Learning how to be a sled dog

Togo’s continuing education revolves around his pack. This is the first pup I’ve had that his mom came with him. I’ve learned a lot about how mom has tough love. She didn’t hesitate to roll or hold him down on his back when he got out of control, playing and biting.

And when it’s over and the lesson has been learned, they curl up together and nap. The pack mimics family life in a dog version. It’s not unlike our own human families. Despite disagreements, when it comes down to it the bond of mother/son/ daughter etc. is still stronger.

I don’t have to teach Togo how to pull. That comes as naturally to him as living in the snow and cold. I need to teach him directions and commands. Mushing is a team effort, and a team is greater than the sum of its parts.

I’ve been letting Togo run free on our sled runs. He’s not pulling, just having fun running and creating havoc for the leader who is pulling. Pulling a sled is much harder than running in front of an ATV with the motor assist. I don’t want to overtax his young body. It all comes down to judging what is enough, and what he can do without injuring his body or mind. No two dogs are the same. In Togo’s case, he is exceptionally large and smart. He is progressing faster because he is capable of doing it safely.

Togo on free run with the sled dogs

The young pup (Togo), runs free with the team. He’s learning all about how fun this is. This is a new concept for me in training a pup. It seems to be working for him. He’s having fun and causing chaos for the team. So, it’s training for both the team and the pup. I guess we’ll see how it all turns out in the end.

The Great White North

My first winter in this land of ice and snow. I discovered that even the simplest things become difficult when the temperature is in the single digits. You don’t have any dexterity with gloves or mittens. So you pull them off to do whatever, and your hands are frozen by the time you get done. Also, anything will break if it gets cold enough. Bolts, hoses, chains, etc. You name it, and it becomes stiff and/or breaks easier than when it’s warm.

Every time it snows, I have to dig out the dog yard. Next winter, the yard will be located on high ground, and a building will be attached for the dogs to live in. A roof is one way to keep snow out of the living areas. Because it’s a fairly long way to town, you need backups of all essential equipment.

I must say that the dogs certainly love this weather, land, and adventures. That makes it all worth while.

What started it all

I found this podcast as an avid fan of Leonhard Seppala and his dogs. The story of the 1925 Serum run. It’s narrated, and you don’t even have to read it! Want to hear why Leonhard Seppala and his dogs are legends? Then kick back and listen to their story. No reading is required..not even a credit card, as it is free. Episode 7 explains why Togo was the most amazing dog ever. And probably will be for all time. Click on the photo.

Togo of Seppalta – II

Approximately 4 years ago, I was allowed to purchase frozen semen from a dog that lived almost 30 years ago. His name was Race of Seppalta, the 3rd best racing sled dog that dog Doug Willett raised out of 450 Seppalas over his 30-year career.

It took 4 plus years to bring the semen from California, arrange the storage and wait for the stars to align the logistics of human and dog lives. The Seppala female is named Bonkers, and through the magic of artificial insemination, a litter of 3 pups were whelped. Togo and 2 sisters, now named Duska and Mokka. They bring a much-needed infusion of DNA into the declining numbers of Seppala Siberian Sleddogs.

I retained Togo, and his two sisters are with my friend in Caribou, ME. Togo has been amazing so far. Not only is he the smartest pup I’ve ever had…he is going to be huge. At a little over 4 months old, he weighs 47 Lbs. and is almost as tall as his mom.

I gave him a great name because I fully expect him to do great things, just like his father did 30 years ago. Time will tell, but so far, he has exceeded all expectations. I expect his sisters will be just as awesome!

Sled Run

Never had enough snow in Virginia for this except once in 11 years. I’m learning, and I don’t crash anymore after a half dozen runs (Knock on Wood!) The pup running is my new boy Togo – II. I have a whole story about how he came about, but more of that later.

At 3 months old, he’s running with the team and not hooked to the sled. He’s a natural-born sled dog, and that’s because of his lineage straight back to the original Togo of Leonard Seppala (1925 Serum Run).

It’s a bit different than Virginia

I arrived in June, and it was warm, sunny, and green. Very beautiful, and I had no idea that winter would be so different. I had it in my head that there would be lots of snow and cold, but living it brings a needed change to your daily chores, etc.

We are not entirely off the grid. We have internet, power, etc. But being several miles from a town presents its own problems. It’s a long ride for groceries and services like Doctors and items you might have close by in your town. Tractor Supply is the Home Depot of our world. Unless you want to drive an hour for a Lowes.

We had a spell of -25 F with wind gusts to 50 Mph. You get acclimated to the cold in time, but not that cold! Right now, if it’s 0 or above, it seems like a heat wave. You also learn to dress warmly. Snow pants and, recently, electric socks and mittens are well worth the price.

Snow gets deep up here.

I spend most of a day moving snow each time it dumps. We’ve had 24″, 10″, 12″, and lots of 5 or less dusting. I’ve learned much this winter and will move the dog yard and many other things. The snow piles up and doesn’t melt, so you have to put it someplace. I so hate shoveling out the dog yard!

You also need lots of equipment up here. Tractors, ATVs, snowmobiles, emergency generators, wood, and propane. The list goes on and on. The alternative is you will suffer if you are not prepared.

That’s life in the frozen north. I can’t wait for the short summer to prepare for next winter.

Making a comeback

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here. The last couple of years have been trying to say the least. From June 2021 to 2022, I fought a battle with stage 3 colon cancer. I’m happy to say that it is hopefully over for good.

I’ve also retired and moved to the great state of Maine. Just a stone’s throw from Canada, and it’s cold and full of snow. Needless to say, the huskies love it! I have lots of room for running snow dogs and increasing my pack of dogs.

I’ll try to start filling you in on this new stage of my life. Retired, living in the Great White North, and totally absorbed into mushing and living with the Dogs of Winter. Stay tuned if you are so inclined.

Ivan is now 2.5 years. He’s grown up to be one hell of a good sled dog and family member. He can lead or follow. He never stops pulling.

My Poetry

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Fall training is Starting

Eventually it gets cool enough to start running again. Now at 14 months old, Ivan can run as much as I want him to. Starting out slow is always a good idea.

October 1st, 2021
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