Monday, March 2, 2015

Canadian Challenge - It's all about the Dogs

I think I may have led some of you astray thus far.

It isn't as bad as it sounds.


Okay, the loss of our dog truck sucked big time.  After having arrived in La Ronge I called Jessica to find out they didn't know when it would be ready.  I was probably way snappier than I should have been when speaking to them in regards to this.  However I WAS lacking sleep big time and I REALLY wanted the truck for the dogs when Randy came in to do his 8 hours.

The dogs were looking fantastic up to this point with all 12 still running as a team.
I will attempt to post pictures with the names.  I mix up Boone, Chase and Titus so I apologize to the fans that know them if I got them wrong.




                 Sage (the only girl)





 Chase and Gumby 



The true athletes of the race.  Each one has their own unique personality and unless I went up to Fort Mac and spent more time with them all I can only share what I saw this week or for some who went to the Yukon Quest in 2013.
I've known Dirk the longest as he used to live here in my home town of Didsbury with his brother Dillon who was on Rick Wannamakers team.  A sweet boy always willing to please.

A couple of the kids that stood out the most were Rika (who has a girls name as far as I'm concerned) that growls when you put booties on, or put in a dog box, or do anything to.   
Braxton also shone to me.  He was a dog bought from Hugh Neff and was the most skittish dog I've even met.  However as the race progressed he became one of the best eaters, strongest workers and most cuddly stretching out for contact when I walked by.

Without any of these kids who were willing to run the 320 miles I wouldn't have had the experience of handling for Randy.  
And Randy.  
Well, he'd still be standing on his sled at the starting gate.

Instead, at 2:04 on Thursday morning Randy and his crew arrived and were ready to take their 8 hour rest.  Still without the truck meant bedded down on straw again and we did our best to cover everyone in blankets and pile on extra straw to keep them warm.
The plan was to just let them sleep for about 3 hours as Randy had snacked them lots along the trail... and sleep they did.

Randy also left to get some shut eye at the hotel where we got lucky enough and Elliot drove him down there.

I had a nap in the Wannamakers truck and also hung out in the heated bus or sat by the fire that was burning by the shore of the lake to wait until it was time to attend to the dogs.
Photo Credit; Jim Williams

I put a pot of water in the cooker and dropped some snacks in to warm them up.... then each dog was walked, massaged, oiled and wrists wrapped if needed... feet were checked and cream applied, they were then snacked and bedded down again.
This took 2 hours to get through all 12 dogs.

It is ALL about the dogs.
These mid (and long) distance races always make it all about the dogs.
It has to be.

Before I move on I forgot to mention in the last entry that Christina Traverse decided to scratch at MacLennan River. She had a very sick dog and maybe more than 1?  I didn't catch all the particulars but she decided in the best interest of her dogs that it wouldn't be a good idea to carry on.
I was sorry to see her have to leave, I'm always rooting for the women to do well (how can I not?)

And speaking of the women racing while at La Ronge I bumped into Laquasha waiting in the bus for her mom, Dogs in a dog truck.
I was surprised and shocked to see her there.
She told me (boy is she ever grown up for 17) that the trails she trained on at home were very different to here.  The difference being that the ones here are so straight and long and hard made a big difference in sore wrists and shoulders.

I later on found out that she had been withdrawn, meaning that the race marshal for reasons that were in the best interest to both the dogs and musher made the decision that the team of 7 would not be safe heading out to the wilderness checkpoints.  The speed being traveled put them at risk at having them stranded, and the knowledge of two wolf packs and many cougars in the area did nothing to help matters either.
I know there is more to this than I would ever know, but I am just sharing what I heard.
In any case it is always a tough call to make for anyone and a tough call to have to accept as well.

Again, it's all about the dogs in this race.   This is what we must always remember and put first.

My lack of sleep was all about the dogs and while waiting for Randy to come back to the park to check out his dogs and prepare to head out I found myself feeling beyond tired again and a bit hungry as remember I had not eaten anything yet.
It was close to 7:30 when Sarah, Jillians handler was talking to a few others saying they should head to the hotel for breakfast.
I was turned away from everyone in front of the fire and my tired brain said... "gee I'd love to go for breakfast"  a lump forming in my throat.
Sarah asked if I would like to go with them and I responded I couldn't as I had to attend to the dogs.... but I was pretty much crying when I said this.... I tried my best to keep my voice steady but knew I had blown my cover.

I hate crying in front of anyone... gah!!  Stupid sleep deprived brain.

Randy arrived around 8:30

We then fed a big meal to and walked each dog.  Again checking for sore wrists, shoulders, hips etc.
What we did discover was a funny cough that Rika had picked up when arriving but had not left yet.
Quite a few dogs were experiencing this odd cough that would disappear after time.  Many teams had this and the vets put it down to the cold humid air.
However Rika's cough sounded as though it had settled in his chest.  (side note:  Rika is fine now, the cough all but gone)

After a check with the vets and a bit of a discussion Randy decided to leave Rika behind in my care.
Rika didn't seem too unhappy about being curled up in his dog box on the trailer.

It was almost 2 hours beyond his 8 hour stay that Randy and his 11 strong head out on the lake to Grandmothers Bay at 11:57.
On their way!

After almost 2 hours I had our site cleaned up of 5 bags of straw.
A big job alone.

Steve came by after I messaged him that I was done and he picked me and the trailer up, and while he fueled up I ran into the hotel to get cleaned up and change.

I still hadn't eaten a thing yet and by the time we reached Grandmothers Bay I thought I might fall down with hunger.  It was here that I ate the best ever lasagna.
Hands down.
Best Lasagna ever!!

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