Thursday, July 30, 2015

TBT: The 2008 Yearling Class Flashback

It is always very exciting to think about the Yearling Class at SP Kennel. This season we will have the FIVE litter (Ernie, Ginger, Five, Rodney and Scooby.) Every season this youthful Class of dogs is unique and talented. Each dog needs a tremendous amount of personal attention in order to turn them into successful SP Kennel dogs.

During 2008-09, the Car and Boat litters were the Yearlings Class. This was their first true season of their sled dog training. As many of you know, many dogs in this Class went on to be Super Stars at SP Kennel.

This cool video by Macgellan from a training run early in the season shows some of these current and recent Superstars when they were very young and inexperienced. Macgellan himself had been at the kennel only a matter of days when this was shot.

The line-up you will see is Pingo (as the only "grown up" of the group) and Ranger in lead, Beemer and Scout in swing, Malibu and Olivia, Rambler and Honda, Viper and Cutter with Tug and Hummer in wheel.

We hope you enjoy it!

FYI: Scout, Olivia and Rambler are still at the kennel, Beemer and Viper retired at the end of last season and now live in Pennsylvania, Honda lives in Oregon, Tug in New York, Malibu in Anchorage, Ranger in Fairbanks, Cutter also in Fairbanks, and Hummer is just down the road. Sadly, Pingo passed away the autumn after his 15th birthday.

The retired Life (Left to Right): TugBoat poses with her New York family; Cutter dreams of winter afternoons.

The retired Life (Left to Right): Malibu enjoys her Anchorage couch; Rambler naps on the SP Kennel Oriental rug.

Monday, July 27, 2015

One More Month of 'Vacation'

Just one more month of "summer vacation" and the dogs at SP Kennel will be back in harness. Interior Alaska has been a mixed bag as far as weather conditions the last few weeks.
It was even possible to train a dog team during a few chilly, rainy days last week -- mushing from puddle to puddle. However, yesterday the temperatures were back at 70 + degrees Fahrenheit and sunny.
A perfect afternoon for a swim. Right, Mac?! (Photo on Left.)

One of our favorite spots in Two Rivers is a beaver pond just a few miles down the trail from the kennel. There is a large beaver dam holding back 4 feet of water. The pond that is created by the beavers is a great place to swim… if you want to, that is!

It is possible to tippy-toe across the dam -- if you aren't knocked down and pushed out of the way by enthusiastic sled dogs! It seems Aliy is always trying to teach the dogs manners. She didn't come home soaking wet, so I guess it worked.

(L-R: Scout, Outlaw, Woody, Mac, Waylon, Aliy and Boondocks.)

(L-R: Tig, Outlaw, Waylon, Boondocks, Aliy, Scout, Woody, and Mac.)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Iditarod from behind the Team

These photos were taken off of the "Aliy Cam" during the Iditarod. They are freeze frame photos from the video camera that Aliy carries on the race.

Climbing toward Rainy Pass. This photo is taken towards the top of the climb through the Alaska Range Mountains. The trail travels through willow bushes along the edges of Pass Creek drainage before ascending to the open wind swept summit.

Mushing in the heart of Alaska. This photo is taken about halfway through the race. The trail runs over rolling hills and across immense valleys before the old historic town of Iditarod. On this part of the race course there are no villages and very little traffic on the trail. A musher and their team are alone here.

Nap time on the Yukon River. This photo is taken about 15 miles south of the Kaltag Checkpoint. The team is taking a short nap in the center of the frozen Yukon River - which will allow them to pass through the village. This was part of an overall race strategy of napping in the sunshine and avoiding busy checkpoints.

Traveling in the Blueberry Hills. This photo is taken about 20 miles north of the coastal village of Unalakleet. The trail does not travel on the frozen ocean in this area because the ocean ice shifts constantly leaving dangerous open water leads. Therefore the Iditarod follows a historic trail through some very steep hills that are often blown free of all snow pack.

Mushing into the sunset. This photo is less than 20 miles from the Finish Line. The frozen ocean is on the left. The bluff on the right is Cape Nome - which is the final climb before the finish. This is often a very emotional time on the race… especially with a sunset like this one!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Fire Sky

This photo is from July 7th at midnight when Anaconda Creek Fire was still a threat to the lands around Two Rivers. Thank goodness, that fire has been fully contained and rains continue to completely drench our neighborhood. The entire state of Alaska has been pulled back to a Wildland Fire 'Preparedness Level 3'.

But, since this was such an awesome photo… here it is:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

FIVE Pups are One Year Old

The FIVE pups turn one year old today. They are amazingly healthy, strong dogs. They will be our Yearling Class for the 2015-16 Racing Season. All five are extremely energetic, yet smart enough to learn quickly.

Physically, they are an interesting blend of their parents: Chica and Clyde. With many of our SP K puppies, we can point out the mother and father easily by showing certain outstanding pup/parent characteristics. But with the FIVE pups, they have traits that are not obvious from either parent. For instance, where do the floppy ears come from? Of all of the Alaskan Husky pups we have raised, we would have thought that these FIVE would have pointy ears. Nope.
Both of Clyde's parents, ChaCha and Lieutenant, have very husky pointy ears. So, we believe this trait comes from Chica’s pedigree. Even though Chica and most of her siblings have glamourous pointy husky ears, their mother, Venus, had floppy ears. Chica’s sister, Bonita, resembles Venus. Chica's father, Zorro, had somewhat over turned ears as well.

L-R: The FIVE pups father Clyde; The FIVE pups mother Chica; Chica's sister, Bonita

The FIVE pups lineage pedigree.

Earlier this week, the plan was to get great quality ‘Birthday Portraits’ of each dog. Even with a fantastic photographer behind the lens, we quickly learned that patience and many, many, many, many photographs were needed in order to get that one “perfect pose”.

We started with Rodney. He is by far the loudest pup and was vocally thrilled to be the first dog to model for us. As it turned out, Rodney was the most cooperative pup and gave us several profile shots as well as one fantastic face forward pose. Rodney has a large head with wide set ears but what really stands out are his forehead masking stripes. Gorgeous! Rodney has a solid build and long stout legs. He currently weighs 51 pounds.

Ernie was next. Not only is he is polite, but he also doesn’t have the same brute strength as his brothers. So he was the easiest to coach during his modeling session. He resembles his uncle, Outlaw. Ernie is smaller with a lot of quick energy. He is a light-boned racy dog and currently weighs 42 pounds.

Five was the third pup to model (Ginger made it known that she was not happy about that.) Five is BIG: big-boned, big-spirited and big-trouble. He was not easy to photograph or even handle. Tossing a dog biscuit to get his attention was a mistake as he dragged me across the gravel trail to retrieve it. He will be a powerful sled dog but he needs to learn some manners from some of the other ‘big boys’ at the kennel. He currently weighs 53 pounds.

Ginger couldn't wait to get her photograph taken next. She is a floppy eared, reddish blonde girl. Ginger much preferred sitting down for her photo session than standing. (More of a Mona Lisa style portrait, I guess!) Ginger has no lack of self confidence and will tell every one of her brothers that she is the best pup of the litter. She is 100% healthy and very sweet. Ginger weighs 40 pounds.

Scooby was the last pup. He is extremely strong. After running around the field for several minutes he calmed enough for a 30 second photo shoot. Good thing he is an extremely photogenic dog because most of his portraits were simply perfect. Good boy! He is still his mother's look-a-like but now weighs more than her at 50 pounds.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer fun at Iron Creek

Iron Creek is a canine 'Water Park' only a few miles from SP Kennel.

Iron Creek is 3 miles from SP Kennel. It is really just a slough of the Chena River. The nickname comes from the tremendous amount of iron in the surrounding ground that colors the water and rocks bright orange. We train dog teams through Iron Creek throughout September and October in order to keep them cool. In the summertime, Iron Creek is a fun place to go play.

L-R: Tig, Spark and Lydia play; Spark envies Tig's stick; Tig is done playing.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A few Great Summer Photos

Quito watches the World Cup Soccer final game USA versus Japan as Rambler snoozes (he's more of a hockey guy).

Allen is clearly 'marked' after finishing dog chores for the day.

Scooby diligently helps clean the yard.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Summer Fitness

Overall fitness of our dogs and our mushers is extremely important. We believe that maintaining their fitness all year long is key to success. There are different ways to do this during the summer “off-season”.

One way is to continue training dogs in harness. This is the easiest method to maintain fitness during the summer. Running a team of sled dogs on abbreviated training runs is excellent for their muscle memory, attitude and team dynamics. Throughout Alaska there are quite a few mushers who train their dogs in harness in June, July and August. However, these are teams that are usually located in cool and damp regions of the state: on the Kenai Peninsula, Southeast Alaska or some mushers will move their teams to glacier locations for the summer.

Other mushers forgo the change in location and bring the cooler environment to their backyard. There are dog teams that train in harness on a treadmill in an artificially cooled environment during the summer.

In Interior Alaska, where SP Kennel is located, our daytime temperatures have been in the 70’s and 80’s this summer. These temperatures, along with the fact that there has been very little precipitation, makes it impossible to train in harness without overheating dogs. And, although we do have a treadmill on the property, we choose to exercise our dogs outdoors and not in harness during this summer “off-season”.

  1. It’s fun. The “off-season” means we are under no pressure and no time constraints. Chasing tails, running around and rolling about are not common activities race dogs do during the racing season. They enjoy this zero pressure environment during the summer.
  2. It’s amusing. To watch different aged and ability dogs run around, play and act like silly puppies. There are no expectations and no stress from their team mates or their musher.
  3. It’s exciting. To see the formation of new relationships between dogs who might not have trained much in harness together. All of our dogs will be training in teams starting September 1st. Every dog needs to be able to run next to any other dog at SP Kennel with no exceptions. Therefore dogs need to know each other and form a true relationships.
  4. It’s rewarding. For our mushers to bond with our dogs intimately on a one-on-one basis instead of in a team. This is the bond that will keep us going down the trail when conditions get challenging.

L-R: Tig and Chemo practice 'recall'; Schmoe models for the camera; Daisy enjoys the Walk.

We have a routine for Dog Walks. The Walk Calendar is kept on computer and dogs rotate on a schedule. Groups of 5 to 8 dogs will go together. Females in heat do not get to walk. At the kennel, the dogs are loaded into airline crates that sit on an ATV trailer. The trailer is pulled approximately 1/2 mile from the kennel. The Dog Walker lets the dogs out of their crates one at a time. There are no leashes on the dogs; however the Walker always carries a leash. The Walker gets all of the dogs’ attention and walks away from the ATV. The dogs follow and soon run ahead. The standard Walk is 1 mile out and 1 mile back with a short break at a beaver pond. The extended Walk is 2 miles uphill and 2 miles back. These are the distances that the Walker covers, not the dogs. The dogs generally cover about twice as many miles as the Walker because they run back and forth, into the woods and around in circles. There might only be one Walker per group or several depending if their are SP Kennel guests or visitors present. At the end of the Walk, the dogs will race each other to the “finish”. No human Walker can keep up with SP Kennel dogs who are racing to the “finish”. This is the reason we park the ATV with airline crates where we do. That is their finish line. By the time a Walker reaches the finish, several minutes later, some of the dogs have already loaded themselves and are ready to go home.

L-R: The dogs rush to the "finish line" airline crates; Tig and Lester are loaded and ready to roll!

Keeping sled dogs fit all year long is just another part of trying to succeed at the highest level in sled dog sports. But, not only is it a key to success, it can also be fun, amusing, exciting and rewarding. For both dogs and humans!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

SP Kennel July Update

The litter that was planned this Spring did not take. Everyone is healthy and happy, there are just no SP Kennel puppies at this time. This will leave us more time to walk and hang out with all of the SP Kennel dogs. We will most likely breed another SP Kennel pairing this summer so keep an eye out for updates.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

TBT: Meet Bullet

You will have seen us mention Bullet many times in various blog posts but some of you may not know much about her.

Bullet was one of the best lead dogs at SPK and often ran in lead with ChaCha in races. This picture (right) is her in lead with Oddball in 2008. She was a "go to" leader for Aliy and was especially good to get out of a checkpoint quickly… you see, Bullet is a bit shy of new people so was always keen to get out of town and onto the trail.

Click the link here to see a post by Macgellan (and further comments from Bridgett) from 2010.

Bullet is now enjoying her retirement. She has her own coffee-table crate tucked away in the corner of the living area where she can retreat to. During the summer she lounges on the deck or wanders around the dog yard sniffing out left-over tidbits other dogs may have missed.

Bullet featured in a recent TBT post when she was helping the Latino litter socialise when they were five weeks old. "Auntie Bullet" has never had her own pups but she LOVES playing with them. I remember when I first arrived at SP back in October 2012, Dutch was just a few weeks old and he had a bit of a sore belly and was spending time inside. One of the most endearing things I've ever seen was tiny little Dutch finding his way into Bullet's kennel inside and curling up between her front legs, snuggling in for a nap.

Here is a video from back in 2008 where Aily introduces us to her.

Visitors to the yard might never glimpse Bullet, she likes to keep to herself but I have to say, she's one of my very favourite dogs!

- Moira