SP Kennel is a premier sled dog racing kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska, dedicated to the individual dog through excellent health, nutrition, training and specialized care.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Video from the Neighborhood Race

We need to thank Ryne and Derek for putting on the race and Lauri Lenahan for sponsoring the race. Here is a photo that Ryne took 10 minutes after the start. She was in the lead of the eight dog team race and it was a gorgeous afternoon!

A photo from Ryne's team looking back at the 7 race teams behind her.

Spencer in the green bag and Aliy in the red one are ready to Start!

The final times for the Two Rivers Fun Race were rather subjective since each musher recorded their own finish time (some remembered to look at their watch and others didn't.)
Aliy finished at 1:27AM
Ryne finished somewhere between 1:29AM and 1:33AM (depending on who's watch you go by)
Sebastain finished at 1:34AM (after circling Pleasant Valley Store twice as well as the local Laundromat. Either he forgot to pick up his mail or his dogs thought he needed a shower.)
Allen finished at 1:45AM
Spencer finished at about 2:30AM
Joanna finished at about 2:30 and 30 seconds AM
Jon finished at about 2:40AM
Riley finished as well!

When you have a "fun race" in the most competitive dog mushing neighborhood in the world it's really, really entertaining! There was no entrance fee and no rigid rules, but the atmosphere was competitive and even the sleeping bag Mass Start was pretty intense!
Here is a video of some of the start:

A huge thanks to Wendy: race timer and official wood stove quesidilla maker and Mark: dog wrangler and firewood enthusiast.

Two Rivers Neighborhood Race - Red Team Wins!

In the early hours of this morning Aliy and the Red Team crossed the "finish line" first in the Two Rivers Neighborhood Race followed very closely by Ryne Olson, Sebastian Schnuelle and Allen with the Black Team. Spencer and the R&B Team, Joanna Jagow and Jon Fletcher from Sebastian's kennel rounded out the rest of the line-up. Riley Dyche, racing a team of youngsters from Ryno Kennel took out the 50 mile event before resting his team then mushing home.

The race started at noon on Saturday with the eight teams setting off with a mass start. Mushers started in their sleeping bags, had to hook up their teams and mush from the parking lot! The route took the teams past the Pleasant Valley Store then looped for fifty miles around local trails including the Stiles Creek Loop. Ryne described the loop as "full of switchbacks, steep hills, beautiful views, and thrilling sled driving". Each team took a four hour rest back at the parking lot "checkpoint" then the route was reversed for the second fifty miles.

Thanks to Ryne and Derek from Ryno Kennel for organising the "race" and to Chase, Wendy and Mark for helping out! It was super fun and gave all our dogs a really good early season work-out. We're really pleased with how everyone did on their first test of the season.

More to come.

Friday, December 19, 2014

"Semi-race" Rosters

We're excited to race tomorrow!

There are a few rules in place for the "semi-race": teams have a maximum of 12 dogs, there's a four hour rest at the half-way point and teams must carry all their equipment with them in the sled (including dogfood, camping equipment and straw). Other than that, general mushing etiquette will be in place relating to dog care and good trail manners.

There's only so many dogs we can run tomorrow and unfortunately some will be left at home. Aliy will race the Red Team comprised of Quito, Kodiak, Nacho, Boondocks, Willie, Clyde, Felix, Izzy, Mac, Nelson, Scooter and Scout. Their position on the team will be determined in the morning and there may be some shuffling around as the race goes on.

Kodiak and Scooter

Allen's Black Team is Scruggs, Junior, Beemer, Chica, Biscuit, Lydia, Puppet, Mismo, Schmoe, Sissy, Outlaw and Chemo.

Lydia and Outlaw

Spencer is racing a young Red and Black Team and because it is not an official race he is going to swap out some of the dogs at the half-way mark (in a real race you cannot substitute dogs). His team is Lester, Waylon, Viper, Chipper, Dutch, Sandy, Pepe, Driver will be replaced with Woody, Rambler with Chena, Daisy with Violet, Spark with Commando and Tinder with Amber.

Commando and Woody

Click here to go to the roster page for more information about each dog. NOTE: As it is not an official race it will not appear on each dog's race history on their team card.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Let's Race … kinda

Snow conditions are still not ideal for 40 amped up dog teams to hit the trails of Two Rivers in an early season race. Two Rivers has a confusing system of interlaced trails in multiple directions (see right) and even the folks who live on the 'north side' don't know all the trails on the 'south side' and vice versa.

The current options available for a 100 mile race meant that sections of the trail would need to be used multiple times in different directions. On good trail years during races there can be lost teams and head-on passing (which is confusing to someone who doesn't know our trails… Which way should I be going now?!) and maybe even a loose dog or two, so Two Rivers Dog Mushing Association made the conservative decision to delay the 100 Mile Solstice for two weeks to hopefully allow more trail options to be utilised. This was probably smart since finding lost teams and bummed out mushers is never a good way to start the racing season.

But… Ryne Olson has been chomping at the bit to race her awesome group of sled dogs. (Okay, let's be honest, we all have!) But Ryne and Derek -- Ryno Kennel -- have taken the sled dog by the harness and organized a small, neighborhood "semi-race". It will happen this Saturday on our local Two Rivers trails.

The catch is that all the entrants are local teams who know these trails like the back of their hands. We pass other dog teams constantly during training runs and I'm sure we will have multiple passes during the "race". The biggie is: if any team gets lost during the race, they can simply mush home, put their dogs away and sulk on their own. This takes pressure off organisers and is essentially a few teams on a competitive training run, all taking the same, unmarked route with neighborhood bragging rights going to the winners. We're excited to have our first "race" of the season - watch this space for the team rosters.

The Two Rivers 100 Solstice is now scheduled for January 3, 2015 and you can find information about that at TRDMA website and Facebook page. At that time SP Kennel will be preparing for the Copper Basin 300 that starts the next weekend. But, we will most likely still have a team or two in the Solstice.

Let's race… kinda!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

WBW: December in Alaska

What is December in Alaska really like? "Kennel Mom" Mickey explains in this post from December 6, 2007.

People often ask, ‘What is Alaska really like in the thick of winter?’

SP Kennel is located in the heart of this great state – right in the center! We are 350 miles from an ocean to the south, 450 miles from an ocean to the north and nestled between two mountain ranges. On a clear day, we can see the huge mountain peaks to the south: Denali is the centerpiece. The "Interior" of Alaska is made up of endless rolling hills, wild valleys with little civilization and small pockets of humanity. So, why are so few people in this vast and limitless country?

It is the winter weather that keeps the human population to a minimum. The hearty souls who choose to reside in this winter wonderland make their homes here despite some chilly obstacles. It is the very existence of these cold weather complications that define our winter lifestyle and create our daily winter routines.


How cold does it get in December? We expect 40°F or 50°F below zero several times each year. (On Thanksgiving Day 2006, it was 46°F below.) On a day to day basis, however, the mercury sits at about 20°F below zero. That first cold snap of the winter is often rough on the fingers and toes. A stiff breeze at 20°F below is a sharp reminder to thoroughly cover up. Frost nip can easily result when skin is accidentally exposed. And once you "nip" an area it will always be sensitive.

We at SP Kennel must bundle up for even the quickest outdoor chores. When we spend a full day outside training a dog team, we bundle up even more. We all have different layering methods to ward off the cold and they change as the mercury rises and falls. Suffice it to say, the layers involve wicking undergarments, fleece mid weight garments, arctic outerwear and chemical heat warmers. During the coldest of cold days, you will find us scurrying around the dog yard with speed and efficiency, totally unrecognizable under the layers (right: Aliy bundles up for December chores).

We do not train the dogs in the extreme cold. Our temperature cut off varies depending on wind, precipitation and other factors, but it is usually about 30°F below zero. We feed the dogs twice the regular amount during a cold snap. The typical Alaskan husky burns those extra calories to stay warm. We also have kennels in the basement for some of the shorter coated dogs or dogs with a high metabolism. We have had over 20 dogs in our 500 ft² basement.(EDIT: we now have a specially constructed insulated "dog barn" we use in this situation)

As the month continues, we all (humans and dogs) get acclimated to the cold. The funny thing is, when a Chinook storm brings in warm breezes from the South, it seems like t-shirt weather at 10°F above. But, when this happens, you smile because you are confident that you are now weathered and really ready for winter.


How dark does it get in December? During daylight hours, the sun is never far above the horizon. It seems to hover just above the mountains to our south. The views are spectacular for any avid "sunrise" or "sunset" photographer and gorgeous snapshots are commonplace. But, the delineation between sunrise and sunset is a bit blurred at times (right: Interior Alaska - Sunrise or Sunset in December).

Today, December 6, 2007, the sunrise was at 10:31 AM and the sunset was at 2:48 PM - 4 hours and 17 minutes of daytime. We have 15 days until December 22, the Winter Solstice and the shortest day of the year. On December 23, the length of daylight hours begins to increase.

The lack of sun does not always mean total darkness! For a couple hours before sunrise and after sunset, the sky is often a silver glow, since the sun is not very far below the horizon. But regardless of the light, most December days are spent outside. Photos typically show dog mushers walking around with a headlight affixed to their brows (left: Allen models his headlight, a critical winter tool).

Many people do use headlights while mushing or doing chores around the kennel. But, we try to avoid dependence on them. A headlight creates "tunnel" vision and limits the focus of our attention to the small, lighted area. Although this apparatus is a constant companion in the winter, it is not the only solution. Our eyes and brains get accustomed to seeing in dim light and exceptional "night" vision develops. This is similar to the temperature acclimation: our eyes and brains just adapt to the darkness.

Training runs in darkness are the norm. When the winter sky is clear and the stars are bright there is enough light to drive a dog team down a wintry trail and still be able to recognize all of the team members. Trails, through the rolling hills and wild valleys and past the occasional lighted cabin, provide an serene experience. Neither darkness nor cold diminishes that feeling.

Sometimes our trail is lighted by the Northern Lights, pulsing overhead in shades of green, red and purple, creating a spectacular vision characteristic of Interior Alaska. These are the times we realize how fortunate we are. We may be bundled against the 20°F below temperatures, but we are surely living in God’s Country.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Road Trip!

That's right - SP Kennel's dog trucks are up and running! So yesterday, we loaded up both trucks with most of the Racing Dogs and the three mushers and drove 50 miles to the White Mountains National Recreation area. It was our first trip away from our local training trails. It was great. Now we just need a race to go to…

The Mid Day sun in Interior Alaska; Sunset at 2:42PM (Sunrise was at 10:47AM).

A motley crew wait for their mushers to get going - rear to front: Nelson, Waylon, Wedgy, Izzy, Scout (hiding), Beemer, Boondocks, Chipper; Traveling down the trail.

Patience at the trucks; Sisters - Quito and Chica looking pretty!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Iron Wins The Fan Club Draw #5

Congratulations to IRON for winning his first fan club draw!

Peggy from California joined Iron's fan club in memory of Rae Long. Peggy will receive a package of Iron-themed goodies in the post.

Iron and his golf litter siblings make up part of our two-year-old class this season. Iron is such a handsome young man and resembles his Papa Biscuit in many ways - except for color! We're excited to watch him develop into a strong, hard-charging racing dog. Iron shared his extra treats with his siblings today.

It wasn't that long ago "the golfies" were pups, just look at them back in fall 2012.

L-R: Wedgy and Iron look like butter wouldn't melt...; Chipper, Woody and Iron are all legs

The next Dog Fan Club winner will be announced on December 26th ("Boxing Day" for our Commonwealth fans) and everyone who hasn't already won and all new members will be in the draw to win.

Click the button below for instructions on how to join:

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December Yearling Update

The yearlings go through the same monthly health exams as the adults. There is much more humor involved in these exams and a great deal more patience is required.
These youngsters are sincerely happy, playful, exuberant and downright fun!

We brought all 13 yearlings into the garage - three or four at a time. Keeping up with them was like chasing rabbits: Spark tried to eat the foot ointment container while Violet ran off in the other direction with the lid. Commando and Amber wrestled in the work out room - now we can't find the sweat bands! Cayenne stole the dry erase marker and ran in circles with it so that we couldn't write down her weight. Chena didn't want to come out of the weigh-in crate, so Daisy and Champ decided to join her. FYI: all three of them weighed in at 121.8 pounds. Coal didn't want to get in the weight-in crate and howled desperately while getting weighed. Nomex had the most patience during his foot exam. Tinder stood by and monitored all of his siblings weights compared to his (Photo at right). Torch and Hotshot were the last to come into the garage and were so pleased to finally have their chance to run around that they were both "angels"!

L-R: Chena in the weigh-in crate; Champ joins Chena; Daisy joins the other two.

The Yearlings have had a very consistent training schedule thus far. They trained with the Adult Racers mixed into the same teams the entire month of September and through much of October. During November, they began to train in a predominantly "Yearling Squad". The focus of this young squad was manners and experience; not mileage. On average, the Yearlings have 50% of the training miles and 80% of the number of runs as the Adult Racers.

We have given many yearlings a chance to run in lead with a veteran adult. A few of them have really shined! In December, several Yearlings were "bumped up" to an Adult Racer team for a run or two. We watch their attitude very closely.
  • Amber really drives hard in harness and has never lost focus. She is a cocky gal and will tell all of her siblings that she is the best! She looks good at 37.8 pounds. Amber has the most mileage of all the yearlings and has been in lead once.
  • Cayenne was a little timid in the Adult teams early in the season. But, she has gained tremendous confidence in just a few months is now completely self-assured. She is a tall, thin-boned girl at 37.8 pounds. Cayenne went through a phase of not eating all her food but now she is back at her dish with gusto. She has average mileage.
  • Champ started the season as the loudest screamer and the biggest line chewer. Now that he understands the routine, he has settled down and can somewhat control his focus. He is a hard charging dog and has strength in his size. He has a habit of running out in the deep snow (so does Mac and Scruggs). Champ will be a big, sturdy boy and is the second largest yearling at a healthy 49.2 pounds. He has the second most mileage.
  • Chena is pensive and calm. But she runs in harness with complete dedication and resolve. She has been in lead on numerous training runs and trots with her head down and eyes forward. Chena doesn't like water in her food and picks out the solid goodies. She is a very picky eater and is thin at 33.4 pounds. She has average mileage.
  • Coal is a big, slightly goofy, boy. He isn't always comfortable with new situations: open water, overflow, ski poles. But, he listens when he's spoken to and immediately gets back to work. Coal is a strong, solid team player and weighs 47.8 pounds. He has average mileage.
  • Commando lopes with a lot of pep. He always keeps his tug line tight! He has run in lead but is still a pup and will leap off the trail to bite a branch. He enjoys his food but his consumption does't keep up with his energy level so he is a thin 45.4 pounds. He has average mileage.
  • Daisy is a chubby, plain faced girl with the most dedication in harness for a yearling. She is strong and never lets up. She will run in lead the same as in the team. She is tremendously furry and looks a lot bigger than she really is. She is solid at 39.2 pounds. Daisy has the third most mileage.
  • Hotshot is an extra playful, happy hound. He has big legs and a big body and hasn't mastered long distance miles yet. But, he was talented in lead and trotted down the trail with confidence. He is a solid 47.2 pounds. He has average mileage.
  • Nomex is proud. He is a tall, big dog with a 'coffee table-sized' head. He is a powerful team player and still must practice the art of pooping on the go. He is the largest yearling and looks incredible at 49.4 pounds. Nomex is a gorgeous boy! He has average mileage.
  • Spark is the ultimate sweetheart but what a worker as well! He pulled so hard at the beginning of the season that he would wear himself out. We moved him up into lead to lessen his drive and he is now a solid lead dog (except when a leaf blows across the trail!) Spark is a nifty dog and looks good at 45.4 pounds. He has average mileage.
  • Tinder is gorgeous and resembles his Daddy, Nacho. He has the same self confidence too. He seemed slightly unfocused early in the season on the first 1/2 mile every run, but he's gotten over this phase and is now a 100% powerhouse. Tinder looks super at 45.2 pounds and has the prettiest coat. He has average mileage.
  • Torch is the most vocal and enthusiastic youngster. He paces faster than many dogs lope. He is lighter-boned than his bigger brothers but seems to keep his body weight well at 45.2 pounds. He motored straight down the trail when he was in lead and will be in that position more in the future. He has average mileage.
  • Violet is a mini "Olivia" with crazed energy and a 'go-go-go' attitude. She has run in lead but only for short stints. She is a solid dog in swing or team and will be there in the long run. Violet is not a big girl but she looks good at 37.2 pounds. She has average mileage.

L-R: Allen with "the twins" Violet (left) and Amber (right); Cayenne wants her marker back!; Mark rescued the foot ointment container from Spark.

L-R: Nomex stands for his "mani-pedi"; Aliy gives some luvin' the angels: Torch (left) and Hotshot (right).

Monday, December 8, 2014

Trail Pics with Fresh Snow

We've had some fresh snow in the last week as you can see from these two pics captured by Spencer. He took the team out east on Baseline and then on a 30 mile loop.

The team is (front to back, left to right):

Kodiak and Beemer, Schmoe and Lydia, Viper and Clyde, Puppet and Woody, Wedgy and Sandy, Biscuit and Chipper.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sunrise at SP Kennel

Here's a "good morning" that may wake the neighbors!