Toothbrush dog

April 4, 2009

Bad me. I haven’t posted in several months again. I should be posting more often now that mushing season is over and running/Team in Training is gearing up. In the meantime…

Today was the 12th annual Mush for Kids, hosted by the Alaska Children’s Trust. It’s a good event for raising awareness about sled dogs and mushing, dog etiquette, and an organization that works to prevent child abuse and neglect in Alaska. I’ve participated in this fun community event for the past several years. Usually I help with the free dog sled rides by handling dogs while sleds are being loaded or unloaded with passengers. I don’t actually give the rides; my dogs can’t deal with stopping and starting and going around this little trail. As one might expect, there’s always a HUGE line of people waiting to get rides. I also usually bring Piper and Koidern to walk along the line getting pets from kids to help pass their time in line. Piper and Koidern love getting pets and are really good around the kids. It’s also a good opportunity to encourage kids to respect the dogs and use good manners around them. For example, if a kid comes up and asks if they may pet the dog instead of just barging up to it, I try to reward that behavior by thanking the kid for asking first.

As part of the event, some local dentists provide toothbrushes to give out to kids. There’s been a dog who walks around wearing a backpack full of toothbrushes. This year, the dog’s owner decided he was too old to do this job and asked some other mushers if they wanted to use a rescue dog for this task. It’s a bit much of a task to ask just any shelter (or former shelter) dog, because the dog needs to be very tolerant of children and crowds of people. I offered Piper for the job; she was adopted from the animal shelter and a veteran of this event.

Piper the Toothbrush Dog

Piper the Toothbrush Dog

Today Piper became “Piper the Toothbrush Dog.” She was a bit worried about it at first. She’s never worn a backpack before. And she didn’t walk around with me. There was another volunteer recruited to walk the toothbrush dog. Sarah loves dogs and learned quickly. Shortly after I left them on their own, Piper rebelled and didn’t want to walk around. It didn’t help that the backpack was a little big on her.

I readjusted the pack, gave Sarah a bag of bribes (a.k.a. Yummy Chummies dog treats), and suggested they try again. This time Piper got the hang of things.

Piper the Toothbrush Dog at work with Sarah

Piper the Toothbrush Dog at work with Sarah

Piper and Sarah walked around the event for a few hours until they ran out of toothbrushes. Piper got lots of pets and attention, and I hear she may have gotten a treat or two.

While Piper did her job, I helped hold dogs while sleds were emptied of their passengers at the dog sled rides until Carol came to relieve me. Then Koidern and I walked along the line allowing people to meet and pet a real sled dog. After a while I gave Koidern a break and took her sister, Kluane, out to give Carol a break.

It was a perfect day for this event: sunny and just warm enough for the people while staying cool enough for the dogs and trail. As thing in the dog lot wound down, Carol and I took our two matching dogs out and chatted with one of the organizers. Kluane and Koidern both belonged to our training partner, Bonnie, until she decided that they didn’t fit with her kennel. Kluane fit with Carol, Koidern fit with me, and they both keep coming back to train at Bonnie’s. Besides loving attention and pets, they both love to give hugs.

Carol getting hugs from Kluane and Koidern

Carol getting hugs from Kluane and Koidern


Piper’s anniversary

December 26, 2007

Today, December 26, 2007, is the fifth anniversary of us bringing Piper home.

In December 2002, we had one pet dog, one sled dog, and three cats. I was just getting into mushing and mostly running my friends’ dogs. Around that same time, some local mushers began attempting to evaluate sled dogs available through the borough animal shelter and posting messages about them to the local dog mushing listservs. Piper (then named Frankie) had been dropped at the shelter on December 9 by a distance musher from Delta Junction who said Frankie didn’t “want to be a full time sled dog.” The musher who took her out for a “test drive” wrote that she ran great and really wanted to just go fast. They tried her in lead and she also did great. The shelter manager at the time also posted an e-mail about Frankie (and other dogs) that said how great this dog was and that she interpreted the not wanting to be a full time sled dog as being “too dang smart to be a professional dog when she can double as someone’s real pet dog too.” At the distance kennel, Piper was one of 50-60 other dogs and probably didn’t get a lot of quality time with her owner.

We hemmed and hawed about whether or not we wanted another dog. In the meantime, Piper/Frankie was featured in the local paper as an adoptable pet at the shelter.

On December 23, 2002, we decided to go to the shelter and check her out. We fell in love and decided to adopt her on the spot. There were a couple of bureaucratic hiccups that kept her from coming home with us right then and there. First, the shelter wouldn’t let any dog be adopted unless they were spayed or neutered and Piper was still intact. So we called our veterinarian from the shelter and he agreed to spay her the very next day. Problem with the next day was that it was Christmas Eve day and no pets were allowed to be adopted for Christmas. I tried explaining to the shelter staff that I was Jewish (really I AM) and Christmas had nothing to do with our decision. But policy was policy, so she had to wait at the shelter until December 26. They also had a policy that if you couldn’t take your adoptee within 24 hours, there was a $10 per day boarding fee. They charged us that fee! It didn’t matter that THEY were the reason we weren’t taking her. Blah blah blah. She went directly from the shelter to our vet’s office, got spayed, then got to come home with us — drowsy and uncomfortable from surgery straight to a strange place with strange people and other strange animals.Piper on her first day home Frankie sounded too much like a prostitute’s name to us, so we renamed her Sandpiper; Piper for short.

Now here we are, five years later, and Piper is one of our best dogs. Spoiled rotten too 😉 Comfy Piper, 26 Dec 2007 She does in fact run lead and has been a part of my race team every year. She even helped us win a race or two (maybe only two) including the 4-dog class at the Alaska Dog Mushers Association’s 2007 North Pole Championships. Piper’s a great house dog, car dog, and overall companion.

Happy fifth anniversary Piper!

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