Thursday, December 31, 2009

A "Day With The Dogs" and "Paws For Cures"

By now you are all familiar with a long-time friend of SP Kennel, physiology researcher Dr. Michael Davis from Oklahoma State University. What you probably don't know it that he is president-elect of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Foundation, or that each year the ACVIM hosts a benefit to find cures for disease and illness in companion animals called "Paws For Cures."

When Dr. Mike called Aliy and Allen this past summer to ask for a donation to the "Paws For Cures" auction, they were happy to help and offered one of our "Day With The Dogs" SP Kennel visit programs. We hear that the bidding was lively, and eventually won by Lynne Warner and Ashley Mullen from San Diego.

So it came to pass that Lynne and Ashley arrived at the Kennel one day last weekend and were treated to an experience they thoroughly enjoyed and will cherish forever. After starting with our customary coffee chat about all things dog-related, we suited them up in proper arctic gear and headed out into the dog yard. First up for our guests was to accomplish the "harnessing and hooking up" process you are all now well-versed in. The hounds went above and beyond their usual "pick me, pick me" antics, which prompted Lynne to say, "They're all so excited, I hate to leave any of them behind!"

With the teams ready to go, Lynne and Ashley headed out for a two-hour run with Aliy and Allen, spending some time in the sleds but also some time mushing. Upon returning to the Kennel, they handled the post-run routine of removing booties and harnesses then wrapped up their immersion in Kennel life with a feeding of the dogs. Their day concluded with another Kennel standard: Moose stew for dinner!

It was great as always to share a day of Kennel life with folks so eager to dive right in and have the full, rich experience. In recognition of their enthusiasm and efforts, we presented Lynne and Ashley with a certificate of appreciation from their dog teams and signed by the bosses. It was also great to help support "Paws For Cures" and we hope you will consider joining us in doing so in the future!

Aliy's Interview -- Part 4

In Part 4 of the interview, Aliy discusses her attitudes on "winning" and her priorities for herself and the dogs of SP Kennel.

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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Aliy's Interview -- Part 3

In Part 3, Aliy talks about how she got started racing Iditarod and offers some insightful perspectives on the race.

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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

High Noon In Two Rivers

No kidding, folks... I took this photo at exactly noon today!

Training On The Yukon Quest Trail

In yesterday's segment of Aliy's interview, she talked about the Yukon Quest. So, I thought this might be a good time to share with you an episode from our "Training On…" series which Aliy recently filmed on a local portion of the Yukon Quest trail.

Sadly, some parts of the audio are a little challenged. There's some wind noise in spots, which seems to happen when there's a head wind. I'm still trying to come up with a solution for that. Then, there are some "loud mouth dogs" in the soundtrack, about which there's nothing that can be done… Although you will hear Aliy try!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Aliy's Interview -- Part 2

In Part 2 of her interview, Aliy talks about the Yukon Quest and about being the first -- and only -- woman to win it.

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.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Boris & Raffie Get "Big Dog" Houses!

No more "puppy pen" for Mystery Pups Boris and Raffie! This weekend they've moved into "big dog" houses of their very own. Taking up residence in the two boxes closest to the front of the human house, the lads have quickly adapted to their new abodes and brought all their zest for play with them. First on the schedule, of course, was the universal dog game called "kick around the food dish." This was followed by another classic, "I can race around my house faster than you can."

Well above these games on the happy puppy scale, however, is the fact that they are now out in the open, right in the path of human traffic. Getting more attention, more pats and hugs, the youngsters have discovered an important fact of life: "Only more is more!"

When asked for comment about his brothers' good fortune, "Bad Boy" Mac's response was true to form: "So what? Big deal... I've had my own house for weeks now! Boris has moved into my old house which is fine with me, because I was already so over it was beneath me. I've now got the corner property, right at the front of the Kennel. I'm the first dog people meet when they arrive and the last dog they see when they leave. Just like I ought to be!"

So, all of the Mystery Pups are quite happy as they continue to grow into fine young sled dogs!

Aliy's Interview -- Part 1

We recently reported that Aliy was interviewed by an Anchorage TV station for use in their half-hour pre-Iditarod special. Since many -- probably most -- of you will not be able to see it aired, we are going to post the audio in a series on the Dog Log.

The topics included cover a broad range that many of you have asked to hear about: How Aliy got started mushing dogs, about the Yukon Quest and Iditarod, and plenty more about the dogs. So, we think you'll find it entertaining and informative.

I'm sorry that the audio is not quite up to our usual standards, but I had to place my recorder pretty much across the room. Plus, Tig the pet dog made her presence know repeatedly, as you will hear by her bone chewing, water drinking, etc. I was able to clean it up some, and I think you'll find it acceptable.

Now... In Part 1, Aliy answers some "warm up" questions about... what else?... dogs!

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.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Congratulations Moonpie!

Congratulations to Moonpie who has just become a sponsored dog!

Mona Frederick recently contacted us to say that she is planning to attend the Iditarod for the first time this year. In the process of preparing herself, she has become a big fan of SP Kennel and really appreciates all that she learns here on the Dog Log.

We like hearing that, and we really love it when people are inspired to participate in the Kennel and support the Team. Mona wrote, "Given that I live in Nashville, it just seems that Moonpie calls out for a southern sponsor!" and we were very happy to hook her up with the fine young lad right away.

Mona asked that we hold off announcing Moonpie's new sponsorship until after Christmas so that she could share his dog sponsor kit -- including his unique Iditarod tag from last year! -- as a present to her family. We were delighted to help make the new relationship a family affair.

When I went out in the dog yard and announced Moonpie's new sponsorship, the dogs all gave a happy howl for the big, lovable guy. Even his sister Li'l Debbie -- who has been taunting him for weeks now about becoming a sponsored dog before him -- said, "It's about time, he really deserves to be appreciated!"

As for Moonpie's reaction, well, it was pretty much what you would expect from the focused, hard working hunk. "That's great! When do we get to go run?" It's not that he doesn't appreciate your sponsorship, Mona, it's just that he's 100% sled dog. Later, after a 50 mile run, he told me that he's looking forward to seeing you in Anchorage!

Congratulations to Moonpie and the Cameron/Frederick family as y'all embark on a long and rewarding relationship!
(Not a dog sponsor yet? Well, you're in luck! A few of our fantastic dogs are still available for sponsorship. Just email us -- -- to tell us which dog inspires you to embark on a truly "insider" experience in the life of an SP Kennel Alaskan Husky sled dog!)

Christmas 50-50

How did you spend Christmas night? Aliy, Allen and the dogs spent it by heading out for what's called a 50-50. That's a 50 mile run, a 5 hour rest then another 50 mile run. This video offers you a look at their preparation, and some nice footage of the dogs "up close and personal." Yup, that's what we do for fun around here, get out in the cold and dark to shoot video of dogs and go for all night runs! Makes your tummy ache from eating too much holiday food seem not quite so bad, eh? Enjoy!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!

White Mountains -- Part 6 -- On The Run

You may recall that we began this White Mountains mini-series running dogs on the trail with Aliy, and that seems a good way to wrap it up as well. As I was editing this footage, it struck me as a little odd-looking, like maybe Aliy's camera got stuck in some kind of Black-and-White mode that I didn't know it had. But right toward the end you can see some color in the sunset, so the best I can figure is that there was just very little low, flat light. In truth, it pretty much looks B&W around here these days.

We hope you have enjoyed this mini-series from our White Mountains "practice" mushing trip, and that it has given you a good start-to-finish view of what all is involved in hitting the road to go racing. We wish we'd been able to share it with you just prior to an actual race, but you know that our season has been disrupted by lack of snow.

All reports indicate that our racing season will actually start with the Copper Basin 300 on January 9th. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy The Pet Dog?

I know it's been a week since we were in Anchorage, but I just got this photo off one of my pocket cameras and thought it was funny enough to share with you.

Allen and Aliy were sitting in the Anchorage airport waiting for our flight, when Happy hopped up on the seat between them and made herself comfortable. I laughed and said, "She looks kinda like Happy the pet dog!" Aliy laughed and said, "You know, Happy has really surprised me on this trip. She's done great with all the travel, the people, the hotel… Everything. She might actually make a good pet dog one day."

One thing's for sure, our crazy Happy girl has come a long way from being chained to a boat motor during a blizzard in a remote Alaskan village.

White Mountains -- Part 5 -- Take Off

In the previous episode of our White Mountains mini-series, you saw a time-lapse view of the Team setting up. The next step in the process is harnessing and hooking up the dogs, but we've recently posted a pretty in-depth series on that subject so I decided to offer you something different. While the mushers were laying out the rest of their gear, I had the opportunity to go around the dog trucks and visit with the dogs.

So, in this episode you first get to meet the whole pack of dogs. One thing that stands out in this segment is how different some of their personalities are, from pretty mellow and matter-of-fact to verging on crazy. I hope you will forgive me for using my "idiotic doggie voice" from time to time, but the dogs expect it of me and I don't like to disappoint them. We are, after all, a "dog first" kennel!

After we visit with the dogs, you will see Allen, Bridgett and Aliy take off for their day-long mushing trip! In the next episode we'll wrap up with some more great footage from Aliy out on the trail.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Upgrade To "The Dogs!" Page

As you know, I upgraded the Dogs page last month. The truth is that I was never really happy with it. I don't know about you, but I didn't like having to click on a dog's picture in order to read his or her team card and see more info. Plus, opening and closing new windows all the time just seemed kind of lame.

The problem was that I didn't know how to do anything about it.

It's bugged me, though, so I decided today was the day to fix it. Twelve hours later -- and a whole bunch of messing around with HTML, Java and Blogger (none of which I really know much about) -- and I think it's fixed.

On the "New, New Dogs Page" all you should have to do is move your cursor over a dog's picture and a bigger, fuller image window will appear. For those who have "Meet The Dogs" videos, there will be a link in the bottom of the window which will open that page for viewing.

The code for doing all this is a little complicated, but it should work fine for everybody who has a current web browser, Java update, etc.

Please let me know in the comments if it works for you, and whether or not you like it. My boss is going to hammer me pretty hard for not getting anything else done today, so I hope the answer is "yes" to both!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

White Mountains -- Part 4 -- Getting Ready To Run

Part 4 of our White Mountains mini-series started out as another time time-lapse look at what it's like when the teams arrive "on location" and get ready to run. Although the video looked useful for illustrating the overall process of dropping and feeding the dogs, sorting gear and sleds, laying out lines, etc., it also looked a little boring and I didn't think a musical background would save it.

So, I rummaged through my bag of AV goodies and found a piece of audio that I had recorded during breakfast on our way to the White Mountains. Not only is it a good discussion of where we're going and why, but it spotlights just how much we were focused on getting ready for the start of racing season at the Sheep Mountain 150. As usual whenever the SP Kennel crew gets together, there's also some good humor and banter.

You'll have to split your attention a little bit to see one thing and hear another, but I think you'll find it all informative, entertaining and more than just a little ironic.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Two Rivers Winter Solstice

I had planned -- hoped? -- to bring you a series of photos to illustrate what Winter Solstice is like here at SP Kennel (64.865 North, 146.972 West). But, alas, it has clouded over. I can offer you this one photo, however, taken at our "official sunrise" time of 10:57 this morning... Just in time for lunch! Happy Winter Solstice everyone!

White Mountains -- Part 3 -- Load Up Close Up

In Part 3 of our White Mountains mini-series, you'll see that there's actually a lot of walking involved in sled dog mushing. Thankfully, most of that walking takes place at the Kennel and not out on the trail. But when you think about Aliy, Allen and Bridgett making 36 trips to get dogs and load them in the truck, it's easy to see that the walking really adds up.

Then, of course, they have to lift the dogs up into the trucks. Most of our dogs average 45 pounds, but there are many who are heavier. They are all strong, and that requires effort to control as well. So, as you watch the load up process, keep in mind that it's not as easy as they make it look!

In the previous video, I encouraged you to watch Bullet's antics during the loading process. In this episode, I invite you to check out poor Teddy who is so eager to go, but can't because it is too warm for her to run in her extraordinary Alaskan Husky fur coat. She really puts on a show to be picked!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Howler Held At Bay

Sorry folks… Despite our best intentions to publish the Howler newsletter on a monthly basis, the December "Early Racing" Edition has been scrapped.

We had planned to publish right after the Sheep Mountain 150 and had hoped it would include news of great success for your SP Kennel Team. When that race was cancelled, we decided to push back a week and wait for Solstice 100 news.

With the Solstice now cancelled, we've really got nothing to report besides what you've already gotten here on the Dog Log!

Looking forward, we plan to publish a "Mid-Season" Howler in January -- right after the Copper Basin 300 -- and a "Pre-Iditarod" edition in February.

So, please "Stay tuned!"

White Mountains -- Part 2 -- Load Up Overview

Part 2 of our White Mountains mini-series offers you a time-lapse overview of the dog truck loading process. The "real-time" video is about 20 minutes long, so this video is speeded up to 8x normal speed. It goes by pretty quickly, but we bet some of our sharp-eyed Dog Log viewers will pick out a lot of interesting little insights.

For example, besides the obvious progression of the dog yard going from full to almost empty, keep your eye on the dogs who don't get loaded. As the crowd thins out, they get more and more frantic to be picked next. Even Bullet who is normally so staid goes almost crazy on the far right of the frame. Right up until the very end, that is, when she figures out she's not going and sits down in acceptance of her fate. It's almost heart breaking.

In the next part of the series, I'll show you the footage that you can see me filming during this video. From overview to close-up, we try to show you everything here on the Dog Log! (Many thanks as always to Jonathan Coulton for the use of the soundtrack song!)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

White Mountains -- Part 1 -- Running Dogs

You may recall that over the long Thanksgiving weekend your SP Kennel Team loaded up in the trucks and went to the White Mountains. Partly, this was a way to prepare for racing season by practicing the whole "pack-load-drive" routine. Also, it was a way to get away from training on 4-wheelers in Two Rivers -- where there was very little snow -- and actually have some fun on sleds.

My plan was to post this multi-part series before the Sheep Mountain 150, as a way to show you in detail what all is involved in "going racing." When the SM150 was cancelled, I figured I'd just delay posting it until this week before the Two Rivers Solstice 100 race.

Well, so much as usual for "plans" around here! With the Solstice race having been cancelled I don't want the videos to get too stale, so I'm going to post it all over the next week anyway. The series covers the entire process from the very beginning, but I've decided to show you the end-result first. After all, we may not be racing yet, but we sure are running dogs. And running dogs is what we're all about!

So, here is the first part of the series, shot by Aliy out on the trail. Once again she has brought you some great video and a fantastic narration. I think you'll find it pretty obvious that she's happy to be out on a sled, especially if you compare the tone of her voice to what you recently heard from her on a 4-wheeler!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Two Rivers Solstice 100 -- Cancelled!

It's official... The Two Rivers Solstice 100 sled dog race -- scheduled for tomorrow -- has been cancelled due to lack of snow.

We are very disappointed to have our second "first race of the season" disappear from our racing schedule, but we have immediately shifted focus to our new season opener, the Copper Basin 300.

Due to this season's disrupted "early-racing" schedule, all of the premier sled dog racing kennels are in an unusual situation that could make this year's CB300 the most interesting and exciting ever.

For one thing, the lack of prior races will mean that teams will have had fewer opportunities to "try-out" dogs, sleds, strategies, etc. Uncertainties will abound throughout this very competitive, very important race.

For another, because there will be no previous-race "front runners" coming into the CB300, all of the teams will be starting with unknown qualifications. All pre-race strategy and speculation will be based on prior years' performance, rather than on much more recent prior race performance.

Your SP Kennel Team has developed a robust strategy to account for these unusual circumstances, but we're sorry that we can't tell you all about here in public... At least not yet!

We will fill you in on as much as we can and as fast as we can... Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Happy Says "Mission Accomplished!"

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... That's why they call me Happy!

Well, I'll tell you... It's been another whirlwind day here in Anchorage! We had meetings all morning, then photo shoots all afternoon and our big presentation tonight at Covenant House. The boss did a really good job talking about how hard it is being a human sometimes, and that "winning" sometimes means solving each problem you face and keeping going until you finish. I never knew she had such a hard time on the Iditarod last year!

I was quite the star of the show, though, and everybody loved me! I got lots of attention and it was all really great except for hearing dogs barking from inside a little black box. It was really loud, but you couldn't see any dogs inside it. It kinda creeped me out.

Anyway, Aliy says I did a really great job here and Allen even said I was "Perfect!" (He really likes me, you know, now that helped him get all the way to Nome. Have I ever told you that I'm an Iditarod finisher?)

So, I say "mission accomplished" here in Anchorage!

We just got back to our room at Clarion Suites, and I headed straight for my inside dog house. Seriously, this celebrity stuff is exhausting. I'm just human tired and ready to go home! We have a midnight flight, after which we'll get back the Kennel at about three o'clock in the morning. That's really late, even in dog hours. I don't care, though, because I can sleep in as late as I want tomorrow. We celebrities get to do that, you know.

I hope you have enjoyed hearing about my trip. We shot a bunch of pictures and video today, so you can expect to see lots more about my trip here on the Dog Log. You're excited about that, I know!

Love, Happy The Sled Dog

Hi From Happy In Anchorage

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... That's why they call me Happy!

Okay, so I'm in Anchorage. What a day! First, I was the only Iditarod sled dog on the plane and didn't have to share my cabin with anybody! In the first photo you can see me arriving at the Anchorage airport. The humans were worried about me, but I took it all in stride. I wanted to use the escalator, but they made me ride in an elevator instead. You know what an elevator is, right? It's a really big dog house that goes up and down.

In the second photo you can see me checking into the Clarion Suites Downtown. Actually, my people handled that for me. I'm the star so I don't have to do those things. Besides, I don't have a thumb so I can't hold a pen. We have a very nice room, and here's the coolest thing: I had room service!

I have to go to bed now and get my beauty sleep. Tomorrow is a big day!

Love, Happy

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Humans, Happy Headed To Anchorage

Aliy, Allen and I are all headed to Anchorage today. Our mission is to meet with sponsors and supporters to get a jump on making Iditarod arrangements, plans, etc. Plus, Aliy is doing a presentation at Covenant House on behalf of SP Kennel Lead Sponsor Horizon Lines. She will be using some of her stories and videos from last Iditarod to talk about focusing on goals, overcoming setbacks and perseverance. As we all know, she has plenty to share!

As part of her presentation, Aliy is bringing along a very special SP Kennel dog who has her own rich history of overcoming hardships in a remote Alaskan village to become an Iditarod finishing sled dog. That's right, Happy's going to Anchorage to share her celebrity and stardom! When told that she was going on the trip, you can see that Happy's reactions went from surprise to bewilderment to something that appears to be denial.

That dog always cracks me up, and when I think about Happy getting a bath, flying to Anchorage and staying in a hotel room... Well, I can't help but think it's going to be hilarious!

I will try to post something from Anchorage, but if I miss a day please bear with me and stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bootie Time

After yesterday's peaceful, poetic video post, it's back to business here at SP Kennel. The temperature has dropped again and we still haven't had any new snow, so the trails are all very firm. This can be hard on the dogs' feet, so Aliy has been putting booties on all of them for protection.

Nobody -- neither mushers nor dogs -- particularly like booties. They are a hassle to put on and they're not much fun to wear. Nevertheless, they are an essential part of mushing, and Aliy gives you an up-close look at the process of of "bootie time" for the dogs.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Morning Feeding

I hope you're checking the Dog Log over your morning coffee or breakfast, because here's something I think you might find is perfect for starting your day.

Aliy handed me her camera this evening and said, "I shot some stuff while I was feeding the dogs yesterday morning. Maybe you can do something with it." When I got back to my Mac and looked at the footage, I was stunned. Do something with it? It's beautiful, downright poetic. If this keeps up, Aliy's going to put me out of work!

A little editing, a few transitions, a little tweaking of the soundtrack and adding some perfect background music by my good friend Stephen Jacob was all it took. I hope you enjoy Aliy's way of sharing her morning routine with you!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Congratulations Viper!

I got a call the other day from an old friend who owns a Zolfe car franchise and an auto racing team.

He had been looking at "The Dogs!" page here on the Dog Log and said, "You've got car dogs… I want to sponsor one. I want Viper!"

I told him he was welcome to sponsor Viper, but I was curious about the connection he saw between sled dogs and his cars.

I asked him what his motivation was, and his reply really struck me:
"In the auto racing business, we make a big deal out of a car that races for 500 miles or for 24 hours on the track. Your dogs race over 1,000 miles and run for more than ten days in some of the harshest conditions on the planet! I really respect that, and I want to support it.

Frankly, your story is bigger and better than mine. If I don't sponsor one of your dogs, how can I get people to sponsor one of our cars?

Viper is just like one of our Zolfe cars: Great looks and great performance in the same package. He's perfect for our market."
So, congratulations Viper! You're a brand new corporate sponsored dog and you've got a whole new market looking at sled dog racing. Not bad for a kid from Two Rivers, Alaska!

Sunday Pupdate: Meet The Pups!

We've shown you photos of them, and we've taken you along on our first walk with them. Now it's time for you to officially meet them! Aliy will introduce you to the four Pepper-Ranger pups and tell you a little about each of them. We've also included a little puppy-play footage, just because that's always fun!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Old Chums

I was out on location today and ran into a couple of old chums!

Those of you who remember these characters will be glad to hear that Manny and Heeler are enjoying perfect retirement life over at Leslie's "Paws For Adventure" Kennel. I shot some video and will give you details in an upcoming series I am working on about dogs in retirement, but for now I can tell you that Manny -- The Manniac! -- continues all the antics which have made him a legend. While running in team on short "tourist" rides several times a day, Manny will respond on cue from Leslie to "Let 'em have it, Manny!" Everybody loves the guy and he is a star at the kennel.

Heeler -- Mr. Personality -- continues to apply his irresistible charm and has earned himself the dog house most front and center at the kennel. He is the first dog Leslie's customers meet, and he just loves all the attention. Leslie says that Heeler is very happy spending his retirement running in team on short tours several times a day. He is a hard worker as always, but prefers not to have the pressure of running in lead. Mostly, though, he's just perfect as dog ambassador. "If we had a mayor of the kennel," she says, "Heeler would have the job!"

I look forward to sharing lots more about these two old chums very soon!

Beef Flavored Snickers

Although the primary source of nutrition for SP Kennel's racing sled dogs -- both at the Kennel and during races -- is Eagle Pack's fantastic MVP formula kibble, there are times when a "snack" is called for. Mostly used during races as a way to give the dogs some quick "pick me up" calories, dog snacks are made out of a variety of meats: fish, beef, tripe, turkey, lamb, etc. To prepare these snacks, we go through a process we call "cutting meat."

Today was the first of many we will spend this winter cutting meat snacks for the dogs. It's a messy, boring, menial job, but since we want to be sure you have a complete picture of what we do all season, we're inviting you to join us. Allen takes the lead in this video, and his humor sets the tone for the rest of us. Kudos to Fran on her meat packing debut and her good humor as we "mess with the newbie!"

In the video, Allen mentions that we showed you a documentary on making fish snacks last year. For those of you who may not have seen it -- and for those of you who just can't get enough of a good thing -- we offer you a look at it here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Back On A 4-Wheeler

Aliy shot this video on Monday, the day after hearing that the Sheep Mountain 150 race had been cancelled. As you will hear, the Kennel had a lot of dogs trained up for the race, and they all had to "run it off." But, the same lack of snow that cancelled the race has also made it impossible to run full teams of dogs with sleds around Two Rivers. So, Aliy's back on a 4-wheeler and not too thrilled about it. She does, however, put on a happy face -- and a happy voice! -- and look at the bright side.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cutter Has A Visit From His Sponsor!

Recently, our "big dog" -- and proud papa! -- Cutter had a visit from his sponsor, Linda Toth. Despite his shy look in this photo, you can be assured that the lovable hunk put on quite a lively show. Nothing is more fun than being singled out for special attention in front of all your pack mates!

While she was here, Linda visited with many of the other dogs, took a little ride behind a team and got to wear the official "Red Team" livery! We're always glad to have our sponsors visit the Kennel, and the dogs just love it! If you're in the area, come join the fun!

Aliy Interviewed For TV

A reporter and cameraman from KTUU Channel 2 TV in Anchorage came by the Kennel yesterday to interview Aliy for a special that will be aired the week before the Iditarod in March. They started with almost an hour of Q&A inside the house, dealing mainly with Aliy's history, racing experiences and general views on the sport of sled dog racing. I was able to record much of the audio from across the room, and will try to edit and post some of it for you soon

The news crew also joined Aliy for a brief tour of the dog yard, where the hounds were quite keen to be on camera. They offered up some pretty good howls and did their best to merit special attention.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hoss Retirement Update

We just received this sweet photo of Hoss from Tom and Cindy Eckhoff in Revere, PA, with whom he has gone to live out his retirement years. Looking at the photo, it's a little hard to believe that just this past spring Hoss was the main lead dog on Allen's Iditarod team! The emotional latitude and adaptability of our Alaskan Husky sled dogs is simply astonishing!

Tom and Cindy write:
We really love this boy! He adds so much to our lives, and he has fit right in... Even with KoKo-Kitty!

He continues to learn more about his new surroundings, some things were so new to him when he first got here. Like a refrigerator! Wow, good smelling things to eat come out of there! And the microwave was scary at first, but good smelling stuff comes out of there too! Hair dryers are still scary and serve no purpose. And the vacuum, OH MY!

We cannot thank Aliy enough for allowing us to adopt Hoss!
We've focused on puppies quite a bit over the past few weeks, and we always talk about the racing dogs. It strikes me that you may enjoy a little more information about the life of our retired dogs, so I'm going to put together a little series of posts on the subject. You can imagine that Hoss will be a featured dog!

Congratulations Li'l Debbie!

Congratulations to Li'l Debbie who has just become a sponsored dog!

Deb Davis of Ketchikan, AK, became aware of SP Kennel last spring at the Iditarod finish in Nome where she volunteered as a "dropped dog" handler. If you check out the "Beemer Pickup" post, you can hear her in the background, doing her official care-taking duty to require Bridgett to sign for Beemer. Deb contacted us last week and inquired about sponsoring Li'l Debbie and we are delighted to pair them in what we know will be a long and very rewarding relationship!

We told Li'l Debbie about being a newly sponsored dog, and her reaction was a vigorous tail wag and a hearty howl… Followed immediately by a gloating look at her brother Moonpie, who despite his fantastic qualities and strong contributions to the SP Kennel Team remains unsponsored!

Congratulations to both Deb and Li'l Deb!
(Not a dog sponsor yet? Well, you're in luck! A few of our fantastic dogs are still available for sponsorship. Just email us -- -- to tell us which dog inspires you to embark on a truly "insider" experience in the life of an SP Kennel Alaskan Husky sled dog!)

Training On The Base Line Trail

So far in Aliy's "Training On The Trail" series, you've ridden along in the hills on the Fire Break and on the Woodcutting Road. In this episode, you'll get a taste of something completely different on the Base Line trail. There are so many trails around Two Rivers that the Team has the opportunity for lots of variety on its training runs. This helps keep the dogs -- and the mushers! -- from getting bored. It also means that the runs can be pretty well tuned to what kind of work the dogs are due for in their training cycle. As always, Aliy does a great job of describing the trail with the aim of continuing to give you a broad understanding of what life is like at SP Kennel. Enjoy your ride!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

News Update From The Mushing World

It's been a busy week of news in the mushing world.

First we learned that the Sheep Mountain 150 race has been cancelled due to lack of snow and dangerous trail conditions. We are in the process of adjusting to the significant impact this has had on our training and racing schedule, and we will fill you in as soon as we know what's what.

In addition, we have received two media links that we want to pass along to you in the interest of your being well informed and up to date on news from our world.

SP Kennel has no comment on either of these stories at this time.

Click the links below to read:
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner article: "Drug testing planned for Iditarod mushers"

Iditarod Trail Committee press release: "Iditarod experiences significant losses in funding"
Stay tuned!

Meet The Parents!

Congratulations to all of you who played "Name The Mystery Pups' Parents!" The action was fast and furious in the comments to the previous post, and you all zeroed in on the answer very quickly. Thanks for the fun!

Now, with no further ado, it's time to meet the parents!

Like many young lovers, Chica and Cutter had a brief but passionate summer romance. She gave him a wink and said the dog equivalent of "Hey there big boy!" and he replied with a beating heart, a wagging tail and an innocent "Who me?" The rest of the story you will have to make up for yourself.

The good news is that both parents are truly outstanding dogs and come from very, very good lineages. Cutter is the son of Pingo and Pepper -- both exceptional SP Kennel dogs who are themselves parents of many of the Kennel's past and present racing sled dogs. Chica is the daughter of SP Kennel legend Venus and Zorro, Lance Mackey's main man to whom she was bred for purposes of bringing new blood lines into the close-knit family of SP Kennel dogs.

The bad news is that the breeding program at SP Kennel is very strict and carefully controlled by Aliy. SP Kennel is relatively small compared to the other premier kennels with which it competes. Unlike kennels which breed many more dogs than they need and pick only the best from many litters, Aliy only breeds for the dogs she wants. This year she wanted pups from Ranger and Pepper, and did not sanction a love-litter from Chica and Cutter.

The rest of the story is really not as mysterious as we have made it out to be. Because the "Mystery Pups" were not part of the Kennel's breeding plan, Aliy had no intention of keeping them when they were born. That is the simple reason why they were not announced here in the Dog Log. But, as Aliy explained in the earlier video, not only has the entire kennel become very fond of the pups, their size and obvious enthusiasm makes them excellent candidates for future SP Kennel racing teams. So, Boris, Raffie and Mac have now officially been recognized by the boss as SP Kennel dogs, and we all look forward to sharing in their very bright futures.

The rest of this little drama has just been a bit of fun. We had to "catch you up" on the trio, and decided to do it in what we hope you have found to be an enjoyable way.

To Chica and Cutter, congratulations and thank you for three great pups. They'll be the last for Cutter, since he had actually been neutered a few days BEFORE his summer romance. (There's may be a lesson in that for some of you out there!) Chica's future parenthood is undetermined, but if Boris, Raffie and Mac are an indication of what she can deliver... You go girl!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Let's Play "Name The Mystery Pups' Parents"!

Okay!... Let the fun begin! All of us here at SP Kennel challenge you to "Name The Mystery Pups' Parents!"

We honestly think at least one of you avid Dog Log readers will figure it out right away. Plus, in reviewing the videos, we realize we've already given you lots of hints!

But, to help you get started, we're posting this photo of the trio -- Boris and Raffie in front, Mac in the back -- taken about a month ago which gives you a good, clear look at them. And, just so you know there's no funny business on our part, we will tell you that both parents are SP Kennel Racing Dogs who can be seen on The Dogs!" page.

For this game, let's use the comments rather than email so that everyone can share in the fun.

So, get after it!... Name the mystery pup's parents!
(Note: For any of you who already know who the parents are, please don't spoil the fun for everybody else!)

Meet The Mystery Pups -- Uncut!

This is my second season shooting video with Aliy, and I think you'll agree we've worked out a pretty good "opposite sides of the camera" routine. Sometimes we talk briefly about what we're going to shoot, but mostly I just hit the record button and what you see is what we got.

With rare exception, Aliy does an amazing job of getting it in one "take" and although it's not always quite as easy as it may look, I pretty generally only have to trim a little footage off the beginning and end to make the final video.

With that in mind, we set out today to shoot some video of Aliy with the "Mystery Pups." Our idea was to do a series of short "Meet The Pups" videos, similar to the many "Meet The Dogs" videos you've seen here before.

I expected the filming to be a little "rough" but what happened turned out to be pure chaos. At first we tried a few re-starts, but it soon became clear that I should just let the camera roll and "fix it in post" as they say. As I started reviewing the footage, though, I realized there was no way I was going to be able to "fix" it.

As I kept looking through the footage, I kept laughing about how funny it all was. I thought you might enjoy seeing the whole episode, so here it is: "Meet The Mystery Pups -- Uncut!"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sheep Mountain 150: Race Cancelled!

We've just received an email from which we offer you these excerpts:

I am very sorry to inform you that the race will have to be cancelled due to lack of snow/dangerous conditions. Although there is good snow cover in the area immediately around Sheep Mountain and Eureka Lodges, as soon as you get into the high country it disappears to a dangerously thin level. There is not enough snow to safely support 45 teams around the entire course. After seeing the backcountry trails this weekend, I would not run my dogteam on this course, and would not expect you to either. Snow is not in the immediate forecast.

I snowmachined the entire race course the last 2 days and was surprised so see that most of the snow had blown away. I looked into an abbreviated route/alternate course, but there is nothing nearby that can even get close to 150 miles.

My philosophy for this race is: " provide mushers with a well-marked, safe course for early season distance training and competition." Right now that is not possible. Thank you for your understanding. Good luck with your training and, hopefully, we'll see you next year.

Zack Steer
Race Director, SM 150
As we often say, "It's never easy!" We're all very disappointed that we won't be racing this weekend, but we certainly still have plenty going on! As we also often say around here, "Stay tuned!"

Running Errands

I just shot this video a few minutes ago and wanted to post it right away. It's really no big deal, but it is a perfect little example of life around a sled dog kennel. I did a voice-over introduction on the video, so I'll skip typing it here... Enjoy your Sunday!

Dog Care Day -- Part 3

In the final chapter of our 3-part "behind the scenes" mini series on Dog Care Day, Aliy's mani-pedi business of booming.

I don't know about you, but I've never gotten the hang of cutting a dog's toenails. I've never liked doing it and I've never been very good at it. I know it's important, so like a lot of folks -- and you may be one of them -- I used to take my dogs to the groomer to have their nails done. Of course Aliy doesn't really have that option, so it's a good thing she's so comfortable and proficient at it. Nevertheless, here's where the numbers really become staggering: 60 dogs, 960 toe nails! How long would that take you to do?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mac Has A New House!

Mac -- one of the "Mystery Pups" -- is the first to get his own house!

After spending his first three months in a puppy pen with his brothers Boris and Raffie, Aliy made the decision that it was time for the lad to have a place of his own. "He's a little bigger and stronger than his brothers," Aliy explained, "and he was being a bit of a bully with them. We don't want that kind of behavior taking root in his personality, so we've given him some space." It appears that young Mac may be taking after his namesake -- tennis pro John McEnroe -- by being a bit of a "bad boy"... Though certainly not a bad dog!

When asked about being described as a bad boy, Mac responded, "It's a totally bad call by the ref. I mean come on! There wasn't even any dust! I hardly ever touched them, and if there's a line I never got anywhere near it! How can she not see that! It's a tough game we're playing here. I'm the best sled dog of my generation, and they all know it. They're the ones who were always coming after me. All I ever did was play the game the way it's supposed to be played. And they call me a bad boy? We'll just see about that." Mac was then led away from the press conference by his manager and has been unavailable for comment since.

We've scheduled to shoot a whole bunch of puppy stuff tomorrow, so stay tuned for all the stories, drama and intrigue... Film at eleven!

Dog Care Day -- Part 2

In Part 2 of our "behind the scenes" mini-series on Dog Care Day, Aliy does some fancy footwork.

One of the aspects of SP Kennel dogs which makes them stand out in the world of racing sled dogs is that they have very few problems with their feet. This is especially important in long-distance racing where foot problems can stop a team in their tracks. Part of the reason our dogs have so few foot problems is obviously because of their exceptional genetic makeup. Another reason, however, is that Aliy routinely cares for their feet with ointment, lotion, antibiotics and various other goops. Working barehanded in cold weather is certainly no fun, but Aliy does it all the time. In this video she talks about why and shows you how. Here's where the numbers start getting bigger: 60 dogs, 240 feet!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dog Care Day -- Part 1

Many of you have written to ask for more "behind the scenes" action here at SP Kennel, and we're happy bring it to you. In fact, we've got a 3-part mini-series that we think is exactly that. Here's the set-up:

After last weekend's full schedule of running dogs -- on two 50-mile day-trips in the White mountains, in the Two Rivers Tune Up Race and on some other local training runs -- Monday was a "day off" for the dogs. A day off from running, that is. With Bridgett in town to help, it was a good time to do a full-out "Dog Care Day." In Part-1 of the series, we'll show you how we vaccinate a yard full of sled dogs. As you will see, Dog Care Day is an immense undertaking and the numbers soon become staggering to consider. So, we'll start you off with the smallest number first: 60 dogs, 60 vaccinations.