Saturday, October 2, 2010

Life Moving Onward

Sorry for the delay in posting.  I'm back at work, and my duties have kept me well away from the computer. 

After I returned from Kentucky I had only 2 days at home before hitting the road again.  This time it was a road-trip.  The first part of the road trip was to beautiful down-town Los Anchorage (the northernmost suburb of Seattle).  I had to pick up my Transportation Worker Identification Credential, aka my "TWIC" card.  My employer requires me to have the TWIC just in case I'm ever called upon to work at the Port of Valdez.  Obtaining the card has been an ordeal because it requires a minimum of two trips to Los Anchorage, one to apply for the card and submit fingerprints, be photographed and so forth, and a second trip to activate and take possession of the card.

In my case, a third trip was required.  When I went down to pick up the card before the darned computer chip in the card didn't work properly.  In any event, I now have my TWIC card and it only cost me one additional trip to Los Anchorage.

From Anchorage I headed back northbound to Willow, for the 2010 Willow Dog Musher's K-9 Athlete Symposium and the Mushing History Conference.  Willow is the one community in the world that can challenge Two Rivers' status as the Dog Mushing Capital of the Known Universe due to the concnetration of dog mushers in the community.  They have a wonderful trail system that is easily accessed from numerous locations in the community and that, of course, is what draws so many dog drivers. 

I very much enjoyed Dr. Sue Whiton's (DMV) presentation on K-9 Massage and Accupressure.  She focused primarily on assessment and treatment of soft tissue injuries and I think some of what I learned in that presentation will help me considerably as I deal with injuries in my own dogs.  Mary Shield's keynote speach was highly entertaining as she recounted many of her dog mushing experiences.  Although she was the first woman to finish the Iditarod and has also finished the Yukon Quest, I was especially interested in her experiences just traveling around Alaska with her team, probably because that's the sort of mushing I am most interested in.

The panel discussion on developing lead dogs providing some interesting information.  Panelists including Ray Redington Jr., Dallas Seavey, Ed Wood and DeeDee Jonrowe.  Probably the most surprising information was that across the board the panelists all seemed to feel that males are more effective lead dogs than are females.  All agreed that it is desireable to train as many leaders as possible, and there was very much uniform agreement that starting leaders at a young age is also advantageous. 

After the banquet style dinner and fund raising auction we all enjoyed Mary Shield's video "Season of the Sled Dog", describing her life at a remote homestead relying primarily on the dogs for transportation, as well as her adventure racing the Yukon Quest. 

The Mushing History Conference was on Sunday, and my presentation on Dog Mushing in the Northwest Fur Trade was first out of the chute.  Normally this is a two-hour presentation, which had to be shortened to 1 hour for this conference.  Basically I presented the "Reader's Digest" version, which omits most of the citations and historical quotations.  It nonetheless was well received and I received many very nice compliments afterward. 

I was followed by Dr. Linda Chamberlain, who spoke on the historical mail drivers on the Iditarod Trail.  That was a fascinating and very informative talk that I found nearly mezmerizing.  The Women's Mushing Panel included Iditarod veterans DeeDee Jonrowe, Kari Skogen and Mary Shields, but was far and away dominated by Natalie Norris. 

Danali National Park's kennel manager, Jennifer Rafaelli, shared archival video footage of some of the earliest expeditions to the north face of Mt. McKinley that left me pretty much awestruck.  Now THOSE were some hard working sled dogs, not to mention hard working mushers.

I had to leave shortly after Jennifer's presentation, as I faced a long drive home.  I finally made it back to the house about 10:00 pm, just in time to grab a few hours before running errands in preparation of returning to work. 

The Great One

So far this tour of duty has been pretty busy.  The weather is cooler, nearly all the leaves are gone from the trees, and we finally got a very light dusting of snow a couple of days ago.  That snow has all blown away, but it offers the promise of more to come and leaves me gleefully anticipating my next R&R, when we can start training the Stardancer dogs in earnest. 

I'll try to post some pictures in this blog entry after I get off duty tonight.

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