SP Kennel is a premier sled dog racing kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska, dedicated to the individual dog through excellent health, nutrition, training and specialized care.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wes and Wendy's Weather Eight (a bit late)

It has been warm and balmy with temperatures well above freezing here in Whitehorse. The dog boxes were so warm that the resting dogs needed to be dropped and hydrated about every hour. Frequently we left the doors open on dog boxes so they could get more ventilation while they rested, and we sat on a bucket and supervised. The dogs are headed home now and should be back in their normal houses late tonight. They spent the last 24hrs eating, drinking, and resting. The difference in just 24hrs is phenomenal; they are peppy and putting on weight as we watch. They will be getting back to temperatures in Two Rivers that range from 0 to 20 degrees above. This is a great temperature for helping them rest well and put weight back on at the same time. By the end of the week Aliy or Ryne will take them out on a slow stretch out run to loosen them up and determine if there is any lingering stiffness or soreness. If all looks good, some of the Quest dogs may be chosen for the Iditarod race in a few weeks time.
Back in Whitehorse, Wendy and I get to spend the weekend with Allen watching the remaining teams come in and waiting for the Musher's Banquet on Saturday. Wendy and I are proud to say we handle for Allen Moore; he is a highly respected and regarded competitor, though this is only his second time running the race.
This Quest has been an amazing event for Wendy and I, and is one of the reasons we decided to spend this year in Alaska. It is one of the few races where a good crew of handlers can make the difference between running a great race, and winning a race. In Dawson, it was a pleasure to assist Aliy and Ray, ensuring that certain things happened as efficiently as possible. Here are some of the things that handlers have to do to ensure a successful second half to the race.
. Set up a campsite for the dogs well ahead of the mushers' arrival. This should be designed in such a way that the handlers can work on the dogs while minimizing the disturbance to them.
· Ensure the musher gets as much food, sleep, and quiet time as possible in the 36hrs.
· Manage and coordinate any media appointments so that they minimize the disturbance to his recovery (special thanks to the reporters covering this race for their sensitivity in working with us on this)
· Wash and dry musher clothing
. Dry out the sled and do necessary repairs.
· Constantly have food soaking and thawing for regular dog feedings
· Treat dogs' feet, rub down shoulders and legs, medicate any dogs based on vets recommendations. Coordinate with vets on ongoing issues
· Periodically walk dogs to loosen them up and reduce stiffness
· Brief musher on how each dog has responded to the 36hrs of food and rest so he can determine which ones will continue with him
· Make sure the sled is packed with everything needed for the 200+ mile run to Pelly's Crossing
· Get latest weather reports so the musher can plan the trip accordingly
· Determine the route back on to the trail and brief the musher so no time is wasted trying to figure it out
· Keep him informed of everything he needs to do prior to his departure and keep him apprised of the time
· Help him determine a race plan for the second half based on the weather conditions, trail conditions, health of the dogs, and what we think competitors might do
· Ensure he has ALL mandatory equipment packed in order to avoid a possible penalty
· After the musher's departure, break camp and ensure that it is immaculate so that the team is not issued with an unnecessary penalty
Wendy and I have really enjoyed the trip. It has enabled us to feel like we are racers without having to be athletes. Bring on theIditarod!


Anonymous said...

Wes and Wendy,

I have to say that I am a bit envious of your opportunity to spend a year in Alaska handling for Allen and Aliy.

I have really enjoyed your entries on the blog. Your insights and pictures have added much to my understanding of what goes on in the life of both the dogs and the mushers. I like that bit about ensuring the musher has ALL mandatory gear!

Please keep writing! :)

Anonymous said...

Great entry! Had no idea that there was so much to handling and I've learned a ton from your entries. I'll be eagerly following you during the Iditarod, too, and I also congratulate Allen on an excellent race. Please keep writing!

NCL said...

What a lot of responsibility you had. Thanks for sharing and good luck with the Iditarod.

Eddie's mom said...

I have enjoyed your entries as well, about what it takes to be a handler and all the things you do, yet also must be aware of. Handlers (usually friends or family), friends, family and folks like you two are the behind the scenes people. Most folks that follow the mushers are unaware of how much work it really takes to get through a year in the life of a musher(s) who seek to race dogs. Having helped Aliy and Allen in many other ways, I have never had the chance to experience the handler side of things. Hats off to Ray, Bob, Bridgett, Ryne, and those who came before you, who served as handlers over the years. It is definitely important to have knowledgable handlers for a successful race. Enjoy the Iditarod as best you can. It is much more expensive and difficult to get to the check points. Will be looking forward to your posts.
Thank you.

Linda Toth said...

Well, considering Allen's placement, you clearly did your job well. I am glad you are staying to enjoy the banquet. It is a great night for everyone.