Thursday, February 28, 2013

Solo's retired...

Solo's one of the arboreal dogs. About eight years ago, we got three dogs from a woman musher who needed to cut down on dogs. She had so many that most of them were tied to trees. She talked about raising them to run the Iditarod, or maybe the Quest, I forget, but never had the time to actually train any of them. So Solo, who was about three, had never been in harness. That first winter was a struggle, teaching older dogs to run in the team, since we normally start training pups at 4-5 months. But by the time spring came around, Solo was becoming a decent sled dog. He eventually became a regular member of the team, but it wasn't until we got Polar that he found his real calling. Polar was a pound dog who was vetted by a local dog musher's rescue group. They posted on their web site that there was this great dog at the pound, a real hard worker who was just a little slow. So I took a chance and brought him home. He was a little shy, but I figured he'd come around and besides, he's a real hard worker. Well it turned out they were half right; he sure is slow. But he soon bonded with Solo, who had been aggressive towards all the other males, and they began to play together. Their play evolved into the extended skirmishes that we documented in the video (Dec 5, 2012). But as always happens, Solo got older and not too long after we made the video, he struggled to keep up with the team. Surprisingly, he also quit playing with Polar. We're not quite sure what the problem is, but other than no longer acting like a wild dog, he seems to be doing fine as a retired sled dog.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Global Warming on Ground Hog Day?
Well ground hog day’s come and gone and, at least for the lower 48 states, the prognosticating rodent predicted a mild winter. But for Alaska, where there are no ground hogs, we’d probably need to consult the hoary marmot. According to Wikipedia, the hoary marmot (Marmota caligata) is the largest North American ground squirrel. They live near tree line throughout much of Alaska and inhabit burrows where grasses, sedges, and Krummholz forest dominate. That’s about right then, since we’re surrounded by Krumhardt forest around here.
As far as six more weeks of winter, well the squirrel savants not saying much, but we’d likely have at least another two months of cold weather regardless. This winter has been on the average, cooler than normal, but has been dominated by large temperature swings. While we’ve had half a dozen cold snaps where it got down to minus thirty or colder, we’ve had almost as many warm spells where it got to twenty above or warmer. It even rained in January, the first time that’s happened in over fifty years.  For some perspective on the recent climate trends in Alaska, see: “The First Decade of the New Century: A Cooling Trend for Most of Alaska”, Alaska Climate Research Center of the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks. (http://climate.gi.alaska.edu/)