Monday, August 31, 2009

A Letter from SP Kennel

August 31, 2009

I owe you all a short note.

I have tried to keep the SP Kennel Dog Log updated regularly throughout the summer. I know that some of you check it regularly and I hope that you have found it interesting. For the rest of you, who, during these past few delightfully balmy summer months, haven't had the slightest thought about sled dogs, freezing temperatures or mushing across the snowy tundra ... welcome back!

September 1st is the beginning of it all at SP Kennel. Autumn is here and the dogs and mushers are ready to roll. Training commences early in the morning and will not let up until every last dog is harnessed and run. We have a lot of work ahead of us, so why not start with a bang!

I plan to keep you updated with a new series of posts on the website called: "To Do's". September is a month of action, so let's get it done. It is the final month before the snow flies and the ground freezes. Not only do I scurry around putting away gear (so that the snow doesn't hide it for 7 months) but, I also hope to accomplish a few things. My plan is to: build new dog houses, arrange the fed shed, fix dogs pens, gravel the dog yard, fix up the sleds, put on new name plates, arrange the training log book... I could go on and on. Anyhow, I will document my struggle with this and hopefully I can publicly "check off the list".

As well, one of my main goals is, as always, to educate people properly about the on goings of a professional sled dog kennel. A day or two ago, I was pondering what exactly to share with interested folks. When I have kennel visitors, it often surprises me at what intrigues them. Perhaps this is because I live and breathe it every day, so “normal things” do not strike me as something to write about.

So, I am hoping that some of you will speak up and let me know what really interests you regarding the kennel and dogs. Please e-mail me a question at I plan to answer these questions on this website - if you thought it was interesting, someone else might too. This way, we will add a fresh mind to the mix.

September is just the beginning! We are excited, to say the least. The dog mushing season lays ahead with new trails and new tails. I have to introduce the youngsters to you as well as share some stories from the past. We have an entertaining season ahead and I hope that you will be a part of it.

Stay in touch!


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Happy : ))

Some of you might have noticed a blaring name absent from the kennel family tree: Happy the sled dog.

As most of you know, Happy came to us with a lineage all of her own. Her mother was a sled dog that I met for just a few short moments as I walked around a village dog yard. Her father was a dog that Happy's mother must have "met" for just a few short moments as well. No one knew his lineage, breed or even his name. Mystery man!

The first summer that Happy lived at SP Kennel she was certainly an anomaly. I wasn't sure that she was even a husky. I had her spayed and she had another minor surgery in order to keep her healthy. My original reason for taking her was pure compassion - it didn't cross my mind that she might be one of our Iditarod Dogs.

I realize that Happy has many fans, so I hope to do something for them this season. We will have a spot on the website devoted to a "Happy Corner". And, I promise, I will come out with a Happy T-shirt.

So, even though we will not have any Happy genes added to our dog yard, I do hope that we'll have all together happy dogs.

This is a photo that Jeanne Schnackenberg took of Happy resting during our Mushing Adventure Trips on Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in April 2008.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Family Tree

Most of the dogs that we have are related.

It is an interesting "family", to say the least. I scribbled down the basic genealogy the other day. Mickey was delighted to take this one step farther and compose a true family tree diagram.

In order to see a larger version, you must "click" on the diagram. The dogs that are printed in blue (except Hoss) will be training with us this year.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Termination Dust

On our weekly trip to Denali National Park today we witnessed true evidence that summer is gone: termination dust.

Termination dust is a fancy name for, none other than ... snow.

August is a month of precipitation. In the lowlands, such as Two Rivers, the precipitation is in rain. At the kennel, we have had rain showers every other day for the past week.

In the mountains, the precipitation is whiter and colder. The snow line starts at 3500 feet.

It might be here to stay.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Is there any hope?

Now that training is just around the corner, I have been going through our dog mushing gear. It certainly isn't winter yet, but it is nice to see what I have to wash, mend or throw away before the snow falls.

I came across these:

Some of you might remember these pants saved my feet this past March. Even though I was in a bit of a hurry to warm my feet then, as I look at the pants now, they clearly show a delicate cut right down the center. I imagine that my thought was to evenly distribute the warmth of these pants to each of my feet. No matter... it did the trick!

I'll sew then back together and see what is left. They might be a little too slender for me now, but maybe there's hope.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Iditarod Booth at the Fair

The second week in August is a celebratory time of the year for the residents of Interior Alaska - it's fair time!

The Tanana Valley Fair has impressive livestock (even reindeer), huge cabbages (and other veggies), an entertainment stage and carnival rides. There are many booths with tasty morsels and other bits of Alaskana.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has a booth as well. Joanne Potts, Race Director, has volunteers and mushers help her man the booth. One of her main objectives is to sell the "Summer Raffle Tickets" - 2,000 tickets at $100 gives a person a 1 in 1,000 chance to win a brand new Dodge Ram pick up. Check out: for more info.

Allen and I were at the fair Friday night and spent several hours at the Iditarod Booth signing posters and magazines.
Allen, Tami and Joanne at the Fair

Thursday, August 13, 2009

August Rains Begin

It was still summer on Monday when I posted "Fire Update". Well, since then, fall has arrived! It frosted, rained and is currently 50 degrees.

If you blink ... Alaska's change of seasons will pass you by.

Of course, this means training is just around the corner.....

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fire Update

Interior Alaska has been on national news lately due to the local wild fires. The kennel remains safe (though smokey). The nearest fire to us is still over 20 miles away.

Fire crews have been battling the blazes and have kept Circle City from burning (a checkpoint village for the Yukon Quest) as well as numerous cabins and homes statewide.
A Hot Shot crew member at work - Photo from Alaska Fire Service

Fire fighters are a hard core work force in Alaska. There are many different divisions, organizations and crews. I am most familiar with the Alaska Fire Service (AFS) whose organizational headquarters is in Fairbanks. There are quite a few fire fighters who are our neighbors here in Two Rivers. There are also crews that are composed of men and women from Alaska bush villages - you will see crew names like: "Minto #1" or "Allakaket #2". This season is so busy, however, that many crews from the Lower 48 are here as well.

We are very in tune with Alaska's fire activity not only because of our concern for our property and safety but also because Ray, our brother-in-law (also known as "Sam's Daddy") is a fire fighter. He was stationed in the village of Galena for much of the season. But, the past few weeks he was fighting a fire near the Yukon River. Needless to say, he has been working a lot, but is required by law to have 2 days off after 21 days of work.

This past Friday was day 21! Sam got his fire weary (and a little fire smelly) Daddy home for 2 days. The entire family was able to sneak in a deluxe Sunday brunch.

Sam and his Daddy

Friday, August 7, 2009

From the Iditarod Trail to the Couch

This is a Hoss retirement update.

Many folks ask me how can I possibly let one of my prized sled dogs retire to another home. As I always say ... it takes the right human combined with the right dog. I just got a letter from Tom in Pennsylvannia and you'll see that from what he says, they certainly make that perfect combination.

"Hoss is the hit of the neighborhood! He is so well-behaved compared to the other mutts on the hill. He did go visiting the other day, though. I usually let him lay outside in the front yard when I am home and he doesn't go wandering. I check on him from time to time, just to make sure he's not getting into any trouble (like what trouble could happen here?.....)

Well, he disappeared and came back after a few calls. He came loping up from the neighbor two doors down (they have a lab puppy and it was trash day) but there didn't seem to be any ruckus.

He has taken over MY spot on the couch!! Now that is going too far.

We got him a bed, what more does he want? No, he is NOT getting my spot on the bed. He can sleep in my tent any time, but a man's home is his castle (ha, ha).

He is becoming every retired sled dog's dream...a pampered pup!"

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Visitors to the Kennel


We have had quite a few folks stop by the kennel this summer.

Regardless, whether it is family member who brings fresh fruit from California, a school teacher on summer vacation from Kongiganak (a village in Western Alaska) or a "Lower 48" Iditarod musher looking at improving his performance in the race next year - it seems that our primary conversation centers on the dogs.

The dogs, of course, are the center of our lives here, so any visitor will see this first hand. In the evening as we sit on the deck to BBQ or sip a beer there they are .... front and center.

Yesterday, I had two visitors here for over an hour. During this period, not one dog head was left "unpetted". In the end, the dog that tugged strongest at their heart was Cutter. His mom, Pepper, and his Dad, Pingo, created a fantastic sled dog in this young boy. Cutter will turn 2 years old this coming week.

Cutter standing proud and ready to work - North Slope, Alaska (April 2009)