Another year in the books for Team Keahi! Our first race of the 2016/17 season in West Yellowstone was a rough one. Starting with the dog truck not starting the morning of the race. At -43F overnight, it was just too much for the truck to overcome with a bad block heater. Thankfully our friends in the dog community rallied to get us and all of our equipment to the race site. The trails from the lot looked beautiful. There was so much fresh dry snow, even though it had been groomed the night before, was soft and dry. It had been comparable to running in sand. The runners I chose weren't up for the challenge of the cold dry snow. I knew from the moment I released from the rig that it was going to be a challenge. 2 miles from the finish line I decided to do the only thing I could think to do with how much work the dogs put into the run and that was to scratch from the race. They were tired, but no worse for the wear to be honest. Though it was disappointing, I know it was the best decision to make for the team's moral.
We spent the next few days after the race recharging in Bozeman. The above zero temps were a welcome change for all. Getting to spend some much needed time with the family was also very needed. It would have been nice to stay a bit longer, but we were all missing home and our 'handler' who had to stay home this year. On to the next adventure! See you all in 2017!
Length of leg. A topic that frequents multiple Siberian groups across Facebook, only to discover the dog that inspired the question is a juvenile...I always try to caution people from looking at a juvenile with too much of a critical eye. As juveniles go through a wide array of development, and not all of it is pretty. What you may be looking at now might not be a true reflection of how the overall dog will end up.
Below you can see how the dog in photo one is all leg, awkward, gawky...a summer juvenile coat didn't help the overall picture. Yet he developed into a nice dog upon maturity. (all be it not everyone's cup of tea). You can see here how a developed chest, mature full adult coat, and how things have balanced themselves out in the development process of maturing have really changed the overall picture of the dog. This dog is my "why I don't critically evaluate juveniles" reminder! Things change, and can change a lot over the course of 2-3 years.
The length of leg for the Siberian Husky, should be 50-60% of the total height of the dog, measured to the highest point of the withers. The leg is measured from the ground to the elbow.
Legs longer than 60% of the height, tend to create a top heavy dog, which affects the workability. Dogs with too short of legs make the dog have to work harder.
When visually evaluating length of leg, one must consider several factors. A dog with a well laid back shoulder, and a well angulated rear to match, will tend to look shorter on leg.
Conversely, a dog that is straighter in the shoulder and rear will appear to be more up on leg. Shorter coat, fluffed up coat, out of coat will all alter our perception.
The way a photo is cropped will also make a dog appear to have longer or shorter legs, as will the camera angle. When evaluating a dog from photographs, I prefer shots where the dog is level with the camera, with the center of focus at the dog's shoulder. This gives a more realistic view of the overall dog being evaluated.
*Exerpt courtesy Susan Parraga Zuska Siberians*
Sometimes, seeing the proportions in action is helpful. Ideally a dog who is balanced should exhibit balanced motion. A correct Siberian gait is one where reach and drive are equal. The front paw should fall no further than the nose, the rear paw should be kicked no higher off the ground than the length of the hock. High kicks and over reach together are wasted movement. Wasted movement is wasted energy. A reach that's over taking the drive or a drive that over works reach are movements that lack balance and take away from the efficiency of the overall dog- neither works well for what is supposed to be an endurance distance covering sled dog.
October started off in the air, quite literally. We were on the plane to Boston headed to the SHCA National Specialty in Sturbridge MA. A long trip would be an understatement. Worth it? Absolutely!
Thanks to Impact Crate and Kennel, Keegan road safely in style. We had lots of huge complements on the crate from many of the airline crews. Nothing compares though to the peace of mind that our boy was completely safe and secure for his big trip! We were able to check on him after the first leg between Spokane and Seattle to make sure he was adjusting well to the commotion of travel. Should have guessed he was a total ham and was loving all the attention.
We made it to Boston early Monday morning. Priority one, walk the dog (and the humans) after a 5.5hr flight we ALL needed to stretch our legs!
We made our way over to Paul Revere Park and ended up taking a walk along the old naval pier. Keegan got to see lots of things he's never seen before. Not to mention be the center of attention to dozens of tourists coming to see the USS Constitution restoration taking place! It was by mere chance we ended up getting to see a part of the earliest history of our Nation.
From there we took a drive out to Hull. Where my mom, who flew with us to Boston, was staying. We got to see the Ocean! It was absolutely mesmerizing. Watching the tide come in, the waves crash against the beach. Keegan was not at all too sure about the water that chased him up the sand. He helped us find sea shells and played on the beach for the first time. This stop really made the trip worth mileage. Nowhere else could we have had this opportunity to share these firsts. By the time we were through with lunch, the beach we had just been walking on was completely gone. Hidden by the water coming in.
Once mom got settled in Hull we made the drive to Sturbridge for the week. Fall colors were just starting to make their appearance. What a show the leaves put on for us while we were there! Providing the perfect backdrop for our beautiful dogs! An incredible week of Siberians competing in a wide variety of events. Keegan, once again, made the cut in initial BOB Dog judging. A huge accomplishment for us!
Overall it was a fantastic week of dogs, friends, fall colors, and new experiences. The trip was more than worth it and hope to be able to do it again next year!
Perhaps you have noticed that dark mark on the tail of your Siberian. Perhaps not a mark, but a spot of coarser hair. Have you wondered what that spot is? That spot marks the spot of the violet or supracaudal gland. This mark is common in all breeds of dog, though not all marks indicate a functional gland.
In some breeds of dog this gland is non-functioning or completely absent. In others, the gland may still prove active, though significantly reduced in size. The reason for some dogs having the gland, while others do not, is not entirely understood. It has been speculated that dogs who live their lives outdoors, for example in a large working kennel, often more frequently have functioning scent glands. Whereas dogs who have lived their lives primarily as indoor pets often do not. Though not a proven hypothesis it is an interesting theory as to why some dogs may still have an active scent gland, while others do not.
Though one of the hottest weekends of the summer, one of our last shows of the summer was a great one for us all! Madison really blossomed and showed well. She won her class in 6-9 Puppy Sweepstakes and received a lot of really nice comments from numerous people ringside. Right now the little girl is a whole lot of leg and awkwardness, but she's really developing nicely! Excited to see what next show season will bring for her!
The highlight of the weekend was Miss Gypsy being awarded Best Opposite Sex In Puppy Sweeps under judge Louise Cooke of Shaytaan Siberians. It was such a nice affirmation for us, as advocates of functional Siberians, that Gypsy shows a lot of potential! Though the win itself comes without any points awarded, it was more than enough for us for the weekend! Later that evening we attended a fantastic seminar by Rob Cooke, who was gracious enough to give us his time to discuss structure, diet, training, and of course Yukon Quest.
The end of August has been showing some signs of fall's arrival. Optimistically we'll have dogs on the trails soon! We're very excited to get to training and hopefully be headed toward a stronger Mid-Distance to Distance team this season!
I can't tell you how many times I have heard the phrase, "Function doesn't matter my dog is just a pet". I know I've been in those exact same shoes, and when we purchased our first Siberian there would have been no way I could have known I would have ended up where I am in the dog world today. Now, looking back, I wish I would have known half of what I do today when we were ready to buy. I'm not talking about the basic Siberian 'know how' when it comes to energy levels, containment, etc...but how the structural soundness of my dog would affect his daily life.
Now, I do not regret for a moment bringing that first Siberian into our lives. Never for a moment will I regret or forget that day. Now knowing just how much his breeder had failed him in their indiscriminate breeding that created a Siberian's heart and working drive in a body that fails him infuriates me. The excitement in his eyes when the harnesses come out, and the pain in my heart to have to tell him 'not this time buddy' as we take the team out for a run. His body, however much his heart desires, fails painfully just a couple miles down the trail. He's the dog that has so much heart he tries to push himself further than his body can bare.
As a responsible pet parent it is our job to know their limitations and not push them past those limitations. Whether it's playing in the yard, chasing squirrels and rabbits in the garden, or those long walks or jogs you enjoy with your companion. After all we want to see years of enjoyment with our pets. Sound structure is important be it 'just a pet', a show dog, or a working sled dog. After all part of a healthy life, is an active life. So what do you do if your pal has a structural issue that limits them? Simple- you love them, you spoil them rotten, you participate in life with them...keeping in mind their limitations and play within those boundaries set by his body.
Let us start with the overall general appearance of the breed. Since, in the case of our breed, the Siberian Husky is the product in large of natural selection and function for which this breed was designed. The littlest details (like the shape of the eye, the set of the ears, the design of the foot, etc) made this breed successful in their extremes, but also shape how we recognize this breed apart from any other. The Siberian Husky is an athlete, light on their feet, agile, and graceful...even if it's just used to jump from floor to the couch or bed. Function has shaped our breed type. The Silhouette of the Siberian Husky is striking and easily recognizable.
I think a good place to start any discussion on structure is with balance. Balance is the fundamental foundation of the total dog. Without balance you have a lack of efficiency, without efficiency you will have a dog that tires easier even in the most basic tasks. Be it on a hike in the woods, chasing their pals at the dog park, or performing in harness. A dog who lacks balance will tire faster than a dog who is balanced. A dog who's rear angulation is greater than its front angulation will have a wide movement in the rear and poor tracking gait. Swinging the rear wide is wasted movement, wasted movement is wasted energy. Eventually we would likely see arthritis develop in the hips and a general breaking down in the rear over time. In turn, if you have a dog who's front is better angulated than it's rear you have a dog who's not putting efficient energy to the ground to propel them forward. Basically any offset of balance results in a less efficient use of energy.
Proportions of the Siberian Husky also play a large part in how we recognize the breed and how the individual dog may perform in harness. We wouldn't expect our Siberians to look like a corgi, nor be square. They should be slightly longer than they are tall, the key word there is slightly. When talking with working breeders around 15% is the offset height x length they were discussing. This is not a hard set number, keep in mind it is an opinion only but a potential decent starting point of consideration. The silhouette of the Siberian is a pleasing form- A Siberian who's body is too long will have a very 'flashy' movement, almost appearing to 'fly' while in a fast gait...however these dogs often develop weak top lines. A weak top line in later years will be seen in a sway back, which often is accompanied with arthritis of the spine. A Siberian who's body is too square will compensate by crabbing or sidewinding as they gait. Again we see an inefficient gait, which leads to lacking endurance- As a pet parent we may see this shortening our long hikes or runs with our companion.
With the start of June we welcomed a new member to the family. NorthWapiti's Molotov, or Molly for short, finally made it down from Canada! We had been chatting with Karen for over a month about bringing her in, but with the Fort McMurray fire just north of the NorthWapiti homestead complicated travel plans for her. But oh worth the wait she was! She came in and settled right in with the rest of the pack like she's always been here. It truly is a blessing that Siberians are so easily welcoming to new members of the pack! It will be agony waiting for temperatures to fall enough to see her in harness!! I have such optimism for out team next season I can hardly wait!
Our trip to Blackfoot was good...though maybe not as fruitful as we had hoped when we went. The goal was to finish Keegan's GCH. He was awarded Select Dog on the first day in a lovely grouping of competitive dogs. Edging him 3 points closer to finishing his GCH. The rest of the weekend was less eventful, though he showed very well! At the end of the weekend he hitched a ride west to meet up with good friends and handling team Annie Oster and Soni Jager for the Canby Specialty and Clackamas Kennel Club All Breed Cluster.
The girls showed well, though no placements. At this point showing for the puppy girls is more about fun than it is about points! Maddie is catching on quickly to this whole show dog game and Gypsy got a chance to play with our friend Elise who helped keep our crazy schedule on track. As well as helping us get everyone shown. It was a great experience for all involved!
News from the LCSHC Specialty was beyond our wildest expectations, we are so pleased to be able to announce BISS GCH/INT CH Silver Falls Summer Lookout At Keahi "Keegan" handled by Annie Oster. We would like to send our sincere gratitude to Judge Dr Wanda V Spediacci for selecting our boy, to breeder Michael S Patton of Silver Falls Siberians for entrusting this magnificent boy to us, to Annie Oster who handled Keegan beautifully in my absence, and to Martin Glover for stepping up to hold the Club Trophy Placard for the photo! We are still reeling!
May is a rather slow month around here. Temperatures have continued to climb which leaves the dogs lounging around the yard more than anything else these days. Digging cooling dens or just relaxing under the shade tarps, makes for some happy dogs!
Winter coats have been flying which has made for some very happy nesting birds taking up residence in the barn...and some cramping hands for me! Soon it will be time for spring time baths and blow outs!
Maddie was entered in her first dog show at the end of May! Day one was SOOOPER scary, the inside arena was noisy and the judge was a scary scary MAN so she hit the deck and refused to stand. Thankfully he was very patient and didn't excuse her. It was a rough start for her. Day 2 was much better. Outdoors wasn't nearly as scary and the judge was very nice and gentile with her. She even won her class! Later that night she got some more practice indoors at a very relaxed puppy B match. She won some toys and had a fun time playing with her sister!
Of course the highlight of the month had to be Keegan coming back into the show ring and settling into his role there. Being awarded Select Dog on Day One of the show was a nice start, but wrapping up the weekend with a Best Of Breed/Best Owner Handled 5 point Major was just a sweet bit of icing on the cake. It was quite a thrill given the nice entry presented there that weekend!
April saw the last of our team's presence on the trails. It never feels like there is enough time to be had on the trails, but the season ended on a very positive note. We ran in the NWSDA Spring Fling 8 Dog Mid-Distance, totaling 9 miles per day. It was unseasonably warm, we took our time, and rested often. We were happy enough to finish second of two teams on such a fun and challenging trail system!
Once back home, temperatures continued to rise. It was time to clean the gear and get it hung for next season. Already counting the days!
We decided to break with our usual schedule and meet Maddie's breeder in Pendleton for an early season show. It was a small show, only a few Siberians entered. Though, not much love for Keegan and Gypsy. Keegan only able to take home Best Opposite Sex both days with no points available. Never the less, it was a good opportunity for Maddie to reunite with her family and get some good socialization in for when it's her time in the ring!
Our first Siberian, Dakota, turned 12 years young at the end of April. Its hard to believe that just 12 years ago we started down this crazy, amazing, road with our first companion.
Dakota is now retired from Weight Pull, having earned his Working Dog title last fall. As well as completing two of the 4 qualifiers toward his Working Dog Excellent. Though just a pet with a less than desirable pedigree, that far too many have judged him on, he became our introduction to this wonderful breed and the first Siberian in our kennel to earn a Performance Title of any form. To say we are proud of our pup from the wrong side of the tracks, would be a gross understatement.
March took us to Utah in search of the last bit of snow to run on. What a great deal of fun the K9 Challenge was! We could not be more pleased with the conditions of the trail, the company of our friends, and how the team performed was more than we could have hoped for. Keegan and Google lead the team both days with ease and experience beyond their time up front. Its very exciting to watch these two youngsters blooming into such a fantastic pair of sled dogs!
This is always a bittersweet time of year for us. As April closes in and the temperatures begin to rise our time on the trails is borrowed at best. It's always hard to concede to saying goodbye to the trails for another season. I find myself already making plans for next year, next season, a new training schedule, new dogs to harness, and new goals to tackle. For now we enjoy the trails while we can. With any luck, and weather providing, we will have one more opportunity to run with friends later in April.
Gypsy has been maturing ever so nicely. The excitement of her joining the team is palpable at this point! She's already showing quite an athletic form around the yard, and a proficiency for digging, it will be nice change to get her into the ring this summer and see how she stacks up to the competition! I suppose that means I too will have to alter my training routine! Time to dust off the suits and remember what running around a show ring vs running behind a sled or a cart is all about!
Gypsy isn't the only exciting up and comer around here anymore. As Madison grows she's showing a lot of lovely potential. A natural beauty that moves with ease and grace. It's always a joy to start a puppy and have all the excitement of the possibilities to come! There are oh so many possibilities coming our way!