Thursday, September 14, 2017

Going Well: Fall Training

In some areas of interior Alaska the fall colors are at their peak. In and around Two Rivers, the reds have faded but the yellows are still gorgeous.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Lead On Workshop

Rachel, Aliy and Megan in White Mountain.

Matson and I are part of a program that focuses on reducing domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska. Our goal was to enable youth from bush Alaska to attend an educational workshop: Lead On!

The workshop focuses on youth personal empowerment and leadership skills. It is held in Anchorage in mid November. During my trip to the Western Coast of Alaska I brought the workshop organizers, Rachel and Megan, with me.

While I spent much of my time playing with stuffed toy huskys, reading books to first graders and running Iditarod Spelling Relay Races with middle schoolers, Rachel and Megan talked to teenagers about the workshop. There is a lengthy application for Lead On! But, before we left, some youth were already filling it out. Applicants should know fairly soon if they are accepted to the program. Due to Matson’s generous contributions, several teenagers from Golovin, Elim and White Mountain should financially be able to attend.

Bonding with some teens in White Mountain.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Where is Mac?

Now that the 'Dog Page' on the Dog Log is somewhat unavailable on line, it is not as easy to follow the stories while looking at the individual dog portraits and stats. We hope to fix that when the new website comes on line. But... until then: Who is currently in training?

We have been training 4 to 6 teams in the mornings. We are up and harnessing before daylight (sunrise was 6:50AM this morning.) The temperatures have been between 38 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Certainly not cold, but manageable with water breaks.

One dog who is not training with SP Kennel this season is Mac.

Mac moved in with Wes and Wendy during last season when it became obvious that his overheating issue was a long term condition. A true bummer for the SP Kennel race enthusiast. But, a awesome pet dog addition for the Brightmans. And although Mac might miss his time running in harness, he clearly enjoys his solo playtime, constant ear rubs and special attention.

From Wes and Wendy:
“Big Mac”, “Mac-a-doodle”, “Mac Daddy”. Everyone seems to have their own name for the popular and biggest dog in the SP Kennel yard. It’s amazing to see how small he was once upon a time. This spring, Aliy and Allen decided it was time for Mac to retire from racing.

Mac has had a wonderful career, retiring with three Yukon Quest championships and Iditarod top finishes under his harness. We were very excited to welcome Mac to our 5 acre farm. He starts each day with a morning patrol around the borders of the farm, checking on the overnight activities of the fox, moose, grouse, or squirrels; sniffing the peony flowers to see if they are ready for harvest. This is followed by a brisk run down the dog sled trail and around the moose pond. After breakfast, it’s a nap in the sun on the rug.

On very special days, (hot, sunny, summer days), Mac enjoys a swim in the pond. Yes, I did say “swim”. Generally, Alaskan Huskies aren’t crazy about getting wet. So what a surprise, when a few summers ago, Mac plunged into the water swimming after Tig the Labrador. Apparently he spent several summer walks watching Tig swim in the slough and thought it would be a great thing to try. Mac’s athletic build, large paws, and competitive nature make it a very entertaining sport for him.

Two weeks ago was special as Mac turned 8 years old on August 21. To celebrate, Mac had a trip to the pond, where he enjoyed a cool swim and a game of fetch. We are impressed with his diving skills, and included a video for you to admire.

Fall training has already started. Dog teams go past our house often. Mac watches each one, studying their technique, and barking out critiques to the young pups. We aren’t sure how he’ll react to a full season of watching teams on the trail, yet he seems quite content watching from a rug in the warm house. – Wendy/Wes

Monday, September 4, 2017

Western Alaska Recap

This is Aliy… checking in. The trip was amazing. Seriously amazing. I was extremely fortunate to be welcomed with open arms and big smiles to Golovin, Elim and White Mountain. It is hard to talk about each village in one post because they are three unique towns with their own spectacular individuals. But, I’ll try.

My school presentations were fun and exhausting. I spent all day at each school. I told my sister, who is the librarian at Two Rivers Elementary, that I can not imagine teaching every single day. Running Iditarod is tough but keeping up with the enthusiastic youth of Alaska is nearly impossible.

I read books to the youngest students. My favorite book to read the 1st through 2nd graders was the Itchy Little Musk Ox by Tricia Brown. It was especially poignant as there was a small herd of musk ox across Golovin Bay while I was there. I should mention that all the books I brought to the villages were purchased by ExxonMobil - so a big thanks to them!

Tricia Brown autographed her book for 'the herd in Golovin'; The kids loved it!

After the book reading, I asked the kids if they wanted to hear the names of my dogs. I got a resounding: YES!

After naming my dogs, I handed out a stuffed toy husky to each youngster K to 2nd grade (we had enough for Golovin and Elim.) The deal that I made with most of the youngsters is that they had to come up with a name for their pup. Then they could only bring home their pup if they wrote its name on a sheet of paper and gave it to me. Fair, right?

The names of the pups from the Golovin Kindergarten class are: Balto Sparky Moses, Sparky Balto Moses, Annie, Snowflake, Beauty, Max, KingKong and Douglas.
The names of the pups from White Mountain Kindergarten to 2nd grade are: Max, Kyeary, Apex, Raf, Champ, Steel, Teeny, Scooby, Strong, Bruno, Cinderella, Max(2), Nicole, Pink and Molly.
I didn't get any names from any preschoolers.

This pup is Molly; Pups stayed in 'kennels' until they were brought home.

I enjoyed all the names but “Matson” stood out the most since my sponsor, Matson shipping, was the one who donated these toy stuffed huskys. Thanks Matson! They were more of a hit that you could imagine.

I didn’t know that 3rd to 5th graders had as much energy as they do. If I did I would not have planned a “Iditarod Spelling Relay Race” at every school. I am not in my ‘best fitness’ currently so the relays wore me out. But… they were extremely fun. First off, I split up each class into random teams named: Kodiak, Commando and Scooby.

3-2-1 GO!

A child has to dress up in my mushing parka (yes… the real one), put on my fur hat and fur mitts. Then they (and I) raced together through willow bushes (other children with their hands in the air) to a chair on the other side of the gym. After sitting down, each kid needed to spell a word correctly then we ran back through the bushes (the bushes were a little more challenging to navigate than regular willow bushes with grabbing hands and tripping feet!) Each competitor then handed my mushing gear off to the next child on their team. We timed the teams and had 1st and 2nd (and sometimes 3rd.) Every team got awesome awards: Iditarod buttons and stickers. Thanks ITC for that donation!

There were not a lot of middle schoolers in any of the villages. But, I enjoyed sharing my personal videos from Iditarod as well as some of the Iditarod Insider videos. The ITC activated the schools’ Insider accounts so that I could show past videos. Everyone enjoyed watching me camped on the sea ice between Shaktoolik and Koyok! If they didn’t realize that I was crazy before that, they did then! I handed out books to these kids as well as Iditarod buttons.

The high school kids are a tough and independent bunch. Sadly, I didn’t have much time with them in Golovin. In Elim, they sat in on my community talk which basically talked about my amazing run of 2nd places finishes. But in White Mountain I had just a little more time and I talked for an hour to 8th through 12th graders. Many of us remember high school as a challenging time. Lots going on with our heads, our bodies and society catches up to us (or we catch up to it). Anyhow, the White Mountain youth were incredibly thoughtful as they asked me questions about how it really felt to come in 2nd place by 2 minutes and 22 seconds. They also asked the about the attack on me on the Yukon River last year. I was sincere in telling them that a victim never forgets, we bring our experiences along with us for the rest of our lives. It’s often very tough to view our negative experiences in a rational manner even though most of the world is a rational place. I will never forget what happened during the attack and I won’t downplay it either. It is simply a part of me now.

I did have several books for the high schoolers. The book that seemed to have much significance was “Never Quit” by Jimmy Settle and Don Rearden. As it turned out Don donated the books to my trip as well as autographing them for each village. This meant a lot to the kids. One teenager came running back in the room with the book pointing to Don’s autograph. Pretty cool!

Even though I may not have spent enough quality time with the high school kids, I was joined on this trip by two women from the Lead On! Workshop. Rachel and Megan spent a great deal of time speaking about healthy relationships, peer pressure and challenges of being a teenager. They also handed out applications to anyone interested in attending the Youth Leadership Conference in November. There are two scholarships available for each of the three villages. I sure hope that six kids decide to attend because we need some more Alaskan leaders from Western Alaska!

One final comment:
I have a soft spot in my heart for Golovin. For 17 years I have come through this little town with my dog team. I always thought that I had done my best to greet everyone who stood out and welcomed me. But, Golovin is not a Checkpoint so as racers we spend very little time there. While visiting, I actually timed me walking through Golovin along the Iditarod Route and it took only 5 minutes and 37 seconds to get through town at 3mph. So imagine a dog team trotting at even 7 mph. We are literally in and out of the little village in no time. Here is the iditarod route in the summer time. I sped it up to 7.5 mph “dog team” sped (with a little bit of mathematical assistance from my dad) and here you go. This is how long it takes an Iditarod Dog Team to realistically travel through Golovin:

Anyhow, on my Golovin visit a woman approached me and said that her 9 year old son was very upset that he had asked for my autograph this year and I hadn't give it to him. She said; “I guess you were in a rush.” I was shocked, embarrassed and upset. I guess I wasn’t surprised but it pained me to think that I had been so callous.

I asked where I could find her son. I didn’t know what I could do to make up for this stupid and insensitive mistake. When she brought me to him, he whispered in her ear. She stood up and said “I’m sorry, he said that he did get your autograph… it must have been someone else.”

I can not describe the few minutes of utter shame that I felt when I thought I had ignored the small request of a 9 year old Iditarod fan. Trust me when I say: I will never let that happen. If I come in second place (again) due to the fact that I stopped for 2 minutes in Golovin to sign a poster, it will feel no worse than I did for those few minutes in Golovin.

Friday, September 1, 2017

First Day in Harness for this Season

September 1st and it was 43 degrees F at 5:45AM. (That's 6 degrees C.) Perfect for Fall training.

Only Nutmeg, Bullet and Tig sat out this morning. Aliy, Allen, Wes and Jeff plus every other canine at SP Kennel took part in the training.

Some of the older, yet active dogs, were mixed in on the last team to run this morning. This isn't the best video we have ever produced... but you get the idea! Here we go:

Our website is now under construction. 
A brand new SP Dog Log will be up and running on October 1.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

White Mountain is a Cheerful Spot

From a Musher’s perspective:

It is a long, challenging run across Golovin Bay no matter what. The flat terrain (because it is the frozen ocean) has very few reference points to judge distance or depth. There are often no distractions for the dogs or Mushers. At this point in the race, distractions are nice.

Finally, the route comes off the ocean, overland and onto the Fish River. The teams generally gain enthusiasm from the terrain change, the windy river and veteran dogs know that just around the next corner… is White Mountain!

The final 1/4 mile into the Checkpoint, both dogs and Mushers can see dozens of village houses along the bluff above the river. Day or night, this is an exciting moment. Village dogs bark and spectators will yell and whistle.
Teams are parked on the frozen river. The village of White Mountain is spread out above them.

Boats are parked where the Iditarod Dog Teams usually park.

White Mountain is one of the best towns in the world for sledding downhill and the kids use sled, plastic, cardboard or their fannies to enjoy themselves. Villagers - youth and adults - come down to the parking area to see the teams come in and leave. The attitude of the Mushers is much different here than anywhere else on the route. A mandatory 8 hour rest stop means that no one has to make any strategic decision and no one can ‘sneak out’ before they are supposed to leave. Both Aliy and Allen enjoy White Mountain tremendously.

Aliy was in White Mountain all day Wednesday, August 30th.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Elim is Wonderful

From a Musher’s perspective:

An Iditarod dog team is nearing the village of Elim after it reaches Moses Point. Moses Point is a summer fish camp along the ocean that is completely abandoned in March. After the trail passes by fish nets decorated with icicles and boats upturned to the weather, it gets on an unplowed road leading to Elim.

The road is very protected and there are even trees and bushes that add a sense of security if windy conditions arise. But there are also many hills along the trail between Moses Point and Elim. For a tired dog team these hills are huge mountains, for energetic teams this are just small mounds. At the crest of the last hill driveways appear on both sides of the road and the teams are usually greeted, day or night, by barking dogs. “Who is in my neighborhood?”

The trail then runs downhill and into the heart of the village. The Checkpoint building is in the village Firehall surrounded by houses and cabins. The people of Elim come to see the Mushers and visit and talk about trail conditions and weather - always important topics! Aliy usually stays in Elim just long enough to take a quick nap and feed the team a big meal. Allen and the Black Team will stay longer and enjoy the hospitality.

Aliy asked everyone to sign Iditarod Posters; Spelling Bee "Iditarod" Relay.

The exit trail from the Elim depends on how thick the sea ice is. Some years the ice is poor or nonexistent along the village shoreline so the route will follow the Old Mail Trail on land and through the hills. If the ice is good, then the trail leaves Elim directly onto the frozen sea and parallels the shoreline until leaving the sea to climb Little McKinley.

Aliy will be in Elim all day Tuesday, August 29th.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Golovin is a Special Place

From a Musher’s perspective:

The little town is a bit of a hurdle near the end of the race. From high above Golovin, a Musher can look down from the summit of Little McKinley. It is visible from very far off, down and across the frozen bay. The route down to the bay can be treacherous, along a slippery side slope often accompanied by gusty winds. There is a small shelter cabin half way down the mountain. Besides that small shelter, there are no trees, rocks or hummocks to hide from the weather. Once the trail reaches the frozen ocean, the conditions can vary. On ‘easy’ years there is plenty of snow cover on the sea ice and the trail markers show the way across the bay into town. On ‘challenging’ years there is no snow on top of crystal clear and smooth sea ice. Neither the dogs nor Mushers have traction and wind gusts have pushed entire teams miles across the bay to the shoreline on the far side. Dog teams have also stalled out here on the frozen ocean. It can be an intimidating place.

From several miles out on the sea ice, during the day, the colorful village houses stand as contrast to the white winter landscape. During the night, the welcoming glow of “city” lights spreads across the horizon. A dog team gets excited day or night.
Upon reaching Golovin, the race route climbs up off the bay and enters the center of the small town. More often than not, children stand at the spot that Mushers come of the sea ice and greet them. Some Mushers stop, some Mushers don’t. Aliy and Allen always stop. They enjoy the welcome and sign posters, jackets, give hugs and say “Howdy!”
Usually, only minutes later, the teams are ready to go. The route follows the main street through the middle of town. Often there are people, dogs, travelers or perhaps… no one. A few hundred yards later the route turns sharply left, off the street and zigs across a clearing then drops back down onto the sea ice. Golovin is now behind.
Iditarod Mushers do not generally spend any more than the few minutes it takes to travel down Main Street.

Aliy will be in Golovin all day today, Monday, August 28th.

Greetings from Nome

Nome is the central hub for many outlying villages. It seems strange and backward… but Aliy is in Nome before being Golovin, Elim and White Mountain?!?!

While in Nome she is visited retired SP Kennel husky, Hotshot, and his new family. This was their first reunion post retirement ans lets be honest... Hotshot is in LOVE with Mallory.

Aliy took a few moments to swing by the Nome Women’s Shelter talk to some ladies there and enjoyed fresh bluberry pie with coffee.

Aliy is staying with Curtis and Kamey - THANKS GUYS!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Aliy makes a trip to Western Alaska

Throughout the month of March, the Iditarod takes over the 1,000 mile Iditarod National Historic trail. During February the race route is planned, staged, coordinated, marked and even groomed for dog teams. The Iditarod staff, volunteers, Iditarod Air Force and the trail breakers travel village to village establishing the race route. Then - - BAM! - - ten days of March zoom by and so do the Iditarod dog teams. In the many villages, the route is down Main Street; passing by houses, post offices, clinics, shops and schools.

But Iditarod National Historic trail is not just used by Iditarod mushers. As a matter of fact, the mushers are more like guests. The Southern Route Iditarod map (left) shows how the trail links many towns and villages. The Northern Route and the Fairbanks Route connect even more villages. The Iditarod trail is, in fact, the highway many Alaskans use on a daily basis. A lot of villages in rural Alaska have no road access, but they do have trail access. Villagers travel along this trail just like folks around the world travel on their local roads and highways: they visit neighbors, go to the store, go to school, travel to birthday parties and celebrations or simply ‘go on a drive’ along the Iditarod trail. Much of the trail can only be traveled after freeze up by snowmachine (Alaskan terminology for snowmobile.) But there are also sections that are used during the summer months by boat. The Yukon River is both a summer and winter super highway, as are the bays and waterways along the western coast.

The Mushers of the Iditarod dog teams that are racing for the top places do not spend much time resting in any one place. Their ‘run-rest’ schedules are calculated from the start and they stop at strategic locations. Sometimes these rest breaks are in villages, but never for very long. So socializing with locals is often limited simply because of time constraints. John Baker, Iditarod Champion and Kotzebue resident, is very conscious of this fact. He will come into a village, be swarmed by well-wishers and fans and immediately say: “I need to tend to my dogs first then I will happily talk to you all." Some mushers have learned from John or have their own routine to interact with folks as much as they can. There are also Mushers whose less competitive race strategy gives them more rest time in village checkpoints. These Mushers often spend more time visiting with locales. All of this is very important to the Iditarod.

The reality is that Iditarod Mushers need the support of the villages. Yes… many mushers are incredibly tough and can handle challenging situations on their own - often navigating the trail with very few village stops. But as the saying goes: "You never know what's going to happen." In the past, mushers have been forced to take extended refuge in villages due to impassable storms or because their teams needed an unplanned rest. Both Aliy and Allen have spent over 24 hours in the village of Shaktoolik due to winter storms.

So, the fact is that Aliy has been welcomed by the amazing people who live along the Iditarod Trail for the last 17 years. In nearly two decades, on any given year, she has never spent more than:

  • several minutes passing through the tiny town of Golovin
  • a few hours in hours in Elim
  • 8 (ish) hours in White Mountain 

Therefore the time has come for her to say “Thanks!

The Dogs are ready to be packed and head out West!

With the financial support of her primary sponsor Matson, and the logistical support of Golovin, Elim, and White Mountain, Aliy will visit travel to each village, visit with the communities and give school presentations from August 28th until the 30th.

For this trip, Aliy is bringing with her: husky stickers (donated by Verizon), “Iditarod” notepads, buttons and DVDs (donated by ITC), stuffed toy huskies (donated by Matson), a set of 17 Iditarod Education Programs and other Alaskana books for each village (compiled by Tricia Brown and purchased by ExxonMobil) and personalized Jeff Schultz Iditarod posters (donated by ExxonMobil.)

Aliy is also bringing with her the heartfelt ‘Thanks’ from many of her Iditarod competitors who would like to offer their tremendous gratitude for everything that the wonderful people of Golivin, Elim and White Mountain do for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

We will try to update this story often and post photos from her trip.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Getting prepared for Sept 1

One week out! It's pretty exciting to think that our 2017 - 2018 mushing season is about to begin. The Fall season is in Two Rivers is definitely upon us and the dogs know it. There is cool moisture in the air and the mornings are brisk. Check out the weather forecast for the next week:

There is quite a 'to do' list that we still need to do check off before we are fully prepared for harness and hook up next Friday:

  1. Check the ATV 4 wheelers - we have used them very little in the last 9 months in comparison to the many, many miles we will put on them in the next few months. So, oil change, tire check and all around vehicle inspections are needed.
  2. Check training mainlines - we need to look through all the tug lines and snaps. Our training lines get lots of wear and tear from mud, ice and grime.
  3. Check harnesses - we use Howling Dog Harnesses and a "no neck line" system. The dogs are not limited by a second leash attached to their collar so they can run forward or backward and they can face any direction they choose. This system obviously requires a lot of training and patience. Good etiquette and manners doesn't happen overnight. The first month of Fall training is more about team union and expectations that mileage. HERE is an older post about harnesses.
  4. Size harnesses - we have small, medium, large and xtra large harnesses. Body shape and weight both play into what size an individual will wear.
  5. Make dog team rosters - the first few training runs we pair mature dogs with some of our more energetic youth. If we can help it, we like to put dogs into teams that all live in the same area of the yard. That way, after the run, we can let them all loose to run back to their houses and the 'put away' is much easier.
  6. Determine a start time - we will have some new help at SP Kennel this season so we want to start the dogs as well as the mushers off on the right feet (paws.) The best time for a husky to train is when it is coolest... thus very early! We will see how excited the crew is to start harnessing at "Oh Dark Thirty"!
Here is a look at a National Weather Service chart showing temperature fluctuation throughout a 48 hour period for Two Rivers, Alaska. We monitor this chart as well as other weather service data:

NOTE: On Sept 2 we will have a brand new list starting with all the stuff we forgot on Sept 1!

Monday, August 21, 2017

SPK Retirees Enjoying Recreational Mushing

Sometimes when we retire dogs from SP Kennel they are not always ready to go to a couch. We have been known to retire dogs from long distance racing to a local dog-first recreational kennel and one such kennel belongs to Rod, Julie and Edie, just a few miles from SPK.

Over the last 10 years, we have retired Zorro (edit: not Zorro Mackey), Skittles, Butterscotch, Spoog, Tatfish, Fang, Moxie, Bonita and Shiner to Rod, Julie and Edie's care.

Skittles and Moxie lead the team in spring 2016 -- Skittles' last race. 
Julien Schroeder photo

From Julie and Rod...

"When SP Kennel recently reposted their December 2008 video subtitled “Go get Tatfish,” it made me laugh. Tatfish hasn’t changed at all. (Photo on left.) He’s been at our kennel just a couple miles down the road for a few years, and we still have to hook him up last because his exuberance usually leads to tangles. He’s still a sweet, funny, playful boy — in fact we designed a corner of the dog yard with him in mind so he always one, or three, other dogs to play with all the time. Last year, Tatfish made it onto Edie’s Junior Mushers team and loved being able to go all out for 6 or 7 miles. Edie’s team, made up of more-or-less retired distance dogs, will never be able to compete with the top sprint kennels she’s running against, but she, and they, have a great time."

"We’ve been fortunate enough to share our home with several SP Kennel dogs over the years. They are the oldest — Zorro at 17-plus years (photo on right is Zorro napping in the kitchen) — and the youngest, Shiner, 6, in our kennel and still form the core of our team. Zorro, despite his advanced years, is the first one at hand if there’s food around.
Zorro shares a big pen with Freddie and Butterscotch and is either eating, sleeping or walking. He still doesn’t have an off switch."

"Butterscotch and his sister Skittles are the best two dogs we have ever had, and may ever have, in our team, as well as two of the sweetest. Skittles is a full-time house husky now. (Photo on left is Skittles helping pick blueberries.) She usually sleeps in Edie’s room or one of the dog beds in the living room and has the full run of the house and yard. She knows Grandma across the street always has a biscuit handy. Her favorite perch is the rug by the kitchen sink when I’m cooking. I’m a messy cook and she’s happy to help clean what I drop. Butterscotch will come inside if it’s cold, but he much prefers to be outdoors hanging out with Freddie."

"Spoog and Moxie are our two go-to leaders, and are also easily the loudest dogs in the yard. They can hear the ladle hitting the edge of the bucket before we even open the front door to feed, and will let everyone in the neighborhood know that supper is coming. Spoog is also one of the most powerful dogs in the yard, something I’m usually reminded of on the first run of the season as I rub the grass stains off my chin after hooking him up. Moxie is currently excavating a basement apartment for his dog house. Or looking for buried treasure. Or burying a few more dog bowls. Anything to get more attention. (Photo above is Moxie admiring his deconstruction work.) "

"Our other two SP Kennel expats are Fang and Bonita. Both are strong, steady team dogs. We tried to convince Bonita that she wanted to be a mom, but no puppies. Instead, she’s the kennel’s fun police and lets us know if Tatfish and the others in the play corner are having too much fun.
Or if Edie and her friends are in the backyard.
Or the wind is blowing.
Or the cat is on the back deck.
You get the idea."

Friday, August 18, 2017

Catching up with Scruggs

Aliy and Allen were in Anchorage for a few hours this past week and were able to catch up with Scruggs.

Thankfully, he now is quite easy to "catch up" with at his new home. Scruggs, his new furry BFF, Molly, and Barbara are all happy and healthy. The threesome are getting along great and have gotten used to each other's habits with only a few quirks. Scruggs seems very content at this loving home.

Yup... he has jumped 4 paws into his retirement.

Scruggs and Allen pose in the backyard; Molly says "What about ME?!?"

Scruggs has no physical signs of being gone from home for those 2 weeks. His rear toenails were quite worn down originally, but have grown back some now. He seems more comfortable with the sounds of the neighborhood and truly enjoys his own backyard. Scruggs, Molly and Barbara are a great family. Molly is very patient with her "new man" as he rips the squeaky out of most of her squeaky toys. Apparently Scruggs is more of a natural bone kinda guy. Not surprising.

Bone euphoria; Molly and Scruggs at the front window Look Out.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Flashback Weekend - December 2008

We were looking back through the Dog Log yesterday because longtime kennel sponsors Tom & Cindy Eckhoff were visiting. They have seen the kennel grow from a small time wilderness dog team to what we are today and seeing some of that history was kinda fun.

There are so many great stories, videos and photos on this website. The "search" tool on the left hand side helps find stories on specific dogs, locales or races. If you ever have a spare moment or two, you can learn a lot about SP Kennel, dog mushing and the many, many stories about the individual athletes of SP.

SP Kennel only really started producing such interesting and interactive content when our good friend and world traveler, Macgellan, stepped into the picture. He always said "it's all about the dogs". He was right. His fun interaction with the dogs, camera gear and the internet was something new and different for the dog mushing world. Macgellan put a lot of time and effort into reporting for us on this website for several years and luckily... we have much of that content in the history here on the SP Kennel Dog Blog.

This video one of our all time favorites. Macgellan was simply trying out his new camera - he had some difficulties early on with cold weather, durability and camera gear. Since he was outdoors constantly and videoing everything, he caught some pretty great footage.

DECEMBER 8, 2008
FLASHBACK - - - For Tatfish (and my new camera)...

While I've been pleasantly surprised, frankly, at how well my photo gear has held up under the demanding conditions here in the Interior Alaskan winter, I have to admit that it has been a bit of a struggle from time to time.

So, while I was in Fairbanks the other day I shopped for a camera that is more "purpose built" for the cold, snow, etc., than my existing gear. I found one by Olympus called the "Stylus 1030 SW" -- the "SW" stands for "Shock and Water Proof" -- and it is supposed to operate in temperatures down to -10 degrees. Hoping for the best, I bought it and determined to put it to the test right away.

As Aliy and Allen were getting ready to head out on a training run yesterday, I noticed a small rock in the Kennel's exit chute. With the claim of "shock and water proof" in mind, I propped my new camera down on the snow in front of it, hoping to get some footage from an unusual perspective. Actually, I was still just hoping for the best.

By now you know that the dogs are pretty excited to get going just before a run, some of them to the extent that we have to hook them up at the very last second or they will make a tangled mess out of the team. This is particularly true for Tatfish. For reasons that you will see, this little video is dedicated to Tatfish and my new camera, both of whom deserve better than they get!

Special thanks to Jonathan Coulton -- who somehow always has just the song I need! -- for the use of "Why Don't You Take Care Of Me?"


Friday, August 11, 2017

Summer Dogs

The last few weeks we have been enjoying the summer in Two Rivers. This year the temperatures have been warm and the Dog Walks have often involved a pond or creek. The 'countdown' to harness training is on the calendar, so enjoy the summer while you can kids!

Here are two fun videos:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Birthday Secrets

Five years ago today Olivia and Nacho had their first litter of puppies: Kodiak, Dutch, Junior and Lydia. The four adults that they have become are phenomenal sled dogs and companions. They are often in lead of the very best SPK teams and have tremendous futures ahead. Even better than that, each dog is a superb individual with loving and happy temperament. They are the very best kind of dog to have either pulling your sled down the trail or sleeping next to your Lazy Boy recliner. Happy Birthday kids!

Thanks to the Secrets dedicated Dog Sponsors: Trish, Sue, Cliff & family and the Chaffins. As well as all their enthusiastic Dog Fans!

And then there's Tig! Tig came to the kennel as a 7 week old pup when we had a small number of retired in-house sled dogs. We thought... "Why not shake things up around here and get a Lab?" She has been doing that for 9 years - shaking things up. Happy Birthday girl.

The differences between huskys and labs are sometimes vast - even though they have grown up in the same environment. The huskys LOVE to pull, run like the wind, work as a pack, howl enthusiastically and don't particularly care for water. The lab doesn't pull, trots down the trail with a hurky-jerky gait, is somewhat a loner, can't comprehend ~ much less attempt to howl - and would love to swim and fetch sticks all day long. And oh yea... don't forget about the squirrels.

We have to admit that the two dog breeds sometimes rub off on each other. For instance, Quito now runs into the forest wherever Tig is and immediately looks into the trees (for squirrels.) Of course Quito would immediately eat it - not fetch it - if she ever got one. And Mac, after years of watching Tig fetch sticks, has taken to the water. He even "swims for fun" now.

But, the funniest sight is to watch Tig as she is surrounded by 50 huskys howling. The sound is awesome and deafening. Tig just sits there dumbfounded. She looks like Allen and Aliy standing at a concert in Stockholm, Sweden. What the heck are these guys saying?! After 9 years, Tig still can't howl ~ even Allen could learn some Swedish in 9 years!!!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Yukon Quest 2018 Sign Ups

Thus past Saturday, August 5th, Allen's official Yukon Quest entry paperwork was turned in for the running of the 2018 Yukon Quest.

As always, there is a grand celebration at both YQ Offices - Fairbanks and Whitehorse - While Allen would have loved to have been present, he and Aliy were on the train in Denali and he was not able to be in two places at one time. So, Kaz joined the YQ festivities and was Allen's "Proxy". She officially sign him up for his 8th running of the Yukon Quest.

Thanks Kaz!

It takes enormous effort to run the Yukon Quest from more than just the sled dogs and mushers. There are many people who make this race possible for Allen and his awesome team. We know that here will be many challenges, hurdles and adventurous miles ahead ~ and then the race starts!

We can never thank our YQ handling crew, support staff and kennel care takers enough for all they do in order to make the Yukon Quest happen for SP Kennel. You know who you are... THANK YOU ALL! We are looking forward to a new year and a new race.

Izzy, Allen and Mismo 2017 YQ 3rd place; Allen & Aliy at Two Rivers Checkpoint.

Kaz was also able to be "Proxy" for Aliy and signed her team up for the Yukon Quest 300. Apparently Kaz has the ability to be two people at once!