Well this winter has gone by like a flash. The training season has lasted a while, but the winter didn't get here properly before the end of December. We started training the 1st of August with a few new dogs in the team, and ended the season with almost nothing but new dogs in the team.
Jago died suddenly after eating a rock with sharp edges that damaged his stomach beyond help. He had one training run on snow with me and was as solid as I had come to expect. I missed him terribly this winter. He was the engine in the team, and his huge paws are hard to fill. Luckily for us he left a lasting impression on the youngster we ran him with, Onyx. Onyx has been the most consistant of the boys in the team the entire winter.
Due to a poor business decision, we were forced to downsize our kennel in November. Epo, Sprint, and Emi went to a great home with Andreas and Jørgen Heie in Hemsedal. Moon and Otter went to Beito Husky, another great home.
I have spent the entire winter working my way through what i have come to call "the 10-15 year blues". I underestimated how difficult it would be to loose all of the dogs I started mushing with back in 1998. George was the last of the original dogs I started with. Loosing Blåmann and Jago made matters much worse as it left me with no leaders and an entire team of yearlings who didn't have a clue. It has been a constant struggle the entire season not to compare the youngsters to the dogs that i have lost, and difficult to avoid thinking about how things would be different if I had Blåmann and Jago in the team. The dogs that I had forged a real soul bond with were gone and, to be frank, it hurt. But slowly, as the yearlings have matured and we have spent many hours on the trail together, I have started forming bonds with them as well that are as strong as the bonds I had with George and Blåmann and Jago. This season has been my trial by fire. Now it is almost over and I find myself relieved that it is, while wishing also that it would last longer. Next season we will have a very young team, but one that has been through the wringer with me.
On a much happier note, Marble has had puppies. She had five males and two females. Marble is my leader star. She is still very green, but when I had no leaders she and i fumbled our way through every run until we finally got two new leaders into the kennel. Marble did everything I asked her to do, from breaking trail in 3 feet of new snow, to crossing bridges spanning swollen brooks. She has been my star. The father of the puppies is a white dog with brown ears, Nikkel. Nikkel was loaned to us by our good friends Jan Frydenlund and Mai Tove Elvsveen. Nikkel is the nephew of Blåmann, and is so much like his uncle that it scares me sometimes.
Nikkel came to us when our leader problems were reaching a breaking point and Marble and I were both exhausted. Just as his uncle did before him, Nikkel tested me for the first month. We worked hard to get to know eachother and after some arguments on the trail I learned to respect him and he learned to respect me. The breeding between Marble and Nikkel was not intentional. Nikkel twisted out of my grasp while on the way back into the kennel after a run and paired with Marble. The combination of Marble and Nikkel was to much for my imagination to handle, so we allowed the breeding to stand, and now have a beautiful litter of puppies.
The other great dog-related news is that Kaptein joined our ranks. Kaptein arrived her right after Hallingenløpet, in January. I don't think it is fair to ask any dog to run in lead every run, and Marble and Nikkel were running up there to often. The other yearlings don't run in lead at all, so we wanted to borrow one more leader for some light leading duties. Instead, we were given Kaptein by Stine Nordvik. He has had a problem with his feet the last six months, so he was not able to make her race team (one of the best in Norway). It would appear that he had some allergy because his feet have since cleared up and have not given him a second of bother since, despite som bad trail and long runs. Kaptein's best quality is that he is happy. All the time. He excudes happiness from every muscle in his body, and we are lucky to have gotten him here. An fun side note is that he was born at Harald Tunheim's kennel in Alta, so Kaia knew both of his parents when she was a student of Haralds at Øytun. Rini and Pusan are his parents and both are/were Haralds main leaders. Leading him to his last Finnmarksløpet victory in 2008.
The last bit of fun news is not really news to anyone anymore. Most everyone knows that Kaia is pregnant. It's a boy, his name is Eivind, and he is due in just over two montsh from now. We are extremely excited to have the little handler...I mean fellow, here.
I will try to be better about posting more than every 6 months.
Updates as events Warrant.
P.S. we have started feeding High Energy Performance Dogfood. We are sold. It is a super food.