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.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cold Snap!

This last week has seen an interesting weather combination in Two Rivers.

On Friday we got about 11 inches of fresh snow which was very exciting. It turns out it was fairly localised because as Aliy and Spencer were in the White Mountains they hardly had any but the kennel received a fair dumping! We're happy with some fresh snow on the trails and it always freshens up the yard with new white coat.

The recent snow on an unused dog house; the temperature in the "heat of the day" today

Then, the bottom dropped out of the thermometer and we've had temperatures of 40-50 below for the last few days!

That means: dogs in the dog barn! Even with husky coats, straw beds and big, warm meals the dogs use up a lot of energy keeping warm at this temperature.

Our dog barn can house up to 36 dogs and they have private, roomy, indoor, straw filled areas to sleep in. They can push through a swing door and they have an outside pen where they can do their "business" and stretch their legs.

Some of the dogs are sharing the pens (as they are big enough to house two dogs): Outlaw and Lester's bromance is blossoming. They live next to each other in the yard and play often so it is very sweet to see them curl up together in the dog barn; co-existing peacefully. Mac and Sissy are sharing also - they live next door to each other in the yard. They shared the "Safety experience" side-by-side during the Iditarod last year so they have developed a happy bond. Queen Quito of Two Rivers, on the other hand, has her own pen!

We asked the dogs what they think of their indoor digs this morning…

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

YQ: Vet Checks

As Allen is a veteran racer in the Yukon Quest, he is able to have vet checks completed at the kennel with a Yukon Quest approved veterinarian. Dr Tamara Rose, who is also a kennel sponsor, came to the kennel on Tuesday evening to check out 17 possible Quest 1000 dogs.

The thorough vet check includes weight, temperature, heart and respiration rates as well as musculoskeletal checks, body condition (using the regular body condition scale your own vet uses) and oral, eye and ear checks etc. All 17 passed the check and are fit and healthy to be chosen for the team.

Thanks TRose!

Dr T Rose checks Chica while Olivia and Willie wait their turn. Felix is in the weigh pen.

The Quest 300 vet checks will be done on the Friday before the race in Whitehorse by the Quest vet team and other volunteer helpers.

Further information about vet checks can be found on the Yukon Quest website in the rules document.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Spark Update

There's been a number of you asking after Spark - the only one of the yearling squad who hasn't got to race so far this season.

Spark is just fine!! Just before the first race he tripped and hurt his wrist a little so it was decided not to race him.

Up until that point, and now that he is recovered, he is one of the strongest in the yearling class.

Catch up with him in this quick video. Note: Chena and Violet had a LOT to say while Aliy was speaking so you may have some trouble hearing…

Spencer's team in this video was Spark and Chena in lead, Lydia and Champ in swing, Cayenne and Pepe, Coal and Daisy with Amber and Wedgy in wheel.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

YQ: Drop Bag Drop

Once we completed and tied up all the "drop bags" we took them all into Fairbanks where the hardworking Yukon Quest volunteers helped Spencer unload them, laid them out checkpoint by checkpoint then tied colour coded tags on them to help quickly identify them.

At the same time the team over in Whitehorse were doing exactly the same thing!

Loading; the Quest volunteers sort them into checkpoint piles

They then start the job of transporting the bags to each checkpoint. The logistics involved with this is huge, they must get the right bags to the right checkpoint ready for the mushers to arrive. With 26 mushers in the YQ1000 and 25 in the YQ300, each with anywhere from six bags (for the YQ300) to perhaps 45-50 you can do the math!

Thank you to all the volunteers in Fairbanks and Whitehorse! Thanks also to Tami, Mykena and Madison for helping tie and load them all at the kennel.

Here's a link to the Fairbanks Newsminer story about the Drop Bags.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

White Mountains Trip

Yesterday, Aliy and Spencer took most of the Quest/YQ300 potentials out to the White Mountains for a change of scene. Aliy took the Spot tracker with her and we thought you'd be interested in their route.

The tracker route is showing only their homeward journey; point #13 is from the trail head where they started, then count backwards to #1 and you will see the route they followed. They turned around at #1 and went back the way they came. (Tracks 19-25 show their journey home in the truck.)

The White Mountains Recreational Area is run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and has one-million acres of land. It takes about 1.5 - 2 hours to drive to the trail head from the kennel. Aliy said their run was great! There was no one else about on that trail, and it was peaceful and beautiful. Everyone had a good run, up and down the hills and it was fantastic preparation for the upcoming Quest.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sissy Wins Fan Club Draw #9

Congratulations to Becky Pacas from California who has won this week's Fan Club Draw.

Becky is a fan of many of our dogs - on this occasion SISSY wins!

Sissy really came into her own during the 2014 Iditarod and was running next to Mac during the storm at Safety.

She is now a seasoned racer and expected run in the Yukon Quest or YQ300 and the Iditarod this year.

Becky wins a signed "Two Rivers" drop bag of Allen's along with a few other goodies.

Thanks to all our Dog Fan Club members! The next Dog Fan Club winner will be announced on February 6th and everyone who hasn't already won and all new members will be in the draw to win. The prize will be Yukon Quest themed as we will all be in Whitehorse ready for the start of the race. Note: those of you who have already won but are fan club members of multiple dogs are still in the draw for the dogs you have not won with.

Click the button below for instructions on how to join:

Click this button below to take you directly to the Dog Fan Page.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

YQ: Drop Bags

Apart from getting the dogs and humans in shape, one of the next most important tasks in preparation for any race is planning and packing the checkpoint drop bags. These are the bags that go ahead of the mushers to the checkpoints with all their resupply stocks.

Preparation can take days, even weeks, as hundreds of pounds of meat must be cut, kibble bagged, dog and human clothing and equipment packed, human food cooked... Planning for the bags hinges on the musher's race plan; plus contingency for Plan B, C and D. This is also on top of what the musher carries with them in the sled.

The dog equipment we pack includes booties, jackets, fleece blankets, spare harnesses and leggings etc. Their food includes team meal sized bags of Eagle Pack Kibble; and meat such as poultry skins, beef, salmon and other tasty goodies they will eat as snacks or will get added to their meals. Packs of vet supplies (wraps, Algyval, foot salve) are also packed ready if needed (the musher will usually carry this then use what is at the checkpoint to resupply if needed).

Meghan bags poultry skins; some of the equipment that goes into the bags

In terms of human food, Aliy and Allen pack freeze-dried meals, home-made oatmeal/banana bars, bacon (pounds and pounds of bacon!), nuts, protein snacks and other bits and pieces. Their equipment and clothing includes dry gloves and socks, and chemical foot and hand warmers; runner plastics for the sled and tools in case of equipment failure.

Each bag must be labelled and weighed - they must be under 40lb each - and an itemised list created.

Huge thanks to Mykena, Madison and Tami Earle for bagging literally hundreds of bags of Eagle Pack kibble ready to go out on both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod trails!

Today we are working on the Yukon Quest drop bags and then we need to start on the Iditarod bags as they are due while the team is on the Quest trail. It's certainly "all hands on deck" and thanks to everyone involved!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

CB300: Black and Red Team Journeys

Hope you enjoy these two videos following the Black and Red Teams through the Copper Basin 300.

Black Team

Red Team

Saturday, January 17, 2015

CB300: Red & Black Team Wrap-Up

Spencer tells us about his Red & Black team:

Lester - Not a super fast dog, but he’s a solid and efficient command leader with experience that made him a great “puppy team” leader. I knew that I could trust him to get the job done and I rarely took him out of lead. He’s self-contained, but very affectionate.

Viper - Another that spent much of the race in lead. His confidence in lead around other teams and obstacles in the trail was a great example for younger dogs and he did a great job of tolerating Commando. Older dogs have to show a lot of composure when they get stuck training the next generation. I think Viper actually enjoyed running with Commando.

Beemer - Anybody who knows Aliy Zirkle knows Beemer. He’s an honest, smart, sensitive dog who was another go-to leader and great example to run different yearlings with.

Commando - If it weren’t for the three above, I could easily say that Commando was the MVP on this team. Commando does everything that I ask him to and likes it. He’s the yearling that I am tightest with and he is always seeking to please me. I was so happy to have him on this race. He spent 300 miles in swing or in lead with Viper. Any time that I wanted to speed the team through some hills or perk them up on a boring stretch of trail, I put Commando up front. He is an enthusiastic, up-beat natural lead dog with an infectious attitude.

Torch - A yearling who had an exceptional attitude. He always wanted to go and even in the middle of the race was barking while charging up the hills and keeping everyone excited and in good spirits. He ate everything that I put in front of him, and was always the first to rise from the straw and show he’s readiness to hit the trail.

Chena - Right there with Torch most of the race. The two of them learned quickly the routine of running, eating, sleeping. Chena is a slightly picky eater, and was burning calories faster than she was taking them in, which made her tire a few miles before her teammates. She hitched a ride in the sled with me for the last 20 miles. I figured this would happen at some point along the race, but wanted to see how far I could get her. She did a phenomenal job. I particularly enjoy her personality - calm, confident, sassy little girl. Chena and Torch were always the ones who got the team howling before we hit the trail.

Puppet - I really enjoyed having her with us. She is a no-nonsense, honest dog who does her thing and doesn’t need anyone to hold her hand.. er.. paw.. whatever. She isn’t a super hard-driving dog on the flats, but when we came to any kind of hill, Puppet did her darnedest to haul the sled up by herself.

Tinder - It seems to me that he always works too hard. Early on in the race, I remember thinking.. Man, if he doesn’t chill out, he’ll never make the whole way. Then by the middle of the race, …Man, how is he still charging like that? Finally by the end, he started to get tired. About the last 30 miles or so, I was telling him what a good dog he was and making sure he and the team knew how happy I was with what they’d done. He needed a little help at the end, but that was a great learning experience for him - a taste of how to throttle back and just travel when you are genuinely tired. Lessons like that are exactly why you put young dogs in races. Get as many to the finish line as possible and have a positive experience. Tinder got it.

Nomex (right) - This guy is like the punk little brother that I never had. He’s always in a peeing contest with someone (sometimes me), and won’t turn the other cheek if someone shoots him a look. By the same token, he desperately wants my approval and to show what he can do. As a sled dog, this makes him extremely drivable. He worked through some mental stuff early on and came through to finish strong. He was one of the dogs who really held the team together at the end. I was very impressed with his performance - he’s got a bright future.

Driver (right) - This guy is a lumbering, lovable goof. He didn’t sleep the first night because he was so interesting in what was going on in the checkpoint. Which meant that he hit the straw as soon as I put it out on our next camp. He’s slightly slower because he doesn’t lope. But if you’re traveling at a comfortable speed for him, he’s a very hard-working dog. You can specifically feel him pulling on the towline. Another dog who held it together at the end. Also, he eats like a maniac.

Violet - Did an awesome job all the way to Sourdough. There was some rough, uneven trail going into that checkpoint and when we got there, she was a bit sore. I wrapped her wrist and massaged her shoulder as soon as we stopped to camp, then walked her around after her rest to see if I thought she should go on. The next checkpoint at Mendeltna Lodge wasn’t for another 85 miles and I knew that I’d be carrying her at some point if I kept her in the team. She’d had a great performance to that point, so I figured it was best to drop her and not risk anything.

Sandy - She’s what some mushers call an “invisible dog”. That is, a dog who puts their head down, keeps their line tight and generally, does everything right. She’s a Biscuit pup which I’ve come to realize, means among other things, that she has a GREAT appetite. Another solid dog who very much helped get us to the finish line.

One of the best parts of this race was getting to know the dogs. When they realize that you’re not running back to the truck or the kennel, they come to depend on you, just as you do them. You all fall into a rhythm as a team. That’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of and really, the essence of dog mushing. I had the pleasure of seeing them begin to realize their potential and they gained confidence from getting to know me all the better.

This was a total success and I’m excited to who takes it to the next level this season.

Thanks to the handler team of Mark and Joanna, supported by Ray and Moira.

Bonus CB300 Dog Fan Club Draw

To celebrate the Black Team's fantastic win in the Copper Basin 300 we did a bonus draw for all the Fan Club members that are fans each individual Black Team member. Congratulations to Teresa Clark from California who is a fan of Schmoe!

Teresa wins a Copper Basin 300 poster signed by Aliy and Allen along with a few other goodies.

Thanks to all our Dog Fan Club members! The next Dog Fan Club winner will be announced on January 23th and everyone who hasn't already won and all new members will be in the draw to win.

Click the button below for instructions on how to join:

Click this button below to take you directly to the Dog Fan Page.