For the last SHCV race of the season, J decided that Ishka was still too sore to race. M agreed that we could use Mischa instead, so, the night before the race, he went to collect Mischa. What did the dogs do while he was gone? Apparently, they were all heart-broken. I could NOT get any of them to play with me at all. Typical!
When we got up to Inglewood, we gathered with various people around the campfire and got to meet the newest additions to the Snofall Siberians Kennel - PUPPIES!! The lovely RUBISS Australian Champion Snofall Good Golly Miss Molly had had a beautiful litter from American Champion Bralins Simon Says SD. The litter of five puppies included four grey/white (two girls and two boys) and one token black/white girl. Guess which one immediately stole my heart and I shamelessly monopolised for the rest of the evening?
Next morning, J ran in the heats first thing, and then we were free to hang out, relax... and walk puppies! Guess who kept getting lost in the woods? I hope that wasn't my influence from the night before!
After lunch on Saturday, having completed the first heats for the final race, we chilled out with some games and competitions. Firstly, the guest race marshall, the amazing Karen Ramstead, acted as show judge for those who've dogs have been taught the mysteries of "stacking" and other such things. (J and I were actually snoozing at this point, so we missed it... whoops!) And then there was Musical Chairs - you're out if your dog is the last to sit!
And then there was the jousting. Jousting? Yes, jousting. Using two of the big three wheels rigs, and a pool noodle for a lance. One person had to be the horse and push the rig. The other person had to steer the rig and hold the lance. As I couldn't steer the rig, guess who got to be the horse? Have I mentioned that J is at least a foot taller than me and I'm terribly terribly unfit?
Last event in the "Olympics" was a wild scooter race around the camp site. When I say wild, it was a constantly rule-shifting, cheating-filled, pool-noodle-whacking melee, that left onlookers helpless with laughter.
After dinner, everyone was invited back to the central tent for a pot-luck dessert and a talk by Karen. Karen is a Canadian lady who has competed in "The Last Great Race" - the Iditarod - across Alaska multiple times. She had already spoken several times during her visit to Australia, but on this occasion, she talked about training, conditioning and watching for injuries in sled dogs, including going over two dogs and demonstrating how she keeps an eye on sixteen dogs during a fortnight long, 24/7 race. Really really interesting!
On Sunday, J took Mischa and the boys out for the last heat, while Ishka and I waited. We watched the other teams who'd I'd gotten to know over the winter coming in. Now, as I've mentioned before, J usually doesn't place in these races. He jokes about stopping for a cup of tea mid race. But this time he was even later than usual. I was actually starting to worry. When he finally appeared, the reason for the late finish was immediately obvious. Poor Frankie's back had been worrying him after Saturday's heat, but we'd treated it with some massage and pain killers. On Sunday's heat, Frankie had pulled up lame and J had tried to put him in the bag on the rig - this is the usual way to bring a lame dog back from a race. However, Frankie would NOT cooperate, and kept trying to leap out of the bag each time the rig took off. In the end, J came back with Frankie on a lead... very... very... very... slow...ly...
After we'd settled the dogs, J took me out to see the trail, and practice shooting moving subjects in strong light conditions. It was great to see the dogs actually running, and listen to how the mushers worked with their dogs - who used "left/right" versus "gee/haw", who talked to the dogs a lot and who kept the chatter to a minimum. I stayed back from the trail to avoid distracting the dogs, and watch J pick his line. Of course, he knew exactly how the dogs would take the tricky corner!
Then it was time to start packing up the km's of bunting, markers and other items. The race organisers make it all look waaaay too easy, but setting up at least three different trails, plus tents, toilets, signs, white boards, raffles, cups, ribbons, computers... wow!
Oh yeah, did I mention pancakes for breakfast? Yum.
Last order of business was presentations. It was thrilling to see people who'd worked so hard over the winter to achieve great results. Special congrats to our friends from Norstarr Kennels on their wins - including the Mikulov Cup!