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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Moving forward-

Seems we're once again well overdue for a blog entry. "Team Tsuga Siberians" on facebook is still the easiest way to keep up with regular pictures and kennel updates but here goes another attempt at stringing some words together, sometimes forming sentences...

First, my shoulder is doing better. Not great, but better. Better enough to decide that we should plan on a full racing season in 2013. This led us to apply for the Seppala Heritage Grant this spring. It's an award given in the name of the legendary Siberian Husky musher, Leonhard Seppala, by the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance to an Iditarod rookie. It's a significant process that we had completed twice previously, but the third time's a charm, and in early June we were notified that we had been awarded the grant. Thanks to the Alliance and the folks who wrote us the letters of recomendation. It's a great start but covers less than half of direct Iditarod race expenses. It is enough to get us started on the Iditarod trail to Nome and we were happy to sign-up on the first day we could!! We are really looking forward to the big show and almost 1000 miles of historic trail with our breathing time machine team.

Summertime is puppy time and we've now had two litters under the midnight sun. Eliza and Stump repeated their litter from last summer. Those 7 yearlings are so promising that we wanted to have a few more before Eliza got any older and be able to share a few with some friends. Two of the six are headed back to the east coast with racing and perhaps breeding futures, one will go to a 'sled-pet' home in California, and three will stay here to join our team. This will be Eliza's last litter and she is in town with Sue today for her spay, as I type this. She's had 17 pups in three litters, 14 of them will comprise the majority of our dog team for the decade to come. Both Stump's and Jim's genetics seem to be strong and we are line-breeding fairly heavily to produce predictable, consistent dogs.
Our newest litter is a new combination, although very similar in pedigree to last summer's Stinson and Wilson litter. This year we used Logan, instead of Wilson, with Stinson. Logan's never been dropped from any race, ever. He's been in all five of my Quests and always gone as far as I did. Both he and Wilson have Tsuga's Runaway Jim for a father, but Logan is from Mugs, not Gila, although those two are also from the same stud (Samhot's Jack) and have sisters for mothers. Hearing banjos plucking down by the river?? Well, we've got another litter of really great looking pups we expect all to be stars, as Stinson gave us 2 females and 6 males just yesterday. Pluck away, I love banjo! Some of these pups will be available for sale this fall to outstanding running homes, but if price or eye-color are among your first questions, you'll want to look elsewhere. We have a fairly long list of interested folks, but we will consider any chance to give our kids the absolute best home we can find for them, so contact us if you're looking to add a Tsuper doG to your kennel.

We are in the process of moving our home and kennel this summer. As Sue likes to remind me, this will be the 6th or 7th move of our kennel's life, not even including the winter moves we did for several years. Two Rivers has been a great home. We've trained here the last four winters and lived in our current house for three years. Our home here is well set-up and comfortable. Our kennel is flat and easy to maintain. Trails go in every direction and are mostly well-traveled. But in our hearts, Sue and I both love the hills and we think our dogs do, too. So in our continuing effort to simplify and focus, we're moving to an area with less population that is off the electric grid and a bit more out of the way. It's in a small neighborhood with several mushers who have been known to train a decent team from that location. Our new house is at the dead-end of a road, abutting nearly endless state-owned land with trails that stretch to the White Mountains, Minto Flats, and beyond. We're not looking forward to the work and timing of the move, but are grateful to be able to do it, and looking forward to the end result. Ohh, and our Two Rivers house is for sale...

For the first time ever, we are looking to 'hire' a handler for the fall and winter. Our new house has an outbuilding we plan to insulate and make livable for the right person. We are not looking for someone to race our dogs, although for the right person, that opportunity might present itself. We are looking for someone who thinks living in a 10x12 cabin with no running water in the sub-arctic sounds like a good idea. Hours will be long, we can't pay you, and there isn't much, if any, time for you to work in town. You will have a place to live, food to eat, an endless to-do list, puppies to play with, dogs to help feed, poop to scoop, dropbags to pack, nails to trim, dogs to run, fires to stoke, and little personal time to think about how much fun you are having. We want someone we can trust to stay at home and hold down the fort when we are away with the race team either training or racing. You will share our house often, both when we're there and when we're not. You will need to be a responsible, hard-worker who is able to get dirty, cold, and tired with a smile on your face and a kind word for your teammates. You will need to self-motivate and get things done, and done right, on time. We work on dog time and 8 hour days are a joke in this world. What you will get is 5 or 6 months of experience you will never forget, living and working in a professional, team setting at the edge of civilization, in an extreme environment and a world revolving around doG. Any body out there ready for the winter of thier lives??

For this year's racing plans, Iditarod is the focus. As a rookie, there is a lot of unknown which causes stress to a certain degree for both dogs, musher, and handler, but while we're rookies to Iditarod, the core of our team are all Quest veterans and most have finished numerous Quests and many other shorter races. Eliza's first litter of pups are 3 years old now and we expect Stinson, Bebee, Pemi, and Baker to join the 12 Jim kids (just about to turn 7 years old) in the core of the team. Ivy and Sparkle also will be ready to race this year, giving us 18 solid race dogs. After that in the depth chart, we have 11 dogs about to turn one year old. Their longest runs were this spring at only 8-10 miles. Making our 1000-mile race team is a very long shot for any of this group, but the likes of Frankie, Mule, Monkey, Fluffhead, Bug, Glide, Billy, Timber, Mango, Granite and Growler all seem like they're going to try. Perhaps one or two or three of them will mature quickly enough to convince me they can do it at this age. I can't wait to find out what they can pick up from our retired from racing dogs, Stump, Mugs, Gila, Hawkeye, Gecko, and Ambler, who they'll be learning from. We'll do as many of the early season races as we can afford time and money to attend, to get the young dogs out and about and keep the veterans interested and fresh for new trail. We won't put all our eggs in one basket, like last year.
While we love to see new trail, we also love 'our' dear Yukon Quest trail. A few kennels of Siberian Huskies have done both of the 1000-mile races over the years. No Siberian kennel has ever run both in the same year. I've always said that our team is usually just getting warmed-up by the finish line. Running Quest, then Iditarod a couple weeks later is the closest thing to a 2000-mile race in the world. I'd like to see how our team would handle this. We have the dogs, we have the desire, we've built this thing to a point where it's possible. Now we need your help to get it done. The one thing standing in our way is money, plain and simple. We need help to pull this off!! Please consider sponsoring our team for this upcoming season and join us in making history. Also look for us to offer some TeamTsuga gear in the coming months. For now, we'd love be signing up for Quest on opening day, August 4, but that would take a significant push in sponsorship between now and then... Entry fee is $1,500. Cost to run Quest is at least $12,000. Want to help us make some history??

Respect your doG.