Monday, July 31, 2017

Remembering Rosco

Dogs (and humans) do their best to constantly create a mess. Some more than others! Keeping the kennel clean and tidy is a challenge. In order to effectively keep the property clean, we do ‘dog chores’ every day. After the morning meal and watering, we scoop poo and clear the yard of any debris, rubbish or clutter. This might be wet straw, chewed on sticks or even a neighbor’s bowl. The dogs constantly dig, tunnel and chew on everything ~ they are DOGS! But, we try our best to keep the yard free of any and all hazards. So, when we saw a small circular green piece of plastic in front of Creamer’s dog house last week, we picked it up. It was an Iditarod dog tag from 13 years ago!

We were pretty excited to see who's tag it was. After searching through our records, we learned that for the 2004 Iditarod, dog “38C” was Rosco.

Rosco was born in June of 1998 at a friend’s house in Fairbanks. That friend, Mike, had been Aliy’s handler on her rookie Yukon Quest February earlier that year. As ‘payment’ for helping, Mike wanted to bred SP Kennel All-Star, Fats, to his dog Winton. Mike had gotten Winton from Yukon Quest champion, Bruce Lee, a year earlier. Aliy thought that was fair but asked Mike for one pup out of the litter. At 8 weeks, Mike reluctantly gave up Rosco.

We have many memories of Rosco.

One of Aliy’s best was in 2006 when her teams was leaving the Elim Checkpoint on Iditarod. A small group of competitive mushers all left the Checkpoint within 10 minutes of each other. Jessie Royer had actually gone through Elim and everyone had followed her out. It was: Mitch Seavey, Jason Barron, Lance Mackey, Aaron Burmeister and Aliy. But there had been a blizzard on top of Little McKinely - a substantial mountain climb an hour out of Elim - and the route had been blown shut. The trail follows the ridge line along the tops of the mountains for many miles. The six dog teams were lined up tail to nose scouting for any sign of the trail. In the end, Rosco, who was in the front of Aliy’s team in single lead, found the trail under a foot of snow. He showed his amazing strength and determination and brought all of the teams up and over the final ridge. The teams dispersed as they all went different speeds down hill, onto the frozen ocean and across the sea to the village of Golovin.

2005 Iditarod Team - Dogs that can be seen L-R: Rosco, Peyote, Teddy, ChaCha, Lillith (just her back), Ash, Zorro (just his face), Pingo, and Twister (white dog).

Allen remembers Rosco on the Copper Basin 300 in 2005. It had been one of the most difficult races he had ever run. Over half the racing teams had scratched at the half way point. The snow was waist deep and the trail markers had teams circling in a blizzard on Summit Lake. Then the route was diverted last minute when a snowmobile just ahead of the dog teams fell through the lake ice. The last leg of the race was a very tough 110 miles and the SP Kennel team was leading the race. Rosco was the lead dog and he seemed very perky, so Allen said he “just let him go with 100 miles to the finish.” The first 55 miles was great but the second 55 was very difficult. The snow built up and the trail conditions were tough. Allen could feel the teams behind him catching up. He knew that something was going to have to happen in the last few miles in order to hang on to the lead. And then something did happen - Rosco’s ears went straight up in the air. In the trail ahead of them was a tornado. Allen is from Arkansas so he knows what a tornado looks like. But, a winter tornado seemed peculiar. Rosco was very excited. The closer they got, the faster Rosco ran. He rejuvenated the rest of the team. Allen got closer to the “tornado” and realized it was a herd of caribou chasing each other in the middle and stirring up the snow.But the team’s speed had picked up from 7 mph to 15 mph and they ripped down the remainder of the race route. He felt very good about the team with only 20 miles to go and knowing no one else could be running 15 mph while chasing the herd. Until 10 minutes later the caribou took a hard left off of the trail over the rocks and through the woods. But, the team had been far enough ahead that they were able to pull off the win. Which was the first time Allen won the Copper Basin 300 (now a six time Champion.) Thanks Rosco!

Rosco was always a mellow, loving, long legged, happy boy from his puppyhood days until his last days ~ 13 years later. He successfully raced the Yukon Quest, Iditarod and every mid distance race in between with SP Kennel. He was the kennel greeter for many years and was also known as 'Rosco the rooter' because he could snuggle down into the bed covers better than any husky. Rosco retired from SP Kennel to an awesome home in Wisconsin - thanks Gilson Family - and enjoyed frozen popsicles, truck rides, doggie day care and a long, happy life.

Rosco going on his daily truck ride with Steve to get a Beef Stick.

Rosco at the Gilson Family Christmas celebration. He was 12 years old here.

Friday, July 28, 2017

July - the Birthday Month

The middle of July is a popular birthday time for SP Kennel.

The Olympics turned ONE on July 24th. Congrats to our youngsters: Gold, Prata and Bronze. These three are all legs, attitude and energy right now. Prata and Gold antagonize each other constantly - what do you expect from our youth - and Bronze is the cuddly, sweetheart.

L-R: Gold; Prata; Bronze

The Five Pups turned THREE on July 15th. They had a rough start as infants but they are dynamite group now. Rodney, Ginger and Five live on one of the wooden raised platforms due to their 'rock chewing' tendencies. Ernie and Scooby live in the main yard. Here is the platform with (left to right) Ginger, Rodney, Spark and Five. (Izzy is photo bombing under Ginger's tail.)

Note: Five's ugly dog house! Dog house pressure washing and painting chores don't start until mid September."

The Fire Litter are FOUR as of July 21st. These core dogs are ready to start the Mushing Season: Amber, Chena, Commando, Daisy, Nomex, Spark, Tinder, Torch and Violet. Tinder’s sponsor Marilyn was at SP Kennel on his birthday and we celebrated with a dog walk (below).

Marilyn with Commando, Amber, Violet, Chena and Tinder.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Holy Kong!

People often ask “What do your dogs do in the summertime?” That’s an easy answer here at SP Kennel because we are not a working sled dog kennel in the summer months. There are no cart rides, no simulated sled runs, no pulling the ATV four wheeler, no treadmill days, no glacier sled rides. Allen, Aliy and the entire human and canine crew take a three month ‘off-season’. The full blown Mushing Season starts soon enough, on September 1.

So the answer is pretty simple:
SP Kennel dogs act like ‘normal’ dogs in the summertime. They take naps in the sunshine, play a lot, then they take more naps. They go on dog walks and trot around the yard peeing their favorite, no so favorite and least favorite bushes. They go on bike rides. Some dogs like to swim; some don't.

They also have their chew toys and bones. Every dog has at least one chew toy, but most have a collection. Five has five toys - it only seemed logical. (His pile pictured to the left.)

This summer the dogs have voted and their favorite chew toy is without a doubt a big red Kong. Everyone one seems to loves the Kongs. To be honest, the toys are surprisingly tough. In one month the dogs have only semi demolished 25% of them. The Kongs are also fun because they bounce around the dog yard without intent. In other words, as the dogs wrestle and play with the Kongs, they also unintentionally toss them to their neighbor or distant kennel mate - this “sharing” depends on how enthusiastically the original dog was playing. We've seen a Kong shoot across the yard when Ernie jumped on it! Mismo tends to keep his Kong to himself. Sanka often tosses her Kong to Tinder. Scooby keeps his Kong in his mouth 99% of the time - even while barking! His muffled bark sounds like his cartoon namesake’s trademark howl….. “Scooby Doobie Doo!

Mismo says "Check out my Kong!"

BEAN: "Barista tries to tear up her Kong."; "Sanka examines her Kong."

The second favorite chew toy of the summer is the small tire ring. These toys are not quite as indestructible - 30% have been demolished. But, some dogs consider them 'the best' and trot around with a tire in their mouth. Outlaw thinks it's the perfect fit!

BEAN: "Outlaw says "Give me a tire any day!""

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sissy's and Scooter's New Lives

To continue with our philosophy of "The right home for the right dog at the right time", Sissy and Scooter have retired from their SP Kennel lives and now live together in Ohio with Holly and Tim.

Both gals have tremendous race histories and have contributed significantly to the success of the kennel over their careers. Sissy has four Iditarods, a Yukon Quest and multiple 300 mile races on her CV. Scooter has been down the Iditarod trail five times and three times down the Quest trail and is a Quest Champ! They took their roles seriously and worked hard.

They will also leave a huge personality gap in the kennel. Sissy is a silly, goofy gal with a famous moustache and love of life. Scooter is always happy, wagging her entire body all day long. We'll miss you Sissy and Scooter!

Sissy and Scooter

Thanks to Jeanne Schnackenberg for sponsoring Scooter throughout her career, Holly and Tim for sponsoring Sissy; and to everyone who joined the ladies' fan clubs over the years.

Holly and Tim:

Our animal loving family has sponsored Sissy over her race career. We had the opportunity to meet her and her sister, Scooter, twice on Alaska visits. These visits were so special and just stoked our love for both these girls. We dreamed of them coming to our home when they retired but knew time would tell if this was ideal for all of us (From Alaska to Ohio??) We knew our dog, Noodle, would enjoy their coming. He’s a gentle boy who enjoys other dogs and is down to play.

Well, SP family, we’ve witnessed with our own eyes that you can move from Alaska to Ohio and have a dog gone good life. It’s different for sure… but these ladies are game. It’s been so fun to see their personalities up close.

Scooter is very sweet, attentive, and a bit of a shy introvert. She loves her new “kennel house” with SP blanket (underneath the kitchen table). She can watch the kitchen action going on and maybe get a scrap of food if it drops! She greets us with her Scootie wiggle dance and flashes her doe eyes at us. Heart melt.

Sissy is an extrovert. She howls to go for her walks and prances around ready to roll. She is a funny, easy going, goof ball. When we put her in her harness though she becomes absolutely still until we tell her it’s time to go!
Both these ladies love to cuddle… and so do we! Noodle (12) has found new life with Sissy and Scooter. Tim laughs that Noodle probably can’t believe his good fortune, an “older male dog” with two beautiful spirited younger ladies!
Here’s the team (Noodle, Sissy and Scooter) taking on the dreaded squirrels. This is a fun activity while out on the deck.


Future plans- getting a dog powered scooter to go through the parks. Our hunch is Sissy and Scooter would really enjoy this.

It is a wonderful blessing having Sissy and Scooter with us. If any of the SP kennel team is around the Midwest and wants to visit… let us know. We’d love to make it happen. These sisters will be watching Team Black and Team Red closely… cheering all the way!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Load 'em up!

When we take dogs for a walk at SPK in the summer the process starts with the question: Who? As in, who is going today? Since we have quite a few dogs that want to go, the selection is always challenging. We have a spreadsheet (similar to the exercise training spreadsheet for winter training) that records on a day to day basis who goes on a walk, who is in a play pen or who trots around the yard while the humans do chores.

The dog walks usually involve 5 to 8 dogs. First we load the dogs up in the Dog Hauling trailer. There is a reason behind hauling dogs away from the property in order to walk. We can walk directly from our yard, but towards the end of the return leg every sled dog in the world has the "race to the barn" mentality. No matter how good of shape Aliy is in at the time... she can not keep up with a half dozen racing sled dogs! That would result in 5 to 8 dogs running around the yard, ransacking the dog room, visiting dog neighbors, flirting at the Heat Pen or sitting on the front porch of the main house. Worse than that it would require Aliy to sprint the last 1/4 mile of a previously relaxing dog walk in order to try and reach the property along with the dogs. To heck with that! Interestingly, the dogs still have the "race to the barn" mentality but it ends wherever we park the dog hauler... not at the kennel.

The load up is simple. We drive the ATV and trailer into the yard and park with the doors of the hauler open. The older dogs are pros and as soon as they leave their houses they sprint to the trailer and jump in. Here Outlaw's easy load up:

The younger dogs are still learning. Here you can see Gold isn't quite sure about climbing onboard. But once they jump into the hauler and find a handful of dog biscuits, the whole experience takes on a positive light!

The ride in the trailer depends on where the dog walk begins. The near walk begins only a mile from the kennel. The farthest we will travel in the trailer before we 'release the hounds' is about 2 1/2 miles. Some dogs ride quietly whereas other dogs are loud mouths: Willie, Bronze, Jefe and Rodney (of course!)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Early Retirement for "Princess Wedgy"

Wedgy was always that dog who had so much sled dog potential but never got to take on the world as she would have liked. She is built beautifully, has amazing genetics and is as enthusiastic as they come but unfortunately a series of niggly, minor injuries kept her from being the Champion Sled Dog we all believed she could have been.

At five years old we felt it was time for Wedgy to move on to her "Life Part Two". Melissa has been Nelson's sponsor for many years and has visited the kennel a number of times, so when she put her hand up for a retiree Aliy believed Wedgy would be a good fit.

We will miss Wedgy and her cheery disposition. Moira walked right by her kennel every night and morning on the way to the Mansion and EVERY time, Wedgy would come out of her house and get a goodnight or morning cuddle. So long Wedgy-Wedgy-Woo! Thanks to Barb Hartman, as well as Alice Holt and Sue Bates who sponsored Wedgy through her career, and to all of you who ever joined Wedgy's fan club.

Life Part Two for Wedgy involves the serious business of collecting squeaky toys and being Melissa and Mike's companion and personal trainer.


We'll let Melissa take up the story:

Wedgy is my precious delight. I have a webcam so I can watch her from work, and I love to spy on her adventures. She loves her stuffed squeaky toys and believes a girl can never have too many. She received a subscription to BarkBox, which is a service that sends a box of toys and treats each month (for spoiled dogs only). (See the video below for footage of her on the webcam with her toys and of her June BarkBox -Dinosaur edition!)

She and Mike go on hikes to Forest Park and visit the various drive-throughs where dog treats are distributed (the coffee stand, the bank, the gas station…) Wedgy loves riding in the car, especially if it involves going on a hike or to the neighborhood coffee stand where giant dog bones are handed out. The pic of her standing in the backseat of the car is funny because there was a line at the coffee drive though and Wedgy was getting tired of waiting for her treat. She kept standing up to check how many more cars were ahead and wondering ‘why is this line not moving any faster!’

I work long hours, and sometimes Mike is away for weeks at a time for work. So Wedgy interviewed and selected a nice lady named Cathie to take care of her daytime walking needs when neither of us can be there. Cathie will come and walk her once or twice during the day, and Wedgy LOVES her. That's right, Princess Wedgy has staff!

But Wedgy doesn’t just eat bones and play with toys all the time. She has some important jobs. Her secondary job is to keep cats out of the back yard and squirrels away from the bird feeders. But her primary job is to be our personal trainer and exercise coach. She gives great motivational pep talks when we’re out walking or hiking, always encouraging you to go a little further, move a little faster, try a little harder. No longer do I spend my evenings watching TV and eating jelly beans. Wedgy is even serving as coach to get me trained up so we can do some trail races together in the fall. Thank you Wedgy!

And thank you to the village that got her here – Wendy who fostered her and taught her about inside life, Linda who took care of her during her long layover in Anchorage, and Aliy for arranging her transport and especially for offering her to me. She is my princess.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Quick Summer Tour Of SPK

This is a video we took in June.

Yes, that is Scruggs in the pen with Willie in the first frame - the day before he left for Anchorage.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Scruggs has been found - Safe!!

Scruggs was found in Anchorage after two weeks of 'adventure'.
Thank heavens and thank everybody who helped.
Thank you
Thank you
Thank you

This the kind woman who found him.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Follow the Leader

Tinder, Decaf and Bean went to the creek last week. They were completely committed to the game "Follow the Leader" with Tinder as their leader. Wherever he went, they followed without hesitation. Poor little Bean was always in the rear. But... she never gave up the chase.

BEAN: "Hey guys... Wait up!"; "Ohhh, tail in my face! I can't see."

BEAN: "Oh crumb, I see water!"; "Wait for me Decaf! Wait..."

BEAN: "Oh boy! Cannonball!"