Saturday, October 31, 2009

Our New "Conex" Storage Container

For those of you who have asked for more "behind the scenes" stories, here's one we think you'll like.

Although SP Kennel is a relatively small sled dog racing kennel, there's still a staggering amount of "stuff" on hand.

We've got a "pole barn" that we store some of it in. It's covered, but still open to the elements. We've also got a small "feed shed" that we store dog food in. It's enclosed, but too small for the massive volume of food that gets delivered on a regular basis. As a result, many bags of kibble end up spending time stacked up outside, along with a ton of other "stuff."

Recently, Horizon Lines -- our good friends and Kennel sponsors -- offered to help us out with our storage problem by sending us a Conex container that has been "retired" from its work life on cargo ships. It arrived a few weeks ago, and Aliy shot this video of the arrival and positioning process.

You know we have a saying around here that "It's never easy!" Well, here's a great example of that saying in action... Just one of the many, many "behind the scenes" activities at SP Kennel!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Macgellan Update: Greetings From Fairbanks!

After eight hard days of driving, I arrived in Fairbanks late this afternoon with a real sense of accomplishment.

It would be impossible to describe the AlCan drive in words, but I'm confident that I have enough good photos and video to edit into something special for you to see. I promise to work on it as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, I'd just like to give credit where credit is due. My trusty truck -- whom I call "Darth" for obvious reasons -- performed spectacularly during the entire 2,300 mile journey. Here is a photo of him on the road today from Tok to Delta Junction.

Considering the number of people I talked to along the way who suffered breakdowns, flat tires, busted axles and the like, I am very thankful for a mechanically uneventful drive. Thanks to Darth!

I decided to stay in town tonight rather than push on to the Kennel. Partly because it is already getting dark and I didn't want to try to get set up there without being able to see what I'm doing. Mostly, though, because I'm pretty worn out and wanted to give myself a night to rest up a little before diving into the fast pace of the Kennel.

And fast paced I can assure you it will be! Just as soon as I get done smooching every dog in the yard, I'll have a meeting with the bosses and "get after it!"

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


It really is dog mushing season!

I'm sure this winter weather won't complicate a drive up the AlCan for Macgellan!

It's no wonder our mantra is "Nothing's easy"!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Macgellan Update: On The AlCan Highway

Howdy!... Macgellan here...

After three days of driving north from Seattle -- including a ridiculously long and involved inspection at the Canadian border! -- I passed through Dawson Creek, BC, this morning. While there -- after filling my fuel tank, belly and coffee thermos -- I stopped to have my picture taken at the famous Alaska Highway "Mile Zero" monument. You can see my "rig" in the background.

I am now in Fort Nelson, three hundred miles along the highway. I have been taking photos and video along the way, and I hope to wind up with something good enough to edit together for those of you who may be interested in what the road is like. For now, I will tell you that it is a generally good road, punctuated by patches of disrepair and some rather scary dives and climbs. Overall I am averaging about 50 miles per hour, a speed which seems to keep my knuckles from staying permanently white. The scenery is spectacular, but I can't really take my eyes off the road long enough to enjoy it!

I hope to reach Watson Lake tomorrow, then Whitehorse the following day. From there it should be only two more days to Fairbanks. So far the weather has been overcast but not bad, and I'm hoping my luck holds!

So, there's a brief update on my progress toward the Kennel. As we always say, "Stay tuned!"

Puppy Update

Schmoe and Sissy

Here is a "Puppy Update"! They are 2 1/2 weeks old and very healthy. Pepper has been a great mom, so they are growing like weeds from momma's milk. They are not very active yet, but I'm sure you will agree ... they are cute all the same.

We enjoy intimate interaction with our sled dogs from the beginning. They are all individuals and deserve the care and respect that any future champion should receive. We try to make time after a long day of training to sneak in a little puppy time.

Pups: (l to r) Schmoe, Sissy, Spoog, Slanky, Scooter

Schmoe and Spoog are the biggest, although Sissy and Scooter are not far behind. Spoog has a great skunk streak down his back and Sissy Girl has a mustache. Slanky is defiantly the little gal of the litter.

They aren't really on the antique Oriental rug .... really!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Daylight Hours

A friend just mentioned to me the other day, "You better get some good outside pictures now, because you know the day light is nearly gone."

Yearly, I forget about this winter predicament - until it is well upon us. In Alaska, as winter progresses, the closer you live to the North Pole, the shorter the day light hours. The sun dips lower and lower down the horizon.

Sunrise at 9:30am October 24th

October is the month that we lose the most daylight. Over 7 minutes a day, at times - that's nearly an hour in a week. So, you can see how it sneaks up on me!

We try to keep to our daily routine. Feed the dogs a healthy breakfast in the morning, let them digest, and begin training. Of course, as the days go by, this breakfast falls closer and closer "to the dark side". Soon, one of the most useful Alaskan winter tools will become essential.... the headlight. From late October until mid March, most of our "mug shots" will include that familiar head piece.

Allen and Mom
Bridgett and Happy

Thursday, October 22, 2009

September Training Run - Part 4

Even though it snowed in Two Rivers today, we are going to temporarily return to autumn weather. The following is the fourth (and last) installment of the September Training Run video. Enjoy!

Kennel Mom

September Training Run - Part 4


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stella's Long Lost Brother?

Howdy!… Macgellan here…

I'm in Seattle, rushing around to check the last few items off my list before heading north and… well… a funny thing happened on the way to getting my hair cut…

I looked up the street and saw a loose dog, grinning from ear to ear and doing a little "I'm up to no good" dance. I whistled and called to it, and this long-legged, happy yellow dog came trotting right up to me. We greeted each other and I said, "So, what are you doing running loose around the city?" The look I got in response was that universal dog expression we all know so well: "Uh oh… I am sooooo busted!"

He was a very sweet dog and obviously not in any distress, so I figured he mush have just escaped from his yard somewhere nearby. He had a kind of sled-dog-ish look about him, but his legs were so long and his coat was so thin that I knew he couldn't be "the real thing." In fact, he immediately reminded me of Stella, and I'm sure you can see why:

I called the phone number on his tag and left a message that I had him, that he was fine, etc. A few minutes later I got a call back from a woman who thanked me for finding him and calling her. She explained that they'd just moved to the area and it was his first escape. We arranged to meet at a nearby coffee shop to do the hand over.

The funny part is that it turns out they'd only recently moved down from Homer, Alaska. It also turns out that she got him from a local sled dog kennel there and that they had no idea what genes besides sled dog he has in him. All of this, plus his sweet but not too bright personality really got me wondering if I might just have found Stella's long lost brother!

Anyway, the woman graciously offered to pay me for my trouble, but I told her I couldn't possibly accept. I explained that there's no way a real dog person could ever take money for returning somebody's dog… That's just wrong. I told her that I was happy just to be able to help reunite them.

The truth is, though, that I was secretly holding a little hope that I wouldn't get a call back. I've missed the dogs so much over these past few months that I would have welcomed such a great dog showing up in my life, especially just in time to share the long, long road trip north.

Speaking of which, Thursday morning bright and early I will be hitting the road. Depending on conditions, it should take me 7-10 days to make the drive. So, I've set my sights on arriving at SP Kennel on or about November 1st. As soon as I get there I intent to hug every dog in the yard, then put on my harness and start pulling.

I'm very excited about picking up where we left off last season and making our coverage of this season even better. I've got three new cameras and a brand new powerhouse Mac which I intend to really put through their paces. As Aliy recently wrote, we intend to make the SPKDogLog the most educational and entertaining internet source on sled dog sports.

I'll drive as fast as I can, but please be patient just a little longer. And, as we always say, "Stay tuned!"

Snow (again)!

Our snow last month all but melted and the sled dogs and mushers have been wondering "Is this really the Arctic?"

It been snowing all morning. Let's hope that it keeps up.

And yes.... those are bright red dog houses! I was hoping to post a snazzy dog yard picture with tons of snow, bright red dog houses and yellow name plates, weeks ago. But, with these warm temperatures, the mud started to cake on the houses turning them, sort of ... a red, brown peach color. Ah well, the yard still looks semi-snazzy!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

September Training Run - Part 3

In this part of the September Training Run video, Aliy introduces the second half of her team. Parts 1 and 2 were posted earlier this week. Part 4 still to come.

Kennel Mom

September Training Run - Part 3


Friday, October 16, 2009


Okay, now for some exciting news!

During mid summer we decided a year with out puppies was most likely a mistake. We will have dogs retiring in two years and no one to take their place. So.....

During the Iditarod 2003 I was traveling with Ed Iten. He had a great dog in lead named Cloudy. She was happy and perky through out the race. I really liked her. I asked Ed if I could ever buy a puppy out of her. He left it as .... "Yea... maybe someday." In 2006 Ed called me. He said, "I have a dog for you. She is a puppy from Cloudy." I was very excited and yelled, "Send her to me!" He told me "Pepper has a leg injury but would be very good for breeding." Well, I said, "She must be an older puppy if she is good for breeding." "Oh, she's not a puppy... she's four, but she'll still Cloudy's puppy!"

Ed sent me Pepper, so that I could "just meet her". Well, she was a happy, friendly, solid, good natured, well built .. dog. Needless to say, she stayed. This first summer we bred her. She had puppies with Pingo. Then we decided to give her a chance as a sled dog and trained her with our team. She made my Iditarod Team! Her pups turned out great and most raced as 2 year olds with Allen this year: Moonpie, Lil' Deb, Hunter and Dolly (shorter races). The next summer she was bred again and had only two pups: Cutter and Tug. So, Pepper came into heat in early August this year.

We looked through the yard and thought about the future. Bred for the future, but don't forget the past. What is the combination that we are looking for? Well, after many discussions and theories we picked out "the lucky guy". His lineage has the past - genes that trace back to the toughest Alaskan Village Dogs - and his demeanor has the future. His father raced on every championship Copper Basin 300 team and most Iditarods since 2005. His mother has raced (and finished) Iditarod for the last 7 years. He was very close to competing in Iditarod at 19 months (a sore shoulder muscle on the last training run kept him out.) He is a down right .... fun dog! It's Ranger!

So here they are:
D.O.B. 10/8/09


You can check out their full lineage on our previous post: Family tree

Thursday, October 15, 2009

September Training Run - Part 2

During this segment of the training run, Aliy introduces some of SP's experienced canine atheletes. Enjoy!

Kennel Mom


September Training Run - Part 2

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

September Training Run

Back in mid September I had the opportunity to go on a training run with Aliy and 18 of SP Kennel's finest. I made 4 small videos of the run. Now that I am back in Florida, using a computer I am familiar with, I decided to see if I could edit and post these. Here is the first of the four.

Sorry they are a month late! Training conditions have changed some in Alaska. All the autumn leaves have fallen, the temps are a bit cooler and the runs are a bit longer. The cast of characters remains the same.

Kennel Mom

September Training Run, Part 1


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sled Dog Symposium

Alaska Dog Mushers Association had their annual symposium in Fairbanks this weekend. There were lectures on a wide variety of topics. We spent a portion of Saturday and all day Sunday enjoying the talks and trade fair. In addition, both Allen and Aliy were presenters. Allen and Cim Smyth discussed mid distance race strategies during an hour presentation, while Aliy spoke about foot care on the trail and in the kennel.

Allen and Cim Smyth on Stage

Dr. Mike Davis shared the data from his most recent studies about the "super conditioning" in sled dogs. Dr. Davis then invited Jeff King, Lance Mackey and Sebastian Schnuelle to the stage to ask how they felt about this recent data. These individual comments were both different and intriguing.

Dr. Mike Davis presents his findings.

Tom "Swanny" talked about the historical aspect to dog mushing in relation to his present day "re-enactment" dog team. Dog mushing has certainly changed over the several hundred years that he has documented!

There were vendors there as well. Our local "feed store at your door", 49 er Feed, had a display and "symposium specials" for dog food, dog dishes and bowls . There were also sled distributors, fur garments makers and information about races and clubs. If you needed and sled dog gear there were harnesses, snow hooks, sled bags and runner plastics.

Aliy and Scott Faulkner from 49er Feed

It was a great weekend to be a dog musher in Fairbanks, Alaska!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Training Dogs?

Is this cheating?
Butterscotch trains on a treadmill - you put a harness on a sled dog and he will run ANYWHERE!

The last two days were spent looking into the possibilities of training our dogs on a treadmill. This, of course, is not instead of mushing a team of huskys across the frozen lands of Alaska! But, it might supplement our current training methods. Better yet - we can learn about individual dog physiology in relation to their performance.

As I monitored these canine athletes: their heartbeats and oxygen consumption - all I could picture was Lance Armstrong biking in a wind tunnel to train for the Tour de France.

Allen and Dr. Mike Davis pose with the athletes as the take a break
Stormy & Spot (front) Ranger & Beemer (back)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A New Parka

Who is that musher in black?

While in Nome this past week, one of our friends and sponsors, Jim Harrison - owner of Northern Outfitters - came out for a visit. He was in Alaska talking to various clients about his arctic gear.

Last year, Jim came to visit us in Two Rivers. He had seen a television show on the History Channel about winter gear. I had a spot in the show and I detailed how I layered my clothing in order to stay warm. In his system, the layering is limited - it is basically one spongy insulating layer with a outer shell - so, he was disgusted to see my extensive layers. During his visit he asked me to just try it his way.

I will admit, I am slow to change. Finally, during a 200 mile race in December last season, when the temperatures were extreme (50 below, at least), I tried 50% of the gear that he sent me. I tried the bottoms, but I kept my traditional top layers in tact. After I finished 150 miles of the race, I went in to a cabin to hang up my gear. My top parka was drenched. It must have weighed an additional 5 pounds! My bottom half was dry and warm! From then on, it wasn't a difficult decision.

So, during the following race, the Copper Basin 300, I wore all Northern Outfitters gear. The only problem was that it was all black. I always wear red. No one recognized me ... even Allen! So, after that race, in early February, I called Jim with my problem. He said he could fix it.

But since we all know, things are always more difficult then they appear - the red parka took some time to be produced. I raced the Iditarod in my black gear and even wore a red anorak over the inner lining in checkpoints so that people could recognize me. But NOT ANYMORE! Check this out:
I know that you recognize her!