Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mom's Ride

Aliy's parents arrived yesterday to help with final Iditarod preparation and then to help take care of the Kennel while the teams are out on the trail. It was a beautiful day, so Aliy took her mom along for a sled ride. As usual, I handed her a camera and asked her to see what she could get.

Well, she got some fantastic footage and I 'm delighted to offer you another gem! So, have fun on "Mom's Ride."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Musher's Mind

With Iditarod starting at the end of next week, it's really crunch time here at SP Kennel. Aliy and Allen are becoming more focused by the minute. Just as they were heading out on their training run yesterday, I handed Aliy one of my little cameras and said, "If you get the chance, push the button and tell us what you're thinking." I think you will agree that what she has given us is fantastic, and a priceless insight into the musher's mind.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Outtake: The Doctor Was In... Nacho Bails Out!

You may recall that we recently took 40 dogs into town for their mandatory pre-Iditarod Blood Tests & EKGs. We are delighted to report that all of them passed with flying colors!

The dogs' medical examination requirements didn't end there, however, as each dog must also have a mandatory pre-Iditarod full medical exam. Dr. Jean Battig of the Chena Ridge Veterinary Clinic is SP Kennel's "family doctor" and she came out to spend the better part of a day checking each dog from "nose to toes" and reviewing their condition with Aliy and Allen. (Here you can see her sizing up the lovely and talented young Bonita!) Again, all of the dogs got a good report and are now -- finally! -- officially cleared as "Okay to race!" That's the last of the big pre-Iditarod "Logistics" hurdles, so you can imagine that we are all pretty relieved -- and happy -- around here!

No matter how you slice it, moving 40 dogs through an examination process is a big job. Despite being pretty efficient at it -- with me bringing the dogs in from the yard and taking them back out, Aliy weighing them and doing paperwork, and Allen holding the dogs on the table for Dr. Battig -- there wasn't much opportunity for me to shoot video. I did try at one point, but only got this clip which -- for reasons that will become obvious -- I'm posting as an outtake.

Most of the older dogs have been through these medical exams many times and are pretty laid back about it, but it's still kind of new to the younger dogs and they're not all so cool with it. Nacho is just such a young dog, a two year old male who also happens to be one of the largest dogs in the Kennel. He is a real sweetheart but let's face it, who likes going to the doctor, right? As you will see, despite their size and power, these dogs are lightning quick. You will also see why it takes the vigilance and strength of a guy like Allen to handle them. Keep your eyes peeled, it happens in a flash!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Brotherly Love?... Or A Pain In The Neck?

In Aliy's recent audio post, she talked about her design for the Kennel and how she wanted to make sure the dog's could have fun and play together when they are not out running. It's really a pretty sweet set up for them, and every dog has at least two neighbors who are close enough that their tethers allow them to visit, sniff, joust, flirt or whatever. The older dogs tend to have pretty sedate relationships with their neighbors, but the yearlings and especially the puppies seem to be going at it with each other all the time.

So, it was with some surprise that I walked out to the dog yard this morning and found two pups -- Hank and Lester -- sitting together in repose. As I walked past, I actually thought to myself, "Isn't that nice... The pups are finally growing up and settling down!"

I passed them again a couple of minutes later, and realized that something was very wrong with the situation. Somehow in their always exuberant playing, these two characters had not only completely tangled up their lines but had actually gotten them clipped together! The more I tried to free them the more they struggled, of course, and it took me a while to get them undone. Sure enough, as soon as they were free they went right back to their game. I decided it was a good idea to shorten their tethers just a bit... So much for the pups growing up and settling down!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Check Out Our New Reference Pages!

As things heat up for Iditarod, we've added or update some reference pages on the Dog Log to help you get the most out of it. If you look at the top of the sidebar to the right, you'll see them marked as "New!"

First and foremost, the new "About... The Dogs!" page now has photos and bios of all our racing dogs. We hope you will find this useful as we talk about various dogs, and we challenge you to learn all their faces so you can pick out individual dogs in upcoming photos and videos!

The second new page is "For Students & Teachers!" and is our special welcome to all of the many young people who are now exploring the Iditarod as part of their classroom studies. Even if you are not a student or teacher, there may be some information on that page which you will find interesting!

Last -- but certainly not least! -- we've added a page of "Tips For Using This Site" which spotlights a number of powerful search features to help you find what you are looking for on this website. We try to bring you as much information as we can -- in a variety of formats -- and we want you to be able to find it when you want. So, please check out the "Tips"!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Paying The Freight

The results are in! The total weight of the Iditarod Checkpoint Drop Bags for both SP Kennel teams combined was... Drum roll please... 3,282 pounds!
(Note: Allen's bags weighed a little more than Aliy's, but that's because he packed more candy and junk food... Special thanks to Tom Kenaston for helping to pack Allen's Snack Sack!)
That's the good news. The bad news is that the Iditarod charges mushers $.61 per pound to ship the drop bags out to the checkpoints. So, in addition to the huge cost of all the stuff that went into the bags, Aliy and Allen had to hand over a $2,000 check to pay the freight!

So, a very special thanks to all our checkpoint sponsors! You can be sure that Aliy and Allen not only appreciate your contributions to support them at specific checkpoints, but they will think of you very, very fondly when they arrive at these remote way-stations and see their vital food and gear waiting for them. Thank you very much!

Anchorage0 (Start)(N/A)
Willow49 (Re-Start)(N/A)
Yentna115 (No Re-Supply)(N/A)
Skwentna149Jerry Farrington
Finger Lake194 (No Re-Supply)(N/A)
Rainy Pass224Mike Jaskiewicz
Nikolai347Carl Schmidt
Takotna419Horizon Lines
Ophir444Hawthorn Suites
Iditarod534Eddie's Sports Bar
Anvik624Jan & Gary Edwards
Eagle Island702Eagle Pack
Kaltag772Al's Family Farms
Unalakleet862Lynne Witte's 2nd Grade Class
Shaktoolik902Tom Kenaston
Koyuk960Kay Riley
Golovin1036 (No Re-Supply)(N/A)
White Mountain1054Chevie McDonald
Safety1109Pleasant Valley Store
Nome1131 (Finish!)(N/A)

As you can see, we've still got a few un-sponsored checkpoints... Wouldn't it be great if Aliy and Allen were supported at every one of these remote and success-critical locations along the trail!

Here's your chance to help sponsor a checkpoint! Contribute any amount you like to the checkpoint of your choice and we'll add your name to our roster of checkpoint sponsors! Thank you!

(Note: Clicking the button above will take you to a page where you can enter an amount you would like to contribute, specify the checkpoint you wish to sponsor and pay online. If you would prefer to pay by check, please contact us! Thank you!)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Iditarod Checkpoint Drop Bags -- Part 6 -- The End!

If it seems to you like the Iditarod Checkpoint Drop Bag process has been going on forever, you're not alone... It seems that way to all of us here at the Kennel, too! Finally, all of the "stuff" -- dog food, snacks, mushing gear, personal items, etc. -- has been packed in the Drop Bags and we wrap up the process in this video.

After Aliy's sister Kaz laces up the bags, they're loaded into a couple of full-size pick-up trucks and driven to the collection point in Fairbanks where they are put on skids, wrapped in plastic and loaded onto big trucks for shipment out to the checkpoints. As you will see, Aliy and Allen get into a little more of their light-hearted banter, which is always a treat! The Drop Bag process has been such a huge "Iditarod Logistics" project that we're just ecstatic to have it behind us. So, we invite you to join us in our accomplishment as we all see it through to "The End!"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Iditarod Checkpoint Drop Bags -- Part 5

Aliy wraps up her "gear" bag series with this video showing you what she has packed for checkpoints at the 750 and 1,000 mile marks.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Iditarod Checkpoint Drop Bags -- Part 4

In this video, Aliy shares with you the contents of her "gear" bag for the actual Iditarod checkpoint, 500 miles into the race. Besides being the race's eponymous checkpoint, Iditarod is the half-way point on the trail and serves as a major resupply point. The drop bags for it are among the most important -- and thus the most complex -- of all the bags she will send out this week.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Iditarod Checkpoint Drop Bags -- Part 3

In the first two parts of our "iditarod Checkpoint Drop Bags" series, we looked at the mountain of dog food -- meat, fish, fat, kibble, etc. -- that was converted into piles of dog food then packed into the Drop Bags. I mentioned at the time that in addition to the immense "dog food" aspect, there is another substantial side of Checkpoint Drop Bag "Logistics" involving the planning and packing of "gear."

Well, after we all spent several days making little bags of parts and pieces, Aliy spent another entire day collating them into piles for each of her 20 checkpoints. Although she worked from a master checklist that has been developed over her years of experience, she still had to do a lot of adjusting in the process. Considering the broad range of conditions that can be encountered on the 1,000+ mile Iditarod, you can imagine the complexity of trying to anticipate what all you might need along the way.

Rather than try to show you what is in each of her 20 bags -- or do a "fly-over" like I did of the dog food bags -- Aliy has selected the bags for four critical checkpoints to show you in some detail. The first bag -- for the Nikolai checkpoint at the 250 mile mark -- is the topic of this video.

As Aliy displays and describes what's in these few bags, keep in mind that she has assembled a total of 20 "similar but different" bags to cover all the checkpoints. If that isn't enough to overwhelm you, consider the fact that Allen has put together yet another 20 bags of his own!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ron's Ride -- Part 4

We conclude "Ron's Ride" with Aliy talking about the development of sled dogs and considerations for which dogs will become SP Kennel racers and which will be given away as pets or "recreational" sled dogs. She continues with some commentary about how dogs learn from each other, then concludes with a brief description of Iditarod Trail elevation changes and some insight on what that means for the dogs and mushers.

A final "Thank you!" to my friend Ron for sharing his ride with us... And for giving me so much great footage to work with!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ron's Ride -- Part 3

We continue "Ron's Ride" with Aliy talking about lead dogs, their qualities and the differences between them. She goes on to talk about the amazing capabilities of sled dogs and her view of the misunderstanding between people who don't really know the dogs and those who do.

Many thanks to my friend Ron for capturing this insightful footage!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Moose Crossing

While driving back to the Kennel from the blood tests & EKGs, I was merging onto the local highway and noticed that traffic was stopped in both directions. The reason was because these two moose were crossing the highway. Just another little slice of Alaskan Life!

Iditarod Blood Tests & EKGs

Despite what you may hear from rumor mongers among so-called "animal activists" and some sensationalists in the media, the well-being of the dogs is the paramount consideration in sled dog racing. This is true of everyone involved in the sport. Way beyond the fact that mushers know a dog who is not healthy and happy will not perform well, everyone involved in the sport just loves dogs too much to condone anything less than the best in overall dog care.

A good example of this "dog care first" culture is that the Iditarod requires pre-race blood tests and EKGs for any dog who may run in the event. To avoid any possibility of fraud, the tests are performed by independent, third-part veterinary technicians and the results are reviewed by Dr. Stu Nelson and the Iditarod veterinary staff. Since each of the approximately 80 Iditarod teams needs to "qualify" about 20 dogs -- racers and alternates -- over 1,500 dogs will be tested!

This mandatory testing is another piece of "Logistics" preparation for us at SP Kennel. It isn't a "difficult" process -- in that all it requires is loading the 40 dogs who make up our two rosters of potential Iditarod athletes into the dog trucks and taking them into Fairbanks for testing -- but it is time consuming. Nevertheless, we are happy to have done it for the sake of the dogs' health, and we are pleased to report that we now have one more important piece of our Iditarod preparation behind us.

Here is a video which shows the highlights of one dog going through the process. Many thanks to all the veterinary technicians for their careful and conscientious work... and especially for being so nice to our dogs!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ron's Ride -- Part 2

As "Ron's Ride" continues, we pick up with Aliy describing typical musher activities at an Iditarod checkpoint. She then does an inspection of the team and provides an extremely interesting and informative narration.

Many thanks, again, to my friend Ron for this fantastic footage!
(Note: Ron is exclusively a still photographer and had never shot video before I handed him one of my cameras and asked him to see if he could get me some footage. As a result, he was unfamiliar with videography being a slave to the horizontal format and his instinct to compose in the viewfinder made him turn the camera vertically at times. In order to keep you from having to tip your head back and forth to look at these videos, I have rotated the clips as necessary. This has worked pretty well except for the slight distortion that results from cramming vertical video back into horizontal format. I don't think it will detract from your enjoyment of the video, but if you suddenly see the dogs -- and Aliy! -- looking a little short and squat, don't worry. There's nothing wrong with them, your computer or you. It's just the video distortion.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ron's Ride -- Part 1

We've spent a few days looking at "Logistics" preparation for the Iditarod, so let's turn our attention back to "Training."

One of the trickiest things I've noticed about what Aliy and Allen have to do in training preparation for the Iditarod is getting all the dogs "in-sync." In other words, they want all 32 dogs -- 36 including "alternates" -- to be in their top physical condition, all at the same time, right at the beginning of the race. Unfortunately, the dogs don't all start training for the big day from the same level of fitness.

Some of them, for example, have run many more miles in early season racing while some of their kennel-mates have stayed home and been couch potatoes. As a result, different dogs are at different levels of fitness and need different amounts and kinds of training to get them into top condition. So, in addition to the "big teams" that they take out almost every day, Aliy and Allen have also been taking out some "little teams" on "tune up" runs as needed to help them all get "in sync."

Aliy was getting ready to head out with one of these "little teams" while my friend Ron was visiting last week, and she invited him to go along for a ride in the sled. He jumped at the chance, of course, and at the last minute I handed him one of my cameras and asked him to try to get me some footage.

Well, not only did Ron get some really great video from a "sled's eye" view, but he asked Aliy a number of really good fundamental questions to which she -- as usual -- gave really informative answers. Miraculously, there is very little wind noise in the audio, so you can hear just about every word!

Thanks to Ron, you can now enjoy a special treat, a "virtual" ride in a sled on an absolutely beautiful day, and have many of the questions you might ask thoroughly answered by Aliy. In fact, Ron got so much great footage that I have edited it into a few parts. Now, I am delighted to present "Ron's Ride -- Part 1"... Thanks, Ron!
(Note: Ron is exclusively a still photographer and had never shot video before. As a result, he was unfamiliar with videography being a slave to the horizontal format and his instinct to compose in the viewfinder made him turn the camera vertically at times. In order to keep you from having to tip your head back and forth to look at these videos, I have rotated the clips as necessary. This has worked pretty well except for the slight distortion that results from cramming vertical video back into horizontal format. I don't think it will detract from your enjoyment of the video, but if you suddenly see the dogs looking a little short and squat, don't worry. There's nothing wrong with them, your computer or you. It's just the video distortion.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Calorie Counter

As you recently heard Dr. Mike Davis say, there's been a lot of scientific research on how much energy sled dogs burn during the Iditarod, and the numbers are consistently in the 10,000-12,000 calories per day range. That is a huge number of calories, and it helps explain the massive piles of dog food you've seen us packing into checkpoint drop bags over the past couple of days. The dogs will consume over a ton of food during the race and convert it to energy to be burned. When you think about it, it's really pretty amazing.

Something else that's amazing is how much food the mushers will eat. Although there isn't any research that I know of which calculates their caloric intake and conversion, it's a good bet that between being out in the cold for 10 days straight, working constantly, plus all the poling, kicking and running they do to help the teams, they burn a huge amount of energy as well. Although Aliy and Allen pack freeze-dried meals into the drop bags for themselves -- and at some checkpoints they can sometimes get hot meals -- these require time that they often do not have available. Besides, at their levels of exertion it is impossible to keep up on calories without snacking heavily in between.

For this reason, Aliy and Allen also pack a supply of snacks to eat along the trail. Accordingly, the workshop at the kennel currently looks remarkably like the check-out at a convenience store... and give a whole new meaning to the term "calorie counter"!

Right after I shot the photo above, Aliy chided me, "Don't go telling people that's all my stuff! That's all Allen's stuff. I've got good stuff over here in my little corner. See! Look at this bag of healthy nuts!" Well, I've been around the Kennel long enough to know when the good-natured bantering is starting, so I decided to play along.

Sure enough, on Aliy's "little corner" of the calorie counter there were a number of healthy snacks -- smoked salmon, dried fruit, nuts, green algae bars and vitamin drink -- to go with a reasonable assortment of Pringles, Peanut M&M's and Combos. All in all, I guess you'd have to give her a pretty good score for balancing the snack equation, but she was feeling so proud of herself that all I gave her was a "Not too bad" review.

By comparison, Allen's rather larger portion of the calorie counter was indeed pretty well chockablock with candy and chips, garnished ever so sparingly with a few small bags of nuts. I glanced over at Allen with an inquisitive look and he said, in a way that only Allen could say it, "What? I have to eat all the time out there! I'll eat all that and I'll still be hungry. But... I spent all the allowance she gave me, and that's all I could get!"

At which point, of course, Aliy gave him "the look." Such is how it goes around here, that even in the middle of all there is to do, running dogs, packing gear, filling out forms, tuning up sleds, etc., etc., there's still plenty of good humor and fun to go around.

So, it occurred to me that maybe you'd like to join in the fun, too, and help "Fill Allen's Snack Sack!" Clicking the button below will take you to a page where you can enter any amount you would like to contribute and pay online. You can even write a message with special instructions on what healthy -- yeah, right! -- snacks you want him to get. I will run a separate tab for him and make sure he gets the additional "allowance" directly!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Iditarod Checkpoint Drop Bags -- Part 2

Yesterday I gave you a "detailed" view of some of what goes into an Iditarod Checkpoint Drop Bag. Today I want to give you a bit of a "bigger picture" view.

After several days cutting about 900 pounds of meat -- fish, beef, horse, turkey skins, lamb, beaver, etc. -- and several more days packing almost 1,500 pounds of dry dog food into meal-sized bags, we had some huge piles of dog food and it was time to start packing them into the Drop Bags. So, we laid the empty bags out around the yard in sequence and distributed the various packages of food as appropriate for each checkpoint.

In this video, I take you on a "fly-over" of Allen's Iditarod race via his sequence of Drop Bags. As you watch, keep in mind that everything you will see is just the dog food for Allen's team. Not only is there is a similar set of bags for Aliy's team's dog food, but both teams will have yet another set of bags for all their gear and other supplies. In other words, the staggering amount of "stuff" you are about to see is only about a quarter of the total amount that will eventually be shipped out in the Drop Bags!

As I've said before, just the "Logistics" -- not to mention "Training" -- for the Iditarod is an immense undertaking!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Iditarod Checkpoint Drop Bags -- Part 1

The Iditarod Sled Dog Race is such a huge event in the annual cycle here at SP Kennel that it cannot be over-emphasized how much effort goes into preparing for it. As I recently mentioned, there are two basic "sides" to Iditarod preparation -- "Training" and "Logistics" -- and both of them require an unbelievable amount of planning and execution.

On the "Logistics" side of the equation, one of the biggest objectives is preparing the "Checkpoint Drop Bags" that need to be packed and delivered to Iditarod headquarters this week so that they can be sent out on the trail in advance of the race. These bags must contain all of the provisions -- food, gear and supplies -- that the teams will need to complete the 1,000+ mile race. Considering all of the contingencies that can occur on the Iditarod, planning what goes in the bags for each checkpoint -- to be used a month from now! -- requires a great deal of thought, experience, skill and even art. Altogether, to support both SP Kennel teams the total weight of the Drop Bags sent out will be almost two tons!

In this video, Aliy talks a little bit about what she considers when packing the bags and shows you some of what is actually going in one of them. This is a fairly "detailed" view of the Drop Bag project, and I will be bringing you a bit of a "bigger picture" view in "Part 2" tomorrow.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday Catch-Up

It was an especially fast-paced week here at SP Kennel, and practically every minute was jam-packed with Iditarod preparation. In the process, I shot and downloaded so much media so fast that I created quite a mess on my Mac. So, the boss gave me the day off from Kennel work and I have spent most of it sorting through pictures and videos, trying to figure out how best to tell the stories. I'm finally just about ready to start editing, and plan to post some really good stuff over the next few days. Along the way today, I found a couple of photos that normally might not merit a post of their own, so I thought I'd share them with you here.

The first photo requires a little explanation. You see, there's a lot more to taking the dogs out for a training run than just going out in the dog yard and hopping on a sled. Let's say, for example, that the schedule calls for a run to go out at 1pm. The mushers have to "head outside" an hour before that -- at noon -- to set up the sleds then harness, bootie and hook-up as many as 40 dogs. They have to start about an hour before that -- at 11am -- to have something hot to eat, to organize their personal gear, to get dressed, etc. Even before that they have to plan out the run, including which dogs will run in what positions on each team, what trail routes they will take, etc. You can see how an "afternoon run" actually starts shortly after "morning coffee"!

Which brings us to this photo: Running 40 dogs requires 160 booties. At $1 apiece, it is economically impossible to use new booties every day. So, after the booties come off the dogs at the end of a run -- soiled in ways that might shock you -- they go through the washer and dryer then into a pile on the floor. As part of the "pre-run process" -- usually while Aliy updates the "Kennel Brain" -- Allen sorts the booties, discarding any that are too worn to be re-used and bunching the rest into sets of four. To put this in perspective, picture yourself having to wash, dry, sort and fold socks for 80 kids every day. It's certainly not a glamorous job, but it is an important one... Another insight into the life of a dog musher!

This photo is really just for fun: We've recently gone through a bad run of extreme temperatures -- everything from below -50 to above +50 -- that had a pretty negative impact on both the Kennel schedule and on our moods. The past few days have been "perfect" with lows in the morning and evening of -10 to -20 and highs at mid-day around zero. I caught Aliy checking out the thermometer yesterday and said "How about that!"... A picture is worth a thousand words, and it's nice to get a decent picture of Aliy for a change. Here's hoping that the weather -- and our moods -- stay sunny for a while!

That's it for my "Sunday Catch-Up"... Stay tuned for lots of coverage of our Iditarod preparations, coming your way over the next few days!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Aliy Talks About... SP Kennel in Two Rivers

In this episode of "Aliy Talks About..." you will hear physical descriptions of SP Kennel in Two Rivers. It occurred to me that a couple of photos might help, so here they are: A view of the house from the dog yard and a view of the dog yard from Aliy's balcony.

If you are having trouble with the embedded mp3 player, you can click here to access the mp3 file directly and play it however your computer normally handles mp3 files.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Dog Food Delivery Day

As the clock continues to count down, preparations for Iditarod are accelerating here at SP Kennel.

The most obvious aspect of this preparation, of course, is the pace of training dogs. Because fielding two Iditarod teams requires 32 fully trained dogs -- and you never know which dogs might have last-minute "issues" that might prevent them from competing -- we are currently "working up" about 40 dogs. That's just about every "adult racing dog" in the Kennel, and it requires taking 3 or 4 teams out every day for 4-8 hours. Aliy and Allen go out on sleds at least once every day, and on some days I have been pitching in by following them with a team on the 4-wheeler. You can pretty easily "do the math" and figure out that the current dog training schedule is a huge time and effort requirement.

The pace of "logistical" preparation is accelerating around here as well. For example, in the next few days we will be packing all of the checkpoint "drop bags" and delivering them to Iditarod headquarters so that they can be sent out on the trail well in advance of the race. Before you can pack the bags, of course, you have need to have all the "stuff" ready to pack. So, we recently spent another entire day cutting fish, fat and meat snacks for the dogs, totaling almost 1,000 pounds of tasty treats for our canine competitors. Also, Aliy and Allen have been assembling large quantities of everything else that must be packed: Human food and snacks, hand and foot warmers, booties, batteries, etc.

Of the nearly two tons of gear that will be shipped out in drop bags for the SP Kennel teams, however, the largest portion of the weight -- by far -- will be in dog food. More than a ton of it! So, yesterday was "Dog Food Delivery Day" and I thought it merited a little special mention:

The guys from 49er Feed -- the local distributor for Eagle Pack -- arrived in their big truck and backed right up to the feed shed. Now, the dogs know very well what goes on in the feed shed and you can see that a few of them -- especially Teddy -- were quite keen to supervise the proceedings. What they got to see was the off-loading of four tons of food! That's 200 bags at 40 pounds apiece!

The next step is to take about a ton of it, re-pack it into smaller "team meal size" 12 pound bags and add them to the heaping piles of supplies that we've been accumulating in preparation for the actual drop bag packing process. Stay tuned for more on that!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dog Commands In Action

A few days ago, Aliy recorded an audio description of dog commands. Although she did her typically great job of describing things, there's always a big difference between hearing something described and seeing it in action.

Well, my friend Ron went on a "ride along" with Aliy and a team yesterday, during which he shot some really great footage. I hope to use a lot of it in upcoming videos, but there was one segment that so perfectly illustrated dog commands in action that I just wanted to share it with you right away:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Poll Report: Media & Connection

Many thanks to all of you who "voted" in the Media & Connection polls. The results are in, and here they are:

As you can see, the vast majority of you are able to play both the video and audio media on this site. Almost all the rest of you can access one or the other, and one of you can't play either. With apologies to whichever of you is the latter, I don't think we can do much better than this overall.

One thing has become much clearer to me in this process, and I would summarize it as follows: Both the videos on YouTube and the audio in the Google Player use Macromedia Flash to encode and playback the media. If you don't have a reasonably current version of Flash, this may be part of the problem. Also, I have discovered that on some PCs -- including Aliy's! -- Windows Media tries to intercept the mp3 audio instead of letting Flash handle it. I think this may be the reason why a few of you either don't even see the Google Player or can't get it to play. I am completely unfamiliar with Windows, so I'm afraid I can't offer any kind of suggestions here. Probably the best way to handle it is to use the "workaround" of linking to the source mp3 and letting Windows handle that however it wants to.

Looking at the connection types, it encourages me that the vast majority of you have some kind of hi-speed internet. This, of course, is a necessary component in viewing media-rich sites like ours, and I can only hope that the few of you who are still on dial-up will have access to hi-speed sometime soon. Sadly, you really don't get to experience "the real internet" until you've got hi-speed.

My hope is that over time you will all have hi-speed access on updated computers, such that everyone can play everything. Meanwhile, thanks again for the help. I'm relieved to know that the problems are fairly few. I will continue to look for ways to fix them, but for now I will just apologize, again, for any inconvenience and leave things as they are.


You know that comfy feeling you get when you've just put fresh linens on your bed? How about when there's a knock on your hotel room door and the cheerful voice says "Housekeeping!" and you know your bedding is about to be freshened? Well, it's like that for the dogs around the Kennel when we give them fresh straw for their dog houses every week or so.

Mostly, the fresh straw provides insulation that the dog burrow in to ward off the cold. Partly, though, it is soft and fresh smelling which just makes their life a little more comfortable.

My friend Ron arrived from Seattle on Friday and we all thought "strawing the dogs" would be a good way for him to get to meet all of them. So, of course, I shot some footage as Ron and I played chambermaids for the dogs. This video shows you yet another "behind the scenes" aspect of Kennel life, one which we have called "Housekeeping!"

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sun Dog Day!

It's such a delight to have the sun showing up earlier in the day, going higher in the sky and setting later in the afternoon. Today, the sun treated us to our first "Sun Dog" of the year. From Wikipedia:
"A sun dog or sundog (scientific name parhelion, plural parhelia, for "beside the sun") is a common bright circular spot on a solar halo. It is an atmospheric optical phenomenon primarily associated with the reflection or refraction of sunlight by small ice crystals making up cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. Often, two sun dogs can be seen (one on each side of the sun) simultaneously."
So, in its honor, we're going to call today "Sun Dog Day" instead of Groundhog Day!

Meet The Dogs: Teddy

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl Sunday

It isn't all work and no play at the Kennel, but we do try to find ways to be productive even when we're not really working. A good example is this afternoon when a group gathering to watch the Super Bowl. Amidst the usual food and fun, Aliy produced a big box of dog booties that had just arrived -- courtesy of Horizon Lines -- and set us to the task of bunching them into sets.

Every dog needs four booties at a time, of course, and it's a lot easier to count out the right numbers when they are already bunched into sets of four. It's also a lot easier for Aliy and Allen to work with them -- especially when their hands are really cold -- if the booties are attached to each other in the way shown above so that they can be quickly separated.

So, while sitting around the warm living room enjoying the game, we all pitched in to make some of the nearly 1,000 sets that will be needed for the Iditarod. It's not a very big job in the scheme of things, but it is one more little thing we can scratch off the list. Many thanks to all hands!