Saturday, July 30, 2016

One Week Old Quito Puppies

Here they are at almost one week old.
The three pups are extremely healthy and so is Mama Quito.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Origin Story: Who Was Skunk of Skunk's Place?

For those who have never read the story of Skunk or those that want to enjoy it again, here's "A Holiday Tale" retold

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 somewhat harsh world of eating carcasses from the trap line and fish oil then 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 45 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 and tied him up outside her place. 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.

Skunk leads Aliy's first dog team.

In the years to come, Skunk was an important part of Aliy's small sled dog team but an even better companion dog. 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".

Monday, July 25, 2016


We welcome three magnificent puppies to the SP Kennel world. Mama Quito, and the little ones are snug in the Dog Room whelping box in fresh cedar shavings where it is quiet. There are two little girls and a bigger boy.

In the next few days we will share plenty of puppy videos, photos and stories. For now, we are letting the new family have some peaceful bonding time.

Here they are:

Friday, July 22, 2016

Fire Litter is 3 years old!

Wow - how the times flies. Was it really 3 years ago this week that we evacuated the entire kennel due to the Stuart Creek Wildfire raging only a few miles to the south?

Left to Right: Chena, Spark, Coal, Torch, Daisy, Hotshot, Commando, Violet, Amber, Nomex and Tinder. (Photo by J. Schnackenberg)

The Fire Litter turns 3 years old this week. Mamma Olivia and Daddy Nacho are the proud parents of these pups who are predominately named with fire related themes or flowers that grow after a fire or 'one in a million' amazing dog names.

The litter was considered phenomenal by the first day simply due to its size: 11 puppies! And since then, these awesome dogs have really shined in talent, spirit and friendliness. They are going to be the power and energy behind many of the Racing Teams in the next few years.

Here they are:

Chena: Still shy and a bit submissive, but you wouldn't guess it after she raced 500 miles in lead on the Iditarod Black Team. Chena has confidence and speed and smarts. She enjoys playing with her siblings - Commando and Tinder are her favorites. She will be super important in the not-so-distant future. Chena stands out because she will be the first dog to howl, sometimes just by herself. Her ears do 'stand up' but never in photographs.

Spark: Is the silliest pup of the litter. He LOVES everyone and likes to play, play, play. (Note in this photo he is playing with a nylabone.) He raced on the Iditarod Black Team and came across the finish line alongside his father. (It was Nacho's 12th 1,000 Mile Race and Spark's 1st!!) Spark really shined on every team he raced on this year - his tough character meshed with his happy nature is sure nice to be around. We wish we knew more people like Spark!

Coal: Was never going to win the Yukon Quest. While he enjoyed running in harness, and was fairly talented, he simply wasn't going to be very competitive. In our attempt to always find 'the correct home, for the correct dog, at the correct time', Coal went to live with long-time kennel friend, Eunice. He is now sharing his home with one other dog - but in addition that he now has friends of all varieties: mustangs, chickens and emus! Yup… emus.

Torch: Is the lightest built dog of the litter and likes to travel fast. It will be fun to see who can keep up with him in the future. He did have a small 'wheezing' issue this Spring when the temperatures warmed up. We are hoping that this was something that he will grow out of over time. Torch is a very enthusiastic sled dog. He just wants to RUN!! Torch lives in the 'Bachelor Corner' of the yard with Hotshot. They both think they're very sexy… in a Justin Bieber kinda way.

Daisy: Has huge potential. She was a shoe-in for the Iditarod Black Team but came into breeding season just prior to the race. We have successfully raced females while in season, but this year we had quite a few replacements for her position. She sadly sat that race out. She was, however, a Rock-Star on the Yukon Quest 300. We expect great things from Daisy. She is also a very playful and enjoys rolling onto her back and entertaining her neighbors.

Hotshot: Is still learning the ropes. While he did complete several mid distance races this past season. His flaw is his youthful enthusiasm: in that it often gets the best of him! Hottie is a powerhouse but needs to tapper off and pace himself -- 1,000 miles if a LONGGGGGG WAYYYYY, buddy! Hotshot is super happy and loves to be the kid at the party who plays the longest then immediately falls asleep on the car ride home. He's kind of a sexy teenager… do you remember those days?

Commando: Has surpassed anyone's expectations. He has now raced three 1,000 mile races prior to his 3 year old birthday. Wowie. Commando is a big, strong guy and will help any team get to the finish line (hopefully first!) His 'Zorro' mask is still somewhat evident from his puppy photo. Quite the handsome boy. Commando is the sentry of the litter and will bark at any 'kennel intruders' but especially Ryne. He thinks her dog Jezzie is a Gremlin.

Violet: Is the bigger and sillier twin. (You can tell her apart from Amber due to her floppy ears.) She raced in everything this past season and is ready to do it again. She was very impressive in swing position during the Yukon Quest 300. A shift up to lead is next. Violet has moved up to an important spot in the dog yard -- right next to her mentor, Scout. Gulp?!?! It's amazing that we captured a photo of her with out her head cocked to the side.

Amber: Is hyper, nervous and has never-ending energy. In other words, if she were in Coal's shoes right now… every chicken would be dead! Amber has no 'pause' button but apparently she doesn't need one. She is a jumping jack rabbit when in harness and has a hard time sitting still. Amber is the smaller, pointy-eared twin. The twins came across the finish line on the Iditarod Black Team standing next to each other. What a great sight!

Nomex: Is still known for his 'big baby head'. He is sweet and friendly when he's not wrapped up with high strung sled dog energy. Nomex is a tough, hard working dog. He had lots of success last racing season and is headed for 'the Big Time' this winter. Nomex has the biggest body of any Fire Pup and might someday adapt to a more smooth gait. But, then again, he runs exactly like his Daddy -- that certainly can't be a bad thing. We always said that Nacho ran like a raccoon (of course, we didn't tell him that to his face!)

Tinder: Is GORGEOUS! He is the Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon of the sled dog world. He is also confident, smart and dedicated. Last racing season, he accomplished everything we asked of him and stood around asking to do more. As Tinder ages, he resembles his dad more and more. You better believe that we are happy about that! He is a pleasant dog to be around: not as 'pushy' as some of his siblings. He simply enjoys a tender head scratch.

***Thank you Barbara for the wonderful photographs!***

Monday, July 18, 2016

Lazy Summer Afternoons

Last week, all of us at the kennel enjoyed a few lazy summer afternoons.

The dogs enjoyed the sunshine filled days and so did the mushers. They were perfect to laze around and chew on a couple of bones.

We also went on several dog walks.

Our neighbors have gorgeous Peony fields. While they don't appreciate the dogs running a muck through their gorgeous flowers, they don't mind us sitting for a spell and admiring the flowers.

Lydia and Aliy had some 'down time' next to a pretty red Peony.

Chipper's bone is nearly bigger than her; Biscuit enjoys his bone in the shade.

Friday, July 15, 2016

FIVE Birthday Celebration

The Five Litter turns 2 years old today. Their mother is Chica and their father is Clyde. Overall, this litter is a group of high-energy, happy dogs - a lot like Dad. Five, Rodney and Ginger all live on wooden platforms together due to their rock chewing tendencies. It's no wonder… Chica lived on a platform during her entire racing career. Ernie lives in the front of the yard, whereas Scooby lives off to the side - where there is plenty of room to stretch his long legs.

All five of these pups have tremendous appetites and will nearly eat the food scoop as well as the kibble. This trait is passed down from their father who is the ‘best and fastest’ eater at SP Kennel. They had a magnificent yearling season and we look forward to training and racing these dogs in earnest this coming season.

High Five - is a big boy who looks even larger due to his big head. He will most likely weigh over 60 pounds. Despite his size, he can be a calm, sweet dog. He thoroughly enjoys leaping on top of his house and getting bum scratches and kisses. Five is one of the yard sentries and will bark with a low bass ‘WOOF’ if anyone new or different approaches.

High Five on his dog house with a big head and a stripped nose.

Ernie - is the only pup from the litter who is slight of build. Because of this, he has always been the ‘fast, sprinty’ one. He also looks more like a husky. Ernie is very happy and playful with many of the other dogs in the yard and his BBFs right now are Sandy and Daisy. He can be shy but his tail is always wagging.

We luckily snapped a photo of Ernie with out his tail moving.

Ginger - is a good sized female with a stocky build. Her ‘ginger’ coloration resembles that of a yellow lab and her non-husky, floppy ears give assistance to her retriever image. But... Ginger does NOT chase tennis balls. She would gladly eat them. She is also a sentry and is loudly opinionated when it comes to visitors. Ginger will also be shy to strangers.

We promise… Ginger is NOT a yellow lab. Wait until you see her in Lead next season!

Rodney - is a big goon. He has not lost his chatty, puppy nature and will definitely get your attention in the yard. Nearly 90% of the time his mouth is wide open with something important to say. Rodney’s focus is somewhat lacking. But he probably runs more miles in the dog yard then any other SP K dog. He is ready for Fall training... now! Rodney would like to be a cuddly sweetheart and appreciate cuddles and pets, but he has a hard time standing still.

Rodney poses for a photo; Let's be honest… This is the real Rodney!

Scooby - is wired. He is in constant motion. He has learned to jump on his house if he wants to be petted but he has an awfully hard time standing still once he is up there. He is one of the few dogs in the SP Kennel yard that looks like the “typical” sled dog. Of course, this is thanks to his mother’s genetics. Scooby is one powerful dog who will need to run off some energy before he can focus on a goal.

Scooby sports a very stylish 'husky' coat.

Scooby OUTTAKE: He loves to flirt with Wedgy. Can you curl your tail a little more?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Puppies on the horizon

We don't want to spring the great news on everyone last minute, so… Quito is pregnant! Her due date is July 25th. Clyde is the proud father of this summer litter.

Quito is looking good with a small pregnant belly.

Quito is healthy and happy. She has been eating well. Much of the time, Quito has the run of the kennel. But she also has an indoor whelping box and has been spending time both indoors (on warm days) and outside.

Quito laying on the cool floor during a warm afternoon.

A slightly embarrassing photograph of the pregnant girl.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Denali Express to the Wilderness Train Ride

No matter where you visit in the great state of Alaska, a visitor can find exceptional adventure mushing and/or sled dog programs and tours during the summer. Some of these operations are located on glaciers and visitors can actually experience sledding on snow and ice. Other operations have cart rides or kennel tours. Any first time Alaskan visitor should at least see one of these operations and experience the enthusiasm of the Alaskan Husky.

SP Kennel does not have one of these Summer Tour Programs. Instead of bringing visitors to the kennel, the kennel goes to to where the visitors are: Denali National Park. Aliy and Allen speak to thousands of Holland America and Princess Cruise guests.

Their job is very entertaining since every SP Kennel presentation also involves an Alaska Railroad Train ride. As the train travels north, towards Denali, Aliy and Allen give a short ‘how we got into dog mushing’ talk and follow it with a ‘what is all this sled dog racing about’ speech. They pass out SP Kennel postcards to all and give away kennel t-shirts to a lucky few. The entire train ride is 2 1/2 hours and they will talk to between 500 and 700 guests per day. This specific Denali Express to the Wilderness Train (DEX) runs once or twice a week depending on the cruise ship schedule.

Allen and Aliy entertain train passegers with stories about sled dogs and adventure.

"All aboard!" The train stops to pick up Allen and Aliy; Winding north toward Denali.

Why doesn’t SP Kennel have a Summer Tour Program in Two Rivers?
SP Kennel is Aliy and Allen’s home. Inviting ten, twenty or several hundred visitors -- no matter how friendly and happy they are -- is a bit overwhelming. Although the kennel is a fantastic place, it can only be shared on a significantly smaller scale. That’s because the SP Kennel visitors’ lounge is also Aliy and Allen’s living room / kitchen / dining room. When a visitor enjoys a cup of coffee at the kennel, they are sitting in the same chairs that Moira, Chris, Wes and Wendy wrestle over all winter long. It’s the same spot that the kennel crew plans race strategies, food drops, handler calendars and daily chores. And the visitors better not mind dog hair… it's everywhere! When a visitor drives onto the kennel property there is a 100% chance that a dog is running around somewhere. It also takes a little extra effort to drive the local Two Rivers roads. There is about 2 miles of a gravel or dirt trail/ road that leads to the kennel door step. There has been one motor coach attempt the driveway but the driver was very talented and did an 18 point turn in order to exit.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

TBT: Nomex Howls With The Big Dogs

With howls on our minds, remember this when Nomex was just four months old?

Click here to read the original post.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Fourth of July

We're not big fans of fireworks here at the kennel but we do love a good group howl!

Happy Fourth of July, not just to those in the USA but everyone else too, because... why not?