Thursday, August 9, 2007

Playing "Catch Up" and a Happy Reunion

Coming home after two weeks at my place of employment always results in a very hectic day. First, I NEVER get off duty on time. My counterpart (the security officer/medic who is working during my “R&R”) relies on a company provided shuttle bus to bring him to the remote site where we work from the airport. In all the time that we have been working on this particular schedule, that shuttle has NEVER arrived at our work site as scheduled. Not one single time.

So I got a late start on my R&R, again. The first stop on the way home is the grocery store. One of the last things I do before leaving for work is clear out the refrigerator. There is nothing worse than coming home to a ‘fridge’ full of spoiled, stinking garbage. As a result, there is very little in the way of groceries awaiting my return so the grocery stop is generally mandatory. From the grocery store I head on in to the house, and then have to unload and unpack my bags and put all those groceries away.

This time around, I took advantage of the still empty dog yard to cut down some overgrown weeds and grass. My gasoline powered weed whacker is just the tool for the job, especially when equipped with a combination grass and brush cutting blade. Finally I could do what I really wanted to do, which was go collect my dogs.

This required two stops. Mike Green boards most of my dogs while I’m at work, and this time four of my team were at his place. They are always excited and happy to see me and all of them loaded easily into the truck, very happy to be coming home. Then I was off to Lynn Orbison’s place, where Kia lives while I’m away. This time Rose was at Lynn’s, tucked safely into an isolated “heat pen”. Lynn had graciously picked up Nells for an appointment to be neutered by Dr. Jeanne Olson, so he was also in her yard.

Lynn was home when I arrived, and we spent quite a bit of time just catching up on all the news. In that conversation, I learned a new word to add to my dog-related vocabulary. Cryptorchidism" is a syndrome in which one or both testicles fail to descend into the scrotum. In Nells case, both testicles have failed to descend. This means his neuter will be a much more complicated operation, and will have to be delayed until Dr. Olson returns home from a trip overseas.

Meanwhile, Rose’s heat cycle wasn’t quite normal. She went through what is called a “dry heat”, in which she had all the symptoms of being in estrus except for the typical bloody discharge. This is fairly common in young bitches during their first cycle and is not a major worry unless her second heat is also dry. In that case she’ll need to be examined by a vet and probably will have to be spayed.

Meanwhile, Lynn and my friend Janece Rollet have been in cahoots. My birthday was August 3rd, and Janece wanted to surprise me with something special. That’s no easy task as Janece lives in Kentucky, about 3,000 miles distant. Through a series of clandestine Emails Janece, Lynn and Lynn’s husband Rich schemed together to bake me a wonderful chocolate birthday cake. It was truly a wonderful surprise. Thanks ever so much guys. It made me feel like a kid again and was truly a very special treat from some very special people.

When I finally got the dogs home my next task was to try to tidy up the house a bit for some guests. Linda Fredericksen and her traveling companion, 16 year old Melony are visiting Alaska from Minnesota. Linda is “in state” to pick up a new Hedlund husky puppy and to visit various mushers and dog yards. Although she is feeling a bit under the weather, she is bound and determined to enjoy her entire visit and continue with her planned itinerary. Since their previous housing arrangement fell through, I offered what hospitality I could and put them up on cots in my living room. It’s a far cry from a luxury hotel, but a lot cheaper.

Wednesday morning we cooked a nice breakfast of fresh wild blueberry pancakes, and then went “out and about” to visit a couple of sprint mushers. Edie Forrest and Randy Dunbar’s yard is one of my favorites because it is one of the most tidy sled dog yards in the region. Edie and Randy have their entire kennel placed on wooden platforms, so it’s easy to maintain. I contemplated doing that myself, but couldn’t bear the expense.

From Edie’s place, we next stopped at Lynn’s. While the ladies toured Lynn’s yard I took used the time to work with some of the rescued dogs at Lynn’s place and did some clicker work with Amazing Grace, Amy and of course with wild little Angel.

When we finished at Lynn’s we dashed back to my place. Miriam Cooper then came over with her Hedlund husky “Remus”. Rose, Nells and Remus are all litter mates, and we took this opportunity to get them together for a reunion. They haven’t seen each other since April, and acted as though they’d never seen each other their entire lives.

There were no fights nor even raised lips, they greeted each other just as they greet other strange dogs. Rose and Nells get along very well with other dogs and apparently Remus does also. Rose and Nells are nearly identical, and Remus looks like an entirely different dog. He’s just a bit taller than my two, but much longer in the barrel. All of the pups in this letter are thin, but young Remus is even tougher to fatten up than my kids. Miriam feeds him a very high quality feed and provides more to him than I feed my kids, yet is having a devil of a time getting any fat on his body at all.

Consequently Remus looks like an oversized sprint racing dog, which are usually kept very thin while my two have just a bit more fat on their bodies, just about right for the touring type of mushing I enjoy. Remus is a fine, athletic looking dog and his temperament is as nice as they come.

We enjoyed a great visit, spent a couple of hours just watching the dogs interact while we chatted about a variety of topics.

Today should be a bit less hectic. Since it is a cool morning I plan to load my four-wheeler into the little trailer and truck my team over to Lynn’s place where we will take some dogs out for a short run. It’s the first of the season and we won’t go far, but it will give them a chance to remember what they do for a living, and give us a chance to put some young dogs into the team so we can start their training as sled dogs.

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