Sunday, November 25, 2012

Traveling Partners; Early Training Days


Three Sleds and an ATV 20 miles into the Alaskan Wilderness

As you can see from the photo's, there is not much snow yet here in Alaska. Last year at this time there was more than 36 inches. The trails are rough, icy and hard. Please keep your fingers crossed for snow !
From left to right, Kevin, Ben, Ray and me

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November Press Release

Gwenn Bogart Sets Goal to Race the Legendary Iditarod:
Qualifying Races Start with the Sheep Mountain 150 Sled Dog Race
Gwenn Bogart, of Wasilla, Alaska, is entered in the 2013 Sheep Mountain 150 Sled Dog Race, as she formally begins her quest to compete in the 2014 legendary Iditarod. The challenging race, which begins December 15, 2012, is considered the sled-dog race opener for the season and attracts Alaska’s top mushers to a remote area located between the Tahneta Pass and Matanuska Glacier. Bogart will also compete in a number of other sled dog races, including the 2013 Knik 200, the 2013 Copper Basin 300 and the 2013 Northern Lights 300, in order to qualify for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
A well-known and accomplished outdoorswoman, Bogart will spend two years training, competing, and qualifying to achieve her long-standing goal of participating in the adventure known as The Last Great Race on Earth. The Iditarod attracts the most famous names in dog mushing to contend in a race against time and extreme arctic winter conditions, on a trail of more than 1,000 miles over some of the most remote and severe wilderness terrain in the nation. Televised around the globe, the Iditarod is the most popular sporting event in Alaska; it is committed to traditional culture and the preservation of this historical race that traces its roots to the most famous event in Alaskan mushing. The “Great Race of Mercy”, was the 1925 dog-relay run from Seward to Nome, to deliver serum, when a diphtheria epidemic threatened this isolated town, located on the edge of the Bering Sea. Today, the race travels from Anchorage to Nome and attracts world-wide press and sponsorship from the world’s top brands.
Following professional careers in horsemanship and fly fishing, Bogart co-founded Casting for Recovery (CFR) a breast cancer support group headquartered in Manchester, Vermont, that uses fly fishing for mental and physical healing. Bogart will be raising awareness and support for CFR during her preliminary races as well as the Iditarod. Bogart also has a private pilot’s license; the Vermont-native recently flew a Cessna 150 from the Green Mountains to the Last Frontier, where she now makes her home, with her husband, David Bogart.
A fundraising event will be held for Bogart at the Manchester Rod and Gun Club, on February 2, 2013.
For further information and to make donations: Go to Gwenn’s Mush Puppies:; Contributions to Casting for Recovery (CFR):
Media Manager: Sue Mead:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Trials and Tribulations: Chapter One and Two

    General Raven

   We left the yard with our teams at 9:20 a.m. Ray (my mentor/coach) with his team of 16 dogs, Ben (my training partner) with his team of 12 and me, with my team of 12. I had General and Brother in lead. I was the last to roll down the drive (training with ATV's as we still don't have snow) and eventually came up behind Ben, who's team was traveling at a slower rate of speed. I decided to pass in an effort to catch up with Ray. Ray's team of 16 dogs was traveling much faster and I could not catch up with him and eventually lost sight of him. I was suppose to follow him but, at this point all I could do was guess where he had gone. I hung a left (haw) down Hazel Road, went to the very end at which point I got turned around and came all the way back to the Knik-Goosebay Road (KGB). Once at this intersection, I wanted to go left but General had his own idea. He wanted to go home and I did not. We had not gone enough miles yet for it to be a successful training run.

   General did not want to go left.  He momentarily glanced at me over his shoulder and then succinctly pulled the whole team around 180 degrees. I thought, "oh no, not this again". General had pulled this move on me during other training runs and at this point I had had enough of this trick of his. I walked to the front and pulled the two leaders with the rest of the team in tow back around in the direction we were originally facing.  As soon as I got the team pulled around and turned to walk back to the get on the ATV, General did the same 180, the gangline hitting me behind the knees, knocking me down and dragging the whole team trampling over my back.  I was not hurt, just really ticked off at defiant General ! Raymie (Rays dad) and Ryan (Rays brother) saw the whole thing happen as they happened to be driving up the road. They jumped out of the car to assist me and told me they had seen the whole thing. Raymie said "that General will screw you up every time". They helped pull the team around again, unsnarled the lines and I jumped back on the ATV. You will never guess what happened got it ! General did it again, he pulled the team around in a 180. Bad dog ! The leader days are OVER for my pal General. Shred was switched with General and lead the remainder of the training run. Never again, General !

   Once I got Shred in lead, we went left along KGB, towards Wasilla. At about mile marker 11, I saw a woman next to the trail with a large black dog. As I got closer, I could see the dog, a black lab, was loose and did not have a collar. The woman was yelling, asking me if I knew who the dog belinged to. I shook my head and continued on. Suddenly, my dogs were turning their heads looking behind and there the lab was gallivanting along behind us. Literally, frolicking the miles away the lab seemed to think this was lots of fun. All I could think of was that the dog left alone would wander out into the busy road and most certainly be hit by a car.
   I had to do something. I stopped the team and coaxed the lab up onto the back of the ATV. That silly dog rode with me all the way back to Rays on the back of the ATV which was a rough, bumpy ride to say the very least. Once back at the yard, I put the lab in a crate. Once my team was unharnessed I took the dog to the closest veterinary office to scan the dog for a chip. A chip was found and we discovered this labs name was Raven. The owners information was there as well, so the vet called and told her we had the dog. Ever grateful the owner said a profuse thank you and was very happy to have her dog back.
All in a Day
   Ray had taken his team out just a half hour before us. We usually pass him along the trail, smiling and waving as we pass each other. In preparation for our daily dog run, like I do most days, I back the ATV and park it behind Rays truck. Then, I attach the tie-down cable to the ball of his hitch and fasten it to the ATV. It is a jerry-rigged sort of affair but, has proven effective to hold the team in place. A team of 16 fresh dogs can pull the ATV all over the place even with the brakes locked. A tie  down is a must.
While, I was waiting for Ben to get home from school, I did the usual pre-run preparations. I backed the ATV and attached it to Rays truck and attached the tie down cable. The gang-line attaches to a "bridle" afixed on the front end of the ATV is attached by a carabineer. With the gang-line attached, I stretched it out and straightened all the neck and tug lines. Getting this all set up saves time and also gets Ben to hurry up and finish his post-school snack faster. A 40 milerun is a long trip, especiallyat this late time of day, so I am always anxious to get rolling.
We had nearly finished harnessing up the team so the gang-line was nearly full with only one place open.Gso (pronounces "So") gets put on the line last these days as she is "in season". It saves lots of aggrevation this way. Ben was in the feed shed getting some salmon for snacking the dogs during the run and I was on my way there, walking by the ATV. It happened so quickly. Apparently, the tie-down cable slipped and was no longer attached to the ATV It started to roll, picking up speed exponentially, as the 16 dogs careened down the driveway. As fast as I could run, with my hand just inches away from the handlebar and brake handle, I stumbled and fell. Down the driveway, went the ATV, the team at full speed, with a riderless ATV in tow. The ATV didn't make the turn. At top speed, it skidded sideways, caught the edge of the tire and flipped up, high into the air, flipping and rolling and crashed, upside down over the embankment into the trees. That stopped the team and no dogs were hurt.
 Ben reacted to the action like a pro. He got his ATV, attached a cable to the gang-line and then cut the bridle on the crashed ATV. We had detached all the tug lines so the dogs could not pull while we made this clever transfer. With lots of scrambling, I held the brakes on his ATV, as Ben made quick order of fetching our heavy coats, hats and gloves that were strewn all over the driveway as they were piled high on the back of the now crashed ATV and off we went.
The run was fairly uneventful with the exception of a rough engine sound coming from Bens ATV. I had visions of us, 20 miles out on the old Iditarod Trail in the darkness with a dead ATV. Oh well, I thought, worse comes to worse the dogs will pull us home. We met Ray and his team along the trail. He immediately asked why we were not on the red ATV. I told him I had wrecked it and quicky told what had happened. Ben and I were so worried he would be angry, but he just grinned his funny "ate the canary" grin and off he went down the road. I later learned he had done the same thing a year earlier. Takes one to know one, I suppose !

We were less than a mile from home when it happened. The trail at this point of our run, runs parallel to the road. There are many side road crossings along this section of the road. People who live in Knik seem very patient and courteous as they know dog teams are everywhere and they must keep a vigilant eye out on the crossings. I always wave and mouth the words, thank you, as we roll on by.

We were moving along the trail and came upon a car parked on the trail, with its lights on blocking the trail. The headlight on the ATV was on and Ben and I both had our powerful LED Lenser halagen head lamps on as well. These headlamps are so very bright that they can cast a bright cone of light on the trail in front of your 16 dog team. Ben stopped the team well before getting to the parked car. Moments of assessment passed and Ben made the decision to send the team on around the front to the car. At the moment the leaders were in front of the car it started moving. Ben and I screamed as the car wheel literally ran over Shred. Brother, the other leader was under the car as well. The car bumped up over Shreds body and continued to drive off into the darkness, never to be seen again.

I ran up to the front of the team. Brother and Shred were both standing and appeared to be o.k. Miraculously, they appeared to be fine. There we stood, Ben and I, in the darkness, in total shock. We just could not believe the car just drove off. We both agreed, there was no way they could not know they had run over something as we both saw the car "bump" as it went over the dog. About 5 minutes passed as we watched the dogs and decided we could make it the last mile home to the dog yard.

The dogs enjoyed their post-run snack of salmon steaks as we told Ray the story of what had happened. Shred got a week off so he could be closely monitored to be sure he was fit to continue work.  A week later, Shred was in lead, as I had my first 40 mile run on a sled over marginal snow cover. That is a story for another day.

Introducing some of the team !

There are more than 50 dogs in the dog yard at the time of writing this post. Some have run to Nome in past Iditarod races. Some have not been to Nome, but have competed in other races and may be included in a future Iditarod team. Here are some of the unique dogs I am currently training. There are many more who I will introduce in later posts.
A little education in sled dog position lingo
The pair of dogs who hold the position immediately in front of the sled are called wheel dogs. Wheel is a position for the bigger, most powerful dogs. Leaders are just that, leaders. They may not be a big, powerful dog, in fact they are often small.  Desirable lead dogs show great confidence, listen well and follows verbal commands. Swing dogs are the pair placed immediately behind the leaders. Swing dogs also show strong leader characteristics and help the front pair lead the team. All the other positions are referred to as team positions.

An Iditarod team is made up of 16 dogs. Most all other races, a musher will have up to 12 dogs. The difference of power of a 16 dog team compared to a 12 dog team is remarkably different, which I will tell you about in the Trials and Tribulations posts. 
Cosmo is a scrappy dog and he is Mr. Tough Guy. He is always excited to run and loves to play. When he is in his harness, hitched up to the gangline he growls like a "tough guy". He has never done anything aggressive other than growl like a "tough guy". He leaps, spins and barks whenever I come to see him. While Cosmo is not a big dog, he is strong and is great "team" dog. 
As you can see from the photo, there is an obvious reason this guy is named Socks. Socks has been on several Iditarod teams. He has a sweet disposition and is always ready to get hitched up for a run. He is vocal when I call him by name and loves to nuzzle and play whenever given the opportunity. Socks best position is wheel, but he has been in lead as well.

Felix is a BIG dog. When I lead Felix from his house to the gangline I am always challenged as he is so very strong. If I do not get his front feet up, off the ground he can easily drag me wherever he wants to go. Felix is a happy dog and if he were a person, he would be the type of guy that would be everyones friend. Felix is  a wheel dog and does a great job at it.
When I first met Copper he seemed quiet and reserved. But, now that we have gotten to know each other, he is any thing but that. He is such an affectionate guy and when I kneel down to give him a scratch, he acts as if he cannot get close enough. He puts his head on my shoulder and leans against me with all his weight. Then he changes shoulders and groans in sheer delight as I rub his back and shoulder muscles. Copper is usually the one who leads all 50 + dogs in a daily group howl.
"Stonewall Jackson"
Stonewall Jackson, aka, Stone is a quiet, reserved fellow but don't let that reserved personality trick you into thinking he is not a team player. Stone pulls like a truck and is all muscle, bone and sinew !
He loves one-on-one attention and will practically turn himself inside out when I talk to him and give him a good scratchin'.  Stone and Felix are litter mates.
Others who may be introduced at a later time, in no particular order; Shred, Brother, Patsy, General, Rommell, Angus, Straight, Katara, Right Eye, Left Eye, Broker, Benny, Bullseye, Elmo and  so many more...