Monday, November 30, 2009

Meet The "Surprise" Puppies

From left to right: Raffie, Mac and Boris

Two Rivers Tune Up Results!

The results for Saturday's Two Rivers Tune up have been posted, and here they are:

Bridgett's Team: Petunia, Kipper, Tony, Honda, Minnie, Bubba, Lester and Waylon

Aliy's Team: Bullet, Butter, Teddy, Hummer, Tyson, Boondocks, Hank and Scruggs

Congratulations to Bridgett, Aliy and both teams!

It Happens In The Best Of Families

In the pre-internet era, this would probably arrive in the mail as a photo with a note that reads something like this:
There's something I've been meaning to tell you, but I just haven't known how to say it.

You're going to be surprised, and you're going to have a lot of questions.

I promise to tell you all about it, but for now I need to just show you.

Love, Aliy
Today we've got streaming video, but the result is pretty much the same. You're going to have a lot of questions, and we promise to tell you all about it.

Music by Stephen Jacob

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Dog Log Is "In Training" Too!

You've probably noticed some changes recently here on the Dog Log, and you'll see a bunch more today, too. Aliy, Allen and the dogs are training hard to get ready for racing season, and so is the Dog Log.

We've updated the "Welcome" section of the side bar to include a little slide show that we intend to keep fresh with new photos from time to time. We've also added big, bright graphic badges that link to updated new "About" pages. According to Google Analytics, they're the pages our new visitors click to the most -- especially "The Dogs!" of course -- so we decided to spiff them up and really feature them. We hope that those of you who are long-time readers of the Dog Log will like this new "look and feel" as well!

We've also broken out a section "For SP Kennel Fans" which includes a few of the old familiar links and a few new "Coming Soon..." options. We hope this will reassure you that "we've heard you" and will be bringing you what you've asked for very soon… We promise! We have to figure out and put together a bunch of new "online stuff" to do it, but we'll get after it!

We've also been training hard to upgrade the content in our posts. We think we did pretty well before, but we want to do better. Our goal is to bring you more in-depth documentaries about "behind the scenes" topics, more focus on individual dogs and the team at large, more "quick hits" about things that go on around the Kennel, more -- and faster -- race coverage… Basically more and better of everything.

Many thanks to all of you who have written in comments or emails with questions and requests for information. We've taken careful note of them and they are all on a list we will happily tackle just as fast as we can. Believe me, we have a list!

This is all part of our strategy to take the Dog Log "to the next level" and to achieve our goal of making it "the most educational and entertaining internet source on sled dog sports." If you have any requests or suggestion about how we can achieve our goal, please let us know.
(Speaking personally, we're all very collegial and supportive of each other around here, but we're also all pretty competitive by nature. Let's just say that continually improving the Dog Log is my way of raising the bar! -- Macgellan)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Two Rivers Tune Up Recap

We don't have the actual results from today's Two Rivers Tune Up Race yet. It was a timed race -- rather than a finishing position race -- and the times haven't been posted yet on the Association's website. We're pretty sure, however, that both Aliy and Bridgett finished in the top few places. Considering their teams of mostly rookie yearling racers, that's pretty great.

We went out to the Two Rivers Lodge for a quick celebration dinner and I asked Bridgett to record a little recap of her race for you. If I were a better audio engineer I'd find a way to edit it, but then again all the "help" she gets from us, plus the food arriving at our table, and folks stopping by to chat… Well, it's a nice little moment and I thought you'd like to hear the "uncut" version as if you were sitting at the table with us.

So, here's Bridgett's "uncut" Two Rivers Tune Up recap:

If you are having trouble with the embedded mp3 player, you can click here to access the mp3 file directly and play it however your computer normally handles mp3 files.

Aliy And Bridgett Start Two Rivers "Tune Up"

With two teams full of rookies -- yearling dogs with no racing experience at all -- Aliy and Bridgett have started the Two Rivers "Tune Up" race. Although the distance is very short -- only 20 miles -- it's still a good chance for yearlings to get some valuable first experience in what it's like to be around other teams at a race start. Waylon and Lester -- seen here with Bridgett -- behaved as prime examples of yearling dogs: Loud, unruly and even a bit crazy. With a little guidance from the mushers, however, they all got to the starting line and away in proper order.

They both had a few experienced dogs on their teams of eight, and you can see that Aliy has wisely put hers up front. Bullet has her head down and focus straight ahead, while Butter and Teddy show their experience by looking both ways before crossing the road.

Bridgett had elegant Petunia in lead and powerhouse Tony in swing. With beauty and brawn like that, she's got a good chance of getting where she needs to go, and in a hurry too!

We'll post an update on the "tune up" results later today!

It's A Busy Weekend Of Training

With our first official race of the season -- The Sheep Mountain 150 -- only two weeks away, we've got a busy weekend of training going on. Of course, we're always busy training, but this is something a little different…

There's a lot more to training than just running the dogs to get them in shape. The humans have to train themselves as well. Not just the physical training that Aliy and Allen are both vigorously pursuing, but a lot of "going racing" logistical training: Getting the team trucks ready for long distance winter travel, organizing and packing all of the necessary gear, loading and unloading dogs, etc. Our veteran mushers have done it all plenty of times before, so it's more like a refresher course, but it's still important to do. Practice makes perfect, right?

So, early yesterday morning Aliy, Allen and Bridgett packed up three teams of 12 dogs and headed an hour north to the White Mountains where there's been a lot more snow. In addition to making it a "test run" for the logistics, it was also an opportunity to run on sleds again. I went along and shot a ton of media that I will edit and post this week.

The veteran dogs are very keen to see the trucks being loaded, because they know it means they're going somewhere fun. You can see ChaCha is standing as if to say "Let's get after it!" Her daughter Olivia -- standing behind her -- doesn't seem so sure. Beemer -- the youngest Iditarod veteran -- is cool, calm and collected. Dingle -- a real up and coming lead dog -- is taking it all in stride. The trip was very successful on all counts, and the mushers report that they all had a good day.

This morning we're packing up again, even though it's only to drive a few miles down the road to a short "tune up race" hosted by the local mushers' association. The drive is shorter, but the program is the same. I'll be sure to let you know how it goes!

The plan for tomorrow is to repeat the White Mountains trip, which will make it three "test runs" in three days. That ought to have us good and ready for the real thing in two weeks!

The Odd Couple

You may have noticed that since I can't be in two places at one time, I have started setting up cameras in various locations and putting them "on autopilot" so to speak. While filming Aliy's harness demonstration the other day, I had put such a camera on the ground right in front of the team as it was being hooked up.

The resulting footage turned out not to be as useful as what you've already seen in "Hook Up And Head Out", but there was one part of it that I think you'll find both entertaining and informative. From one perspective, this video is just a minute of dogs being dogs. From another point of view, it shows much more.

What caught my eye is something that immediately reminded me of "The Odd Couple" TV show. On the left you will see Skittles, a hyper-enthusiastic -- almost crazy -- lead dog. On the right you will see Bullet, a serious -- almost stoic -- lead dog. The differences between them as they are waiting to run are so stark in contrast that it's downright comical.

On the other hand, the instant Bridgett says "Ready!" the two of them join forces and bolt simultaneously to lead the team out at a gallop. When you see the exit chute clip -- from yet another camera I had set up! -- you'll see a great example of just how fast the dogs sprint out of the yard. Keep in mind that this video is playing at actual speed!

We have often pointed out that "each dog is an individual" at SP Kennel, and that we respect each dog for it. When you see "The Odd Couple" together, I think you'll see we really mean it. They are welcome to be as individual -- different, quirky or even crazy -- as they want, as long as they love to run, do their jobs and work together.

The fact that they often have us laughing in stitches is a bonus for us!

On your second viewing of this video, you can see another good example of individuality if you look at Teddy, the leaping swing dog right behind Skittles and Bullet. Keep in mind that Teddy is an 8 1/2 year old dog, a truly seasoned veteran, who is so nonchalant around the Kennel that you might wonder if she knows she's a sled dog. The moment you put her in harness, however, she starts acting like a yearling again, leaping and barking to get going. Dogs… go figure!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Midday Sunset

I just downloaded this photo from Aliy's camera, taken while she and Bridgett were mushing midday yesterday. We don't get many bright, sunny midday photo ops around here. She really nailed this one, don't you think?

Outtake: Howling With The Big Dogs

This 30-second video is so dumb I probably shouldn't post it. You really have to be a "dog person" to appreciate it, but I figure that followers of the Dog Log probably fit that description.

Here's the set up: While I was editing the Happy Thanksgiving video on my Mac yesterday, my sweet, dumb companion dog Stella heard all the howling and started joining in. It made me laugh, so I grabbed a camera.

I honestly don't know if Stella realized there weren't any real dogs, but the instinct to howl with the big dogs must just be irresistible. Enjoy...

Harness And Hookup -- Part 3

In this third -- and final -- part of our mini-series on "hooking up" the dogs, Aliy gives us an in-depth look at the entire process. Starting with the rack where the harnesses are stored and continuing with a detailed demonstration of how a harness is put on a dog, Aliy concludes with all there is to know about how the dogs are attached to the gang line, how she and Allen decide which dogs to put where, etc. Seriously, folks, if you've watched "Hook Up And Head Out" and "Allen's Gear Guide: Harness Systems" then this video will really bring it all together. You'll be ready to visit the Kennel and help out for yourself!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just for fun... Here's an outtake...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Allen's Gear Guides: Harness Systems

In our continuing mini-series on "hooking up" the dogs, Allen gives us this insiders guide to harness systems. For all of you who have been asking questions like: "What's a tug line?" or "What kind of harnesses do you use and why?" here are your answers!

The audio gets a little hard to hear toward the end, unfortunately, because once the dogs saw Allen putting a harness on one of their teammates they got into their boisterous "ready to go" mode. It doesn't take much to get them lit up!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

We Have A Winner!... Two Actually!

In a virtual dead heat, we're declaring two winners in the "Name The Dogs" contest!

Repeating her virtuoso performance in the previous contest, Emily from Colorado came in first, with the Gedicks family from Catskills, NY right by her side. Congratulations to both winners!

The names of the dogs in order: Skittles, Bullet, Petunia, Teddy, Ranger, Beemer, ChaCha, Rose, Kipper, Minnie, Nutmeg, Nacho, Moonpie, Betsy, Spot, Biscuit.

We've declared two winners because this was such a tough contest that I started giving everybody tons of clues... And since I can't be sure I was equally "clue-ful" to the two winners we're giving them each their choice of beanies. Seems fair, no?

Anyway, what deserves extra special mention is this from Emily:
"Although I have to say since Nutmeg is running on the right that really threw me off, since I thought she was a left handed trail dog."
Wow! Now that's really knowing our dogs!

You're right Emily, Nutmeg is totally a "left handed dog." She will run on the left side of wherever she is running. This isn't a problem on narrow trails, but it can be annoying when you're navigating across open areas and she insists on going as far as she can to the left! If you look closely at this screen shot, you will see that although she is technically on the right, she's got poor Nacho pushed as far to the left as his tug line will allow. Trust me, within moments after this was taken, Nacho will have given in and let the little spice girl have the left side of the trail!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest. I know it was really hard and I'll try to come up with future contests that are a little bit more reasonable. It's a learning process, after all.

Congratulations to our winners!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Name The Dogs Contest!

Thanks to Lisa's comment about Bullet in the "Hook Up And Head Out" video, we're having a new contest! Here's how it works...

The first person to send an email to -- -- with the correct names of ALL 16 dogs on the line will win an SP Kennel fleece beanie -- choice of red or black -- just like Aliy and Allen wear!

So, get after it! Name the dogs and win! You don't even have to name them in hook-up order, running order or any other special order! Just correctly name all 16 dogs in any order you like! (It's actually easier than you might think... Especially if you watch the video all the way through... Hint, hint...)

There is one simple catch: You must send your email to -- Please do not email Aliy or Allen directly. (They've got a lot more urgent stuff to do than forward email messages to me!)

Hook Up And Head Out!

A number of you have asked about "hooking up the dogs" so we're going to bring you a series of posts about it.

For starters, we thought it would be a good idea to show you the process from start to finish from a fixed viewpoint. To do this, I set up a camera in the Kennel's exit chute and started it rolling. The problem is that it took about 16 minutes to hook up 16 dogs, and that's just too much video to ask anybody to sit through.

In the editing process I tried speeding up the video and, frankly, I think it got more interesting the faster I pushed it. Ending up at 8-times normal speed, I think it turned out to be pretty entertaining too. It all starts out so orderly as the first few dogs are hooked up, but the more dogs there are and the closer it gets to them heading out… Well, you'll just have to see for yourself.

While that camera was running, I walked out in the field to shoot the dogs on the run… Always fun to watch. I've included that at normal speed at the end, and I think you'll find it provides some helpful "slow down" time from an otherwise hectic, chaotic stretch of video.

With no further ado, here's what Aliy and Allen do every day and sometimes twice a day. We invite you to buckle up and hang on!

Thanks to Jonathan Coulton for the use of one of his many, many entertaining songs!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Yup... It's Frosty Around Here!

Aliy had only been working out in the dog yard for a few minutes when I caught this shot of her. She's allowed me to post it despite it's not being very flattering. With the one provision that I make it very clear to all of you that her hair is not gray!

It's been as low as -30 over the past few days, low enough for your breath to freeze and crystallize on your face and everything around it!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Happy's New Collar

A number of you have written to ask what's up with "Happy The Sled Dog" so we thought we'd give you a little update.

Happy is doing just great here at the Kennel. She is training on a full schedule with all the racing dogs and she looks really good. I asked Allen about her and he said, "Well, she's not our best dog... But she's not our worst dog either!" High praise from Allen, indeed!

The biggest thing in her life right now -- besides being able to flaunt the fact that she'd an Iditarod finisher to all the new, young racers! -- is that she's got a new collar in her wardrobe. In this little video, Aliy explains and Happy shows you just about everything that makes her the unique sled dog she is!

Note: We promise that there will soon be a lot more about Happy here on the Dog Log! Stay tuned!

Friday, November 20, 2009

First Walk With The Pups

I was getting ready to take Stella and Tig out for their afternoon romp when Aliy said she was ready for a break and suggested we take the puppies out for a walk, too.

Although the pups mostly stay in a pen with their mother Pepper, they have been allowed to romp around the dog yard for brief periods. As you know, they also have been in the house from time to time. Today, however, was their first official "walk" down the driveway and out into the big field.

As you will see, the video is pretty chaotic. Frankly, I spent most of the time with the camera down at knee level, shooting freehand and hoping for the best. Add to that the fact that Aliy and I are both using our best -- i.e. most idiotic -- puppy-attention-getting voices. Plus, Tig and Stella tried their best to get our attention… Well, let's just leave it at being chaotic.

The video turned out, however, to have some really great puppy moments. So, I decided to abandon any efforts at editing and have just strung the clips together.

Bottom line: If you like puppy videos, we think you're gonna love this one!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Research: Spending Time In The Box

Research week continues apace here at SP Kennel. Today the dogs are having blood work done in which samples are taken over a two hour period to measure insulin sensitivity. For most of the dogs, spending that time "in the box" is pretty fun. It's warm inside and they get tons of special attention. For a few dogs like young Cutter here, the jury is still out about the experience. As Dr. Mike assured us, "It's actually a lot harder on the humans who have to sit for two hours at a time -- 18 times over -- and focus on each dog."

Despite his own uncertainty, our big, sweet boy Cutter did his best to console Jan and thank her for all the good care!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Physiology Research At SP Kennel

Dr. Mike Davis is here from Oklahoma State University this week to continue some physiology research that he has been conducting for over a year. He and his two associates -- Jan and Pauline -- are studying the effects of fitness and exercise on insulin sensitivity. Their research is aimed at finding the links between the two and applying them to human research. Because Alaskan Husky sled dogs are the supreme athletes on the planet, they make excellent research subjects. Dr. Mike enjoys working with SP Kennel because our dogs are both among the finest and because they are such willing and cooperative subjects.

A total of 18 dogs are involved with this phase of the program, and here's the gist of how it works: First, Aliy takes 12 of the dogs on a training run, leaving the 6 "base line" dogs back at the Kennel. Once they return, the dogs are brought inside in a pretty continuous flow. Their first stop is in the crates of the "staging area" where, as you can see below, Tony, Teddy, Moonpie and Nutmeg are waiting their turns. Teddy is such a professional dog that she doesn't even need to have the door closed to keep her inside!

The next step is to give the dogs a mild sedative which, as Dr. Mike says, "It doesn't really put them under. It's more like a deep relaxation so they won't bolt and face any risk of injury." Below you can see that Teddy is an absolutely beautiful dog even when she's passed out and has an electrode clipped to her tongue!

The procedure itself is really pretty simple. A small biopsy needle -- exactly the same kind as used on humans -- is used to take a very small muscle sample from the dog's rear leg. It only takes a minute, then the dog is moved to the "Post-Op Ward" where one of us whom the dog knows well spends time holding, petting and speaking as the dog wakes up. It means we spend a lot of time on the cold floor, but we're happy to do it for the dogs' comfort. Besides, any time I get to hug and pet Teddy is a treat for me, too!

I hope to shoot a lot of video over the next few days as the run/test cycle continues and will try to post some more in-depth coverage over the weekend.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New And Improved "The Dogs!" Page Is Live!

Check out our new and improved "The Dogs of SP Kennel" page, featuring the current roster of our fantastic Alaskan Husky racing sled dogs.

On the page, you can click on any dog's photo to see a larger view, and in many cases a "Meet The Dog" video!

So, go ahead… Meet The Dogs!

Note: A few of our new, young racers are not yet included in the gallery. Just as soon as we can get decent photos of them in the dim Alaskan winter light, we'll write them up and post them. So, check back soon and often to meet some great new young dogs!

Monday, November 16, 2009

First Sled Run Of The Season… Perfect!

You must know by now that training dogs on 4-wheelers is a necessary evil. Necessary because we have a lot of dogs to train no matter how little snow there is. Evil because riding on four wheelers is noisy, uncomfortable and really, really cold.

So, Aliy and Allen were pretty darn excited when we got a little more snow late in the week. They took advantage of it by hooking up some smaller 8 dogs teams -- because that's all they felt they could control under braking with still so little snow -- and hitting the trails for their first sled run of the season.

It's pretty obvious in this video how excited they were… Allen even says it was "Perfect!"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

You asked for it: Facebook and Twitter!

A number of you have requested that we develop a web presence on Facebook and Twitter... So, we have! If you check the sidebar links, you'll find you can "Follow us on" both sites:

We're pretty busy these days, so we won't promise how active they'll be. But, we'll at least give them a try by posting updates about new Dog Log links and "What's up?" whenever we can.

So, check them out... Follow us, become a fan, write on our walls... Whatever you want!

Sunday Pupdate!

We brought the pups inside for a while this morning and had a grand time with them.

Scooter was active and outgoing, especially enjoying time laying on Allen's chest.

Smoe played hard then crashed for a perfect little puppy nap.

Sissy has the best mustache in the Kennel... Perhaps in the entire dog universe! (We hope her doggie friends don't tease her about it.)

And then there's Spoog... What more can you say than "Too cute!"

All the pups are doing very well and growing like crazy! Pepper is a very good mom, and all the dogs are helping to socialize the pups in the Kennel pack. Stay tuned for future Pupdates!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It Feels Like Winter Is Finally Here!

A picture's worth a thousand words...

SP Kennel Newsletter: Howler -- Training Edition

It's here! The 2009 Training Edition of "Howler" -- the SP Kennel newsletter! Stories include a recap of our "Perfect!" training season so far, an update on our ongoing medical research programs and a very special feature about a very special young dog!

You can click the image below to open the PDF file in your web browser, then read it online and/or print it for later reference!
Note: The PDF is a 1.9 MB file, so it may take a moment to load. Please be patient... It's worth the wait!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Training On The "Fire Break" Trail

One of the things we're going to try this year -- to take our coverage "to the next level" -- is to bring you more video footage from out on the actual trails.

You may recall that late last season, I handed Aliy a camera as she was heading out on a run and simply said to her, "See what you can get." The results were fabulous, culminating in her extraordinary 5-part "Live" Iditarod Trail Video series.

I think you'll agree that shooting video and providing insightful commentary while riding on -- hanging on! -- to the back of a sled and driving a team of dogs speaks volumes about Aliy's abilities as a musher and her commitment to bringing you the "inside" story.

So, in the first of what we hope will be an ongoing series, here is a "ride along" video of training on the "Fire Break" trail.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

We Have A Winner!...

... In our first ever spontaneous SP Kennel contest!

Emily was the first to correctly guess the dog who was the model for the new SP Kennel logo... It's Nacho!

Through the marvels of PhotoShop, there you have the handsome lad rendered in black and white!

Congratulations, Emily! If you email us your address we'll put an SP Kennel logo neck gator in the mail to you right away. Be sure to tell us if you would like it with or without dog hair on it!

Many thanks to the rest of you for playing along... It was really fun to have so much interaction with you. Let us know in the comments if you like the idea of contests and we'll see what we can dream up!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A New Logo -- A New "Look" -- For SP Kennel

SP Kennel has a new logo -- a new "look"! We hope you like it because we hope you'll be seeing a lot of it!

If any of you would like to have new SP Kennel buttons or badges for your websites and/or blogs, please let us know! We'll be happy to send you any size and format you like!

Also... Leave a comment if you'd like to guess which of our fabulous Alaskan Husky canine athletes was the model for the logo!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Each Dog Is An Individual

It's one of the most fundamental principles we have of being "dog first" at SP Kennel: Each dog is an individual. We recognize their individuality, we respect it and we do everything we can to accommodate it.

Most of the time, a dog's individuality shows up in little ways: Where in a team they like to run, which other dogs they like to hang out with, how much they enjoy being handled by strangers, etc.

While getting media off of Aliy's camera the other day, I found a little gem of a video clip that I think really illustrates the dogs' individuality. Here's the set up:

When a team returns to the Kennel after a run, most dogs are pretty mellow and ready to chill out. They've done their work and they're ready to head back to their houses for a hot meal and a good, long rest. As a result, most of them will wait patiently to be unhooked from the line, either quietly standing around or even laying down. Usually their tails are wagging, but mostly they're pretty relaxed and low energy.

Except for this one dog we've got. No matter how far she runs, she's always full of energy when she gets back to the Kennel. As you will see, that's actually an understatement!

(I suspect some of you may have already guessed who she is…)

Macgellan Update: Ready For Action!

Just a quick, final update to report that I'm ready for action!

I had, of course, a few of the usual, "It's never easy!" challenges to contend with. A couple of frozen jacks on my camper required a little ingenuity and the use of an old-style camper jack that Allen just happened to have lying around! Sorting out and hooking up the rest of the "utilities" each had their idiosyncrasies, but nothing a half-dozen trips to the hardware store couldn't fix. To my great satisfaction, I'm now all set up with power, heat and internet in my camper!

What more could I want? Well… A guy's gotta have a dog! That's right, my sweet, quiet, low maintenance roommate from last season has joined me again. I brought Stella over from the Kennel, opened the door to my camper and said, "Go on, get in there!" It took her less than three seconds to figure out where the bed was and take up her usual bed-hogging position. Welcome home, Stella!

So, I'm ready for action and hope that you are too!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Aliy Featured On Iditarod Website

We just wanted to make sure you know that Aliy was recently featured on the Iditarod website. You can click here to read the article.

The article is in the "For Teachers" section of the Iditarod website, and we are very happy to have this additional exposure. We know that more and more teachers are using the SP Kennel Dog Log for support of their curricula, and we strive to give them as much material as possible.

Even those of you who are long-time followers of Aliy and SP Kennel may find a few new tidbits of information and perspective in the article, so check it out!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Treadmill Training Follow-Up

About a month ago, Aliy posted a story about treadmill training for the dogs.

I was finally able to get the video she shot off her camera, and I think you'll find it very interesting. There wasn't much dialogue and the background noise is pretty loud, so I've laid in a little sound track that I think you may find amusing. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sad News

Today was a sad day at the kennel.

A few evenings ago I noticed that Slanky, the runt of the 4 week old puppy litter, was in some distress and that something was very wrong with one of her legs.

After several late night telephone veterinarian consultations, it was decided that she needed an emergency vet clinic visit. I spent much of the next day with her at the clinic, taking x-rays and consulting at length about her condition.

What I had hoped was just an unfortunate injury that sometimes happens to puppies in the close confines of their nursery turned out to be something much more serious. The doctors were unable to determine for sure, but it appeared that she had some underdevelopment and missing parts in her joints.

Although it was clear that she would never be a sled dog, I immediately hoped to be able to raise her -- as we have done before -- to become a pet dog. When the vets informed me that they would have to amputate her leg in order to save her at all, however, my hopes were pretty much dashed.

To make matters worse, I was told that we would have to wait several weeks to do the amputation because she was so young.

I brought her back to the Kennel and watched her constantly for the next 24 hours. She looked just awful and in distress. I do not know if she was in pain, but I believe she was.

I did a lot of soul searching, as I always do about all of our dogs, and considered her long-term welfare. Her best prospects were to face several more weeks of pain and distress, to become a three-legged dog and to hope that she would avoid the likelihood of other congenital defects.

Sometimes being an advocate for the dog -- being "dog first" -- means you have to make the hard decisions.

I had Slanky put to sleep today.

I am sorry to share this sad news.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Every Picture Tells A Story

We had just a little sun the other day when Aliy took a visitor out for a ride-along on a training run, so I grabbed a bunch of shots as they were leaving the Kennel. Although at first glance they don't really seem to be very informative, a closer look shows that every picture tells a story. Take a look at this photo and see what you can see.

Besides the obvious facts that there are 14 dogs running and we don't have much snow yet, let's zoom in on a few parts of the photo to see what else we can observe… Especially about the personalities of the individual dogs.

First of all, we've got talented young Dingle in lead with his head down and working very hard to impress his beautiful, leggy co-leader, Petunia. Dingle is a 3-year old who is really coming into his prime. He was one of Allen's main leaders on the Iditarod last year. Petunia is a 5-year old who is fully in her prime. Although she is an absolute sweetheart around the Kennel, she is always a focused, hard working dog with strong leadership qualities while in harness. She knows she is one of the prettiest sled dogs in the world, and she uses that to her advantage.

Next, we've got the veteran Spicy, an experienced and talented 5-year old, running in swing with Malibu, a 2-year old rising star. True to her nature, Spicy has her head down and her tug line tight with her focus clearly on the trail in front of her. Malibu has momentarily picked her head up to check me out. While in some cases this can be a sign of lost concentration, here it is a sign of "surveying the scene" that lead dogs must be very good at. Keep your eye on Malibu this season, as she is likely to be an important young member of the team.

Behind them you can see 7-year old Bullet, one of those rare dogs who can -- and will -- do anything you ask her to. Whether it is leading in the most difficult situations, setting the pace while running in swing or being a solid member of the team as she is here, Bullet is a dog who earns everybody's respect. She may be shy and not very affectionate around the Kennel, but Aliy won't go anywhere without her.

Finally, we've got the rest of the team:

Skittles is head up and sassy, and Spot is "in the zone." Behind them you can barely see both solid young Chica and the always hard working and cheerful Teddy. Next is Quito, another of the talented 3-year old crew, and behind her are Tyson and Nutmeg, working hard like good team dogs do.

And who do we have back in wheel position? The last dog on the right is young Bonita, yet another of the solidly developing 3-year olds. The last dog on the left… Well, that's our dear, sweet, dumb girl Happy… momentarily "gone mental" as Aliy calls it. If I had to guess, right now she is thinking "Squirrel!"

Every dog is an individual, every team is unique and every picture tells a story!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Conex Container Follow-up

A few of you have written to say you enjoyed the video of the new Conex storage container's arrival and placement, and to ask just how huge it looks in the Kennel yard. So, we thought we'd share the answer with everybody.

Because the Conex is tucked the long way back beside the pole barn, you can only see its end as you enter the Kennel. It really doesn't look much larger from this view than the old feed storage shed that you can see front and center.

The view from the top floor of the house tells a slightly different story, as you can see that the Conex extends quite a ways back into the woods behind the pole barn. Not many people will see it from there, and even if they did it really doesn't look too out of scale.

The big thing, though, is just how useful the Conex is for storage. In case you ever wanted to know, this is what 4 TONS of dog food looks like:

If you look way in the back, you'll see it's even big enough to hold a few of the Team's racing sleds… Keeping them nice and neat, ready for some serious action coming up pretty soon!