Friday, November 11, 2011

WOW. Long time, no update.

Location: Armuchee, GA
Time - 5:50pm Eastern Standard Time
Temperature: 54 degrees F
Conditions: Clear
Forecast: Clear tonight, partly cloudy tomorrow. Lows in the 30s tonight, highs in the 50s tomorrow.

Bonnie & Susan after a run a couple of weeks ago

I'm still here, everyone. I've just been horrible about updating my blog. I had an AWESOME rest of the running season last Winter though, a fantastic Summer in Minnesota and now am starting out what promises to be another fun Winter of training in Georgia.

I'll try to update you all on all the exciting things that have happened lately and bring you up to date over the next week or so.



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Response To The Whistler, BC Sled Dog Killings

Location: Armuchee, GA
Time - 12:31pm Eastern Standard Time
Temperature: 43 degrees F (6C)
Conditions: Mostly sunny, few high clouds
Forecast: Clouds increasing today, snow showers tonight and tomorrow with accumulation expected. Highs in the 40s, lows in the 20s
Above: Not all touring sled dogs are treated cruelly
Me with Orion at the Alaska tour kennel where I handled, March 2008

Many of you have probably heard the reports of the sled dog killings in Whistler, BC. It's turned into a he-said, she-said, pass the buck case in Canada with a lot of conflicting reports. I don't know the mushers or tour kennel involved (although I know the company has come under fire before and one prominent animal rights group has had pictures of their dogs on their website for several years) so I can't say who I believe. However, what is pretty much undisputed is that 100 sled dogs were killed last April at Howling Dog Tours of Whistler (which is NOT to be confused with Howling Dog Tours Ltd. of Canmore, Alberta OR Howling Dog Alaska). This came to light when a worker filed for compensation for PTSD after killing the dogs.

You can read the original document here - BUT BE WARNED - it contains EXTREMELY GRAPHIC AND DISTURBING DESCRIPTIONS. Honestly, I had a really hard time getting through it. It's absolutely reprehensible and disgusting.

This hit international news about a week ago and there has been a ton of outrage in the mushing community and the dog world in general. Of course, there have been disputes about who ordered what and why and whether efforts were made to find homes for the dogs. Whatever the case, it sounds like extremely bad kennel management on someone's part.

Below is a news report on the case:

There was a pretty good article on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website today (it may or may not be published in a print edition of the paper), which I am including below because it has a lot of information:
Activists target dog sled rides after dog deaths
The Associated Press

slaughter of 100 sled dogs in Canada has re-energized efforts by some animal
activists to ban or boycott dog sled rides, a popular activity among tourists in
many winter vacation spots, from New England to Minnesota to Alaska."I don't
think society is willing to accept that animals, particularly dogs, should be
killed just because they are surplus or don't suit the purpose they were born
for," said Debra Probert, executive director of the Vancouver Humane Society,
which has called for a provincial ban on tour businesses.
The dogs belonged
to Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc., and its parent company Outdoor Adventures
Whistler, located in British Columbia. The dogs were killed last April by a
company employee. The incident came to light recently when the employee applied
for worker's compensation, saying he suffered post-traumatic stress after
shooting the dogs and slitting their throats.
Documents from the worker's
compensation probe said the company acquired the dogs in anticipation of extra
business during the Olympic Games in Vancouver, and that the animals were
destroyed after bookings fell. But in a letter to the editor published in the
Vancouver Sun newspaper, Howling Dog's owner, Joey Houssian, said "some old and
sick dogs needed to be put down" and the company thought the worker assigned the
task would perform the culling "in a professional and humane manner." The worker
has not been named by authorities and no charges have been brought.
and others believe the incident is the tip of an iceberg in the dog sledding
industry, but others say it shocking because it is so rare.
Hundreds of North
American businesses offer sled rides as part of winter vacation getaways. But
there are no dog sled police who inspect, license or regulate them.
Paul and
Sue Schurke have owned Wintergreen Dog Sled Lodge in Ely, Minn., for 30 years.
"What happened in B.C. is such a shocking anomaly, I've never heard the likes of
it. The magnitude of this atrocity is so shocking — all of us, our heads are
reeling. I'm not aware of anyone in the recreational mushing industry who makes
a habit of culling," Schurke said.
Most reputable sled dog businesses belong
to an Alaska-based group called Mush for PRIDE, Schurke said.
Musher Karen
Ramstead, who owns North Wapiti Siberian Husky Kennels in Perryvale, Alberta,
Canada, has been president of the group for the last three years.
organization, which stands for Providing Responsible Information on Dogs in
their Environment, has about 500 members in several countries, including South
Africa, Sweden, Canada and the United States. The Howling Dogs employee who
killed the dogs was a member of PRIDE'S board, Ramstead said, and he has been
This isn't the first time the industry has come under attack. Mush
with PRIDE was formed in the mid-1990s because of pressure from animal rights
groups over the treatment of dogs, said Ramstead, who has finished the Iditarod
four times. The group recommends standards for things like food, water, exercise
and kennel size.
To call for a ban is "gross overreaction," she said. "I am
horrified by what happened in Whistler. That is not acceptable to me as an
individual or to the organization. But to paint an entire sport with the sins of
one individual is irresponsible as far as I am concerned."
"When dog sledding
is done correctly, it's an awesome sport — awesome, awesome, awesome," said Seth
Sachson, executive director of the Aspen Animal Shelter and the Aspen Boarding
Kennel in Aspen, Colo.
He has eight sled dogs, all rescued from his shelter.
"I am not going to kill them when they are done sledding. They are welcome to
live with me forever and be my pets," he said, adding that they get along with
his chickens, goats and horses and love the children who visit.
When critics
list their objections to sledding, they include culling and living conditions —
always tethered, always outdoors and with little social interaction.
As a
result, finding homes for older dogs can be a challenge.
Sachson believes
most sled dogs can become good pets. He has worked with older dogs who just
needed time and patience.
"We get them to stop walking around in circles.
Some walk in circles because they've lived on a chain their whole life and
that's what they know," he said.
They need to be taught how to walk on a
leash, climb stairs, walk across linoleum without falling and ride in a car
without vomiting. And there is house-training.
Schurke, who keeps 65 dogs,
said he has a waiting list of people who want to adopt his dogs when they are
The California-based Animal League Defense Fund has offered Canadian
prosecutors money for forensics and expert witnesses, asked whistleblowers to
report other culling abuses and urged people to write Iditarod race sponsors
asking them to back out, said Lisa Franzetta, ADLF's director of
The 1,150-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, the
world's most famous sled dog race, starts March 5.
Humane Society
International/Canada called for stronger laws for the sled dog industry. HSI's
sister group, the Humane Society of the United States, doesn't have an official
position on racing for sport or recreation, just that it be humane to
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals does
not oppose racing, but opposes "any and all cruel practices involved in the
sport of racing dogs, horses or other animals, whether for speed, endurance or
both, on tracks, trails or snow."
"Sadly, this is not an isolated incident.
Mushers routinely abandon, shoot, bludgeon, or drown dogs when they become ill,
don't run fast enough, or are simply unwanted," Michelle Sherrow of Lexington,
Ky., wrote on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
deaths of these dogs serve as a tragic reminder never to patronize dog sled tour
operations. With the Iditarod coming up, be sure to tell everyone you know about
the cruelty inherent in dog sledding," she said.
Whether the slaughter will
result in legal charges is unclear, said Maneesha Deckha, an associate professor
of law at the University of Victoria. She said that while killing your pets is
not illegal, putting them through unnecessary suffering is. "Anti-cruelty law is
very narrow in scope," Deckha said. "It doesn't really protect against animal
abuse, it only protects certain animals from certain types of treatment that we,
as a culture, find shocking."
Stehan Otto, an attorney in Portland, Ore., and
director of legislative affairs for ALDF, agreed, saying the legal question will
be whether there was inappropriate pain and
08, 2011 02:55 PM EST

The Whistler slaughter does not reflect the way most tour (or racing) kennels are run anymore than the actions of one football player reflect on all football players who own animals. As I mentioned briefly at the beginning, I handled at a tour kennel outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. The kennel (much smaller than Howling Dog) was situated right beside a Bed & Breakfast. The dogs were well-treated, friendly and it was obvious the owner really loved them. Plus, with the kennel in full-view of guests 24/7, there would be no way to hide mistreatment.

I know owners of various other tour kennels and can say without a doubt that they would never do something horrible to their dogs. If you would like names of kennels that I can personally vouch for, let me know. Also, if you are wanting to take a sled dog tour, talk to the owners of the kennel about their sled dog philosophy - most mushers are happy to talk about their dogs and can tell you stories about every dog they've ever had!

In the wake of all of this however, I am encouraging anyone who wishes they could have done something to take a different kind of action. You can still make a difference in the lives of other sled dogs. Check out and . Or even check out your local animal shelter or breed rescue for pets of all kinds looking for a home.

We can continue on and maybe, just maybe, use some of that energy from our outrage and anger to do some good.

I'll close with a few other links to articles and writings on this issue. Note that this is not a cross-section of news articles, just some links I thought were of interest:

Are Sled Dogs Impossible To Rehome? -

Canmore Company Would Have Taken Unwanted Sled Dogs -

Local Man Believes His Dogs Among Those Killed -

The Morality Of Sled Dog Tours And Responsible Travel -

Local Sledders 'Sickened' By News Of Cull -

Whistler Sled Dog Company Continues To Change Its Story - (very angry/slanted against one person in particular, but shows a good example of the conflicting reports)

Sled Dog Company Finds Name A Problem -

In the meantime, I suggest we all give our dogs a big hug.

Signing out for today. I'll soon return to the usual fun posts about Wolf Moon's racing and training.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Update and VA videos

Location: Armuchee, GA
Time - 9:54pm Eastern Standard Time
Temperature: 35 degrees F (2C)
Conditions: Cloudy, damp
Forecast: Cloudy tonight, sunny tomorrow. Lows in the 20s, highs in the 40s

So this happened. Snow. Again. Okay, not much (there WAS more before I took this picture yesterday morning. We had about an inch the evening before but then it rained overnight) and definitely not anything worth getting the sled out for, but still snow.

Things here haven't been too out-of-the-ordinary. School is going well and I'm enjoying it very much, my dogs are doing good, I was excited to watch the new episode of Supernatural last night, I've been going through a ton of boxes of my old stuff...Life is good, I guess.

I am excited to report that I am planning on going back to MCK and spending the Summer there. I've been missing the kennel like crazy (and following Blake and Jen online in the Beargrease 150 last weekend - it felt weird not being there) and it will be great to see my friends (human and otherwise) again, and meet little Ellie.

Also, here are a couple of videos from the VA Serum Run and Blue Ridge Challenge:

Bonnie (along with me and Holly in the background) are in the above video from 1:26 -1:30

The above video shows the race finish. My team crosses the finish line at approximately 0:43

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2011 Virginia Serum Run And Blue Ridge Challenge

Location: Armuchee, GA
Time - 9:42 Eastern Standard Time
Temperature: 45 degrees F (7C)
Conditions: Overcast, wet
Forecast: Partly cloudy today and tomorrow. Highs in the 50s, lows in the 20s

Hey all! We're back from a weekend of running and racing in Southwest Virginia! There was enough snow on the trail to run with sleds, even though it doesn't look like it from the photo above. That was taken as we came into the finish line of the race - there was much more snow out on the trail itself. I ran the 4-6 dog class with Bonnie and Susan in lead and Holly in wheel, along with another dog named Kenobi, whom I borrowed from Brett, one of my SE mushing friends.

The starting line and finish line were pretty snowless, but once we got out on the 2.2-mile trail, there was plenty of snow and my little team FLEW! I am also pleased to report that even young Holly kept her line tight and kept up with the flowers, who take running as Serious Business as well as Serious Fun.

I am also VERY excited to report that we WON the 4-6 dog class! We ran the course a full two minutes faster than the other mushers. This marks our first win in the sled dog racing world! I am sooooo proud of my girls (and Kenobi too, since he supplied a good bit of dog power as well. Thanks Brett!).

Our trophy was the above-pictured bowie knife. Very cool and very original, IMHO! I like it. I call it my Giant Knife and refer to it as often as possible. Someone's cutting an apple in the kitchen? "I can help you, I have a Giant Knife." Going for a walk in the woods? "I'll bring my Giant Knife so we can defend ourselves!" I think my family is probably getting tired of hearing the words 'Giant' and 'Knife' used in the same sentence! Hah.

But seriously, we had an absolute blast over the weekend. We got to meet up with friends we hadn't seen in a while, talk to people we'd met at the KY event, and just enjoy being in our crazy sled dog community.

I also did a presentation at the banquet on Saturday night, mainly about my experiences working at MCK and what it was like for someone from the Southeast who does dryland to go do snow mushing for two years and then return to dryland...

We met a lot of really cool people, including a young girl who charmed Susan! I was quite impressed with this because, as most of you know, Susan is pretty darn suspicious of strange people and usually takes a long time to warm up. However she just sat there happily letting this girl pet her!

Susan and friend.

Anyways, we were really lucky to be able to use sleds. The trail on Sunday had less snow than on Saturday. Another day and I don't think we would have been able to run.

A MAJOR thank-you goes out to Marcia of Siberian Husky Assist who has put so much effort into making this event happen (and who invited me to speak at the banquet). Marcia deserves a lot of credit for helping get the Southeast dryland mushing community connected and promoted.

The crazy thing is, upon returning to Georgia, there was STILL snow on the ground! Not a huge amount and it was pretty rotten but seriously people, there was still snow on the ground in Armuchee GA after a snowstorm A WEEK EARLIER!

If Georgia Winters were typically like this, it wouldn't be *quite* so bad down here. I'd say something along the lines of "As far as I'm concerned that high pressure system over Greenland can just stay there" but the general populace of this area would come after me with torches and pitchforks, as would my sled dog friends from the New England area who claim I'm stealing their snow! So I won't say that. :D (even though I just did).

In the meantime, trying to get back into the swing of things in this strangely Wintry season in Georgia.



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Eight Rules Of Dogsledding In Georgia

Location: Armuchee, GA
Time - 10:00pm Eastern Standard Time
Temperature: 24 degrees F (-4C)
Conditions: Clear
Forecast: Partly cloudy tonight and tomorrow. Highs in the thirties, lows in the teens.

When you are a musher in Georgia, there are certain things you have to accept.

#1: It doesn't snow here. Ever.

#2: If it does snow, it's usually a few brief flurries

#3: On the rare occasion that there is snow enough to cover the ground it is only a dusting and absolutely NEVER more than half an inch.

#4: Even if you have a little bit of snow like this, it will never be enough to run your dogs with a sled.

#5: If by some freak of nature it snows several inches and you ARE able to take out a team with a sled, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for mushing in Georgia.

#6: And it will decidedly not happen again. And definitely not in the same year. IT WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN WITHIN A MONTH.

#7: If the impossibility described above DOES happen, the snow will immediately melt and you won't be able to run again.

#8: You absolutely will not, WILL NEVER be able to take a team out with a sled FOUR DAYS after the snow has fallen.

So I think it's worth noting that ALL EIGHT of these rules have been broken this year, with the dump of snow we got this past weekend making headlines throughout the Southeast.

Serious snowfall. Cold temperatures. Being able to sled (although the past couple of days the trail has been pretty icy and not in as good shape), snowshoe day after day...

Not your typical Georgia weather but we're loving it. This is apparently being caused by a high pressure system over Greenland. Bonnie and Susie and I (and the rest of the team) have this to say about it:

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Waiting On The Weather

Location: Armuchee, GA
Time - 8:50pm Eastern Standard Time
Temperature: 32 degrees F (0 C)
Conditions: Cloudy, still
Forecast: Snow tonight and tomorrow. Significant accumulation expected. Lows in the 20s, highs in the 30s

Look at little Susan sitting by the Christmas tree! She's not sitting in that chair, you know. Or she's not supposed to be, anyway. Do you see a dog on the chair? Nooooo, the chair is empty.

It's supposed to snow tonight and tomorrow. They've been predicting it for days. "Up to seven inches of accumulation" the forecasts were saying days ago. And even right now it's supposed to start snowing.

However going outside right now, it doesn't look very promising. The sky is overcast and the temperature is right at freezing and nothing is falling. Originally they were saying this "snow event" was going to start between 8 and 9pm tonight.

Looks like it's running behind.

Speaking of running, I've been running scooter teams. Just hooking up two dogs at a time because any more would be more than I'm comfortable running with a scooter (although if this mythical *snow* materializes, I'll be able to run everyone with the sled).

I'm going to go look out the window again.

Nope, still nothing! Come on, snow...

And here we have a photo my Mom took of Holly with her stuffie, Squeaky Norman the hedgehog. Holly loooooves Squeaky Norman. She's such a good little dog. And, um, about that "fostering" business...We're all getting a little too attached to her now and would miss her too much if she went somewhere else.

And, if you realllllly want to know why the hedgehog is named Squeaky Norman, it's after the giant hedgehog, Spiny Norman from the Monty Python skit which I've included below. Beware extreme sillyness that has nothing to do whatsoever with sled dogs but I'm posting anyway just because I can. Feel free to skip over it if Monty Python isn't your thing.

And with that, good night and hopefully it will start snowing!



Saturday, January 1, 2011

RIP April

Location: Armuchee, GA
Time - 9:30pm Eastern Standard Time
Temperature: 51 degrees F (11C)
Conditions: Cloudy, raining
Forecast: Raining tonight, partly cloudy tomorrow with highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s.

Rest in peace, April-Come-She-Will, our English Springer Spaniel. You brought us much love and companionship over the fifteen years of your life. We love you and we will miss you.