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.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Flashback Weekend - December 2008

We were looking back through the Dog Log yesterday because longtime kennel sponsors Tom & Cindy Eckhoff were visiting. They have seen the kennel grow from a small time wilderness dog team to what we are today and seeing some of that history was kinda fun.

There are so many great stories, videos and photos on this website. The "search" tool on the left hand side helps find stories on specific dogs, locales or races. If you ever have a spare moment or two, you can learn a lot about SP Kennel, dog mushing and the many, many stories about the individual athletes of SP.

SP Kennel only really started producing such interesting and interactive content when our good friend and world traveler, Macgellan, stepped into the picture. He always said "it's all about the dogs". He was right. His fun interaction with the dogs, camera gear and the internet was something new and different for the dog mushing world. Macgellan put a lot of time and effort into reporting for us on this website for several years and luckily... we have much of that content in the history here on the SP Kennel Dog Blog.

This video one of our all time favorites. Macgellan was simply trying out his new camera - he had some difficulties early on with cold weather, durability and camera gear. Since he was outdoors constantly and videoing everything, he caught some pretty great footage.

DECEMBER 8, 2008
FLASHBACK - - - For Tatfish (and my new camera)...

While I've been pleasantly surprised, frankly, at how well my photo gear has held up under the demanding conditions here in the Interior Alaskan winter, I have to admit that it has been a bit of a struggle from time to time.

So, while I was in Fairbanks the other day I shopped for a camera that is more "purpose built" for the cold, snow, etc., than my existing gear. I found one by Olympus called the "Stylus 1030 SW" -- the "SW" stands for "Shock and Water Proof" -- and it is supposed to operate in temperatures down to -10 degrees. Hoping for the best, I bought it and determined to put it to the test right away.

As Aliy and Allen were getting ready to head out on a training run yesterday, I noticed a small rock in the Kennel's exit chute. With the claim of "shock and water proof" in mind, I propped my new camera down on the snow in front of it, hoping to get some footage from an unusual perspective. Actually, I was still just hoping for the best.

By now you know that the dogs are pretty excited to get going just before a run, some of them to the extent that we have to hook them up at the very last second or they will make a tangled mess out of the team. This is particularly true for Tatfish. For reasons that you will see, this little video is dedicated to Tatfish and my new camera, both of whom deserve better than they get!

Special thanks to Jonathan Coulton -- who somehow always has just the song I need! -- for the use of "Why Don't You Take Care Of Me?"


Friday, August 11, 2017

Summer Dogs

The last few weeks we have been enjoying the summer in Two Rivers. This year the temperatures have been warm and the Dog Walks have often involved a pond or creek. The 'countdown' to harness training is on the calendar, so enjoy the summer while you can kids!

Here are two fun videos:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Birthday Secrets

Five years ago today Olivia and Nacho had their first litter of puppies: Kodiak, Dutch, Junior and Lydia. The four adults that they have become are phenomenal sled dogs and companions. They are often in lead of the very best SPK teams and have tremendous futures ahead. Even better than that, each dog is a superb individual with loving and happy temperament. They are the very best kind of dog to have either pulling your sled down the trail or sleeping next to your Lazy Boy recliner. Happy Birthday kids!

Thanks to the Secrets dedicated Dog Sponsors: Trish, Sue, Cliff & family and the Chaffins. As well as all their enthusiastic Dog Fans!

And then there's Tig! Tig came to the kennel as a 7 week old pup when we had a small number of retired in-house sled dogs. We thought... "Why not shake things up around here and get a Lab?" She has been doing that for 9 years - shaking things up. Happy Birthday girl.

The differences between huskys and labs are sometimes vast - even though they have grown up in the same environment. The huskys LOVE to pull, run like the wind, work as a pack, howl enthusiastically and don't particularly care for water. The lab doesn't pull, trots down the trail with a hurky-jerky gait, is somewhat a loner, can't comprehend ~ much less attempt to howl - and would love to swim and fetch sticks all day long. And oh yea... don't forget about the squirrels.

We have to admit that the two dog breeds sometimes rub off on each other. For instance, Quito now runs into the forest wherever Tig is and immediately looks into the trees (for squirrels.) Of course Quito would immediately eat it - not fetch it - if she ever got one. And Mac, after years of watching Tig fetch sticks, has taken to the water. He even "swims for fun" now.

But, the funniest sight is to watch Tig as she is surrounded by 50 huskys howling. The sound is awesome and deafening. Tig just sits there dumbfounded. She looks like Allen and Aliy standing at a concert in Stockholm, Sweden. What the heck are these guys saying?! After 9 years, Tig still can't howl ~ even Allen could learn some Swedish in 9 years!!!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Yukon Quest 2018 Sign Ups

Thus past Saturday, August 5th, Allen's official Yukon Quest entry paperwork was turned in for the running of the 2018 Yukon Quest.

As always, there is a grand celebration at both YQ Offices - Fairbanks and Whitehorse - While Allen would have loved to have been present, he and Aliy were on the train in Denali and he was not able to be in two places at one time. So, Kaz joined the YQ festivities and was Allen's "Proxy". She officially sign him up for his 8th running of the Yukon Quest.

Thanks Kaz!

It takes enormous effort to run the Yukon Quest from more than just the sled dogs and mushers. There are many people who make this race possible for Allen and his awesome team. We know that here will be many challenges, hurdles and adventurous miles ahead ~ and then the race starts!

We can never thank our YQ handling crew, support staff and kennel care takers enough for all they do in order to make the Yukon Quest happen for SP Kennel. You know who you are... THANK YOU ALL! We are looking forward to a new year and a new race.

Izzy, Allen and Mismo 2017 YQ 3rd place; Allen & Aliy at Two Rivers Checkpoint.

Kaz was also able to be "Proxy" for Aliy and signed her team up for the Yukon Quest 300. Apparently Kaz has the ability to be two people at once!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

An Afternoon project

It's not all fun and games around SP Kennel. The lengthy list of projects that need to, ought to or just might get done before winter is endless.

One such task was constructing a new pooper scooper. As you can imagine, such a tool is very well used - so much so, that we were down to just one pooper scooper. With both Aliy and Allen doing the chores this summer... the question became: Who does the dookie patrol?

Well apparently one of them decided that he had done his fair share of pooper duty. So, in order to share the duty (or dookie) he constructed another tool. Aliy would like to say: Thank you so very much for sharing sweetheart!

Allen and Tig construct a new tool; The 'Tool Shed'"

Maybe the new scooper is too shiny to get dirty?!?!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Remembering Rosco

Dogs (and humans) do their best to constantly create a mess. Some more than others! Keeping the kennel clean and tidy is a challenge. In order to effectively keep the property clean, we do ‘dog chores’ every day. After the morning meal and watering, we scoop poo and clear the yard of any debris, rubbish or clutter. This might be wet straw, chewed on sticks or even a neighbor’s bowl. The dogs constantly dig, tunnel and chew on everything ~ they are DOGS! But, we try our best to keep the yard free of any and all hazards. So, when we saw a small circular green piece of plastic in front of Creamer’s dog house last week, we picked it up. It was an Iditarod dog tag from 13 years ago!

We were pretty excited to see who's tag it was. After searching through our records, we learned that for the 2004 Iditarod, dog “38C” was Rosco.

Rosco was born in June of 1998 at a friend’s house in Fairbanks. That friend, Mike, had been Aliy’s handler on her rookie Yukon Quest February earlier that year. As ‘payment’ for helping, Mike wanted to bred SP Kennel All-Star, Fats, to his dog Winton. Mike had gotten Winton from Yukon Quest champion, Bruce Lee, a year earlier. Aliy thought that was fair but asked Mike for one pup out of the litter. At 8 weeks, Mike reluctantly gave up Rosco.

We have many memories of Rosco.

One of Aliy’s best was in 2006 when her teams was leaving the Elim Checkpoint on Iditarod. A small group of competitive mushers all left the Checkpoint within 10 minutes of each other. Jessie Royer had actually gone through Elim and everyone had followed her out. It was: Mitch Seavey, Jason Barron, Lance Mackey, Aaron Burmeister and Aliy. But there had been a blizzard on top of Little McKinely - a substantial mountain climb an hour out of Elim - and the route had been blown shut. The trail follows the ridge line along the tops of the mountains for many miles. The six dog teams were lined up tail to nose scouting for any sign of the trail. In the end, Rosco, who was in the front of Aliy’s team in single lead, found the trail under a foot of snow. He showed his amazing strength and determination and brought all of the teams up and over the final ridge. The teams dispersed as they all went different speeds down hill, onto the frozen ocean and across the sea to the village of Golovin.

2005 Iditarod Team - Dogs that can be seen L-R: Rosco, Peyote, Teddy, ChaCha, Lillith (just her back), Ash, Zorro (just his face), Pingo, and Twister (white dog).

Allen remembers Rosco on the Copper Basin 300 in 2005. It had been one of the most difficult races he had ever run. Over half the racing teams had scratched at the half way point. The snow was waist deep and the trail markers had teams circling in a blizzard on Summit Lake. Then the route was diverted last minute when a snowmobile just ahead of the dog teams fell through the lake ice. The last leg of the race was a very tough 110 miles and the SP Kennel team was leading the race. Rosco was the lead dog and he seemed very perky, so Allen said he “just let him go with 100 miles to the finish.” The first 55 miles was great but the second 55 was very difficult. The snow built up and the trail conditions were tough. Allen could feel the teams behind him catching up. He knew that something was going to have to happen in the last few miles in order to hang on to the lead. And then something did happen - Rosco’s ears went straight up in the air. In the trail ahead of them was a tornado. Allen is from Arkansas so he knows what a tornado looks like. But, a winter tornado seemed peculiar. Rosco was very excited. The closer they got, the faster Rosco ran. He rejuvenated the rest of the team. Allen got closer to the “tornado” and realized it was a herd of caribou chasing each other in the middle and stirring up the snow.But the team’s speed had picked up from 7 mph to 15 mph and they ripped down the remainder of the race route. He felt very good about the team with only 20 miles to go and knowing no one else could be running 15 mph while chasing the herd. Until 10 minutes later the caribou took a hard left off of the trail over the rocks and through the woods. But, the team had been far enough ahead that they were able to pull off the win. Which was the first time Allen won the Copper Basin 300 (now a six time Champion.) Thanks Rosco!

Rosco was always a mellow, loving, long legged, happy boy from his puppyhood days until his last days ~ 13 years later. He successfully raced the Yukon Quest, Iditarod and every mid distance race in between with SP Kennel. He was the kennel greeter for many years and was also known as 'Rosco the rooter' because he could snuggle down into the bed covers better than any husky. Rosco retired from SP Kennel to an awesome home in Wisconsin - thanks Gilson Family - and enjoyed frozen popsicles, truck rides, doggie day care and a long, happy life.

Rosco going on his daily truck ride with Steve to get a Beef Stick.

Rosco at the Gilson Family Christmas celebration. He was 12 years old here.

Friday, July 28, 2017

July - the Birthday Month

The middle of July is a popular birthday time for SP Kennel.

The Olympics turned ONE on July 24th. Congrats to our youngsters: Gold, Prata and Bronze. These three are all legs, attitude and energy right now. Prata and Gold antagonize each other constantly - what do you expect from our youth - and Bronze is the cuddly, sweetheart.

L-R: Gold; Prata; Bronze

The Five Pups turned THREE on July 15th. They had a rough start as infants but they are dynamite group now. Rodney, Ginger and Five live on one of the wooden raised platforms due to their 'rock chewing' tendencies. Ernie and Scooby live in the main yard. Here is the platform with (left to right) Ginger, Rodney, Spark and Five. (Izzy is photo bombing under Ginger's tail.)

Note: Five's ugly dog house! Dog house pressure washing and painting chores don't start until mid September."

The Fire Litter are FOUR as of July 21st. These core dogs are ready to start the Mushing Season: Amber, Chena, Commando, Daisy, Nomex, Spark, Tinder, Torch and Violet. Tinder’s sponsor Marilyn was at SP Kennel on his birthday and we celebrated with a dog walk (below).

Marilyn with Commando, Amber, Violet, Chena and Tinder.

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!)