Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Aliy's Here!

Aliy Zirkle and her team of 14 sled dogs arrived yesterday amidst a confusion of last minute flight changes and rearrangements. It is great to have her back; she is a delightful houseguest and simply lots of fun to have around. The energy level is just amped up a notch when she is around.

The dogs arrived via one of the cargo shippers about 9:30 yesterday morning; Aliy arrived on Alaska Airlines at 3 pm. The dogs had been crated two to a box since 2 am, and could have waited for her arrival, but she and I both wanted to get them out as soon as possible. So Dutch and Randy, one of his foremen, met me at the cargo shipper’s at noon and we uncrated 14 dogs and loaded them in my truck. The sled was tied to the top rails over the dogs’ heads and just barely cleared the cargo area door. The dog crates went into Randy’s truck, and all were delivered safely to our house.

We had the visiting dog motel ready: a 60’ long snow trench parallel to the driveway, with small willows along one side and a 2’ tall plywood wall to break the wind. There was a nice cushy layer of straw spread down the floor of the trench for warmth, and a single strand of outdoor Christmas lights strung through the branches above the trench for light. A small shed sits at the near end of the trench which is perfect for storing dog food and gear.

Our warming trend has continued and the temperature is hovering above and below freezing. Yesterday we had a blizzard of heavy, wet snow. It was just starting as Dutch, Randy and I worked furiously to get Aliy’s drop line strung out and attached at each end of the trench, and all 14 dogs attached to the drops. They were very well behaved in the truck, and nobody did any pooping, but as soon as they got on the drop line, each and every one took a big dump. Ah, the joys of sled dogs! The shovel was ready, and clean-up was quick. Each dog got a panful of plain water (some drank, some didn’t), and then I had to get back to the hospital for the afternoon.

The blizzard was in full swing by that point. I was concerned that Aliy’s flight would be canceled, but she came in on time at 3 pm and Dutch was there to pick her up. Her dogs were overjoyed to see her when she got here.

The snow lightened up considerably by evening, and the temperature remained steady at +30F. There was a light wind, but it was fitful. Being outside in light gear was comfortable, and we spent a while out with the dogs, settling them in, meeting each one and trying to get all their names straight. About half are returnees from last year’s K300. Aliy is full of info on their lineages, health histories, performance skills and racing experience. She loves her dogs, and she just glows when she talks about them. And they are all gorgeous dogs. They run to the small size, I would guess about 40 pounds each; very muscular and trim. They all settled right down and were quiet all night long. After telling each one goodnight with pets and sweet words, Aliy threw her head back and howled at the sky, and all 14 lifted their noses to the sky and howled with her. It was a lovely song which they carried for a minute or two, and then let the sounds drift away to silence. Their song left us all with smiles.

Photos by The Tundra PA. The first two are from last year's visit when it was twenty to thirty below zero. The last photo is from yesterday, thirty above.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! It is soooo beautiful up there! It must be so awesome to run a race with sled dogs. I saw a movie once about that.

I will pretend I am really having winter by living vicariously through your wonderful pictures. Actually it is in the teens tonight and we had our first dusting of snow in northern NJ.

Thanks for stopping by my blog - Have a beautiful day! :)

Thursday, January 18, 2007 7:00:00 PM  

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