Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Alaska's Youth

I love this video. I posted it several years ago and I have thought about it often over the last week. This video was put together by the kids from the village of Shaktoolik. I spent very little time in Shak this year on Iditarod 2016 - but there's always next year.

The Iditarod, the Yukon Quest and many of our shorter races travel through many villages like Shaktoolik. We cross the state (and the Yukon Territory) traveling from one village to the next. These small communities that dot our great state are tremendously supportive of our sport and understand our lifestyle. When I tell to a youth in Ruby that I was standing under the Northern Lights in the middle of the frozen river when I heard a snowmachine behind me... that kid knows what I'm talking about!

The youth in rural Alaska are like the youth in the rest of the world, they have their own 'growing up' issues, as well as family, peer and community problems. Every kid across the planet has had them and every one will. But, the youth in rural Alaska don't always have the educational network and extended social programs that kids in more populated centers can find. I have seen this first hand in the 25 years that I have lived in small Alaskan communities and traveled through villages.

But, how does a dog musher try to help?

I certainly don't have the education, skills or knowledge to help youth deal with their issues. I can't bring any helpful tools or educational curriculum with me as I travel down the race trail. I don't have hours during a race to truly listen to anyone and I wouldn't assume that I could help when I struggle at times to help my self. So, the answer remained a mystery to me for many years.

Matson is a primary sponsor of SP Kennel and our dog mushing races. They support the Iditarod as well and even sponsor the 'Most Improved Musher' Award given at the banquet in Nome. Matson has also demonstrated its commitment to supporting organizations that seek to improve the quality of life in communities in which their employees live and work. Therefore when the Alaska arm of Matson decided to invest in Alaska's youth by supporting The Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (ANDVSA) I wanted to become involved.

I met with the fantastic ANDVSA staff in August for the first time. They had an idea. Why not connect me with the Lead On conference? Lead On is a yearly youth leadership conference focused on violence prevention. It has three main goals:
1) to increase youth leadership skills
2) increase healthy relationships
3) to promote social change through community youth led projects

This year's conference was held November 18-20 in Anchorage. I went to the conference simply to see if it was all the it seemed to be. It was! A total of 93 youth and 38 adult community partners from all across the state came together. I listened and learned. I talked to youth and to chaperones. And I thought "Wouldn't it be neat if I could help recruit more youth from even more remote parts of Alaska?"

I had a small part in a workshop titled “Knowing Who you Are”. Myself, along with a Lead On youth alumni, Jennesy, spoke briefly about issues that we have faced and how we dealt with them. The workshop focused on the power of the self. The large group of youth listened intently to our stories and then explored their own personality traits, identities and strengths.

So, basically this is what I told my audience:
I fit no conventional mold. I never have. This doesn't bother me now. I tried to fit a normal mold when I was a teen, at least for a year or two. But I pretty much failed to pull that off.
People might tell you how you should feel or act, as they did me. Some people will be helpful and some will be way off base. It's okay to listen. You will mess up here and there and then you will find your path. Remember, it's your path... so ultimately it's up to you to find it. You can start by following the herd, there is no shame in that, or you can set out alone and try different routes, or you might just sit and watch for a while, then make a choice. Most of all, I believe, that you will be happy if you are true to your self. Find who you are... take your time because it's important... and then do your best to live the life that you deserve with your friends, your family or your loved ones.

I can say for certain that: I know who I am. Of course, there have been 'bumps in the road' (for all of us) while we find the path that best suits our self. For some of us, the teenage years were challenging and for others we jumped hurdles in our 20's, 30's or even 40's. Some of you might be reading this now in your 50's, 60's and 70's and wondering Who am I? But, I am fortunate. At this point in my life. I Know. It begins with 'dog' and ends with 'musher'. There is probably a bit more to it than that but I need to keep a few secrets.

I hope to have a future working with ANDVSA. I envision that Matson and I will work together to promote Lead On - to support the concept, to recruit sponsors, to increase participation, to advertise successes. This could be part of my game plan during and after the 2017 Iditarod.

Thanks, Alaska's Youth, for supporting me and SP during my racing career. Your successes are the successes of all that live in this great state of Alaska that I call home.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Bonus Thanksgiving Dog Fan Club Draw

We do have a lot to be thankful for! We are thankful for all our supporters, fans and sponsors, our friends and family and, of course, all our amazing canine family.

Today we celebrate our Dog Fan Club members by holding a bonus Dog Fan Club draw.

Congratulations to the students of the Northern Lights Academy right here in Fairbanks who are fans of BEAN.

Bean has finally calmed down a little, at least enough to wrangle her into a harness. That pup is certainly meant to pull and we are so excited to have her part of the team. She has been partnered with her sister Creamer for many of the training runs and they work very nicely together. The two blue eyed beauties replicate their Mamma Olivia.

The students' winning packet includes some fun and interesting stuff for the classroom plus a photo print portrait of Bean. We hope you enjoy your packet!

Our next regular draw will be December 2nd and everyone who hasn't already won and joined by then will be in to win!

Click the button below for more information about how to join:

Click this button to take you directly to the Dog Fan Page.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Yukon Quest Fundraiser

The Yukon Quest has several fundraisers throughout the year. This past weekend the 'Bunny Boots and Bids' was held in Fairbanks.

Believe it or not... Allen wore a tuxedo to the event -- which was sponsored by Alaskan Floral And Wedding. He was not alone with his attire selection. He was joined by YQ veteran mushers Hugh Neff, Paige Drobny, Mike Ellis, Matt Hall, Ryne Olson and Cody Strathe. Rookie mushers Jeff Deeter, Ben Good, Noah Pereira and YQ300 musher Chase Tingle all looked sharp as they served appetizers prepared by the UAF Community & Technical College Culinary Arts students and staff.

Beer and wine tasting was courtesy of sponsors Alaskan Brewing Co. and K&L Distributors.

A fun night had by all!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

New Puppy Portraits!

When Jeanne was here in October to take the 'formal' portraits of the racing dogs and yearlings, she also took the puppies' first portraits. Check out our updated Puppies page for some details about each one!

They were not quite ready to stand nicely for a full body shot like the grown ups, so we employed special tactics to get them to pose: dressing Aliy in a black sheet while she cuddled them and Jeanne clicked the shutter! You will agree they are fantastic portraits of our newest family members.

Bronze (not that is totally not Aliy's arm in the picture... well... okay, yes it is)

Prata in for a cuddle

Gold looking wise

Friday, November 18, 2016

Nelson Wins Dog Fan Club Draw!

Thanks again to everyone who has joined the Dog Fan Club. Congratulations to Joanne Jacobs who is a fan of NELSON!

Nelson looks good!! He is so excited this season, he gets truly ecstatic when you walk up to him with a harness. The "sweetheart" that you can cuddle with vanishes and he becomes a possessed sled dog. He's ready for a big season. 

Following on from Aliy's post earlier in the week, Joanne wins a Pleasant Valley Store T-shirt plus some other kennel goodies. Joanne, we'll be in touch to choose your colour!

Joanne will also receive a glossy "glam" shot of Nelson! Who wouldn't love that?

Also for those that asked, here (left) is the store quilt Aliy mentioned in her post. Click on the picture to make it larger.

We will have a bonus Thanksgiving draw next Friday and everyone who has joined by then and haven't already won will be in the draw to win!

Click the button below for more information about how to join:

Click this button to take you directly to the Dog Fan Page.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sled Ride

Last week I went on a 3 hour real dog sled ride. As in = the dogs pulled me on a sled with 2 inches of snow on the ground. Nope... In case you were wondering, I did not have much physical control of the sled. With no snow, the metal pronged brake tips can not penetrate the frozen ground and thus there is no stopping mechanism. The grass, logs and tree limbs are not covered either so the sled runners slip and slide quite haphazardly. Yup, there were a few tip overs! And there is no real obvious trail to follow. My new vocal command to the team for this sled ride was: "Find the Trail!" That's entertaining isn't it? Mismo and Junior did just that. Dutch and Izzy were eager to follow behind as were Sandy and Driver.

Enjoy my somewhat bumpy, yet entertaining fun sled ride.

In case you were wondering... there is very little snow (again) in Alaska. The snow that is on the ground in this video arrived earlier in the month. Since then we have gotten just a scant amount more. Hopefully, this tiny base cover won't go away until April. This topic is a daily conversation between mushers and non mushers a like. When will it come? Or will it ever come? I do not know. I can guess, like everybody else. But, I really do not know.

Regardless of the lack of snow, SP Kennel's training continues unimpeded. Our overall mileage, duration of runs and terrain training hasn't been effected. The fact that we have ATV four wheelers makes training for the Copper Basin 300, Yukon Quest and even Iditarod still possible and successful, just not always fun.

Some of the fun factor still persists despite the lack of snow because I am a dog enthusiast, first and foremost. So I get to watch all the SP Kennel athletes gain knowledge, training miles, endurance and speed. Each dog is placed on different training teams on a daily basis in order for them to train to their best potential. With myself, Allen, Ruth and Chris all speeding a great deal of time on ATVs, we can easily get the entire kennel trained up. But... back to the fun factor. Every once in a while, a person needs to have fun. (Or at least that's my take on life.)

Going out with a team of huskys is fun because you get to enjoy the ride and live in the moment. On a sled, a musher is a unique part of the team. Yes, the musher ultimately 'controls' the dog team but that control is just like the control you have of your pet poodle as it meanders down the sidewalk looking for the best spot(s) to pee. Is that really control or just sort of an understanding? On a sled, a musher has to 'go with the flow' and realize that the act of moving down the trail is everything. You don't so much think about where you are going or when you'll get there. You and your dogs are dealing with the unpredictable and all of you are simply managing the moment. There are not a lot of times in life when this the how a person can live. But, every once in a while, as a dog musher, I let my self really, truly, have some fun!

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Olympic Puppies are 4 months old

Gold, Prata and Bronze have reached a Puppyhood benchmark: 4 months old. It doesn't seem like they should be that old yet. Gold is quite large, happy and grabs any and all attention as quick as possible. Prata is racy, fast and will jump in your lap and steal gloves, loose clothing and kisses. Bronze is the sweetheart. She doesn't bother anyone and would like her big brother and sassy sister to quit picking on her. When Bronze grows into her legs and barrel chest she will easily hold her own.

Jeanne Schnackenberg photo.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Pleasant Valley Store/ Trailside Mail

One of the absolute best things about Two Rivers is Pleasant Valley Store. The Store is the local 'hang out' or meeting place, the final school bus stop out the road, the only place to buy coffee, bananas or cake mix. It is also the last stop to buy fuel, get your fishing license or buy ice cream. You can pick up a quart of oil, toilet paper, a gallon of milk, the newspaper or even a bottle of wine. Pleasant Valley Store holds our little community together.

The owners, Becky and Alex, are the very best people who seem to have the ability to hold together an independent, opinionated bunch of Alaskans who live half way out a dead end road to no where. As Cindy - one of the mainstays behind the store counter - told me yesterday "I see everyone come through our door at one time or another. We talk about everything - just not politics, religion or trapping." It must have been very challenging for her this past week!

Trailside Mail is our local Post Office and it sits alongside the Store. It is a contract post office and the BEST post office in the world. The service window opens at 2PM and closes at 7PM. The hall with our post box (#226) is open all day so you can mush, drive or walk in to check your mail anytime. Sometimes you will be the sole customer in there and sometimes you are one of many having a pleasant conversation about the weather, trails, hunting or dogs.

Inside Trailside Mail - lots of parcels and a smiling face!

It's amazing to see how busy they are and the number of parcels they deliver to local Two Rivers folks. Do we order more mail order items? Do we get more love letters? Or do we have more bills? Yikes... I don't want to think about which it is! They are overly good to us at SPK. They sometimes call and let us know that we have parcels to pick up, or to tell me I left my key, my wallet, my parcels or my love letters. Oops... just kidding! They always know when the Kennel is in a popular news story or the Iditarod starts because they get to sort the many letters, trinkets and gifts we receive. I often open surprise gifts or culinary treats while at Trailside Mail so they can share our goodies.

I am always greeted with a smile and a "Hello" when I walk through the door. As soon as anyone walks through the door, they walk by a hanging quilt on the wall which is 20 quilt squares made by individuals from the community. Yes. I have a square in the quilt. Yes it does have to do with dog mushing. Duh!

Going to Trailside Mail is usually the end of the day. Moira usually has a spreadsheet and tries to prioritize all the SPK parcels before to dropping them off. Nevertheless we can leave them with an awful lot of sorting and work.

If there is ever a waiting line you have three options:
  1. go next door and have a cup of coffee and talk about everything except politics, religion and trapping.
  2. stand in line and talk to your neighbor about anything (one of my best conversations was with my young neighbor Noah who had mailed a letter to the Queen of England and actually gotten a response. (Is that politics?)
  3. wait my turn and admire all of the Yukon Quest posters for the last 20 years that adorn the walls of the PO. Cool, huh?

So the first SP Kennel mailing left Trailside Mail yesterday. Many of the 'Join the Team' packets left the peaceful tiny town of Two Rivers. Their journey starts with a truck ride to Fairbanks and then onto Anchorage. The out-of-state and out-of-country sorting is done in Anchorage. Most parcels will leave Anchorage via airplane. From that point on... your guess is as good as mine.

If you ever find your way to Two Rivers, Alaska please stop at Pleasant Valley Store - it will be worth your while!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Training Photos

We have two inches of snow on the ground. This has helped the dogs feet, enabled them to "dip" and stay hydrated and generally improved everyone's attitude! Of course, a little more snow (or even a lot) would be very useful. But overall the training schedule has been very steady. The adults Racers are at the same mileage, speed and endurance levels as they have been for the last few years. The Yearlings are now running in two teams and have learned a tremendous amount. They are currently ahead of schedule. The Mature dogs are running shorter 'fun' miles to keep happy and healthy.

Here are two photos from yesterday while we ran a 3 hour training run with the dogs pulling an ATV 4 wheeler. They don't seem to mind as long as they get to run. As a musher, I have to admit my bum got a little chilly.
This was a 13 dog team: Junior, Dutch, Mismo, Woody, Izzy, Schmoe, Scruggs, Violet, Ginger, Daisy, Wedgy, Rodney and Scooby.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

It's Booty Time at the kennel!

We had a party at the kennel last week -- a 'Booty Party'. Yea Baby!
Very exciting.
Okay... your imagination might be getting the best of you.
It wasn't that exciting.

Sorting and packing dog boots is a chore. Usually at the top of kennel's Christmas Wish List is that a 'Booty Fairy' will show up in the middle of the night before Food Drops. But, for one person to sit in the garage surrounded by, literally, thousands of dog boots can - in fact - be a little depressing. Or overwhelming. Or simply smelly (used dog boots sometimes have little dried doggie 'gifts' stuck to them.)

Anyhow - we decided to make the entire dog boot ordeal FUN this season.
So, turn up the music and get after it:

  • look thru individual boots for holes and wear
  • size the 'still useable' used boots or new boots (sizing depends on the color of the velcro)
  • form boots into circular sets of 4's using the velcro
  • when we count how many boots we need for a training run or race, we mean how many "sets of 4"
  • bag a certain # of sets and sizes into baggies
  • these baggies will be put into race Food Drop bags depending on which dogs are on the team

SPK would like to thank: Will, Carolyn, Tom, Cindy, Wes, Scout, Willie, Lydia, Scooter, Rambler, Tig, and Sissy (although Sissy... did you have to pee on the floor twice?)

Simple Dog Boot facts:

  • different dogs wear different size boots
  • at SPK we generally use mostly small and medium, very few large, and Mac can, at times, wear XL
  • boots can be re used several times if they do not have holes or large wear spots
  • once a boot has even a tiny hole it is trash
  • boots must be dried out between uses
  • we use boots for training if conditions warrant (cold, icy or longer distances)
  • we use boots for all races (this is precautionary since races generally cover more miles in a shorter time frame)
  • most races REQUIRE a musher to carry 8 boots per dog at all times
  • they cost about $1.00 per individual dog boot
  • SP K buys 3,000 to 5,000 boots every year

Friday, November 4, 2016

Iron wins Fan Club Draw

Thank you all for joining the Dog Fan Club!!

Congratulations to Cindy Schaus who is a fan of Iron.

Ironman is a solidly built dog - legs, chest and power make him a shoe-in for some of the race teams. His break through season last year makes his want to perform even better this season. He is wonderful to watch: pure joy and enthusiasm of a talented sled dog.

He is BFFs with his brother, and last draw's winner, Driver and they have experienced many 'firsts' together.

Cindy wins a signed copy of the 2016 Yukon Quest race guide, a glam shot of future Yukon Quest dogs Gold, Prata and Bronze plus an SP Kennel badge. She will also get a photo print portrait of Iron. We hope you enjoy your packet Cindy!

Our next draw will be November 18th. If you haven't already won this season or if you are a new member your name will be in the next draw. NOTE: you can win more than once if you are a fan of more than one dog!

Click the button below for more information about how to join:

Click this button to take you directly to the Dog Fan Page.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

New Team Cards Are Here!

Here they are! Click on the button below to take you to the new season's Dog Page. You'll find new team cards for all the racing dogs and yearlings.

Don't you agree that Jeanne has done a fantastic job of capturing the personalities and beauty of our athletes? They really "pop" off the black background.

We have new short "blurbs" about each dog and we will update the racing histories for everyone as the season progresses.

A heartfelt and sincere "Thank You" to all our dog sponsors! We love that you have developed a relationship with "your" dogs even if some of you have never met them. We appreciate the unwavering support you have for your dog; and the kennel as a whole.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

We had a few late 'Tricker Treaters' last night...

Noah and Sam cuddle with the Halloween Pups.

Bronze, Gold and Prata are exhausted after a long evening of 'Trick or Treat'.