Friday, March 16, 2012

Aliy Zirkle, how we met

We first met Aliy after having read the book YUKON ALONE, by John Balzar. He depicted Aliy and her dogs in her first Yukon Quest. We were so interested after this book in meeting Aliy that we tracked her down, at the banquet of our first Iditarod, where she flashing her great smile . We asked her if she would take us on the Iditarod Trail with dogs on a trip at some point. She said, yes, we'll be in touch.b Imagine my excitement!! The following November we were able to travel to Two Rivers, AK, to Aliy's kennel and with Aliy and her sister, Kaz, and another gal, Eunice Thaeler, we spent a week of intensive learning every aspect of sled dogs and driving teams in the afternoons. There could be no sounder grounding in sled dogs than with Aliy. If you want to learn about sled dogs or go on a trip with sled dogs, be sure to contact Aliy and her husband, Allen Moore, for their spring adventures. It will be a highlight of your life.

At that time we had also made arrangements to pick up an older leader from Susan Butcher's kennel to take back to our kennel team. The phone rang at Aliy's and she looked at me quizzically as she handed the phone to me, "It's Susan Butcher for you," she said. Susan wanted to arrange a time for meeting and I said, "Well, we were planning a camping trip, but it's thirty below zero, I don't know if we'll go."

Susan Butcher said, "If I know Aliy, you'll be going on your trip." And, of course, we did and it was the highlight of a great week with Aliy and her dogs and a glimpse into the incredible woman who now has come in second in Iditarod. Susan paid Aliy a high compliment and we enjoyed the
amazing opportunity of going to Susan's kennel, the next day, with Aliy and Kaz. Why didn't I have a camera. Two legacies of mushing together. I took a quick ride with Susan in the predawn hours (still cold out here, she put more clothes on me, they were David's)... we had a great ride and I chose Liller as the dog to retire with me. It was the right choice. Liller had run Iditarod, and she was as tough headed and responsive as any dog I'd ever known before, a perfect gee haw command leader, as long as she liked you.

AND the joy of this continues... I had seen a retiring Quest leader in Aliy's yard... didn't know it at the time... but it was wonderful Skinny. His human, Jerry, had sadly died and Skinny had been injured, he wouldn't be racing any more Quests. I saw him (he looked like my first dog from Susan) and I said, "OH, I like that dog!" Aliy said, "Then we have to talk". Skinny did come home with me, he did go with us to Susan's kennel, Susan did agree he looked like Scuba and the rest is history. We bred Skinny and Liller and those are our current day racers, the pups. Skinny and Liller raced on numerous teams for our kennel as well.

We are currently rereading Balzar's book to refresh our memory. Skinny and Martin are both mentioned in the book, but we didn't know they would become our dogs the first time we read it.

What a trail that would take us down, meeting her, learning from her and now Susan's baton is passing to Aliy as the first woman since 1998 to lead for much of the race and then to place second. The media did not keep up well with Aliy in this race, but we did and
we are not surprised. Her dogs will return with her nexgt year and we'll be on board to cheer. We have much gratefulness to Aliy Zirkle and to Susan Butcher, comparable and top in their field.

My first dog from Scuba came as a result of reading MUSHING MAGAZINE and Skinny from
Balzar's book. We highly recommend reading , ha ha !! :)

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