PeeWee Racing - Living with dogs and kids

Recently a musher with teenagers described to J&I how spending winters camping out at races had contributed to some of the things he really appreciated and admired about his kids. It's certainly noticeable that the kids we meet racing are universally nice kids; accustomed to speaking to adults, they are polite, quiet and friendly. They develop a great sense of sportsmanship and empathy through their work with the dogs. They're millennials who are happy to spend time away from their screens, who have great resilience and stress management techniques, because they have precious "down time" outside running dogs.

(I know one parent is going to call me after reading this and protest, but I'm talking about the common traits in a group of about ten teenagers - none of them are saints, but they all have at least some of these characteristics, and I'm impressed by all of them.)

Another musher family whose children are only a few years older than mine regularly have kids in the rig as they approach the start chute - and sometimes people frown at them for it, but their little kids are growing up with a wonderful connection to their dogs and a great understanding of the sport's etiquette.

J & I want that for our Wee Monster (and future children) too. And this year, it's hard. Our time is very limited this year, and our dogs are even more limited. Wee Monster is a very independent toddler who wants to roam and doesn't yet understand the dangers of disappearing into the bush or walking up to a strange dog's face. But we pushed ourselves to attend an SHCV race three weeks ago at the You Yangs, only a short distance from Melbourne. Last weekend was the NVSDC Classic, and with J&I both on committee, it was a busy weekend. We recruited one of my wonderful brothers to come along as a spare pair of hands for child and dog wrangling and made sure we made time for the PeeWee races on Sunday.  

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thank you Najodia Photography for this one! 

thank you Najodia Photography for this one! 

Saying thankyou to Frankie after a race is an important part of the routine. 

Saying thankyou to Frankie after a race is an important part of the routine. 

Bike riding with Unky M. 

Bike riding with Unky M. 

Ready to race with daddy

Ready to race with daddy

Frankie loves going out for these 500m runs, even at age 12. 

Frankie loves going out for these 500m runs, even at age 12. 

Congratulations to all our PeeWee mushers, with our Race Marshall. 

Congratulations to all our PeeWee mushers, with our Race Marshall. 

Feeding dogs - living with dogs and toddlers

Tonight, the Wee Monster (2 years old) came up to me and said "he ate it, number 3, he ate it"

I giggled. Wee Monster hasn't got the grasp of "I" yet, so it's a lot like talking to Elmo from Sesame Street. "Huh?" I said.

The small blonde person in front of me didn't giggle. He looked very serious as he repeated "he ate it"

We had spent the early evening attempting to make fudge and Wee Monster had had a spoon to lick. I'd seen him offer it to Frankie through the bars of the crate. Recently he's also offered the dogs his own water bottle through the crate. I try and explain that dogs can't suck on straws (while ignoring the dog germs he's coming in contact with, and reciting "it's good for his immune system" over and over) but it's hard to get that idea across. 

Standing in front of the dog crates last weekend. Frankie to the left of picture, Czar to the right.

Standing in front of the dog crates last weekend. Frankie to the left of picture, Czar to the right.

But now he was still looking very serious. "Czar Czar."

I thought for a moment and realized that he hadn't been carrying his spoon around for a while; he'd been playing with the magnetic letters and numbers off our fridge. Uh oh.

I looked over at the dog crates and realized that Czar *was* chewing on something. I shrieked at him to drop it and threw myself across the room.

Sure enough, there were three brightly coloured and very very chewed fridge magnets in his crate. I snatched them up and quickly took stock.

An "o", a "h" and an "i". Fortunately, all three magnets were in my hand. One had popped off the twisted plastic, but hadn't been swallowed. No pieces of plastic seemed to be missing. Thank heavens.

I looked up at the small blonde person watching me from the doorway, still looking really worried. I held my arms out and he ran over for a cuddle.

"Mustn't feed Czar Czar plastic!" I tried to explain. "Not food! It would make him very very sick." I put the two year old down and headed into the kitchen to bin the fragments.

As the lid clanged shut, I looked back at Wee Monster, still standing in front of Czar's crate. "Berry berry sick" he said to the husky inside.

Oh dear, I have a feeling we're going to have an interesting phase for a while! #alwayssupervisedogsandchildren #toddlersputthingsinweirdplaces #luckyhecantellmewhatswrongnow

Woolly huskies - gorgeous but potentially dangerous for their health

Today Czar and I got to spend the afternoon at Melbourne's Dog Lovers' Show at the Royal Exhibition Building with the Siberian Husky Club of Victoria. 

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Czar is such a social butterfly that this was his idea of heaven, a never ending supply of pats! 

Most people just wanted a pat and a photo. Some people hung around for a chat because they were contemplating getting a dog, maybe a husky, would it suit them/their lifestyle? Some people already had huskies and wanted to ask advice, or about the club. (Number one answer; the SHCV isn't based in any particular LOCATION, we meet all over the place, depending on the space and activity in question.) Most of these people were wonderful - open minded, asking good questions, really thinking about our answers. Some of them decided that huskies weren't right for them, and to be honest, all of us manning the stand were in complete agreement that this is an awesome answer. Every husky puppy that doesn't go to a poorly prepared or poorly suited home is one less puppy that's going to end up in a pound, shelter or rescue.

But there were a few people who left us shaking our heads. People who'd succumbed to impulse buying a puppy from a pet shop (i.e. From a puppy farm). People who were more interested in telling us how wonderful their dog was in a way that painted a picture of a fat, spoiled, naughty puppy. And, my absolute favourite, people who wanted to find a breeding partner for their entire (un desexed)  dog without the faintest idea of what they're getting themselves into.

One such person who approached me today was looking into breeding his long or woolly coated Siberian. I was aghast. I do personally know one woolly Siberian who is always beautifully groomed and very well kept, but I also know how hard it is to keep up with the grooming of normal, double coated Siberians - a long coat is about three times harder! A simple google search comes up with forums with consistent comments like this about woolly coats.

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Huskies are already a breed that is dumped with depressing regularity and their grooming needs are one of the commonly stated reasons why. Which is weird because they actually don't need much - their outer coat is self cleaning and rarely smells, they don't need clipping and many of them have minimal shedding for most of the year. But twice a year they drop their entire fluffy white undercoat, which is pretty unbearable to live with!

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If their outer coat is long, that shedding isn't released naturally, but gets matted quickly. Matted fur is a danger to any dog's health, leading to skin disease, discomfort, and in some extreme cases, restricted movement and even strangulation. It takes a dedicated owner indeed to properly care for a woolly coat.  For this reason, woollies are considered undesirable in the breeding population.

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Several breed standards, list woolly coated dogs as outside the acceptable variation of the husky. This doesn't mean they're not purebred - they're a naturally occurring coat type, caused by a particular genetic combination of sperm and egg that often occurs in only one puppy in many litters. But breeding that puppy is highly likely to produce woolly offspring, and is widely considered irresponsible breeding.

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Needless to say that I didn't encourage the young person who asked today to go ahead and give his woolly Siberian a "parenting experience". I tried to discuss with him how difficult it is to find great homes for four to eight puppies, and how he'd need to be confident that every home would give a puppy he'd bred the care and attention that he gives to his own dog. Sadly, I was probably a bit too harsh, because he scuttled off quite quickly. But later I wondered if maybe I'd struck another guilty note with him - maybe his own dog wasn't as well cared for as I'd suggested, but was a matted and dirty dog, like those described here:

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If that's the case, maybe the young person got off lightly. He certainly scuttled away before I could tell him what I really think of people who neglect their high needs choice of dog, and of the breeders who sell these puppies but don't forewarn naive buyers about the work ahead of them! 

Thankyou to those people and groups whose comments and photos have been used here - I am hoping to add links to all sources over the next few days. In the meantime, the URL is displayed on images where possible.