Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Chill in the Air!

The entire state of Alaska is currently in a "deep freeze". Two Rivers and SP Kennel is sitting directly in the center of this freezer unit.

Our concerns are the same as they always are:

1. Keep the dogs healthy.

Right now, the biggest concern is keeping the dogs "fat enough". They are sleeping in below -30 temperatures at night and training in below -20 temperatures during the day. This is a bigger issue than you might think.

Take for instance, Mac (our "big man on campus"), he needs many calories to keep his furnace burning through out the night and many more calories to have the energy to train 25 to 40 miles. Even Mac, can only consume so much in one day.

Logically we must increase their food intake. All dogs get two full meals every day - a thick warm breakfast at 8 AM and a healthy dinner approximately 10 - 12 hours later. These meals are predominantly high fat and high protein dry Eagle Pack MVP kibble with additional fat supplements. In between meals, thin dogs need more calories. For snacks we feed either more kibble or an "ice cream scoop" of pure poultry fat. (It looks like orange sherbet ... but I wouldn't try it.)

We hope they eat everything that we present, but some dogs don't dive into the massive amount of food rapidly. They pick at their meal slowly. In these temperatures, it does not take long for the food to freeze to the sides of the dish and become inedible.

2. Keep the dogs fitness on schedule.

This priority takes a "back seat". The dogs need to be at an optimum level of fitness for all of the racing season, but a skinny athlete is no good. So, fitness and training is secondary.

The dogs also need adequate protection when they are training in these extreme temperatures. When a team leaves SP Kennel and the temperature is -20, there are several "cold spots" on the training route no matter what direction you take. This means that the team will be heading into temperatures possibly as low at -30. Keep in mind, the dogs could be traveling up to 10 mph, so after calculating the additional wind chill, the team could be trotting into a sub -50 temperature. (That's darn cold in any language!)

The dogs wear jackets, male protection ruffs and some females wear additional chest protectors. Dog booties are also coming out of storage. Dressing a dog team can be a full day affair!

Yes ... we live in the heart of Dog Mushing country, but by golly it sure gets cold up here!


Mark said...

Champ and I love reading about the dogs and your sport. I can tell you love doing what you do.

Anonymous said...

Are the dogs still in their regular houses at night or do they get to go in the "dog barn"?

Margaret said...

Just a thought: on keeping the team healthy...

Is the facility (the dog condo) built for the study this summer a way to alternate having the dogs live indoors, away from the wind? Eighteen dogs alternating day-night use of this space? Or some other regime?

Anonymous said...

I am praying for Snow for you all. We keep getting your storms, wind and rain, rain here in Santa Rosa.
maybe if I come sooner the rain and snow will follow me up there like the great weather did this September?!
I can only imagine the work load for all right now.And I bet its a big Worry! Wishing you All-doggies too, the best.

Anonymous said...

Last winter I thought it would work the same for humans. If I were out on the sled at the same temperatures as the dogs that I would become skinny to. It didn't happen and I wasn't even eating Poultry Fat Sherbets!


Anne said...

I wouldn't last a day up there, oh my!! And it's "only" November. This post actually brings to mind something I've been wondering. How do you protect your face during this cold weather? I know you have scarves and such, but there is still much exposed skin. I'm thinking especially during races and long training runs when you're out for very extended amounts of time. Do you use a special cream?
Have thoroughly enjoyed all the videos in the past week. Everyone else around me is getting in the Christmas season spirit - I'm getting into the mushing season spirit! (well, I love Christmas too...) Thanks for all the hard work you put into sharing your passion with us armchair mushers.