Peace Pups Dogsledding; year three.
We were now up to six Siberians Over the summer while we were on "vacation" we visited a kennel in Concord Massachusetts to look at some serious racing Siberians. This kennel had been breeding Siberians for sprint racing for around thirty years. We ended up coming home with Toots and Nemo, two racy dogs with breeding potential. Learning to run a six dog team was a big undertaking. I bought a used ATV in the fall to train them with. At this point in time I was mostly doing runs in the four to five mile range. My main focus was on competing in local NESDC sprint races and if I was running a six dog team we would be running around six miles in the races. I started to take my fall training more seriously and began to keep a training log and record our mileage and performance. I found that I didn't like using the ATV for training especially with a six dog team. I missed being able to really feel what the dogs were doing for work. With only six dogs I had to use the motor to assist on some of the bigger climbs and it was difficult to tell if it was the motor getting us up the hill or the dogs. In late November I discovered a neighbor who used to run dogs had a Fritz Dyke cart sitting in his yard not being used. We worked out a payment plan and I brought the cart home. It was love at first run! I found the cart to be the next best thing to sledding. It has a similar driver position to a sled where I would stand in back and I could feel exactly what the dogs were (or weren't) doing for work.
That season we had our first snow of the season on December 7th with 14 inches on the ground. I spent the day trying to pack a trail to run with the dogsled. I had just purchased a used Skidoo Escapade and thought I would be all set for packing my own trails. I quickly learned to hate that snowmobile as I got stuck almost every time I took it out. Trying to drag a 500lb. snowmobile out of a snow drift is probably one of the most miserable and frustrating things I have had to do. Not only is it exhausting but the exhaust and noise makes it feel as though it is taking years off of your life. We had a heavy rain storm the following week then another snow storm with 17 inches of accumulation. After getting stuck half a dozen times I gave up on the snowmobile and started packing my trails by snowshoe. I didn't have to suck exhaust fumes and I was able to get in some exercise! I ran the dogs several times and then we had another rain storm on Christmas Eve followed by another 6 inches of snow. All in all it was a great winter for us. I learned a lot, ran a couple of races, we had a good amount of snow on the ground despite the occasional rain storm.
Our first ever litter of pups!
I had my first breeding in February. The pups arrived on St.Patricks Day but things didn't go as I would have liked. Toots turned out to not be a very good mother and we lost two of the six puppies. The remaining four had to be bottle fed every two hours around the clock for the first week or two. Luckily I had Lise to help me or I don't know how I would have done it. I would just get things cleaned up and go back to sleep for a half hour or so and the alarm would go off to start over again. It was harder than raising my daughter! Although I had the pups weaned and potty trained much faster... My intention had been to add two pups to the team but after going through so much with these guys I decided to keep them all. That was a big jump from six dogs to ten. It was also one of the best springs I've ever had with daily puppy walks in the woods. It was wonderful to watch the puppies develop and see spring blooming around us. We spent the summer feeding and socializing the pups and getting ready for the following winter. It was amazing how much the pups grew that first season reaching their full height and length the first six months.
That first fall we decided we should take two of the pups out for a hike to train them in harness. We loaded Buck and Etta into the truck and headed off to Camels Hump for a hike. We put the harnesses on the pups and put our skijoring harnesses on ourselves. The pups leaned into the harness like they were born for it. We had a great time climbing up Camels Hump that day but coming back down was NOT fun. We had to lean back and try to brake ourselves all the way down the mountain. My legs were so sore the next day that I could hardly get out of bed. Pulling back against a load like that while walking down hill is obviously one of those things that the human body just is not meant to do! One more lesson well learned. If you want to train a Siberian pup in harness, use a scooter or bicycle to make it easier on yourself.