Halloween is right around the corner and the first snows have started to fall at FTK, an indication that another mushing season is upon us! Jeri and I are stoked, but more importantly the dogs are fired up to be back in harness. We love the summers in AK but we always look forward to the frozen winters so we can hit the trails and have adventures with our doggos…and this winter we have some gnarly adventures planned!
This summer we spent a lot of time free running the dogs on the trails, getting Johnny, Tate and Thomas integrated into the group, and well, learning how to be parents. At the end of last season our goal was to run the 1000 mile Yukon Quest, but being new parents and trying to find the right balance between parenthood and dog mushing, we decided that it would be best to hold off on this goal until the timing is right.
Our racing plans for the 2019/2020 season include doing at least one 200-300 mile race. The races we are considering running this year are the Quest 300 and/or Two Rivers 200. Our focus will be on grooming the younger dogs to take over the roles of our more experienced dogs that will be headed into retirement within the next few years. This means less focus on what position we are in during races and more focus on giving the pups a positive, fun experience on the trails.
Other winter plans include taking the dogs on remote excursions both North and South of Two Rivers. We are planning a few trips to Denali Park, The White Mountains, and a trip up in the arctic. These trips will be done with just the dogs and me, possibly 100’s of miles away from anyone. These expeditions will expose the dogs (and me) to unbroken, soft trails and frozen river travel. I don’t have a lot of knowledge on this type of mushing, but I am hoping that these remote trips with the FTK doggos will help me grow as dog musher, as woodsman, and as navigator.
So what are we doing now? Currently we are doing fall training using the 4-wheeler. We are slowly adding distance to the runs so the dogs can build up their strength and stamina over time and hopefully this will lead to fewer injuries and prevent burnout. We also are changing up their feeding program. We are going from feeding kibble once a day to feeding kibble and salmon stew twice a day. They also have been getting boiled moose bones to snack on during their off days. On the “off” days, we have been busy filling in the holes in the dog yard, chopping and stacking fire wood, and planning out the winter. Oh and did I mention we are still figuring out this whole parenthood thing?
Pupdates. We have 10 new dogs/pups this season. Yes 10. The JTTs (Johnny, Taylor and Thomas), Maverick and Goose, and the Nurse litter (Ozzy X M). The JTTs have been doing awesome in harness and Johnny is showing some serious leader potential. Mav and Goose won’t be harness broken until this spring and the Nurse litter (5 pups) will spend the winter learning recall, sit and stay commands and frolicking in the snow. M is very excited to be back in the yard with her teammates and to be back in harness. It was hard for her to watch everyone else having fun while she reared her pups. Dancer also had to take a time out while she healed from a minor dental surgery but she is back in training and doing awesome, per usual. Bonnie gets our most improved award for September/October. Last year we pulled her from race training because she just didn’t seem as excited to run as we would have liked. This year she has been chomping at the bit to be harnessed and has been one of the most excited dogs before each run. Her siblings, Clyde and Buttercup, are the main leaders-in-training this year and have been doing great with their directional commands so far. Brock and Ozzy will leave some big shoes to fill when they eventually retire, so we are pairing them with the young’ns now to show them how to get the job done.
We are aiming to post more regularly on the blog to keep everyone up-to-date on the happenings at FTK. We would love to hear your feedback and what you want to hear more about!