Tuesday, February 28, 2017

ID: Vet Checks

Thanks to Dr Dawn Brown, Vet Assistant Mara Renneberg and the whole team at North Pole Veterinary Hospital for doing our pre-Iditarod vet checks yesterday! 40 dogs in and out of the surgery could have been quite a disruption to normal service so we really appreciate how smoothly and seamlessly it all went.

Kodiak charms Dr Brown; Schmoe has range of motion tested

Each dog that starts the Iditarod will have passed through a rigorous testing regime to ensure they are fit to be there.

Yesterday's check was a thorough physical exam testing general attitude, vitals such as temperature and weight, listening to their heart and breathing plus for any musculo-skeletal including range of motion and any rubs or bumps. Vaccinations and worming status is checked to ensure everyone is fully covered. See right for the full list.

The results from yesterday are combined with the ECG and blood testing from late last week to give the Iditarod vet team a complete picture of every dog.

We took all our potential starters, including our "back-ups" to ensure that, come Monday, we have a big enough pool to choose from and we can get the healthiest, fittest teams out on the trail.

Ginger has range of motion tested; Violet patiently waits her turn with Aliy

Ginger plays "sled dog statue" for her heart check; Junior getting some love

Cayenne has her check while channelling her inner show-dog; good boy Kodiak

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Burger Run

Thanks to the Two Rives Dog Mushers Association for putting on the Burger Run yesterday. It was a small field of mushers and a few skijourers but I'm sure we all had fun. Thanks to Angel Creek Lodge for hosting the after party and for the great burgers! Thanks also to all the sponsors of spot prizes that meant everyone walked away with some goodies.

Gorgeous huh?

The trail was beautiful! We do live in a gorgeous corner of the world, even thought we don't have the mountains and glaciers that other parts of Alaska do. I like Two Rivers just fine! The trail was pretty slow due to the fresh snow and it continued to fall during the afternoon. We stopped quite a few times to check for snow-filled booties, untangle tug lines and snack on salmon (I didn't have salmon, I held out for the burger).

Snack and yoga break beside the Chena River

Nacho was our pace keeper for the run, he's not such a fast dog but the pace he set was perfect for the warm temperatures and the soft trail. He's such a happy dog, it was great to have him lead us. Quito quite simply is the best dog in the world. She loped pretty much the entire way and I knew she could get us out of any difficulty we might find ourselves in. I loved that I could mush right into the carpark of the lodge, go around another parked truck and get the team right in-between our truck and another. She just knows.

Five is a strong boy and pulled hard; but, his pooping caused a few tangles. He stopped the whole team on occasion and inevitably someone stepped over the line or got caught up somehow. Woody wanted to be in front I think but stayed behind Mama Quito and backed her up beautifully. He's such a good dog. Hotshot pulled relentlessly the entire way. How a dog can pull that hard and not let up is amazing to me.

Ernie and Cayenne were well matched in gait and temperament. They just got on with what they were doing and looked good doing it. At one stage during one of Five's poop stops, Ernie got his leg tangled and couldn't get himself upright. Instead of panicking and getting in a worse predicament he looked to me, listened to me when I calmly told him I was on my way, "hang on a minute buddy, I'm coming" and he lay there patiently waiting for me to put the snow hook in and run up to free him. It's nice when a dog trusts you that much.

Jefe is so strong. He runs like you might expect a body builder to run as he is so muscled up. He was happy and enjoyed running next to his sister Dancer. Dancer hasn't had much experience passing or being passed by other dog teams and can't decide whether to yell at them or dive out of the way of them so does both. Because we got passed by a number of teams she got a lot of practice and I could see her confidence increasing each time. She is very vocal at other times also and has a lot to say for one so young.

This video is from a number of sources and using different devices - thanks Kaz, Padee and Linda

I tried to help the team out as much as I could by pedalling up any hills or rises. Sometimes I did help, other times my foot would disappear to my knees. And, I only fell off once - right at the last GEE into the Lodge - but luckily no one saw us so I brushed off all the snow on my face and continued on like I knew what I was doing. The dogs did look at me though: "What? You fall now?"

Thanks to Chris for handling for me and for a bunch of people that came to cheer me on, take pictures or video, or help get me to the start line: Kaz, Padee, Tami, Madi, Mykena, Linda and Allen, and Aliy for entrusting a few potential Iditarod dogs to me one week before the start. Yikes.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Moira, Quito and a Hamburger!

Once upon a time, in the little town of Two Rivers, the adventure of a lifetime began!

With the Iditarod approaching fast, Moira and Quito lead a team out for the fun community event - the "Burger Run". They left Pleasant Valley Store at a little after 11 today for a 30 mile run to Angel Creek Lodge. The Fairbanks area is now under a winter weather warning, but although it was warm, the start was BEAUTIFUL! The weather held off for the start but snow started coming down about half way though.

Padee and I headed out the road and were able to get some nice video and photos. Then, she and Chris took the dog truck out to Angel Creek to meet Moira and the team for their kibble, meat and hamburgers. (I believe the hamburgers were for the humans, but you never know!!)

The team gets a meaty-watery pre-race snack; getting ready

Moira had a wonderful time getting out on the runners before she is once again tethered to the computer for the duration of the Iditarod.

Bootying; Lead dogs Nacho and Quito

- Kaz

Video and more to come tomorrow.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Two Rivers "Burger Run" Tomorrow!

Moira is taking a team in the Two Rivers Dog Mushers Association's Burger Run tomorrow!

She will be taking a team of nine: Quito, Nacho, Woody, Hotshot, Five, Cayenne, Ernie, Dancer and Jefe.

It starts at the Pleasant Valley Store and follows the Yukon Quest trail (in reverse) to the Angel Creek Lodge where the musher and handler enjoy a burger at the end of the race; hence "The Burger Run". The route is around 30 miles and Chris will handler for her. We have had significant snow fall over the last couple of days and more expected tomorrow so it is likely to be a slow, wet run.

There will also be about 60 fatbikers, skiers, and runners using parts of the trail for the Chena River to Ridge Endurance race that day so there will be a real mixture of transportation types out on the trail.

Costumes optional.

ID: Blood Draw and ECG

Yesterday afternoon we took 44 dogs to have their blood drawn and ECGs completed ready for the Iditarod. All dogs that start the race, either the Ceremonial or the Restart, must be approved by Iditarod Head Vet Dr Stu Nelson and his team as fit and healthy enough to start 1000 miles. (Of course, there are vet teams at every checkpoint along the way to assess their fitness and health enough to continue.)

Chena has her ECG; Rodney gets blood drawn, Woody has his ECG

We follow Izzy in this video as she has her blood drawn and the ECG done and listen as Sabrina and Tabitha explain what they are doing.

Thanks to the team of volunteers vet techs who travel to Fairbanks to do the testing for all the interior's Iditarod teams. They are all so caring and gentle with our team, especially the nervous-nellies that need some extra calming.

Back L-R: Allen, Wendy, Sabrina, Harmony and Tabitha; Front L-R: Moira, Aliy, Spark (1), Spark (2) and Laura - thanks to Samantha also

Thursday, February 23, 2017

YQ: Dogs Stretch Out

After the Yukon Quest, the 12 dogs that crossed the finish line hung out in the barn for a few days before stretching their legs for quick fun-runs (Daisy and Nomex were already rearing to go when they got home having already had a few days off).

This is one of those runs, just a couple of miles around the field. These are slow runs punctuated with many stops and a chance to shake off any stiffness and stretch out.

The dogs are now back into "proper" training for the Iditarod but we thought you might enjoy seeing this. See how they mush right back into the barn?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

ID: Anchorage Hotel Details


We are now staying at the Extended Stay - MIDTOWN. Contact details for Linda Steiner stay the same. See you there!


Come join us in Anchorage for the Iditarod festivities!

While in Anchorage the entire SP Kennel Crew of dogs and humans will be staying at the Extended Stay Anchorage - Midtown.

Stay with us and you might get to meet the dogs and the crew! We will let you know the schedule for when we "drop the dogs" (actually: lift them down very carefully) from the truck during Thursday and Friday for feeding and walking, so come and visit with us. We would love to see you!

Please email Linda Steiner at: Lsteiner@esa.com for bookings, pricing and availability. Write "SP Kennel Fan" in the subject line.

We will keep this button in the 'fan zone' (left hand side) of the blog that links you to more information and contact details.

There are no plans for a public "Meet and Greet" while in Anchorage but you can see us at the Starting Banquet on Thursday evening or at one of the trucks at the Ceremonial Start on 4th Avenue on Saturday morning.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

YQ: Black Team Wrap-Up

Amber was definitely the main cheerleader of the bunch. There was not a time when we got ready to go that she did not jump in harness, even at the finish line. That was her attitude that whole way though and I wish we had 14 dogs with that kind of attitude.

Champ was always steady, always pulling. Even though he had some gastro-intestinal issues that caused him to lose a little energy, he still had a great appetite and he always pulled.

Chipper's (right) name serves her well in that she is always cheery and chipper. She works really well running in wheel running underneath the line; however, I suspect she would rather be up front leading the way. She has led me as a two year old in the Iditarod so we will move her around in the team more in the future.

Daisy is a little girl that sometimes tries too hard, it's good and bad in that her back is always bowed going as hard as she possibly can but sometimes she hurts herself. That's what happened in this years Quest. After 300 miles she tweaked her back leg and I needed to leave her behind. Hopefully in the future she can settle down just a little bit, not too much, but just enough to keep from hurting herself.

Commando (left) was a main leader for more than half the race. He has a lot of drive. Commando has a lot of race miles under his belt being three years old and already run four 1000 mile races. He was always in command (his name fits him) and he is happy. He looks to you for acknowledgement and guidance.

Dutch is definitely a pretty serious dog, he was in the lead at least a third of the time. He's a no-nonsense "nothing really bothers him" dog and he really just wants to please you. He was very even tempered in this race.

Felix finally gets to finish a competitive 1000 mile race. In the past he has had intestinal but this year we were able to keep that under control. Hopefully we can continue to keep his stomach issues under control and he will prove to be a valuable asset to our team, just like his papa Biscuit.

Izzy (below left) is definitely one of our mature dogs and is a mature leader. When everyone else got a little tired of being up in lead I put her up there in the last 200 miles so she could pull us over all the hills. She is strong headed, strong willed and there's definitely "no quit in Izzy".

Mismo (below right) the biggest dog in the yard with the biggest head and probably the biggest drive. He led most of the race and that says everything about a dog when they lead for long periods. He listens to you and he responds in kind to that. He ate well and he ran well.

Junior works hard! It was hard to know that she was even in the team just because she was always pulling. She never got into trouble, never bothered anyone; all she did was put her nose down and go. She's definitely a good leader but I did not use her in that position. We will change that in the future.

Kodiak was the leader I started out with and ran 400 miles up front. He, too, is pretty strong headed, however, when the scent of a pretty girl is in the air his mind goes south and that's why he was taken out of the lead. He began to bother whoever was next to him after that, whether male or female. But, all-in-all he is a great, steady dog.

Nomex the big-headed dog. Nomex is yet to finish 1000 mile race but he tries really hard. Sometimes that's the problem, dogs like that can hurt themselves a bit quicker. He started head-bobbing and he had a tricep that got sorer and sorer until I had to carry him the last 50 miles into Dawson. Hopefully next race he will have learned from that and make it to the finish line.

Rodney is probably the most surprising out of the whole group. He is two years old and had never done much as far as racing. That being said, because of his appetite he thrived. There was not a morsel of food that went by him that was not eaten. With that gives a dog energy and keeps him going which it did Rodney. He was always happy to go and it was all due to his appetite - we could only wish for all of our dogs to have an appetite like him.

Sparkie (below) is another three year old that is like Amber in that he was another cheerleader. I ran them next to each other and one would feed of the other and just make the whole team and musher much happier than they would have been without him.

The race went well overall. However I wish I could have seen what their real potential was but due to the gastro intestinal issues mid-way in the race I rested the team a lot more and didn't really find out what they are really capable of. I know they have a lot of potential; they are a really good team and there is a lot more racing in these dogs. Hopefully it is the start of something really special.

Thank you to all the volunteers and officials, the vet team, logistics and both boards for putting on this special race. Thanks to our handlers and those back at home. We couldn't do it without you.

Thanks also to the visual content team of Whitney, Chance, Julien and Steve for the wonderful images and for letting us use them!

Monday, February 20, 2017

ID: Join the Iditarod Team

Thank you to all our Red Team and Black Team members! We appreciate your support and couldn't do what we do without you.

If you are not already a Team Member now would be a good time. If you "Join The Team" before February 26 we will be able to post your team membership packet out to you before the Iditarod and you will receive an "End of the Trail" postcard from Nome. Memberships received after then will have their packets after the Iditarod and the postcard will be sent from Pleasant Valley Store and Trailside Mail in Two Rivers.

This year we will be printing out lists of all Red Team and Black Team members to ride in the sled with Aliy and Allen so you will be virtually travelling down the Iditarod trail.

The Red Team membership thank you packet has a new design SP Kennel t-shirt and you can "upgrade" your membership for an extra $15 and we will include an iconic SP Kennel red beanie. Note: beanies are not available on their own, you can only get one through the upgraded team membership.

Our Black Team membership thank you packet has a cotton tote which is great for carrying a laptop, your lunch or some groceries or, indeed, anything you want. You can upgrade your membership of the Black Team also and receive a black SPK beanie.

To become a team member you can hit the "Join the Team" button on the left at any time during the season, or you can hit this one now:

Sunday, February 19, 2017

ID: In The Meantime... Drop Bags

While the final stages of the Quest were playing out, the Iditarod food drop bags were due. Although the race was nearly three weeks away at that time, it is a huge logistical exercise to get them all to the desired checkpoint via the Iditarod Airforce and an army of volunteers.

It is very often said that "it takes a village" to run all aspects of this kennel. Iditarod drop bags takes that to the extreme!

Clothing, dog coats, equipment sorted checkpoint by checkpoint

Here's a few of the tasks:
  • Cutting 40-50lb blocks of poultry skins and beef, and whole salmon into snack size portions.
  • Bagging said snacks into ziplocks in batches of 16
  • Packing booties for down the trail - at this early stage we do not know the make up of the teams so we pack to cover a whole range of sizes for dogs that might make the team
  • Bagging two different types of kibble into meal size packs
  • Rolling and packing fat balls - this is pure fat that the dogs LOVE if it is cold
  • Assembling vet packs to distribute down the trail. These include vet wrap, massage oil, foot ointment and athletic tape among other things. Our mushers will use these packs to replenish the supplies they carry with them
  • Cooking and bagging human snacks and meals. Allen takes bacon, banana oatmeal bars and nuts as snacks plus vacuum sealed meals of chicken pesto (right), moose and sweet potato lasagne and meatballs with tomato or alfredo sauce. We also include a few unexpected treats to surprise him along the trail. Aliy takes various energy bars (thanks Clair), chicken pesto meals and other snacks. We pack freeze dried packet meals for camping stops where a microwave or oven are not available.
  • Assembling hand and foot warmer packs that include hand wipes and tissues
  • Counting dog coats and blankets to send to checkpoints. Aliy and Allen will also be carrying coats with them and can use these ones to replace the ones that have that might get damp or if they need heavier fleece coats or lighter wind jackets.
  • Throw in spare harnesses, equipment, gloves, socks, hats and neck gators and there you have it!

Mushers must send a minimum of 50lb of food and equipment out to each checkpoint. This year Aliy shipped 1471lb and Allen 1467lb. Allen is expected to take longer to complete the race with youngsters and therefore will need more dog food while Aliy included more options for her mandatory 24 and 8 hour lay-overs hence the shipments were almost exactly the same weight.

All the dog food and snacks laid out (Scout does a quick check on his way past)

Wendy, Andy and Clara; Shelia and Scout measure kibble

A special thanks to everyone who contributed: Wendy, Chris, Ruth, Padee, Tami, Mykenna, Madi, Brian, Clair, Sheila, Andy, Clara, Lynne, Tom and Cindy. Also thanks to all the Red Team and Black Team members - we use some of the proceeds of our Join The Team program to fund our drop bags.

Mykena, Tami and Madi

Stacking the pallets with bags ready for shipment to checkpoints

Thank you to all the Iditarod volunteers for their hard work once we gave them our near 3000lb of food and equipment.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

YQ: Finishers' Banquet and Prizegiving

We had a wonderful celebration of the Yukon Quest last night at the Westmark Hotel in Fairbanks. Starting with music from The Rock Bottom Stompers and a chance to catch up with fellow mushers, handlers, friends and fans.

There was a lot of effort put into the table decorations with the napkins folded into dog bones, battery operated toy huskies, sponsor tote bags and first day covers from Quest's past.

Chris and Ruth; place setting

The Colours were presented by the UAF US Army ROTC followed by Theresa Bauer-Burger's powerful Canadian and US Anthems. Pastor Jim Hardenbrook delivered the Invocation and Don Honea, Traditional Chief of Doyon, Ltd - Tanana Chiefs Conference welcomed everyone to Fairbanks. Don himself was a Quest and Iditarod musher so understood the challenges the mushers faced. Karl Kassel, the Mayor of Fairbanks North Star Borough, who was a sprint musher, continued the welcome, as did Jim Matherly, Mayor of the City of Fairbanks. Jim admitted he is highly allergic to dogs but still appreciates their ability and loyalty from afar. LeRoy Shank, one of the founding fathers of the Quest was also there to say a few words.

Amazing cake by Michaela Gilly from Bella Noche Cakes; the program for the evening

We then were treated to a ten minute video put together by the Quest Visual Content Team that moved many of us. The whole room cheered for Ryne and her team over a raging Eagle Summit. Keep an eye on the YQ Facebook Page and You Tube Channel as they are sure to post it for us all to enjoy over and over.

Each musher took to the stage to thank their teams and tell some trail stories: spontaneous brownies on the trail, bigger summits than could be imagined, amazing hospitality and the "Quest Family". Matt Hall received a standing ovation as he went to the stage and Keeper and Anchor enjoyed their moment in the spotlight as Golden Harness winners.

Congratulations to all the other prizewinners at last night's Prizegiving. For a full account check out this excellent article on the Yukon Quest website.

Allen's 3rd place trophy

Aliy's 2nd place prize from Alaska Rod's