started to tell her to slow down to which she snottily replied that she was.  She’s now spending more time looking in the rear mirror or at her passenger, but definitely not at the road.  The car was equipped with a lane sensor device that indicated when she was outside the lanes.   So on top of her incessant ranting was this consistent beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.   She argued it didn’t work as she would jerk the car back in the lane.   I now have sweaty palms and am starting to take deep breaths.   I consider telling her that I’m having a panic attack could she please slow the car down as it stresses me out when I’m in this condition.    I look at Bruce and he has the death stare straight ahead.  I think he’s left his body.

“You know the spirit talk in parables.   The Mormons are stupid though because they don’t read the bible and they don’t understand parables.   They think I’m ignorant because I didn’t finish school, but they don’t realize that I’m an intellectual and I read.  I read the bible.  I read a lot of stuff.  The spirit talks to me for a reason.   The Mormons have all these rules and they think you shouldn’t smoke.”   The passenger replies that it is against the religion to smoke and it tells you so.   Ms. Cabbie retorts, “It is a sin for you to do it, but the spirit told me that I could smoke.  He wouldn’t tell you that because you are not chosen and he doesn’t talk to you.”  She proceeds to ramble several parables and dissect sections of scripture.    I’m hoping that she isn’t pissing off the guy upstairs as I don’t want to be wrongly affiliated while in this dire situation.    26 miles to go.    I will never make it, I keep thinking.  Please no more ess curves.    Oh Gawd, a 7% grade followed by ess curves ahead.   50 mph signs.  A semi to our right and a median barricade to our left.   She’s not watching the road.  Beep, beep, beep.   I start to notice the passenger using her finger and her spit to clean a large stain off the roof of the passenger side.   Is it a milkshake that spilled?   From rolling?   Holy crap, is it blood?   I’m near hyper ventilation and feeling dizzy. 

Ms. Cabbie proceeds to rant about religion.  You know Jesus Christ was a Jew.  We ignore her.   She starts in about her husband converting to Mormonism from Catholicism.  Then they ex-communicate me.  It doesn’t matter because they are dumb.  I’m now praying she doesn’t ask for my religion as she has had a problem with all of them except the unidentified spirit she talks to.  We then learn her husband was jailed for attacking a police officer.  It wasn’t his fault.  It was the cops fault.

Thank you Jesus I see a sign to the SLC airport ½ mile.   What if she doesn’t take it?  She’s not slowing down.  Man, I’m going to have to grab this lady around the neck and put something to the side of her head to get her to turn this car down the right exit.   At the last minute, we jerk down the exit.  I’m literally wiping my brow free of sweat.   Just keep quiet and you’ll make it out of this cab.   We pull up to the curb and I literally jump out before she was done rolling.   As she comes around the back to collect the cash she says, “Oh look you both have the same coat on.  How cute.  We explain that they were gifts from a dog race we had just participated in.” To which she replied, “Oh, I drove you folks the other night.  Yep, took you across town!”   “No, it wasn’t us.”   “Yep, I took you guys.”     We smiled and then quickly dashed off.  As soon as we entered the airport Bruce looks at me and asks, “Should we kiss the ground?”   I burst into relieved hysterics.

By far the Salt Lake cab ride was worse than the one in Detroit where we only did 75 mph in a 45 mph zone zipping in out of traffic nearly missing the bumpers of other cars and screeching wheels as we turned corners.  That was nothing compared to Salt Lake.  Yep, I am never taking a cab ever again.  I am listening to the voices in the horror movie, “DON’T GET IN THE CAB!” You should listen too; unless you want to die.  Ehheh haa ehhh haa hha eehhhh!!!

Posted in Dog Racing 2016 | Leave a comment

Get Out The Band-Aids – Evanston Stage 8

dogwheelchair9_10After Kemmerer we had three sore dogs and only one healthy dog on the sidelines for Evanston.  That left us with a team of 9 for the final stage.  It wouldn’t have been too much of a concern if we hadn’t found ourselves in a very close race for third place between JR Anderson and Jerry Bath.  There was only about 3 ½ minutes between the three racers all vying for 3rd place and we were in the chase position sitting in 5th position.  We knew that we could not afford to make any mistakes on this stage by taking the wrong dog and having to bag them for the run.  Doing so would certainly destroy any chances of moving up in the standings and put us in a perilous position for maintaining 5th place.  There was 55 minutes between us and 6th place.  So, as luck would have it, later in the afternoon when we went to drop the dogs for dinner we were dealt another blow when two more dogs came up sore after they had cooled off.  We were now down to 7 dogs for Evanston.   This was devastating.   This was a bang your forehead on the side of the trailer type of000620-0005-000094 moment.  Instead, I silently screamed a few “F” bombs in my head.  It didn’t help me feel any better.  We knew the other two teams were going to throw as many dogs as they could at us and we needed to get to work and get some dogs back into the game.  We worked on every dog; icing, massaging, walking and lasering in hopes for a small miracle.   We repeated later in the evening around 11PM.

In the morning we got up to water the dogs and another key dog got out of the box drank his broth and then barfed all over.  Holy crap, there is no way Bruce could do this with 6 dogs or could he?  We went through all the dogs one more time, got out the box of Band-Aids and decided to put two dogs back in the team that had been sore the previous evening.  We pulled one healthy one from the sidelines and then debated at length about adding a dog that had been sitting on the sideline due to a sore wrist.  I was against it as he still squeaked a tiny bit when the wrist was palpated, but Bruce was insistent.  He felt confident that the do2073g would run through anything.  This gave us 10 including the guy that had gotten sick early in the morning who we were watching like a hawk.  We both decided that if he didn’t get animated on the line, we were going to pull him.  We were going on the hopes that he didn’t have a virus and had just drank too much and had puked.  We obviously took a very high risk approach as we didn’t have enough solid dogs to do otherwise.  We had a significant lead in front of 6th and decided that we would go for broke and if it didn’t work we had enough to limp in and maintain 5th.  By this point, I was near puking myself and had found my religious side.  I must have asked Bruce 10 times if he was sure about the one dog with the wrist.  He was solid.  I still wanted to barf.

As we were agonizing over our choices, right next to us were the Anderson crew busy running dogs and having the vet over to the truck.  We wondered if they were going through the same dilemmas.   On the other side of the truck Al went quickly from a team of 12 down to a team of 9 as he sorted through each dog.  Meanwhile, Sandy Bath was walking around passing out fudge and Dylan came running up and told us all NOT to take the candy; it could be a trick!  Holy crap, my blog had turned on me.  The Baths were baiting us all with fudge!

In true witchcraft form we all joked that an eye of newt or two might help any of the three teams catch Alex Stegman; the thought kept us all hopeful.

We got to the chute and our barfy boy got animated so we kept him in.  The dogs all ran to the chute without a hitch and they were excited to go.  I felt slightly hopeful.   At the last minute, JR pulled a dog off his team in the chute bringing him to 9.  Jerry Bath pulled up to the chute with 12 on the line.   Hmmmm, maybe I wasn’t so hopeful anymore.  Bruce took off and once out of sight, barfy boy demonstrated that he was not really into racing and would have probably preferred to stay back.  On the bright side, he didn’t have to be bagged and thank the Lord for that because he is just shy of 70 pounds.  However, he didn’t contribute the entire run.  He was able to stick it out, but significantly held the team up when they were climbing the hills; which is pretty much 50% of the run.   Aside from that, the team ran great.  The trail was hard and fast and Bruce’s leader found his stride.   JR caught Bruce at about 25 miles in and slowly pulled away.  They paced each other for the remainder of the run.  Jerry caught Bruce within 13 miles, but then he started having dog problems.   He carried a dog, put it back out and then bagged it again.  Bruce didn’t see him again the remainder of the run.   JR secured 3rd place with a solid lead and Bruce moved up to 4th just barely beating Jerry by a couple minutes.  It was a great race amongst these three and we were very happy for each of them.  Couldn’t have picked two nicer guys to be neck and neck with!

We came to the race very confident in our team and we still feel it was one of the strongest teams we’ve had.  However, we were concerned about the fact that the team never got to see snow until we arrived out west and this proved to be an issue.  You a040714_fdogoldlways hope it won’t play a role, but we knew that we needed to be on snow.  Logistically, we just couldn’t make it happen.  So as a result we were unable to test some of the new dogs in the snow and learned that it was not in some dog’s wheel houses.   In addition, the team lacked the type of conditioning necessary to really move through deep snow like we saw in the early stages of the race.   This created some injuries that you typically see when you’ve not had the necessary snow conditioning.  Our front end turned into a hot mess from all the above and we struggled to recover throughout the race.  Losing two key leaders and then learning a 3rd didn’t like deep snow was a huge let down and a big challenge.  Thank Gawd, we had the 9 year old superstar Sedona with us as she saved our butt too many times to count at this race.

So are these excuses?   Absolutely not!  This is reality.  Does this take away from those that finished in front of us?  Absolutely not!  Each of us has obstacles and dog racing involves overcoming obstacles.  We did the very best we could working through ours and the other teams either had less or did a better job working through them.  Our dog care was top notch and we successfully kept aging dogs and injured dogs in the game to keep us competitive. We were regularly massaging, lasering and working on dogs.  We tried to strategically capitalize on opportunities and sometimes that required a high risk approach.  We are proud of the race we ran and look forward to, once again, applying what we learned towards an even better team next year!

Posted in Dog Racing 2016 | Leave a comment

Burning Down The House

house_on_fireWe arrived in Big Piney last night and got a room at one of only two hotels in the town.  You would think after standing around in the cold all day that mushers would welcome a warm room.  Well, not so much.  For many of us this is a virtual nightmare.   As we entered our little oven we both started to panic. “Holy crap, turn the heat down!” I yelled.  We then started shedding the clothes as we frantically looked for the source of our torture.  We started opening windows for fear we would perish from the heat.  Once we found the source we quickly discovered there was no thermostat so we basically dismantled the wall heater only to realize it was on low already and there was no way to turn it off.    So in -10 we chose to leave the windows open just so we could sleep. 

After three weeks of being on the road, you get a little sick of motels.  Every blasted one of them has their heaters blowing full bore.  You walk into the hallways and it’s like a sauna and then you enter your room and determine it would be more comfortable to sleep in the truck.   Then I swear some of these things are designed to never turn off.  You can put them on low and even turn them off and they will still run all night.   This coupled with the dry air in the Western US is absolute torturous to us Midwesterners.   I arrived like a wet sponge and now I’m a brittle, dried up and crumbling sponge.  I travel with a mini-humidifier just so I can breathe.  My skin is like crispy bacon and it actually hurts to touch it.  I’m red like a tomato and fees as if I aged 10 years.  Lord help me if I have to blow my nose, there’s so much blood I worry if I’ve had a brain aneurism. 

So after taking care of our room, we went to the banquet and then returned to drop dogs.  While we were dropping dogs we kept hearing Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep!  It just didn’t stop.  It was quite irritating and I was thinking that incessant beeping better stop before we try to go to sleep.  This motel has paper walls and a beeping such as this would certainly keep all of us up all night.  After about 10 minutes of listening to this I couldn’t stand it and I went on the hunt for the beeper.   As I’m approaching our room so was the Motel Manager.  Then I hear it, “Fire, Fire, Fire” coming from a smoke alarm.  Oh NO!  Half our gear is in there.  Why don’t I see smoke?  I hand the manager the key and we walk in to find Bruce’s Lobben boots melted on top of the heater.  The lovely aroma of melted plastic greeted us.  So, like we’ve done a few times this trip, we hung our heads in embarrassment.  The manager said he get it taken care of.  Well, the entire time we were dropping we kept hearing beep, beep, beep, fire, fire, fire.  Until finally the manager came to tell us he couldn’t get all the blue gunk scraped off the heater so he turned it off and left us a small electric heater.   Well, that’s one way to get your motel to turn off your heater; in case you are ever desperate.  Bruce now walks with a limp because one boot is taller than the other.

It was a chilly morning in Big Piney today, but nothing like Pinedale.   It is a brand new trail that is 100% groomed and apparently very hilly.   We looked at the snow conditions.  The snow was very dry and crispy.  The trail looked hard, but we chose to go with boots on all 11 dogs fearing it would break down and tear up feet.  When dry snow breaks up it is like mini-ice crystals and very abrasive.  We didn’t think our feet could handle if that happened on this stage.  A half mile into the race Bruce immediately started having trouble with a dog.  She was neck lining hard.  He coaxed her along, but she was controlling the speed of the descents.  It was odd because this dog had checked out fine, but we obviously missed something.  This dog is also a key leader.  They later discovered ab4_dogwheelchair0005 muscle strain in an odd place that I would not have found.  Bruce also had a leader that had never seen these type of conditions and we learned he likes to pout when the wind is blowing and the trail is tough so this effected the run.   He never quit, but he was not a happy camper.  The trail was tough and we took a bit of a beating in Big Piney.  We’ve been asking a lot of several dogs as we had some unfortunate issues early in the race.  We lost a dog after Driggs to either bronchitis or he has something stuck in his throat so he was out early and will require an x-ray to further diagnose his issue.   We lost a 2nd dog after Alpine due to a bicep injury at the insertion point; which is basically where the muscle attaches to the bone.  It took a few days to diagnose this as the dog was displaying a vast array of symptoms and it kept leading the vets in different directions.   So right out of the gate we were down two dogs.  After Lander we lost another dog to a pull in the iliopsoas muscle.  Then after Big Piney we lost the key leader mentioned above.  This has put a lot of pressure on key dogs and there are a core of dogs that have run every single day. 

In Kemmerer today it was one of the better trails Bruce has seen there.  We went with our two older leaders and a team of 11.  The team ran fine, but it was not enough and we can now add another key leader to our injury list.   JR and Jerry both had great runs and have pushed us now into 5th overall.  We will be patching everyone up for the last leg tomorrow to see what we can do.  Man, I hope we can come up with 8 dogs!  If worse comes to worse, I will resort to witchcraft!

You may have seen that things are getting interesting around here and mysterious things are happening to the Streeper crew.   Terry has succumbed to severe diarrhea, Alex was locked in the trailer just prior to having to hook up dogs and they had to replace a water pump on their truck.  Seriously!  I’m good, but I didn’t know I was that good!!  LOL Since I’ve been dubbed the “Head Witch” by the Streeper crew I’ve decided I’m going to live up to my name.  Why not, heh!  So tonight along with my broom I will be chanting over the cooker.000081-0028-000053

Double, double, toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adders fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble

 Ehhhhhh, Ehhhhhhh, Hehhhh, hehhhhhh ….. that ‘s my witche’s cackle!!   See you tomorrow!

 

 

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Now It Is Cold – Stage 4 Pinedale

posthalloweenMaybe I don’t like winter!   Yesterday I complained because it was snowing and today I’m complaining because it is cold; real cold! We woke this morning to -16 below.  For us Floridians, that is like being thrown into a deep freeze naked and wet.  I feel sorry for the dogs; they don’t get to see the weather forecast so they can prepare.  They wake up and if it’s -16 or 30 above they are wearing the same jacket!  Not me, I pulled out the old parka, threw on another shirt and still couldn’t quite achieve that cozy warm feeling.  

At the start of the race it was about -8 below.   We wPrintavered between going with 10 or 11 dogs and chose to do 11.  We were going with ten and then Jerry Bath came by and asked how many we were taking.  When we told him 10 he said, “REALLY!?!?”  We were pretty set, but then we had another mini pow wow and changed our plan.  There are still some big stages left and we’d prefer to have 12 on those stages, but we were concerned about the trail as it often has drifting and a bigger team can be very helpful.  Due to the temps we chose to boot all the dogs as that frigid air and dry snow can wreak havoc on feet.  We also put a few body coats on some of our houndy dogs to protect their jewels.   JR did the same as us.   The Streepers had every dog booted and coated.  Surprisingly, there were several teams that came in later without boots or coats.   Bruce had the 2nd fastest time at the 6 mile mark behind Jerry Scidoris who had a magic carpet ride today.  The team hummed and ran the pace Bruce wanted for about 25 miles.  Before the halfway he passed Jeff Conn bagging a dog and he passed Chris Atkins.  At the halfway he was a minute ahead of Jerry Bath.  At mile 27 he caught Al and one of his front end started to flake out.   She was dictating the speed of his descents.  The trail was hard, but punchy and the leaders kept punching through; which was getting to her.  The two teams traveled and passed Austin Forney and then Al had to stop to resolve an issue.  Bruce passed and then his one leader totally flaked out.  He stopped and switched leaders.   He then re-caught Austin and Al and then they set a decent pace on home for 3rd place.   The dogs look good except one poor hound had his num nums rubbed raw and bloody from his body suit.  That didn’t work as planned; we tried to protect them and caused him issues instead. 

Jerry Bath was the winner today and now I’m suspicious.  Prior to the race he had been very uncertain about his team.  He has several young dogs and some unknowns on the team and he just wasn’t sure how they would perform.  He was not feeling confident.   Well, now I’m thinking that Mr. Bath might have been playing head games.  Trying to get all of us not to pay attention or drop our guard so he could unsuspectingly unleash the beasts.  He had a phenomenal run and his team is doing great!  We couldn’t be happier for Jerry winning his first yellow bib.  Yellow is your color Jerry!!  BUT don’t get used to it …. Wink …. Wink …… wink!!!   LOL

Then there is our friend JR, who took 2nd today and chipped off a couple more minutes that were standing between him and Bruce for 3rd place overall.  It’s ChessMatcha darn good thing these two are good friends because they can’t seem to shake each other in the standings.  It would be downright ugly if either one of them was the type that had to hate their competition to do well.   Instead, we high five and wish each other the best.  These two are the ultimate competitors in my book.  It’s competition like this that makes racing fun!

Al Borak, running our yearlings, had another great run and took 7th place today.  The kids are just shining and having a great time.   Emily Entrikin bagged a dog today.   Austin Forney’s team is starting to click and he had a very nice run.   Jerry Scidoris was absolutely ecstatic with his run today and very happy with his result.

The handler games were cancelled until tomorrow so stay tuned.  This is certainly going to be more exciting than the actual race!

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It’s Snowing in Lander Stage 3

000081-0025-000116Mother Nature has a sick sense of humor!   Yes, I’ll admit I prayed all freaking fall for snow and I was praying up to the minute we left.   Then the day we left Michigan gets hit with a major snow storm.  Then we get here and it hasn’t stopped snowing yet.  So HA HA HA , PRETTY FUNNY MRS. NATURE AND YOU CAN STOP NOW! 

Yesterday we had a day off to make the 3-4 hour drive to Lander.   We all met on Main Street and the town came out to meet the mushers.  One of the best community events on the circuit, in my opinion.   When we arrived in town it had started snowing and then it just kept coming.  Most years, we never see snow in the town of Lander.  Well, not this year it was blowing to beat the band.   There was talk that the pass might shut down as they had already shut down another road that shoots off of the pass.  So we went and got chains for the truck that night in preparation for a potentially hellacious drive.  That night we went to bed wondering if there would be a stage in Lander.

We woke up to 18 degrees and who knows how much new snow.  You can’t tell around here because it just blows all over.   When it blows you imagine you’re living in a snow globe.  The pass was open and we hit the road at 6AM.  After the first two leisurely days the 5:30AM wakeup call was a wee difficult.   At the driver’s meeting they were told that there was a very hard packed trail with a couple inches of snow on top and snowmobiles were going out in front of the teams.

We had 12 fresh dogs (Smoke, Sedona, Lumpy, Dime, Euro, Pence, Chepi, Penny, Sigfried, Kroner, Aslan and Ailer).   We only booted the sore feet.  You could tell the snow was going to play havoc on feet a bit as it was cold and balling up in the fur.  We greased well to try and prevent the snowballing.  While we were in the chute Bruce had a little mishap when a dog jumped up and bashed into his face.  Unbeknownst to him his cheek had burst open and was bleeding profusely down his face.  Imagine the horror of all the 3rd grade students sitting next to the trail when Bruce approached them and thanked them all for coming!

In the first 500 feet there were large moguls on the trail from packed down drifts.  Then it was basically a trail with a bottom and about 6 inches of very loose snow on top.  Bruce warmed the team up and then the trail starts to climb pretty quickly.  The dogs were setting a nice pace and climbing better than they’ve ever climbed.  He passed Wilomitzer within 5 miles and then he ran alone for a long time.  The speed on the descents had to be controlled as the snow was very loose.   The team ran a great pace to the half-way point.    At the half way point they came to a loop for the turnaround.  A guy standing there yelled, “It’s a hard 90 degree to the right.”  Bruce called, “Gee” and Sedona took a hard right.  Well, the trail then went immediate left, but there was a snowmobile track that went right off the hard right and down the side of a hill.  They had a snowmobile parked right in the turn, but not to block off the other trail.  The snow was up to Bruce’s thighs and he had to get the team out and back on the trail.  Just as he was starting to do this here comes Al and his team and they started down the hill.  Bruce caught them just in time and Al was able to run up and grab his leaders.  When Bruce got the team out of the mess they were in a huge tangle.  Al waited for him to get it sorted out.  As all of this was going on Dennis Laboda came upon them and thankfully, took the opposite direction in the turn around to avoid a bigger mess.   Al and Bruce determined Bruce lost at least 2 minutes in the tangle.  After the turn around the team passed Dennis back.  Alex caught Bruce around mile 25.  They ran together for about a half an hour.  They both passed Emily Entriken.  At this point Alex said he had to stop so Bruce passed him.  The trail firmed up a bit at this point and the team rolled home.  He was able to gain 3 minutes on Alex from this point. 

Jeff Conn said his run was very slow.  JR was pleased with his run.  Jerry Bath’s team tried to take a turnoff that they usually take to go home and he had a difficult time to gett000081-0024-000125ing past this point; which lost him some time.  Austin Forney was in great spirits when he rolled in and Chris Adkins was happy with how the dogs got through the trail.

Tomorrow we are supposed to see -6 below zero.  There is no new snow here and the trail is expected to be hard.   We’ll wait to see when we get there.  The handler games also start tomorrow.  Dylan and I have been teamed up with the Laboda crew and the Conn Crew.  We have been told we will be competing in sled dog trivia, dog dish curling and a poop memory game.  Hmmm this should be interesting.  Dylan is chomping at the bit to get these games rolling and we’ve already designed our curling dish!  Wish us luck!

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Resorting to A Life of Cheating

gofishFurred & Afraid, Stinky & Delayed

Episode: Resorting to a Life of Cheating

This crew has had a taste of the dark side and we can’t seem to pull away.   Unfortunately, the first two stages of this race have found us sliding quickly backwards to a life of crime.  Our altercation with the forest service got the adrenaline pumping, but it was the disappointing results of stage one and two that set the wheels in motion.   We are now going to add cheating to our resume.  After doing this for eleven years, we are done with playing fair.   We are going for broke this time and we’re going to compete like the criminals that we are.   The Streepers with their impressive outfit, need to be on high alert and I’m recommending they go into complete lock down.  The Mag Four are on the loose and they have reinforcements.  Yes, there are plenty of criminal minds amongst us.

The word on the street is that you can’t beat the Streepers doing it their way and you must be ready to seize any moment of opportunity.  Well, we haven’t been doing it their way and we’re STILL not wearing any yellow bib yet.   As far as the moments of opportunity; there hasn’t been any.   Buddy must have the biggest rabbit foot you’ve ever seen because he somehow manages to avoid the moose holes, the alligators, the dog flu, the open cattle guards, freak injuries etc.  How can anyone have so much luck?  What big guy/gal upstairs is he praying to?   These are all questions the rest of us keep asking and we just keep coming up with nothing.  So when your back is up against the wall, what does one do?  You resort to cheating.

Our criminal minds have devised several methods to create opportunities for the rest of us to seize.  That’s right; you read it here first.  We are going to sabotage the competition.   We have no choice.  It’s the only way and, in our minds, the right thing to do for the rest of us schmucks!   We must have that yellow bib come hell or high water.

First plan of action is tvalentine_toon_11o use our resource; the Candy Man a.k.a. Pakwa Peaceful and Al Borak.    The Candy Man will be sure to lure Bud and Alex with some of the candy that he carries on the trail.  Unbeknownst to them, that candy will really be laxatives.   Laxatives so powerful they had better have well behaved teams that will sit and wait for them while they wipe their hineys in the bushes (with their gloves tee hee).  Hopefully, while they are bare assed in the woods the Minnesota Mangler from the Anderson Three will come by and accidently kick their snow hooks releasing the beasts.   However, knowing our luck those dogs will just stand there waiting patiently.

Should that be the case, we have a Plan B for another stage.   Pakwa Peaceful being the ultimate team player is going to play a role in this one as well.  He is going to use his full arsenal of inexperienced yearlings to create the biggest tangle you’ve ever seen with, of course, Bud and Alex’s team.  We know just the friendly social yearling leaders to do it too.   We need at least 45 minutes so as Pakwa is in the midst of untangling he’ll be sure to unhook several tugs and necklines that aren’t his.  Bye bye leaders!  Damn, that probably won’t work either because their dogs all free drop; so again, they’ll probably just stand there.  The scary part is that this could really happen, but most likely it will be with our two teams.  Oh hell, let’s scratch that one!

We are prepared and we have a Plan C; the ole tainted meat snacks on the trail.  We’ve corrupted the Bonnie & Clyde of Lander from the Bath Duo to join us on this one since they have access to all sorts of meats.  Oil Queen Sandy will doctor up some concoction to lace the meat with that will cause poor performance.  Jerry will do the snacking just as the Streeper teams are rolling by.  Yum, yum, night, night!!  Seriously, do you think tBasic RGBhey’ve trained them to just leave whatever is on the trail too?

Feeling doubtful are you?   Don’t worry, we have a Plan D.  We’ll take this off the trail.  We’ve already placed phone calls to all the local McDonalds along the race route.  They will have special burgers just for the Streepers.  We’re calling it the McStreeper burger.  It will have a green racing stripe right down the middle.  They’ll be flattered until they eat it.  Bite one will bring on the worst stomach convulsions they’ve ever felt for at least 24 hours.  Hee Heee hello Mr. Commode!  You know, we’ll probably find out Bud and Alex are vegans and only Terry will succumb with the stomach flu.

Crap, this means a Plan E is necessary. We hate to do this, but we are dragging the little kids into this.  All of the scTitlehool kids that show up will be given “sleepy snacks” to give to the dogs.  How can anyone say no to a sweet innocent kid that just wants to give your dog a little biscuit.  Those pooches will chomp up the biscuits and when they go to pull their teams out of the boxes it will be like unloading 50 lb noodles.  Something tells me Terry can turn down a sweet innocent kid; he’ll probably bribe them with a mini-Canadian flag as a souvenir.  Then all the little rug rats will be walking around waving their Streeper flags to our dismay.  Dang, that’s a massive backfire.

Ok, we are on Plan F now.  This is where we tap into our technological resources.  Dylan the Villain will hack into the Eukanuba email account and send an email that directs them to a new race start location an hour away.  They are always arriving just in the nick of time and this will certainly cause a delayed start.  On second thought, they will probably email every official they know and confirm that it was a fake.

The G-I plans a3D burglarre seriously hard core.  They involve dark clothes, face masks and gloves.  This will give Bruiser Magnusson a slimming effect and no one will ever suspect him.  We are talking slicing tires, swapping wax with some grip wax, messing with their engine and somehow reprogramming their GPS to read only kilometers.  Wait, they’re Canadians so they work in kilometers, but they speak miles?  Dang, skip that one.  Tires are a sure thing unless their rig has an alarm system that goes off from tire tampering.  Then, of course, the wax is probably carried in a metal bullet and explosive proof suitcase.

You know it might be possible that we can’t pull this off.  Possibly, we’re not as good of criminals as we thought.  This team seems to have some sort of protective force field around them.  This is more frustrating than rolling on the legal side.  Besides, I’ve gotten more handler hugs from Buddy than any other musher in this truck.  Now I’m torn.  Moral or Immoral; that is the question.   We need to call all of our fellow mushers together to form a Musher’s Union on the premise of beating the unbeatable.  WE NEED HELP!!

DISCLAIMER:  We apologize to the Streeper crew if this causes any lack of sleep or symptoms of paranoia.  It is certainly meant with humor and respect.   If anything odd does happen, it wasn’t us!  

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Busted in Alpine – Stage 2

000620-0005-000010Trouble just seems to find us these days.  It’s like we are trouble magnets.  I’m on egg shells waiting for the next problem to occur.

We woke this morning to a couple inches of snow and temperatures in the twenties; which was a relief given what we had woken up to the previous day.  It’s very odd how all winter I was praying for snow and now I’m praying for no snow.  Even odder how the prayers keep getting ignored.  Have I been that bad?

Alpine did not get the snow storm we experienced in Driggs, but rather they got rain.   When we checked in last night the hotel owner told us there was an inch of icy crust in the parking lot earlier in the day.  We knew this would impact the trail.  So first thing when we got to the parking lot JR and Bruce went out on the trail to check out the conditions.   It was like icy gravel.  Both teams decided that booties were the right call and neither of us were willing to chance a run like last year in Alpine that resulted in extremely sore feet.   There were some teams that booted and some teams that did not.   We went with 12 again (Pakwa, Fala, Chepi, Lumpy, Dime, Sigfried, Euro, Kroner, Peso, Penny, Pence, Ailer).  Just prior to leaving someone tells us we couldn’t use the snowmobile to take the teams to the line because it didn’t have a permit.  Bruce then talked to the Forest Service Officer and the Executive Race Director and they agreed that we could use it and we would pick-up a permit after the race.

The trail was snow covered, but firm underneath going out.  Bruce’s team sailed the first half and got in a nice groove.  Around mile 20 one of his leaders started to have diarrhea.  We had a mild  one day bug go through most of the team during training and she must not have been one of them.  By the turn around he had caught everyone but one team.  Then his leader progressively got worse until she just wasn’t getting it done and unfortunately she was the throttle.  At mile 33, he switched out the sick leader.  The trail was now loose mealy snow and the team just went flat.  The leader switch he made was not working out well so around mile 37 he switched out a 2nd leader.  Buddy and Alex caught him around mile 49 and both teams looked great.  Around mile 50 the team started to slowly pick back up and cruised home.   

The team finished in 4th place.  The dogs are all healthy and their feet look great.  We moved into 4th overall, but we have our work cut out for us. 

Meanwhile in the pits, where all the real excitement happens, the handlers were standing around w130314_drawcol02337aiting and talking.  This is what we do and we do it for hours and hours and hours.  So as we were standing around innocently doing nothing, the law found us again.  This time it was the forest service.  Colonel Sanders in a green uniform not a white one approached and asked “Excuse me is this your snowmobile?” I replied, “Yes” He then said, “Well, you need a trail permit.”   I smiled and said, “Yes, they told us that when we got here and we plan to pick one up after the race.  We don’t intend to use it on the trail.  It’s just parked here so we can get stuff in the trailer.”  “Whelp, it can’t be on forest property without a permit,” he said.  I replied, “We plan to get one after the race.  I can’t leave here now to go get one.”   He responded tersely, “You have to have a permit or it has to be in the trailer.”  At this point, I wanted to tear the colonel’s handlebar mustache off.  However, I’m learning incredible self-control in my old age and I smiled, bit my tongue and walked away for a second.   I returned and he said, “You can drive to get a permit.  They sell them at the gas station.”   I repeated that I could not leave the parking lot with my vehicle as I wouldn’t be able to return to my parking spot.”  He said, “You can take the snowmobile.”  So with my brows furrowed I said very slowly, “So you are saying I can drive on the forest property and over the highway to go get a permit, but I cannot be parked without a permit.  I must be in the trailer.”  He nodded as if he had just had successful communication with an alien.  I smiled that smile that says, “You are Sir are a dip wad and I would love to tell you what a dip wad you are!”    Turns out Colonel Sanders was the same officer that had agreed to allow Bruce to get the permit after the race.  Colonel Sanders is not a man of his word!  So I did what anyone would do in this risky endeavor and I sent Dylan to take the risky drive to the gas station for the permit.  He successfully managed to avoid being arrested; which was a relief because I didn’t want to handle for two teams!spy

After our exciting encounter with the law we stood around some more until one of the vets entertained us with her team of three corgis pulling two little kids on a sled.  It was beyond cute.  Every race needs a team of corgis to lighten the mood.  Later I noticed a man kneeling down at the back of the truck.  I kept watching wondering who the heck this guy was and what he was doing behind our truck.  Is this espionage?  Was he from a competitor’s team?  Is this why our trailer quit working; someone is intentionally messing with our wiring?  What the heck was this guy doing?   As I watched I contemplated how I should approach the villain.  Then a light bulb went on and I realized it was the race mechanic and he was working on fixing our trailer brake situation!   Hallelujah, a prayer had been answered!!  As of now we should have no issues with the brakes due to the wiring.   Please let the bad juu juu be gone now.

We have tomorrow off so we can make the long drive to Lander.  We will then attend a Meet the Mushers event in downtown Lander on Main Street; which is always very fun.   We will resume racing Tuesday morning and they are calling for snow!!!  Oh happy day!

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The Life of A Handler

There are bunches of us out there.  We are faceless, nameless, behind th3d people - human charactere scenes and often under appreciated.  We are under estimated, overlooked and even disregarded.   We’re dirty, tired and wore out.  We can do a crap job, and I mean that literally, like it is nobody’s business.  Who are we?  WE ARE HANDLERS!!! 

It is a travesty how handlers are overlooked in this sled dog business.   We are an integral part of the team and yet, we rarely get credit.   Well, I’m done with being faceless and nameless.  I’m petitioning the government to make A Handler’s Day.   We will run with the motto, “Have you hugged your handler today?  If not dammit, get to it!”   Seriously, how many famous handlers can you name?  Why is that?   The guy/gal that spent countless hours on the runners helping to prepare the team for race day gets no credit?   Why do you have to stand on the runners at a race just to get a name and a face?   Why aren’t musher’s presented as a team?  This is Bob Mushy and his handler Joe DoEverything. 

It amazes me how many of us come back to handle year after year.  When you look at the job, it really makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with all of us.  Most dive into this with a Jack Londonesque vision in their head.  They start the job with visions of moonlight runs and being on the runners all day.  However, Jack London was never a handler.  So on day one new handlers will typically hear the loud screeching of a needle going across an old vinyl record.  This is when the dream is interrupted by glimpses of horror.

It can start with your toastybuns1accommodations.  The quality of where you will stay for 6 months can vary widely depending on who you were fortunate or not so fortunate to hook up with.  Here’s your yurt with your woodstove.  Yes, you must keep it burning when it’s -20 below and the wood is stored outside right next to the outhouse.  There’s a foam seat for when it gets really cold.  Here’s your musty basement that you’ll share with three other people; hang sheets if you want privacy.  Here’s your shed with no heat or water.  There’s a small electric heater that can kick out pretty good, but it will wake up all the black flies.  Here’s your non-private room in our house.  You can eat meals with us otherwise stay out of our sight.  Here’s your private quarters with all the amenities.  Holy crap, pinch me this can’t be real.

Once you’re settled in, the chores begin; which is usually the same day.  You’re given a scoop; not even your own.  Just a plain old public scoop.  Don’t try to be innovative and change the scoop to be more ergonomic either because mushers are set in their ways.  They are mushers not engineers.  Just use the damn scoop they give you no matter how ridiculous and back breaking it might be scooping up after oodles of dogs.  Yes, you are supposed to clean up after 60 dogs with a shovel; you’ll master it in no time.  It’s all about the wrist action.

If you’re lucky you’ll get to run dogs, but many find themselves never getting the opportunity to run the dogs.  They literally just take care of the yard.  Scoop iwomanpickup4_12n the AM, water dogs, feed dogs, scoop in the PM.  There’s a stimulating life.  Months on end of the same old poo (pun intended).  They are sure to develope Poomopia – a curable mental illness caused by daily and constant interaction only with poo.  These poor folks start to talk about poo, analyze the poo and even talk to the poo.   They are starving for anything not poo related.

 Now if you get to run dogs this can be a blessing or a curse.   Again, Jack London is a fraud.  He obviously never had to work for a meticulous, obsessed, demanding and partially nuts musher.  The sheer volume of inane rules that come with running someone else’s dogs blows those dreamy moonlight runs to pieces.  If you are handling for a race team, you quickly learn that nothing is for pleasure; it always has a purpose and if you’re enjoying yourself, YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING WRONG!!   You’ll also learn that Jack London never had to drive an ATV in pouring rain day after day in December in 34 degrees.  FUN!!  He missed that part!   If you are a married handler, folks will be surprised to learn you even know how to run a sled.   They won’t believe you actually race yourself and train the dogs too.  Yep, the musher does it all by his/herself …. you just show up for the fun!

The new handler is excited about the alluring opportunity to travel with a team and handle at a race.  What a crock of baloney that is.  You envision excitement and fame!   You experience boredom and maltreatment.   Yep, nothing is more fun than going 36+ hours without sleep and being yelled at like you’re deaf every time you see your musher.  I’m talking serious fun there.  You are on your feet constantly out in the cold and by the time the race is over your entire body hurts, you can’t do simple math and your face is puffy.  You will get NO sympathy because everyone thinks you sat around and napped for 36 hours; it was the musher that went through all the tough stuff.  Doesn’t it sound like fun to spend hours WAITING?  The highlight of your day is to rake up some straw or re-organize the meds.   You are living a real adventure if you get to dry and sort a hundred booties.  However, the real topper for me has always been cleaning out pee saturated boxes.   It is beyond explanation to stick your head in a box and almost pass out from the ammonia smell, but you have to get in there to get it out.  Then getting it out without getting it all over you; that takes a special talent.   I haven’t acquired it yet.   When I’m done, I have wet pee pee straw in my hair, all over my coat, my gloves and even on my boots.   It is so much fun I want everyone to try it just once.

So after you’ve been sleep deprived, covered in pee/straw/dog hair, sat bored out of your mind for hours on end you must then endure the wrath of your musher.   You can rarely do anything right.  You don’t run fastCavemen enough.  You are NOT running in the right direction.  You must know where they left something 5 hours ago; why don’t you have ESP?  Lord help you, if you moved something during your organizational activities.  If a dog spills his food, it’s your fault; why weren’t you watching.  Then PLEASE don’t ask a question.  For gosh sakes get a brain!

Yes, this is a peak into the life of a handler.  Why do we do it?  Where is the joy in this?  The joy is simply working with the dogs.  The heck with the mushers and all their primadonna ways.  We are in it for the dogs.  It’s because of the dogs most of us come back to do this year after year.  Some for the same teams and some just keep jumping from one to the next trying to find that team that will treat them with respect.  Those poor souls.  A handler can find themselves living the life of a nomad searching for that elusive “perfect team”. 

This is why I ask you, “Have you hugged your handler today?”   If not, get er done!  Show some love and respect for these hard working dog lovers.  They make your life easier doing what you love to do and deserve to be in the limelight and not the shadows! 

HANDLERS ROCK!!

Posted in Dog Racing 2016 | Leave a comment

Driggs – I’m Already Tired

ExhaustedFor some reason I’m exhausted.  So tired that it is actually difficult to talk.  Since my energy light is on low, the humor meter is bouncing in the red zone.  So here’s a quick update without all the fun.  We got through the ceremonial start in Jackson Hole without any serious issues.  One of our leaders decided the loud music, the throngs of people and the other leader biting him in the head were too much and he just wanted out.  So we had to switch him out in the chute; which is always a tad exciting.  Then we had a team dog that also got freaked out by all the hoopla and decided he wasn’t going to contribute for 2.5 miles because he was too busy running with his head spinning 360 degrees.  On the bright side, Bruce had a really fun Junior Musher who was having the time of his life high fiving all the spectators and he never even noticed!  He told Bruce he is signing up again and asking for Bruce to be his musher!  Man, it is cool to see young people experience this sport for the very first time!  We’ve had very cool experiences with the junior musher program.  One of our junior mushers from Alpine still comes to Jackson Hole and to the start of Alpine every year.  Our junior musher last year wound up being Al’s junior musher this year.  This is a great program for introducing kids to the sport of mushing.  In some cases it actually changes their life.  Our current handler, Dylan, was a junior musher at Stage Stop and wound up coming full circle experiencing it from the handling side.  One day he aspires to run it.  This program is every parent’s worst nightmare! 

During the day on Friday, we had heard weather reports that there was a major storm LetItSnowrolling in and in this case the weather forecasters were spot on.   It started snowing sometime in the late afternoon and just kept on going.   After the ceremonial start we quickly headed to the Eukanuba hospitality dinner to grab some food and then we hit the road as we had a very long drive to get to Driggs.   Trucks with trailers are not allowed to take the pass so it is a 2 hour drive on good roads; which we didn’t have.  So it took us a little over 3 hours to get to Driggs and we made it right around 11PM. 

When we went to bed it was snowing.  When we woke up it had stopped, but the amount on the ground was significant and we knew there would be more on the mountain.  The roads and parking lot hadn’t been plowed; which wound up causing lots of issues.  We got there in plenty of time and had no problems; however, others weren’t so lucky.   Many came from Jackson that morning and several mushers arrived late for the driver’s meeting.  There were a few cars that went into the ditch and a few trucks with trailers that got stuck in the parking lot.  There was so much chaos getting everyone parked we started to wonder if they would delay the start.  They did not.    We hooked up 12 (Smoke, Sedona, Lumpy, Dime, Euro, Dollar, Peso, Aslan, Pence, Kroner, Ailer, Chepi) and went with no booties.  The team was fired up and ready to go.  We were parked more than a football field away from the start and it was all uphill.  We hooked the team to the snowmobile; which JR was nice enough to drive.  I now know that he did it with the intent of seeing me keel over from heart failure.  I know because he told me and then he laughed.  This is my friend!  Hmmmm  I started out ok, but quickly started gasping for air and then the legs went jello in the deep snow.  At one point I was ready to drop and roll and just let the team go.  To my horror they were videotaping as I arrived half bent over, unable to communicate and gasping for air.  I’m convinced that I’m so tired right now because I was severely oxygen deprived this morning.

Bruce said the team started out great.   The trail crew had taken a drift buster out for about 3.5 miles before it couldn’t pull the snow anymore.  This was a depressing sight for the mushers as many knew it would be hell from there on out.  From this point, they went down to a single snowmobile track.  There was about 16-18” of new snow on the trail and the team had to work.  Bruce made the conscious decision to run the team conservatively since they hadn’t seen snow like this all season.  He did not feel confident just letting them roll.  The team climbed well and handled the rollers well.  He held them back on the downhills because there was lots of punchy stuff to stumble in and he didn’t want injuries.  At the turnaround one of Bruce’s new leaders started to pout and understandably so.  This was a dog that had most likely never seen this type of trail and was accustomed to the firm footing of the Alaskan trails.  Our 9 year old Sedona kept him moving though and worked her hiney off.  Another new dog we acquired also soured a bit in the conditions.  The team went flat.  At about 18 miles in he was passing an 8-dog team head on and an 8-dog team behind the one he was passing decided to pass from behind.  This resulted in a head on crash with our leaders.  The crash was hard enough to be heard.   Thankfully, at this point, our two dogs appear to be ok, but this could have been a disaster. 

Then the trail started firming up as they returned home and the new leader perked right back up.  The last 5 miles Bruce had to stand on the pad to keep them under 15 mph.   This meant that the team had alot left in them; which means he was too conservative.  This run puts us in 6th place about 12 minutes out of first place.

JR Anderson had a bad encounter with an alligator leader from another team; which freaked one of his dogs out.  The dog broke his neckline and almost got run over by the sled.  The dog was shaken up enough that upon encountering someone else on the trail the dog just laid down.  So JR wound up carrying the dog from about the halfway point.

Jerry Bath was very happy with his run especially since he has a bunch of young dogs on the team.  The team had seen a few runs in exactly these types of conditions and handled it very well.   Al Borak pulled off 10th place much to our delight.   He ran 6 yearlings and 4 adults.  They had flawless passes and a perfect run.   All of the young dogs handled the conditions brilliantly and were happy when they came in.  The old dogs were wishing they had been overlooked when the team was selected and were eager to get in their boxes.

To put a cherry on top of our crappy race start sundae, the trailer decided that it wasn’t through with all the bad juu juu.   So we found ourselves, once again, with the police on our tail.  As we were heading down the highway and attempting to get in the middle lane to turn left the brakes kept faulting.  We were herking and jerking down the road like we were driving one of those Mexican lowKicking riders.   It was so bad we had to stop in the middle of the road and stop traffic completely as we tried to unplug the brakes.  Thankfully, it wasn’t Officer Younglove so the officer merely provided us assistance as we inched our way  off the road.  He must not have been aware of our law breaking reputation…. Wink wink!

So to go along with our three busted tires, faulty sensor that was preventing us from exceeding 50 mph,  we can also add faulty trailer wiring.   Yeah!

Tomorrow’s stage is in Alpine.  The forecast is cold weather and no new snow.  They got snow from this storm so we’re just hoping for a groomed trail.

Posted in Dog Racing 2016 | Leave a comment