Let's play!

Let’s play!

Welcome back to a new school year and a new season of training teams of sled dogs. I am Lynne Witte teaching 24 young 2nd graders. My Iskristal Kennel is privileged to team with Tasha Stielstra of Nature’s Kennel from McMillan, Michigan. Under Tasha’s leadership, the female yearling team, my seasoned leaders, and I will be training and racing around the UP of Michigan.

A late summer trip to Lake Superior near Grand Marais was a quiet serene ending to a summer of relaxing and playing.

Looking ahead to the start a new start of a new season is always exciting. For the little kids or young pups the anticipation is exciting!
Grand Marais<a

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Paws to Plan

MissiOnaway2Welcome to summer teachers, parents, and sled dog enthusiasts! When you are relaxing at your favorite summer get away, if you have questions you’d like answered for your students, topics to discover more about, or ideas to share, please share your comments. Let’s share some great learning experiences for our students.

Mississippi pictured here during our camping trip to Black Lake near Onaway.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Puppies EatPuppies ChasePuppies PorchAnnouncement Mother’s Day is a great day to share an adult dog and her growing pups. The young pups are a pile of puppies who grow to hang out on the porch catching a few rays of sunshine. Within weeks the pups are ready to eat on their own and love to interact in puppy games of run and chase.

So often I hear from a parent how quickly their preschooler is already graduating from high school!

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Is This Really Spring?

DiggerThe kids are ready for to get out to play some soccer, baseball, and ride their bikes. We look forward to heading out to recess without our snowpants and boots. The sled dogs are ready to please and enjoy time with their running buddies. The kids have enjoyed some Easter egg hunts but a twist in the weather pattern brought the kennel near McMillan with 8 inches of new snow. Howls and jumping dogs let us know we are ready for one more run through the trails with a sled instead of our bike. Just like the kid winter clothing we need to keep our winter running gear close at hand.
Pictured above is Digger howling with excitement to let his kennel mates “Let’s Go! We have fresh snow!”

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A Perfect Friend

Today was a day for sharing a good story with each other. I shared “Trouper” by Meg Kearney which is a picture book based on a true rescue story. After learning about sled dogs the last couple of months, this was heart tugging story for children. Families love puppies but there are so many grown dogs who have many years of fun to share with a family. Trouper’s story was a beautiful story of the boy’s bond shared with a dog.
Trouper is the story of a three-legged stray dog who finds a loving boy to call his own, illustrated by Caldecott Honor Book artist E.B. Lewis. Based on a true story.
Trouper was group of stray dogs who one day were captured and put in cages in a shelter. Trouper watched daily as each dog was chosen, until he was the only one left. Finally one day, the right boy comes to adopt this three-legged mutt as the perfect friend for him!

Meg Kearney shares through this short video how Trouper become a special friend to her life. I shared the short video after reading the picture book.st


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Spring Break

NK Spring RunSpring BreakSpring SnowEveryone at our school was anticipating our spring break. After a snowier and colder winter than usual, most families have planned trips to warmer regions. We had concluded our unit on the Iditarod and finished writing poems to the mushers who finished their harsh races to Nome. With new snow in the UP of Michigan, I loaded the van and headed north to let my dogs have the best spring break possible. With fresh snow, cold temps, and bright sunshine, we joined with some dogs from Nature’s Kennel to gain more sled experience. The dogs had the opportunity to run with new friends, run new trails, and do what they love to do RUN!

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Resting Paws

Timber CalumetOur classroom calendars and themes focus on spring but many residents around the Great Lakes wonder what season in now loams around us. Most of the students and teachers in southern Michigan have enjoyed a spring break by heading south to warmer temps.

The sled dogs are well conditioned athletes compared to athletic humans who thrive with their daily routines but are willing to lounge in the sun and take a break to regroup. Timber (pictured above) took a short break in Calumet the day after the Copper Dog Race but has been yelping and jumping to run. I compare the dogs to the students who participate in after school sports. They enjoy learning and participating year around but breaks are good to regroup.

My spring break was an opportunity to head to McMillan to enjoy the extended snowy season. The dogs were so excited to get back on the trails and run with some different dogs. It is like meeting new friends on the playground.

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Teamwork by the Paws

51988749-copper+dog+150+2014+brockit+205555-4What a grand weekend of activities in Calumet, Eagle River, Eagle River, and Copper Harbor for the celebration of the CopperDog. My team of my 3 females lead by Puddle and Mississippi rounded out by veteran Timber worked so well with 3 yearlings from Nature’s Kennel of McMillan. Digger, Joe Cool, and Hank were yearlings trained by handlers at Nature’s Kennel and ran a few runs with my girls had a wonderful 40 mile run. It was Hank’s first race and what a blast he had! We finished 8th of 17 teams and smiled all the way. This team got all A’s for their work as a team, their ability to run a skillful race. Likewise, they were so proud of their efforts at the finish line to wag those happy tails!

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Smiling Paws

Jack Pine TrailWhat makes a sled dog smile? Young sled dogs begin their harness training when they are about 6 months old. A young pup is given the opportunity to run in a team with older more experienced sled dogs. Their teacher/musher insures it is a positive experience for the young pups. Just like students in a classroom, it is important the pups enjoy their learning experience to continue motivated to learn.

Young dogs ( yearlings) about 1 1/2 Feb 15. It was led by Puddle and Mississippi. Both dogs are 3 1/2 years old. Puddle has led races since she was 2 years old. Puddle will lead through any snow drift , wind,or crowd of people. At her young age she is driven to forward. Mississippi is a leader in training. Rounding out the experienced team is Timber now 7 years old. Timber is tiny but a heart of the biggest dog and cheerleader to go at race time. She is mild and gentle with any running partner. Timber has run in very position of the team. She is an amazing gee-haw leader to be a buddy to Galt a yearling. Running wheel are yearlings Digger and Joe Cool who are learning how fun it is to bbe part of a sled dog team.

It is great to see smiling paws and happy tails!

The above picture was taken about 20 miles into the Jack Pine race. Notice the smiles as dogs pass by a group of vvolunteers.

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Paws to Assess

CopperDogStartPhotoIn my classroom, the students are assessed to have a benchmark for their progress in daily learning. Often the question is asked,”How does a musher assess the dogs for their teams?” Abibility, attitude, and apetite are three basic assessments I see as very important. In talking with distance mushers, they have confirmed they look for similar traits. The level will vary with the distance of an run your are expecting of the dog team.

Attitude refers to the dog’s natural athletic ability. The speed and strength a dog can run if important.
Attitude refers to the level of enthusiasm and initiative to get up and be ready to run. It may not be the vocal enthusiasm but the willingness to run therough tough terrain and conditions.
Appetite refers to how well does a dog eat. The top benchmark would be that a dog can eat anytime, anywhere, anything offered to them by the musher.

Just like our students, the dogs are in a process of learning. It is my responsibility to enourage the dogs and offer experiences for the younger dogs to develop and strengthen their abilities, attitudes, and appetites.

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