Peace Pups Dogsledding; year six.
2006 was a major turning point for the peace pups. After a winter of running tours in 2005-2006 I decided I really preferred working with the dogs to being inside the shop. I felt healthier and I figured I've breathed enough wood dust for one life time. I began to think seriously about ways to spend more time outside with the pups. Over the summer I worked out a barter with a friend to build me a web site in exchange for a butcher block kitchen table and Peace Pups suddenly had a web presence. I ordered a second Fritz Dyke cart from Germany which has two passenger seats. We would begin to use this to offer fall foliage tours from our cabin in Elmore. As we entered fall and began to receive inquires for tours I quickly came to the realization that if I only had one sled available for tours I would be turning away a large number of customers. I estimate that around 75% of inquires were for families with children requiring at least two sleds. Let the panic begin... I decided to acquire a few more dogs and try to pull together two teams of eight. That meant adding five more dogs in a month! I spread the word that I was looking for a few good dogs.
New German tour cart
First to arrive on the scene was Umiak a little forty pound Siberian male from Southern New Hampshire. After a couple of weeks Umiak seemed to settle in pretty well. He was more shy than any dog I had dealt with in the past but very sweet. He has come a long way this season and we have become good friends. Next to join us was Teddy a Siberian from central New York. Adding multiple dogs in a short period of time was stressful for me since I typically had added around one dog a year with at least six months of adjustment time between them. Now I was going to jump into yet another with the addition of Max a big fellow from the coast of Maine. Max is a interesting dog who is the most vocal dog in the yard. No one can walk past Max with out receiving a hearty growl or grunt. He doesn't mean anything by it, it's just the way he is. Unfortunately some of the other guys in the yard didn't really get him and I think they felt he was being aggressive. I've had to keep a close eye on the interaction of Max and a few of our other males. Max had tough time completing a three mile run the first time we ran him in September but as of this writing he has lost ten pounds and has run up to three tours per day on a couple of occasions. I'm really proud of how well he ended up doing and the improvement he has made. At this point I was beginning to feel quite overwhelmed. Three new males in my kennel in about five or six weeks. I was concerned about bringing in more dogs but still needed more to fill out the tour teams.
I had the good fortune of working out a situation where I could borrow two dogs for the season from a friend near by who didn't have quite as much time to run dogs as I would have. These dogs would receive plenty of exercise and I wouldn't have to rush to find more new dogs. This left me short just one dog. My friend had one more she was willing to loan on a short term basis so I was all set to run two sleds as soon as we had snow. Oh yeah, other than the fact that I can only drive one sled... Next problem. Who is going to drive the other sled??? That's a entire story in itself but I ended up having my sister in law as my main assistant for the season. Of course she had never driven a dogsled before so there was a huge learning curve to be overcome. Let's not forget moving all of these dogs. I had my truck set up with dog boxes to haul eight dogs in 2005 but how was I going to move sixteen? Another row of boxes would be needed and in order to have that many boxes on the truck it would mean removing the original bed. Another project... It's amazing how these things seem to take on a life of their own. Looking back it amazes that we made it through this winter. During the start of sledding season it seemed like everything that could go wrong did. All these new dogs working together created all sorts of issues as they got to know each other. And the weather! Sixty degrees with a thunder storm on January 6th. Somehow we actually ran sleds on New Years weekend but Christmas week was rainy with only a inch of snow on the ground. I owe a big thank you to the customers that braved the slop and slush to go for cart tours. At least we didn't loose all of our business that week. The cart tours are a blast but not so fun when it's thirty five degrees with five inches of slush on the ground. The dogs don't mind a bit but it's tough on us humans. I bought a box of disposable lab suits and we dressed folks up like umpa lumpas and loaded them in the carts.
New Years Weekend in Lake Elmore
We finally had some snow that stayed on the ground around the middle of January. Not a lot but enough to cover the carriage road in the state park where we were running day tours. Once we were able to settle into some sort of routine and keep running with sleds things began to go a little more smoothly. We plugged along with marginal snow cover until the big Valentines Day blizzard when we received around thirty inches of snow. My theory is that we had too many people doing snow dances and they all kicked in at the same time. There was so much snow that my Skandic super wide track snowmobile which is made for breaking trail would not move. I had to go out with my wooden five foot snowshoes and pack the entire tour trail so it set up enough that I could drive the snowmobile over it the next day. I managed to have it all packed and was running tours on it two days after the storm. Getting out of our road was another story. The storm did in our old Ferguson tractor and gave me another dilemma to deal with.
Winter 2007 is winding down. As I write this it is forty five degrees and the snow is melting quickly. We may have a few more weeks of running since there is so much snow on the ground but I am beginning to reflect on the past six months and already beginning to make plans for the next season. My summer will be filled with dog yard improvements and leader training. New drainage, platforms for the dog houses and maybe even a pole shed over the housing area are in store for this summer. These dogs all worked so hard this winter that I want to make sure a good portion of any money we made goes right to them. We are attempting to breed a litter of pups this spring so that will keep me VERY busy. Old Aiko will be twelve next winter and may not be up for working tours. Two of the dogs will be going back to my friend and Toots is closing in on ten. I'm going to need a few young dogs coming up to help fill out our team in the future. It won't be long and we will be back running the cart and scootering with the gang. Summer goes by almost as quickly as the winter around here. It was very rewarding to spend the winter working with the dogs. I met a lot of great people from around the world and had the privilege of exposing them to the wonderful sport of dogsledding. Thank you one and all!