Saturday, February 21, 2009


Good Morning Folks,

I thought that I’d touch base as it has been a bit busy around here and even though I’ve got lots to say, I really haven’t had time to sit down and “gossip”.

However, it’s sometimes ironic how events in one’s life can change certain perspectives. If you recall, I published another individual’s writing last October and since a lot of you enjoyed his sense of humor, I thought that I’d again share one of the entries to his journal that he kept while his wife was out there “mushing”. An important fact to note, is that while Kevin and Linda came here last year as clients, a certain relationship developed and this year, when they left Baisley Lodges, I was saying “ See you later” to very good friends. Oh that wonderful New-Brunswick fresh air.

Anyway, we’ll talk later. = -)



Gino took his six-dog “A team” on a 17 mile run today. They were back at the trail head in a little under 90 minutes. Six dogs pulling a 190-lb guy and a 30-lb sled up and down hills at an average of about 12mph. No petroleum products involved. He attributes his performance, to a large degree, to a newly-acquired lead dog named Oumak.

Oumak runs around the perimeter of the Baisley property with the other dogs every morning and every evening. Gino walks the perimeter in a counter-clockwise direction and the dogs, in a pack, run off ahead of him, then circle back, then dart ahead. This goes on for a half hour or so. They respond to his whistle and they never run off the property. He’s the pack leader and periodically they are all back circling around him. You notice they never jump up on him. They don’t challenge the Apha-Male.

They say that dogs continually ask themselves three questions: 1) where’s the pack?, 2) who’s in the pack?, and 3) what is my status in the pack?

Yesterday I walked out into the middle of the pack and three dogs had their paws on my chest in about ten seconds. They were all asking themselves the second and third questions. Is this guy a new pack member and if he is, is he above or below me in the hierarchy? They jump up on you to test your reaction. Curl up in a ball on the ground and whine and they get the correct impression that you’re below them in the hierarchy. Push them off you and say “No!” and they assume you’re above them. Of course, push the wrong dog and you might have “lefty” for a nickname. Even the big guy is at risk. Look what happened to Julius Caesar and Joe Torre.

For the last three days, I have been out there trying to get a picture of Oumak. I’ve probably taken twenty pictures. Most of them are blurred. The rest of them are lousy. I take a picture with my digital camera, look at it, then delete it. I’ve got this down to a science. The damn dog is just too fast for a still photo. I may have to resort to the video function on my camera even though I hate taking video.

Every time I see Oumak run, the only word that comes out of my mouth is “Wow!” If there is such a thing as a pure runner, this dog is it. When he’s not stopped or running full tilt, he trots. When he trots, his back legs come around to the side like a thoroughbred horse before a race. He almost trots with his body sideways. It’s as though he has throttled back temporarily. Then, in a sudden burst, his head goes down, his ears go down, and he’s gone. You get a glimpse of him every few seconds in the distance through openings between tree and cabins. When he’s running in a line parallel to where you’re standing you get a real feel for how fast he’s traveling. This dog is Ted Williams hitting a baseball, Brooks Robinson fielding a grounder, Joe Dimaggio running down a fly ball, Vito Potenza hitting a driver. He’s that good. Pure talent that is apparent to everyone who sees him.

At the other end of the speed spectrum, is a dog named “Leonard”. Leonard is slow as molasses, although he always operates at full throttle. He gets bumped around a lot by the rest of the pack but Leonard is the kind of dog that will battle Moska for his stick. Today Moska dropped his stick at my feet and Leonard made a move to pick it up. Moska let out a low growl but Leonard bopped him on the nose with his paw. Leonard’s got spunk.

Leonard is eight weeks old. He walks around Baisley like he’s in charge. There’s nothing like a pup to show you what the word “egocentric” means. He makes Senator Leahy look like an introvert.

When Oumak zooms by Leonard, the force of the wind makes his ears stand straight up, but he’s not impressed. He runs after Oumak for about ten feet, stops, and then looks at Gino as if to say “I could kick his butt if I wanted to, but I’m busy doing other stuff!”

The rest of the pack is teaching Leonard how to be a dog. They’ll continue to cut him some slack for awhile but soon Moska will enforce that growl and Leonard will have to decide whether he really wants that stick or he’ll just give Moska a Gilda Radner “Never mind”.

Gino is slowly teaching him the basic things he needs to know to be a sled dog. The first thing he’s learning is to respond to Gino’s whistle. By March, he’ll be ready to wear a harness and work out with the B team.

The temperature this morning is a bracing -20F. Yes, that’s an F after the 20 not a C.

In the scale of C it’s actually -30. At -40 both scales merge. I’m not sure why this is so. It might have something to do with Pythagoras and that “sum of the squares of the opposite sides” thing. Personally, I think it’s related to the fact that mom has inherited an RCMP hat with fur ear flaps. An impressive sight. She walked outside the bunkhouse last night and the local coyote pack started howling. What a tribute! I’m going to give her my fluorescent gloves so she can direct traffic at the intersection of Rue St. Jacques and Chemin St. Laurent after church.

I’ve got to go out and get a re-supply of wood for the stove. Gino has a barn full of slab wood because he runs a saw mill in his spare time. At -20 you burn firewood at the rate of about one cord an hour. Anything less and you freeze to death. I know it’s time to add firewood to the stove when my big toe turns blue. I love it out here in the wild.


P.S. I’d send a picture of mom in that hat but I’m not sure the Canadians would let the digital signal cross the border. It fails the “Zut alors!” test for propriety.

P.P.S. I did, however, attach a picture of my friend Leonard.

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