Monday, May 7, 2012

Break Up Is Over

Here is it, May 7, 2012 and I still have snow in my yard! Only small piles left from the record snowfall we had this winter. A friend told me he measured 12 feet. I don't know, but it sure was more than I've experienced here. Of course, I've only been here through five winters. :)
Break up is here. Only a few piles of snow remain. My huskies still like to roll in it.
What I do know is it was not an easy winter for anyone. With the constant snowfall, many spent their days moving snow, cutting time they wanted to be on the trails with their teams. When we did get out, almost everyone had moose problems. Most got through unscathed, but some moose met a bad ending. I don't know anyone who wants to shoot a moose. The paper work is ridiculous besides the time spent doing the right thing, by gutting the animal and getting the proper authorities to pick it up for distribution to food pantries.
Moose on the trail at the entrance to Crystal Lake.
Moose interrupted training runs and races. It was a tough winter for them as well. With the snow so deep, they wanted to use the trail system as much as we did to get to their food. I was really pleased that a Momma and baby in our neighborhood made it through. They were really skinny. Unfortunately, some fool took it upon himself to shoot these moose. I am so disgusted by this I can't see straight. These are the kinds of things that give Alaskans a bad reputation for not caring about wildlife. I have nothing against hunting for subsistence. But, to wantonly kill and drag the bodies off to attract bears is unconscionable. And I understand it is because the shooter was tired of them hanging around. Really?!
Moose in my neighborhood. They made it through the winter,
but still had an unhappy ending. Breaks my heart.

Despite the moose, mushers had good trails this year for training and just having fun. Willow is blessed with an incredible trail system. It 's always fun, if a bit unnerving, for me to pass those big Iditarod teams with my small recreational team. It's a good experience for all concerned. I never want to get in the way of professional dog mushers, but I must say, no one has ever given me any grief for being out on the trails with a four dog team. It's always been fun!
My team on the Willow Swamp Loop trail following Jenny Evans.
Jenny Evans and a small team. She also runs much larger teams.
My team doing a head on pass with Iditarod musher Karen Ramstead
and Richard Todd (below). Karen runs pure bred Siberians, and two members of my team
are from her kennel.

Another of the good things this winter was the display of the Aurora Borealis. Many nights they danced across the skies with all the beauty of a ballet dancer. One night they were so bright, I changed the settings on my camera from a 10 second exposure to a 4 second one. I loved being outside at 2 am trying to get the perfect lights photograph and hearing the huskies in the neighborhood start a musical chain of song. One group further away would start and as they died down, another group would pick it up. This would continue for quite some time as the song bounced along through the night air just like the lights dancing in the sky. These are the moments that make me smile.
The light danced over Runner.

Local races were blessed with all the snow. The Earl Norris Sprint race also had moose problems on the trail, but everyone got through.
Kari Skogen races with Joey Kornmuller on her tail in the Earl Norris.

The Don Bowers race went off well, once they got down the tricky hill at the start line. I don't recall anyone having moose problems in that race.
Joe Holod takes off in the Don Bowers.
There was cause for concern with Iditarod soon after, but all those mushers took off fine and their biggest problem was probably how warm it was for their dogs that day.

So, we are now up to puppy season. Lots of litters being born. Lots of new snow dogs to take their places in the next couple years on dog teams everywhere. Let's remember these little guys when they get old and can no longer run. What will you do with them? Old school thought was to take them out back and shoot them. New school thought is to find them loving homes with people who just enjoy having a sled dog around. Unfortunately, this past winter, WDMA was placed in a position to help a man in Big Lake who had kenneled too many old dogs and found he could no longer care for them. He said some mushers would bring their old dogs to him and say if he didn't take them, they would be shot.  We joined forces with Straw For Dogs in vetting these old dogs, getting them straw and dog food and finding homes for about 10 of the 35 or so that were there. We had to back out of the arrangement when the man decided he had to have a bigger say in who got his dogs. He was turning down good homes and we found that unacceptable.

And this is my opinion now, not WDMA, and I am open for discussion on this topic. We all know there are too many dogs and not enough homes. The rush to dump dogs in shelters is already taking place with break up. The MatSu shelter recently offered an entire team for adoption. The mushers I have the most respect for, do not breed indiscriminately. When puppies arrive, they are wanted and welcomed and have homes ready for them. If they don't, they stay with that musher. I know many kennels that have geriatric areas for the older dogs that are no longer  race material. I know many mushers who try very hard to place older dogs in pet homes or on recreational teams. Good on you for that! But, I still can't get past those who have no use for extra dogs and retain the old school methods of culling. I'm sorry, what may have been acceptable in the past is not any longer. If you breed a litter, you are responsible for every puppy in that litter until the day it dies. I know I'll get flack for that. But, it's true and deep down you know it. If not, then the Animal Rights people are correct in some of their thoughts about mushers. I truly believe there must be a better way to have great dogs and not have half of them end up in shelters, running wild or dead in someone's back lot. This is the ugly side of dog mushing and it's up to us to fix it. If you have a solution, I'd love to hear it. You can comment here, or send me your own opinion and I'll post it as a separate blog entry.

Meanwhile, have a great Spring/Summer/Fall. These glorious months go by much too quickly. But, then it's time to be on the trails again. And that is certainly not a bad thing. Mush On!
~Donna Quante
all photos on this entry:©2012HuskyProductions/DonnaQuante

Friday, October 28, 2011


WDMA is sponsoring a low cost shot clinic open to all dog and cat owners. We have secured the log cabin next to the Willow Community Center and will be open to all from 10 am to 2 pm on Nov. 12, 2011. 

All shots are $10 per shot, except for feline leukemia which is $12. Dr. Susan Dent, DVM, will administer all shots. Microchipping will also be available at a cost of $50, which includes registration.

Mushers may bring their dog trucks and stage their dogs right at the trucks. Please bring a handler with you.

Don't miss this opportunity to vaccinate your dogs and cats. If you will be coming, please and let us know how many animals and which shots you'll need.

No registration is necessary. Shots will be given on a first come, first served basis. We will not close down at 2 pm if there are still people waiting.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Gathering of Champions--Symposium--Part 2

Alaska Dog and Puppy Rescue
Katie Mangelsdorf, author
The morning of the symposium moved along quite nicely. (See previous blog entry). Our indoor vendors were making sales and friends. The silent auction was gathering bids and the Parade of Dogs was garnering it's own attention. Some of our indoor vendors included:
Dave Totten, artist
Dave generously donated original artwork to WDMA for a raffle.
Thanks Dave!

Northern Lights 300 Sled Dog Race

Kimberly McCourtney, Alaska Garden and Pet Supply

William Laughing Bear, Northern Lights Adventures

Frank Sihler, The Better Companion
Mike Dillingham, author, Rivers Books, laughing with WDMA
member Keith Blaha. 
Dream-A-Dream Dog Farm
Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race
At 1 pm the main event began. Janet Sweeney, chairperson for the symposium, presented Bruno Bryner with a lifetime WDMA membership award. Bruno is responsible for trail maintenance and marking on the east side of the Parks Highway near MP 64. He has been a great help to all mushers in the Willow area. Besides the membership, Janet presented him with a supply of marking tape just for use on the trails. Thank you Bruno for all you do!!
Bruno Bryner receives a WDMA lifetime membership certificate
as well as a supply of trail marking tape from Symposium Chairperson,
Janet Sweeney.
Donna Quante, WDMA President, announced an award for past President, Erin McLarnon, who was not present, but out of state traveling. Erin was a WDMA founder and President for five years. Pat Welch painted a pooper scooper gold that people were encouraged to sign.  Michael Stitt made a handsome wood frame for a Penni Cross print that will be given to Erin as a thank you for her service to the club. Vic Stanculescu had a plaque made that said: "With thanks and appreciation to Erin McLarnon, WDMA Founder and President, 2005-2010."

We had singer, Dave Ianson, Ph.D., lead us in the Alaska State Song. What a great voice. Thanks Dave! And then, John Baker took the stage to speak about his 2011 Iditarod win, setting a new race record and just mushing in general. I heard nothing but positive feedback for John's talk. John stayed all afternoon and participated in other panels and observed a couple others. He was a wonderful keynote speaker.
DeeDee Jonrowe surprised everyone with her introduction of
2011 Iditarod Champion John Baker 

John held the audience with rapt attention to his every word. Thank you John!

After John, there were several panels and demonstrations. It was wonderful to see and hear so much information freely given and discussed. It appeared everyone had a great time and learned a lot.

Vern Halter (right) moderated the first panel discussing how to break into the Top 10. (photo:Janet Sweeney)
Top 10 Panelists: Ramey Smyth, DeeDee Jonrowe, Dallas Seavey, John Baker.
While the folks inside discussed how to break into the Top 10, an exciting demonstration was taking place outside.  Matthew Byrnes, SSgt of the US Air Force along with his crew were showing us a real working military dog.
Quite the crowd gathered for this demo. 
The dog is a Belgian Malinois named Dino/K460. His handler
is TSgt. Roberts.
"Get him!!"

Don't mess with this dog! (The man on the ground is TSgt. Lealofi)
When the Air Force was finished, we then heard from the Airport Police. K9 Officer Martin Spinde with Goro and Sgt. Scott Trent with Elvis. They demonstrated how the dogs sniff for drugs.Very impressive dogs with impressive abilities.
Sgt. Scott Trent with Elvis
Elvis gets a treat for being a good dog!
K9 Officer Martin Spindle with Goro.
Good dog!
Back inside the second panel was underway discussing training puppies for success. Quite the interesting topic with mushers not in total agreement. There are many ways to train!
Lynda Barcome (right) moderated the second panel talking about training puppies. Panelists were;
(left-right) Ramey Smyth, DeeDee Jonrowe, Martin Buser. (photo:Janet Sweeney)

While they talked puppies inside, others gathered to hear Egil Ellis and Kelley Griffin talk about the proper fit for harnesses. I'm told even John Baker and Dallas Seavey got into the discussion here and showed their harness preferences. I counted at least 50 people surrounding this demonstration!
Egil Ellis describes the right fit for a harness on Kari Skogen's
10 year old, retired Siberian, Alaskan's Barents of Anadyr..better
known as Deamon.

John Baker was listening.
Egil answers questions.

Kelly talks about the style of harness she prefers.
Kelly makes a point.
Taking the stage were Bernie Willis and Cody Strathe with a lot of technical information about sleds and why you should chose the correct sled for what you want to do with your dogs. It was fascinating.
Bernie Willis and Cody Strathe discuss form and function of various sleds.(photo:Janet Sweeney)
Outside, the last demo of the day was the High Flying Disc Dog Champion Kate, owned and handled by Chanelle Barron. Great dog!

The last panel of the day. What a wonderful experience listening to these guys. Almost makes you want  to be a musher! (OK--that's a joke!)
"A Gathering of 2011 Champions"
How lucky were we to have sprint champion Egil Ellis, Quest Champion  Dallas Seavey
and Iditarod Champion John Baker on the same stage???!! Moderator Vern Halter did an excellent job getting
these guys to open and up and tell lots of stories.
We ended the afternoon sessions with a live auction of Dogs on Parade. The silent auctions of wonderful donated items had ended earlier. Some people got some great items at a small cost.  The fabulous wooden dogs, made this year by Dale Evans and painted by local artists: Susan Whiton, Christina Rose, Susie Dillon, Kari Skogen, Pat Welch and Darla Forman with Dianne Maythorne,  always raise money for WDMA projects and everyone has fun with the bidding.

One table of silent auction items--there were five tables all together!

Vic Stanculescu did another fabulous job of auctioning off the dogs. Every dog was a terrific work of art!

We ended the evening with an amazing concert by Pamyua. This is the group who played for John Baker as he crossed the finish line in Nome when he won this years' Iditarod. An amazing group, with fabulous voices. They had the audience up dancing and howling along. A great way to end the day. We want to thank our anonymous donor and the Willow Area Community Organization and Vern Halter:Dream-A-Dream Dog Farm for their generous donations that made the Pamyua concert possible. THANKS!!!
Pamyua in concert. Simply FABULOUS!!
You can hear Pamyua sing, "The Howling Song" at our concert, on you tube:
This was the prefect song for mushers to sign along--and they did!!We highly recommend you see Pamyua in concert whenever you can. We hope they'll come back to Willow soon.

A special shout out to Janet Sweeney, Chairperson of the WDMA K9 Athlete Symposium for the second year in a row. Well done Janet, well done! Don't know how you're going to top this one!

Janet Sweeney (left), symposium chairperson posing with
 Iditarod  Champion Dick Mackey and Tina Owen
(photo:Cathy Mackey)

Do you have photographs or stories to tell about your symposium experience. Please email them to:
We'd love to include them here on the blog. This blog is helping to record the  history of WDMA and we appreciate any contributions to that effort.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos on this blog entry are ©2011Husky Productions/Donna Quante.

New photos below have arrived from Pat Welch. Thanks Pat!
Our first event outside.
The bait is hidden around the playground equipment and Claudia's dog is ready to start.
A Klee Kai is starting it's search.
A Klee Kai searching the playground equipment.
The swap meet was a huge success. 

A trailer full of Momentum dog food was also sold.
Scooter dogs making the rounds.
Bruno Bryner accepts lifetime membership award from
symposium chairperson Janet Sweeney.
Bruno says a few words!
WDMA President Donna Quante with Golden Scooper Award for
past President, Erin McLarnon. Scooper was painted by Pat Welch.
Janet holds the Penni Cross print in the Michael Stitt made frame.
DeeDee intros John.
Dogs On Parade.
A packed house for John's address.
John Baker
Grrrdwood Pets--another awesome vendor.
Jamie West ran the registration table all day, while Chris Stitt handled
merchandise. Thanks ladies!!!
Everyone loved the working dogs!

Egil explains his choice of harness.
Kelly had her choice too. 
Dallas Seavey and his harness of choice.

John Baker explains how his lines are different.
John demos his type of harness.
Deamon was a great model husky!
Vic shows off his Nome Kennel Club patch.

Vern, Martin, Christina and Bob--wonder what was so funny???