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