Today is six week since Raven and Nitro mated and now is really time to start counting the days until the puppies are born! These last three weeks we will enter the heavy part of the pregnancy. Nitro is put on proper mother and babydog food and is now doing her basic workout with no weights on. I’m so happy joining Nitro on this journey!
People ask me if I can recognize every dog of mine. That’s really a weird question. Whoever has fifteen friends knows that it’s perfectly clear who is who, not only by looks and names but also by their personalities. So, let me tell me about some of my friends in the Yabasta pack!
Let’s start with Gantu. Now Gantu has always been acting like an old and wise dog, even when he was a small pup. And he IS wise. He is very intelligent and has a high emotional quotient, I mean he easily reads other dogs and situations in the pack. Gantu is the one helping me out if there are arguments between dogs in the pack, because he also is very good at reading me. He simply goes where I want and interrupts whatever situation is going on. But Gantu is also a very playful and happy male who loves his toys and can play with it for hours!
Trooper is totally the clown of the Yabasta pack. His body are constantly moving, mostly forwards and/or upwards and is like a magnet to human faces. Whatever Trooper does, he puts all his effort into it. He is really a funny guy to spend time with, even though it’s useless trying to have some kind of deeper connection with him. He wants things to go fast. Always. Trooper could have been a really stressed dog, but he also has the ability to rest. After a while, at least.
Kite is like a pizza with extra everything on it. She over-communicates in every situation and has a very easy-to-read body langugage. I believe that very special way of the Yabasta Accelerating-litter might come from their upbringing, not spending all the time with their mother who was in bad shape for a while after giving birth. Kite loves people and will crawl onto the lap of just anyone who wants to cuddle her. You can carry her around like a bag of beans and I actually call her “the ragdoll dog”.
If you didn’t already know it, the Yabasta pack has its own Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Maybe not considering fotball skills but definitely when it comes to self confidence. Sauron is the kindest and most loving dog who really knows the art of charm both people and dogs around him. He acts like he is perfectly aware that everyone wants to cuddle and/or flirt with him – no matter sex, purpose, breed nor species.
Who will get the ball? This is one exercise I regulary do with my dogs for them to learn not to fight for toys as well as for my attention. I say one of the dogs’ names and that particular dog will get the toy. Same thing works just fine with candy, most important thing is that every dog will get something eventually. I am also very selective and give my attention only to the dog who shows a good behaviour at the moment. That encourages the dogs to behave well and feel safe together with me as well as among the other dogs.
Sonic is not particularly interested in the other dogs in the pack. She likes to work and she really loves spending time with humans. Other than that, she keeps a low profile except when it’s necessary to educate youngsters in the art of respecting the elder. In the vlog that I posted the other day, you can see how she puts effort into teaching them about “finders, keepers”.
My is really the queen of f****ng everything. She is experienced in every way and has a high integrity towards humans. But she is also a very patient and caring mother, especially when it comes to her daughters. My can really enjoy a nasty bone and is very clear (and loud) whenever she decides there is something she really craves. My is also patient with the other dogs but if they cross a certain line even My can have enough of it.
Bolt is the guy always following me around whatever I do. He is very curious and very fond of people. Too fond sometimes, I am consistently working on his impulse to grab human hands when he is excited. But Bolt is smart and easy to learn so he already came a long way with this not-very-socially-accepted behaviour. Attention and cuddles are the best things in Bolts life so far, but that might just change when he gets to try the harness on..
Karma.. This small and very intense lady has now come a long way finding herself in the pack. It took her a lot of time, though. She has had a hard time trusting other dogs and her insecurity combined with an edge in temper has not been the optimal foundation to build on. During the moving, Karma got to live indoors with me for quite some time and suddenly one day, the pieces started to fall into place.
When introducing a new dog in an established pack, it’s highly important that (s)he connects with someone else. From that relation it’s then possible to build further on trusting the rest of the dogs through the acts of his/her mentor. For Karma, I became the mentor and she now knows that whenever she feels insecure, she can come to me and be safe. Actually the hug on the photo is one of my ways calming her, it’s called “wrapping” and is something I learned during aTtouch workshop!
The rain has been pouring the past days but suddenly the clouds broke up and the sun reached down to us. These are the last days with Raven who soon will be going home to his pack. It has been a true pleasure getting to know this beautiful male. During his two weeks in the Yabasta-pack he taught the puppies a lot about how to behave proper with elder males, we spent quite some time in the sofa cuddling, he got just about every female going into heat and he managed to breed two of them..
Only being one week since mating, Sonic shows no sign of being pregnant just yet. She spends the days like always; finding a nasty bone to chew and proudly show off to the rest of the pack. Sonic has had a litter before, the N-litter at kennel Amanuq in France. One of her puppies was bought back to Sweden by Raxeira´s where she now provides their team with explosive energy. Actually, her name is Nrj DEJA Vue Amanuq.
It´s now two weeks since Nitro mated to Raven. I have a feeling she has calmed down a bit, acting more mature. There will be another week or two until we can start to see actual signs of pregnancy but I´m really not yet experienced enough to say anything until she is starting to build a belly for real.
I went through a lot of emotional phases this past week, after Sonic mated to Raven.. My first reaction was disappointment – I hadn’t planned that at all. But soon there was a light growing inside of me and my mind changed path. Questioning if it would be possible to solve at all, both practically and mentally, started me working on the case. Now, a week later, I am full of joy and really hoping for two litters to come! ❤
I was really surprised yesterday evening, suddenly hearing another sound of mating. A quick glanze out the window and I could see Nitro and Raven them already stuck together. I couldn’t really figure out how this was possible, being one whole week since they did their planned mating..
Well, of course I went out to stay with them while they were stuck together. I sat down and embraced Nitro who actually was rather calm this time compared to the earlier matings. Raven did great and just stood there waiting.
That’s when it happened. I could se a white fluffy flash appearing from behind, intense and happy, wanting to cuddle. But wait.. What? That’s Nitro! You know sometimes you get blinded by the obvious. In my arms was not Nitro. It was Sonic, stuck together with Raven.. When did she even go into heat??
Well, these things happens. Sooner or later there will be accidents. I have been through this a few times before but it’s now ages ago. While waiting for them to separate, a crazy idea went through my head.. Why not? I have planned breeding Sonic, only later. And I have planned breeding her to a close relative to Raven.
So.. You know many things can happen when breeding. And as far as I know, we are now expecting two Yabasta litters during July.. Crazy but true!
Sometimes things can be just so easy. I dreamt about this easy life for a very long time. Struggling through hard times with numerous setbacks in breeding, I wondered how life would be if things could go just my way. And suddenly here we are. Making Yabasta C4-litter, as easy as pie.
Nitro started her heat in Januari this year. The plan was to breed her early but this left me to somewhat a problem.. Breeding Nitro, I would need to compete without her during the rest of the season. I had to realize that for me, that was no option.
I had no idea of how long I would need to wait until next heat. I just hoped it would be during summer. So when Nitro started to bleed in early May, it was hilarious! The male had been planned for years, so there was no need spending time. Yesterday he came home to us and shortly after, they had their first mating.
Now these guys are just the sweetest couple! Well, that’s kind of a bonus – that wasn’t my main purpose of breeding them. But just look at them ❤
Now I planned breeding on Nitro since she first entered my team as a 1-year-old crazy running machine. Actually, it wasn’t at first in my team, but in the alaskan team of Anita Wetter, that Nitro made her impression on me. Since then, she has been the power wheeldog, the energizer, the neverending battery of the team during all competitions. She worked her way to be one of the most important dogs in the Yabasta team, so important that I couldn’t imagine racing without her.
Raven first caught my eyes several years ago, actually on picture. There was something special about him. But he wasn’t racing very much so I kind of watched him from a distance, not forgetting about him. I took the opportunity meeting him in Sveg last year and really liked what I saw. But still, I wanted clean proof of his performance. This winter I had the possibility to run him in my team during training one weekend. I played my hand and put him in lead with Dolly at once. He did a wonderful job there.. Later on, he was loaned to Tova-Liza Willenfeldt where he won two races as leaddog in her 4-dog sprint team. Those were the pieces that I had been waiting for.
You know what; if you really like what I’m describing here, you might be the kind of person who would fit a puppy perfect. Let me know? Puppies are expected in the middle of July and can be delivered to the Siberian Husky Club show in september.
You know when you finally have the possibility that someone else is behind the camera and you’re like “omg we’re going to do these amazing pictures of me and the dogs” and you just forget the tiny little detail that they are Yabasta dogs.. 😛
Anyways, thank you Victoria Gideonsson, River huskies, for these funny memorable pictures!
I can´t believe these guys recently turned six months old. They are starting to look like real dogs! They are running free every day – we are living really in the middle of nowhere and they still didn´t reach the age when they are leaving the pack for their own adventures. I hope the running gives them a great foundation for their future life as working sleddogs..
I always considered the puppies to be alike in bodytype. Although seeing them like this, I realize they are quite different. Bolt has got really long legs (bottom right) meanwhile Bullet (top right) seems to become a real powerlady. Tropper (top left) was kind of chubby for a long time but now his body grew into his skin and he´s starting to look really good. Sniper (bottom left) was always a very balanced female – and she still is.
Right now, besides from hours of running, I´m also continuing to build a solid mental foundation for them. Depending on their current mood and self development, I present to them different kinds of challenges. They choose themselves when and how they will approach it. For exampel I never force them to approach a foreign person but they often get the chance to see new persons and they might hesitate to approach the first ones but after a while they built the experience that foreign people are nice and cuddly.
Of course another important part of their daily education, is spending time with the pack. Talking “dog” is one thing but learning the differents ways of expressing there is within the pack might take a bit longer. Included in that is also running along with the team getting used to different kinds of behavours during takeover. The core purpose of all training is to slowly build a strong self confidence in running fast forward no matter what.
Other than me hiding education in pretty much everything we do every day, these sweeties are also spending a lot of time playing. Right now, their favourite game is “I´ve got a bigger bone than you”, running around trying to steal each others bones. There are rarely fights though, they seem to sort everything out by themselves.
I would say I´m a rather competitive person. The thought of stepping up on the top of the podium gives me goosebumps enough to plan my life five or even ten years ahead.. The top of performances is both worth waiting and working for! Now this could be a post about winning. A text about the taste of gold medals and watching the pieces of my dream team fall into place one after another. But that is not what I will tell you about today.
Already early in the week before, the weathercast showed warm weather coming in. There would be both snow, rain and plus degrees during the upcoming competition in Nornäs. I waited until the last minute to wax the skiis, hoping for the weathercast to turn. The last few days before leaving, the dogs got an extra bowl of yummi flavoured water every day. Their hydration level is essential when running in plus degrees. When you try to make it to the top, there are no margins for negligence. Small details can be crusial.
We planned to go to a few competitions already this year. My ambition was to have a top performing team for the Swedish Championships in the beginning of March. Nornäs was not planned to be an important race at first. But competition is rare in the mid distance classes and now there were six (!) other mushers signed up in my class in Nornäs. That might be the best competition for the season and a number of these has done great results in Swedish as well as international races.
I went into myself before competing. I always do. Deep within myself. I have forgotten how to do it, it just happens. My body and mind starts to organize things meticulously. Every little routine is a part of finding the right state of mind to compete. I spend more and more time with the dogs and I swear they are never surprised when I finally start to pack the car! Well, enough about this. I wanted you to have a peek into my brain before we throw ourselves back to a foggy Nornäs, Saturday at 11.56.
The dogs had been eating and drinking really well through the whole week. It’s really a relief knowing they are all in good shape and are ready to race! As usual I planned to start out with one main leader and one speedkeeper in front. Sauron and Dolly were chosen. We had a late position starting out after several other mid distance teams. It felt good to have an experienced leaddog in front in case of passings.
So we started out. I could almost immediately tell the trail was heavy. The dogs were working really hard but as soon as the speed went up, they started to step through the trail. Maybe I could have run them fast but at this moment it would mean risking both their mental and physical health. Now my team is still young and my goal is not to be on top this year. There’s that thing with patience. I could run them fast and make them feel like they cannot trust the trail but of course that’s not an option. That would lower their self confidence and – even worse – can make them afraid of high speed.
So I just had to accept the fact that the dogs health and safety would affect our race a lot. And you know what? I didn’t hesitate one second. Even though the most important race of the year, even though I had the chance to beat the world champion, one of my strongest competitors that I’ve longed to beat since our miserable race at last years Swedish championships, even though fame and glory and gold and whatever – I couldn’t care less. Now this was my biggest victory ever. The moment I realized that my ambitions and goals never, ever would be superiour my dogs health.
The first ten kilometers of the race were the slowest. With the lowered speed, I decided to change leaddogs and let Sonic step up together with Dolly. There weren´t going to be much of passings and Sonic has been doing really well in lead lately. Sauron seemed relieved to step back and do the heavy work in back of the team. He was in lead every competition during his life and now, having other leaddogs coming up, I’m trying to give him a break every now and then.
The dogs got to choose their way of working throught the race. I’m more and more getting used to read and understand the running of hot headed dogs. A few years ago, my team was easy to control by voice. I could ask them to increase the speed strategically, as well as keep the speed down and get them to rest. It was an easy-to-run team and we did good in competition. It was my old Kit who changed all this. His way of working was something that I had never before seen. He ALWAYS wanted to increase the speed. It didn’t matter where or how we were running – he would always work as if we were catching up on some other teams. He was my first hot headed dog and since then that’s all I’ve been looking for.
Running dogs who won’t rest during work demanded a whole new way of mushing from me. First thing is the dogs will need a lot of training. They will work 110% no matter how much training they have got in their legs. Considering that, it’s crusial to be slow and strategic when increasing distance. Pia Ångström, a great sprint racer, once said “a hot headed dog will need more training than the regular dog”. Back then, those words meant nothing to me. Today they are one of my foundations in training.
Second thing in these dogs is when they go down in speed, it’s because they really, really need to go slow. They won’t loose speed to rest, recover or endure the race. They go down in speed only because their bodies force them to. This was explained to me for the first time at the Swedish Championships 2017. Jens Lindberget coached me through all three days and I finally realized the meaning of his words. I, their musher, can’t ask them to speed up during these slower parts of the races. That would mean pushing them over their limits.
That’s how we went on during this first day of the race. Sometimes the dogs worked their way forward in an appropriate speed, sometimes they slowed down or even stopped to cool themselves in the snow. All this I could easily accept, knowing that they are doing it because they need to. There’s nothing unobedient with it. They are purely looking after themselves in a way that a hot headed crazy running sleddog does.
It was 25 kilometers or so before we caught up on our main competitor. I didn’t expect to do so since we kind of mentally let go of the race but of course, as I sometimes seem to forget, a heavy trail is equally heavy for all the competitors. We slowly closed in on them, stopped for some snowcooling, closed in on them again. Finally we passed them in a very calm and safe way.
Now I know Nina Finstad has been a top performancer not only in sleddog sports, but also other sports. Because what happened next was her teaching me one of the most elementary things in sports. She taught me good sportswomanship. Now of course it’s easy to be nice when you win. But here, as a world champion just being passed by a local crazy lady, she would have all reasons not to be happy. Now she did just the opposite. I turned around to watch her team and I heard her voice;
“Marlene! You have a really beautiful team there!”
Her words went straight into my heart. Not only could she see what I believe I see in my team. She also had the guts, the self distance, the strength to tell me this. Nina showed me how to act when times are rough. I probably will never be the same again, loosing a competition.
This was right before the chaos..
Soon after the passing I heard shouting. What did they say? Were there more passings? Did they shout my name? No, it wasn´t my name. We kept on running a few hundred meters and when I turned to check on the others, I could see noone. Now this was very strange. Normally after a passing, you try to follow the faster team for a while. Now the trail was empty behind me. I stopped and listened. Everything was quiet. No sign of complications from where I could hear. This confirmed my thoughts; I must have missed the crossing where we would go out on the second lap.
I tried to see the other teams taking the new trail. But I could see noone. Just trees and snow. I called Nina. What had happened? The line was occupied. I checked on my gps. We had been running 26 kilometers. I tried to remember the map from the musher meeting. Where were the crossing? Was it close to the 2-dog trail? Or the 4-dog trail? Where were we? I counted in my head and from what I could tell, we shouldn´t come to the crossing just yet. I called Nina again. No answer. I finally decided to go on running and, at the same time, prepare to turn around if the finish line would appear.
Then we were alone. I can’t remember any other team besides one sprintdog team passing in front of us. Noone caught up on us. After a few kilometers Nina called. She had had troubles with a dog. We talked for a while about what happened and she told me she needed to take him out from the team and put him in the sled. I remember thinking if I would catch up on her on the second lap, I could bring her dog to the finish line. But she had already passed the crossing. Now we were on our own again.
We hit the finish line. The dogs were happy. I was happy. We all defeated the warm weather and tough trail. Dolly and Sonic had energy left to force through the fenced area over to the hamburger hack. The arrival to the car confirmed that the dogs were in good shape. They all ate and drank eagerly. It might have been the first time that all dogs ate all their meals through a whole competition weekend.
I knew we were in the lead after the first heat. I had no idea of how much, though. It didn’t really matter – the only thing I could have done better were making faster decisions on the trail. But it’s like that in mid distance. You are out for hours and a lot of things can – and will – happen. There is rarely the perfect race, that’s almost impossible when working with living individuals. Routine, experience and good knowledge about your dogs is what eventually will save you that little extra time.
Sunday morning and time for second, and last, heat. The competition organizers had seeded the starting list overall mid distance, meaning they mixed us 6-dog teams with the 12-dog teams according to yesterdays result. That’s really a great way to ease the race for the dogs and avoid unnecessary passings in the trail. We started out two minutes behind Gantus breeder, Maria Pålsson, who were running in the 12-dog class.
The weather had changed in a good way. The temperature was slightly lower and there were actually some blue sky showing up every now and then. We were catching up on Maria soon after start, she had some troubles and were standing still. It wasn’t long though, until she came after us. Now the circumstances of the race had changed dramatically. The trail was hard and the only thing holding the dogs back was the humidity that partly hit us in the trail. I could hardly see any difference but I felt it clearly both in the periods of weakening of the team and the hard time I had to breath.
We only needed to stop a few times to cool down in the snow. Instead I tried to use these stops to give the dogs time enough to really get the pulse down. It felt like we were pulling away from Maria sometimes but she just wouldn’t give up and soon she gained on us again. My stubborn beloved friend! We ended upp racing almost the whole race together, shared waterbottle, did some live facebook and laughed a lot. Noone caught up on us, neither did we catch up on someone else. We finished with only seconds between us and great smiles on our faces!
And somehow we made it. Although regular stops to cool down, the running pace was high enough to give us a great margin for winning. All and together the Yabasta dogs were almost thirty minutes faster than the other medalists. We even had the third fastest runs comparing with the 12-dog class. Our race wasn’t perfect in the context of troublefree. We are still working on our routines and need to add some experience to make those totally fluent races. But now I got the confirmation I needed. The team has potential to compete on a high international level. And I’m mentally ready to do so.