SP Kennel is a premier sled dog racing kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska, dedicated to the individual dog through excellent health, nutrition, training and specialized care.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Happy One Year Old Birthday, Fire Litter!

We still think of the Fire Litter as puppies, but truth be told.. they are not! Olivia and Nacho’s eleven puppies graduate to the SP Kennel Yearling Class this week.

We took photographs of the kids earlier this week. Out of the 556 pictures we took, we hope that we got 11 good ones! We'll let you decide.

Glamour shot of Amber at 3 months; Amber at 1 year.

Glamour shot of Chena at 3 months; Chena at 1 year.

Glamour shot of Coal at 3 months; Coal at 1 year.

Glamour shot of Commando at 3 months; Commando at 1 year.

Glamour shot of Daisy at 3 months; Daisy at 1 year.

Glamour shot of Hotshot at 3 months; Hotshot at 1 year.

Glamour shot of Nomex at 3 months; Nomex at 1 year.

Glamour shot of Spark at 3 months; Spark at 1 year.

Glamour shot of Tinder at 3 months; Tinder at 1 year.

Glamour shot of Torch at 3 months; Torch at 1 year.

Glamour shot of Violet at 3 months; Violet at 1 year.

If you want to see the litter at 6 Months then check out this post:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Chica x Clyde Litter: Newborn Portraits

Here are the Newborn portraits!

It is obvious that most of the pups have their father's coloration. At birth, they were quite challenging to differentiate. However in the past few days, they have started to gain some more individual characteristics.

Names will be coming soon. (After we are sure of who is who!)



Friday, July 18, 2014

Chica Pups: Day Two

Day Two Pupdate is that everyone is healthy and growing. When they were born we took birth weights. Every pup weighed between 13 and 17 ounces. By day two, all of the pups had gained between 1 and 3 ounces. Chica is nursing the 9 pups on 10 teats, so there is no need for human intervention.

We let Momma and her youngsters have some alone time after the birth day. But during day two we spent a great deal of time with the family and took quite a few photos. Newborn portraits will be posted soon. But, some of the best shots are the 'outtakes'.

Chica and Aliy look through the pups individually.

A little wave from SP Kennel; Snuggling up with Momma

Chica and a her little 'look alike' son have a moment just before his portrait session.

All photos by Barbara Swenson.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dogs of the Day

There are three dog house spots adjacent to Aliy and Allen’s house. Anyone who visits must walk within ‘petting’ distance of these dogs. During the winter, these spots are reserved for dogs who need special attention: puppies, retired dogs or indoor pooches. But during the summer months, when the racing dogs aren’t being harnessed, trained and coached everyday, everyone needs a little extra TLC.

The dogs at these spots are termed “Dogs of the Day” and all of the dogs at the kennel rotate through. Sometimes they stay for just a few days or even a week. Dogs enjoy the proximity to the biscuit bucket, frequent treats from humans walking by or full blown conversations with folks sitting on the deck.

Dogs of the Day: 
(L - R) Rambler in the shade of his house, Daisy's buttocks and Commando.

We mix and match the dogs in these coveted spots. For instance, Biscuit and Olivia know each other quite well because they are often on the same team while training or racing. But their houses in the dog yard are 100 feet apart so they don’t visit much during the summer months. Last week, while in the ‘Dogs of the Day’ spots, Biscuit and Olivia spent time as neighbors and even playmates. Spark was the third ‘Dog of the Day’ last week and got plenty of loving from all the visiting humans as well as his mom, Olivia. Early this week, we selected two Fire puppies: Violet and Commando and their first cousin, Iron, as “Dogs of the Day”. Currently, Commando is still DOD, but Violet was replaced by her sister, Daisy, and Rambler needs a bath, so he moved up front too.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer Dog Walks at SP Kennel

We’ve had numerous questions about the logistics of exercising the dogs during the summer. So I thought I would go into a little more detail.

We divide the dogs into groups of 6 to 8 individuals. Often there are siblings or team mates in the groups. (For instance; Sandy, Hotshot, Rambler, Lester, Scruggs, Viper, Willie went yesterday.) We have a walking schedule that we keep up to date in order to keep track of which group is next. We usually only walk one group a day.

We have a ATV trailer that hauls a 5 hole dog transport crate. It is usually parked in the middle of the dog yard. After breakfast and chores, we load dogs into the crate. We pull the trailer about a mile away from the kennel on one of our common mushing trails. Some dogs ride individually, while other dogs will double up for the quick jaunt. There is usually a lot of barking and excitement during the 5 minute ride. We then park beside the trail and unload the dogs.

Rambler cools off in the beaver pond; Sam rides in the dog transporter.

We walk away from the kennel for about a mile. The route is a muddy dirt trail. The turn around spot is a beaver pond. They can always get a drink there and only a few of them will swim. Sometimes we’ll see other dogs, horses, vehicles and wildlife. The dogs zig and zag, romp through the woods and race each other down the trail. They generally come when called and don’t get too far ahead of their human except when they know they are headed “home”. At the end of each walk, the dogs tend to race each other back to the ATV trailer. I guess that’s the “finish line” and they are race dogs, so we let them get ahead of us. Most of the time the dogs return to 'check in' before the humans arrive at the ATV. Sometimes they wait at the ATV and occasionally they load themselves into the transport crates.

Once in a while, we will put a GPS collar on a dog in order to document the mileage that they covered during the walk. Those are the orange collars in the videos. In general, dogs will cover about twice as many miles as their human counterparts.

We can walk dogs directly out of the dog yard as well. However, the predicament that we find ourselves in is at the end of the walk when they “race home”. There is no way a human can keep up with a racing sled dog. So, a half a dozen dogs would be back at the kennel mingling with neighbors, heads deep in dog food sacks and generally getting into trouble 5 minutes before any human supervision showed up. In order to keep the chaos to a minimum, we use the trailer.

Monday, July 7, 2014

SP Kennel is Expecting!

We have some exciting puppy news.

Kennel Superstar, Yukon Quest Champion and Iditarod Rock Star: Chica is expecting a litter of puppies on or around the July 16th.

We are absolutely thrilled that we can perpetuate these amazing genetics. Chica is the daughter of Lance Mackey’s Zorro and the talented SP Kennel’s Venus. Venus’ lineage goes back to Jeff King’s Yuski and an Erhart sprint dog named Cream. Of course, Chica’s siblings are: the ultimate lead dog and two-time YQ Golden Harness winner Quito; YQ Champion, Iditarod swing dog and SP Kennel’s current main stud dog: Nacho; and the always Iditarod favorite: Bonita. Chica has had one previous litter five years ago. That litter includes the long-legged and magnificent YQ and Iditarod star: Mac; and the handsome and talented: Boris.

The BIG question is: WHO IS THE DADDY?

We thought long and hard before the breeding took place. The successes that SP Kennel has had over the last few years have been partially due to very selective combination of genetics. The ‘Zorro genes’ have played a crucial role but the dog that has contributed even more to the successful SP Kennel gene pool is ChaCha.

ChaCha was born at Husky Homestead in the summer of 2001. Her mother, Alberta, whelped the ‘Dances’ litter: Rhumba, Lindy, Tango and ChaCha. Her father, Yuski, was originally born at Susan Butcher’s kennel.

ChaCha ran Iditarod eight times, won multiple mid distance races and was SP Kennel’s ‘go to’ lead dog for many years. She has always been smart, fast and ultra competitive. She would bark outloud for miles when she was excited or if she saw competition ahead of her. ChaCha is also exceptionally friendly and sweet. She wags her tail at everyone and kisses anyone who will let her. Even more amazing is the fact that during her successful years as a sled dog athlete she also had four litters for a total of 25 puppies. For the past 5 years, her puppies have been the core of every SP Kennel team. They are well known because they are smaller, happy and fast!

So... back to the BIG question:


The sire of this summer's litter is a ChaCha pup. He has an exceptional resume despite being so young. In 2013, he raced the Iditarod and finished in Nome at only 17 months of age. This year he became a Yukon Quest Champion and a 2nd place Iditarod dog at only at 2 1/2 years of age. He is strong-willed, loves to eat and gives ‘ChaCha kisses’ whenever he can. His sire is Paul Gebhardt’s exceptional lead dog, Lieutenant.

Clyde is the proud papa to the next generation of SP Kennel dogs.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

BBQ Salmon

We had a celebratory 4th of July BBQ at the kennel yesterday. We sat on the deck overlooking the dogs. Biscuit, Olivia and Spark were 'Dogs of the Day' and had temporary positions surrounding the deck. That also means they had the best potential for leftovers from the BBQ!
We were delighted that Bristol Bay Native Corporation delivered 25 pounds of fresh Alaskan Sockeye Salmon the day before the BBQ. As some of you might remember, Aliy was awarded the 'First Fish Award' as the first musher to the Galena checkpoint during the Iditarod 2014. She opted to wait until this summer to receive the most fresh fish possible. And was it fresh! The date on the salmon filet package was July 2nd, it flew to the kennel on the 3rd and was consumed on the 4th! YUMMY!

Salmon arrives Goldstreak from Bristol Bay Native Corp; Olivia settles for a tasty bone.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A View from the Office

The SP Kennel Office goes public…

… pretty clean, huh?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Iditarod 2015 Sign Up Day and Picnic

Iditarod will start next year on March 7th in Downtown Anchorage. Allen and Aliy have both signed up for the 2015 race. The first day to sign up was yesterday at Race Headquarters in Wasilla.

Aliy was able to attend the event while Allen worked their regularly scheduled Princess Cruise presentation in Denali National Park. (Don't worry… Allen was able to send his paperwork with Aliy in order to sign up for the race as well!)

Sixty mushers signed up for the 2015 race yesterday. Thirty-six competitors were at the picnic in person and another twenty-four mailed in their entries. Fifteen of the mushers are rookies. More entries will come in over the next five months until the race entry deadline at the close of business on Friday, December 1st.

It was an exciting day at Race Headquarters for mushers, fans and volunteers.

It was a gorgeous sunshine-filled day for the picnic which was catered by long-time Iditarod sponsors -- the Golden Corral Buffet and Grill -- This popular Anchorage eatery is a family owned business and a fabulous place to grab a quick and nutritious bite to eat anytime of the day.

Aliy was there to thank the many volunteers that make the Iditarod possible. Mushers are not always 'approachable' during the race, so she felt that it was important to really take some time out and thank the people who make it all happen!

Terry -- a long-time volunteer who works tirelessly on the Iditarod Trail in and around the Rohn Checkpoint -- and Aliy share trail stories; Doreen, Golden Corral owner and her granddaughter share a 'pink t-shirt moment' with Aliy.

Galena 'Comms' Director told Aliy "You were even smiling in Galena!"; Aliy thanks Jim for all his Iditarod service. He helped design the dropped dog transport kennels.

There were also many race fans in attendance. Folks came to Alaska for the event to meet mushers and enjoy the festivities. Race Headquarters played historic Iditarod race videos throughout the day and the gift shop was busy. Jeff Schultz, official Iditarod photographer, had his new photo book -- Chasing Dogs -- available for purchase.

Aliy gave out SP Kennel Dog Trading Cards to fans of all ages and signed autographs.

On a personal note, Aliy got to chat with long-time SP Kennel friend, Margie, who has opened her kennel in Knik to the SP Kennel dogs during the race for many years. Her generosity is overwhelming to us! And, it's always a GREAT day when Aliy gets to meet a new canine friend!

Margie and Aliy shared future cookie recipes; Aliy meets a "new friend".