Archive for the ‘Gemma’ Categoryby Northernmost on December 10, 2012 in Daily Life, DAILY LIFE, Gemma, Lyra, Titan with No Comments
Just like last year, winter arrived with a bang during the first week of December. We received one meter snow on December 2nd and it has been snowing every day since. When we moved south from Lapland in 2010, I worried there wouldn’t be enough snow here on the coast. I saw before me a nightmare of green and damp winters and muddy feet on the kitchen floor all year round. As we are now experiencing our third winter in Nedre Bäck it is clear that my worries were unfounded. In fact, we almost have more snow now than we did in Lapland. Here on the coast the autumn lasts well into November and then suddenly winter arrives almost overnight with a big dump of snow. Whereas in Lapland, winter starts in early October and snow builds up gradually during a longer period of time. Can’t say what I like better, but I’m glad that we found the right place for our new home, as winter and snow really get those Malamute tails wagging!
A couple of hours after we have removed all the snow from the porch it looks like this again!
One downside of living in an old house is that the windows can get rather draughty in winter. On the positive side – the windows are often covered with beautiful frostwork 😉
Our lovely Sledog kids, Titan & Lyra, enjoying a snow dance together. Winter weather definitely gets our Mals in play mode!
A couple of days ago our rowanberry trees were still laden with red berries but after a visit from a flock of Bohemian Waxwings they are now all gone. Wish I had caught these pretty birds with my camera. I love this shot by Finnish photographer Juha Soininen.
Gem takes a break in her favourite corner of the couch. She is a strong candidate for the position as our *next permanent house dog*. After our girl Lily passed away in 2009 we decided not to have a house dog, but Gem enjoys indoor life so much, and has such nice house manners, that maybe we’ll make an exception. After all, it’s quite nice to snuggle up with a warm dog on a cold winter night.
Time flies during this beautiful part of winter – only two weeks till Christmas!!
When things are busy at work and the days are quickly getting shorter it’s great to have an agility course at home where we can activate our dogs without having to travel anywhere. In less than five minutes the obstacles are assembled and we’re ready to go. Today was a perfect day for agility as the grass was dry and the sun came out from behind the clouds. As soon as we bring out the obstacles the dogs start howling “Can I go first?!!”, “No, me, me!!”, as everyone wants to have a go at this fun game. Leia and Thunder were most eager so we let them and Titan and Gem do agility today and then ended the evening with a walk along the coast with Tuisku and the girls. Feels good to know that we’ve involved all dogs in fun activities, despite being quite tired after work. Managing a multidog household is not an easy game, but we love it 🙂
Having happy dogs is our main goal, always.
Our Gem inside the tunnel.
Titan is polishing his jumping skills.
Our sweet girl Gemma turned 5 years old today and celebrated her birthday by going fishing with Fredrik. Gem is not a keen swimmer but she loves to go out with the boat and experience the water without getting her paws wet, and she also likes to keep a close eye on the catch. There’s quite a lot of fish in the small lake that we live by and it’s especially a good place for catching pike. The lake is connected to the sea by a brook and next summer we’re planning to go on a kayak excursion, starting from home and following the brook down to the Bothnian Bay. There’s a beautiful archipelago just off the coast that we are keen to explore. Maybe we can train Gem to sit in the kayak with us?
At the end of the summer we have plenty of fish in the freezer. We have never fed frozen fish to our Mals but have heard from fellow mushers that frozen pike is a great snack for sled dogs and also a great way of keeping their teeth clean. When googling “frozen fish to dogs” we found both pros and cons of feeding frozen (freshwater) fish to dogs and I think we need to do some more research before trying this ourselves. Meanwhile the pike stay in the freezer. 🙂
One thing that all our dogs that go back to Mountain Home have in common is the Beaver Gene. They love to play with sticks and they love to share their sticks with their friends. I think this type of behaviour strengthens the bond between pack members and also improves their ability to work together as a team. Carrying a stick together is a bit like being connected by the neckline – it works best if you syncronize your steps.
Gem with her half-sister Jeti – we miss you, beautiful girl <3
Autumn is here and it’s time to fill the dog houses with fresh hay. During summer we only have a small amount of hay in their houses, just to provide a soft bedding for them to rest on, while during autumn and winter we fill the houses to half the total volume to keep them warm and comfy in any weather. Our Malamutes love the smell of fresh bedding and can’t wait to snuggle up inside.
Fredrik is cleaning the dog houses while Titan is helping out.
Our Mals get excited about fresh hay – in almost the same way that they get excited about food.
Even Tuisku, who normally sleeps on the roof of his dog house, was quick to jump inside.
During rainy periods we change the bedding more frequently while during winter it’s often enough to change it once a month. The hay comes from our own field so we have a steady supply and enough to last us all winter. Most people recommend using straw rather than hay as bedding for dog houses but we have tried both and have found that hay actually works better for our climate.
The dog houses are designed so that they are just large enough for our Mals to stand up, turn around and lie down in comfortably. They are well insulated and built on low platforms to keep them off the frozen ground. We now have five outdoor dog houses and two dog houses inside the barn for Leia and Thunder. We are also in the process of completing two double dog houses in our newest kennels. The plan was to paint all houses in a pretty red colour before winter but I’m not sure there will be time for that, as it’s already rather chilly in the evenings. Maybe we’ll have an early winter this year?
We ended the working week by taking Gem and Thunder for a walk along the coast near Bjuröklubb. All that fresh sea air means we’re going to sleep well tonight. Have a happy weekend everyone!
Sunday is Funday for our Mals as if the weather allows we practise agility together in the garden. All our Mals LOVE agility and can hardly wait for their turn. Some are natural jumpers while others do better at the more “brainy” obstacles. We have lots of fun training at home and also take classes whenever they are available. At the moment we are nowhere near ready to compete with our dogs but it’s a great way of bonding and having fun together, while keeping bodies and brains in good shape!
Lyra tries out the tyre jump.
Thunder practises the weave poles.
Tuisku completes the chute.
AGILITY IS FUN!!!
Lucky boy Tuisku has been out two nights in a row; yesterday with Thunder and Leia and tonight with Titan and Gem. This evening we decided to try a new trail that we have passed by a couple of times when driving to the airport. It turned out to be a nice track for carting as it provided a good mix of running surfaces – everything from deep, soft sand to hardpacked gravel. The sand is good for building muscles and the harder surfaces are good for toughening up the pads.
Tuisku, Titan and Gem practising sit/down-stay during a break.
Our Mals spend a lot of time on soft grass at home so we’re careful not to run them on hard surfaces like asphalt too much. If a dog has sore pads we let him/her rest from training while adding fish oil to the food, as this product works wonders for both skin, coat and pads. In our experience, feet problems are less likely to return when treated from the inside with a quality Omega-3 supplement, than when treated only from the outside with various ointments. Luckily none of our dogs have real “problem feet” but we always examine their pads after every run, just to be safe. A good advice about feet is that if you check your dog’s feet often, you’ll know what they look like healthy and it will be easier to recognize problems when they occur. If a dog has cracked pads we clean and dry the feet and apply olive oil on a daily basis. If the dog is keen to lick it off we put an elizabethan collar on for 1-2 hours per day, before applying the oil, and keep the dog indoors during this time. We never use booties on the trail as a preventative measure, as they often cause more problems than they solve.
We have typical April weather here in Lapland – blue skies and sunshine one day, and heavy snowfall the next. On clear days we make trips to the mountains and when it’s snowing we work the dogs on the forest trails starting from home. Yesterday Fredrik took the 5-dog team out for a run while I enjoyed a lazy day in the cabin. After more than two weeks of daily working activities my legs are starting to feel a little heavy and it was nice to take a break from the trail, reading a book in front of the fire instead. We’re at the end of our winter and we have had a really good sledding season this year so I won’t miss Lapland too much when we head home this week. I’m ready to stow away sleds and skis and begin preparing for spring and summer! 🙂
Titan and Gem in wheel, Lyra and Hilary in the middle, and Tuisku in front. Tuisku has been working in single lead several times this season and has done really well!
Titan and Gem resting during a break on the trail.
We went for another trip in the blue world of the mountains this evening. The top layer of the trail was a bit soft from fresh snow and perfect for skijoring with skating skis. We had planned to ski down to Sioskuru but had to change our route as the trail was closed due to avalanche risk in the area. Instead we climbed to the top of Ounastunturi to admire the views of Enontekiö. On our way down we bumped into a group on mountain bikes who were going on a fell expedition on two wheels! Biking in the snow looks odd to me, but they seemed to have a good time. Hopefully the weather will stay cold during the next few days or else they’ll find themselves stuck in deep snow 😉
Yesterday I took the trio for a ride in the beautiful low fell area surrounding the village of Näkkälä. The temperature was around -2C when we left home but due to the wind chill factor it dropped down to -20 C about halfway into the trail. Must have been the first time ever that I wasn’t geared up for the weather. Dressed for spring, I was like a frozen icicle when we returned home in the evening.
My small team of Malamutes – Tuisku, Gem and Titan.
At least I didn’t have to worry about cold feet as I was wearing these fantastic boots. If you’re looking for something warm for next winter I can highly recommend the Swedish Jörnkängan. These boots are handmade and quite pricey but warmer than any boot I’ve tried so far.
Three happy tails 🙂
Yesterday we harnessed up Tuisku, Gem and Titan after dinner and went for a ride in the mountains. This time of the year the sun doesn’t set until 9.30 in the evening and with every day we have about thirty minutes of more daylight. Around midsummer the sun doesn’t set at all for several weeks and if the snow remains on higher altitudes we can go skijoring under the midnight sun. I’m surprised sometimes that so few people have discovered Lapland – we often have the trail and the views all to ourselves. Last night we spent two hours climbing before reaching the plateau where we enjoyed about an hour of leisurely skijoring before it was time to start the long descent home. When skijoring without a sled or pulk, going downhill is almost as tough as going uphill as you have to constantly use your legs and feet as brakes to slow down. Our Mals are always extra eager when we set out on a mountain trip. I guess they can sense the adventure the same way we do and the wind that sweeps through the valleys carries all sorts of interesting information for scent-oriented Malamutes. We didn’t see any reindeer or wild animals last night, but in Lapland they are never far away.