You will notice that some of the faces on the "SP Kennel Dogs" are missing. This is true. So the questions is: "When do you retire a dog from SP K Racing?"
That's often difficult to answer because, you guessed it: everyone is different.
The long answer to this question starts with our belief that each dog deserves quality individual time. In order to give the youngest SP Kennel members an honest, quality shot at becoming the absolute best sled dogs that they can become - we must spend enough time and effort with each youngster during their training years.
Let's be honest… I enjoy watching the SP youngsters. And it is critical that we get to know these future All-Stars while they are developing. I have no desire to turn our young dogs over to someone else to raise and train. They are our future. We want to know every little detail about them. Imagine the high we've felt while watching Quito grow from a scrawny puppy; to a tall, thin yearling; to a novice, budding two year old and now a two-time Yukon Quest Golden Harness recipient and Iditarod All-Star lead dog. It is incredibly rewarding to know that we have been with her through all of these times of her life.
So, in order to have enough time, effort, space and money to care for, train and race each SP Kennel dog, we have to keep our overall dog population in check. That means we carefully select who will retire from SP Kennel racing, who will move to the couch and who will move on to a new home. The number of dogs that we retire each year is correlated to the number of puppies we raised the previous summer. It only makes sense that the SP K 'newbies' will try to replace the SP K 'retirees'.
If you have followed the kennel for any length of time you know that the 'Puppy Class' from 2013 - now the 'Yearling Class' - is very large. There are 11 Fire Pups plus Champ and Cayenne - a total of 13 one year old dogs. Due to our kennel management technique, this summer we needed to retire the same number.
It was incredibly challenging to choose who would retire. And just as challenging to let go some of these guys to far away homes. Not only did a few of these dogs have another year or two of racing under their harnesses, but also because they were part of the SP Kennel family. But, the knowledge that we find every dog the right home at the right time makes the process doable.
All of these dogs went to forever homes. Sometimes it's an easy transition and sometimes it's more challenging. The most important thing is that these new owners can find the joy that each individual dog has to offer.