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, February 23, 2017

YQ: Dogs Stretch Out

After the Yukon Quest, the 12 dogs that crossed the finish line hung out in the barn for a few days before stretching their legs for quick fun-runs (Daisy and Nomex were already rearing to go when they got home having already had a few days off).

This is one of those runs, just a couple of miles around the field. These are slow runs punctuated with many stops and a chance to shake off any stiffness and stretch out.

The dogs are now back into "proper" training for the Iditarod but we thought you might enjoy seeing this. See how they mush right back into the barn?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

ID: Anchorage Hotel Details

Come join us in Anchorage for the Iditarod festivities!

While in Anchorage the entire SP Kennel Crew of dogs and humans will be staying at the Extended Stay Anchorage - Downtown.

Stay with us and you might get to meet the dogs and the crew! We will let you know the schedule for when we "drop the dogs" (actually: lift them down very carefully) from the truck during Thursday and Friday for feeding and walking, so come and visit with us. We would love to see you!

Please email Linda Steiner at: Lsteiner@esa.com for bookings, pricing and availability. Write "SP Kennel Fan" in the subject line.

We will keep this button in the 'fan zone' (left hand side) of the blog that links you to more information and contact details.

There are no plans for a public "Meet and Greet" while in Anchorage but you can see us at the Starting Banquet on Thursday evening or at one of the trucks at the Ceremonial Start on 4th Avenue on Saturday morning.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

YQ: Black Team Wrap-Up

Amber was definitely the main cheerleader of the bunch. There was not a time when we got ready to go that she did not jump in harness, even at the finish line. That was her attitude that whole way though and I wish we had 14 dogs with that kind of attitude.

Champ was always steady, always pulling. Even though he had some gastro-intestinal issues that caused him to lose a little energy, he still had a great appetite and he always pulled.

Chipper's (right) name serves her well in that she is always cheery and chipper. She works really well running in wheel running underneath the line; however, I suspect she would rather be up front leading the way. She has led me as a two year old in the Iditarod so we will move her around in the team more in the future.

Daisy is a little girl that sometimes tries too hard, it's good and bad in that her back is always bowed going as hard as she possibly can but sometimes she hurts herself. That's what happened in this years Quest. After 300 miles she tweaked her back leg and I needed to leave her behind. Hopefully in the future she can settle down just a little bit, not too much, but just enough to keep from hurting herself.

Commando (left) was a main leader for more than half the race. He has a lot of drive. Commando has a lot of race miles under his belt being three years old and already run four 1000 mile races. He was always in command (his name fits him) and he is happy. He looks to you for acknowledgement and guidance.

Dutch is definitely a pretty serious dog, he was in the lead at least a third of the time. He's a no-nonsense "nothing really bothers him" dog and he really just wants to please you. He was very even tempered in this race.

Felix finally gets to finish a competitive 1000 mile race. In the past he has had intestinal but this year we were able to keep that under control. Hopefully we can continue to keep his stomach issues under control and he will prove to be a valuable asset to our team, just like his papa Biscuit.

Izzy (below left) is definitely one of our mature dogs and is a mature leader. When everyone else got a little tired of being up in lead I put her up there in the last 200 miles so she could pull us over all the hills. She is strong headed, strong willed and there's definitely "no quit in Izzy".

Mismo (below right) the biggest dog in the yard with the biggest head and probably the biggest drive. He led most of the race and that says everything about a dog when they lead for long periods. He listens to you and he responds in kind to that. He ate well and he ran well.

Junior works hard! It was hard to know that she was even in the team just because she was always pulling. She never got into trouble, never bothered anyone; all she did was put her nose down and go. She's definitely a good leader but I did not use her in that position. We will change that in the future.

Kodiak was the leader I started out with and ran 400 miles up front. He, too, is pretty strong headed, however, when the scent of a pretty girl is in the air his mind goes south and that's why he was taken out of the lead. He began to bother whoever was next to him after that, whether male or female. But, all-in-all he is a great, steady dog.

Nomex the big-headed dog. Nomex is yet to finish 1000 mile race but he tries really hard. Sometimes that's the problem, dogs like that can hurt themselves a bit quicker. He started head-bobbing and he had a tricep that got sorer and sorer until I had to carry him the last 50 miles into Dawson. Hopefully next race he will have learned from that and make it to the finish line.

Rodney is probably the most surprising out of the whole group. He is two years old and had never done much as far as racing. That being said, because of his appetite he thrived. There was not a morsel of food that went by him that was not eaten. With that gives a dog energy and keeps him going which it did Rodney. He was always happy to go and it was all due to his appetite - we could only wish for all of our dogs to have an appetite like him.

Sparkie (below) is another three year old that is like Amber in that he was another cheerleader. I ran them next to each other and one would feed of the other and just make the whole team and musher much happier than they would have been without him.

The race went well overall. However I wish I could have seen what their real potential was but due to the gastro intestinal issues mid-way in the race I rested the team a lot more and didn't really find out what they are really capable of. I know they have a lot of potential; they are a really good team and there is a lot more racing in these dogs. Hopefully it is the start of something really special.

Thank you to all the volunteers and officials, the vet team, logistics and both boards for putting on this special race. Thanks to our handlers and those back at home. We couldn't do it without you.

Thanks also to the visual content team of Whitney, Chance, Julien and Steve for the wonderful images and for letting us use them!

Monday, February 20, 2017

ID: Join the Iditarod Team

Thank you to all our Red Team and Black Team members! We appreciate your support and couldn't do what we do without you.

If you are not already a Team Member now would be a good time. If you "Join The Team" before February 26 we will be able to post your team membership packet out to you before the Iditarod and you will receive an "End of the Trail" postcard from Nome. Memberships received after then will have their packets after the Iditarod and the postcard will be sent from Pleasant Valley Store and Trailside Mail in Two Rivers.

This year we will be printing out lists of all Red Team and Black Team members to ride in the sled with Aliy and Allen so you will be virtually travelling down the Iditarod trail.

The Red Team membership thank you packet has a new design SP Kennel t-shirt and you can "upgrade" your membership for an extra $15 and we will include an iconic SP Kennel red beanie. Note: beanies are not available on their own, you can only get one through the upgraded team membership.

Our Black Team membership thank you packet has a cotton tote which is great for carrying a laptop, your lunch or some groceries or, indeed, anything you want. You can upgrade your membership of the Black Team also and receive a black SPK beanie.

To become a team member you can hit the "Join the Team" button on the left at any time during the season, or you can hit this one now:

Sunday, February 19, 2017

ID: In The Meantime... Drop Bags

While the final stages of the Quest were playing out, the Iditarod food drop bags were due. Although the race was nearly three weeks away at that time, it is a huge logistical exercise to get them all to the desired checkpoint via the Iditarod Airforce and an army of volunteers.

It is very often said that "it takes a village" to run all aspects of this kennel. Iditarod drop bags takes that to the extreme!

Clothing, dog coats, equipment sorted checkpoint by checkpoint

Here's a few of the tasks:
  • Cutting 40-50lb blocks of poultry skins and beef, and whole salmon into snack size portions.
  • Bagging said snacks into ziplocks in batches of 16
  • Packing booties for down the trail - at this early stage we do not know the make up of the teams so we pack to cover a whole range of sizes for dogs that might make the team
  • Bagging two different types of kibble into meal size packs
  • Rolling and packing fat balls - this is pure fat that the dogs LOVE if it is cold
  • Assembling vet packs to distribute down the trail. These include vet wrap, massage oil, foot ointment and athletic tape among other things. Our mushers will use these packs to replenish the supplies they carry with them
  • Cooking and bagging human snacks and meals. Allen takes bacon, banana oatmeal bars and nuts as snacks plus vacuum sealed meals of chicken pesto (right), moose and sweet potato lasagne and meatballs with tomato or alfredo sauce. We also include a few unexpected treats to surprise him along the trail. Aliy takes various energy bars (thanks Clair), chicken pesto meals and other snacks. We pack freeze dried packet meals for camping stops where a microwave or oven are not available.
  • Assembling hand and foot warmer packs that include hand wipes and tissues
  • Counting dog coats and blankets to send to checkpoints. Aliy and Allen will also be carrying coats with them and can use these ones to replace the ones that have that might get damp or if they need heavier fleece coats or lighter wind jackets.
  • Throw in spare harnesses, equipment, gloves, socks, hats and neck gators and there you have it!

Mushers must send a minimum of 50lb of food and equipment out to each checkpoint. This year Aliy shipped 1471lb and Allen 1467lb. Allen is expected to take longer to complete the race with youngsters and therefore will need more dog food while Aliy included more options for her mandatory 24 and 8 hour lay-overs hence the shipments were almost exactly the same weight.

All the dog food and snacks laid out (Scout does a quick check on his way past)

Wendy, Andy and Clara; Shelia and Scout measure kibble

A special thanks to everyone who contributed: Wendy, Chris, Ruth, Padee, Tami, Mykenna, Madi, Brian, Clair, Sheila, Andy, Clara, Lynne, Tom and Cindy. Also thanks to all the Red Team and Black Team members - we use some of the proceeds of our Join The Team program to fund our drop bags.

Mykena, Tami and Madi

Stacking the pallets with bags ready for shipment to checkpoints

Thank you to all the Iditarod volunteers for their hard work once we gave them our near 3000lb of food and equipment.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

YQ: Finishers' Banquet and Prizegiving

We had a wonderful celebration of the Yukon Quest last night at the Westmark Hotel in Fairbanks. Starting with music from The Rock Bottom Stompers and a chance to catch up with fellow mushers, handlers, friends and fans.

There was a lot of effort put into the table decorations with the napkins folded into dog bones, battery operated toy huskies, sponsor tote bags and first day covers from Quest's past.

Chris and Ruth; place setting

The Colours were presented by the UAF US Army ROTC followed by Theresa Bauer-Burger's powerful Canadian and US Anthems. Pastor Jim Hardenbrook delivered the Invocation and Don Honea, Traditional Chief of Doyon, Ltd - Tanana Chiefs Conference welcomed everyone to Fairbanks. Don himself was a Quest and Iditarod musher so understood the challenges the mushers faced. Karl Kassel, the Mayor of Fairbanks North Star Borough, who was a sprint musher, continued the welcome, as did Jim Matherly, Mayor of the City of Fairbanks. Jim admitted he is highly allergic to dogs but still appreciates their ability and loyalty from afar. LeRoy Shank, one of the founding fathers of the Quest was also there to say a few words.

Amazing cake by Michaela Gilly from Bella Noche Cakes; the program for the evening

We then were treated to a ten minute video put together by the Quest Visual Content Team that moved many of us. The whole room cheered for Ryne and her team over a raging Eagle Summit. Keep an eye on the YQ Facebook Page and You Tube Channel as they are sure to post it for us all to enjoy over and over.

Each musher took to the stage to thank their teams and tell some trail stories: spontaneous brownies on the trail, bigger summits than could be imagined, amazing hospitality and the "Quest Family". Matt Hall received a standing ovation as he went to the stage and Keeper and Anchor enjoyed their moment in the spotlight as Golden Harness winners.

Congratulations to all the other prizewinners at last night's Prizegiving. For a full account check out this excellent article on the Yukon Quest website.

Allen's 3rd place trophy

Aliy's 2nd place prize from Alaska Rod's

Friday, February 17, 2017

Dog Fan Club Draws - Waylon, Jefe and Mismo

To celebrate third place in the Yukon Quest we did a triple draw! Congrats to the students of Mrs Price's 3rd Grade Class who are fans of Waylon, Leona who is a fan of Jefe and Val Lycette who is a fan of Mismo!

Waylon is full of attitude this season. The loss of a toe over the summer hasn't slowed him down one bit and he expects to be out there on every training run. He lives next to Sassy Quito and they often have loud conversations about the meaning of life.

Jefe is a big, strong youngster. We're excited to watch him fully develop and grow into his body. He will be a powerhouse in seasons to come. He and his siblings and Coffee Cousins occupy the "back 40" of the yard and make themselves known!

Mismo is happy about his job. He often expects to be in lead position and this year led the team, with his sister Izzy, up and over Eagle Summit and over the finish line in the Yukon Quest. He is, by far, the tallest dog on the team and often towers above the youngsters. His excitement and attitude is hard to beat.

You all win a copy of the Yukon Quest Race Annual, signed by Allen and Aliy plus a YQ tote bag. You will also receive a photo print portrait of your dog along with a few other kennel goodies. We hope you enjoy your packets!

Our next Dog Fan Club draw is Friday, March 3rd. Everyone who has joined by then and hasn't already won will be in the draw to win!

Click the button below for more information about how to join:

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

YQ: Fairbanks Meet the Mushers

It was great to see so many fans and supporters at the Meet The Musher event last night. At one stage the line for signatures and photos was snaked around the room and almost out the door!

"Mushing = Teamwork" - thanks Caleb; poster signing

Last night was a good chance for mushers to see each other again since sharing the trail. "Did you see the caribou on Medicine Lake?", "How was Eagle Summit?", "What about that steak in Circle?".

Check out the great photos of the event on the Yukon Quest Facebook Page.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

YQ: The Black Team's Journey

Grab a coffee (or your choice of beverage) and enjoy a very small slice of the Black Team's journey through the Yukon Quest.

YQ: Then and Now

When Aliy was packing her drop bags for the Yukon Quest 300 she came across a neck gator she hadn't seen in a while. She put it in her Pelly Crossing bag for the final leg of the race.

Take a look at these two pictures. The first is from the year 2000 when Aliy won the Yukon Quest. The second is from Pelly this year. Cool huh?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

YQ: Finish Line Report

A crowd of family, friends, supporters and race fans turned from about 9.30pm last night ready to welcome our team home. With the finish line being off the river we couldn't see them coming so look-outs were posted at the Steese Highway Bridge to alert us to their imminent arrival. To see Allen's headlamp, flopping dog ears then faces appear up the ramp was so exciting.

They crossed the line to cheers and whoops! All tails wagging. Dutch and Amber seemed keen to continue for a bit longer, lunging in their harnesses. Mismo and Izzy looking like old pros faced the throng of photographers without batting an eyelid. Commando and Junior circled around and around and Spark gave kisses to all and sundry. Kodiak and Amber got close up with one of the photography team and Champ and Rodney stood even a little prouder than they already did. Chipper and Felix looked around seemingly taking it all in.

They all wolfed down their thawed salmon and beef snacks and enjoyed the attention of the crew. Aliy introduced all the dogs individually to the crowd as Allen petted each one, thanking them for their hard work over the last 10 days.

When asked his favourite part of the 2017 Yukon Quest Allen replied "Getting over Eagle Summit with no problems, they just went straight up". He also mentioned that he didn't get wet from overflow once, a rarity on the Yukon Quest Trail.

Climbing Eagle Summit - Photo Whitney McLaren

Champ Matt Hall was there also and they both congratulated each other on their races.

Once home they all got to hang out in the barn. Mismo knew EXACTLY where he was going and literally dragged me through the dog yard, past his house and into his barn stall. All of them enjoyed their meal and settled quickly in a mountain of fresh straw.

Good dogs!

YQ: Video Catch-Up

It's a very quiet day here at the kennel so here are come catch-up videos taken during the earlier parts of the Quest.

Firstly, Aliy and the Red Team's Yukon Quest 300 Journey to take 2nd place:

Then, Aliy talks about the Black Team while they are resting at the Dawson Dog Camp:

Finally: here's a perspective of the first 1.5 miles of the trail from the "Quest Guest" sled. If you are in Fairbanks next year for the start you should definitely bid on one of these rides! You get to go on the actual Quest trail!

YQ: Black Team Finishes 3rd!

Congratulations Allen, Mismo, Izzy, Commando, Junior, Spark, Dutch, Kodiak, Amber, Rodney, Champ, Felix, Chipper, Daisy and Nomex.

They have finished the 2017 Yukon Quest third position with a total time of 10 days, 11 hours, 44 minutes.

Izzy and Mismo led the team across the line; congrats for Champ Matt Hall

Everyone is now in bed except me so I'm off now too. Thanks for following along! We'll have more tomorrow, in the meantime - goodnight!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

YQ: To The Finish Line


We are about to leave the kennel to head to the finish line to greet Allen, Mismo, Izzy, Commando, Junior, Spark, Dutch, Kodiak, Amber, Rodney, Champ, Felix and Chipper. We're so excited to have them cross the line and have seven Quest rookies become veterans and add one more 1000 mile race to the resumes of the others.

Earlier today we caught them as they mushed past the Pleasant Valley Store.

Passing by Pleasant Valley Store

And friends (and Dog Sponsors) Mary-Beth and Lynne caught up with them at the well-manned road crossing of Chena Hot Springs Road and further down the trail.

Chena Hot Springs Road Crossing - Photo Mary-Beth Schreck

Chena Hot Springs Road - Photo Mary-Beth Schreck

We didn't need a tracker to know when they passed through the neighbourhood as we could hear all the dog teams in the area systematically start barking and howling as they went by. I like to think they were cheering them on to the finish.

Valley of Champions

Our trigger point for leaving the kennel tonight is when the team crosses under Nordale Bridge. We know from our training runs that gives us enough time to get to town and get situated before the team arrives.

Keep an eye on our Instagram and Facebook pages as we may post directly to them from the finish chute. As usual the amazing visual content team have been keeping the Yukon Quest Facebook Page and website current so make sure to bookmark those sites also.

Once the team crosses the line they will get some yummy thawed salmon and beef then we'll get them to the truck for a nice hot meal, rub down and into their boxes for the ride home. We've spruced up the barn with fresh straw and they will get to chill out in there for a week or so while enjoying short stretch-out runs.

While I was looking back at last year I found this excellent post from Macgellan where he talks about the youngsters in last year's team. I thought it was just as relevant today as it was this time last year. We are definitely still in a transition phase of the kennel and the team did incredibly well, guided expertly by Allen. He has a particular skill in working with young dogs and it really pays off when we now have so many experienced and race educated two and three year olds.

I will post a more detailed update when we get back to the kennel.