Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fan Club Draw #3

Congratulations to our Fan Club prize draw winner this time: CHRIS FERGUSON from Dunedin, New Zealand! Chris was one of our very first Fan Club members and is a fan of BEEMER.

At SP Kennel over the last couple of weeks the thermometer hit 40-50F below a few times. Consequently we were all rugged up as warmly as we could get so our topical Fan Club prize this time is an SP Kennel red beanie; we hope it's useful Chris, even though it is the middle of summer in NZ! Chris'll also receive an e-copy of Aliy's 2013 Iditarod Trail Notes, a certificate, glam shot and some other goodies. Beemer already got some extra treats from the Dog Fan Club biscuit bucket.

We thought you might like to learn more about Beemer:

The next draw is due on Sunday, January 12th which is right in the middle of Copper Basin! We'll still make the draw that day but the post may be a little later. The names of everyone who hasn't already won and all new members will be in the draw for a Copper Basin 300 related prize.

Click the button below for instructions on how to join:

Click this button below to take you directly to the Dog Fan Page.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Solstice 100 - Red and Black Team Wrap-up

What a fantastic group of dogs I had on the Red and Black team!

VIPER and PUD led the team out of the starting chute. I intentionally chose really solid leaders as I knew that the trail would be going directly past the kennel... twice. While this could have been a challenge (“What?! We’re not going home for snacks and rub-downs?”), my team flew by the kennel without a glance. This was probably due in part to VIPER’s obsession with turning haw (gee would have gone straight home). He’s a very left-handed dog, which comes in handy in precisely these kinds of situations! PUD is such a reliable leader because of how tuned in he is to his musher. I was really happy to have him up front with VIPER.

WAYLON ran in solo swing and was, as usual, a rock star. His enthusiasm and unique bark-talk always make me smile. RANGER and HONDA ran behind him, with RANGER barking the entire race, as usual. RANGER’s barking is actually really helpful at a race, because it lets a team I’ve caught up to know that I’m there and waiting to pass. HONDA was so steady. I kept an especially close eye on him as he tends to overheat more easily than the other dogs, and the forecast was calling for temperatures as high as 15 degrees. He had no problem, however, and gave 110% the entire race.

BORIS and OUTLAW rounded out the middle of the team and provided some serious power along with MISMO and FANG behind them. These four guys are kind of like having a little rocket booster in your back pocket. They are such hard workers! TUG and PEPE brought up the rear. These two are so consistent, and work really nicely together. They are the dogs that you never notice, because they are always doing their job.

I was especially impressed with the two-year-olds, OUTLAW, MISMO and PEPE, who have limited race experience. When we pulled into the checkpoint, everyone had a big meal and got a fluffy straw bed. While the veteran race dogs immediately curled up in their straw for a nap, the two-year-olds sat down but remained alert, excited by all the non-SP dogs and the general race energy of a checkpoint. They eventually relaxed and laid down for a power-nap, but were (of course!) the first ones up and screaming to go as teams started pulling out for the second half of the race. Gotta love the bottomless enthusiasm of the youngsters!

Our run from the checkpoint to the finish was so smooth. The temperature had cooled, and I decided to move RANGER and WAYLON into lead. These two guys are such strong drivers and set a nice, brisk pace. Having RANGER up front is almost like driving a car, in that you can turn exactly how you want, whenever you want. He is SO alert to his musher! I trust him completely. With the cooler weather and a solid first run under our belts, I decided to let them have a little more speed for our run to the finish line. And they delivered! We had a flawless run under a bright moon, and crossed the finish line sometime around 2:20 a.m. We turned and ran the six miles home, had a snack and rub-down in the yard, and everyone was sound asleep (including me!) by 4:00 a.m. What a day, what a team!

~ Meghan

Friday, December 27, 2013

Solstice 50 - Yearling Wrap-up

I feel very privileged to have been trusted to take the Yearling team in the Solstice 50; it was a fantastic learning experience for us all. From the ride in the dog truck, to hooking up in all the chaos, to encountering skiers, snow machines and 30 other teams on the trail - they all coped brilliantly.

The race was one of the the longest runs they had ever done so to keep it happy and fun we stopped four times for snack/rest breaks and kept a steady pace all the way; we pulled into the checkpoint with wagging tails and smiles (me included - the smile I mean). To gently introduce the concept, we parked in one of the vacant camping spots behind the 100 milers and "camped them" for a couple of hours. They all ate a massive kibble meal and lots of snacks then settled, somewhat, into some straw for a while before we loaded them into the truck for the short ride home.

Every dog did a fantastic job!

DINGLE and SPOOG are an interesting combination in lead. DINGLE is so experienced, patient and pretty laid back. I swear he can read trail markers as there were a few times I got a bit confused and said HAW when I actually should have said GEE - he respectfully ignored me; knowing all the other teams had gone GEE. SPOOG is an up-and-coming leader and he is so earnest in is work; he's very keen to do it right and pulls hard from start to finish.

LYDIA and JUNIOR worked well together in swing position. JUNIOR got a little hyped up at the truck with the other teams close by but soon settled into her work once we got away from the start and on to trails she knew. LYDIA loped the whole way and wasn't fazed by all the passing manoeuvres (being passed) we had to do. She shows great confidence and maturity already.

DUTCH ran on his own and got into a great rhythm very early. He ate every snack and showed good manners around the other teams. All three of those things are important in a sled dog.

I love running IRON and DRIVER together. They have a great energy and seem to be good mates. In training, DRIVER mostly lopes and he can look kinda goofy with his long legs and floppy ears but after about 30 miles he settled into a trot and looked really powerful and business-like. IRON always looks great when he runs, he's a good looking dog!

SANDY and KODIAK kept a great pace in wheel. KODIAK won the prize for being the coolest and calmest at the truck waiting to go. It was bedlam around him and he just sat; taking it all in. SANDY got down to business quickly and is very efficient - she's an unassuming young lady and an important part of the team.

I am very happy to point you in the direction of the dog page to check the yearlings' race history - it no longer says "None"! And don't worry: CHIPPER, WOODY and WEDGY's time will come.

Thank you to Wes, Bridgett and Scotty, Ray, Ryne and Mark for your help on Saturday. (And, of course, Aliy, Allen and Meghan)

- Moira

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Solstice 100 Wrap-up

First of all, a huge thank you to the Two Rivers Dog Mushers Assoc and all the volunteers for putting on an excellent race. The trail was superb and well marked, and the checkpoint was set up really efficiently. Thanks also to the Pleasant Valley Store for staying open!

We want to thank in particular Wes, Ray, Bridgett, Scotty, Ryne, Derek and Mark for their help - we really appreciate you all.
Photo: Sebastian Schnuelle
Now that it is a few days after the race, we are taking the time to reflect on how each team performed. Overall it was a huge success.

Obviously the RED team were awesome! Aliy said her team was ready to race and even a little restless during the 4-hour rest. They even pulled her anchoring snow hook 10 minutes before their "go time". It was somewhat understandable as they stood only 10 feet from Jeff King's team of phenomenal and excited canine athletes.

The very experienced duo of QUITO and SCOUT lead the team the entire route. Drawing bib #21 meant the team had to execute quite a few passing maneuvers to get to the front of the race pack - actually they passed 16 teams in the first 50 miles. They had several poor passes and several very good passes. This is too be expected during the first race of the season. Aliy said that after her first disastrous pass (her fault) she concentrated more and the rest were at least mediocre. The leaders were followed by SCRUGGS and SCOOTER who are good passing dogs with abundant enthusiasm. As you saw in the video of the finish, SCOOTER was the cheerleader, a role she fulfils in most races. NACHO and BOONDOCKS ran together, something Aliy enjoys, as they are so similar in attitude despite such a massive size difference. Two lads, MAC and CHEMO ran solidly together and relatively inexperienced NELSON and Super-Star WILLIE were a perfect combo. FELIX ran with his dad BISCUIT in wheel and they not only physically resemble each other, they are a good match in pace, attitude and performance.

The BLACK team was also superb and did a fantastic job to come in third. To have two teams in the top three sets us up really well for the season ahead.

In a late line-up shuffle Allen lead out with RAMBLER and BEEMER who were both as strong as they ever are. CHICA and SISSY ran in swing and backed-up the leaders well while passing other teams (the swing dogs can sometimes make or break a pass if they don't follow the leaders strongly). I.V ran with SCHMOE and they proved a good combination, working together well. CLYDE and PUPPET were strong team dogs doing their jobs effectively and with minimal fuss. LESTER and TATFISH are about as different as two dogs can get - TATFISH is touched with a little A.D.D. and LESTER a quieter but confident dog - yet they had good energy together. BONITA and IZZY ran in wheel for both legs. IZZY is really coming in to her own and we're excited about her season ahead. BONITA is always a hard-worker and good looking gal.

The RED AND BLACK Team finished strongly and looked great as the crossed the line - Meghan will write a race wrap-up later in the week and tell you about each of her team mates.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

From our Family to Yours

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us at SP Kennel!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Solstice 100 Finish Video

Watch the SP Kennel RED, BLACK and RED AND BLACK teams finish the Two Rivers Solstice 100.

Written wrap-ups to come.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Solstice Race Results

Aliy Zirkle - RED TEAM - won the Two Rivers Solstice 100 race with a total run time of 08:41:54 both legs combined.

Second place was Matt Hall arriving 5 minutes behind Aliy.

Third place was Allen Moore - BLACK TEAM - another 6 minutes behind.

Meghan has finished the race but the standings are not posted yet. We will give you more times and details in the morning.

Time to put the mushers and dogs to bed!

Solstice 100/50 Update

Hi folks! Just a really quick update for those waiting to know what's going on! The halfway stop at the Chena Hot Springs Rifle Range checkpoint saw Aliy and the Red team in 2nd place just 16 seconds behind the leader with a run time for the first 53 miles of 4 hours, 21 minutes and 40 seconds. Allen and his Black team left the checkpoint in 4th position just over four minutes behind Aliy with a run time of 4 hours, 25 minutes and 45 seconds. Meghan's runtime was 5 hours, 12 minutes, 44 seconds and she left the checkpoint in 14th position.

There are 23 teams in the 100 mile race and the expected time of the first finisher, whomever it may be, is going to be around 12.45-1am-ish. I didn't get to see anything of the teams but did catch up briefly with Aliy, Allen and Meghan who all said their runs went really well and the dogs look GREAT!

My Yearling team did such a fantastic job! I am so proud of them - at this point in time the final positions are not posted but I believe we ran the 53 miles in 6 hours, 8 minutes (ish). We did get passed by A LOT of teams but we also passed a few ourselves! I will write a proper race wrap-up and tell you all about my team of superstars in the next day or two - I've just popped back to the kennel to put the babes to bed, feed all those left behind, unload the truck then I'll head back down to Pleasant Valley Store shortly to catch the finish.

L-R: Meghan readies her sled while Pud, Waylon and Mismo watch; Chemo, Scout, Nelson and Quito wait.

By the time we get everyone home and to bed we will need some sleep ourselves so you may not hear from us for a few hours! Keep an eye on the Two Rivers Dog Mushers Assoc website for the results!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Solstice Team Line-Ups

Four teams are racing tomorrow in the Solstice 100 or 50 mile race. Check out the team line-ups page for the full rosters and more information about each dog.

We're very lucky to have Wes (of "Wes and Wendy" fame), Allen's daughter Bridgett and of course, Allen's right-hand-man, Ray, helping us out of the starting chute!

Aliy's Red team will be lead by Quito and Scout, Scruggs and Scooter, Nacho and Boondocks, Mac and Chemo, Nelson and Willie with Biscuit and Felix in wheel.

Allen's Black team will be lead by Chica and I.V., Schmoe and Sissy, Rambler and Beemer, Clyde and Puppet, Lester and Tatfish with Bonita and Izzy in wheel.

Meghan's Red and Black team will be lead by Viper and Pud, Waylon, Ranger and Honda, Boris and Outlaw, Mismo and Fang with Pepe and Tug in wheel.

Moira's Red and Black Yearling team will be lead by Dingle and Spoog, Junior and Lydia, Dutch, Iron and Driver with Kodiak and Sandy in wheel.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Two Rivers Solstice 100/50

SP Kennel has entered four teams in the Two Rivers Solstice 100/50! Aliy and the Red Team, Allen and the Black Team and Meghan and her Red and Black team will run 100 miles. Moira is taking the Red and Black Yearling team 50 miles. It will be quite the logistical exercise to run four teams!

The course is on trails all our dogs know well and at one stage pass very close by the kennel (we'll all have to HAW our dogs where they always GEE). The TRDMA committee and volunteers have worked extremely hard for the last few weeks organising the race and putting in the trails and staging areas for the race. THANK YOU all for the fantastic work you have all done under sometimes very trying circumstances.

There is a really strong field for both races - check out the TRDMA website for more information about the race, the course and the field.

We will post race line-ups on Friday night once they are finalised and a race wrap-ups on Sunday or Monday.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

40 Below

We've had a couple of cold snaps in Two Rivers so far this winter, most recently Sunday night and Monday when it hit 40 below. Even with husky coats, straw beds and big, warm meals the dogs expend a lot of energy just keeping warm at this temperature.

During the fall Allen and Meghan worked on the dog barn to "winterize" it with insulation and a door for this very moment! We've moved a bunch of dogs into the barn where they are double bunking with their mates and enjoying milder temperatures.

The dog barn is the perfect set up because each kennel has room for two dogs to comfortably sleep inside. As well, each kennel has a door to the outside. That way the dogs can use the bathroom "facilities" whenever required. The only glitch is that we've had a few dogs bumping into one another as one enters as the other one exits. Opps! This seems to be a small inconvenience for such comfort.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dog Fan Club Draw #2

Thanks again to all of you who have joined our Dog Fan Club. We're so excited that it's proving to be a popular program and we have fans from far and wide: Alaska, the "Lower 48", Hawaii, Canada, Russia, New Zealand and Australia!

The winner of Draw #2 is PAT LIKOS from Hawaii! Pat is a fan of DINGLE.

We try to make the prize topical for what is going on at the kennel and recently we had all the dogs inside; weighing them, cutting nails and checking feet. Of course, to get the dogs from their houses to the garage we use leashes so Pat wins an Alaska Dog Leash. We hope it's useful Pat! She'll also receive a certificate, glam shot and some other goodies. Dingle gets some extra treats from the Dog Fan Club biscuit bucket.

We thought you might like to learn more about Dingle:

The next draw is Sunday, December 29th and the names of everyone who hasn't already won and all new members will be in the hat (when we say "hat" we mean they will be in "the spreadsheet that automatically generates a random number" but that doesn't quite have the same ring to it.)

Click the button below for instructions on how to join:

Click this button below to take you directly to the Dog Fan Page.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Superstars Scruggs and Ranger!

Meghan and Moira recently had a flying visit to Anchorage where they stayed at SP Kennel's "home away from home" - Clarion Suites Downtown. In a place of honor at the reception desk is a fabulous framed pic of Scruggs (who is sponsored by the hotel and their sister: the Quality Suites Anchorage) and outside is a six-foot-Ranger!

The crew is always treated like royalty when they stay, whether it be for a quick visit or for the longer stay during the Iditarod - it really is like coming home. It's the perfect checkpoint! Thanks team.

Here are the "Glam Shots" of our two Superstars:

Ranger; Scruggs

The next drawing for the SP Kennel Dog Fan Club winner is Sunday, December 15th. If you haven't picked your favorite dog yet... perhaps one of these two boys will do?

Click the button below for instruction on how to join:

Click this button below to take you directly to the Dog Fan Page.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Breaking Trail

Two River dog mushers have been fortunate this winter in terms of weather. We have had plenty of snow and it seems to keep coming. There are many dog mushing trails in the area and as the snow continues to fall, many of them need upkeep.

Allen took the SP Kennel snowmachine out several weeks ago and broke out the trail along a Fire Break Trail running along the ridges to the north of the kennel. Then Aliy went out and drug the trail south of the kennel along the Chena River slough. During this adventure, the machine stopped suddenly - which happens when you hit something - but Aliy didn't. Oops. So, Aliy went through the windshield.

Aliy went out again yesterday with local mushers, Chase and Scott, in order to look at the trail for the upcoming Two Rivers Solstice Race. The trail was completely shut in some areas due to downed willows and trees. So, they broke out the trail and cleared it until Aliy's snow machine misbehaved. This cut the trail work a little short because the machine needed a tow. (Perhaps Aliy and machines don't speak the same language. Maybe this is why she sold her first snow machine to buy a sled dog.) Aliy took a very short video while out on the adventure. Here it is:

Many other folks have been out working on the trails. Eric broke out the Yukon Quest trail over Rosebud Summit. Rick and Sonny have been putting in more than their fair share of time working on the local trails. Derek has been out looking for new trails and grooming old ones. And Two Rivers trail boss, Greg, has been on the machine when he's not at his full-time teaching job. There are more people out there putting in loads of time and effort. Thanks!

Let it SNOW!

Monday, December 9, 2013

SP Kennel Kids' Invitational

Sunday afternoon the field outside the kennel was a hive of activity with neighborhood children, parents, supporters and, of course, dogs. Ryne (Olson from Ryno Kennel) organized the event and much fun was had by all.

Ryne's dogs Stormy and Cartel along with SP dogs ChaCha, Honda and Dingle took the kids on a loop at some great speeds! There were a few spills but everyone did really well. Congratulations the mushers Myrica, Noah Jane, Sam, Isabella, Orion, Katlyn and Timber!

L-R: Ryne gives out the medals and prizes; The Mushers.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dog Booties

Sorting dog booties is an endless task. There are two types of booties: NEW and USED.

We receive NEW booties in bags of 100 - either small, medium or large. We then put same-sized booties into convenient "dog packs" (sets of four). We will have enormous piles of small, medium or large "dog packs". Before packing dog booties for a race we then look at the individual dogs that make up the racing teams. Let's say the RED TEAM is: Boondocks, Chipper, Olivia, IV, Scooter, Bonita, Tatfish, Biscuit, Mac, Boris, Mismo and Woody. The first four dogs wear smalls, the next four dogs wear medium and the last four dogs wear large. So, we take a gallon Ziplock bag and fill it with 4 SM, 4 MED and 4 LG "dog packs" - those bags are only for that team. Obviously the BLACK TEAM will have different dogs and different sized booties.

USED booties are any booties taken off a dog's feet. Some of these booties are ruined after 50 miles and have holes. These are normally thrown away or sometimes used as giveaways. The booties that are still good will be dried, sorted into sizes and made into "dog packs". We use these for training runs. The number of dog booties generated throughout a season of training is enormous.

We found a video from December 2009 about booties!

If you are interested in checking out some of our older videos see the video archive section down the right hand side of the doglog.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Traffic on the Trail

Two Rivers, Alaska has no lack of dog mushers. There are many dog teams out enjoying the trails. Some mushers wear their serious "game face" and are training for races whereas other teams are just out for fun. Whatever the intent of the musher we all share the trails.

I started thinking a lot about traffic on the trail when I came out of the kennel yesterday and in the first two minutes we passed a sprint team training with an ATV 4-Wheeler and a Siberian/Malamute team training with a sled. Both were generally good passes. Then I thought, people might not realize how dog team actually pass. So, here it is:

When one dog team passes another there is a general "protocol".

  1. When the teams are coming from opposite directions, it is best if both teams keep moving. That way the dogs don't have a chance to mess around or "visit".
  2. While passing, the dogs can share the trail, but the sled or ATV 4-Wheeler must try to get off to the side so as not to interfere with the dogs.
  3. When one team is faster than another and it comes up from behind, the slower team is expected to stop or at least slow down in order to let the faster team pass.
  4. Dogs are supposed to mind their manners. "Alligator" dogs are not looked on very highly in a community like Two Rivers where your prized Lead Dog is worth more than your neighbor's car.
Some training runs we will see no other dog teams but other times we will pass two or three. Some passes go well and some don't. Generally, you try to expect the unexpected - which is challenging.

Here is a video that I took just the other night. Allen, Meghan and I were all out on a similar training run but we had left the kennel at varying time intervals. I passed Allen twice and Meghan once and was able to get one good video. My camera doesn't always focus when there is a lack of light. (Sorry... there is generally a lack of light much of the time while training in winter at night.)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Kennel Chores

The dogs have been on a perfect training schedule thus far this season. The trails are exceptional with plenty of snow and the temperatures have been cooperative (only two cold snaps down to 30 below zero!) However every once in a while we have to pause the training schedule just to try and get other kennel chores accomplished. It is AMAZING how much we need to get done before the races start.

Here is just a small glimpse of some of the SP Kennel "to do's":

L-R: Moira put a new collar on Chica, Meghan looks at Ranger's feet.

All of the dogs get brand new collars annually. After a year of summer dirt and grime and winter straw and bedding the collars desperately need replacement. But every dog's collar has to have two forms of identification: the dog's name and a metal tag with SP Kennel's phone numbers and address. So, the task of changing collars is no small feat.

Next, all the dogs are weighed. We keep track of dog weight's on a spreadsheet. As many people can imagine some huskies have incredibly thick winter coats. We might look at Nacho and say "Boy, Nacho is as fat as a hog right now!" But, in reality his fur coat makes him look a little chubbier than Waylon or Viper. So, having realistic weights throughout the training season is helpful. Of course, both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod require dog weights as part of the Pre-Race Veterinary Exams.

A dogs' feet are everything. Can you imagine trying to jog with a tiny blister or rub spot nagging you? Well, the dogs are the same. So we take time out to bring every dog inside under the bright lights and look over their feet carefully. We also take this time to cut their toe nails. The dogs actually enjoy running around the garage - although a few boys can't help but lift their legs! Argh!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dog Fan Club Draw #1

THANK YOU to all who have joined the Dog Fan Club. The whole of the SP Kennel Crew (canine and human) appreciate your support.

As promised, the first draw for the winning Dog Fan was today and the winner is JEN REITER who supports MISMO.

Jen wins a certificate and glam shot of Mismo and a pack of other little goodies! We hope you enjoy it Jen and thanks of your support. As you see, Mismo dog enjoyed some treats from the Dog Fan Biscuit Bucket.

The next draw is Sunday, December 15th and the names of everyone who didn't win today, and all new members will be in the hat.

Click the button below for instruction on how to join:

Click this button below to take you directly to the Dog Fan Page.