Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Denali is Burning!

Our training run in the White Mountains last night was fantastic!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Our weather is back to "normal". Whew!

Teddy basks in the snowy afternoon.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Treadmill Practice

The SP dogs are at it again. In preparation for the upcoming studies with Dr. Michael Davis, eighteen canine athletes practiced on the treadmill this past Saturday. Of those eighteen, sixteen were unfazed by the spinning ground beneath their feet and did what they do best: pulled. Two dogs, Oddball and Tatfish, needed a little bit of coaxing and a fellow dog running next to them before they felt comfortable. After all the dogs had a chance to run on the treadmill, Nacho graduated to running on the treadmill while wearing a mask. Check it out:

Thanksgiving Story

Aliy, Allen and everyone at SP Kennel have so much to be thankful for! Enjoy Thanksgiving.

This story was been posted on the website years ago, but it seems appropriate to re-post today:

SP Kennel’s first sled dog was Skunk. He was given to Aliy many years ago by a trapper who lived on the western coast of Alaska. Skunk was a mature dog with years of trap line experience. All he had known was a relatively harsh world of eating carcasses from the trap line, lapping some fish oil and curling up in the snow.

In those days, Aliy was living in a small village north of the Arctic Circle. Skunk was delivered to her by bush plane the week before Thanksgiving. Since she had not yet built a dog sled, the two would walk the trails around the village getting to know each other and the area.

Skunk would habitually run ahead a ways then come back and check in with Aliy. He did this repeatedly – almost as a game. But then one day something (a rabbit, a moose, a caribou, an eagle, who knows?) grabbed his attention and he reverted back to his previous life. He scampered off into the wild.

Aliy called and called. He didn’t come back.

She walked back to the village and put dog food on her porch to entice him home. That night dogs barked throughout the village. Skunk was around but he never came home. A day went by and the elusive dog was still missing. Where could he have gone? The closest town was 75 miles by dog trail!

The next night, only two nights before Thanksgiving, the dogs in the village barked constantly. This usually meant that a bear or wolves were prowling the town. This year, it meant a sled dog! Skunk traveled from cabin to cabin…...a surprise holiday visitor.

The next morning, villagers knew that he had stopped at their homes when they couldn’t find their Thanksgiving turkeys. Many people in the Arctic use Mother Nature as an outdoor freezer. They keep their frozen foods on their front porches or in their arctic entries. Apparently, Skunk knew this too.

An "all-points bulletin" was put out on Skunk that day. He had ruined many a Turkey Day dinner. He was even spotted on a village road trotting off with a spiral ham in his mouth. The villagers were very upset. They chased him with a snowmobile, but no one could catch him. In that town, on the day before Thanksgiving, a loose dog was a dead dog.

Aliy borrowed some lynx traps from a trapper in town. She set them up around town and baited them with the half eaten turkey carcasses. That night and early into the morning, she made her hourly rounds to check the traps.

Then, at 3 AM on Thanksgiving Day she walked to the trap behind her house. In the glow of her headlamp Aliy saw two shinning eyes – SKUNK! She walked up to him and saw that his hind foot was in the trap. She looked sternly at him and said, "The town people want you dead, dog. You best not growl at me." Amazingly, he looked up at Aliy and wagged his tail!

Aliy removed Skunk’s foot from the trap, lead him home that night. The next morning neighbors showed up to report on Skunk’s antics. Even a family who lived several miles south of town came by to tell Aliy that he must have come to their cabin his first night out. All of the bait on their trap line was gone and so was the meat from their front porch.

For many years, Skunk held the record as Aliy’s most expensive dog, simply because of all the turkeys she had to pay for that Thanksgiving.

In the years to come, Skunk was a fantastic sled dog and an even better pet. He spent 8 years after that fateful Thanksgiving as Aliy’s dear friend and constant companion. He even traveled with Aliy to the ‘Lower 48’ on an extensive cross-country trip. He was a perfect driving buddy, riding ‘shotgun’ for 8000 miles in a little red Chevy pick-up.

"SP Kennel" is named for that special dog. It will always be "Skunk’s Place".

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Race Canceled

Two Rivers Tune Up has been canceled.

First Race of the Season.... iffffy

The first race of the dog mushing season, the Two Rivers Tune-Up, is scheduled for this Saturday, November 27th.

Trail conditions were GREAT last week. This week, however, things have changed dramatically. The snow pack is melting and ice and water are replacing it. It is a sad, sad state for dog mushing enthusiasts. The race has not been canceled yet, but conditions do not look good!

Here at SP Kennel were are constantly checking the National Weather Service website, but all we really need to do is open the door and walk outside. The reality is that slick ice is something that sled dogs can manage and will manage on glare ice ponds or windswept rivers, when the situation warrants. But to ask them to train for hours on icy trails while slipping and sliding, is only going to cause shoulder injuries and foot rubs (from their water drenched dog booties).

Fairbanks has been on national news for the current weather conditions. Here is a snip of an article from our local newspaper ; the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

FAIRBANKS — Meteorologists described Monday’s widespread rainfall as an “extraordinary event,” and it’s not over yet. Almost half an inch of rain had fallen at Fairbanks International Airport by 10 p.m. Monday, and forecasters at the National Weather Service said more than an inch of rain could fall by the time it stops Wednesday.
The official measurement of 0.46 inches at 10 p.m. set the record for the most rain on a day in November, and more was expected before the final official measurement at midnight.
“We haven’t ever seen anything like this in the Interior,” hydrologist Ed Plumb at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks said Monday as the rain fell.
The service issued a winter storm warning that remains in effect through 6 p.m. today.(Wednesday)
The rain will compact and melt the snowpack and it is possible that runoff from rain and melting snow will cause ponding on roadways and other poor drainage areas, as well as localized flooding, the service advised in a statement Monday. An extremely warm and moist airmass moving around a large high pressure system over the North Pacific pumped warm, moist air into the Interior and much of the rest of the state early Monday morning, resulting in widespread rain from Anchorage to Barrow, said meteorologist Brad Sipperley.
“It started raining at 5:30 a.m.(Monday) and it’s been raining ever since,” he said just before noon. “We’ve had freezing rain from Anchorage to Barrow.”
Rain during the winter in Fairbanks is unusual, and rainfall of more than one-quarter of an inch between mid-November and early April are extremely rare, according to the weather service. This storm is only the second time in more than 100 years that measurable rainfall was recorded in Fairbanks in the second half of November, according to weather service records. The only other November rainfall on record was Nov. 24, 1936, when 0.42 inches of rain fell.

Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - Ice storm unprecedented in Interior Alaska meteorologists say

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fish Snacks

In preparation for longer runs, we cut some salmon to use as snacks on the trail. Here's a short "how to" video for anyone interested:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Revised White Mountains Sunset

While Aliy took a nice picture of the sunset from the back of her sled, I think this one came out just a little better:

Snowy Trip to the White Mountains

Snow has been falling for the last few days! It's a winter wonderland.

Two Rivers added at least 4-5 inches of white powder, but other parts of Interior Alaska got substantially more. On a gamble, we loaded up 30 dogs (three teams of 10 dogs) into the SP Kennel dog trucks and headed to the White Mountains - just to the North of the kennel.

We arrived at the trail head parking lot just before noon. It was a good sign that three Alaska Department of Transportation snow plows were parked there.

Dingle glares at the photographer for dilly-dallying and
Scruggs checks out Big Red's signage
as Scout, Malibu and Oddball waiting patiently.

After snacking, harnessing, bootying and unpacking all the gear from trucks, we trotted out onto the snow laden trail. And SNOW there was! Rose and Olivia broke trail (6 - 8 inches of fresh snow) for 15 miles. Then Chica and Ranger took over.

The teams ran 25 miles in just under 3 1/2 hours. A little slow for our outfit!

We turned around at a cabin in the woods. While we gave the dogs a short break another dog team pulled into the cabin. It was Ken Anderson (Yukon Quest and Iditarod musher). He was out with a large dog team pulling his chained up four wheel drive ATV towing a trail groomer.

So, when we left the cabin, we had a perfectly smooth 25 mile "race track" back to the trucks.

Perfect day.

This is a sunset photo (not computer enhanced) from the back of a dog sled
- please note the "hanging on to the handlebar, so the team doesn't leave with out me" angle -

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Eagle Pack Pet Food and the Iditarod


“The Last Great Race on Earth” welcomes a new sponsor: Eagle Pack® Natural Pet Food, as the Official Dog Food of the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race®.


The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race pits human and canine against nature, and against wild Alaska at her best. It exemplifies the stamina and drive these canine athletes must have, demonstrating the Nutrition in Action™ that Eagle Pack delivers. As the Official Dog Food Sponsor, Eagle Pack will supply food along the trail, and will dedicate funds to the health and care of the Iditarod dogs. To find out how you could win a trip to Alaska for the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race compliments of Eagle Pack , please click here!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Working on the Website

We have revamped the Dog Page:

We want all of all of our sled dogs to be recognized for who they are - individuals. Each dog has his or her own updated Dog Card with personal stats and a bio. You might notice that there are several younger dogs now listed and some of the older veterans have new pictures and new sponsors.

We strive to make this Dog Log the most educational and entertaining internet source on sled dog sports. Therefore, the "housekeeping" for the website is constant. Thanks Mac!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

SP Kennel Junior Mushers

Dog mushing is officially Alaska's state sport. Therefore, here at SP Kennel we like to give everybody a chance to fall in love with the sport. That includes the youngest Alaskans. This season we hope to introduce our two young boys, Jacob and Sam, to mushing..... first hand.

Roy gets some loving from Bridgett and Jacob

In order for them to get the full benefit of the sport however, they need a sled. Since most of our sleds are constructed for tall adults, they won't work. So, Allen has taken on the task.

Ryne and Honda were kind enough to "test drive" the Kids Sled - now were ready!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dog Fog

Cool early morning temperatures, dog breath and limited lighting create an awesome "dog fog" photo!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

SP Kennel Howler -- 2010 Training Edition

It's back! The 2010 Training Edition of "Howler" -- the SP Kennel newsletter! Click the image below to open the PDF file in your web browser, then read it online and/or print it for later reference!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New SP Kennel Team Member

We have more exciting news at SP Kennel!

With all the great SPK racing dogs and the big plans for this season, Allen and Aliy decided they need some kennel help. This season - wearing the Red and Black - will be our newest SP Kennel Team Member: Ryne Olson.

Ryne comes to us from Colorado via a summer stint on a glacier dog mushing operation in Southeast Alaska. She seems to be right at home in a small Two Rivers cabin, sleeping with two dogs and working with SP Dogs all day long.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Yukon Quest

SP Kennel racing schedule has just gotten busier. That's right Allen has signed up for the Yukon Quest - 1,000 mile International Sled Dog Race - and Aliy has signed up for the Yukon Quest 300.

The Yukon Quest starts on February 5th in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.
Our plans are to put two competitive teams in both of these races. Allen's "Black Team" will be made up of young, strong veteran racers who need to be judged on a competitive 1,ooo mile race. The Quest will be a great time to test them. Aliy's "Red Team" will be older, smaller veterans who have excelled in 1,000 mile races in the past.

Our primary reasons for racing the Yukon Quest this season are: we currently have very supportive sponsors and fans, we currently have the best group of racing dogs ever at SP K and lastly .... we aren't getting any younger!

Sound good?!?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dog Trucks

How do we transport the dogs?

Of course, once the dogs are harnessed and in front of the sled, this is no longer an issue.... where ever we need to go, the dogs will be happy to pull us. But, many of the races start hundreds of miles from SP Kennel and the team would simply be "tuckered" if we let them trot all the way to the starting line.

An SP Kennel dog fan hands out some pets as the dogs mill around outside their "mobile home" - Iditarod 2010

We have two trucks that haul our canine athletes. Big Red, as it is known, is a 1999 extended cab, one ton pick up truck with a specially constructed flat bed. On top of the flat bed, Allen built a large fully enclosed wooden box. He then built individual "doggie doors" which exit on the two sides of the box and a large door in the rear. Then according to how many dogs need to be carried, we will insert up to 20 individual dog compartments in line with the existing "doggie doors". There is a roomy lighted center aisle between the dog boxes. This area either acts as gear storage while we are traveling or as the "Condo", while parked. The "Condo" is a larger sleeping area for dogs. The top of the entire outfit has specially designed sled runner straps that secure up to four sleds.

There is just enough space between the cab and the box for an extra battery compartment, as well as room for straw bales and dog food. There are multiple o-rings hanging from the truck edge to secure individual dog leashes. Big Red is also fitted with compartments underneath the flatbed to hold diesel additives, tire tools and road safety items. Two years ago we invested in a diesel generated boiler that, when activated, will heat the engine, so that it can start in extreme;y cold temperatures. It also has powerful "moose" high beam lights and specially constructed spot lights that we use to monitor the dogs during pee breaks on very dark winter nights.

The New Truck and Big Red parked outside Clarion Suites
Downtown Anchorage, Iditarod Start 2010.
35 dogs, 5 sleds, gear for Iditarod Black Team and gear for Iditarod Red Team

In addition to the 1,000 pounds of dogs that we carry on Big Red, we also haul the basics: dog food, bowls, water, leashes and bedding. Don't forget all of the racing gear: harnesses, sleds, dog booties, dog jackets, cookers, snow shoes and any race food drops. And, please, remember all of the musher's personal gear: parka, winter clothing, boots, sleeping bags, extra socks, headlights and a good attitude. This is why we call this truck... Big Red. Logistically, two mid distance race teams can travel together on Big Red.

However, SP Kennel sometimes races three teams in mid distance races. This requires the help of our second truck: The New Truck. Although, this truck is no longer new, it is the newest to our fleet. It is a 2005 regular cab half ton pick up truck. Allen built a removable dog box that sits atop the truck bed. There are ten larger dog compartments with doggie doors exiting to the outside. All useable storage space is located underneath the dog box - a bit of a squeeze to get gear in and out!

Both of these trucks, as you can imagine, need to be dependable. If you have followed SP K Dog Log at all, you know that this is not always the case. But, in justification of these trucks, they are asked to do a lot! They are driven in harsh temperatures, in four wheel drive situations and often overloaded. We drive the same roads that are now featured as "treacherous" roads on the popular TV series, Ice Road Truckers.

Big Red and the New Truck parked 400 miles north of SP Kennel
North Slope, Alaska in April 2009
38 dogs, 7 sleds, gear for three weeks in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

So, that leads us to talk about maintenance. Our mechanic is Diesel Doctor in Fairbanks, Alaska. Sadly, they know our trucks by sight and we converse on a first name basis. Big Red sees the doctor annually and it just returned from a visit. The kennel spends about as much on annual maintenance as it would to make payments on a new rig. Why would we do that? Every year we shake our heads at the expense. But, to make a year of monthly payments on a new truck is one thing, then to outfit it as we have done to Big Red over the years would be a huge investment.

Big Red at the doctor - November 2010

The bottom line is that first place in Iditarod wins a brand new truck ..... so, that's still the goal!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Yearlings on a Fall Training Run

OK..... here they are! The Magnificent Seven......

These guys are the pride and the future of SP.

Many SP Kennel fans will remember the "Mystery Pups" of last year: Boris, Raffie and Mac.
And, the other, foursome: Spoog, Schmoe, Sissy and Scooter.

Their training is right on target. As you can see they are not running with "the big dogs" yet. We use two responsible leaders and then hook up the The Magnificent Seven in team behind. At this point, we are using necklines periodically. This helps keep the "general flow" of the team in the correct direction (This is especially necessary when we pass a serious minded Iditarod team and the kids want to play, turn around and follow them.)