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!