Time for the annual write up as November is the month things are starting to crystalize for the upcoming season. But first a chronological report of happenings at the kennel.
January 2018 beloved Barney passed away at 16,5 years of age. He had still been in good shape during the busy puppy summer and was a good teacher for the many youngsters we had that summer, but in January he was declining rapidly and passed away quietly in his sleep. A major part of the kennel is missing since Barney and his brother Nathan went over the rainbow bridge. With the passing of Barney, we also do not have any retired pack members for the moment and as we also did not have any litters this past summer, we have neither any retirees nor pups. All pack members are running and in full training this season.
In February we had entered the Femund 400 again and hoping for an equal nice experience as we had in 2017 when the team finished 6th. with all 8 members on the team and under the best conditions. Unfortunately, the 2018 edition of the race turned out quite the opposite. The weather was very windy and although we managed the storms without major problems, several dogs started to get sick just after Søvollen. On the toughest stage in regard to climbings and bad trail, I got tallest and heaviest male Abel in the sled. My sled was not meant to drive with such a heavy load in the front (I had detached the cooler-seat from the sled, as I did not expect to be able to sit very much on this race) The sled became topheavy and I had to get off and drag the sled back onto the trail for almost each and every swing and a very winding trail with many hills. I started to think that this was not so much fun anymore. The dogs were working still as good as they could, but Abel was feeling really bad and I felt sorry for him and the others. Coming into last checkpoint Tolga, I decided I wanted to scratch right away even though we still had a good position in the race. My handlers convinced me to still give it a try and go out on the final stretch of 85 km. after the mandatory rest. I was not happy with the situation because not only Abel went out, but also Pippi who had got a sore eye due to the gasping winds which made a scratch she had sustained the day before the race, even worse. I decided to also drop youngster Evens of 20 months. He had been working so hard and well, but I noticed he developed a limp coming into Tolga and by the time I took him out for a little stretch of the legs before leaving, he was not yet o.k. and I did not want to risk him. The team was now reduced to 5 dogs which is the minimum to come to the finish with. It was for sure not how I had been looking forward to finish the race. We went out from Tolga, but it did not take me long to decide to turn back and scratch because Timmie began to vomit and started to tremble in all his muscles after working so hard up the first 5 kms. out from the checkpoint in very steep uphills in a reduced team and with a musher in bad physical condition. It was an eyeopener to see my small 5-dog team had more power in the uphill than the 7-dog team that was send out 9 minutes ahead of their allowed time and started out right on my back. With Timmie not being in shape I was not willing to gamble his health and returned back to Tolga. To me, a race should be first and foremost about having a nice time out together with the dogs and try to perform as best as possible. When the dogs are sick there is no fun to it anymore. Gambling their health and wellbeing is no option and I could not see the point of continuing even if it was the final leg and we were relatively close to the finish.
Luckily, all the dogs fully recovered after few days. Abel and Timmie got rid of their bad diarrhea, Pippi’s eye got better and Evens limping dissapeared. We learned few things a.o. not to stay in places where other dogs have been resting as time and time again it shows that it is very easy to get infected with a bug. Other than that, too fat feeding also does not make things better when the weather is relatively mild.
Anyway, we could look forward to another race in March. Polar Distans was again hosting the WSA World Championships Distance. Originally I signed up for the 300 km. 8-dog class but this class was combined with the unlimited class in the end and I did not have 12 dogs of over 2 years old to run the 300 km. race, so I decided to go down to the 160 km. class of 6-dogs which also had a bigger entry competing. Since I could now run some of the younger dogs, we borrowed the established dogs of over 2 years to a befriended musher. Six of our dogs ran the 300 km. in his 11-dog team and they took the win home; Pamuk, Olive, Abel, Timmie, Puak and Luce all finished the 300 km. race in great style. The team was lead by a.o. Oliver B. av Vargevass (sibling of Pamuk and Pippi) and Merrill av Vargevass (sibling of Abel and Olive).
In my team were 21 months old Chuvan in lead with Pippi, Floss and 21 months old Amur in point/team and Erasmus and 21 months old Evens in wheel.
Small but very determined female Iska was borrowed to a team that also competed in the 6-dog class. She had never met her musher, nor the other members on the team but that was to no bother for Iska who helped the team to 2nd place, running in lead from start to finish. Both teams had a faster time than the winner of the 8-dog class on the same distance, and that on a very punchy and heavy trail. The 160 km. class is being run non-stop except for a mandatory 10 minutes veterinary check up half way. Dogs were all doing great and we were very happy with the performance of all of them. I was particularly proud of our smallest female Luce who ran the 300 km. race. She had less training than the dogs who were trained for Femundløpet and she is definitely not as fast as them, but she made it in great style to the finish as well.
That was how the 2018 race season was concluded. At the end of March until mid April we had a fantastic trip to Australia where Karsten judged the Siberian Husky Club Specialty Show of New South Wales. We saw some nice dogs and met some lovely people and had a great time during our two weeks of holiday.
Our dogs were taken great care of at home and team members Nathani and Floss ran the Beaver Trap Trail Classic on the team of our dogsitter and finished in 1. place in the 6-dog class, together with Finnmarksløpet 2015 veterans Kvitten and Voltaire av Vargevass as well as Timmie’s sister Ekla av Vargevass and Molly x Peikon daughter Elim av Vargevass.
After coming home from our holiday mid April, snow conditions were still so good that we could train from home with sled albeit with small teams. All our youngsters from the summer of 2017 were broken into harness in February and we trained them for short distances throughout April and May until summer vacation started for them too. We can look back on a fantastic winter weatherwise, probably the best snow conditions we ever had here.
Summer went by fast. Without having any pups to take care of it was kind of calm. However, super female Iska who was loaned out on Polardistans stayed with her family in the end, although it took us some time to decide. Iska started her heat on Polar Distans and we agreed with her musher she was being bred by their male and could raise her family there. Iska is a remarkable female with a great mindset, very determined but her sister Luce has always been in her shadow so when Iska left, Luce blossomed. For Iska it was a good moment to get her own family, she delivered 4 puppies in the beginning of June and has now two sons for her to educate into sled dogs, in due time.
In July, we celebrated Karsten’s 80th birthday and had a great time with family and friends. While winter had been awesome, the same was for summer. The weather was just beautiful for many weeks, although unfortunately nature had to suffer by the many bushfires that was plagueing Scandinavia for several weeks.
In August, we started the training as usual. A total of 23 dogs to start with. Our ideal team to run with ATV is ca. 14 to 16 dogs as to guarantee their safety as well as ours, but it is not so easy to make a selection out of 23 good dogs. So we are now to 20 dogs and that means 16 on the main team and 4 dogs rotating to run with the small cart and sometimes running with the big team. This way, we secure that all dogs are getting their daily exercise.
Floss left for a team in France, Ripley joined a small team in Switzerland and his brother Sylar a team in Sweden. All are being run actively.
This season, we have 11 dogs in training for Femundløpet; three females Olive, Pippi and Chuvan and eight males; Puak, Erasmus, Pamuk, Abel, Timmie, Evens, Amur and Sioux. Our smallest females Luce and Angel as well as Nathani (she got a torn ligament as puppy due to an accident) are running mostly with the light rig. The 6 yearlings Imre, Skrik, Rebus, Agatha, Chase and Norman who will be 22 months resp. 21 months old in March 2019 are training for the Polar Distans 160 km. and probably other races like Beaver Trap Trail and/or Tobacco Trail at the end of March.
Now we are waiting for the snow to fall and hope for another real winter.