What I actually do? First thing to do in the morning is to take care of puppies. There are six of them, three girls and three boys. All of their names are some kind of reference to this year Iditarod race. That means one’s name is Fifty Below, because that was the temperature during the race. Other one is Red Lantern, which is the name for the last participant who manages to get to the finish line. Iditarod is “The last great race on Earth” which starts the first Saturday of March. The length of this race is 1000 miles in really cruel conditions. My boss Vern has made it several times.
So around 6-7am I take the puppies to the forest for a quick 20-30 minute walk. Well I walk they run all around the place. The whole thing is much easier because of Mickey who always comes with us. As I mentioned already he is a border collie so it’s in his blood to take care of the pack. He is always paying attention where are all the puppies and gathers them. He also pretty much chooses the way, so basically I am just following them. Once we return from the walk they immediately get their breakfast – 9 cups of dog food. They don’t have their own bowls or anything so I am just throwing the food all over the place and they are thrilled, because now it’s a game on who can find more of food.
At that time I go back to the main part of the farm and help Vern to clean up the mess after grown up dogs. There is a lot of poop. After that there is always something to do around dogs to prepare, repair or take care of. Majority of days tourists come, so there is plenty of work with them too. Usually a group of 6-12 people come. First they are taken inside by Vern for about 1,5 hour and they are told the interesting things about preparing for and racing Iditarod, breeding dogs for decades as Vern did, and what dogs usually do during summer/winter. During that we have time to prepare dogs. The amount of actual work is greatly depending on how many of us are on the farm at that moment. As I am the only one living in here, I am here always. Linda comes once maybe twice a week and then there is a local girl Christiana who usually comes to help with cleaning after someone has stayed in our Bed & Breakfast or when tourists order a lunch to their excursion. Most often there is just me and Vern for all the work.
While Vern is giving his presentation I choose 14 dogs that are going to work for their living that day and put a harness on them. At first it was kinda difficult for me, because I didn’t know the dogs much, nor they ability to run next to each other, but now it’s getting better. Also the dogs are quite nervous and are running and jumping around and doing such a noise. Most of them are at least 2-3 years old and have already done some serious racing, so they are well used to harness and are even helping me out. Some of them are really angels. When I take the harness and walk towards them they immediately know that they have been chosen and sit down, point their head towards me so it’s easier to put the harness around neck. Then they hold their first paw in the air while I get it to harness. And then the second paw. Amazing.
Some of them are not so easy to work with, but it’s mostly because they get way too excited. In some cases it’s really like hunting them down. Getting those 14 dogs into harness take me some 30-40 minutes of fighting and after that I could really use a shower. Meanwhile some of the dogs are also getting bored so they start to chew they harness. This case is still pretty manageable. Worse is when they start to cooperate and try to “rescue” their nearest friend and start to chew his harness. During all this they are still very excited, loud and most of all nervous. When some people are nervous, they poop. Dogs poops twice that much and visitors didn’t pay a nice amount of money to see that the dogs live next to a shit. So I still have to keep the whole place clean. So that hour and half when Vern is talking inside runs pretty fast. Finally when they get out they go to see puppies and take them for a walk into the forest, the same route I have done with them in the morning. In that time I take one of the jeeps and start to yoke the dogs in a line. There are seven pairs of two, leaders in front, strongest close to the jeep. That’s another great exercise because that takes a lot of power to attach them properly. Finally when tourists return with puppies they are ready to go for a ride with the dogs. Six people can get to the jeep that is pulled by the dogs with Vern and the rest goes to the van with me and I’ll drive them to the spot, where they will switch places with those, who were in the jeep.
When we all return to the farm we give dogs plenty of water and unharness them. This is much easier because they are exhausted and not that excited anymore. Again there is a big difference between the experienced dogs and the younger ones. The experienced dogs go after unharnessing pretty much the straight way to their dog house and waits there for me to lock them on their chain. When I made the mistake and let some inexperienced dog (Chestnut, the biggest one in here) go to his dog house alone I had to run for him to the forest. Twice. But he is incredibly sweet, playful and is always so happy when he sees me, that I have already forgiven him. At that time, tourists are so hyped about everything that Vern uses his moment and take them to the part where they can buy some
husky souvenirs, t-shirts and plenty of not that useful stuff. And that’s it, after that is just cleaning the jeep, indoors and good-bye. One turn of tourist takes about 4-5 hours and there is luckily usually only one per day. Only sometimes we do two rides per day and boy, that’s exhausting. It’s also more challenging for the dogs, because it’s really hot for them in summer, so we usually let them to have a day off after their ride. In this case they have to run multiple days in a row. So after all, puppies & poop.