Tuesday, May 30, 2017

All Aboard!

Aliy and Allen are back onboard the Denali Wilderness Express Railroad adventure ride. Cruise ships guests board the luxury train at the Port in Whittier. Then they travel 10 hours north - through Turnagain Arm, across the Susitna Valley, and into the Alaska Range Mountains. The ride ends at the Denali National Park Railroad Depot.

The Mushers jump onboard just prior to Hurricane Gultch - a small flag stop depot southeast of the Alaska Range - and ride for approximately 2 1/2 hours. The train carries anywhere between 450 and 600 passengers. Aliy and Allen entertain all of the guests with their personal mushing stories. They also pass out postcard handouts (Schmoe and Chemo are the SuperStars on the handout this season.) Plus, a dozen lucky passengers receive SP Kennel souvenir t-shirts.

This train route only runs a couple days of the week from mid May until mid September.


Here is the front of the handout postcard that we are giving about 15,000 Princess and Holland America guests.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Coffee Break

We are enjoying the beginnings of summer in Two Rivers. We are rotating the dogs through our three 'Play Pens'. Today Decaf and Creamer were in Pen #1 and Rodney and Ginger in Pen #2. Scruggs and Sandy spent the afternoon in Pen #3.
Here is a fun video:

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

It's a dog's life

Spring and summer are excellent seasons to be a husky in Alaska. Granted, we are not going on thousand mile adventure trips across the state... BUT we are exploring the trails and forests in our own neighborhood. And sometimes, as people say, sticking around home is kinda fun. Right, dogs?

Yesterday, the morning group of dogs on the walk was: Mismo, Izzy, Champ, Chipper, Willie, Tig and Aliy. There was a minor miscommunication between Chipper, Izzy and Aliy. Chipper antagonized Izzy in the last 200 yards and the two rushed off together in a "huff". Aliy assumed they LEFT HER and ran the mile home to the kennel. The dogs know the way home. So, Aliy took the rest of the dogs home. But she was wrong! Chipper and Izzy only went around the curve in the trail. When they came back they realized Aliy had LEFT THEM!.

No one panicked. Well... Chipper is so high strung it would be hard to tell what her 'panic state' might be. But, we all met up 10 minutes later at the same spot we had "lost" each other. There were a few glares, eye rolls and 'what the heck did you do that for' moments. But then Izzy and Aliy both decided it was all Chipper's fault and the three trotted home.

The afternoon group was: QT, Amber, Commando, Felix, Olivia, Aliy and Wendy. After the first 5 minutes of Commando strutting his stuff and Felix coming out of his shell, the hour long walk went great. We even have photos!

The slough still has a little ice. The afternoon was beautiful.

Olivi and her kids; Commando and Amber smell the only green around.

L - R: That is Amber NOT a beaver; QT stares at the camera!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mothers' Day

Happy Mothers' Day to you all, whether your children are human or not!

To celebrate let's take a quick look back at some of our mothers being mothers.

Chica and her Five puppies

Five minutes with Five puppies

Olivia and her Fire Litter

Big O and the Fire Litter at three weeks

Quito with her Golf Litter

Quito and her Latinos

Video of the Latinos at one week old

Quito and her Golden Harnesses

Quito and her Olympics

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Good with the Bad

In the previous post, I mentioned that we now have a half dozen retired dogs at SP Kennel. I did not mention ChaCha or Rambler in the post. Quite a few SP fans took notice of their absence and have since asked about them. I guess, in life, we are told to accept the good with the bad. But, honesty... sometimes sadness prevails over logic. Anyhow, I just couldn't get myself to write anything about the passing of these two great dogs. I will do that now.

ChaCha is no longer with us. Her life was amazingly full and she lived to be nearly 15 years old. She was an fantastic racing dog and a great ambassador for the sport. She lived out a full life at SP Kennel. Her favorite spot the last few months was snuggled in the coffee table crate that is in the center of the house. On top of the crate we would often set photos, fan mail or race paraphernalia. So she was the "center" of the kennel until her very last days.

HERE is a post that was published when ChaCha turned 14 years old. She was an exceptionally gifted sled dog, but she was also a sweet girl who loved everyone.

Most of all, we miss her generous kisses, her perky ears and her competitive bark. There isn't a day that goes by that we don't see her personality and physical traits as we look out at her offspring here at SP Kennel.

We were extremely fortunate to walk alongside such a phenomenal dog.

Rambler - Lamb chop - persevered for several years after being diagnosed with Cushings. This disease was not kind to him. He lost most of his hair and had to wear a long sleeved fleece jacket most of the time.

Rambler was able to travel with the team even in the end. He was present for the 2017 Iditarod Ceremonial Start in Anchorage and cheered loudly from the sidelines. He lived to be 9 1/2 years old and was a very happy soul despite his sickness.

HERE is a video of Rambler prior to Cushing's disease and HERE is a post about him after his health issues sidelined him from racing.

Rambler's legacy is a 2nd place finish in the Iditarod and a 1st place finish in the collection of dog toys. He absolutely loved his stuffed animal collection. Dr. Rose gave him his last stuffed animal just before he left us.

Rambler was most happy when he got a dog biscuit. He was our official biscuit "taste tester" and sampled every dog treat that came on the property.

Rambler reminded us that life is not always easy and can be short; but do your best to enjoy your biscuits while you can.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Hotshot finds a new Love

Each summer we retire select dogs from their SP Kennel racing careers. Our philosophy has always been and will always be: "the right home, for the right dog, at the right time". We are never in a hurry to "move dogs" and they will stay here until the timing is correct for them to leave. Of course, some dogs will never leave. But, the fact is: "We only have one couch, and Allen has to fit on it too!" So we try to keep our retired dog population living at SP Kennel to a minimum. At this time we have six older, non competitive dogs: Bullet (15 years), Nutmeg (13 years), Biscuit (12 years), Quito (11 years), Nacho (11 years) and Tig (9 years). We also have brother and sister: Scout and Olivia (10 years) who may or may not race next year.

It is with a mixed blessing to retire any SP Kennel dog. But the fact of the matter is that we are a competitive racing kennel. When we are truthful with ourselves (and with our fans), that fact needs to override the desire to keep every one of our awesome dogs and turn our kennel into a Alaskan Husky Fun House. Sounds "fun" but not real competitive, huh?

It is only because I spend a great deal of time finding the correct home for each retiree, that I am able to let these dogs go. Of course you know how much time we spend with each dog, so it is very emotional when the perfect home comes along! The "right home at the right time" has come along for Hotshot.

L - R: Mal and Hotshot in Anchorage before flying to Nome; Husky "helping" with Homework!

With Hotshot's move to his new home, he will be the center of the universe for a very neat young girl. Hotshot will bring great joy to Mallory and her family in Nome, Alaska. His life will be very different from his racing season earlier this year in which he competed in: the Cooper Basin 300, Two Rivers 200, Yukon Quest 300, Burger Run and Iditarod. Mallory and her Dad are very active skiers and enjoy the company of several huskys to pull them along. Mal's Dad sent me a photo of the pair on an adventure in the Arctic last winter. In every photo, Mallory was far in front. I asked him if he could ever keep up with his daughter. He laughed! He has been skiing with one older dog and he said that most of the time Mallory has to wait for him. I thought... "Hummmmm. I might have the perfect dog for you guys!" My only fear now is that Mallory will add Hotshot to her skijor team and poor Dad will be left even farther behind!

A photo from last winter - Mal waiting for Dad.

As I write this (and lecture myself this morning) let's all remember that it would be self-centered, and certainly not in the best interest of SP Kennel as a whole, to keep every dog all the time. So, hopefully you can smile at Hotshot's retirement from SP Kennel.

We have a few dogs retiring from the kennel this summer. I promise to keep you up to date.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Letters from young Fans

We LOVE to get letters and correspondence from our young fans. (We enjoy our older fans as well, but you are currently not the topic of conversation!) There are many schools across the country that have 'Iditarod Curriculums' ~ thus we receive a multitude of letters, small gifts and cards. It is amazing to read the notes of encouragement or essays explaining a child's passion or hobby or simply a drawing of their dog.

I have told this story before:
I had been racing Iditarod for several years and had placed well into the top 20. But in 2004, my race was poor and I came in 34th. (Thus far, that is my lowest finishing placement.) Anyhow, much more was expected of me by: me, my friends, my sponsors and fans. It was a bummer to cross the finish line with only 6 dogs in harness. I got a lot of letters from kids that year saying: "Too bad", "I wish you did better", "I picked you to win... what happened?" These were all totally understandable comments.
By far, the BEST letter I have ever gotten in the 17 years of receiving letters from fans ~ young and older ~ came that spring from a young girl in Michigan. It said "I watched your race and rooted for you. I know that you didn't win any priz mony, so I sent you my allowance." Yes... I shed a lot of tears reading that one. And to this day, the taped up roll of quarters sits on our trophy shelf right next to Allen's Sportsmanship Awards, our Yukon Quest Championship trophies and my 'Spirit of the North' award. Those quarters are very, very important to me.

Allen went to the Post Office yesterday. And please note the stack of taped quarters in the center.

Needless to say, we do our best to write back to all of the kids. It is important. Personal correspondence seems to have less and less importance in society today and now many kids don't even think of writing a letter when they could just "like" someone on Facebook or "follow" their Twitter feed. Anyhow... I guess I am 'old school'. I am still in favor of personal correspondence at SP Kennel.

Maybe it is because when I was 10 years old, I wrote a lot of letters. One year, I wrote to the leaders of all of the nations who still commercially hunted whales. Whales were very near and dear to me back then. (Not surprisingly, so were dogs. That's another story all together.) I don't recall any specific names or addresses, but I clearly remember scribbling addresses onto small envelopes: To the Prime Minister of Japan, To the President of Taiwan and To the Leader of the Soviet Union. I do not know how my Mom actually sent those letters. Could an American actually send a letter to the USSR is 1980? Anyhow, I was very excited about writing and sending those letters and I checked to see if anyone wrote me back. No one did.

Quick history lesson: in the 1980's commercial whaling was a hot topic because it became obvious that the practice was harming the global whale population by killing more whales than were actually being born. At 10 years old, I became an enthusiastic part of the grassroots 'Save the Whales' campaign that was started by a 14 year old girl in California. I sold posters, t-shirts, walked door-to-door with petitions and sent letters. In 1986, both hunters and non hunters agreed to a commercial whaling was ban. Back then, I was pretty convinced that my letters had an impact. Whether my mom ever even mailed them... I haven't asked.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

ID: "Aliy Cam" Climbing Little McKinley

This year, as with many other years, Aliy carried a hand held video camera to capture sections of the trail she wanted to share with you all.

In this video, the last in the series, the team is climbing Little McKinley towards Golovin Bay. You will see how hard everyone is working, and hear as Aliy ski-poles to help the team along (she has the camera on a mount on the handlebar).