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Iditarod musher Ed Stielstra from Michigan hopped a ride from Anchorage with fellow finisher Trent Herbst, who splits time between Homer, Alaska, and Sun Valley, Idaho, and the pair stopped by our house today to visit and talk about dogs and sleds. It was great to have them here for the afternoon. Stielstra even ran after — and retrieved — four of our pups, which had darted off chasing a passing minivan. (The pups are trained to run after ATV’s, and obviously will give chase to any motorized vehicle).

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Just about the time of the summer solstice on June 20, we get a chance at one of the first big harvests of the warm season: salmon. Every year, the family helps set a small gillnet in Cook Inlet near the mouth of the Kasilof River to snare a few dozen sockeye salmon making their way to the river to spawn.
hauling in the net

Sometimes you pull a net and get two fish, sometimes none, sometimes 50. It all depends. This year was very good to us. We were able to fish twice and got 12 salmon on one day and 18 the second day. I filleted and skinned the fish after we got home, and Bree sliced the meat into fingers, stuffed it into pint jars with a little salt and olive oil and put them in the pressure cooker.

Most people like fresh fish better, but we like to have the canned fish put away for winter. It makes an Salmon ready for the cannerawesome salmon loaf and salmon salad sandwich. Later, in July, I’ll put a dip net in the river and hopefully haul out just a few more for the smoker.

What does all this have to do with dog mushing? A little. All the heads, guts, fins, spines and leftover meat isn’t going to waste. I slide all that good stuff into a used dog food bag and slip it into a chest freezer to harden up for a week or two. I typically chop of the resulting blocks with an ax and feed it to the dogs as a meal.

The net result is, every morsel of fish is used. Nothing is wasted.

If that seems repulsive, you’re not thinking like a dog.

If you watch brown bears (or other predators) in the wild, they typically go for the guts first, and in the case Family gets fish out of the netof overfed coastal bears eating fish, they munch on the heads and sometimes toss away the partially eaten remains. In other words, they go for the flavor and probably the source of highest nutrition.

Raw, frozen salmon (from this region, where diseases aren’t an issue) is excellent dog food, whether it is whole fish or filleted carcasses. It is abundant and inexpensive around here.

We raise a litter or two of puppies every summer, and this has been an unusual one in that all our puppies are somewhere else until they are at least seven weeks old. We just got our first four on Thursday, three from one litter and one from another. I don’t know much about them except three are 10 weeks old and one is closing in on eight weeks. They’ve all been handled by literally hundreds, if not thousands, of different people in their short lives, since they were born at Husky Homestead up at Denali Park where Jeff King opens up his kennel every summer for tours to help pay the bills.

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