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!***