Saturday, March 28, 2015

Find the magic in everyday

“Magic is where you find it; the only thing that matters is that you take the time to look for it.”
~Tom Ryan

 This time of year in Michigan is  muddy, slushy, and grey! Odin wanted me to share some joy and sunshine with you, with an excerpt from our book "Furry Philosophy and Memoirs Set in Stone"

"When he sees a mud puddle he runs right into it, mouth wide open, slurping mud all the way. I can almost hear him saying, (to the tune of Dr. Seuss’ Green eggs and ham), “I like mud. I do I do. I like mud. How bout you?” The bigger the mud puddle the more excited he gets. When it is a really big mud puddle, you can hear him sing (to the tune of ‘I like big butts’), “I love mud and I cannot lie. No other doggies can deny, when you walk in with a muddy dirty chin, and dirt caked on your fur, you look hot. “
Needless to say if I see a mud puddle I’ll get Odin’s attention (to get him to avoid it), or put him on a leash. It is not my idea of a great time to be giving my white dog a bath every day. Often we do off-leash training. One day we saw a huge mud puddle, so I called Odin into a heel. We walked by the mud puddle and he stayed in a heel like the good boy he is. When we got to the end of the mud puddle I told Odin what a good boy he was and told him Yeaaaaaaaaa and gave him a treat. He danced around proud of what a good boy he was and I swear I could hear him say, “I was such a good boy. Let’s celebrate!” Then ran right back into the mud puddle, open mouthed and slinging mud every which way, in a grand celebration. OKAY….how can you get mad at that? Bath day it is.
On another occasion I was in the kitchen and I happened to catch something out of the corner of my eye and thought to myself, “Whose orange dog is in the yard?” The closer I looked I realized to my amazement that it was MY orange dog. He wasn’t just a little orange; he was bright, raging orange from head to the tip of his tail. I could not imagine what the heck he had done this time. Once I walked outside I realized it was bright, PUMPKIN orange. Odin had found the Halloween pumpkins we had put in the woods for the critters. It just so happened that the pumpkins turned to mush. He was so overjoyed he was running around doing the happy dance as if he was saying, “Look how handsome my new dye job is!” Needless to say it was another bath day for Odin.
As much as you may think the habit Odin has of getting into dirty mischief is an inconvenience you have to stop and ponder the happiness. When he does these things so joyfully it gets me thinking -Sometimes in life we become concerned with trivial things: what others think, how we look, keeping up on appearances. Maybe we should take this as a lesson to take the time to enjoy life while you can… even if it means getting a little dirt under the nails in the process. Try not to worry about what other people think; just do what brings you a little joy in life. Skip in the mud puddles while singing once in a while. Life is too short to worry about keeping up with the Jones’ or stress about the repercussions, aka the ‘baths’, which follow.
Odin reminds me to find the “magic” in every day"
Odin J. always looks so marshmellow fluffy after his baths 

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Iditarod , a lesson for our future leaders.

Martin Buser's dog , Seattle photo courtesy of Happy Trails Kennel
"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."- Unknown

      Who really won the Iditarod? I think Mr. Dallas Seavy would be a little upset by that question, but I mean no disrespect. I do take my hat off to Dallas for being the first to cross the finish line of the 2015 Iditarod.This is  his third time to do this, not to mention the youngest musher to ever to accomplish this feat. This is quite an amazing accomplishment and I give him my utmost respect.  What I mean by my  question of ‘who really won’ is that  I believe all who participated are winners, in my eyes. I give each and every one of them my utmost respect and admiration. This is an accomplishment of a lifetime that I admire more than words can say!
     Erin Montgomery, teacher on the trail, writes this when speaking about Iditarod musher Cindy Abbot, “students asked Cindy which is harder, climbing Everest or running the Iditarod. Her answer shocked the students. She told us that the Iditarod is much more difficult. Her reason is because in the Iditarod, not only are you caring for yourself, but you are responsible for the care of your 16 best friends.”
 Dallas Seavy Photo courtesy Alaskan Dispatch Loren Holmes

  I believe, just by participating in this, all 79 participants and especially the 65 that finished the 1049 miles of the Iditarod, deserve an award. This year they faced temperatures of -40 below, and such high winds that Wade Marrs, one of my very favorite mushers, lost the trail for a brief time. Can you imagine just being out there in the middle of nowhere, in a snow globe someone won’t stop shaking? As scary as that sounds, to me, I can feel the exhilaration and just imagine the wonderfulness of it all.
Friend of Wade Marrs, Ashley Perry, who had Turner's syndrome ,Marrs dedicates his miles to her and bringing awareness to the disease. Photo courtesy of Jeff  Schultz
      I think Dallas Seavvy explains what I feel on this matter so well, by what he expresses, at an interview, at a checkpoint, during the race. He is talking about his dogs, “We love the life style, every single day of it, every single run out here. We go through it together. You can’t race just to win, you gotta love it!” He reintegrates  his love for the race by stating, “Gotten to see some of the most amazing country in all the world by dog team and had success in racing while doing all that, I feel pretty blessed on that account.”
Artwork courtesy of the official Iditarod artist John Van Zyle

     Another reason I believe they are all winners is the way they treat their dogs and put them first. I admire the camaraderie so very much. The Iditarod is not only a race but a time to spend with your dogs. It is a time for our youth to see what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it.
Martin Buser in Huslia , photo courtesy of Matthew Smith KNOM

     I believe most of the contenders in the Iditarod have wonderful morals and integrity. This year my favorite musher, Martin Buser, decided to not push his dogs too hard, he thought of the big picture  after spending time thinking on the trail. As he came into a checkpoint he states he saw a sign that read, “We teenagers look up to you.” Martin says, “It made me choke up alittle bit. Maybe the local teenagers might actually have some meaningful lessons learned by us old timey mushers. Maybe I touched somebody just by being me, by doing what I do.”  He also states, “That’s when you can really lead by example. That’s maybe when in the darkest moments you can make a difference. When somebody thinks about checking out, but they don’t. People can overcome, people can tough it out. If I make this race so important that I compromise my values, then I’m a loser. That’s what I don’t want to happen.”  Martin ended up placing 22nd this year. In my opinion, by putting his dogs first and knowing they were not up to being pushed hard this year, and deciding to just let them enjoy the ride with him, makes him also a WINNER!
     Yes, Mr. Dallas Seavey is the first to cross the line but what makes him a winner in my eyes, was when talking about his dogs he stated, “They trusted me and put everything on the line and got us their fast and I trusted them and gave em back more rest and I knew they’d give it back to me on the next run.”
     There is true love being shown for these dogs and you are always a winner when you spend time with your dogs.They always give you their all and a bond is formed that words cannot describe.
Fifth place musher Aliy Zirkle photo courtesy of SP Kennel

     Camaraderie , care for our dogs, feeding them first before you eat, being a good team mate, and having a goal and achieving it are wonderful lessons and  is what the Iditarod is all about . These ethics , in my opinion, are a lesson  worth sharing and most importantly, as Martin states, ‘leading by example.’
Martin Buser with a young fan , photo courtesy of Erin Montgomery

Friday, March 13, 2015

“The Iditarod, where nature crowns the champion”

photo courtesy of Chris McLennan
   “The Iditarod where nature crowns the champion” was heard by all from one of the telecasters at the 42nd annual Ceremonial Start of the 2015 Iditarod.  If you follow the Iditarod you know this is the truth! If you don’t, let me fill you in a little bit on my favorite and only sport I follow.
      A few years back I stared to read a little about the Iditarod and mushing. My friend Deb told me I had to meet her friend Janet, who was a teacher who had received a grant to teach the Iditarod as part of her class curriculum. I was invited to the class as a guest and met Janet’s fellow teacher and friend Kurt who also became involved. Kurt loved it so much he now has his own sled dog team. The rest is history; I have to say I actually became addicted in following the sport, reading about its history and learning all I could about it.
     I am a HUGE animal lover and advocate. If any animal gets the tiniest of scratch it upsets me, I am a big ol’ softie when it comes to animals and their welfare. That being said, I have had people say to me, “I don’t like the Iditarod, they whip the dogs.” and many other similar things. I have to say that if that were true, I would not follow this sport. Do these dogs look unhappy to you? If you read about the current Iditarod nothing could be further from the truth!
photo courtesy of USA Today

These dogs are bred for this and get so excited they can’t wait to run! There are very strict rules for the animal’s safety and these mushers love their dogs more than life. When you watch footage of the check points the mushers stop at, the start and finish line, these mushers acknowledge and show love to their dogs before they do anything else. I have heard of and seen more harshness at an obedience trial than I have ever read about on the Iditarod trail. Some mushers such as my favorite musher, Martin Buser, sleep outside with their dogs rather than seek shelter at the checkpoints. Martin has said, ““I eat beans and rice while my dogs eat steak and eggs.” They have no need to use harshness with the dogs, the dogs love it.
Martin Buser photo courtesy of David Dodman, Here Martin thanks his dogs before acknowledging the microphone
I dream of being out in that silent snow with just the sound of the dog’s feet padding on the snow, being away from all humans with just the company of your best furry friends. Some people say I am crazy, but the silent cold is my very favorite time of year, there is a magical quality about it. It is exhilarating and reminds you that you are alive!  My dog Odin feels the same way; we love being out in the winter together as one in the magic. The beauty and magestic-ness  I have seen in photos of the  Iditarod trail are breathtaking!
Photo courtesy of Chris McLennan

 That is the upside of this sport. The harshness of it is the man against nature factor. Mushers run into extreme weather, moose, flooding, you name it. It is a sport for only the most dedicated, conditioned and prepared. You are not just tossing a ball around. You must be ready and prepared for the most intense opponent, Mother Nature. That’s what I thinks makes this sport incredible to follow, there is no way to predict what will happen next, and it is a true adventure!!!!
I have read about 4 time winner, Susan Butcher fighting off a moose with an axe. In 2014 everyone thought Jeff King was going to win, and he almost did, until hurricane strength winds took a hold. Like all good mushers do, he took care of his dogs first. He ended up having to scratch and pull from the race.
 Susan Butcher photo courtesy of

 In this sport I see camaraderie and friendship, there will be no pulling off the gloves and throwing down here! The local people along the trail, donate , spectate and get quite involved. There is one town that makes dozens of pies. others that make hand made beaded awards for being first to their town. It is a grand time of fellowship also, almost like a parade.
The Mushers and their dogs are out there not just to win but for the love of the sport. As I stated in my book “Furry Philosophy and Memoirs Set in Stone”, “DeeDee Jonrowe, a wonderful, and kind Iditarod musher and animal advocate, states “Musher’s win in the manner they take care of their dogs, in the way they treat people in the villages, and how courteous they are to the volunteers .There are many ways to win in the Iditarod.” This year when  Martin Buser was interviewed he talked about how  he cannot compromise his values or beliefs to win his 5th Iditarod. He states, "I would rather sit in an unnamed lake and give the dogs the desired breaks that they deserve, and if it's 27th place, so be it and if it's 2nd or 1st so be it." This year another one of my favorite mushers is running for the awareness of Turner's syndrome, giving back and being a winner, just by being him. 
In the Yukon Quest, a similar race, last year Brent Sass was injured and Allen Moore, who was in first at the time went back to help him.
DeeDee Jonrowe photo courtesy of AP Photo/Marc Lester, Anchorage Daily News

 Now if my over exuberance for the sport has gotten you intrigued then read on for some history and specifics of the race,  When you get as addicted as I am, you will be able to know what is happening.  I believe the history is part of the race’s charm!
Balto statue courtesy of Xen Xen

 In 1925 a diphtheria epidemic struck Nome, Alaska. It was the dead of the winter and the anti-serum to stop the epidemic needed to be quickly transported to Nome, No roads existed, air travel was too dangerous and all waterways were packed with ice. The Iditarod trail was the only solution. The serum was transported 674 miles from Nenana to Nome by a group of 18 dog teams and mushers. This is the well-known story of “Balto” who now has a statue erected in his name to honor him and all the sled dogs that saved many lives.

Joe Redington Sr and Dorothy Page worked very hard with others to get the first Iditarod going in 1973. It is now an annual event that has grown in leaps and bounds. The Iditarod is a race that is 1049 miles long. There are checkpoints the mushers must stop at along the way. There are also veterinarians at those points if any are needed. Also if there is an injury, or a dog just gets too tired , a musher may ‘drop’ a dog and that dog is brought to a warm place with volunteers to care and love the dogs until the race is over. The average distance between checkpoints is 60 miles.
The Red Lantern Award , photo courtesy of the Kaiser Racing Kennel
The Red Lantern award is given to the last musher to cross the finish line. A lantern known as the
Widow’s lantern is lighted at the finish line at Nome at the same time the mushers start the race. It is sort of an Olympic torch that once the last musher crossed the line, it is his job to extinguish it.  It is known as a guiding light, to the teams on the Iditarod trail and also a signal to the people of Nome that there are teams on the trail.
Mushers do not carry all their food on the sled. There is a however a list of necessities that must be on their sled and there is a long checklist. 18 of the checkpoints are “food drops” where mushers have their carefully packaged and labeled supplies delivered to.
When the race starts not all mushers leave at the same time. How is this fair? They use the “Common Start Differential Rule” to equalize the times in the middle of the race. During the race at one of the checkpoints  all teams except for the last to start team must be delayed the exact amount of time of each particular  team’s head start by staying at that checkpoint that amount of time.
Each dog team consists of as many as 16 dogs. The minimum number they may start with is 12.They must have at least 6 to finish the race, if they have “dropped” any dogs along the way.
All dogs are treated with great care and if the weather is extreme or the trail rough they wear their special booties.

Martin Buser with dogs with booties photo courtesy of

I hope I have peaked your interest. If you start to follow this race,  I am certain you will become as intrigued and addicted as I am! 
photo drawn by John Van Zyle the official artist of the Iditarod

To follow this race and /or get a paid membership check out Iditarod .com.The race always starts the first Saturday in March and lasts about 8-10 days.The live videos will take your breath away!
You can also follow the Yukon quest for free at Yukon

Some suggested reading about the Iditarod, mushing, and sled dogs are:

~Dogman: Chronicles of an Iditarod Champion by Martin Buser
~Susan Butcher and the Iditarod Trail by Ellen M. Dolan (this is great book for all ages, and has a lot of history and Iditarod basics)
~Any and all books by Pam Flower, a great adventurer and musher.  Her books are geared towards our youth but I enjoyed quite a few also. Her stories are amazing and her lessons for our youth are incredible.  I Tespecially enjoyed, “Alone Across the Arctic”
~A good adult fiction read is “An Echo through the Snow “by Andrea Thalasinos
~Another good one for our youth and adults is “Rivers: The Diary of a Blind Alaskan Racing Sled Dog”
~Iditarod Dreams: A Year in the life of an Alaskan Sled Dog Racer by DeeDee Jonrowe

This is a sport that definitely portrays the quote “It’s not how you win or lose it is how you play the game.” In this author’s opinion it is the most intense, exhilarating game of them all!

Till next time
Mush on!
Odin and Jodi

Odin J.  and I spending time out  during our favorite season

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

Raven Roo stating things quite clearly on Wordless Wednesday <3 This is one of many photos from our book "Furry Philosophy and Memoirs Set in Stone"

Sunday, March 8, 2015

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

I wrote this piece for "Cats and Dogs Magazine" this past summer and now that I am lucky enough to  dog sit again week again,I thought it was  time to share her wisdom on my blog.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
     We have all heard this saying throughout our lives but this last month when I had my grand puppy for ten days it made me think.
     If you look at the typical Labrador Retriever they just seem goofy, and as my husband put it, “Not the sharpest crayon in the box.” My grand puppy named June Carter Cash Dolphin (affectionately known as Cash, or as I like to call her Cash-a-Rooni from Looney Tooney town), does fit the stereo-type at first glance. She is a goofy, unassuming sweet girl.  But we can’t be so quick to judge this book by the cover.

     When Cash stays with us I often say, “I wish I could bottle that energy.” She could run the
Energizer Bunny into the ground.  Cash keeps going and going and GOING!  Our dog, Odin, loves to play with her but she wears him out. He is 7 years older than her and can only play so much before he just says ‘Uncle’ and throws in the towel.  When this happens we have to try to wear Cash out ourselves. We do this by throwing the ball, repeatedly, into the lake for her to fetch. She is such a joy to watch chase the ball that she loves more than anything in the world.  Another game we play is with a stick. The first time we played I really watched what she was doing and, after a while, I could see the wheels spin inside her head. I found sticks that were water logged so they would sink easily, and threw them out to her; she would swim out to them. If you watched closely you could actually see how she had to think to get the stick without having to search. She would swim out to it, look down, and actually feel around with her paws to make sure it was there. When she was absolutely certain she found it, she would dive under to get it. She came up with it every time. You could definitely see a thinking process going on.
     Cash likes to express her joy by barking. When she arrives at our house, it is with such joyful exuberance! She bounds into the house with the grace of an elephant running circles around all of us, with her main focus being Odin. Now at first the barking is just humorous because she is just expressing being happy. After a while it gets to be a little repetitive. Cash barks to get Odin up and chase her. She barks when they are playing and running and, if you let her, she will bark ALL-DAY-LONG! It took me about a day to realize I had to find a solution to this! When Cash barked I would tell her to go get a toy, and I would hand her a toy. The loud, shrill bark then became a muffled kind of fun talk that was definitely more tolerable, not to mention it made us giggle occasionally.  I have to say Miss Goofy Girl Cash picked up on my solution in about half a day. All I have to say now at the first bark is, “Cash get a toy.” She finds a toy right away and continues to play.
     One last little story makes me know that Cash is smarter than she lets on….
My daughter, Paige tells me my son-in-law, Jeremy, likes to hit the snooze button exactly three times every morning. Apparently Cash does not move or stir the first two times his alarm goes off.
The third time the alarm goes off, Cash jumps up and is ready to start the day with a happy wag of her tail (because I have noticed Cash is always happy). My point is, Cash CAN count! I do believe that counting would definitely be considered definitely intelligent.
     When all is said and done there is no better snuggler than Cash. When she is finally worn out and it is time to sit or go to bed, that girl literally presses her whole body against you and just exudes love. She lives life to the fullest and she LOVES a lot. That is pretty smart in my book
     We could all learn a lesson from her. “Never judge a book by its cover”, you never know what is underneath. I think this grand puppy of mine’s motto is definitely, “Live Well, Laugh Often and Bark Much.”  Words to live by! Thanks Cash for the reminder!

Read a little more about Odin and Cash’s antics and many more fur friends’ stories and “Furry Philosophy” in my book “Furry Philosophy and Memoirs Set in Stone.”
Till next time
Odin J., Cash, and Raven Roo 

Sunday, March 1, 2015


“If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.” ~Winnie the Pooh

     I believe anyone who has ever loved a pet has felt this way! If only their life span was as long as ours. This short story resonated with me explaining why our fur friend’s lives are in fact so short.  It is from a young boy in a story I read recently. He said, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life—like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The six-year-old continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t need to stay as long.”
     In my book “Furry Philosophy and Memoirs  Set in Stone” one thing I mention is that,  “Making memory stone, glass art, that can include the ashes or fur, fused inside, of our beloved pets and family allows me to hear the best true stories of their lives. I am privileged to hear these amazing, heartfelt stories that help strengthen my belief that our pets are ALWAYS with us. I hear, time after time, accounts of unexplained magical happenings that confirm, when they pass, our fur friends stay close by, as angels by our side!”  That is my favorite part of what I do, is hearing those stories! Although feeling the sadness that people feel right after losing a pet can break my heart. Sadly I also hear a lot of “I wish I had done this before my pet died ….”
     We do not ever want to think about losing our best friends, our true, pure, unconditional love. On the other hand we can’t burry our heads in the sand and not know that it is a fact. That being said, I want to share some of the, “I wish I had done this or done that’s” from others who have lost, including myself, so that you don’t have to say,” I wish I had …”
     One of the most common, “I wish I had’s” I personally have experienced and want to share to help others who have multiple pet’s in the household. When my dear Kashmir went to the rainbow bridge, I took her to the vet to be euthanized and cremated. My other dog Cheyenne, just saw her leave in the car and never return. Cheyenne searched for Kashmir for months and kept going to check her favorite spots, it was heartbreaking. On the other hand when Cheyenne made her journey to the rainbow bridge, my wonderful vet came to my house and Odin was able to see and smell Cheyenne’s body. Animals understand death. If they can see and smell their friend’s body they understand. Odin was very sad and grieved, but he did not search and wonder and the process was immensely easier for him than it was for Cheyenne. If you can’t have your vet come to you, I suggest taking your other pets to the vet with you and bring them in after the pet passes or bring the body home before you cremate or bury. This will help your pets understand and not think their brother or sister just disappeared. I do believe grieving is so much easier than ‘wondering.’
      The other wish I hear so much is that people wish they had preserved more memories physical and written. I  hear things, such as, “I wish I had taken a photo of my pet’s eyes, bottom of foot to preserve foot print, saved a lock of fur or written down more memories with photos while my pet was alive.” I suggest honoring life NOW before you are in a life or death decision and too distraught to remember little details. I make myself pendants with Odin’s fur to honor his life now and always take a little of him wherever I go.

     It is not fun to think about our friends no longer being by our side. NOTHING IN THE WORLD is better than having them snuggled next to you full of unconditional love. I think we don’t have to think about them dying, we just have to remember to CELEBRATE their life NOW, every day. We should preserve those memories and little mementos, so one day we don’t have to say, “I wish I would have.”

Here are some photos from my book "Furry Philosophy and Memoirs Set in Stone" showing special animals and the pieces of art I  made to honor them. 
You can see more at