The Song of Life

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Left to right: Sammie, Cooper, and Nikki

A man or woman has to have something that they believe in, or life pretty much sucks. I happen to love my dogs and my music. You may not have thought of it, but they have similarities. My Huskies are born and grow each day. A song is not much different, it has a beginning, middle, and end.

A song starts out as an idea, then evolves into the final product.

Huskies grow, learn, become more than what they started out to be. The finished product if you will… but then it’s never finished, neither is a song you play. It’s never exactly the same each time you play it.

Live music is just that…live. It lives and it breathes, and shifts depending on those who are playing it. It’s not perfect, but then it shouldn’t be. Life isn’t perfect either, and so why should a song?

Music can reflect life, it can bring you up or down. It can change your world or mood, it makes a difference in many people’s lives.

My dogs are exactly the same as a song. Our lives together are a performance that I’m lucky enough to be part of. Each day we play it, it’s never the same. It shifts as we do, depending on what happened.

We have a beginning, middle, and end. I’m just lucky enough to take the time to be part of it. Sure, our lives together are not perfect, but sometimes… just like when you are playing a song you hit that groove.

Sometimes everything is in sync, you feel it more than anything. You don’t think about what you are playing…it just happens and it’s perfect. It’s perfect in your soul, and that is what really matters. I have that same feeling with my dogs at times.

Today was one of those days. Nikki has graduated to the point she is free to run with the rest of the pack. I’ve held her back, protected her until she was big enough to not get hurt. She can hold her own now, and is becoming a force in my pack.

I came home from a normal day of fighting “Mad Max” drivers on my commute to D.C. yeah you know who you are! I stopped at Food Lion for some butter, but I had to buy my Huskies new squeaker toys. That’s what dad’s do. Each of my Husky kids got a brand new squeaky toy they love.

Nikki runs over jumps in my lap. Nuzzling my neck and making me forget what a crappy day it was. Cooper and Sam take turns welcoming me home and I love it! I go out and throw the ball for them.

That’s my pack, my kids if you will. To me it doesn’t get much better than this.

That’s music to my ears…the song of my life with some huskies.

TJ

Urban Traffic & Some Great Huskies.

I’m very proud of how far these two have come! They listen to me and we live to run another day.

Separation Anxiety

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This is something many husky owners talk about. I think at least once a day I see a picture of some part of a person’s house destroyed, a crate destroyed, or tales of possible eviction due to howling.

There are a lot of ideas and articles on how to fix this. As of yet I haven’t seen one on how to prevent it in the first place. Logic would say you have to know what causes it in order to fix it.

Keep in mind I don’t pretend I have all the answers, but I can give you a look into my own life with huskies. I might have stumbled on to the answer, or at least one that explains my dogs. Then you can compare it to your situation and see if it might help.

I’ve never had this problem before that some experience. But recently that started to change, and I had to look back and see why. This is long but you need to see the whole story in order to understand my reasoning.

My wife and her mom took a trip a few weeks back and that left me in charge of the dogs and cats for 10 days. Typically, my wife looks after the huskies during the day while she works on the computer from home. I drive into D.C. to put in my time and then look after the dogs when I get home.

Clue number 1: Until this trip the huskies never had 24-hour connection with either one of us. Their typical day is split between us. Mom during the day and me at night.

The huskies sleep in the basement with me in the summer when it’s too hot outside. I originally started to stay with them to make sure they didn’t eat the house. They never did, and I sort of got used to spending that time with them.

During the week when my alarm goes off I get up and tell them, “Time for work.” Then I run them out the back door and take my shower etc. I wanted my first cup of coffee in silence but that wasn’t to be unless I gave soup bones to them.

This bribe allowed me to wake up in peace, and let my wife sleep who has later hours than me. Forgetting the bone means a very loud squawk outside from Nikki to remind me. Loud enough to wake the dead I might add.

In order to keep my morning ritual nice and peaceful I ran downstairs cussing… but pay the bribe to the queen. This allows me time to finish my coffee and head off to work. Second shift (my wife) will have to deal with it after I’m gone.

On the weekends, I don’t tell them “Work” and we all sleep in. For a long time, this system seemed to work very well.

Now we come to the 10 days of me with them all the time.

I began to notice changes by day 3. Previously the dogs slept on the floor or in their beds. Day 3 Nikki decides to jump on the bed with me and I let her. She doesn’t stay long because she gets too warm. So, we sleep in and I mess with them all day and night. We walk, and we do bike runs and pretty much we are all together all the time.

Clue number 2:

The behavior of my huskies keeps changing. This new pack dynamic allows them to attach themselves emotionally to me even more than ever. In a few days Cooper (Mr. Aloof) even spends some bed time with me.

Nikki is beginning to squawk even if I just go to the garage for a few minutes. She is attaching herself to me so much that I have to be in eyesight to keep her happy. I don’t mind the attention but I didn’t stop to think about what would happen when we returned to the old schedule.

Mistake 1: Paying tribute to keep Nikki quiet is doing just the opposite of what I want. I’m teaching her that squawking is going to get her a treat. I’m actually teaching her to squawk more not less. I’m reminded of being a new parent. Every time my daughter would cry we would run to the crib and see what was wrong. Most of the time nothing was wrong and in fact we were being trained by a newborn.

Eventually we were so tired that we didn’t get up and actually could tell the type of crying. The needy cry went unanswered and low and behold it gradually stopped. The first night we all slept through a whole night was like winning the lottery!

Dogs are creatures of habit just like us. They learn a routine, and they have atomic clocks inside their heads to wake them. To this day there is a 2-3 AM potty break that I’m woken up for.

On the other end of the spectrum when the sun goes down its time for sleep. The dogs are used to me going to bed early because I get up so early. When the sun goes down they are ready for bed just like me.

So here we are after this 10 days and we switch back to the old schedule. Nikki doesn’t like the fact that she can’t spend all day with me doing fun things. Cooper even though not as affected shows similar signs of missing all our time together.

Conclusion: By spending too much time with them they have become needy. They don’t like the fact that I’m not here all the time. They show it in non-destructive ways but annoying just the same. Squawking and Roo-Rooing at 4:30 AM does not make good neighbors.

Solution: Gradually I’ve ignored the squawking. I don’t come running every time there is a disturbance in the force. Let serenity be broken… so that they learn I’m not as well-trained as they thought.

If the age-old rule, “All things in moderation.”  It also holds true for these dogs. You cannot fawn over them 24 hours a day during puppy hood, and then suddenly disappear without some kind of repercussion.

I think Cooper is more laid back because when he was a puppy I had him sleep alone on our deck at night. He may not have liked it so much but it certainly did not hurt him. He had time to learn to be alone, and time to be a dog…not my little baby boy.

Nikki as a puppy slept on the bed with us. To this day she is more attached and needy. Is this a golden rule? No, because it could be she is a female, and Cooper a male. It could even be their unique personalities. There is not enough data to make a call, but this is how it is with my dogs.

Working sled dogs sleep in a kennel. A post and chain and dog house is their home. They grew up that way and they don’t mind. It also makes them want to get out and run when they are unhooked. I’m not here to debate whether you think that is right or wrong. It’s a fact, they are working dogs and that’s what they do.

They are not house pets and they don’t know any difference. To them its normal and they are fine with it. They are dogs not people, and they don’t look at the world like we do. They don’t think in terms of fair or not. If their needs are met (Food, shelter, exercise, love) they are happy.

My Conclusion: We create separation anxiety, or we inherit it from a rescue dog. To fix it means to slowly adjust the dog back to a happy balance between our world and theirs. The dog has to learn to be alone at times, and it has to accept that it will not be fawned over constantly. Don’t fall into the trap of bribing them like I did.

They have to have time to be a dog, and be with other dogs. How you do this depends on your dog and how you live. I gave you the clues and you have to find the answer that works in your own pack. There is no easy quick fix way to do it. They need to be weaned off of the constant attention they have. For that is what caused the problem in the first place.

For me, I’ve let Nikki squawk more and soon she gives up. We still have quality time, we run the bike, and I groom them and they sleep with me. But, I’ve cut back on responding to every whim they have. It seems to be working. I keep them tired with running and that helps as well.

Sometimes you have to let the baby cry if nothing else seems wrong.

Exercise, distractions with toys, even being tied outside can help. An active mind needs to be stimulated in some way to keep from going insane. The husky has an active mind, find a way to keep it busy while you are gone.

TJ

I have a husky puppy…now what?

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My dog Mr. Cooper at 9 weeks old.

To live and learn, that is the message today. Remember when you were a teen? The whole world was out there and you wanted to figure it out. You might have made some bad choices, or good ones. You needed a role model if you will to help you figure out what is right and what is wrong.

The same goes for a husky except you are the role model.

That is called learning about life. It is also what a puppy does in those first few months of his or her life. Good and bad are stamped upon their little brains. They grow so fast, not only physically but mentally that first year.

Begin training as soon as you can. At 8 Weeks old a husky can do more than what you might think. They are not frail by any means.

Remember that they are learning and growing approximately 7 years in our time during their first year. You have an open book to mold them into your life. Don’t waste it because they seem sweet. That will change when the equivalent teen years arrive.

What you get in the end will be a product of the work you put in that first year. You will work hard but the rewards will be equal to what you give.

Cooper and I walked and estimated 1000 miles together his first year. And to this day he is the best dog I have as far as following commands and taking his job seriously. On a walk or on a bike he is all business and that is because I worked with him.

He is well-rounded and socialized, and I think it is because I spent so much time and did the work. You have to work hard to get the results you want. The husky is not a robot, they require your time and knowledge.

When you take on the responsibility of husky ownership, it comes with a long list of things you need to do, and more importantly “LEARN.”

How can you teach if you don’t know your subject?

First you have to learn the breed, for without that you are lost. Study the history, study how they came to be and why they do certain common husky things. If you don’t know that, you can’t help but be behind and left guessing.

Husky groups are great for asking questions. But keep in mind not all huskies are the same. They are a product of the unique environment they live in. Some live in apartments, some on farms, some in Alaska.

Some only are only working dogs, some are pets, some are both. Do not judge someone when you have not walked in their shoes or live in their home!

Offer your advice and let them decide what is best for them.
And for those of you seeking advice, use your knowledge of your own dog to decide what is best.

It’s your dog and your family. You are his/her leader. It’s up to you to do the best you can… no matter what anyone else tells you.

TJ

What’s in a Name?

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What’s in a name?

In this case there is a lot of history in the Poland Spring Kennels name. Jump on over to our web site and read to your hearts content. We look forward to this next chapter in the lives of these amazing animals.http://www.polandspringseppalas.com/3.html

 

Huskies are not for everyone.

 

Learn about the breed before you take on one of these dogs.  Don’t just buy one because they are beautiful. Instead of wondering if a husky is good enough for you, you should be asking yourself if you are good enough for a husky. They are counting on it.

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“I hope I have a good life.
The world is a scary place right now.
I don’t get to pick my family; they get to pick me.
I don’t know where I am going, or what my new home will be like.

I hope my new family will understand me.
I can be the best dog in the world… if they teach me with kindness, and remember that I will always be a Husky.
I have so much to learn, and such a short time to do it.

I hope they will love me even when I make mistakes.
I hope I won’t be forgotten and tossed away.
No matter who picks me, I will give them all my love.
My love is forever; I hope my new family feels the same way?

I hope I have a good life.”

The Siberian Husky

150 Miles in the books

Cooper and Nikki started pulling this 240 lbs of me and the TerraTrike in March. It’s been a really hot summer. Too hot for much running but this morning we made it to a total of 150 miles. The miles will pile on as it gets colder.

TJ

Masters of the Trail

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For thousands of years, we lived up north,
in the lands of Ice and snow.
Living in the freezing cold,
where other’s fear to go.

We share a common bond with man,
that bond will never die.
It was forged upon this frozen land,
when we struggled to survive.

I’ll lead you through the darkest night,
and across the harshest lands.
We know you’ll keep us safe at night,
and feed us when you can.

Our hearts are true and given to,
those that understand.
The perfect bond between,
the husky and the Man.

Our bones are scattered along the trail,
as we blazed a path for you.
We lived, we died, we gave our all,
for that’s what Huskies do.

The storm is fierce, in dark of night,
the winds a blowing gale.
We will lead you home again,
the Masters of the trail.

Todd M. Johnson 2016

 

Resource Guarding

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I spend a lot of time trying to understand why my huskies do just about everything. Some things are easy and then the answer to some behaviors is baffling. Many times it takes several days to put the answer together by eliminating what you do know.

Nikki and Sammie had this fight over a treat, but before that it was brewing anyway. I think part of it is a dominance debate, and part of it is a learned behavior. The dominance behavior is easy to understand as Huskies have a hierarchical pack structure.

Everyone has their place. Someone leads, and the rest follow and that makes sense to me. It’s the way it has been with them for thousands of years. In our case I think it is more than that.

The problem is Nikki and Sammie are both guilty of resource guarding. Now this does not affect us humans as they have never acted aggressive to us over food, toys, or treats. I can reach down and pick up Nikki’s favorite guarded toy and she shows no sign of aggression at all. Same with Sammie so that is a good thing or we would really have problems.

So, I’m sitting around wondering about this one night and it occurs to me that Nikki is small for a husky. I started to wonder if maybe she had to battle for food as a puppy, and maybe was kicked out-of-the-way by bigger siblings during nursing.

I’ve known real children that hoard food because they rarely had food to eat and it left a life long-lasting impression on them. The idea had real possibilities until I remembered seeing all of her siblings at the same time. They were all more or less the same size so I don’t think she was a runt grubbing for a teat.

The answer was right in front of me the whole time. Sammie taught that behavior to Nikki as she grew up. You see Sammie has always kept treats and dared any other dog to take it from her. She would not eat them just keep them in some sort of game. Not a problem until Nikki grew up.

Now where Sammie learned this habit from I have no idea. I got her as a puppy as well as Nikki. It never seemed to have been a problem until Nikki came into her own.

Nikki is the first dog that was willing to fight for it. I believe the combination of learned resource guarding and the urge to move as high in the pack combined… brought it to a head.

Here you have a multiple dog thing to watch out for. A bad habit from one of your other dogs can be learned by your new puppy. It never even occurred to me to watch out for this. Something a puppy learns in that first year is much harder to fix. It becomes part of them, and may never go away.

I have yet to figure out the solution. The obvious choice is to keep them separated during treat and food times. If they don’t eat it…pick it up and don’t give it back. This should teach them they only have one chance to eat it. Better not save it or you miss out.

That is going to be my course of action and see if I can break Sammie of this bad habit as well. If you have any experience with this problem, please speak up. You never stop learning with huskies, and as soon as you think you have it all figured out….wham!

I try to share with you things I’ve learned or am still learning. It should go into the husky file in your head. It might come in handy someday.

Understanding these dogs is a combination of many things, that when mixed together give you an overall picture of what the breed really is. There are variances in each dog but an overall knowledge base can help you in your journey.

TJ

Spirit of the Husky

I wrote this for anyone who has ever lost a husky.

Spirit of the Husky                                                                        

When she closed her eyes forever,
another journey had begun.
Her spirit soared across the frozen sky,
to the place where huskies run.

Rainbow Bridge
The Rainbow Bridge

With wings of white upon her back,
like a comet passing by.
Racing towards that holy place,
beyond the midnight sky.

Soon her memories began to fade,
of her life left far behind.
The call of the northern lights,
was etched upon her mind.

At last she crossed the rainbow bridge,
to the place all huskies go.
A land filled with big tall pines,
and fresh unbroken snow.

 

A place where huskies run and play,
until it’s time to leave.
When one arrives another has to go,
and this you should believe.

Her spirit will cross that bridge once more,
to fly those frozen skies.
Arriving as a new-born pup,
with bright blue husky eyes.

Fear not when you lose a friend,
that one that meant so much.
A husky’s work is never done,
and your soul forever touched.

Again, and again those souls return,
to a place upon this earth.
To share their special gift of love,
for those who earn their worth.

They run and dig, and chase the cat,
but in the snow they fly!
It’s the spirit of your husky,
and that will never die.

Todd M. Johnson © March 7, 2017
You are free to use this for non-commercial purposes.


Feeding Your Husky

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Getting some help building a new sled.

Today’s topic is feeding your husky. I’m not talking about food that they require to live. I’m talking about something just as important…time and love.

Because I’m a musician I spend a lot of time in my “Man Cave.” Which is my garage or what I call the “Jamatorium.” I write, or practice, or just hang out because it feels home to me being surrounded by implements of destruction. Amps, drums, guitars, loud PA system to play back tunes.

Music has always been a way for me to unwind. I can beat some drums to Led Zeppelin and when I’m done I feel so much better. All those idiots hell-bent on getting to work even if they kill someone else or them on the commute seem to fade away. I’m still alive in spite of their attempts to kill me on the road.

I spend an hour each way to get to and from work. Two extra hours in my day to pay the bills because…well I chose it. Nobody’s perfect but it works out, that is the price I pay to have this job which pays for my dogs wellbeing besides our own needs.

Many of you work as well, in fact most of us do, but we took on these complicated partners called Siberian Huskies.

Huskies have many demands that need to be met. But have you ever stopped to see the life you give them through their eyes? We demand a lot out of them so that they can fit into our schedules and life style.

They do not complain unless it is unbearable for them. They don’t bitch, they might eat your couch because that is the only way they can tell us they are unhappy. Huskies in my opinion howl when they are upset. Sure they might howl at a siren, but the howl of loneliness is a very distinct one.

Because of my garage habits I’ve had much time to observe my dogs. I didn’t just look at them from time to time…I looked at them like a scientist would. I observed and recorded in my head how they react and treat each other.

I think I have a pretty good handle on how they act. I call this “Quality Time.” It’s quality because I learn about them, and its quality for them because they want to be with me. I think they want to learn about me as much as I do about them. It may be in their own way, but still I see it in their eyes when they look at me putting together some IKEA furniture or some other project like putting a sled together.

They get in the way and sniff everything. They lay on the parts, and grin because they are happy to be sharing time with me. They are enjoying our time together even if it makes no sense to them.

Its quality time for both of us. We learn and we grow closer because of that. I don’t get home from work and give them a pat on the head and then spend the next 4 hours watching re-runs of Judge Judy. I spend time with them.

They might have spent 8 hours in a crate while you were at work. You need to be a good partner and reward that with the thing they want most…your attention to them and their needs for exercise etc.

Huskies demand a lot, but they also give more than we do. They live in hot climates, they are stuffed in crates, they are neglected, but still they remain true. They cannot pick their boss any more than we can in our own jobs.

Spend all the quality time you can with them. It will only make you closer and the bond stronger. Your husky will be gone before you know it. Don’t look back and wish you would have spent more time with them while they were here.

Do it now, and every day for the sands of time run faster than you think!

No regrets, that is what I want to have when mine pass over the Rainbow Bridge. Feed them the love they need, they give their all for you in so many ways we don’t even think about.

Look at the world you give them through their eyes. Are you good enough for a husky? I hope in the end that I held up my end of this partnership.

They give me their entire lives… that’s worth some of my precious time.

TJ

Seppala Siberian Sleddogs

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Since most of you don’t really talk about daily life with your huskies I’m left to fill you in on mine. It might be interesting or boring depending on the day.

I’ve talked about the many levels of husky ownership before. We all have our own family units and different lifestyles. The thing we have in common is the love for our huskies. Some, if not all of you are happy at your level and that is so wonderful!

Then there are some who just can’t get enough like me. Every time I see a puppy picture I want to buy that dog! I’ve given this sickness a name, “Husky Acquisition Syndrome or (HAS) for short. It’s a terrible thing to have!

I often dream of a thousand acres of pine forest and trails I own. Huskies running free and all of us running sleds and bikes and just plain exploring and enjoying life. I would truly love that more than winning the lottery…but if I did you know what I’d be spending it on.

I’m involved in lots of husky things. My fascination with Leonhard Seppala and his dogs drives me to a higher levels than most of you. What he did either with luck or divine wisdom was breed the dogs that now are all over this world. The Siberian Husky in all his varied colors and personalities have spread out just about everywhere.

The original direct line of Seppala Siberian Sled Dogs (SSSD) has been kept going for over 100 years by a few people who wanted to preserve this original working line. They did their best, and some spent their entire lives trying. That’s how strongly they felt about these dogs. That is another level that most don’t achieve.

With declining numbers, the dogs have been inbred a great deal to keep the bloodline alive. Eventually this runs out. Health issues show up and attrition reduces the numbers of breeding pairs. Many have given up and say the line is dead or about dead.

This is true and why I’ve become involved in a new project with Jonathan Nathaniel Hayes and his kennel. Poland Spring Kennel in Fort Kent, Maine.

If you are a history buff of Leonhard Seppala you will immediately recognize the name “Poland Spring.” This is the first place in the lower 48 Leonhard Seppala brought his new breed of dogs.

“Leonhard Seppala brought his dog sled team of Siberian Husky’s to Maine in 1927 during a tour of the United States.
He and his dog team were part of a famous serum run in Alaska known as the Great Race of Mercy that used dog sled teams to deliver an emergency supply of diphtheria serum to Nome in 1925.
His team raced Arthur Walden’s Chinook team of New Hampshire at Poland Spring in 1927.
Seppala’s dogs won the race. Seppala and Elizabeth Ricker, wife of the Poland Spring Hotel manager and a “musher” herself, started a kennel breeding these Seppala Siberian sled dogs at Poland Spring.” https://www.mainememory.net/artifact/20920

The Seppala Husky traits are a dog that is more loving and bonded to the owner than a normal husky. A dog that has an unquenchable desire to pull and work. A friendly dog who gets along better with his/her teammates than a normal husky does. They do not look exactly the same as well. A practiced eye can pick out a Seppala if you know what to look for.

Seppalas don’t exactly look like the modern-day Siberian, and they have different traits as well. They are the performance dogs of the breed you and I enjoy now. If you could follow your dog’s pedigree back all the way…you would find him or her line ending at Togo and Fritz and many others of those original dogs Seppala bred. All of our Siberians share this.

So where am I going with all this?

Well I’m following my heart. I’m going to help do what I can to move the project to a happy conclusion. Not everyone wants a working dog that rips your arms out of their sockets. But some do, some still want to race even though they will never compete with the speed of Alaskan huskies (See Iditarod.) But that does not mean they are not without value. In mid distance races they are very competitive to this day.

I really don’t care so much about the racing part. But it is what they do, and how they are tested. It is what they are. They are Seppalas, the true decendants from the 1925 Serum run to save Nome. But race or no, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to help.

Some people are proud to have a classic car because of its history not its speed. I guess I’m one of those people, I’d rather have a yard full of Seppala dogs than one full of mutts only bred for speed no matter what they look or act like.

The goal is to bring them back to prominence.  It won’t be fast or easy but in time I think it will happen. It will happen because those who have been around these dogs find out how special they really are. Seppala Siberian Sled Dogs… a breed unto itself based on history and their unique traits as working dogs.

So if you are going to buy another husky at some point, why not consider a Seppala?

For the breed to survive it needs owners. They are not for everyone, but for some they are the only thing that will do.

The first step has been taken. And that is to add dogs to the kennel. From here we work towards a new future for the Seppalas.

I hope you will join us on this journey.

You can read more about the Poland Spring Kennel  here: http://www.polandspringseppalas.com/3.html

TJ

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