Friday, May 31, 2013

The dedication of a dog musher...

During the last few days, the village of Galena has been completely flooded by the mighty Yukon River.

The Yukon River was frozen solid through out the Alaska long winter, then Mother Nature turned winter into summer in a heart beat. The river ice broke up due to sudden 70 and 80 degree temperatures. But, the ice did not have a chance to melt into smaller pieces. Huge icebergs drifted down river and caused enormous ice jams all along the river. This effected the villages of Eagle, Circle and now Galena.

Only 20 miles downriver from Galena, at a spot called Bishop Rock there was an enormous ice jam. The water began to rise - quickly - and miles across the interior of Alaska was inundated with river water and icebergs. Most of the villagers had to leave their homes and worldly possessions only hours before the water and ice took over. The devastation is incredible.

But, some men and women did not leave despite the incredible risk to their lives. This picture makes my eyes tear up. We don't know the whole story, since the flood waters are just receding now. But, we've heard that dog teams have been living in boats or on house porches for days.

These pictures are copied from the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer.
You can follow this story on their website:

There are various organizations helping these families including the American Red Cross of Alaska. You can follow the efforts of the Red Cross of Alaska on their Facebook Page.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Happy 15th Birthday Pingo!

The oldest dog at the kennel turns 15 years old today.

Pingo leads the team in 2001 with Pedro

Pingo runs in the middle of the Iditarod team in 2005

Pingo's mother was a dog named Nugget. She was a tiny little gal that I got from Steven Bergman in Allakaket. She had a long successful career as a sprint dog and was sent to me to retire. I bred Nugget to Fats - who I also got from Steven as a pup three years earlier. Pingo was born on May 28th, 1998. He had four siblings: Nippers, Black-eyed Susie, Fattie Juns and Pointy Nose.

Pingo leads the Iditarod team in 2008; Aliy and Pingo bond in 2002

Pingo was a happy productive part of the kennel only 10 months later when he went on the Spring Adventure tours up on the North Slope of Alaska. I remembered we parked the dog teams for a snack break and hiked up a mound of earth-covered ice - a "Pingo". That young 10 month old pup named Fluff Ball made the climb with us and at the top of the hill he was renamed.

Pingo started his racing career on the Yukon Quest in 2000, but was dropped 100 miles into the race with a broken toe. After that, he raced every year until retiring after the Iditarod in 2008. Pingo raced everything: 20, 50, 100 and 200 mile Two Rivers races, Knik 200, Tustemena 200, Copper Basin 300, Kusko 300, YQ 300, Denali Dash, Yukon Quest, and Iditarod.

Pingo has sired four litters at SP Kennel. His first litter just turned 11 years old (Bullet), the second two litters turn 7 years old this summer (Dingle, Pud, Kipper AND Li'l Deb, Hunter, Moonpie), the final litter turns 6 years old this summer (Tug, Cutter.) His pups are mostly leaders who are happy and tough.

The last few years Pingo has lived inside during the cold winter months. However, during the summer he lives in a house just next to Teddy, his 12 year old niece. Thankfully, he is no longer frightened of thunder or fireworks because he can't hear and his vision is a little fuzzy, but he enjoys romping around every once in a while with a pup, grand pup, niece, nephew or cousin.

Pingo poses for his birthday shot!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Break Up is Here!

The Nenana Tripod is Interior Alaska's sign that "break up" is official. "Break up", of course, means that the ice has broken up in the river and water and is now flowing down stream. This is actually a hugely emotional time in Alaska because it signifies so much more than that.

(left to right: the Tripod is there, the Tripod is gone)

It was not too long ago that we were traveling on these frozen rivers - using them as many Alaskans do: Freeways of the North. The river system in Alaska is somewhat like the interstate highway system in the Lower 48. I asked one man this Spring "How did you travel to get here?" He said "I took the Yukon to the cut off, went by the halfway cabin, and then got on the Koyukuk." That sounds a lot like driving a car to the grocery store in Houston (okay.. maybe change the Indian names to something more Hispanic.)

(The Red Team sleeping in the middle of the Yukon River - March 2013)

"Break up" is also emotional because it means the end of the mushing season in earnest. The snow is gone, the harnesses are hung up and the dogs are basking in the sunshine. The pace slows somewhat at SP Kennel. We are no longer mushing all day, readying for races, mending gear, fixing sleds, cooking fish, sorting booties, strawing dogs - all of this in a hurry to try and get to the next item and check it off a never ending "to do" list. Inevitably, this means that the 2012 - 2013 SP Kennel Crew is breaking up as well!

(The SP Kennel Team: Meghan, Aliy, Allen, Moira)

Moira has left the continent and is back down under in her home of New Zealand. She has left winter - flown a great distance - and stepped right back into winter. Her passion this season brought SP Kennel's communication with "Join the Team" members and SP Dog Sponsors to a new level. Moira fit right in to our happy, yet professional, Alaska dog musher lifestyle. Lucky for us, the internet is a global tool and she has agreed to continue to be a distant, yet integral part of the SP Kennel Team. We have not seen the last of Moira because she left part of her heart at the kennel with Rose, Spicy, Nacho, Willie, Chica, Scruggs ...

Meghan took a well deserved post season vacation. But, she has Alaska in her blood at this point and plans to stay in the land of the Midnight Sun for the summer. She brought her true love for dogs to SP Kennel this season. No matter what happened during the past six months, you always knew that Meghan put the needs of the dogs before anyone or anything. You can bet that we'll see Meghan, along with Charlet and Tina Turner, through out the summer months.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like ... Winter!

Much of the U.S. has had a late arrival of Spring/Summer and Interior Alaska is no exception. Low temperature records and late snow storms seem to be the norm. At the kennel, we had a light dusting of fresh snow last night - compared with 4 to 6 inches in the eastern interior of the state or perhaps feet in the Denali area - we got off easy!

The dogs are still dressed in their winter coats. Often we find them laying curled up on the frozen ground - insulated by their thick husky parkas. In late afternoon, when the sun shines at its peak, a dog might lounge around on the roof of his or her house. Basking in the cool sunshine.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Catching Up With Ranger

Danger! Danger! Danger!

Ranger is strong, agile and smart. And loud! If you ever see an SP Kennel team trotting down the trail and hear someone barking, chances are that's Ranger!

He's one of our main leaders and he proved to be an important part in Aliy's Yukon Quest 300 and Meghan's Sheep Mountain 300 teams. But for right now, he's just up for a butt scratch.

Ranger! Watch for him, or rather: listen.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Thanks to all the Moms!

Here at the kennel Mother's Day means so much ...

Thanks to all the Mothers (human and canine)! We love you.

ChaCha thinks Jacob is another one of her excellent SP Kennel offspring!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Catching Up With Rambler

Rambler really impressed us in 2012, he proved his toughness as he dominated the Iditarod and finished as a strong dog. He took that great form into the 2013 season.

His dedication to team work makes him a valuable dog in any position.

Rambler epitomizes the happy nature of the Alaskan Husky and will spend time playing with his neighbours Sissy, Quito and Izzy whenever time allows.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Local School Visits

Aliy and ChaCha made a couple of school visits recently to local schools in the Two Rivers and North Pole area and spoke with students from kindergarten to 8th Grade. Aliy spoke about the history of the Iditarod and Yukon Quest races and about the clothing and equipment needed to run the race - a lucky volunteer got to dress up in her boots, parka, hat and beaver mitts! She also spoke about the calorific input for sled dogs during the Iditarod (research tells us around 10,000 calories per day!) and compared this to every day "human" foods.

ChaCha demonstrated how she pulls a sled and we had a couple of relay races involving the students putting one piece of mushing gear on then ChaCha pulled them to the next stop where they swapped over. Much fun was had by all.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

USS Anchorage "Dock at the Block" Party

Aliy, Allen, Dingle and Honda were a huge attraction at the USS Anchorage "Dock at the Block" Party in Anchorage last night.

The Dock at the Block party was a community celebration to welcome the crew and families of the U.S.S. Anchorage to the city. The Navy's new troop and equipment transport arrived at the Port of Anchorage during the day and will be commissioned in a ceremony on Saturday. The vessel is technically an "amphibious transport dock ship" and has 600 crew.

The fantastic team at Clarion Suites organised a booth for the SP Kennel crew where we had a sled and some equipment on display and gave out specially printed postcards for the event. Hundreds of people passed by the tent and chatted with Aliy and Allen, and Honda and Dingle enjoyed all the pats and smooches!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Catching Up With Boondocks

Let's meet Little Miss Boondocks!

Boondocks is a spitfire who is a leader all the time in her mind. She will happily tell anyone that will listen what is going on.

She tips the scale at a mere 34 pounds but she does NOT know she is a tiny little dog. Boondocks was an important part of Aliy's Yukon Quest 300 team and ran well for 800 miles in the Iditarod!

We LOVE this dog!

(This video was filmed earlier in the year, in January)