Friday, January 27, 2012

From the Job Site


Rohn Buser earned a hard won victory in the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race last weekend, edging out his nearest competitors by only a few minutes.  Named after a checkpoint on the Iditarod trail, Rohn topped a field filled with mushing royalty -- defending Iditarod champion John Baker, who finished second; last year's Kusko champion Paul Gebhardt, who was third; four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey, who placed fifth, plus a number of the sport's top veterans, like Ramey Smyth and Ken Anderson, and some of its rising stars, like Pete Kaiser and Richie Diehl.

Rohn’s father, four time Iditarod champion Martin Buser, finished more than 3 ½ hours after his 22 year old son.  They will have an opportunity for a rematch in the 2012 Iditarod.

This weekend the Don Bowers Memorial 200/300 will include several mushers from around our area, including Aliy Zirkle and Ryne Olson from the SP Kennels, Tony Angelo and veterinarian Tamara Rose.  Down on the Kenai Peninsula, The Tustomena 200 will include the teams of Dan Kaduce, Jodi Bailey and Jeff King.  Both races offer a chance to check out teams that will be competing in this years Yukon Quest and Iditarod races.

The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race will be starting next Saturday (February 4th), running from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, YT.  I’m planning to attend the start banquet Wednesday night.  Given my track record at trying to predict Quest winners, I’ve decided that this year I’m not even going to try.  There are some awfully good teams in this year’s race, and I’m cheering for several of them.

With his unprecedented record of success in both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod, everyone expects great things from Lance Mackey.  This year he has been focusing on training himself and his own team, rather than bringing along rookies running leased dogs.  I can’t see that as being anything other than a good thing.  Those young dogs he was running last year are now experienced racers, and Lance knows them better than ever, so naturally I expect Lance give us a great run.

Brent Sass is young and tough, and he’s proven his ability and that of his dogs to take on the toughest trails in the toughest conditions and make it look easy.  In a recent post Brent noted that his famous hero lead dog Silver will be on either his Quest or his Iditarod team, but didn’t specify which.  If it were me, I’d put that big ol’ boy in my Quest team, just because conditions in the Quest are usually more brutal than those in the I’rod, and like Brent himself, Silver seems to love the bad trails and brutal conditions.  Regardless of who he has on his team, you can expect Brent and his team to do a tremendously good job out on that trail.

Allen Moore will be representing SP Kennel in this year’s Quest, and I’m expecting to see an awe inspiring performance from him.  Having finished last year’s race in sixth place, Allen will be working to improve his performance, and when Allen seeks to make improvement you can always expect excellent results.  He’s just that kind of guy, and the SP Kennel raises and trains just that kind of dogs.  He is one of the toughest mushers and smartest woodsmen that I know.

If I had to choose one word to describe Abbie West I would use the word “driven”.  During her rookie Quest in 2010, Abbie set the current record for the fastest time over the trail by a woman, shaving more than 13 hours off of Aliy Zirkle’s 2000 championship time.  When asked about her goal, she flat-out states it is to win the Yukon Quest, and there is no reason to believe that she won’t achieve it.  This year Abbie is running a completely different team than that of 2010, made up of young dogs from the Yukon Flats region.  I’ve met those dogs, and even have a sibling to many of her racing dogs in my kennel.  Her dogs are well matched in size, conformation and temperament and I’m convinced that great things are in store for the Cosmic Canines kennel.

If anyone in the world deserves a “most improved musher” award, I believe it would be Hugh Neff.  In just a decade he’s gone from ‘laughing stock’ to top-dawg-contender and more than proven his ability to put together and race a team of dogs that is second to none.  In recent years his performance has exceeded most onlooker’s expectations, and there is no reason to believe he won’t do so again next month.

With over 40 years of sled dog racing experience, Sonny Lindner should never be discounted.  He was the very first Yukon Quest champion and though he focuses on the Iditarod he seems to have a soft spot in his heart for the Quest trail. Sonny is one of the most experienced mushers out on the trails, and that experience frequently pays off on the race trails.

Like Sonny, Dave Dalton and his Dalton Gang has many years of experience to draw on, and many of us feel like he is way past due for a Quest win.  This year Dave will be taking his 22nd trip down the trail and though he’s never won the race, he has frequently finished quite well.

You don’t want to describe pure-bred Siberian Huskies as “Slowberians” to Mike Ellis – his record on the Yukon Quest trail proves otherwise.  I don’t think anyone knows the breed or how to run and care for them better than Mike.  While I doubt his pure-bred dogs can win the race against the competitors he faces, I have no doubt at all that he’ll give them something to worry about as they march their way across the Yukon and Alaska.

Jason Weitzel is one of my friends and neighbors, and he’ll be embarking on his rookie run of the Quest next Saturday as well.  Just a few years ago he was training for the Quest when a juvenile delinquent ran over his leaders with a truck, killing several dogs and maiming some others.  It’s taken Jason a few years to recover from the tragedy, but now he’s ready to race and I think his team bears watching.  He’s one of the hardest working guys I know, and also one of nicest.  I’d really like to see him and his dogs do well.


8:00 AM, January 27th

 The weather has been uncommonly COLD up here.  Although nothing quite record breaking, January has been considerably colder than average.  So far the average temperature for the month in Fairbanks has been minus – 15.5 degrees, with an average low of minus - 34.  At 8:00 AM the thermometer outside my work building was showing minus – 42 and at 4:00 this afternoon it had risen to a balmy minus-40.  National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Berg was quoted as saying “Conditions are not going to improve between now and the end of the month.”


I just received an Email from Nita Fowler telling me that she and the puppies, Animosh and Chetan, were checked in at the airport ready to board.  Both pups are riding in the same crate, which saves us a bit of money.  Apparently they have been very calm and collected thus far into their great adventure.  According to Linda Newman, the TSA agents were surprised to learn that the girls weren’t sedated, but were just being naturally calm puppies.

Nita will be caring for the puppies until I get off duty on Tuesday.  I loaded an airline crate into the car before heading to work, but don’t know if I’ll be able to pick them up on my way home or will have to wait until Wednesday morning.  I have a medical appointment to keep as soon as I can get back into town from my workplace.  Depending upon how long it takes for me to escape the doctor’s office will determine whether or not I can make the trip out to Nita and Josh’s place to meet the babies.

Linda Newman with Animosh and Chetan

Meanwhile, in Vancouver Tiffany McLean is most likely packing and preparing for her trip to Alaska where she will be visiting and helping out at my place for the next few months.  Tiffany will be staying at the Stardancer Kennel until summer, when I’ll be seeking a new handler.

Sometimes it seems like the fun never ends around here.  Kyle Belleque’s bitch, Juliet, whelped a litter of 7 males and 2 females from a breeding with Brent Sass’ famous leader, Silver.  We’ve been offered one of the males from this awesome Nushagak Kennels litter and it took me about 3 nanoseconds to accept.  That boy will be arriving when Kyle comes up to race the Two Rivers 200 in March.
According to my employer, the acronym “R&R” is supposed to mean “rest and recreation”.  Well, I have no doubt the next two R&Rs will be recreational, but I kind of doubt I’ll be getting very much rest.  With new puppies to socialize and train, a visitor who wants to learn how to care for and work with sled dogs, equipment to gather and prepare for Kyle Belleque’s Two Rivers 200 race, all of the activities associated with the Yukon Quest plus the normal general housekeeping activities, I suspect I’ll be just a wee bit busy.

There is nothing at all wrong with being busy when busy means doing the fun stuff.


  1. New dogs and puppies at every turn - sounds interesting. And, also, a new handler - at least for a few months.

  2. Thanks for the great run-down of some this year's Quest contenders. I saw Abbie's team at the checks and they look strong. I'm adding Jason to my list of folks to follow closely. I think this year's race is going to be awesome. As are your pups! Congrats on their arrival!