Yup, first cold snap of the season. And for those of you not familiar with Alaskan’s perspective on the weather, we are talking about -40F and lower when we talk about cold snaps. Actually found this cute little blog post that will help illustrate and make you chuckle:
Moose in my Back Yard: Cold is a Relative Thing
Cold means fresh straw and warm cooked meals for the dogs. A chance to see how warm your gear really is. Dog coats and leggings for the runs (The team wears booties all the time to protect the foot from wear and snowballs in the toes, regardless of the temps). Plugging in trucks if you actually want them to start. Hauling lots of firewood to the house and garage. An excuse to stay inside and blog a bit, and maybe, just maybe, find the time to bake some cookies.
Actually the cold outside and thinking about all the things we do to be more comfortable in it is a prefect backdrop for today’ blog topic:
Shedding for Science & Keeping Warm.
The shedding is something the kids at Dew Claw are already great at, but the science part was new for us. It all began when I had the opportunity to meet educator Susan Smith, from Eisenhower Middle School, in person this summer. She had come down to the Yukon Quest to meet me and the kids. We got to talking about projects ideas she had for her classroom, and one she really wanted to do involved having students look at the insulation value of Sled Dog fur. As it was late summer and most of the yard was beginning to shed (looks like they are molting really) Dew Claw Kennel dog were happy to help out and donate some fur. Jeff King and the Denali Park Kennel joined us in helping out. And as you can see int he letter, Ms. Smiths own dogs even got in on the study.
Sled dogs coats are one of the adaptations they have to better handle the arctic temperatures. They have a thick undercoat of insulation, and over generations have been bred to handle the arctic environment where they thrive.If you are interested in learning more about how Northern Breeds handle the cold, may I suggest:
Temperature Adaptations in Northern Dogs
Most of these students had never seen a real working sled dog, nor felt the climate that we travel through. But through this interactive hands on activity they can get involved with the dogs, practice science, and utilize math skills. And they produced some excellent graphs of their findings. Thank you so much Ms. Smith and your students for sharing them with us. We are very glad your students enjoyed learning about science & math with sled dogs.
And Another School Project, geared toward warmth.
The keeping warm is also something we have gotten good at around here. Let’s face it; if you do not know how to keep yourself warm, you are going to be pretty miserable running long distance sled dogs. You learn a thing or two over the years. This is the second year Dew Claw Kennel has been fortunate enough to work with Joy Davis, a teacher with the Fayette County Schools in IN on a project we know helps keep us warm. She and her students make fleece neck warmers and wrist gaiters for mushers. These little fleece accessories make such a huge difference to our comfort level as we travel. Take a wrist gaiter, it covers the area around your wrists where blood is flowing very close to the surface, and would quickly cool if not protected. Cooler blood flowing to the hands would make them colder faster, and so you can see how the wrist gaiters make a difference. Neck warmers cover our lower faces, and prevent the winds from frosting the tip of your nose. But the cold causes that same nose to run and drip*, and your breath makes solid frost patches in the fleece. Yeah you can turn the neck warmer a quarter turn and get a new clean section for awhile. But on the long races being able to have a clean fresh neck warmer at each checkpoint feels like a luxury.
*Read this to learn why your nose runs when its cold out.
Round of applause to all the educators out there doing what you do.
And if you can read this: Thank an Teacher.