Like every year, it comes suddenly ?.
Here at the Arctic Circle, the leaves change color from the end of August, the nights become cooler and the first frosty nights are not uncommon. Meteorologically, September 1st is the beginning of autumn. Here in the north it feels very appropriate.
With autumn, winter approaches, my absolute favorite season! The wintertime in the life of a musher like me is the most intense and beautiful that I can imagine.
Give me snow, give me dogs and you can keep the rest.
(Knud Rasmussen / polar explorer)
But before we go on the sled, we start on four wheels in autumn. At the end of August / beginning of September, when the temperatures drop, we can finally start. For training, you need cool temperatures and low humidity. I take great care not to start too early. Because the big danger is the dogs overheating.
INFO about heat stroke in dogs
Warmer days can be challenging when it comes to training dogs. Overheating could potentially lead to fatal conditions, such as heat stroke or cardiac arrest. Dog’s bodies are built differently from ours. The biggest difference in this case is that they cannot sweat, which is one of the first techniques for thermal cool down for humans.
To make up for it, the dog pants a lot, exhaling air and water vapors through the mouth. This process in itself manages to evacuate about 60 percent of dissipated heat. Other physiological processes also occur in the case of a strong heatwave, including peripheral vasodilatation or an increase in the pumped blood volume in the heart, both contributing to cooling down the body at a significant level.
These techniques account for 70 percent of evacuated heat on the surface of the body. The dog will also modify its behavior, searching for cooler flooring, shade, and breezes, as well as limiting its activities, says vet student and canicross athlete Camille Paris. Understanding the mechanisms behind the dog’s cooldown is essential for the optimal prevention and management of a heat stroke.
How to recognize a heat stroke
A dog that is too warm will pant a lot to compensate for the accumulation of internal heat. Consequently, cardiac rhythm increases as well as the femoral pulse, which can be palpated under the thigh. Gums suddenly dry, turning dark red, despite the fact that the dog will be salivating a lot.
A dog about to suffer or suffering from a heat stroke will seem weaker and will stagger due to suffering from lower blood pressure and will also vomit and have diarrhea with blood in the stools.
If the dog hasn’t been cared for by then, the symptoms will continue, evolving towards a weakening of the femoral pulse, extreme pallor of the gums, gradual progression of respiration towards apnea, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea, and ultimately convulsions and coma. Some signs may also appear several days after the incident, such as cardiac arrhythmias, convulsions, decreased urine volume, and/or appearance of jaundice (causes skin and the whites of the eyes to turn yellow).
Hyperthermia is considered severe when the dog’s body temperature exceeds 41 degrees Celsius/105.8 degrees Fahrenheit; however, certain breeds, such as Greyhounds, naturally have an elevated body temperature.
Read your dog team
Every dog team is different. You need to adjust your training schedule if needed. This season I have 24 dogs in training, 16 of them are only 2 years old. Most of them can not deal with too warm temperatures, especially in the beginning of autumn training, when they are untrained. Therefore, I stick to the rule of thumb from Dr.Lee (board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and CEO of VetGirl):
When temperature (Fahrenheit) plus humidity are greater than 150, it’s too hot for your dog.
In our region it means no training above 8 degress celcius.
You probably already guessed what that means. PATIENCE. My absolute strength. Relaxed, I check the weather forecast once a day, very relaxed… ? No, let us be honest: Very, very, very regularly I glance at my weather app and watch the course with great interest. Should it be one degree colder tomorrow? And the rain is through tonight? Can the training start tomorrow?
Even if I have my social media consumption halfway under control, I can then see who already started with the autumn training. Happy faces of the mushers and happily wagging tails of the four-legged friends in pictures and videos. It is not easy to hold back there and still harness the dogs at over 10 degrees … But it is important that I stay true to my line. I have made my experiences during the last years.
During this time, it is good if I am sufficiently busy! This year it was more than easy.
When our resulting insolvency became a reality in the spring due to the Corona crisis, we were looking for solutions. How do we take care of the dogs? How do I make money in the future? We had a lot of ideas. Not all realistic and only a few could be implemented directly.
The largest industry here in the region is forestry. There are huge forest areas and therefore a lot of work around the forest. About 50% of the area is owned by the state and 50% is privately owned. Until 10 years ago, the forest was often radically monetized. A lot has been cleared. Everything from the tree to the roots has been processed. That does not correspond to sustainable forestry.
But in recent years, attitudes have slowly changed for the better. Unfortunately, there are still enough of those who think differently … and every year you see new, cruel clear cuts. But above all, the private owners see their forest as a long-term investment and want to do it more sustainable. More is invested in the maintenance of the forest. And here I saw my chance. I have already worked with the brush cutter several times in the past few years. With the brush cutter you can do intensive landscape and forest maintenance.
New company KAT Outdoor
With Johanna’s support, I started my own business in June. With my company “KAT Outdoor” I offer forest maintenance services.
I knew that there was a demand for this service. Because many of the private forest owners have gotten older and can no longer or do not want to do this necessary work themselves. Since I am well networked with our neighbors, I would soon be receiving orders. But before I could start, I needed the appropriate equipment and a course in using the brush cutter. This “driver’s license” is not necessary. But it conveys security for the customer as well as for me.
I bought a used brush cutter and did the course the next weekend. I used the protective clothing from my chainsaw equipment. In the past few years, I had cut our winter wood myself with a chainsaw every spring. That´s why I already had cut-resistant pants, special boots, and a helmet. After the course, which I successfully completed, it became clear that a used brush cutter was not a good idea, the chainsaw trousers were way too warm and heavy, the boots too big and coarse and the helmet too bulky. I had to invest in new equipment first. But now I could finally start.
The first order was not long in coming. As it is here in the rural north. The neighbor’s son knows someone who…. And before I knew it, I was standing alone in the forest for the first time. Just me, the brush cutter – and a lot of undergrowth ?
So far, I have not gotten around to creating a website or advertising for my company. I got enough jobs to get started through word-of-mouth advertising. But I am planning a little more advertising for next year. When I had some breathing space in August, it made sense to do a chainsaw course. Because with this certificate, my skills for future assignments will improve and broaden. If you want to fell a tree on someone else’s ground, even if it has been commissioned, you can only do so if you have this license. It also makes sense to know what you are doing …
The brush cutter has certain limitations and works at most for cutting smaller trees. Should it be necessary to fell a bigger tree, it is necessary to have done the chainsaw course.
The course lasted 3 days and I have been able to use my newly learned competence several times since then. It is incredibly rewarding to be so independent. Whether chopping down a tree that has become sick or sawing our fire wood …
In any case, I will not get bored that easily.
I get up at 5:30 am every day, have a couple of cups of coffee before going out to feed the dogs. Then I go to the forest and work. My assignments are different. Partly it is about young growth care, sometimes about young population care. In both cases it is not a question of intervening in the natural differentiation of the stand, but rather of creating more space and light for the trees that have already prevailed against the others.
After 5 to 7 hours I drive home, where Johanna is often waiting for me and we have coffee and lunch around the campfire. Sausages, salads, and freshly baked bread are particularly popular with me. Then dog fun is the order of the day. Johanna took over the morning care for the dogs and a large part of the pack were already freerunning in the playground (fenced area about 3500 square meters). I am happy when I can offer a “special” activity to a few selected dogs. Quality time!
I either spend time in the playground or I go with some dogs into the forest. Or play ball with our crazy Blizzard, she is totally addicted to ball games.
In the late afternoon, the dogs will be fed ?
Johanna takes over the feeding of the people and conjures up wonderful things for us every day. But before it is time for dinner, I’ll get my equipment in order. Sharpen saw blades, clean chainsaw, and brush cutter, fill up with petrol, dry clothes. Sometimes there is still a little time left for office work. However, I must admit that I will leave the administration to Johanna.
I really tried! I even took half an accounting course. But that is just not my world. How lucky I am that Johanna does this for me – and even happily! I answer emails and take care of the blog and social media. After dinner I slowly calm down, unless it is cold enough for a training runs… Otherwise I am a morning person, I can easily fall asleep before 10 pm …
Soon there will be longer training tours in the evenings and at night. Incredibly great time sitting around the campfire with the dogs and enjoying being outside. I will tell you more about autumn training in my next blog post.
The jobs in the forest will last for the whole of October. If the snow does not come early, maybe a little more in November. But then the season is over. It is therefore important for me to try to work as much as possible. To earn as much as possible to get us through the winter. Us and our dogs. It is still along way to go.
No matter how well the new self-employment has started, the future is not secure. The experience of this spring that everything can suddenly be over has left its mark on me. The ease that has always accompanied me has been given a notch.
Looking back at our tourism business
Working in the forest is also so suitable because I can organize my time very flexibly. A classic office job would not be possible for our life with the dogs. That is why the combination with tourism was so practical. Everything could be planned well.
Since everything in tourism must be planned well in advance, this created a security. In terms of content and time, the tours were set at least 1 year in advance, often almost 2 years in advance. Even if you did not have a confirmation for the implementation, you knew which tours were in demand and which providers normally sold which tours well. However, we only got 30 days prior each trip the information if we got enough bookings for it. When I look back now, it was not really safe, more like an illusion.
But now I do not know what it will be like next summer. Will I have orders? Will it be enough? Can I take care of us and the dogs?
Johanna´s new way
Johanna has been looking for work since May. She is holding up bravely. She sends a lot of applications and tells me that she is in good spirits. But I realize that it is difficult for her. She has never had trouble finding a job in her life. But “her” industry is practically no longer there. Hotel, restaurant, tourism – no jobs. So, she applies for anything. But she is not the only applicant on the job market. Many are in the same situation and the pressure of competition is high. The rejections are increasing.
For the past 10 years, Johanna was the one who brought the money home meanwhile I took care of our homestead. It is not a nice feeling for her to know that she can no longer give us this security. But Johanna would not be herself if she did not have more plans. She generally thinks more long-term than I do.
Therefore, she has now applied for a distance course to become an accountant. This is where she sees the best opportunities for herself. Her school education and vocational training were in the commercial sector from the start and she has always enjoyed doing things like accounting, bookkeeping, and controlling. Completely incomprehensible to me ? but “Hats off”!
With her studies she has good prospects on the job market in the future. I wish her that she gets admission to the course and I will support her with all my strength. Even if the pressure on me as the main breadwinner does not decrease. But giving Johanna this opportunity increases my motivation even more!
I hope that the forest work will cover a large part of the costs for the care of the dogs.
It´s not going to be easy
But the winter is long and with that there are several months in which I cannot earn any money. So I’m trying to bridge these months in a different way. With t-shirt campaigns, sponsorships for individual dogs, donations and sponsors I hope to make it.
This is not just money! Because here in particular, it is extremly important to me that I have real and honest communication with my readers. My quality standards for the content that I convey via my blog, social media channels and various articles are very high. Through all of the posts, videos and campaigns, I want to give something special back to the sponsors and all those who have donated. And of course, to reach new people who want to support us.
If I do my job well, the dogs can stay with us. I do not want to feel like I have not taken it seriously enough. And in the end, there is no money for food or medical care for the dogs. Working with text, images and design takes time. And a good team.
Support of a great people
I am glad that I have the support of people around me who help me put my ideas into the right form. Mona and Johanna help me with the right words and the content. Zoe, Franzi, Jana gave me feedback on design issues. Jorek, Jana and Elise show me ways to work more strategically and to see through the abundance of marketing elements. And the dogs give me joy, love, strength, and the sense of why we actually do all this every day!
This entry may sound a little heavy. And yes, it is. It is hard to get up after a loss. It is hard to see the good in the bad. It is difficult to find courage when everything seems hopeless. It is hard to keep track of your goals when everything is raging around you. It is hard to start over. It is hard to see beautiful things when you are feeling bad. But they do exist! And I can see them too!
- For example, the well-filled shed with dry food for the coming months, which we were able to buy partly with the donations and partly received as a gift.
- Or the full freezers with frozen fish that the neighbors give us and the dogs love.
- Or the boxes of moose bones that the hunters bring us.
- Or the training vehicle which we got partly sponsored.
- Or the almost finished sauna that Heike and Monika gave us and without which we would not have a bathroom.
- Or the sled dog equipment that ManMat sponsored us and the working clothes we got from Engelbert Strauss.
And above all, I see the well-fed dogs who greet me enthusiastically every day when I feed them. Food that we would not have if wonderful people had not supported us.
And when I see all of that, it is not difficult anymore. Then I feel relieved, happy, honored, and grateful.
I see the bright colors of the autumnal deciduous trees. The sky is blue. I feel the cool temperatures. I look at the thermometer. The display shows 7 degrees. Autumn training can finally begin!