SP Kennel is a premier sled dog racing kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska, dedicated to the individual dog through excellent health, nutrition, training and specialized care.

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 spare matches 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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Dog Fan Club Draws - Waylon, Jefe and Mismo

To celebrate third place in the Yukon Quest we did a triple draw! Congrats to the students of Mrs Price's 3rd Grade Class who are fans of Waylon, Leona who is a fan of Jefe and Val Lycette who is a fan of Mismo!

Waylon is full of attitude this season. The loss of a toe over the summer hasn't slowed him down one bit and he expects to be out there on every training run. He lives next to Sassy Quito and they often have loud conversations about the meaning of life.

Jefe is a big, strong youngster. We're excited to watch him fully develop and grow into his body. He will be a powerhouse in seasons to come. He and his siblings and Coffee Cousins occupy the "back 40" of the yard and make themselves known!

Mismo is happy about his job. He often expects to be in lead position and this year led the team, with his sister Izzy, up and over Eagle Summit and over the finish line in the Yukon Quest. He is, by far, the tallest dog on the team and often towers above the youngsters. His excitement and attitude is hard to beat.

You all win a copy of the Yukon Quest Race Annual, signed by Allen and Aliy plus a YQ tote bag. You will also receive a photo print portrait you dog along with a few other kennel goodies. We hope you enjoy your packets!

Our next Dog Fan Club draw is Friday, March 3rd. Everyone who has joined by then and hasn'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.

YQ: Fairbanks Meet the Mushers

It was great to see so many fans and supporters at the Meet The Musher event last night. At one stage the line for signatures and photos was snaked around the room and almost out the door!

"Mushing = Teamwork" - thanks Caleb; poster signing

Last night was a good chance for mushers to see each other again since sharing the trail. "Did you see the caribou on Medicine Lake?", "How was Eagle Summit?", "What about that steak in Circle?".

Check out the great photos of the event on the Yukon Quest Facebook Page.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

YQ: The Black Team's Journey

Grab a coffee (or your choice of beverage) and enjoy a very small slice of the Black Team's journey through the Yukon Quest.

YQ: Then and Now

When Aliy was packing her drop bags for the Yukon Quest 300 she came across a neck gator she hadn't seen in a while. She put it in her Pelly Crossing bag for the final leg of the race.

Take a look at these two pictures. The first is from the year 2000 when Aliy won the Yukon Quest. The second is from Pelly this year. Cool huh?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

YQ: Finish Line Report

A crowd of family, friends, supporters and race fans turned from about 9.30pm last night ready to welcome our team home. With the finish line being off the river we couldn't see them coming so look-outs were posted at the Steese Highway Bridge to alert us to their imminent arrival. To see Allen's headlamp, flopping dog ears then faces appear up the ramp was so exciting.

They crossed the line to cheers and whoops! All tails wagging. Dutch and Amber seemed keen to continue for a bit longer, lunging in their harnesses. Mismo and Izzy looking like old pros faced the throng of photographers without batting an eyelid. Commando and Junior circled around and around and Spark gave kisses to all and sundry. Kodiak and Amber got close up with one of the photography team and Champ and Rodney stood even a little prouder than they already did. Chipper and Felix looked around seemingly taking it all in.

They all wolfed down their thawed salmon and beef snacks and enjoyed the attention of the crew. Aliy introduced all the dogs individually to the crowd as Allen petted each one, thanking them for their hard work over the last 10 days.

When asked his favourite part of the 2017 Yukon Quest Allen replied "Getting over Eagle Summit with no problems, they just went straight up". He also mentioned that he didn't get wet from overflow once, a rarity on the Yukon Quest Trail.

Climbing Eagle Summit - Photo Whitney McLaren

Champ Matt Hall was there also and they both congratulated each other on their races.

Once home they all got to hang out in the barn. Mismo knew EXACTLY where he was going and literally dragged me through the dog yard, past his house and into his barn stall. All of them enjoyed their meal and settled quickly in a mountain of fresh straw.

Good dogs!

YQ: Video Catch-Up

It's a very quiet day here at the kennel so here are come catch-up videos taken during the earlier parts of the Quest.

Firstly, Aliy and the Red Team's Yukon Quest 300 Journey to take 2nd place:

Then, Aliy talks about the Black Team while they are resting at the Dawson Dog Camp:

Finally: here's a perspective of the first 1.5 miles of the trail from the "Quest Guest" sled. If you are in Fairbanks next year for the start you should definitely bid on one of these rides! You get to go on the actual Quest trail!

YQ: Black Team Finishes 3rd!

Congratulations Allen, Mismo, Izzy, Commando, Junior, Spark, Dutch, Kodiak, Amber, Rodney, Champ, Felix, Chipper, Daisy and Nomex.

They have finished the 2017 Yukon Quest third position with a total time of 10 days, 11 hours, 44 minutes.

Izzy and Mismo led the team across the line; congrats for Champ Matt Hall

Everyone is now in bed except me so I'm off now too. Thanks for following along! We'll have more tomorrow, in the meantime - goodnight!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

YQ: To The Finish Line


We are about to leave the kennel to head to the finish line to greet Allen, Mismo, Izzy, Commando, Junior, Spark, Dutch, Kodiak, Amber, Rodney, Champ, Felix and Chipper. We're so excited to have them cross the line and have seven Quest rookies become veterans and add one more 1000 mile race to the resumes of the others.

Earlier today we caught them as they mushed past the Pleasant Valley Store.

Passing by Pleasant Valley Store

And friends (and Dog Sponsors) Mary-Beth and Lynne caught up with them at the well-manned road crossing of Chena Hot Springs Road and further down the trail.

Chena Hot Springs Road Crossing - Photo Mary-Beth Schreck

Chena Hot Springs Road - Photo Mary-Beth Schreck

We didn't need a tracker to know when they passed through the neighbourhood as we could hear all the dog teams in the area systematically start barking and howling as they went by. I like to think they were cheering them on to the finish.

Valley of Champions

Our trigger point for leaving the kennel tonight is when the team crosses under Nordale Bridge. We know from our training runs that gives us enough time to get to town and get situated before the team arrives.

Keep an eye on our Instagram and Facebook pages as we may post directly to them from the finish chute. As usual the amazing visual content team have been keeping the Yukon Quest Facebook Page and website current so make sure to bookmark those sites also.

Once the team crosses the line they will get some yummy thawed salmon and beef then we'll get them to the truck for a nice hot meal, rub down and into their boxes for the ride home. We've spruced up the barn with fresh straw and they will get to chill out in there for a week or so while enjoying short stretch-out runs.

While I was looking back at last year I found this excellent post from Macgellan where he talks about the youngsters in last year's team. I thought it was just as relevant today as it was this time last year. We are definitely still in a transition phase of the kennel and the team did incredibly well, guided expertly by Allen. He has a particular skill in working with young dogs and it really pays off when we now have so many experienced and race educated two and three year olds.

I will post a more detailed update when we get back to the kennel.