Sunday, September 28, 2014

SP Kennel Retirees: The Dog Page looks Different

You will notice that some of the faces on the "SP Kennel Dogs" are missing. This is true. So the questions is: "When do you retire a dog from SP K Racing?"

That's often difficult to answer because, you guessed it: everyone is different.

The long answer to this question starts with our belief that each dog deserves quality individual time. In order to give the youngest SP Kennel members an honest, quality shot at becoming the absolute best sled dogs that they can become - we must spend enough time and effort with each youngster during their training years.

Let's be honest… I enjoy watching the SP youngsters. And it is critical that we get to know these future All-Stars while they are developing. I have no desire to turn our young dogs over to someone else to raise and train. They are our future. We want to know every little detail about them. Imagine the high we've felt while watching Quito grow from a scrawny puppy; to a tall, thin yearling; to a novice, budding two year old and now a two-time Yukon Quest Golden Harness recipient and Iditarod All-Star lead dog. It is incredibly rewarding to know that we have been with her through all of these times of her life.

So, in order to have enough time, effort, space and money to care for, train and race each SP Kennel dog, we have to keep our overall dog population in check. That means we carefully select who will retire from SP Kennel racing, who will move to the couch and who will move on to a new home. The number of dogs that we retire each year is correlated to the number of puppies we raised the previous summer. It only makes sense that the SP K 'newbies' will try to replace the SP K 'retirees'.

If you have followed the kennel for any length of time you know that the 'Puppy Class' from 2013 - now the 'Yearling Class' - is very large. There are 11 Fire Pups plus Champ and Cayenne - a total of 13 one year old dogs. Due to our kennel management technique, this summer we needed to retire the same number.

It was incredibly challenging to choose who would retire. And just as challenging to let go some of these guys to far away homes. Not only did a few of these dogs have another year or two of racing under their harnesses, but also because they were part of the SP Kennel family. But, the knowledge that we find every dog the right home at the right time makes the process doable.

All of these dogs went to forever homes. Sometimes it's an easy transition and sometimes it's more challenging. The most important thing is that these new owners can find the joy that each individual dog has to offer.
  1. Bonita
  2. Boris
  3. Fang
  4. Honda
  5. Kipper
  6. Malibu
  7. Pud
  8. Ranger
  9. Shiner
  10. Spicy
  11. Spoog
  12. Tatfish
  13. Tug

Everyone loves Tatfish; Pud and new puppy buddy, Aria; Spoog and new BFF, Edie.

Tug (right) and friends look for squirrels; Yes… that is a cat couch surfing with Malibu!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Visitors to the Kennel

A local dog musher contacted us last week about a special boy who was coming to Alaska. We learned that Ben was going through some hardships in life and most of all he wanted to see the Northern Lights and mush sled dogs. Of course, we thought "Who doesn't?"

We put a few hours aside Friday morning for Ben and his family to experience the second half of his Alaskan "Wish List". We learned so much more about Ben and the Pierce Family during their visit.

Ben did enjoy the dogs, the kennel and the idea of mushing. But, being an adventurous little boy from Texas he LOVED the ATV 4 wheeler the most. Allen taught him what all the shifting buttons and levers were for and he was delighted. Ben got to "drive" while we mushed the team several miles on the local trails. But, revving the engine (while in neutral) was certainly a highlight!

His other favorite activity was standing on the SP Kennel balcony overlooking the dog yard and the surrounding hills. Allen got him the kennel binoculars and Ben could see forever!

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner posted a story about his visit to Alaska this morning. You can read it HERE.

Allen and Ben stand on the balcony overlooking the Alaskan wilderness.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Throwback Thursday (TBT): Dingle as a Two-Year Old

As part of the "Meet the Dogs" series back in January 2009, this video spotlights Dingle who was entering his first season as a "proper" racing dog. Since then he has gone on to compete in six Iditarods, three Copper Basic 300s, one Yukon Quest 1000 and two YQ300s. He's also raced in three Sheep Mountain 150s, three Two Rivers 50s and one each of the Denali Doubles, Gin Gin 200 and Aurora 50/50. What a dog!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cayenne and Champ

The youngest dogs in training have just turned one year old: Cayenne and Champ. They have coloration and body structure similar to their Mother, Nutmeg. But their spunk and 'get up and go' is from their Father, Nacho. These two yearlings are about 2 months younger than the Fire Litter.

Cayenne is smaller and racy. She is super confident around other dogs. She was nervous at the first introduction of a harness. Moira even had to carry her as a 'lap dog' for a short distance. But, Cayenne's comfort level in harness is now perfect - she'll even put her head up when we approach her with a harness. We are VERY excited about this Gal.

Champ is tall and leggy. He is a talker and will scream and howl with excitement. Champ had no hesitation when first introduced to a harness. His only original issues was an 'oral fixation' with the main line. Dogs are not allowed to chew but he learned his manners rather quickly. Champ pulls extremely hard in harness so we will have to work on pacing him as the season continues. So far Champ looks fantastic.

Allen grabs Cayenne to bring her to the team; Aliy harnesses Champ

Friday, September 19, 2014

Treadmill Time

We had a warm day at the kennel earlier in the week, so we did not train the dogs in harness. Instead we put a few dogs on the treadmill - actually the entire 2 year old Golf Litter: Driver, Chipper, Wedgy, Woody, Sandy and Iron. None of these dogs had ever been on the treadmill before. You can imagine what they thought about "the floor moving under their feet"!

So, here is a video of the first time these dogs ever got on a treadmill. Aliy does a bit of "cheering" and most of the dogs get after it!


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Throwback Thursdays

The SP Kennel Dog Log has been in existence since February 2007 and it is very close to reaching the "2000 posts" milestone. Since that time we have posted hundreds of videos, photos and stories and we'd like to revisit some of them and share them with you regularly throughout the season. We'll post stories, informational videos and other fun and interesting stuff.

For those of you who have not been following us since then it will give you an opportunity to fill in some pieces of the puzzle or simply give you some background information about your favourite dogs (and their parents!) For those that have been supporting us since that time we hope you enjoy these trips down memory lane.

If you take a look down the left hand side of the blog you will see links to post and video archives so you can go exploring yourself when you have the time.

Our first Throwback Thursday (TBT) is from February 26, 2007; just a few days before the Iditarod. Kaz posted about "The Top Eighteen" dogs in the running for Aliy's team. See how many names you recognise here!

The Top Eighteen

Well, time is just flying by. Iditarod is less than a week away. Soon the family will be heading to Alaska and we will be packing up the dogs and heading down to Anchorage. So who are we bringing? That is a good question. Let’s start with Aliy’s “A-Team”. Many of the dogs were on Aliy’s team last year and most of those and a few others were on Allen’s Championship Copper Basin Team. Here they are – the 2007 Iditarod Team.
1. ChaCha (5yrs) – Main Leader. Iditarod: ’06, ’05, ’04. In ’07, CB300 & T200.
2. Venus (5yrs) – Main Leader. Iditarod: ’06, ’05. In ’07, CB300 & T200.
3. Pingo (8yrs) – Main Leader. Iditarod: ’06, ’05, ’04, ’03, ’02, ‘01. Yukon Quest ’00. In ’07, CB300 & T200.
4. Teddy (5yrs) – Team Dog. Iditarod: ’06, ’05, ’04. In ’07, CB300 & T200.
5. Skittles (3yrs) –Leader/ Team. Iditarod: ’06. In ’07, CB300 & T200.
6. Butterscotch (3yrs) –Leader/ Team. Iditarod: Rookie. In ’07, CB300 & T200.
7. Reeses (3yrs) –Leader/ Team. Iditarod: Rookie. In ’07, Kusko 300 & T100.
8. Manhattan (5yrs) – Leader / Wheel. Iditarod: ’06, ’05, ’04. In ’07, CB300 & T200.
9. Hoss (4yrs) – Leader / Team. Iditarod: ’06. In ’07, CB300 & T200
10. Oddball (4yrs) – Team Dog. Iditarod: ’06, ‘05. In ’07, CB300 & T200
11. Tony (4yrs) – Team Dog. Iditarod: Rookie. In ’07, CB300 & T200
12. Heeeler (3 yrs) – Leader / Team. Iditarod: Rookie. In ’07, CB300
13. Bullet (4yrs) – Leader / Team. Iditarod: ’06. In ’07, Kusko 300 & T100
14. Pepper (4yrs) – Leader / Team. Iditarod: ’05. In ’07, Kusko 300 & T100
15. Sparky (4yrs) – Leader / Team. Iditarod: ’06. In ’07, Kusko 300 & T100
16. ROSEmary (2yrs) – Leader / Team. Iditarod: Rookie. In ’07, Kusko 300 & T100
17. Kingston (4yrs) – Team Dog. Iditarod: ’06. In ’07, T200 (Dean Osmar Dog)
18. Hawke (4yrs) – Team Dog. Iditarod: ’06. In ’07, T200 (Dean Osmar Dog)

The dogs ran their last long run yesterday. The next couple of days will really begin to show who Aliy will take this year on her trek to Nome. It is an exciting time at the kennel. So much to do.

Thursday night Aliy will draw her race number. We will let you know where she and Allen will be starting.

Thanks for all your support.


NOTE: the final make-up of the teams were:

Aliy’s team was Hoss, Heeler, Venus, ChaCha, Butterscotch, Oddball, Skittles, Manny, Kingston, Hawke, Tony, Teddy, Pingo, Bullet, Pepper and Sparky.

Allen’s team had Girlfriend, Doña, Blossom, Heidi, Reeses, KitKat, Snickers, Rolo, Petunia, Peterbuilt, nutMeg, Rose, Hera, Imac, Mouse and Betty.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The "Five" Puppies

Chica and Clyde's puppies are running, romping and loving life. They live in a raised wooden pen that can be washed and scrubbed throughly. The pen has two houses and many puppy toys. Olivia resides next to this pen and she is the perfect auntie ('half' auntie genetically.) The pups often spend the daytime in one of the other SP "play pens" on the property.

Chica visits periodically, but does not nurse them. She likes to check that they are okay but she isn't over concerned about being near them all the time.

This litter is very food motivated -- which isn't a shocker, considering Clyde "the food fanatic"-- is their father. They come when called, especially when there are biscuits or a dish of food involved. Their daily walks are sometimes abbreviated when one of them thinks "Hey… there might be more food back at the kennel!" Then they all 'high tail' it back to their pen in hopes of finding a random piece of kibble.

We did Past Hasting's 8 week old 'Puppy Puzzle Tests' last week. Each pup is looked at very critically in terms of personality, conformation and overall body structure. Since we don't often sell or give away pups, these tests are simply for our in-house records. It is fun to look back on the tests years later.

Aliy looks at Ernie's body structure (he is a miniature Beemer); Scooby wonders what all the fuss is about as Mickey takes notes.

We also took some 8 week Puppy Portraits. As you can imagine, these kids will change tremendously over the next few months, so we will update the portraits soon. But, here they are:

  L to R: Rodney: big loudmouth; Ginger: confident little girl; Scooby: a bit of a bully

  L to R: Ernie: real sweetheart; Five: a little sensitive.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Training Teams

We have had a consistent schedule for the dogs since the start of training. The veterans are excited to be out tromping through the puddles. The youngsters are eager - sometimes a little too much so!

Here is a video of our last of five training teams for the morning. We ran quite a few dogs single to get them used to lining out and listening to commands. At the beginning of training you want everyone to start learning what you expect. (Youngsters have an easier time focusing when they don't have their brother or sister yelling in their ear.)

The team is: Viper and Waylon (Lead), Schmoe and Chemo, Clyde and Amber, Violet (single), Spark (single), Iron (single), Felix (single).

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Tony Baloney

Here is a peek into the life of yet another retired SP Kennel racing dog.

Tony was born over 12 years ago in the spring of 2002. He was one of a litter of 5 boys, also including Maurice, Hoss, Leroy and Oddball. He followed quickly in the footsteps of his parents, AJ and Girlfriend, to become a critical member of SP's racing squad from 2006 to his retirement in 2012.

Tony, third pair back, on right. In racing form!

Tony, AKA Baloney, raced at about 49 pounds and was one of the physically strongest team dogs. He raced the Iditarod in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. During training, racing, traveling or meeting scores of volunteers and fans he had "a positive attitude ALL OF THE TIME", according to Aliy's training logs. He has that exact same positive attitude today. Even as a retiree, he is a joy to be around!

Tony's current lifestyle is a bit nomadic and he is perfectly happy with it. Though he is officially still an SP Kennel resident, he was semi-adopted a short time ago by Wes and Wendy Brightman, former kennel handlers. When they are in Two Rivers, tending their peony farm, Tony hangs out with them and 'helps'. Their driveway is adjacent to one of the main dog mushing trails in our area. Tony watches the teams go by, standing at Wes' side. He perks his ears and wags his tail thinking, 'My life is different now'.  Tony takes fun runs along side Wes' ATV and then sleeps on a striped cushion inside. The Brightman's traveled to Valdez, AK with Tony this summer and introduced him to motor home camping and panning for gold. Different, indeed!

In Valdez this summer. What a handsome dude!

Now that Wes and Wendy are out of state for a month, Doug and I are enjoying Tony's company and he is very much at home with us. He loves chasing grouse and butterflies around our yard. He loves jaunting around the neighborhood while Sammy and I ride our bikes. He has been helping us harvest the last of our veggies and get our little place ready for winter. And sometimes we visit the kennel, to keep tabs on Aliy and Allen.

Sammy and Tony on a late summer jaunt.

What is this little creature? Tony meets Scooby the pup.

When Wes and Wendy return Tony will be peony farming again. And sometime this winter, when the Brightmans travel to their work overseas and we are back in Florida, Tony will move his striped cushion into Aliy and Allen's house. Accompanied by the old girls, ChaCha and Bullet, he will look out the widow at the training teams leaving the dog yard and think, 'my life is different now'. And he'll perk his ears and wag his tail and have "a positive attitude ALL OF THE TIME".

Kennel Mom

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pet Appreciation Day

Coldspot in Fairbanks asked Aliy if she'd drop by during this weekend's "Pet Appreciation Celebration". Saturday from 11pm to 3pm, Aliy, Mickey (Kennel Mom), Beemer and Viper were special guests at the Coldspot celebration. All four of them talked about dogs, to dogs and with dogs. (See a theme here?)

A great time was had by all!

Beemer enjoyed the Crowd; A young fan knows the secret ear scratch.

Beemer says "Can we take her home?"; Beemer's long lost niece (just kidding!)

Monday, September 1, 2014

First Day of Training!

It here. The temperature was 29 degrees this morning. I guess Mother Nature has decided to cooperate with us today.

The dogs are excited and the Mushers are excited. What a GREAT day to start training. The first team of the year is a mixture of young and old.

Pud is in lead with Scruggs. Pud is flying to New Hampshire next week for his retirement from SP Kennel so we thought it was only appropriate for him to step in and run as the primary leader on the first team of the season. Why not go out in style?

In swing is Dingle and Nacho. Both Rock Star solid SP dogs.

The next two dogs are very young. Cayenne and Champ turn one year old on September 7th. This was a big day for them and they were happy to be a part of it. Each of these youngsters is attached to the mainline with both a tug line and a neck line. They are running by themselves so that they don't get confused with a partner. This is necessary on the first few runs so that they get the "forward" concept from the beginning. As you can see by 1/4 mile down the trail… they got it! (Of course, Aliy did run in front and beside them for just a little ways!)

Puppet and Woody are next in the team. They are a nice solid, long legged pair.

Nelson is in wheel by himself. His twirling and crazy nature hasn't seemed to let up through the summer -- thank goodness!

Here we go!