Volunteering at a Dogsled Farm – Snowdragons, Austria Part 5 (Guest Blog)

The next two days, some friends visited for watching the race. Lukas was able to keep his third place, even it really took him a lot to keep up with the others. The track was obviously very challenging. Still, we had a lot of fun, everything was organized very well, but we were happy when everything ended on Sunday with the ceremony and with a final emotional song I am from Austria (the secret Austrian hymn).

Last time, I was two days before the European Championship really worried, that I wouldn’t be able to join Lukas, because I got ill. Luckily, I felt one day before much better and I told Lukas that I will definitely join him. It was actually the first day since a week my nose was not running – what a nice feeling 😛 Lukas and I had to make some preparations, we weren’t sure that there will be electricity in Ottenschlag, so we needed to buy a generator to heat up the caravan, and a few more things. In between, we still had some time for fun with the dogs. It was pretty much raining the whole week, and Braxi obviously didn’t like to be wet anymore, so he sneaked into the house. I dried him with a towel, I think he liked it 😉

By Sheida Nasseri (Guest Blogger)

Please find the original post, awesome photos, and adrenaline-packed videos here: http://butterflies-needtofly.blogspot.co.at/2016/11/volunteering-at-dogsled-farm_27.html

European Championship in Ottenschlag / Austria

The next morning, we started packing the caravan and loading the dogs. The final decision on the dogs joining us, was in the lead Foppa and Lily, behind them Simba and Atreju, then Arthur and Angor, and as Wheel dogs Punkti and Blesk. They always get really excited and it is not that easy to get them from the kennel to the transporter as you imagine 😛 They pull really hard, because they fear that you will let them behind and of course because they sense that there is something exciting about to happen. After loading all dogs, we said Goodbye to Miriam and Maria and were on our way to Ottenschlag. The weather conditions weren’t that good, it was raining and very foggy, although it was at least cold enough for our dogs to run. It took us some time to arrive in Ottenschlag, due to the bad weather conditions and our very long vehicle – just to remind you, we were about 14 meters long.

Finally, we arrived around lunchtime in Ottenschlag, there were already a lot of other mushers with their dogs. We got a place next to an Austrian friend of Lukas, her name is Ines who was there with her girlfriend Sajma (from Switzerland). It is really crazy, how many people and especially dogs are there.

Of course, with so many dogs so close to each other, there are some frictions. We had one with one of our neighbors. All musher friends from Lukas were doubting that they were purebred Huskies, and the Musher always let the dogs run free when he got them out of their boxes. The mushers were kidding around that if that would be real Huskies, they wouldn’t stay in that area, they would be running off as far as they could. Additionally, one of the dogs always came a little bit too close to the other dogs’ area, which always triggered a barking and growling concert 😛

We always took the dogs out of their boxes to the so-called “stake out”, where they were attached to a line, so that they couldn’t run off to other dogs but still had the possibility to walk a little bit around and pee or poop. When you let out the dogs out of their boxes, you hold them on their collar and lead them to their place where they got leashed on and back the other way around. I don’t why, but getting the dogs out of the box was never a problem, but getting them back inside, definitely was! At least with a few dogs, and especially with Punkti! I either compared him with a wild going horse or an ox 😛 Not that they didn’t want to get in the box, no they wanted to, so badly, that they were going crazy and pulling so hard, that I almost couldn’t hold them. We had the strongest dogs with us, Atreju, Angor, and Punkti! Lukas was making fun of me, because my muscles in my arms got really sore from holding the dogs, that he always said that if I keep going on, my arms will get longer and very soon I can walk around like an ape with my arms first 😉

Most of the day, I spent actually running around and looking at the other dogs or cuddling with our dogs. They just love to cuddle J

It is amazing to see, how many nationalities are attending on such an event, there were people from 18 countries which were; Italy, Moldavian, France, Slovakia, Romania, Belgium, Serbia, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Hungary, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and of course Austria.

We had quite a short night, due to the fact that somehow a lot of mushers let their dogs out in the middle of the night, although it is forbidden. There is a rule, which says, that the dogs have to be in their boxes between 10pm and 7am. Well, not all of them were following the rules, and when the dogs are out of their boxes they start barking. Very loud. Nevertheless, the morning started early with letting the dogs out and feeding them. Lukas starting time would be at 10.10 am, so we started preparing the dogs shortly before and you could feel the excitement within the whole place. There are different categories where the mushers can run with their dogs. Existing categories were cart run with ten, eight, six and four dogs, Sprint Bike with two or one dogs, Sprint Scooter with one or two dogs, and Canicross with one or two dogs. Can you imagine, CANICROSS with two dogs???? You remember, when I told you that running just with one dog is already a challenge and then with two dogs?? Wow! I watched them running, and I had to laugh because I recognized that expression their faces “don’t fall, don’t fall”. and that was also very difficult, due to the mud.

Within the categories there were even more categories, whether gender or age or if it is a middle or long distance or just a sprint. Shortly, before it was Lukas turn, Lukas got a call from Birgit that Braxi did somehow run off. We have no idea how he did it because there is everywhere a fence around but he wasn’t on the property. Unfortunately, exactly what day the hunting started, the hunters would be out for the next three days. We got really upset, but luckily shortly after that call, Birgit called again and said he was back. He was totally out of breath, limping and smelled like fish! We have no idea where he was, but at least he got back. We guessed that he tried to follow us, but who knows he won’t tell us. We also couldn’t find a hole in any of the fences. As I said, Braxi won’t tell us 😉

Then, we leashed the dogs on to the cart and then (Ines and Sajma helped us) we run together while holding the dogs to the starting line. I had to hold Foppa, he is always so excited and starts jumping over poor Lily, so I hold him the whole time tight. He was really eager to start, we’ve got some pictures of that 😉

After the first race, Lukas was in third place. On the first was one Czech guy with incredible 44 minutes time for the 14.7 km, on the second place one guy from Switzerland, Thomas, we got friends with him, with 54 minutes and Lukas with 58 minutes. In fourth place was again some Czech guy, with only 40 seconds after Lukas. Lukas said, that the first and second place is too far away for him to reach, but he really would like to keep the third place. But therefore, he needs to get a time advantage for all three days and it was already a close catch.

The next two days, some friends visited for watching the race. Lukas was able to keep his third place, even it really took him a lot to keep up with the others. The track was obviously very challenging. Still, we had a lot of fun, everything was organized very well, but we were happy when everything ended on Sunday with the ceremony and with a final emotional song I am from Austria (the secret Austrian hymn).

The ceremony ended around 7 pm, therefore, we decided to leave on the next morning. we didn’t want to have the stress of driving in the dark. I enjoyed it a lot, but I was very tired and finally happy, that after arriving, packing out and taking a super long shower I could have a nice long nap.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. Tomorrow, Maria and I are flying to Paris, to Walt Disneyland! Stay tuned for my next post 😉

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Volunteering at a Dogsled Farm – Snowdragons, Austria Part 4 (Guest Post)

I would like to express here that the dog’s wellbeing is Lukas first concern and therefore he didn’t stress the dogs to run fast or on all three days like others did! Therefore, he knew there would be no chance to win that race and this race wasn’t important, it is more like a training…

Here we’ll go again, somehow a lot of things happened and then, not again. The same weekend where Miri and I were alone (Lukas, Birgit and Maria went to Reingers in Austria for a cart race), a previous volunteer arrived. She was the last time only two weeks with Lukas and wanted now to come to visit the dogs and Lukas for a few days. When Lukas, Birgit and Maria came back, they all were kind of relieved and happy to be back with all dogs and all in one piece. Obviously, there was some catastrophe going on in Reingers. Due to the weather circumstances, Lukas decided to not let the dogs run on all three days. It was too warm!

By Sheida Nasseri (Guest Blogger)

Please find the original post, including photos, here: http://butterflies-needtofly.blogspot.com/2016/11/volunteering-at-dogsled-farm.htm

I would like to express here that the dog’s wellbeing is Lukas first concern and therefore he didn’t stress the dogs to run fast or on all three days like others did! Therefore, he knew there would be no chance to win that race and this race wasn’t important, it is more like a training. Usually, Birgit would have gone with four or five dogs and Lukas with eight. Due to the fact, they left out one day, they decided to run with the big team instead, so with all thirteen dogs. Usually, there are several dog handlers which are supporting the Musher holding the dogs and release them in time when the training or race starts. When they wanted to start running, one of the front dog handlers didn’t let go fast enough the leash and fell, so six dogs were running over him, and the seven behind stopped to not run over the guy and the mainline snapped through the force from both sides going in different directions. It snapped in the middle where Braxi was attached to; I am not sure if you know what that means.

The dogs have a neckline attached to their collar and one leash which is attached to the harness on their back; so when the main line snaps in the middle, the neckline is attached to the six dogs who were now running free and his backside to the leash which belongs to the dogs who stopped; they could have ripped him in two pieces, but lucky as Braxi is, his collar was not too tight on his neck, so he could get out of his collar and was standing still in shock! Two dog handlers jumped on their quad bikes and drove after the six dogs which were running their race without the cart and musher. They caught them fast, but that was a really BIG shock for all of them! Lukas directly bought new and stronger lines and a new nice collar for Braxi! That was somehow too much, three times in one week something snapped.

Being back, Maria had the next four days off and went to Vienna. Miri also left on the next day, so I was left with Silvia. She had no experience in doing the routines, so it was pretty much me doing the work … but Birgit and Lukas also helped 😉 I am very thankful for her pictures and videos, though. When we had training, she was filming and taking pictures. Interesting to see, because I never get the chance to take pictures during training (Lukas would most probably kill me if I would take pics instead of helping ;-)) I wanted to post the video, but somehow I had difficulties to upload it.

Before Maria came back, we had a spontaneous photo shoot for our race which we organize in December. I think, I already mentioned that we are organizing our own race here in our region. It will be on the weekend of the 10/11th December. We wanted to hang out some posters to make an advertisement and Lukas asked me if I could take the role as a runner, or so-called Canicross. There will be Sabrina, who is also one of the helpers who will be on the bike and Lukas on the cart. Tim (he is only 9 years old) is going to take the pictures. He is really good at it. Lukas told me, that we will start running up the hill in our yard to the open place and that I have to be really fast because I have to keep up the pace with a bike and a cart! I was doubting that I could keep up that pace, but I didn’t count on Braxi. He was dragging me up that hill so fast, that I even overtook the cart and the bike and was not able to slow down!  I have to admit, a little bit painful because the belt is kind of dividing your ass, but that was actually really funny.

When Maria came back, I left on the next morning for my long weekend off. I also went to Vienna with my boyfriend. It was really lovely! We had a nice hotel, with some crazy architecture, went for some sightseeing, shopping and we even went for the opera “la Cenerentola” (Cinderella). I loved that weekend and I will miss him even more after it.

Being back, I was a bit down. I think I caught something, I felt not that strong. Birgit and Lukas wanted to go away for a few days and that morning we still had a training. I got to go with Lukas and finally had the chance to drive the cart and I discovered my hands are too small to hold the brake of that big cart :-/ typical! So mean L at least, I could drive a few times when we were going more uphill and I didn’t need to handle the brake =P

When we returned, I didn’t feel really good and lay down for the rest of the day. I got sick. With Birgit and Lukas being away, there was not much to do so I could rest. Miri and I found out that Maria (coming from New Zealand) never watched “The Hobbit” or “Lord of the Rings” we were shocked!!!! We started watching that week all Hobbit movies and kept on going on with the Lord of the Rings. Lukas and Birgit returned on the 11th of November. The next morning, we started with a training and Lukas suggested after the training, that Maria and I could take the car so we can go to Buschberg, he saw some pics that there was still a little bit snow laying and  Maria is so eager to see snow. She didn’t really see much snow in her life. In addition, she didn’t get up there to see the nice view, so we went together. It was much fun, I also felt better again.

Sometimes when we got too much paper and carton leftover we do a big fire and burn everything. Maria is freaking scared of fire, so she ripped the carton and I did the fire. I am not afraid, but I have respect. We were making a decent fire, at one point, Lukas came and asked why we are not putting the whole carton at once into the fire. Well, he did, and the fire got so big. He was laughing about us and made (and is still doing) fun about us ripping paper into small pieces and says “I already start a fire, I will be done in two days” and then just cracks of laughter!

Later that day, we went to the chickens and I noticed that little brownie was not outside with the others. When I checked the shed, I directly noticed that something couldn’t be right. She wasn’t on her eggs but was laying in the corner, with her face down in the Stroh. I tried to get her up, but she seemed not able to get on her feet, so I put her in one of the incubators so that she didn’t fall on her face. We went back to the house and told Lukas. He noticed that she had diarrhea, he tried to make her drink water or eat something but couldn’t. Brigit’s father, Pauli, also checked on her but he said that she probably won’t make it. A few hours later she already was dead. I couldn’t believe it, the tamest and most productive chicken died. Still sad about that.

The next day, I didn’t feel good at all! That was the first time I stayed almost the whole day in bed, instead of helping. I couldn’t even help with the night training, Lukas and Maria went alone. I really fear that I will miss the European Championship. The next morning, I got up and helped with the training, but it did cost me so much energy that I was shaking for almost ten minutes… had to rest afterward a little bit. Lukas asked me if I think I will be fit for the Championship. He will need someone who is 100% fit. Birgit is this time not participating due to health issues so it will be just Lukas with eight dogs and one dog handler. I couldn’t tell him, I said, I will wait for the next day and when I don’t feel better I will stay.

If you want to know if I made it to the European Championship, stay posted. Within a week, my next post will be online. Hope to see you again! 🙂

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