Monday, October 31, 2016

Tig says "Trick or Treat?"

Thanks for being such a good sport Tiggy.

Photos: Jeanne Schnackenberg

Tig is of course the 'odd dog out' here at SP Kennel. A Black Lab born into a world full of huskys (ugly duckling comes to mind!) HERE is a website post from summer 2016 about how she helps around the kennel.

For being such a good sport we have opened up the Dog Fan Club to include her! Click the button below for instructions on how to join her Fan Club.

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

Sunday, October 30, 2016

SP Kennel Crew 2016-17

Who is the Crew at SP Kennel this season?

Year after year, the SP Kennel Crew is an awesome dedicated group. When I first talk to someone about helping at SP Kennel, I say: "We are happy people and have happy dogs here. If you don't think you will fit in that mold, we are probably not for you."

Over the last few years, we have had great people helping us -- honestly, more than helping -- they are SP Kennel! Thank you guys.

The full-time SP CREW for 2016-2017 Season:

Still here:

Aliy and Allen

People always ask us "What are you guys up to this season?" The answer is: The Same. While it is a boring answer, in truth, what we do is our passion.

We are still dedicated to our kennel, our racing and each other.

This coming season will be Allen's seventh Yukon Quest and tenth Iditarod. He loves mid distance races as well. Allen also holds the kennel together: buildings, vehicles, sleds, Aliy, you name it.

This Iditarod will be my 20th 1,000 mile race. Sounds like an anniversary! My speciality is: D - O - G - S. I am 100% dedicated to these awesome athletes. I spend most of my time thinking about how to better train them and make their lives more complete. I sweat the small details about their future happiness and retirement. (Maybe I should worry a little more about mine!)


Moira is the primary Sponsorship Coordinator and Website guru and dog lover. She has been with SP Kennel for four years. She knows the dogs, the races and the overall goals of the kennel. She manages to hold both Aliy and Allen together during the busiest times of the season.

Moira is a technical genius and can have a cup of tea, text on her phone and type on her laptop all while watching the New Zealand 'All Blacks' rugby team beat Australia. I sit in awe and watch her as my phone auto corrects every word I try to type with my one finger.

Moira lives part time in New Zealand and part time at SP Kennel.


Chris was a very important part of SP Kennel last season and decided to return for a 2nd season. We are super pleased. Chris basically raised both the Coffee Pups and the Goldens: puppy walks, the big move to their own dog house and their first harness experiences. (The Goldens were born the day after he arrived in Two Rivers.)

Chris will race this season. He is signed up for the Copper Basin 300, the Northern Lights 300 and the Two Rivers 100. We hope some of the Coffees and Goldens will be on his teams.

Chris and his three little husky puppies -- Cloud, Smokey and Blitz -- live in the Handler Cabin at SP Kennel. His pet, Green Dog, moved in with his parents in Montana.

New to the Kennel:


Ruth comes to us from Norway, but is originally from Estonia. We met her while we were at the 2015 Kiruna Sled Dog Seminar in Sweden. She stayed in touch with us, and jumped on the chance to come to SP Kennel when we needed an extra hand.

First and foremost, Ruth is a dog lover. She flew her pet dog Loki with her from Norway (Loki's airfare was more expensive than Ruth's!) Ruth came to help Aliy and Allen with Fall Training - they really need a third person during September and October. She will return to her husband, Ole, and family during the Christmas and New Year's holidays and then come back to Two Rivers and keep and eye on the kennel during the busy racing season.

Ruth has been spending a lot of quality time with the 2016 SP Kennel litter: Gold, Prata and Bronze.

Still in the Neighborhood:

Wes & Wendy

With their international jobs (they often travel around the globe... literally). But both Wes and Wendy find as much time as the can to be a part of the kennel.

They might be available to be handlers for several races this season: Two Rivers Races, Copper Basin 300, Northern Lights 300, Yukon Quest, Iditarod... we have quite a few on the schedule.
No matter what, I'm sure they will find the time to play wth puppies or train some adult teams.

Then again... they might be in Kenya, Hong Kong or Washington DC. You never know!

But Wes and Wendy call 'home' a place just down the road from SP Kennel in Two Rivers so we will see them at times throughout the winter.

Wes and Wendy love the dogs (and put up with Aliy and Allen well enough).


Mark was a key SP Kennel handler last season and will put the time aside to help us again. He is incredibly busy with his life and job at Camp Liwa just east of Fairbanks. But Mark loves the dogs, so he needs SP Kennel in order to get his "dog fix"!

Mark will be driving Hollywood (SP Kennel Dog Truck) to all the races. Photo on the right is at the 2016 Yukon Quest finish line in Whitehorse, Canada. L-R: Bridgett (Allen's daughter), Mark and Moira.

Mark occasionally pulls himself away from his full-time job and comes out to the kennel to train some dogs with us before the racing begins.

We are VERY excited about the season and what's in store for the SP Kennel Crew. Thank you SP Kennel Crew (past, present and future) for your time, your effort and your love of our dogs. You guys make us who we are!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Golden Harness Yearlings

Let's talk about the SP Kennel Golden Harness Yearlings. What a dynamic bunch!

We knew very little about what type of pup this breeding -- between two-time Golden Harness winner Quito and Kosak (look HERE for more info on him) -- would produce. We thought that the chances were very good that they would have that extra energy and enthusiasm that all the "Quito" pups have acquired from their Mom.

But to bred in somewhat different genetics with Kosak rather than the traditional SP Kennel lineages was a bit of a gamble.
This gamble, however, has paid off! Now we are:

G - O - L - D - E - N.

Overall the standout personality trait from these six yearlings is that they have focus. They watch, listen and learn. They are certainly more patience than the Quito Pups that have come before them (Chipper, Izzy, Sandy... to name a few.)

The Golden Harness litter seem to have the enthusiasm, but perhaps some of the 'high strung' energy has lessened somewhat.

These photos (by Jeanne) shows the litter with Scout and their half brother, Woody, in lead.
(L-R): Woody and Scout, followed by Chevie, QT, Bruno, Dancer, McCaw and Jefe.

Chevie already has the confidence to run in lead. Pretty impressive for a youngster. She is tall and lanky. Her grey coloration comes directly from her Mother. She is a happy dog, but not silly. She is business minded when in harness.

Bruno looks exactly like Dad. He has become quite a bit 'chestier' than his lanky sisters. He speaks his mind when getting harnessed and certainly has some vocal chords on him. Bruno has never stopped working and likes a position right in the middle of the team.

QT is delicate-boned. She is very tall and this most likely accentuates her 'Super Model' stature. QT likes to scream at hook up and whenever we take too long of a break out on the trail. Her composure while working in the team however, is very mature.

McCaw is still the big fellah - long, tall and husky. He is really starting to get some rear end muscles that should be able to pull a tractor trailer before Springtime. We will see. McCaw gets excited at hook up and tends to jump all over the place. After we start, he does settle down. Thank goodness.

Jefe has surprised everyone with his chunky muscle, weight-lifter growth spurt. In the past two months he has changed from a puppy to 'the Man'. His voice, however, does NOT correspond to his Mr. Universe body - it is high pitched and squealing. YIKES. Perhaps after puberty his voice will drop. If not, he can certainly hold his own if 'push comes to shove'.

Dancer seemed like she was going to be the small intelligent one. But she has sprouted in the last month as well and now stands taller than all of the Coffee Pup girls. She is proud of that. Dancer is proud of a lot of things. She is the pup who notices the most things on the trail: "Do you see that grouse? Do you see that tree? Do you see that house?... Oh... that's mine!"

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

2016 Portrait Sneak Peek

The dog portraits are complete and we are in the process of updating the Dog and Puppy pages with their new glam shots. This is quite an undertaking so keep checking back to see your favourites. We'll let you know once they are all up.

In the meantime we thought you would enjoy a sneak peek at some of them.

Jeanne (right, with Prata, Gold and Bronze) captured the dogs true personalities and quirks. She really knows the SP Kennels dogs.

I think my favourite of them all is Sissy's portrait; Jeanne has captured her happy self and she looks so relaxed. Check out how mature and handsome Five is looking in his glam shot.

Sissy-bean enjoying her day; Five is a handsome boy

A sentimental favourite you might enjoy is of Nutmeg; you can see she is a kennel elder and I love her softer expression. Daisy is looking so much more mature as a three year old.

A senior study of Meg; Daisy is growing up

Each year we are especially excited for you to see the latest pictures of our yearling class. These are the dogs you will notice the most change from their last season's puppy pictures. Take a look at these comparisons from this time last year and see how grown up these kids are now!

Dancer 2016 and 2015

McCaw 2016 and 2015

Perky 2016 and 2015

Due to popular demand, here are a few outtakes!

tra-la-la-la-la; "Hey hooman, I look like you"

ummm... this way; Prata's rabbit ears

Thanks again to Jeanne Schnackenberg for sharing her incredible talent with us all!

- Moira

Monday, October 24, 2016

Coffee Anyone?

This post will be all about coffee (Aliy's favorite topic after dogs.) But let's also talk SP Kennel Yearlings. The Coffee Litter is amazing!

A - M - A - Z - I - N - G.

This shouldn't surprise anyone since it is the third time this breeding was repeated with great success in previous years. Nacho and Olivia are the perfect combo of strength, dedication, enthusiasm and humor. Humor? Yes. We all need to smile a little bit more these days. So we are consciously making humor and happiness play a significant part in SP Kennel's training policy this Fall.

This photo (by Jeanne) shows the whole family returning from an hour long training run last week. (R-L): Mom and Dad in lead - followed by Sanka, Creamer, Barista (head high), Bean, Decaf and Perky.

Barista would in fact be a very good barista. She has patience but quite a bit of flair. She is pretty and likes to tell the boys what to do. Perky is still her BFF and she bosses him around despite the fact that he has about 5 pounds on her now. She is a 'plain brown' dog but she is solid in the team and works like a champion.

Bean is a little spark plug. She is the smallest of the litter but will be bigger than both Lydia and Chipper. Bean is always excited. Always! She lives in the adult male yard because they enjoy her scattered enthusiasm. She has surprised us while in harness because she takes her job seriously and doesn't play or get sidetracked (which is exactly what she does while out of harness.)

Creamer is the 'pretty girl' with long legs, blonde hair and blue eyes. She is more calm while in harness but certainly aware of what's going on; perhaps we can call her focused. (Big word for a yearling!) She should be the size and build of her big sister Junior. She has a steady gait and a desire to truck down the trail.

Decaf is NOT decaffeinated! He is loud and obnoxious. You gotta have one in the litter, right. But "DEE" is happy, loves to go and will yell at you if you stop the team for any length of time. He gobbles his food with unbridled speed, sometimes gagging mid mouthful. Decaf enjoys everyone: people and dogs and that is sure nice to witness.

Perky is still the same. PERKY! He is one of the happiest dogs ever - resembles his Daddy quite a bit and simply enjoys life. He is long legged and tall. He is the biggest pup of the litter but will not be larger than Dad. He will be a great addition to the team.

Sanka is a little shy and timid while at her house but she has passion when in harness. Perhaps another Jekyll & Hyde in the making? She is just a few pounds larger than Bean, so she will not be a huge girl. She likes to eat as well and can chew through a bowl of dog kibble in seconds.

Stay tuned the Golden Harness Litter is next...

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Portrait Day 2016

Jeanne came to the kennel earlier this week and immersed herself in two straight days of dog photography. She has amazing skills with a camera (and with dogs.) Thank goodness!

Jeanne, Chevie and Rambler bond before snapshots; the "Set Up": Chris convinces Kodiak to pose while Tami and Jeanne set up.

Portrait Day at SP Kennel is a full on process that is both ridiculous and important at the same time. But the SP Kennel Crew pulled it off again. Everyone helped out tremendously: from Madi adjusting the brand new dog collars, Mykena tirelessly bringing dogs in and out and Ruth getting everyone to 'weigh in'. We got all the dogs looking sharp before they got in front of the lens. Tami recorded dog weights and made sure each dog was identified for their portrait sitting (that can be tricky... look at Barista and Daisy or Torch and Creamer!) At that point it was Chris' job to assist with canine modeling. Aliy did her best to 'make each dog smile'. If you have ever been part of a grade school picture day... multiply the chaos factor times 10. But, in the end, each dog did 'smile' in their own way.

Violet says "Let me in! It's my turn."; Madi comforts QT before her session; Amber gets a well deserved belly rub post photo shoot.

Amazingly, Jeanne was able to take fantastic portraits of everyone. She is now editing and we will put them on the website for all to see as soon as we can.

After the portraits were done, we had some fun with the Halloween theme. (We should probably apologize to Tig right off the bat for those photos. Sorry Tig.) You will see the results soon!

Then came the puppy portraits. Oh my... as our long time kennel followers know, we have a lot to live up to. The glamorous puppy group photos of the Secret Litter and the Fire Pups are stupendous. Since there were only three pups this year, we thought it would be easy. It wasn't. Stayed tuned. We promise to post all the new photos after they pass the photographer's editing and inspection.

And once again... Thank you so much Jeanne!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Driver Wins First Fan Club Draw!

Sincere thanks to everyone who has joined our Dog Fan Club. We are so excited that every dog has at least one fan and that you have all taken this program and our dogs to your hearts. We appreciate you all.

We made our first random draw today and congratulations to Jeanne Hammel who is a fan of Driver.

Driver is still the big, happy lug that he's always been. He is a sweetheart but his excitement will get the best of him when the harnesses come out. He is STRONG and driven - this will help the team when it comes to overall power. He won't let up… ever!

Last season was an important one for Driver and he comes into the new season with some important experience under his harness.

Jeanne wins an Iditarod 2016 poster plus an SP Kennel patch. Of course she will get a photo print portrait of Driver (just taken this past week!). We hope you enjoy your packet Jeanne!

Our next draw will be November 4th and everyone who has joined by then will be in the draw to win!

Click the button below for more information about how to join:

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

PS there was quite flurry of activity over the first couple of weeks so if you joined and don't see your name please let us know at

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

It's never easy...

We went out on an ATV this morning in order to make sure the trails were clear of fallen trees and brush. There has been a major wind storm in Interior Alaska for the last 24 hours, so we thought we would be 'responsible' and check out the trails prior to hooking up 14 dogs. But things don't always turn out like you think they should…

The ATV broke down with THREE flat tires. While retrieving the ATV -- which sat a mile down the trail from the kennel -- the trailer got ONE flat tire. At least the truck made it back with four inflated tires!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Waylon Update

Waylon is definitely special. Always has been.

He is a crazy faced, brilliant blue-eyed, opinionated, loud, talented fellah. But, what often strikes people is the fact that he has literally ZERO husky fur, enormous rabbit ears and long thin legs. And… he weighs in at just over a sack of dog food = 40 pounds.

I remember the Iditarod Insider crew showing up at a pre Race filming session and long time sled dog enthusiasts and commentators, Bruce Lee and Joe Runyan, looked at Waylon and actually giggled while asking: "This is your Lead Dog?"

But, Waylon absolutely loves being who he is. And he is extremely talented at it. He wouldn't change his life passion for anything. Waylon's sled dog energy and enthusiasm make me want to be a musher. He makes me smile, dig deeper and try harder.

Waylon loses his marbles at the Iditarod 2015 Start while Scout plays it cool.

An excerpt from my 2016 Trail Notes: "Waylon is a firecracker. He was the main leader for the first half of the race because he loves being in charge. But after the halfway point, he wasn’t ‘busting a gut’ to run. Then, I believe, he was somewhat injured by the snowmachine attack - although I could never find anything specific. In the end, Waylon knew that he could do anything I would ask, so he powered through and made it to Nome."

Waylon ended his 2016 racing season with a superb 3rd place Iditarod finish. At first, he seemed to recover from any trauma that might have occurred and during the Springtime he was the happy-go-lucky guy that we all know. But at mid summer, Waylon began limping on his front right foot. We did an X-ray of his paw and Dr Rose seemed to think the issue was either a serious bone infection in his small toe or… cancer.

We moved him out of the yard and into the dog room (or the "big" house) for a month while on several strong antibiotics and anti inflammation drugs. When we went for a follow up exam and took another series of X-rays, they showed zero changes. There were still signs of bone degradation and no improvement. He was asleep during the X-rays, in order to manipulate his toe position. So Dr Rose prodded his toe with a needle to see if there was fluid in the enlarged digit. When she did this the toe bone broke!! We were very surprised. She had to then immediately amputate the toe -- we couldn't leave him with a broken toe that would never heal -- and there were really no other acceptable alternatives. So, Waylon came home 3-toed.

He lived indoors and had daily bandage cleanings and even had to wear the "cone of shame" for a few very LONG days. But, it has healed up nicely. The biggie was whether the broken bone was degraded due to cancer -- which is honestly what we all assumed. The toe was sent to a Lab and after a very long week the results came back cancer free! Yippee. The results said that the toe was in that condition probably due to some sort of injury and then arthritis. When exactly that injury happened, we do not know.

So… long story short Waylon and I are in exactly the same boat this coming season. I had arthritic toe surgery and over 8 weeks recovery time. Waylon had toe surgery and after 6 weeks recovery he is already looking good. Both of us are now training for the coming season.

"The Rehab Room"; Waylon PRE surgery X-ray; Aliy POST surgery X-ray.

Waylon now must wear a dog bootie all the time and his training regime is slower -- but if any dog can do it: Waylon can.

Waylon -all dressed up- leads the team into Unalakleet in Iditarod 2014.
Photo by Sebastian Schnuelle.