I'm home from a week of clinical training in Kentucky. It was a relatively slow rotation, but I did get to practice a few skills and I always enjoy the company of the medics working for Georgetown Scott County EMS, in the blue-grass country. Redbud and dogwood trees were blooming and others were sprouting leaves almost as I watched. Horse puppies frolicked in their paddocks in some of the most beautiful horse farms you can imagine.
The flight home was a bit rough over the midwest, but not so bad in the air as on the ground as thunderstorms and tornadoes marked across the country. All of my flights were on time and I got home just as Ted was feeding the team.
Here in Alaska it is the start of mud season, and that is particularly apparent out in the dog yard. I had to move Seamus to a different post because his entire circle was a bog of mud and muck, impossible to keep clean. We're still in that "freeze/thaw" part of break up, where everything freezes up at night, and then thaws during the day. The trails are truly ugly, slushy, mushy and basically unusable either on sleds or on wheels. The dogs spend their day sunning themselves on top of their houses, and I'm spending my days doing spring clean-up.
Since I live alone, housekeeping isn't always my highest priority. Mud season is the one time of year I'm not real inclined to blow off clean-up in order to spend time outside, so it's only logical I would give this place the ol' "top to bottom" scrubbing. The plan is to do one or two rooms each day as thoroughly as I can. Yesterday was the living room and the most time consuming part was washing down the walls. Log walls accumulate a LOT of dust and dirt and with a rough texture, they aren't easy to just wipe down.
I also emptied the refrigerator, and opened in up to defrost the freezer box so I can give that appliance a good scrubbing today. The dogs will be delighted as I found several packages of meat that have languished on ice long enough to become a bit freezer burned. I'll feed it out over the next few days to help them adjust to their less bulky diet. We've had to reduce the amount of kibble fed out each day considerably, as the dogs no longer need the calories for heat production and a couple of them are looking pretty pudgy,
We feed based on each dog's body condition. With these heavily furred sled dogs, body condition needs to be assessed by palpation (touch) rather than by eye. The goal is to provide enough good quality chow for the dogs to maintain a healthy weight. In assessing weight, when running our hands over the dog's body we want to be able to feel each spinous process (the bumps on the external portion of the vertebra) and a padding of fat over the hips. The rips should be palpable, but not prominent and we should be able to see or palpate a definite waist and abdominal tuck.
Using the Nestle' Purina Body Condition Chart (below), our goal at the Stardancer Kennel during the "off season" of summer is for each dog to maintain weight at the low side of the "ideal" range. During fall we will increase feed to get them a wee bit heavier (the heavy side of the "ideal" range), knowing that as we go into more intensive training they will be working off some of that fat reserve.
With multiple dogs in the kennel, it can be a bit of a challenge keeping everyone at a good weight. Right now Amazing Grace is a bit heavy ("5" on the chart), but her pen mate, Beau, is a bit thin for our tastes. So, she gets a bit less food, and he gets a bit more, but if we don't pay attention they can easily swap bowls during feeding.
Some dogs are easier keepers than others. Seamus, Rose and Nels require a bit more food than most of their kennel mates, and the two-year olds probably mark the "average" in the kennel. As an older dog with an aging GI system that doesn't process nutrients as well, Torus also requires more food to maintain a healthy weight, but we don't mind if he carries a couple (but only a couple) of extra pounds. Just and Beau require less food than one might think, though Beau has to be monitored very carefully as he'll loose weight very quickly if we aren't careful with him.
Keeping the yard clean is also more of a challenge during mud season. There is always going to be mud in the yard this time of year, so keeping up with poop scooping is even more important than during other seasons, lest the feces be mixed and churned into the ground. We've already done our spring deworming, and the team will be dewormed again in June. We deworm on a quarterly schedule, which is recommended by our team veterinarians.
There are a few outdoor chores for me to address over the next few days. I need to get my sled hauled up into the storage bay for the summer, take the snow blade off the four-wheeler to prepare it for training runs with the dogs, and start accumulating materials for summer projects, which I won't really be able to start much before June.
For now, my focus is on spring cleaning - and today's project is to tackle the kitchen. The refrigerator is ready for scrubbing and then I can empty the ice chests to create some room on the floor. All of those dishes and pots and pans that live hidden in cabinets and are only occasionally used will need to be washed, all of the other appliances need to be well scrubbed and all maybe I can clear some space of stuff that is only rarely used. I don't think it will take so long as did the living room, so maybe I can even get a start on the bathroom.
So, that's the plan and I'm going to do my best to stick to it. If I don't do this stuff now, while mud-season keeps me close to home, it's unlikely I'll bother with it during project season, fishing season, early-training season, fall training season, hunting season and especially during next dog mushing season.