Friday, January 6, 2012


This is just a quick update to let everyone know that all humans and dogs are doing very well. The whole house, and the dog yard, had to go into a down time while all the humans in the house healed from one of the worst winter flu bugs we have seen in quite a while.

One by one we all got sick and took turns taking care of the dogs through -40 temperatures. It was very tough on all of us but the weather seems to be warming now and things are heading back to normal.

This set back has put us a bit behind on a few things but the health of all is the most important so we will be continuing to take it easy just a bit longer until we are fully certain we are completely through all of this and healed physically as well as mentally.

We have been working so hard and I think we all underestimated how much we needed the rest until the flu bug came and knocked us completely off our feet.

Our goals for the rest of the winter is to keep things as easy as possible, get out with the dogs and prepare for breaking ground at the new property this spring. Our minds are constantly wandering down south to the future we will be building there and the process of getting back to our roots so we can keep not only healing ourselves but those dogs who are in need of our care and rescue.

Thank you for your support and your continued thoughts of good will. Knowing every one of you is there helps us keep going through the toughest times and allows us emerge on the other side stronger than ever... 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Big Changes

Eddie, one of the rescues who stayed
As many Alaskans can relate, we are very much looking forward to Winter Solstice in three days. This means the return of the sun and a better sense of 'normal'.

After much thought I have to admit that this winter has been one of the toughest on me emotionally and physically. There is only one other that comes to mind that could possibly compete, that was way back in the 90's when I was stuck in a cabin that was falling apart and sick as dog most of the time cause I didn't realize I was drinking tainted water. That was after the heater went out and we were relying only on the wood stove, huddled together in a small back room to keep warm, but before break up when the sewage tank decided to give out and flood everything with the worst stink you could imagine. Ah yes, those were the days!

Living through something like that makes a 40 below winter seem like a walk in the park. But this winter Ive had MANY luxuries, constant heat, a loving husband, an amazing dog handler, a yard full of happy healthy dogs, warm clothes, a working dog truck and a wonderful Jeep that I still delight in driving so much. Its perfect for getting around town and handling the roads.

So why is the winter so bad? I really cant put my finger on it just yet but I have a few ideas. One theory is that Im getting overwhelmed... I know, you say, "Really? You? Naaa! Miriam the work-a-holic could never be overwhelmed!! Its not possible!"

Chalk it up to age, stress or life style (take your pick) I think that is what is happening. The property is a big part of this equation. My husband James, James L and I sit and talk about our plans, our ideas, what is in our future and we are all a bit overwhelmed by everything. It is really hard to admit not only to being overwhelmed but to take the time to admit that I must pull back in order to protect myself and be the best that I can be for all those around me. Ive gotten so caught up in everything that Ive lost track of just being me. It is clear now that I need to focus more on taking care of myself for a while and bolster up my surroundings so I can get back to helping others in the best way I possibly can. Over the past few years I have learned that taking care of those in need is one of my life's goals and may be a big part of my life's purpose here on this earth.

Our future is in the new property. That is our goal and our central focus. We are all clearly on the same page with that and it is wonderful to realize that our big dreams will be coming along, some slower than others. For one, the Sled Dog Sanctuary will definitely have its expansion there while Where Spirits Walk kennel will be taken out of the public eye for now while we focus on our fosters and building at the property. This does not mean that any of the dogs in the main kennel will go unloved, unwanted, sit at home doing nothing or leave us in any way (we could not bear the thought), but that you will not be hearing about them as much as we focus our public efforts into spotlighting those in foster care or those who have been adopted.

After January we will also no longer be giving dog sled rides to the general public. We will instead focus on doing only a few rides to those special donators of the Sanctuary or those we have already scheduled in for this season. This includes our Groupon certificate holders that are valid until their expiration on March 31, 2012.

Polar, one of our rescues who naturally belonged here
The Lead Dog Graphics business will still be operational and merchandise can be purchased at our usual outlets in Fairbanks or on line in our store at, this blog will still be active as well for art updates and other musings of this crazy Alaskan artist. The only change here will be that updates will not be as frequent as I shift my focus more towards gaining inspiration from the dogs on the trail through our own personal adventures. Those in our teams will always be my absolute favorite subjects. I hope to also incorporate dogs from the Sanctuary into this medium... time will tell.

So even though those changes do not seem drastic on paper this is a huge step for us. I do see us offering sled rides in the distant future but on a limited basis and out of our new location on the property (mile 90 Parks Hwy) where lodging can be utilized and a more extensive package can be offered. Our main focus right now is getting down there and doing so in a healthy relaxed manner to all involved.

There is a real possibility we will have both locations (North Pole and Mile 90) for a while so we wont be gone too quickly from Fairbanks/North Pole, this transition will take some time and you can hear more about our building and the move in the Sled Dog Sanctuary blog we will be starting up in the near future or on the Sanctuary website at

What the future holds we never really know but in order to achieve a specific goal, especially one this big, we have found that a more refined focus is needed.

As always we would like to thank you for your help, your support, your kind thoughts and all the effort that has been put forward to help with this move. We have had so many come out to help us, from all corners of the globe, and we will always be eternally grateful for your support and well wishes.

Thank you so much for your patience and remember, when updates are fewer and farther between just think of all we are doing behind the scenes to make things better than ever. In due time we will not only be back with our usual public presence but have an even better place to welcome our wonderful guests at the new property on the Parks Hwy.

We love you all and will always be eternally grateful for your continued support...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Time has no meaning in the dark...

Juno checking in on the progress
We are still stuck in a bitter cold snap (-40) and I have officially gone through my first phase (and hopefully my last this season) of cabin fever.

Its so frustrating to be so angry at something I cant control but I am glad that my loved ones are safe and warm thanks to a whole lot of extra construction to benefit both dogs and humans.

Our new furnace is working wonderfully and our wood stove is such a comfort at night, no longer the life saving necessity of last year. Is so nice to enjoy warmth for warmth's sake and see the flames of the fire burning as a comfort and not as a crisis of busted pipes or frozen sewer lines.

I am eternally in delight at the simple things, watching the toilet water go down on its own, running water from the tap... geez, I feel like Im fresh out of my old cabin! Even though Im not, that experience will always be close to the surface and the strength of survival remains very clearly in my mind.

I wont go through the obvious... why do I live here, why do I put up with this cold and how could anyone see the beauty in all of this... I hear it all the time from newcomers here and my brain tends to switch off after hearing the first question. The real answer that sums up all of this is that life here is a constant way of feeling alive, feeling a bit on the edge at times, but truly and honestly alive... and extremely grateful for everything, especially the very smallest of things.

Even though I complain and wish that the cold snap will break I am still generally happy with life as a whole. Things could be better, I could be out on the trail with the dogs, enjoying life to the utmost, going outside for long periods of time without every piece of winter gear draped over my body to keep warm... but that is not where I am at the moment and not where I was last night.

Last night was heaven, a tapping into my future and into the power within... yesterday, ALL day, was art day and I was so happily, blissfully and completely lost. I havent been there in a long time, and realisticly I didnt know if I would ever be there again.

But I was there, truly there in all my expressive power and it showed. It showed in the passing of time on the clock without my knowledge, with the calm center of my mind this morning and with the results left on paper. I hesitate to show all of the image but here is a sneak peek.

What I find I am enjoying most is the expansive progress that starts with a single idea and expands into something that I cant seem to imagine on my own.

What does this mean? In short it means more creativity and artistic output which leads to more art, more prints and more visual awe... I am looking forward to experiencing this process more than you can possibly understand... what a bright future awaits!! :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wow, whats next!?

Each time I come here to post updates its no secret that Im floored, simply floored by the speed and grace of the development of the 'project'.

If you are unfamiliar with this, here it is in a nut shell. We are planning on moving family (dogs and humans) to 40 acres of virgin forest to start all over with a new home, new kennel and to expand the Sled Dog Sanctuary to be available to visits from thousands of tourists all over the globe all summer long. Just a little project, no?

Some times I sit and am frankly overwhelmed, my knees get weak, my mind wanders and questions after questions run through my mind... how can we do this, is it possible, how did that happen, where did that come from, and how, how, how is all of this possible!?!?

I have been told I am living proof of a dream realized but I can only speak from my experience, my husband and our ever hard working handler (who has become so much like family) James Langston. All our dreams are coming true and I would like to say it is for the dogs as well but you would have to ask them yourself, they arent talking much at the moment since they literally have no idea where we are headed and how grand the journey will be! Do I dare tell them? Nah, I would rather they find out little by little as we break ground this summer and they get their first chance to visit the new place...

Yes, I did say THIS summer... it is already here, the plans are in place and incredibly the heavy equipment has materialized...

I know, I know... heavy equipment? I said the same thing... but James pulled out all the stops yet again and wheeled and dealed in the only way he knows how to secure us two big pieces of dirt moving equipment that will be delivered here shortly. Rental fee? Nah... Payments? Nah... that is how James works. He is a walking miracle as a friend of a friend found deals and offers he couldn't refuse to take hold of and make our dream possible.

A lot of it will be hard work, something we are actually looking forward to, but it will be our hard work, all ours!! There are a few very good friends who will be stepping up from time to time to help but mostly it will us working away and carving out a little, no a BIG, slice of heaven for ourselves and for those visitors we have yet to meet down the road who will be drawn to our little Sanctuary.

I could say that this winter is going to be hard to wait through but I think it will only be hard for James who doesnt thrive on winter like James L and I do. We will literally be flying through it on the back of our dog sleds, silently keeping the secret from our loving dogs but all the while giggling to ourselves with anticipation knowing what freedom awaits in their new home.

Just last week we took a day trip down to the property for a visit and to give James L his first look within the magic. He was more than excited as we ventured deep, deep within the property. It was wonderful to see another person connect to our vision with the exact same enthusiasm.

And on each visit I find new things that I hadnt seen before. This time I found a patch of spruce trees so rare in our parcel since most of the land is covered with beautiful straight birch. This patch was so special to me, smelled exactly the same and looked the same as our old dog yard we will soon leave behind. It will be nice to keep that connection to 'old ways' as we forge ahead to start new ones.

This new space may be home to a spirit cabin, a tiny retreat away from the main house for meditation and peace... time will tell...

While we were exploring the back of the property and walking along the railroad tracks that run right through the back of our parcel the train actually came by! This is pretty amazing since it only runs about twice a day and in all our brief visits we have never been there when it passed, much less having already hiked to the back of our fourty acres to be right there as it went by. It was a pretty monumental event for us and even more special that James L was there to experience it too.

With a little more searching we noticed that our little stream was still running and looking healthy, found two of the front property markers and realized that our parcel intersects more of the land than we previously realized! There is more to be found as we set up a day and time for the official survey crew to come in and cut our property lines. This is not required by law but it will be nice to know what is legally ours as we start pushing a road in and felling trees.

So much more to say but so little time to write at the moment. Ive been up to my ears with work all in good ways and am carried on the winds of all this excitement like never before. It is incredible, just incredible...

And dont forget to stop by the new Sled Dog Sanctuary site at to see our updated pages and new layout. That was just one of the many projects that was wrapped up last month as we move on to many more things! :)

The Alaska Railroad caboose passing by

James L standing by one of the many old birches on the property

Myself and James standing by one of the front property markers. It looked pretty ancient, may be from the old homestead days when the land was parceled off to residents for next to nothing.

My small patch of spiritual spruce forest. What memories, inspirations and dreams will be discovered here in the years to come?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

More Amazing Journeys

After a few years of my schedule not working out I FINALLY found myself back in Denali traveling way back to the Kantishna Road House and picking up the pups from 'summer camp'. All other trips in and out are offered up to our best volunteers as thanks for the hard work they do for the dogs here at the kennel and within the Sled Dog Sanctuary.

Only six dogs go in (four of ours this time and two from Second Chance League) and when the four of ours left it always leaves a great hole in the yard but a great homecoming when they return. For those at the lodge it is always hard to see them come back home to us. Many of the dogs connected with the employees in ways only they can which makes the parting all that much harder when the lodge closes up for the season.

Emmitt Peters runs the dog operation there at the lodge and we have worked with him for many years. It is wonderful to send back dogs to him for the summer that he has grown to love and we are thrilled to have someone on the other end who we can trust so much to take good care of our best friends.

We have plans to meet up with him again once the snow flys so the 'summer dogs' can see him again this winter and he can get a chance to take them on the trail on a sled rather than a four wheeler.

I look forward to hearing more about his history in the sport, his travels with dogs, his well known father and maybe even get a chance to learn more about his grandfather who was also an amazing dog driver in his day.

Mushing history is what I thrive on and it is so very thrilling to see my life being led towards so many interesting facts, meeting interesting people and learning so much along the way. Of course the dogs teach me so much about their history just being themselves but I find that I still crave the language that exists within my own species and the tales of the past that still exist there.

On the way out of the park we made a quick stop into the Denali Kennels and I had the chance to meet up with Jen, the kennel manager, who I had only previously spoken to on the phone. It was wonderful to talk dogs and trails with her and the park staff. Looking at the map of Denali and the parks trails it was clear to me that this was a place that would lead to even more adventure! I was a firm believer for so long that I could only access the park in the summer but surprisingly the regulations are not as high as I expected and a musher with team is most welcome anywhere in the park!

We also talked to the rangers about commercial opportunities so things may open up where we could set up our ride packages to go directly into the park completely sustained by dog team travel... just when I thought I had wrapped my mind around the many adventures for the future I find that there are even more I hadn't even dreamed of!! How amazing!!

And of course, the dogs will be thrilled to go along with us on this experience. It is my utmost pleasure to have my best friends for company along with the many adventures that await. I'm sure there will also be some foster dogs who will cut their teeth on these trails as well. In my mind I am always setting up challenges and runs that will help us better understand what our rescues are capable of and what they can excel to. It helps us fill out their resumes to better match them into future homes.

But the highlight of visiting the park was not only establishing and sustaining our good relationships there but knowing that since the Sled Dog Sanctuary is now a 501c3 non profit that we are eligible for many items the park has need to dispose of such as old sleds, old camping gear, harnesses, you name it...

Since the Sanctuary will be open for all the world to see, and have so much land to use, it will be perfect to expand our teaching to the general public and have plenty of room for the display of old gear. Since we lean toward education of the public through our sport we are the perfect organization to receive these donations from the park service!!

While much of the gear may not be safe to use on the trail it will be PERFECT for teaching in so many ways. My love of the mushing history and the freighting dogs will come full circle as I can continue to teach others about the history of our sport not only with words but with authentic gear as well!!

Jen was so kind to load us up already on a surplus of gear by donating harnesses and booties that we stuffed in the truck for the ride home. We will have to sort through the gear to determine sizes and what exactly is there and once we figure out what we have it will be very easy to part with them over time as our foster dogs get adopted. What a better way than for one of our foster dogs to go into a home already wearing a harness that they are familiar with!

Overall the trip into the park was amazing, as always, but the wildlife sightings were dwarfed by the intensity of connections that were made over a very short, very fun filled two days in Denali. The big mountain was out as well but my mind has a hard time thinking on that when it seems so full with so many other details and future opportunities for the dogs!

Off we go, continuing on to the more exciting trails to come!!

Monday, September 5, 2011


Life changes abound here at home. The kennel is undergoing its own changes as well but the changes here at home are overwhelming enough to keep hold of my focus quite strongly.

James and I have been foster parents for years and this month we are seeing an end to that era. Well, an end and a sort of beginning as well. He and I have decided that we will no longer take in foster children but instead focus more on foster dogs which leads us to focus on the Sled Dog Sanctuary and the new property.

The 'sort of beginning' part of this is that my mothers adopted son, James (Little James as we call him to keep all the other James' straight with minimal confusion) came to live with us a few weeks ago and is now a permanent member of the family. The transition is great, working well and it has been wonderful to see this boy thrive. Ive known him for so long and it feels pretty good to take up where my mother left off so she can have her own space and get back to who she is as her own person.

My mother started working with foster children shortly after we did and its had its ups and downs just as we have had. This type of work can take a lot out of you, other times you get lucky and its a breeze. But over all we all need our breaks and its nice to see my mother finally get hers.

Another change is that our good friend Mike, who has helped us with so many construction projects, has decided to move back to Louisiana to care for his family. It will be very, very hard to see him go. All of us here have grown quite attached and we all have seen why he and my husband James have been friends for so long. We hope he will come back soon, or at least visit often, only time will tell. Alaska is so wonderful in that it is so far removed from the 'real world' but when people move on it is hard for some to come all the way back.

But we are pleased to find that James Langston's passion of working with the dogs is still alive, strong and continues to grow. He will be continuing to stay here with us and work as my right hand. The correct term is 'handler' but he has become so much more to us than that. The nickname we have given him is the Alaskan Mule cause he works so hard and takes on what ever job needs doing. Having him here is like having two working on all the various projects we have going...

As Mike transitions out we are pleased to see that the garage project that he helped us get started is nearing completion. Once that is finished we will be free all next summer to camp at the property and get a lot of work done. In my mind the idea of calling it work sounds ridiculous cause camping out and building our future sounds so darn fun and certainly not anything like work.

I am more than excited to be finally building a home that will be ours for our future, instead of looking at it as just an investment, but part of me is more excited to put in the dog yard than the home we will actually be living in! Ive got so many ideas and plans. Most of which will be the same layout as we have here but on a much larger scale. Pens will be bigger, more of them, with options for dogs to have regular play groups without worrying about them bumping into others who are 'party poopers' in the main yard or who are jealous just enough to start a fight.

I'm sure there will be more improvements and changes along the way from what we have going on here and it will be very exciting to see and be a part of the evolution.

There is also a huge part of me looking forward to winter and running the home trails again this year. I'm sure we will have at least two more winters to enjoy before heading to the property but the writing is on the wall, our time here is drawing to a close. Before long it will be my time to say goodbye to our familiar paths so we can forge ahead to break new ones open.

But the biggest change out in the dog yard continues to be the pups and their growing stages. They are quickly turning into adults as well as developing their own unique personalities. Orion is getting quite large, though still the runt puppy at heart. His time inside being nursed back to health has clearly had an impact on him as we see that he still demands to have special treatment from time to time. Though he is growing out of this it is slow and often a frustration to his siblings to be around him through these tissy fits but it is a joy for us to see those moments when he finally 'gets it' and gos along with the flow.

So even though we are not on four wheelers yet, knee deep in fall training as we would like to be this time of year, we are still remaining extremely busy. Meat is coming in on a regular basis and the freezers are staying full. With hunting season happening right now we expect to be even busier stashing away much needed meat for the trail and supplements for the dogs regular diet. Right now every one is on a pretty regular meat and kibble ration and their bodies are showing all benefits of this ancient nutrition. Even though many of them are still in summer relaxation mode it is amazing to see how bulked up in muscle they already are.

We may see a few dogs fall into retirement this season but overall the main dogs are all looking super and ready to rock as soon as the weather can stay steady and cool. Once the final touches are put on the garage project James L and I will be headed back to the dog yard with our days bound up in training and last minute chores before the snow comes.

It has been absolutely wonderful to be out in the yard feeding, cleaning and caring after them as the sun sets. The chill comes on the air as they settle into their houses for the night and with the coming dark its clear, another day is complete.

The everlasting daylight is nice but it does get old after a while. As the nights darken we think of the snow covering the land reflecting what light remains so we are never fully in the dark...

Monday, August 15, 2011


This blog is a great place for sharing information that helps our friends keep up to date with the kennel and our life changes but for the most part I have found that these entries can be very therapeutic.

This month the therapy part is most important because while all the other dogs are doing super, thriving and looking forward to fall and an exciting winter season we were shocked to find that our foster/rescue dog (one of our first) was very sick. With no apparent symptoms she went in to the vet for her routine check up when it was clear that surgery was the next step that very day. When the vet opened her up the exploratory observations were not good at all and it was decided not to let her wake.

So on Friday we were forced to say goodbye to our dear beloved Mandy who touched so many lives in positive and negative ways. Her first was biting a rescue worker when they were trying to save her from a severe neglect situation which immediately landed her into a special category for euthanasia. It was then that Ronnie R stepped in (our guardian angel for so many foster and shelter dogs) and through her kind gesture and extension of love for this dog that nobody wanted Mandy was brought to us.

In reality Mandy was not just one of the first foster dogs but she gave us the courage to save even more dogs and to extend our help to the Fairbanks Animal Shelter which in turn inspired us to start and build the Sled Dog Sanctuary (a process that is still ongoing and growing).

There is so much more to Mandy's life that I want to touch on but wont for now since it looks like she may get more of a spot light in Mushing Magazine in an upcoming article centered around shy dogs and what they can teach us. I am still rolling around the ideas of what will be in that article, which shy dogs will be the focus, etc... but I am certain that Mandy will be there front and center.

Like all the dogs who pass through here into new homes (if they are fosters) or who pass away from old age (our own dogs and some fosters as well) seeing that empty house in the dog yard is so very hard. Its so hard not to hear her barking for food at dinner time, one of her all time favorite things, or sounding the alarm when one of her neighbors slipped their collar.

No matter what was going on we could always depend on her to tattle tale if anything was wrong. That made her an asset to the kennel but not always every dog's friend. No one liked to be called out but they accepted her quirks just the same...

As we go through the process of grief we continue to look at the positive and realize that her empty house is not something of sadness but a wonderful hole that can be filled with another dog who needs our help. Its hard to make that jump but where there is positive we must go.

God bless you Mandy and Dog speed...