Sunday, March 11, 2018

Remembering the true meaning of the Iditarod

"Most important is that you are out there with your 12, 16, 20 best friends—the dogs." ~Susan Butcher

Wade Marrs and Ashley Perry
Photo credit Kim Perry

Iditarod 2018. 

Before the Opening Ceremonial Start of the Iditarod I was rushing. As I was  hopping out of the shower,  I received a surprise video call.  I  could NOT miss this as it was from my friend Kim Perry, who was at the Opening Ceremonies with her family supporting Wade and other friends.  I met my favorite musher, Wade Marrs for a brief second and saw the ceremonial start  via facebook chat live in a towel, oh yes in a towel, who can say that?  Thank goodness you could pretty much just see my wet head and not the towel. I am so thankful to my friend Kim, it was so exciting to feel like I was actually there, the energy was amazing. 

"Perry" Musher Wade Marrs' dog named after his friends, the Perry family
Photo credit Ashley Perry

A Little Iditarod History
Grandpa Seavy and Ashley Perry
Photo credit Kim Perry

In 1925, a daring sled dog relay through Alaska in the middle of winter delivered life-saving medicine to the citizens in Nome. Children were dying from diphtheria. The Iditarod Sled Dog Race is to commemorate this event.

Joe Redington organized the long-distance Iditarod Race. He wanted to save the sled dog culture and Alaskan huskies, which were being phased out of existence due to the introduction of snowmobiles in Alaska.  He also wanted to ensure the preservation of the historical Iditarod Trail between Seward and Nome. Dorothy Page became the editor of an Iditarod Annual.  She opened the world’s eyes to the Iditarod.

It seems that politics, and various people who are against the Iditarod or are corrupt are tarnishing what this race was intended to be. I believe this year’s race, more than any other, Joe Reddington's mission for this event and Susan Butcher's quote, "you are out there with your best friends", needs to be celebrated and held close at heart.

If you happen to know me, or ask any of my friends you would know that I am a huge animal lover. It takes me 1/2 hour to prepare my dog and cat's food. I cry if I see a hair harmed on any animal. I am a softie.

I practice positive training and feel it is our responsibility to be the voice for the animals that cannot speak for themselves. I believe in every aspect of life there are those that value life as precious. There are sadly those that do no respect that life as precious. I will be the first to call someone out on the latter.

I have been to an dog obedience trial and witnessed first hand a woman scruff and scold a dog, call it stupid, cover their cage up as a punishment when a dog missed a sit in a competition ring. This, is my eyes is cruel. My partner who I teach dog training with, have shirts that say, "Happiness does not come from points and Q's(denoting qualifying runs), but from playing the game with the dog you love". Having FUN with your best friend is what it's all about!

I believe this should be true in all aspects of life. We need to enjoy the adventure, not just keep our eye on the prize.

In every sport and everything in life there are going to be cruel, unethical people. It is a sad fact. However, I believe that you should not persecute the obedience trials, but the individual who makes poor judgment, just as you shouldn't persecute a pen for writing evil words. I believe, you should, of course report abuse, and try to stop it at all costs. However don't protest or persecute the sport of those who truly love the adventure with their dogs.

I believe Mother Theresa conveys a message. She said, "I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there.”  Let's celebrate the good and give that our energy! I hope we can remember Joe Redintion's vision, and celebrate the sled dog. 

These dogs were bred to run. They enjoy it, they live for it. Labs were bred to be in the field all day. Humans created these breeds. In working with dogs, I see huskies and labs that are not able to do what they were bred to do and they find sometimes naughty, destructive ways to release that energy that was bred into them. They want to be active, they need to run and do what they were institutionally meant to do. Watch a dog in front of sled and tell me you can't see them smiling and howling with glee.

If anyone in the race is abusing this privilege, shame on them, just as shame on those who don't enjoy the game of agility, or any dog sport and are just in it to win, and scold the dog for trying. I believe that anyone who abuses the precious life of any animal should be punished, but let us not punish all for the deed of one.

I have followed this sport for some time now. The more I know about these mushers, from interviews and friends that have been to the kennels, the more I know the majority of these people love their dogs as family. I see them actually cooking for them. They are not just dumping dry dog food into a dish. They enjoy the time spent with their dogs, being one with nature and their best friends. 

This year they are going back to the true form of an adventure. Planes were unable to reach Eagle Island as a scheduled checkpoint to pick up food due to weather. Musher's must carry more and go slower to accommodate weight and weather. No more groomed trails, back to nature and the basics.
Ashley Perry drawing Wade Marr's bib number at Musher's banquet

So many mushers use their platforms to get their message of well deserved causes out in the community. Wade Marrs, an ethical,admirable musher, has gone above and beyond to help his friend Ashley Perry, who is affected by this syndrome,share the message of Turner's Syndrome awareness. Ashley Perry is a true hero in every sense of the word.Find out more about Ashley and her Shelter Reading program go to :

This year, Scott Jansen,"Mushing Moritcian" , is declaring it his last year to race. He wants to spend time spreading the word of the importance of keeping the race alive and help it to grow. Hugh Neff promotes literacy and the importance of learning and can be seen in the Cat in the Hat's red and white striped hat. 

Ashely Perry with musher Aily Zirkle
Photo credit Kim Perry
Most mushers appreciate the real things in life, the true solitude of being one with your team in the great outdoors. I have never seen such love in one's eyes as you can see in Aily Zirkle's for her dogs. In this year's race, Aily stated at a check point, that her dogs were healthy and well, but lacked "zip". She stayed upbeat and happy, saying, "I am not going to rally them up for 9 days straight, and nag them. That doesn't sound fun to me. So we decided to do what we do. We'll place where we place, we'll get to Nome and we'll have a party.

Jessie Royer, who came in with fifth last year, with all 16 healthy dogs, can't wait to be away from the commotion and craves being on the trail alone with her dogs or at home riding her horse in solitude. For her also it is about the experience. 

Who will win this year's Iditarod? At the time of this article, is yet to be seen. In my eyes, everyone that treats their dogs with love and respect are winners. Those that exude the message of determination and becoming one with nature, are also winners.

Cheers and Race on!

Ceremonial Start Iditarod 2018
Photo credit Kim Perry

To help support Wade Marrs and bringing awareness to Turner's Syndrome you can go to:

To help support the Iditarod and keep the dream alive and see footage from the race, GPS tracker , Ceremonial Start, Finish and more go to Iditarod Insider There is so much money needed to keep this race alive. They need to pay veterinarians to assure the safety of all dogs, pay for plane transportation to drop food off at different locations throughout the race.  Little things add up and it costs over a few million dollars in operating costs to keep it running.

Read more Iditarod articles and other furry philosophy's messages at

Sunday, March 4, 2018

West MI Spay and Neuter, a true gift in our community

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. ~Pablo Picasso

West MI Spay and Neuter wonderful staff

To do what you love by helping others at the same time is a true gift.

Recently, a good friend's sweet dog, my dog Odin's good buddy, Roxy, came to stay with me for a week. I took her to the West Michigan Spay and Neuter Clinic. They are a non-profit, low-cost spay and neuter clinic. When I visited the clinic I observed a group of individuals who have huge hearts. I found that meaning of life by giving back with all that they are.

 West MI Spay and Neuter's mission statement is to: "significantly reduce the number of unwanted and homeless dogs and cats by providing the public with high-quality, low-cost spay and neuter services in a non-profit setting."


 I felt compelled to share with my readers a little more about this group. I was so impressed with how extremely kind they were to the pets, how efficiently that have things set up so everyone gets ALL the information, instructions and care they need.  I was also impressed with the cleanliness, and all around care.

 Everything was run so smoothly. You were checked in and given the option of paying for a rabies vaccine at a low cost price also to be given to your pet if they needed it. We were then sent to our vehicles to wait to be called, one at a time, to bring in your pet. It was a very good way to allow you to sit with your pet, waiting comfortably without a zoo of dogs in one waiting room.

 It was very quick and efficient.  They were very kind to Roxy when it was her turn, she went with them, tail a wagging, as they talked very sweetly to her. We were given an exact pick up time to get after care instructions. At pick up time, everyone congregated in a room where you were given very specific after care instructions all at once. I thought to myself, "What a great way to give the best care and serve the most people in a time effective way." You were given an opportunity to purchase a cone (of shame) in your pet's size at a discounted price, to prevent the pet from licking open the wound. They had a size to fit every animal perfectly.  We had the opportunity to ask any questions and were given a 24 hour, after care emergency number just in case.
Odin keeping an eye on his buddy Roxy after surgery

This was not a cold clinic, quite the contrary.  This is a caring place with a wonderful staff. They really care. Roxy wasn't even mad at me when I picked her up, and the staff was very kind when they brought her out to me also. Roxy and I say, "4 PAWS UP", except Roxy says, "The cone of shame is not her favorite." She kept grabbing a toy and it would just sit on the edge of the cone, putting a very confused look on her face. She healed up nicely with no complications at all.

Thank you West MI Spay and Neuter for being such a wonderful asset to this community! 

To see how you can help or donate please go to or you may also donate by sending a check to:

West Michigan Spay and Neuter Clinic Inc.
6130 Airline Rd.
Fruitport, MI 49415

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Canine Rally, a fun sport for you and your best friend

"Play creates laughter, joy, and a feeling of inner peace. It is almost impossible to stay stuck, angry or frustrated when you are playing"~ Marriane St. Claire

When training with dogs I believe it is important to keep it FUN and positive. This will ensure you have a dog who wants to please,and trusts you because you have become a TEAM. If you chose to train in a harsher manner, you may get results and have a dog that obeys you but only because it fears you. Personally, I would rather have a bond based on mutual trust.
I believe canine rally helps to promote this kind of bond.
Victoria Stillwell, Dog trainer, Television presenter, and Author supports this sport and states , "Rally encourages human/ canine verbal communication, eye contact and teamwork."
I have mentioned in previous articles my dog, Odin, has some fears that have caused him in the past to over react when he is afraid.However, that being said with bonding techniques and fun training he has learned to trust me to keep him safe and is much more at ease. He still has his fears but I know not to set him up for failure, and give him a safe retreat when he feels threatened. We have learned to redirect those fears in a way that allows him to live a happy fulfilled life and still participate in fun events.
One of his favorite fun sports is canine rally. I believe practicing this is a huge factor in Odin learning to focus on me, resulting in strengthening his trust.
Rally helps to keep your dog focused on you when in a distracting environment. A dog learns to stay in heal position on/and or off leash through a series of stations, that may consist of cones, jumps, sits, turns, and more. Rally is set up as a course of designated stations with the dog in heel position. The course consists of 10 to 20 signs that instruct you what to do. Unlike traditional obedience, handlers are allowed to encourage their dogs during the course, stay animated and have fun. The signs may have words, symbols or arrows on them instructing you what to do. A sign can vary from something as simple as a sit and stay while you walk around them, the next sign may tell you to weave in between the cones with your dog in heal position. The next sign may send dog over jump and then come back to heal position. When I am performing each sign, I tell Odin to watch me and use a combination of verbal and hand cues to encourage what I want him to do next. I stay happy, bouncy and make it a game. He prances like a horse skipping for joy when it is time to practice. This has encouraged him to look to me for guidance in other situations.
I never intended on competing in rally. I just practiced it to assist with training, but Odin had so much fun,I thought, 'why not?' We don't compete a lot but I am proud to say my rescue dog has earned himself quite a lot of blue ribbons and titles, when we do.

There are trials in most areas put on by UKC, AKC and more. Recently we have offered our students at Dog Blessed LLC. a fun course that we video record them doing. We then download it and give them a link so they can send it into Cyber rally to be judged and earn titles cyber-ly.
This is a great opportunity without travel. It is also a great opportunity for dogs that have a fears and /.or are reactive, to compete in a non- stressful situation.
Odin and I give rally a 4 paws up. If you would like to  see videos and more about rally feel free to  go to Dog Blessed LLC's facebook. If you are in West MI and would like to  attend a rally class, that we also combo with AKC trick classes please contact Dog Blessed LLC.
Rally is just one of many fun games available to play with your dog. Remember to find your inner child, be joyful and create a special bond when playing whatever game you chose.

Keep connected on Facebook: Memory Stones by Jodi, Furry Philosophy, Camp Kylee, Odin J.s Earthly Treasures, Dog Blessed LLC Also