Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Following Iditarod

It's time to follow the annual Iditarod sled dog race that travels from Anchorage, AK to Nome, AK, over mountain ranges, down frozen rivers, out on the frozen sea, into Nome.   The mushers and dogs who run this race have been training long and hard.  Our personal favorites are Aliy Zirkle and Allen Moore, SPKennel, Two Rivers, AK.

We have subscribed, again, to the GPS tracking of mushers at   Last year was VERY exciting as we could see Aliy in 1st position most of the way, vying with Dallas Seavey for first and second.
Aliy runs the number one team from their kennel in Iditarod and Allen runs the younger dogs, getting them race trained.   Allen just won the 1000 mile Yukon Quest in February with many of the dogs who will be on Aliy's team.  Rosters will be posted the morning of the race at their blog,   It is THE best place to learn about Iditarod and the sport of dog sledding done right.

Photo shows my son, Mike, and several of Aliy's uncles/friends waiting for Aliy to come through Finger Lake
checkpoint one year.

We personally want to wish  Aliy, Allen, the SPKennel great dogs and all of the mushers well in this year's
great race.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Kids' Day at Summer Place

Photo: Jennifer Loomis, Tanner Johnson,
six year old, A.J., Yuki, Kiddo (wheel), readying for A.J.'s ride with 4 dogs.

Adam Loomis negotiates the fast curve in the pines.

Adam's three dog team coming out of the loop.  Ruthie, Buffy, Herman.

First time driver, Cole, has a smooth run with Navy and Ruthie speeding along.

David looking like a pro with great four dogs,
Navy, Ruthie, Sherpa and Rosie.

 A.J. confidently says, " I had 4 dogs so I'm a pro! "   Tanner said A.J. cheered the dogs on the whole way.  I even had a chance to leap on the team
as they negotiated deep snow on a turn.

Ethan, first time driver, looks good going
home with his two dogs, Ruthie and Buffy.

 Timers and Moms, Jenny and Jennifer compare timers for Ethan's run.  Tanner was the handler for all teams yesterday.

Great handlers at the gate to turn the dogs for the beginners, Kevin, David and Adam turning Tanner's team with rider, A.J.

 Out of the pines to the climb uphill.

Tanner with precious cargo.

Tanner's 4 dog heading home.
A big thank you to Tim for chopping all the gates from the big snow and dragging all of the trails.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Trails and Snowbirds

Tim groomed the trails yesterday so they are in top notch condition...wide and packed with safe turns.
He also changed some gate latches on pens for the busy dogs who can get out with the higher snow levels
(nose the latch and out they come).  The snow birds are here in flocks lately (not sure of their scientific name).  They flutter  over the deer , all white bellies, looking very beautiful in the sunny and snowy landscape.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

-18 this morning

The roller coaster that is winter is rolling on.   This morning it is minus 18 but promises to warm to
plus 16 by afternoon.  Tomorrow it will be in the mid thirties.   This takes a bit of a toll on the dogs,
up/down and not to mention on the human.... chopping iced gates after a rain /freeze has been a constant.   The dogs can maneuver out of the gates if they aren't chopped, so on goes the chop chop.

This morning we were expecting racers but sounds like they might want to reschedule due to the temps, not sure.

Thanks to visitor, Marty, for freeing up the chain in the track of the Skandic yesterday... in his suit and tie, no less.   Our main machine for chasing teams, grooming trails and hauling, we'd be without it this morning if he and Talia  hadn't stopped to visit.

Photo:  Granddaughter, Fina, awaits the hookup of her mother's team for kennel race.
We hookup to the pole and the machines are ready for takeoff to follow the musher.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Day Dawns without Lillen

As we start our day, we imagine we hear Lillen's insistent woof telling us at or about 6:00 AM that it's time for her to get out to her pen.  I did think I heard it this morning.  As we went about our day yesterday we
realized how much of our attention is turned to her.  Each time I passed her pen I felt myself anxiously looking to see that she is OK, that she's looking for a biscuit, that she's happily wandering about.   The tarps shielded her from and I expected to see her peeking around as always.   She was first in our attentions and she just isn't here now.  It will take some time to adjust, I know.   Memories of her are prolific and fantastic.
She was the toughest dog I have met and I've met many.   But not only was she tough, she was the sweetest dog when she liked you.  She brushed my cheek with an almost kiss each morning .  Susan had told me,
"She's not a handler's dog" and she wasn't.   She expected the very best and she expected anyone helping her to do it her way.  And we did.

Top:   Cowlick, a pup of Lillen's racing at Land O Lakes, one we had talked to Susan about taking here.     Second,  Lillen and Julie, spending time together.  Third, Navy, a newly retired Butcher dog meets Butcher dog, Lillen.   Lillen is Navy's auntie.   Fourth,  every agile and alert Lillen on a walk.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Lillen, age 16, could still command respect from every dog in the kennel.   A few months ago she slipped her leash and took off down the road as if she were racing and winning.   I chased her
and couldn't catch her so I shouted for Copper.  He barreled down the road and headed her off and turned her around.  She came running back , happily, as if she had won that race that she had led.

We thought Lillen might make it to 17 .  She stayed in the house at night in her own apartment, designed just the way she liked it.   Walls around her, no one (dogs) able to approach her, giving her full command of her world. Her water dish was within reach and comfy beds and a crate for safety, if she chose to hide.  In the day, her pen was protected from wind and snow with tarps, a den of sorts.  

Yesterday morning she leaped about as I walked her to her pen.   She met me at the fence many times yesterday, looking for a biscuit.   Every day I marveled at her tough spirit and drive and amazing strong body.  Each dog who met her deferred to her spirit, even as her body weakened.

But, late yesterday, after a normal day, something happened... a seizure or a stroke, we don't know.
She couldn't respond normally.  I walked her inside and she did give it the effort to get inside, but something was seriously wrong.  I called Dr. Pauline and I decided to take her in.   As we drove in the dark, I was able to pet her behind me, console her.  We knew this day would come for her but it seemed like she could still enjoy every day, when we followed her rules.  

She left us in peace and we've been left with memories of the toughest dog I've ever met.  As tough as she was, each morning she'd brush my face with a gentle kiss, always seeming like a thank you or  a hug.  She was safe in her world here and that was our job.  

We thank Susan Butcher for the gift of this wonderful dog and all she taught us.   Bred at Susan's kennel, her litter brother was Yuksi, Jeff King's superstar and stud.  Susan had told me, "Follow her rules and she'll be happy."  We did our best to follow her rules as she was clear about what her boundaries were.  The kennel days were structured for her .  She was walked first, fed first, always checked on . We will always be so appreciative to Susan for entrusting her to our care, allowing us to learn the ways of the toughest , yet sweetest, Alaskan husky sled dog.  Her fur, her feet, her temperament and speed/skill... all the very best Alaska could breed in a racing dog.  She was a mighty and beloved companion as well.

Lillen, in lead, left in the top photo.  Mighty dog. In second photo, an easy run with Eos as her partner.  Bottom photo, Lillen smiling in swing  (right in photo) in a ten dog team to Florence.
Godspeed, dear Lillen.

Monday, February 11, 2013



The great dogs of SPKennel, Two Rivers, AK, have won the Yukon Quest.  This brings the second win to the kennel,  Aliy having won it in 2000.   Can't say enough good things about
the SPK teams, humans and dogs.   Congratulations!!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Kennel Race Continues

The kennel race continues.  Shanna (Cade) ran a fast four dog team yesterday to post the current fastest time for our February race.   Navy and Ruthie ran lead and Sherpa and Buffy ran wheel.

The race rules specify that there will be an overall best time (all teams ) and fastest times for four dog and six dog teams.   So far Shanna has the fastest overall time and fastest four dog while Tanner has
the fastest six dog time.  

We have more participants lining up and the dogs are eagerly awaiting .   The trails today were perfect.  Today we're getting some ice rain, yet again.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Keeping Trails Going

Photos from runs on Tuesday.  Since then ice rain, more snow, more rain, but we still have a trail.
Warmer today (twenties) and single digits tonight, so will it be ice or snow on the trails?  Stay tuned.
Big weekend for snow events:  Pine Mountain Ski Jumps,  Land O Lakes sprint races (Tanner);
Michigan Tech Winter Carnival (Katie),  Shanna's birthday and maybe a run for her,  Iron Line Sled Dog race.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Summer Place Kennel February Race

This morning we had our first two dog drivers in the kennel race for February.

Tanner Johnson ran first, a six dog team, with leaders, Navy and Ruthie; swing, Sherpa and Rosie; and wheel, Buffy and Herman.   The trail is a bit punchy today but there is snow, hooray!  Tanner had a great run.

Katie Richard ran second, a six dog team, with leaders, Navy and Ruthie;  swing, Yuki and Sherpa; and wheel, Buffy and Herman.  Katie had a great run.

The kennel rules call for two hours of work for each driver so Tanner and Katie chopped out gates, groomed trails, handled all of the gear/harnessing out and back in.   Flawless morning.

And it is SNOWING again, very big flakes.  Tanner dragged the trail after the runs hoping it would set up tonight.  Looks like we'll have to drag again.

Thanks to Katie and Tanner!  Dogs are happy tonight.  They thought we had forgotten how to run sleds.
Stay tuned, more runners.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Yukon Quest 1000 and 300

We're slow in updating because mostly we're dealing with weather.... frigid, then meltdowns, then trails, then no trails, more frigid, more meltdowns... chop, chop gates, haul straw.  Dogs are doing very well, including 16 year old Lillen who stays in nights and barks incessantly to get out in the morning.

So, the Yukon Quest is on and we're following Allen Moore (1000) and Aliy Zirkle (300) and Ryne Olson with SPK Dogs in the 300 too (yearlings in team).   At this juncture Allen is first into Pelly Crossing and looking oh so strong!  Aliy is vying at the front with Michelle Phillips and looking oh so strong.  And, of course, the dogs look, oh, so strong!

Stay tuned.  We are hoping to be running teams tomorrow.  This morning a bit chilly , minus 11 (probably lower windchills), but trails are looking nice.   It is a crazy, rollercoaster winter, but we still love winter.

Saturday, February 2, 2013