30 January 2014

Guest Post: The Churchill Experience

Mel is a friend of the Oxford Dogs. She is an avid kicksleder and scooters with her dog.  Mel also runs a business offering amazing tours to Churchill, Manitoba.   It's the trip of a lifetime!  We asked her to write about her trips, so that other's can enjoy this Canadian gem.

The Churchill Experience

By Melanie Gamache

 There are many destinations throughout Canada that should be included on everybody's bucket list to visit and Churchill, Manitoba should not be excluded.  It’s not just because it’s the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” but also because of the rich history to the area, the beautiful scenery in winter, yes I said winter, and summer and the chance to view wildlife up close and personal in their natural habitat. When you decide to book a tour with The Churchill Experience you will have the opportunity to experience all these wonderful opportunities in and around Churchill as well as learn about their influences on modern day Churchill

The Churchill Experience offers tours during both the summer and winter season.  These tours are organized to help you visit the most Churchill has to offer during that particular season.  The summer tours offer long days with warmer temperatures, don’t be afraid to pack shorts, so you can enjoy the beluga whales swimming around the boat or nudging your paddle while kayaking in the Churchill River estuary.  There may not be any snow but that won’t stop the sled dogs from wanting to take you for a dog cart ride with Bluesky Expeditions DogsledCamp.  While you’re waiting for your turn on the dog cart you can enjoy the company of sled dogs and visit the “Retired Sled Dog Hotel”.  Take yourself back in time and learn about some of the history that helped put Churchill on the map while visiting significant historical structures like the Fort Prince of Wales, Dene Village and Cape Merry.  Small but full of culture and history, the Eskimo Museum houses some of the most interesting displays of carvings, tools and relics used by the Inuit culture.  While touring the Churchill Northern StudiesCentre you will see the brand new scientific research facility that operates year round with scientists conducting research on a diverse range of topics concerning northern science.  You will have a bird’s eye view from the Churchill River viewing tower to see what is off the beaten path on the landscape surrounding Churchill and the Churchill River, the source of drinking water for the Town of Churchill.  You will take a walk on the wild side with a hike to explore the Hudson Bay coast, have a panoramic view of the MV Ithaca, walk through the Miss Piggy plane crash and if the weather cooperates we will have a bonfire on a sandy beach of the Hudson Bay.

Our winter tour has a slightly different focus as the weather is slightly cooler but nothing hardy Canadians can't endure with a few extra layers.  The temperatures may be cooler but it will not stop us from visiting the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, the Eskimo Museum and the Churchill River viewing tower.  One of the best parts of this tour is that it’s a great time to be out in the Bluesky Expeditions Dogsled Camp to observe the dancing Aurora Borealis in brilliant shades of blue, green and purple.  The only thing that could make this better would be watching these dancing lights while visiting the sled dogs from “Retired Sled Dog Hotel”.  
Now what about those sled dogs?  Well, all this snow makes those beautiful woohooing dogs excited and ready to take you on a dog sled ride through the meandering trails of the centuries old boreal forest.  But that’s not all, we will also show you how to make ice candles, teach you how to make that tasty traditional bannock and teach you all about dog sledding with a presentation by an experienced musher, Gerald Azure.

We are fortunate that with our intimate tour groups we operate on a relaxed schedule which allows us to the opportunity to mingle with the locals and learn about the benefits and challenges of living in the remote northern wonderland.  Our tours are a cost effective way for you to optimize your experience in Churchill.  
Now, if all this doesn’t make you want to visit Churchill I will have to ask you to visit my website, www.thechurchillexperience.com, to check out the photos helping you bring these experiences to life.  Don't miss your opportunity to join us on The Churchill Experience!

24 January 2014

Meet the Musher: Rodney

Meet Rodney.  Rodney lives in Woodland, California, with his wife, Sharon, their cat, Molly, and their dog, Sky.  Sky is a chocolate Labrador retriever.  Rodney has been mushing with Sky since April 2011 when he first started to train her to pull him in his wheelchair.

What dog powered sports have you been involved with?
Wheelchair mushing is the only dog powered sport I’ve done.
How did you first get started in the sport?
My wife and I, and our family dog, Sky, were visiting a park, and had gone down a gravel path to check out a lake at the bottom.  It was easy getting down the path but it was difficult getting back up.  My wife was pushing me in my wheelchair up the gravel path and I was holding the leash attached to our dog.  Our dog was anxious to get up the path and was pulling on the leash (as a dog shouldn’t do).  I could see it was very helpful to have her pulling.
So, I bought a cheap harness to have for those rare situations where I thought it might be helpful to have Sky’s help.  One evening, I had my wife walk Sky while Sky pulled me in my wheelchair.  It went so well that, the next day, I took Sky to an unused road that ran behind our local college.  I attached the tug line and said “COME ON”, the same thing I would say to her when I walked her with my electric scooter.  She immediately took off and we were soon going about 5 mph.  She went about a block before slowing down and then stopping.  She had absolutely no trouble pulling me.  It was difficult getting her to begin pulling again, at that point, but I knew she could do it.  It was just a matter of training her.
When did you know you were hooked on the sport?
When I knew Sky liked it.  After nine straight days of her initial training, I felt sorry for Sky. When pulling me, I wasn't letting her do some of the "dog" things she likes to do. No smelling the weeds, no meet and greet with the other dogs. So, I thought I would give her a break from pulling and take her on a walk with the electric scooter. With the scooter, we always left from the garage; if pulling the wheelchair, we left from the front door. Sky was all excited as she saw me preparing for us to go. Then I opened the door to the garage for us to go out to the scooter. Sky immediately held her head down and looked all mopey. She didn't want to go out into the garage. Then, I went over to where I had her harness sitting. She got real excited again. Sky liked pulling me more than going on a walk!!! We haven't been on a walk, with the scooter, since.
At this point, you were hooked up to your wheelchair?  Tell me how the Freewheel changed things.   
I must also say that discovering the Freewheel made “being hooked” practical and safe and I could do the sport independently.  The Freewheel makes the wheelchair a three-wheel vehicle with a longer footprint.  With the Freewheel attached to my wheelchair, I could let Sky run as fast as she wanted to.  Feeling the air hit me in the face, as we sped along, that’s what hooked me.
Describe your rig.
My rig, Emotion-N-Motion, is a Tilite ZRc titanium wheelchair with a Freewheel attached.  The Freewheel, which attaches in two seconds, raises the front casters off the ground, turning the wheelchair into a three-wheel vehicle with a longer footprint, making fast runs on irregular surfaces safe. For braking, the rig has “hand brakes”.  That is, my hands are the brakes.  Gloved hands.  You “steer” the rig like you would any wheelchair by feathering a wheel to slow it down or propel a wheel to speed it up.  The wheelchair is quite narrow, compared to a sulky, for example, and, to avoid tipping over sideways, you have to take care to lean into, and slow down, for tight turns.  Anyone interested in the rig and particular tips regarding wheelchair mushing can check out my Facebook page Wheelchair Mushing.
 Tell us about your dog, Sky.
Sky is a 4.5 year old Labrador retriever which my wife and I have raised since she was a puppy.  Sky is extremely intelligent and very much wants to please.  She has a very good sense of “what’s ours” and “what’s hers” and doesn’t bother our stuff.  She is able to easily remember the names of her various toys and I think that helped her more easily learn mushing commands.  Sky has a very high-energy level and needs regular exercise.  She is a very friendly, non-aggressive dog.  She’s somewhat spoiled and expects attention a lot; and we give her attention a lot.
What is your favorite activity with your dog?
My favorite activity is wheelchair mushing.  I think mushing is Sky’s second favorite activity.  Her favorite activity is retrieving in water.  We don’t have any wheelchair accessible water in my area so my wife takes Sky for a swim.  My wife and family took Sky to a creek about 40 miles from where we live.  The creek ended up being frozen over but Sky loved retrieving in the ice-filled water.
What would be a perfect run with your dog?
A perfect run is where we are discovering a new place we haven’t been before and, Sky’s interest and enthusiasm, in exploring the new place, is obvious.  A perfect run includes a dog park, near the midpoint, where Sky can be off leash and play “retrieve” for awhile and simply lay around in the cool shaded grass to rest up and get ready for the second half of our run.  A really ideal run would also include a creek or pond where Sky could take a swim.  On the perfect run, Sky doesn’t do any “meet-and-greets” and doesn’t do any “weed smelling”.  She is focused and there is a determined step in her forward motion.  She occasionally looks back at me to make sure I’m still there, smiles, and continues on our way
Why do you run your dog?
Sky and I both love the runs.  Sky needs the exercise and I need the fresh air.  She needs me to take her out, and I need her to take me around.  We both win.  Our typical outings are three to four miles.  That would be impossible for me to do without her.
My dog and I also go on runs in order to be seen and, perhaps, help promote wheelchair mushing as a sport or activity for people in wheelchairs.  People in wheelchairs often don’t get out because getting out is so difficult.  A dog, trained to pull, makes it easier and fun.  
The first race you entered was So Mush Fun, tell us about your experience there!
This is a picture my daughter took, as Sky and I were crossing the finish line at the So Mush Fun event in Vacaville California.   Sky and I finished 20th out of a field of 27.  I thought that was pretty good for our first race ever, and only the second time we ran with other dogs, most of which were trained huskies in multi-dog teams.  We beat the untrained huskies.

What is mushing like in your neck of the woods?
I live in the California valley, one of the flattest places on earth, perfect for mushing.  Summers are hot and you must run your dog early while it’s still cool.  Unfortunately, the California valley, in general, is not blessed with many nice, wheelchair-accessible, multipurpose paths.  That could change.  The State of California has some dedicated revenues which can only be invested in projects which reduce greenhouse gasses.  Some of those revenues are planned to be spent on “active transportation” and “urban forestry”.  I am anticipating this means more multipurpose paths for biking, walking, jogging, skating, skate boarding and ….mushing.  The California valley has lots of potential.
In my particular area, the cities of Sacramento and Davis are nearby, and both have many beautiful off-street, wheelchair-accessible, bike paths, especially Davis (locally known as the bicycle capital of the world).  My own city of Woodland is currently going through the process to update the City’s General Plan.  I am active in campaigning for the city to include, in its plan, a greenbelt which would surround the city and include a multipurpose path.  Right now, the greenbelt is in the draft plan.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
What resources have you used to further your training?
When I first started training Sky, I used a training guide that I got from Daphne Lewis, the owner of Chalo Sulky.  At first, I was emailing Daphne every day telling her what went right and what went wrong and she would tell me something new to try.
What is the best advice that you have ever been given regarding mushing?
 DaphneLewis (Author of Dog Scooter), told me to  “keep on trying”.

Rodney runs a Facebook Group called Wheel Chair Mushing.  Check them out!

23 January 2014

Race Season: Tips for Relaxing

My very first race with my dog, I was up all night, barfing, then later dry heaving, as there was nothing left to barf.  

I was a nervous mess.  

I wasn't even clear on where to go, or how to get there.  I raced about the house, throwing together a breakfast, and piling things into the car.  Then, it was a race to get to the race and the musher's meeting.

Not being so good with maps, I got all confused on the race trail, and had to stop and ask another racer if we were going the right way!  

We passed a team with dogs so aggressive that the handler had to lay down on them to keep them from attacking us.  

We landed at the finish line, where I barfed some more, and was shocked later to find out that we had placed first in our class.   The next day we moved up a class, and I was hooked.

Riv and I, back in the day!

That was a long time ago.   But I still get nervous about a race.   I don't barf so much anymore, but I have learned some things along the way to keep calm!  

Get enough rest

This applies to your dog, and to you.  I don't it the gym before a race, but I do make sure in the days leading up to a race, I get some mild exercise.   This most often means going for a walk for me, and the dogs get to play Chuck It.   Once we all have some exercise, we can rest properly.  

Be organized

I am not the most organized person, and that causes me stress! 

Thankfully, I married someone who is organized!  So, if you are not organized, marry someone who is!

I heave learned to write up a list of what I need for a race, and use that as a guide to make sure I have everything done.  Some things on the list need doing days before, like waxing my skis, and other things need to be done the morning of, like baiting water.  

Read the rules

Most races follow fairly similar rules.  Reading them allows us to know what is expected at the race.  It is especially important to read the passing rules, and think the scenario through in your head.   Then you will be ready to pass with confidence

If something doesn't make sense, or you aren't clear on it, contact the organizer or ask it at the musher's meeting.   People that put races together want everyone to have a good experience, so ask!

Pack-Up Early

We pack the truck the night before a race, so we know where everything is, and we have organized it in a way that we like.  Being at a race, it's nice to just be able to grab your poles, or line, and go.  There's enough to think about without having to hunt for your gear.  We use a list for everything we need, and check it twice.   The list changes, depending on where we are racing and which dogs.    

We keep the directions on hand, and always have a printed copy, in case the GPS fails us. 

Like the back of your hand.

It can really help to visualize the race before you run it.  See yourself going through the turns, and know what to expect.  If you are racing on a trail you have been on before, then go through it in your mind.   You will be expecting any hills, and will know the parts you can ski harder on.  If this is a new trail to  you, then look to You-Tube.  In all likelihood, if this race has happened before, there's footage out there!  You can go through the trail again and again, so that it is familiar to you when you go to race. 

Know your Dog

Stick with the routine you and your dog have developed already.  Which also extends to your feeding and exercise. Your dog will be less stressed if you stick to the same routine.  

Now is not the time to try something new.  Stick with what you have been doing during your training. Keep to the same food you have been using during your training. Use the same harness, the same skis and line.  You aren't going to pull out a secret weapon set of new poles and pass everyone.   So stick with what you know works.. 

Each race gives your dog valuable experience, and can build confidence.   So relax, and enjoy.

That's what this is all about. 


22 January 2014

Guest Post: TrailNote Review

TrailNote Review
You need to expect the unexpected.  Having an emergency kit in your car, letting someone know where you will be, being dressed for the weather.  In this post, Shelia Goss reviews a new program, TrailNote.  A free online alert program.

One of the most propitious dividends of the time ( sometimes excessive, I fear) I spend blogging and on Facebook, is my learning about gear and techniques that I may utilize in my activities of canoeing, hiking, snowshoeing, skijoring, and kicksledding with our dogs.

In November, there was a discussion on the Hiking with Dogs Facebook page, which addressed the challenges of hiking alone. One contributor mentioned her use of TrailNote, an online emergency notification system. Ooh, I’ve got to try this, I thought. During the week, I often go out alone, with one or two of our dogs. Though these trips are usually only 1-3 hours in length, and less than an hour from our home, I tend to head out when trails are least populated. And, I am “of an age”, and though I have avoided major injury, I am not blind to the possibility of requiring assistance.

Traditionally, I have left a note on the kitchen table, letting my husband know where I am going, and when I am heading out. This is not really a suitable safety net, since 1) he does not get home until much after my trips are concluded, and 2) he is prone to be oblivious to such notes! Yes, I carry a charged cell phone, but many areas here in the mountains have spotty, if any, cell coverage.

I have utilized TrailNote on quite a few trips now, and given our rather extreme weather lately, it has been a re-assuring tool to have available. The site is http://trailnote.com/ , and I have found the program to be reliable, and as advertised.
And it is free to register and use!

When heading out, I go on the TrailNote site, and complete the “note”, which indicates where I am going, the time I expect to leave and return, and any other pertinent information ( i.e. I usually record which of the dogs I have with me). I have registered family member’s emails on the site, so if I am not back by the expected time, they will be notified, by email or texting, of my overdue status, and also the information about where I was heading. The emergency contact then has the discretion of how to respond. You can indicate “how late” you need to be, before that person is notified. Also, since some of us may forget to go online and cancel the TrailNote once the hike is finished, they send you a reminder email prior to notifying your contact.

This certainly is not a fail-safe guarantee, nor should it in any way cause you to reduce your normal emergency precautions. There are a few considerations I have found…not really contradictions to using, but just issues of awareness;

a) I do not have mobile or “smart’ phone, so my TrailNotes are produced at home…that means I have to allocate travel and stop time within the note. What if it is hot, and I stop to get the pups a creemee after a hike? Have to allow for that possibility. This over-allocation of time could delay a rescue response, if it were needed.

b) also, if I get to a trailhead and find, for example, that a school group is there, and I go elsewhere ….I have no remote way of changing my destination on the note. With mobile technology, I could update as I go.

There are other such programs available, but since I have found one that works, is practical for me, and something even a “compute dunce” such as I can manage, I’ll stick with it. I have found their website to be easily navigable, and there is a also a downloadable presentation packet, which is quite comprehensive .

Here’s to safe outdoor adventures!

A big Thank-you to Shelia for reviewing this program! 
Shelia Goss, is an avid outdoor adventurer, dog lover and blogger, you can enjoy her beautiful pictures and tag along for some canoeing or skijoring, on her blog:
 A message from TrailNote Please note that the system is due for an upgrade very soon.  We’re working on it.  But as the system is NOT our primary job (ie. we do it for free!) it’s going a little slow.  Upgrades will include a stream-lined interface, better waypoints, SMS messaging, an app for iPhone and droid, and more.  It’s in pre-beta right now.

20 January 2014

Photo Shoot: Snow Motion Group Run

I wanted to post these photos here, just to show how lucky I am to live somewhere, with so many skijorers! Brag Brag Brag!  

All the pictures are of teams that belong to Snow Motion, a skijoring club that has been running for over 15 years.  Snow Motion offers lessons to get started in skijoring and kicksleding, and hosts a local race every year, called the Snow Motion Classic.  You can also check out the Snow Motion Fan Page on Facebook. 

The pictures were taken at Birds Hill Provincial Park, on a multi use trail, which allows for skijoring and skatesking.  Snow Motion meets at the trail once a week, where members can hone their skills with other teams on the 5k loop, or the 3 k cut off.  



12 January 2014

Gear Review: Wheel Dog Harness from Howling Dog Alaska

We put Penny to the test, with the Wheel Dog Harness from Howling Dog Alaska.   You can see the video by clicking on her picture. 


We tested the harness out for kicksledding.  Kicksleding in a regular X-back style harness puts a fair amount of pressure on your dogs hips.   The Wheel Dog Harness from Howling Dog, is designed to take the pressure off of the dog's hips. 

It takes the pressure off the dogs hips, in part by being a tad longer than a regular X-back harness.  The other unique feature, is that the harness has rings, on each side, which allow the back end to move up and down, taking the pressure and putting it on the harness, and not on the dog's back end!  

 The model we tested was the regular, Wheel Dog harness.  It fit our model dog, Penny, very well.    Howling dog makes another Wheel Dog harness called the "Ultra", with a larger neck opening.  

All in all, the harness was very light, and well constructed.   The chest was strong, and wide, allowing our dogs to really push into it, and pull the sled.  When I ran two dogs in wheel, using this harness, I felt we had more power, than when we have run them on the sled using other harness styles.    It took some time for the dogs to get used to a new style of harness, but now when I bring it out they wag their tails, and lean right in! 

The verdict?

If you are kicksledding, get your dog one of these!  If your dog is wearing a regular X-Back harness, the low attachment point, from the dog, down to the sled, puts a fair amount of pressure on a dog's back and hips.   Dogs have to work harder pulling a kicksled than a skijorer, so do them a favour and get them a harness that's really made for what they are being asked to do.

Belle really wanted me to show everyone how stunning the red harness looks on a black dog.   Oh, Belle!  

I was not paid for this review.  I did receive two Wheel Dog harness to use and test out.  

I want to skijor! A post for those with dogs that mush!

This is meant for the mushers, the scooter drivers, the sled runners, anyone out there who has the a dog, or dogs that pull already, and want to get into skijoring.  If you are new to skijoring, and have a dog not used to pulling, you can read this introduction article on Petguide.com.  

We will keep this post focused on your end of things. 


There are so many options when it comes to skis.  There are classic cross country skis, skate skis, or downhill skis.    People who are skijoring behind dogs use cross country skis, or skate skis. 

We do not use downhill skis, as they often have metal edges, which can hurt the dog.  Downhill ski boots do not allow for the heel to move up and down very much, which makes it hard to help your dog out.  

If you are using cross country skis, you have a few options here as well.  manufactures make a ski that is "waxless".  I suggest that you stay away from these models for skijoring.    They have small bumps or scales, under the kickplate of the ski, meant for the skiers to be able to grip the snow better and provide push.  When you are skijoring with your dog, your dog helps provide momentum, and you don't want or need the extra grip.   So go for skis you need to wax.  Just don't wax them like you do a regular ski. (More on that in a minute).

You can also go back country skis, or skis meant to use in a classic track, classic skis.  Be careful of backcountry skis as they often have metal edges.   But if you are skijoring in the backcountry, using your dog(s) to break trail, you are unlikely to hit your dog with the ski as you will be traveling at a slower speed, and in deeper snow. 

For most people new to skijoring, a classic ski is the way to go.  There are a number of binding options.  NNN (New Nordic Norm), SNS (Salomon Nordic System) and SNS Pilot.  All three systems are great. I prefer the SNS, as I feel it gives me more control over the ski.  There are slight differences still in each binding option.  

If you are new to skijoring, don't worry so much about the binding system you are using.  Instead find the boots you like first, then the binding that goes with it.  

Older skis use a 3-pin binding.  Using the older system is fine, but you won't be able to upgrade your boots, or have as much control over your heel.    But the cost should be reasonable, and it can be a great way to see if you like the sport!

I prefer using skate skis for most of my skijoring.   My skate skis are shorter, and stiffer than my classic skis, with almost no camber, or bounce in the ski.   I love to go fast, and really work behind my dogs, and I go for wider trails that are packed down or groomed for skijoring.  I prefer a shorter ski, so I can maneuver behind my dogs, and take tight turns.      

If you are looking for a skate ski, they are more expensive than classic skis.  Go with the cheapest, most sturdy pair, as a racing pair will not hold up to the strain of skijoring! 


Ski length

Longer skis glide longer, and are a little harder to turn.  Perfect for nice long trails with gradual turns.  They also keep going straight a little bit easier, meaning you are headed in the right direction.   Shorter skis are easier to turn and maneuver.  Which is great for trails with twists and turns.    Shorter skis are also easier to learn to skate with, whether they are classic or skate.  


The technique you will use, will be decided largely by where you are going, and your skill and comfort level on skis.  If you are going to be on wide flat trails, like skijoring trails, or skate ski trails, then you will be using double poling, or skate skiing.  If you are going on narrower, ungroomed hiking trails, or through deeper snow, you will be using a classic technique.   There are many videos on You Tube, showing different skiing techniques.  Take some time to search them, or better yet, invest in lessons at your local Nordic center. 


For skate skis, or classic skis you want to skate on, or double pole on, wax the whole ski, from tip to tail.  Using a glide wax, have you ski waxed at your local ski store.  You can of course, learn to do this yourself, if you have a spot to make a mess and a little time to learn.  

If you are going to be backcountry skijoring, or wish to classic ski behind your dog, you will wax the whole bottom of the ski, leaving a small section without glide wax.  This is the area you will apply grip, or kick wax to.   

Before you hook up your dog

Get out on your skis enough times that you have a feel for what you are doing.    You want to be able to fall, and get up.  To move yourself without relying on the dog, and to stop yourself and slow yourself.   Once you feel you are ready, ask a friend to be your dog, and pull you around a bit.   If your friend is inclined to chase squirrels or deer, ask another friend, who is more reliable. 

Consider a helmet made for winter sports. It will keep your head warmer, and save you hit an icy spot.    Even if you have a well trained dog, who is not new to mushing, accidents certainly can and do happen.    At the very least, a helmet means you can have an open casket at your funeral. 

Where to go?

Check it out, I covered this in another post in more detail.  Pretty much, look for something that is wide enough, has enough trail packed down for your dog to travel safely, and allows skijoring. 

Never take your dog to a groomed classic trail.  Running your dog in a trail that is tracked for classic skiing, ruins the trail for those of us that enjoy classic skiing, and gives skijoring a bad name.   Also, most does have trouble running on those classic trails, and it can hurt their shoulders, trying to fit in the narrow trails. 

Where ever you go, please tell someone where you are going, and when you will be back! 

11 January 2014

Kicksled Diagram

Kicksled- Rigged for Dog Power
Please feel free to share this photo, just give credit to this site.

Kicksleds are meant to be propelled by kicking.  By standing on the footplate, and pushing on the handle bars, you can really get some speed going!  Be sure to switch feet often, to stay balanced and keep the sled going straight.
 Adding a dog, adds a bit more power, and a whole lot more fun!.  For the sake of the sled and the safety of your dog, you need to make some adaptations to the sled first. 

A kicksled can be adapted by adding a bridle.   You can purchase the required hardware from Canvasback Pet Supplies.  The gangline attaches to the bridle.  

Always use a proper kicksledding harness, such as the Wheel Dog harness from
Howling Dog Alaska.  Using a regular X-back harness on a kicksled, will put more downward pressure on your dog's hips.  Creating discomfort and not allowing the dog to pull properly.  

Do you kicksled with your dog?   

6 January 2014

In case of Emergency

A few years ago, one Febuary day,  I drove out on a road, that got a little narrower, and then had some snow drift.   Not being able to turn around, I went for it, right towards the drift, hoping the weight of the SUV, would carry me through to where I could turn around.  It was -40 with the wind that day, and I ended up stuck, and alone. I had 4 dogs with me, and a sled, but was hours away from anything and anyone.  That was scary.  I scraped and shoveled, and made it out alright.

 An emergecny kit in your vechile.

Nowadays, I am a little older, and a little wiser.  I carry an emergency kit in my SUV, with the hopes to never have to use it.   It gets cold here, and I often skijor alone.   So a little bit ofsafety and planning goes a long way to peace of mind.

What's in the kit?

I have an emergency blanket, which is like a huge piece of tinfoil.  If my car is dead, I can wrap up with a dog or two, and with some shared body heat, live until help comes.  This also will come in handy if I ever fall through the ice again, it will allow me to warm my body and stay alive.

I also have an emergency candle.  The candle will throw off a small amount of heat, and in the confines of the car with the emergency blanket, I will be able to stay warm enough.  Of course, I have also packed matches, so that I can light the candle!  And if worse comes to worse, I can always use the candle to wax my skis, and ski outta there!

Now, if you are stranded with a dead car somewhere, it's best to have some food!  I have a few energy bars in there.  Multiples, in case I am stuck for a long time, very hungry, or have someone else with me.   Having something to eat will provide fuel for my body, and will allow me to keep warm.

Along the same lines, I have chew bones for the dogs as well.  If we are stranded, we are in this together!   Plus, the more food they have, the more body heat they will be able to make, keeping me warmer!

Do you have an emergency kit in your car? What's in it?

1 January 2014

Meet the Dog: Tikanni

Meet Tikaani!  Tikaani is a husky who was born on December 18, 2010. Several weeks later, she came to live with her current family in Overland Park, Kansas.  Tikaani joined Facebook and started up her own page as a way to promote our Siberian breed as not just a loving companion, but as a working breed as well!  She enjoys snowy weather, mushing, giving kisses, and any music with a good tail shakin’ beat to it. Takanni is also an accomplished kitchen floor soux chef!

Photo courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/ashleynoellephoto


Where does the name "Tikanni" come from? 

Tikaani comes from the Athabascan tribe of Native Americans from the inland portions of Alaska. The meaning of my name is "Wolf". I was named partially because of my markings (I have a white "T" on the back of my neck) and I like to make wolf-howl noises, especially when ambulances drive by.


Tell us about your current pack.

The 4 leggeds out number the 2 leggeds – I have a Hu-mum and Hu-dad, Mum is the musher and works in healthcare (outpatient rehabilitation), Dad is an automotive technician who races (Porsche). Mum says she ‘races’ too, but prefers 4 paws to 4 wheels.

 We have a 13 year old senior dog, "Sadie" who is a bi-eyed Sibe/German Shepherd mix and still walks with us most every night. She is a great role model!

Rennen is a piebald coat Siberian male and is my littermate. He is a fantastic leader and, when we mush, we typically run staggered with him in lead. I am a traditional coat Siberian (black/white) bi-eyed like Sadie, but also dual parti-eyed. I am the faster runner in free run, but I am still working on not saying ‘hello’ to everyone on the trail.

Tell us about, the newest pack member, Anouk!

Our newest addition, Anouk ("Annie") came to us via Taysia Blue Siberian Husky Rescue. She is a gorgeous little black and white traditional coat with a stunning mask and bright blue eyes. Anouk has a great energy and drive to run and pull - I think she will really enjoy mushing when she is bigger.  She will spend the next several months running canicross with the humans and they will be helping her learn her commands and see if she wants to run scooter with us maybe by late spring/early fall. 

What was it like to adopt a rescue dog?

 Our decision was not by any means a quick one - we checked with our city ordinance to make sure 4 dogs would be allowed, made sure we had additional finances freed up for additional vet care/food/flea and heartworm prevention/toys and supplies, we also consulted with a canine behaviorist for Rennen who needed a few lessons on interacting with dogs outside his pack.
It absolutely breaks my heart to see how many wonderful dogs end up in shelters, many surrendered by owners for some truly unforgivable reasons ("moving and can’t take dog with them", "don’t have time for dog", "didn’t realize dog needed so much time/exercise", etc). We 100% support our local rescue and no-kill shelters and had thought for quite a while we would like to add another pup to mush with and being able to adopt a rescue would be an amazing experience.

What dog pulling sports have you been involved with?

I primarily participate in urban mushing (scooter and some rig) and we’ve had a few runs with our kicksled. Nothing of a competitive nature, mostly for fun and exercise. We also enjoy canicross and hiking ~ Rennen enjoys carrying a backpack on our walks with extra treats and water, I call him the "walking snack bar" - LOL! Siberians are known for their ability to pull light loads over long distances, so we are always on the lookout for nice trails to run and get away for a while.
How did you first get started in the sport?

How did you first get started in the sport?

We began mushing sports as both a mental and physical outlet as well as a bonding experience between dogs and musher.  Siberians (as well as most other dogs) enjoy a change of scenery, new smells and places to explore. Adding the components of following commands and pulling or carrying weight just adds more to the experience and keeps things interesting!

When did you know you were hooked on the sport?

When Rennen and I could run as fast as we liked on the gangline – it is an indescribable feeling of freedom with the wind in your face and your paws pounding on the ground.

Tell us what the local scene is like for you. What is mushing like in your neck of the woods?

*Chuckles* There aren’t a lot of mushers in Kansas, but we do know a few. Our local scene usually consists of scoping out new trails (preferably ones with less ‘trail traffic’) and simply enjoying the run. We’ve mushed on hiking trails, mountain bike trails, through fields, and in urban settings as well. Each location brings a new set of challenges to be met and skills to build on. We do get lots of odd glances and folks will sometimes stop to ask questions and my hope is that our runs inspire more people to enjoy dog-powered sports with their own pups. 

What is your favorite activity to do with your people?

Getting out of the house and  exploring new trails!



What other kinds of training have you done with your people?

In addition to mushing, we enjoy running canicross (even have competed in some dog-friendly runs to benefit our local Humane Soceity), hiking, and just being outside and enjoying all the sights, sounds and smells.

What is your favorite piece of gear? Why is it your favorite?

We use a lot of gear and I try to give props to the manufacturers/designers on my "Woo-Tube" videos, probably my most favorite part of mushing is not gear at all – it is a sense of adventure. Sometimes you just need to run and see where the trail takes you.

What advice do you have for dogs new to mushing?

LOTS of preparedness!

 Most dogs enjoy running and many enjoy pulling as well, but you need to be patient and start slow. We started by getting used to mushing harnesses as they go on/off and fit differently than walking harnesses, then allowing the dogs to walk several feet ahead on training lines. We spent several hours each weekend over several months hiking mountain bike trails. The paths are narrow, but clearly defined, so it gave the dogs a definite path to follow so we could stay forward facing while keeping on trail. As we approached turns in the trail, we were given the appropriate commands ("Gee/Haw") and praised as we followed the trails and completed the turn. We also learned "On by" and "Whoa" as we encountered scent distractions and others on the trail. When we were walking through our neighborhood or in local parks, we practiced these skills every day as well. As we were learning, we also built up our paws and muscles through walking and ‘free run’ in off-leash doggie parks.

 Even after all this, we still kept our first initial scooter and rig runs limited to around a mile at first. Lots of water was given before and after the runs and paws checked.

Also get in the habit of checking gear to make sure all the lines and snaps are in good condition and carry a pack with spare gear, repair kits, and first aid supplies.

You are a social media savvy dog, tell us about the connections you have made with fellow mushers via the internet.  

I have made friends with mushers, photographers, authors, gear suppliers/outfitters, rescues and fosters, and loads of other dogs and owners, and even just people who are interested in the Siberian breed.
 I aim to spread Paws-itivity on my page as well as promote all the fun activities people and dogs can share in. I truly appreciate all of my friends for the shared photos, posts, insights, discussions, the smiles and the tears.
 Each friend to me is like a colorful piece of fabric on a patchwork quilt. Each one alone is cherished for their own unique design ~ but together they create a network of something truly beautiful. 


Describe a perfect run with your pack.

We come alive when the mercury drops – I like a nice cold, crisp day with little to no wind. Snowpack or woodland trails are preferred terrain and little to no trail traffic. I love a run where we can take off and feel the air rushing in our ears and the frost on our whiskers. It harkens back to the ancestral roots of the Siberian Husky, like we are connecting with the Chukchi spirits of 3,000 years ago. We fall into a steady pace, our hearts beating proudly, legs pounding in unison, doing what we love – what we were meant to do.