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.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Holy Kong!

People often ask “What do your dogs do in the summertime?” That’s an easy answer here at SP Kennel because we are not a working sled dog kennel in the summer months. There are no cart rides, no simulated sled runs, no pulling the ATV four wheeler, no treadmill days, no glacier sled rides. Allen, Aliy and the entire human and canine crew take a three month ‘off-season’. The full blown Mushing Season starts soon enough, on September 1.

So the answer is pretty simple:
SP Kennel dogs act like ‘normal’ dogs in the summertime. They take naps in the sunshine, play a lot, then they take more naps. They go on dog walks and trot around the yard peeing their favorite, no so favorite and least favorite bushes. They go on bike rides. Some dogs like to swim; some don't.

They also have their chew toys and bones. Every dog has at least one chew toy, but most have a collection. Five has five toys - it only seemed logical. (His pile pictured to the left.)

This summer the dogs have voted and their favorite chew toy is without a doubt a big red Kong. Everyone one seems to loves the Kongs. To be honest, the toys are surprisingly tough. In one month the dogs have only semi demolished 25% of them. The Kongs are also fun because they bounce around the dog yard without intent. In other words, as the dogs wrestle and play with the Kongs, they also unintentionally toss them to their neighbor or distant kennel mate - this “sharing” depends on how enthusiastically the original dog was playing. We've seen a Kong shoot across the yard when Ernie jumped on it! Mismo tends to keep his Kong to himself. Sanka often tosses her Kong to Tinder. Scooby keeps his Kong in his mouth 99% of the time - even while barking! His muffled bark sounds like his cartoon namesake’s trademark howl….. “Scooby Doobie Doo!

Mismo says "Check out my Kong!"

BEAN: "Barista tries to tear up her Kong."; "Sanka examines her Kong."

The second favorite chew toy of the summer is the small tire ring. These toys are not quite as indestructible - 30% have been demolished. But, some dogs consider them 'the best' and trot around with a tire in their mouth. Outlaw thinks it's the perfect fit!

BEAN: "Outlaw says "Give me a tire any day!""

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sissy's and Scooter's New Lives

To continue with our philosophy of "The right home for the right dog at the right time", Sissy and Scooter have retired from their SP Kennel lives and now live together in Ohio with Holly and Tim.

Both gals have tremendous race histories and have contributed significantly to the success of the kennel over their careers. Sissy has four Iditarods, a Yukon Quest and multiple 300 mile races on her CV. Scooter has been down the Iditarod trail five times and three times down the Quest trail and is a Quest Champ! They took their roles seriously and worked hard.

They will also leave a huge personality gap in the kennel. Sissy is a silly, goofy gal with a famous moustache and love of life. Scooter is always happy, wagging her entire body all day long. We'll miss you Sissy and Scooter!

Sissy and Scooter

Thanks to Jeanne Schnackenberg for sponsoring Scooter throughout her career, Holly and Tim for sponsoring Sissy; and to everyone who joined the ladies' fan clubs over the years.

Holly and Tim:

Our animal loving family has sponsored Sissy over her race career. We had the opportunity to meet her and her sister, Scooter, twice on Alaska visits. These visits were so special and just stoked our love for both these girls. We dreamed of them coming to our home when they retired but knew time would tell if this was ideal for all of us (From Alaska to Ohio??) We knew our dog, Noodle, would enjoy their coming. He’s a gentle boy who enjoys other dogs and is down to play.

Well, SP family, we’ve witnessed with our own eyes that you can move from Alaska to Ohio and have a dog gone good life. It’s different for sure… but these ladies are game. It’s been so fun to see their personalities up close.

Scooter is very sweet, attentive, and a bit of a shy introvert. She loves her new “kennel house” with SP blanket (underneath the kitchen table). She can watch the kitchen action going on and maybe get a scrap of food if it drops! She greets us with her Scootie wiggle dance and flashes her doe eyes at us. Heart melt.

Sissy is an extrovert. She howls to go for her walks and prances around ready to roll. She is a funny, easy going, goof ball. When we put her in her harness though she becomes absolutely still until we tell her it’s time to go!
Both these ladies love to cuddle… and so do we! Noodle (12) has found new life with Sissy and Scooter. Tim laughs that Noodle probably can’t believe his good fortune, an “older male dog” with two beautiful spirited younger ladies!
Here’s the team (Noodle, Sissy and Scooter) taking on the dreaded squirrels. This is a fun activity while out on the deck.


Future plans- getting a dog powered scooter to go through the parks. Our hunch is Sissy and Scooter would really enjoy this.

It is a wonderful blessing having Sissy and Scooter with us. If any of the SP kennel team is around the Midwest and wants to visit… let us know. We’d love to make it happen. These sisters will be watching Team Black and Team Red closely… cheering all the way!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Load 'em up!

When we take dogs for a walk at SPK in the summer the process starts with the question: Who? As in, who is going today? Since we have quite a few dogs that want to go, the selection is always challenging. We have a spreadsheet (similar to the exercise training spreadsheet for winter training) that records on a day to day basis who goes on a walk, who is in a play pen or who trots around the yard while the humans do chores.

The dog walks usually involve 5 to 8 dogs. First we load the dogs up in the Dog Hauling trailer. There is a reason behind hauling dogs away from the property in order to walk. We can walk directly from our yard, but towards the end of the return leg every sled dog in the world has the "race to the barn" mentality. No matter how good of shape Aliy is in at the time... she can not keep up with a half dozen racing sled dogs! That would result in 5 to 8 dogs running around the yard, ransacking the dog room, visiting dog neighbors, flirting at the Heat Pen or sitting on the front porch of the main house. Worse than that it would require Aliy to sprint the last 1/4 mile of a previously relaxing dog walk in order to try and reach the property along with the dogs. To heck with that! Interestingly, the dogs still have the "race to the barn" mentality but it ends wherever we park the dog hauler... not at the kennel.

The load up is simple. We drive the ATV and trailer into the yard and park with the doors of the hauler open. The older dogs are pros and as soon as they leave their houses they sprint to the trailer and jump in. Here Outlaw's easy load up:

The younger dogs are still learning. Here you can see Gold isn't quite sure about climbing onboard. But once they jump into the hauler and find a handful of dog biscuits, the whole experience takes on a positive light!

The ride in the trailer depends on where the dog walk begins. The near walk begins only a mile from the kennel. The farthest we will travel in the trailer before we 'release the hounds' is about 2 1/2 miles. Some dogs ride quietly whereas other dogs are loud mouths: Willie, Bronze, Jefe and Rodney (of course!)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Early Retirement for "Princess Wedgy"

Wedgy was always that dog who had so much sled dog potential but never got to take on the world as she would have liked. She is built beautifully, has amazing genetics and is as enthusiastic as they come but unfortunately a series of niggly, minor injuries kept her from being the Champion Sled Dog we all believed she could have been.

At five years old we felt it was time for Wedgy to move on to her "Life Part Two". Melissa has been Nelson's sponsor for many years and has visited the kennel a number of times, so when she put her hand up for a retiree Aliy believed Wedgy would be a good fit.

We will miss Wedgy and her cheery disposition. Moira walked right by her kennel every night and morning on the way to the Mansion and EVERY time, Wedgy would come out of her house and get a goodnight or morning cuddle. So long Wedgy-Wedgy-Woo! Thanks to Barb Hartman, as well as Alice Holt and Sue Bates who sponsored Wedgy through her career, and to all of you who ever joined Wedgy's fan club.

Life Part Two for Wedgy involves the serious business of collecting squeaky toys and being Melissa and Mike's companion and personal trainer.


We'll let Melissa take up the story:

Wedgy is my precious delight. I have a webcam so I can watch her from work, and I love to spy on her adventures. She loves her stuffed squeaky toys and believes a girl can never have too many. She received a subscription to BarkBox, which is a service that sends a box of toys and treats each month (for spoiled dogs only). (See the video below for footage of her on the webcam with her toys and of her June BarkBox -Dinosaur edition!)

She and Mike go on hikes to Forest Park and visit the various drive-throughs where dog treats are distributed (the coffee stand, the bank, the gas station…) Wedgy loves riding in the car, especially if it involves going on a hike or to the neighborhood coffee stand where giant dog bones are handed out. The pic of her standing in the backseat of the car is funny because there was a line at the coffee drive though and Wedgy was getting tired of waiting for her treat. She kept standing up to check how many more cars were ahead and wondering ‘why is this line not moving any faster!’

I work long hours, and sometimes Mike is away for weeks at a time for work. So Wedgy interviewed and selected a nice lady named Cathie to take care of her daytime walking needs when neither of us can be there. Cathie will come and walk her once or twice during the day, and Wedgy LOVES her. That's right, Princess Wedgy has staff!

But Wedgy doesn’t just eat bones and play with toys all the time. She has some important jobs. Her secondary job is to keep cats out of the back yard and squirrels away from the bird feeders. But her primary job is to be our personal trainer and exercise coach. She gives great motivational pep talks when we’re out walking or hiking, always encouraging you to go a little further, move a little faster, try a little harder. No longer do I spend my evenings watching TV and eating jelly beans. Wedgy is even serving as coach to get me trained up so we can do some trail races together in the fall. Thank you Wedgy!

And thank you to the village that got her here – Wendy who fostered her and taught her about inside life, Linda who took care of her during her long layover in Anchorage, and Aliy for arranging her transport and especially for offering her to me. She is my princess.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Quick Summer Tour Of SPK

This is a video we took in June.

Yes, that is Scruggs in the pen with Willie in the first frame - the day before he left for Anchorage.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Scruggs has been found - Safe!!

Scruggs was found in Anchorage after two weeks of 'adventure'.
Thank heavens and thank everybody who helped.
Thank you
Thank you
Thank you

This the kind woman who found him.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Follow the Leader

Tinder, Decaf and Bean went to the creek last week. They were completely committed to the game "Follow the Leader" with Tinder as their leader. Wherever he went, they followed without hesitation. Poor little Bean was always in the rear. But... she never gave up the chase.

BEAN: "Hey guys... Wait up!"; "Ohhh, tail in my face! I can't see."

BEAN: "Oh crumb, I see water!"; "Wait for me Decaf! Wait..."

BEAN: "Oh boy! Cannonball!"

Friday, June 30, 2017

Chemo Moves to the Adirondacks

As you know, every year we retire select dogs from their racing careers to very select Forever Homes. It is always a happy and sad time for us as they move on to another exciting phase of their life without us. Our philosophy always has and always will be: "the right home, for the right dog, at the right time". (Read more about Aliy's philosophy about retirement in this story about Hotshot.)

That "right home at the right time" arrived for Chemo earlier in the summer. Mary Beth and Elizabeth have sponsored Chemo for several seasons and have followed his fortunes closely, even coming up to Alaska twice to see him. A couple of years ago they expressed interest in adopting him once his racing days were over and have kept in touch ever since.

Chemo is such a lovely boy. He is quite a sensitive soul and can be a bit shy when meeting new people but is very loving and affectionate to those he knows. Aliy wrote of him after Iditarod 2016: "Chemo is an honest, carefree addition to any team. He is genuinely a happy character and likes to travel down the trail. He stayed healthy throughout the race and slowly moved his way farther up the team as we neared the finish. Chemo is definitely talented, but sometimes I had to convince him of that fact. I think he dug pretty deep to finish this race and I am proud of him for that.

We are sad to see Chemo leave the kennel but at the same time so very happy to hear about his new life in the Adirondacks. Thanks to everyone who ever joined Chemo's fan club.

Good boy Chemo!


Here is the rest of the story from Mary Beth:

We were thrilled and honored to get an email from Aliy asking us if we were still interested in providing Chemo his well deserved Forever Home....we responded with YES, ABSOLUTELY!!

We have spent four wonderful racing seasons watching our Sponsor Dog race with SPK, and it's a dream come true he is now here with us at our Adirondack Homestead! His first seven years were fantastic and exciting...and we hope he will find life here in the “Dacks” equally fantastic and exciting...he is off to a great start!

He has already become my "fishing dog", you know, the kind of dog who enjoys just sitting on the stream bank as you fly fish and not swimming right through your fishing hole! I actually created a fly pattern using Chemo’s under fur dubbed on a hook (with the way he sheds, I got a lifetime supply) along with some moose hair Aliy gave me for the wings...I call the pattern "Sled Dog Caddis" and it has caught many a brook trout for me this spring with Chemo watching from the bank!

He is of course the Lead Dog of Team Adirondack, and we have already covered 72 miles of trails with the PawTrek Scooter (a scooter specifically designed to be used with dogs)!! Whiskey, our three year old male German Shepherd is in awe of him...and Chemo has already taught him how to keep a tight tug line and to focus on the trail.

His new six year old German Shepherd sister Willow (alpha female) to our surprise (and relief) accepted him into the family immediately, and Chemo's talents as a Lead Dog seemed to earn him great respect from her. It was amazing to watch this dynamic unfold between the two... they are great friends now! Chemo's silly side really won Willow over... she loves a good game of chase, and Chemo knows how to stay five steps in front of her with a big smile on his face and his tail curled up and held high as both Willow and Whiskey chase him around! Chemo is a love bug, and often times comes up and wants to be petted and massaged. When I was at the Kennel, Wendy shared with me Chemo's favorite places to be petted...I would have never thought to rub the inside of a dogs ear but he LOVES that! Those 5 days spent at the kennel bonding with Chemo was an important step in the adoption process!!

Elizabeth and I often times find ourselves saying things like "how does he know how to do that"... like being house trained, heeling behind us along a foot trail, or fetching a tennis ball and immediately coming back and dropping it at my feet while smiling up at me with that "do it again" smile! He has some funny habits, like making a bed if there is even a hint of staying somewhere for a spell. Once Whiskey was watching him do this and walked away literally covered with dirt that Chemo flung his way! Then there is the Schnitzel, our Siamese Cat... who in the first days of Chemo being here touched noses and then rubbed up against him. Chemo seemed to think that was pretty cool!

So... what's next for Chemo? Well, more PawTrekking of course! Right now we are doing local trails and our own network of paths, but soon I'll branch out to do some longer excursions. The Pawtrek Scooter also has a small trailer... so perhaps there is even a nice camping trip to be experienced with the Team! This winter we will get the dog sled down and trek around on our 43 acres every weekend as we follow SPK during the race season... once the ice is on the lakes Chemo will lead Team Adirondack out to my favorite ice fishing spots in search of Adirondack Lake Trout to catch through the ice.

We have lots of adventures on the horizon... with one goal in mind... having FUN and being HAPPY! That goal is for Elizabeth and I as well... if our dogs are happy we are happy! Thank you SPK for allowing us the opportunity to give Chemo a really cool "Life is Good Part II"!! We won't let you or Chemo down... he is everything we knew he would be, and then some!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Iditarod Sign Up 2018 Race

Today was the first day to sign up for the 2018 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Both the Red Team and the Black Team - Aliy and Allen have officially sent in applications. This would be Aliy's 18th race and Allen's 11th Iditarod. A total of 52 mushers signed up for the race today. Only 251 days until RACE START!!!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Midnight Sun Festival

Summer solstice is an amazing time in Interior Alaska. The midnight sun allows everyone to enjoy outdoor activities all day and all night long. Visitors to Alaska often do not know night from day. The Fairbanks Downtown Association holds the Midnight Sun Festival every year on the streets downtown. Allen and Aliy went to the Festival on Sunday and joined the Verizon gang at their tent.

Allen, Aliy and Scruggs brought a racing sled to Downtown Fairbanks on Sunday.

Many vendors and public service associations have booths. Probably the most popular was the enormous Fire Truck and extended rescue ladder. But, Yukon Quest Champion and Iditarod Sled Dog, Scruggs, was rather popular as well. Of the over 10,000 people enjoying the Festival, we figure Mr. Scruggs greeted a fair percentage of them!

There was quite a crowd at the Festival.

Scruggs was the most popular besides the enormous Firetruck. But he usually kisses back.