That’s right. WOW. (All capitals letters that time.)

Mark and Bridgett brought the Yukon Quest dogs home to SP Kennel yesterday evening. It was a delight to see them. They snuggled into cozy straw beds in the dog barn. Each stall opens with a doggie door so they can do their business when ever they desire. They have eaten and rested, been massaged and petted. We have whispered congratulatory “ohhhs” and “ahhhss” in their ears and rubbed their butts.

Then today, we harnessed them up and hooked up the team. Time to go on a slow 2 mile stretch out run — less than 48 hours from crossing the finish line. And WOW. I mean WOW!

All fourteen of the 2016 Yukon Quest 3rd place team members are awesome. (Although… I haven’t actually seen Allen yet, I hear he, the 15th member, is doing well.)

See for yourselves…

I am amazed that these 14 dogs just ran 1,000 incredibly competitive miles and are now back at home — healthy and happy — and ready to run. That’s right… 14 dogs. Felix has recovered from his gastrointestinal issues.

Crossing the finish line with 13 dogs is huge. As I look back through the Yukon Quest data I find no team in the past 5 years to have finished with more than 12 dogs. (The YQ website didn’t have any data for last year. Although I know Brent finished with 12 dogs I don’t remember if anyone finished with more than that. Let me know if I missed someone.)

It is, of course, a testament to Allen, his skill as a dog musher and a racer and the fact that he cares. He puts booties on dogs when they need booties, he medicates dogs if they need medication, he rubs down muscles and wraps wrists and blankets dogs and puts on wind breakers and feeds them snacks on a schedule and urges the team. Many of you may be saying… “Well, of course he does these things.” But, no, you are wrong. These are not givens and to take magnificent care of 14 dogs for the first 500 miles and then 13 dogs the next 500 miles is a BIG DEAL. A really big deal. And I saw it first hand while watching this dog team today trot down the trail in Two Rivers while over 40% of the Yukon Quest teams haven’t even finished yet. Am I proud?! Why yes. Shouldn’t I be?

The public and the media doesn’t get much drama, stories, poetry or tears from Allen. What they get is the ‘real deal’. That’s Allen. You can bet that he is trying run the best Yukon Quest possible and I can guarantee you that he is always trying to win. He did his absolute best this year. Hugh Neff has a truly amazing dog team and Brent Sass is incredibly dedicated to his Yukon Quest dream. Placing third behind these two teams is excellent.

This is the first year that Allen has raced in the Yukon Quest and I have not greeted his team at the finish line. I, like many of you, sat at home and chewed on my finger nails and pressed refresh every few seconds.

I was at the starting line, then I saw his team on the trail camped before Two Rivers Checkpoint and again camped at Mile 101 as I was racing the YQ300. I then went to Dawson for the 36 hour lay over. I said my ‘Good Byes’ to the Black Team as they left Dawson to climb King Solomon’s Dome and I left to go conquer our Iditarod Food Drops.

As you can imagine, SP Kennel is a whirlwind of activity right now. So, this year I choose to leave the Yukon Quest handling duties to professional handlers and head home. Trust me, I am a very poor handler. Ask anyone. Ask everyone. I pance, get cranky and pop more Prilosec than is reasonable even for a Wall Street stock executive. There is really no need for me to be standing at the final 3 checkpoints, eye balling everything and anything that Hugh, Brent and Allen do. I am truly no benefit in that situation because a ‘calming influence’… I am not. I LOVE being there (although my belly doesn’t) but such was not the case this year.

I “watched” the finish like many of you. Three of us sat around the kitchen table watching the tracker at SP Kennel (Wes & Wendy couldn’t make it over in time because they wouldn’t leave their tracker unattended for the 5 minutes to get here!)

When the Black Team crossed the finish line we did a celebratory “Hip Woo”. We had cupcakes (those of you who know me, know that I don’t eat sugar… but I had a cupcake.) I had a beer (those of you who know me, know that I don’t drink during the mushing season… but I had a beer.) I know… now you are all worried that perhaps I SHOULD have just stayed in Canada. Well… don’t worry because: I’m headed back. That’s right.

There are many festivities in Whitehorse this week surrounding the Yukon Quest and, plain and simple, I want to be part of it. It is time to celebrate the awesome 3rd place finish of our dog team. So, put all the other stuff aside… get off the phone, unplug the computer, enough sponsor obligations, sled rebuilding, Anchorage commitments, Iditarod planning… I’ll have no more of that. Time to go celebrate with Allen!

24 Responses

  • It makes me happy to see how happy and proud you are of these dogs, Allen and your fantastic crew. Integrity in how Allen handles the dogs and himself in the course of competition, and you too Aliy, makes me proud to be an SPK fan. As always, I love the video and thanks for allowing us to come along on this ride with you. Go SPK!!!!

  • Thanks so much for sharing, and super congratulations, by the way, on the performance of the Red Team in the YQ300!!!

    Ditto to all above commenters' comments: My prescription for you is …have a great time in Whitehorse with Allen!!!

    P.S. Woof, woof, woof to Scout and his teammates, too!!!

  • Aliy,
    This was a very insightful post. I had wondered about whether Allen was taking it easy like he does in the Iditarod or trying to win. You all implied that one of the main goals for the young dogs was to finish the race happy. Thank you for clarifying that it was a "both/and". I realize there is a lot of skill involved in assessing just how hard to push dogs whether they are young or older. It is quite apparent that when dogs don't want to do anything, they won't (I reference the story of the one musher who stated he couldn't get anybody to lead and had to lead them himself for a while).
    I appreciate how you described WHY it is a big deal for Allen to not only come in 3rd, but with 13 dogs. Thanks for pointing out that no one else in the history of the YQ has finished with as many dogs. This helped me to have more of an appreciation for what he accomplished. Allen had to give a lot of care to initially 56 feet and then later 52 feet, watching every dog as they went up the trail regardless of how tired he was. I know Allen was a great 15th member and is likely the musher who is the fittest out of all of them.
    Hugh commented on his respect for Allen several times. This told me that Hugh realized and understood Allen's skill as well as competitiveness.
    So yes, I too rejoice with you on a fine group of dogs. I am concluding that it is likely they are definitely in the running to make your Iditarod team. I miss seeing the retired dogs and am glad that they are still the background photo of your blog.
    I am glad that you are going to celebrate with Allen. Tell him congratulations and well done for all of us.

  • Oh how the happiness shines through your words! Yes, I was very amazed at how well Allen kept good care of the team, with so many rookies learning, and the importance of it being a good experience their first time on a 1000 miler. And they all did so well.. You should be very proud. Beemer & Viper are also very proud of their brother Scout. They perk right up when they hear The team, and when Allen speak (and you of course Aliy). Have a wonderful celebration! Love and doggie hugs.. Cindy & Tom & Beemer & Viper 💕

  • It is truly incredible what Allen and his dogs have done! Great info & summary Aliy. So nice to see the dogs ready to go and excited! Great
    testament to SP Kennel and there training. Go enjoy yourself Aliy!!!
    Well deserved!!!!

  • WOW forever and always. Definitely take very good care of yourself. I can just run this little clip on replay and be perfectly content until you come back. Thank you for taking such good care of us!

  • Woohoo, Aliy is headed to Whitehorse to see Allen and celebrate!!!!

    I'm glad all the Iditarod bags are taken care of. Totally understand the stomach issue, ha ha.

    And I'm super happy the Quest team got out for a "recovery run." Those are so important, I can't imagine waiting another day. It must have felt great for the dogs.

    It's time to celebrate!

  • BRAVO —

    To Allen, the Team, the Handlers, the stay-at-home crew, and to YOU. Great race. The SP coverage was the best–
    We always knew what was happening.

    BTW I hope you are flying to White Horse

    Looking so forward to the Iditarod.


  • We have been proud of many SPK race performances, but this one is truly impressive. It speaks to Allen's dog care to keep such a large team running competitively while remaining healthy and uninjured on such a hard fast trail – and one that so many of the team members had never seen before. Well done!

  • What a fabulous report on the team!! I cannot wait to see you all in Anchorage…we'll be rooting for both of you as you pass by at restart!!
    Go Red and Black Teams!!


  • I think that is the best post-race write up I've ever seen. Well said, Aliy! I finally just joined the Red Team (I'm very late this year, sorry!). Your description of you as a handler sounds exactly like those of us armchair mushing from home! I become very distracted during each race and have the tracker continuously updating. It's amazing I'm able to get any work and school stuff done and function at all! I swear those of us watching are on "checkpoint time" as well, trying to do math to sleep when you guys sleep so we don't miss a second of action and updates.
    Go enjoy Canada and celebrate Allen's amazing finish with an amazing group of youngsters. As he said, the future of the kennel looks very, very good!

  • I'm SO glad you are heading out to celebrate….this is a huge accomplishment…huge! To finish with 13 healthy dogs AND stay competitive during the race hasn't been done. Hats off to Allen for a job well done!

  • The words that come to mind when reading this post are, excellence and love and dedication!!! And the words that came to mind when I saw the wonderful dogs on the video were health love and also dedication!
    You all are simply great, above everyone else!!!
    Lots of love! Go have fun Aliy!!!! 💖❤️💙💜💚

  • I am so darn happy for you! Aliy, you and Allen make a fantastic team and the success of SPK reflects just how well you work together and support each other. I saw this first hand when I visited and talked with both of you.
    I agree that bringing in thirteen dogs in this race is a fantastic achievement and I figure Allen ought to get the dog care award if anyone should! Anyway go back and have a great time and only then go full speed ahead for the Iditarod!!

  • Thank you, Aliy, for your wise commentary. And I agree whole-heartedly with the above thoughts. Especially when Barb of CO said "thank you for taking care of us." Thanks to all at SP Kennel for keeping us informed and keeping us a tiny part of your team -at least in heart. We appreciate that going through our daily life every day, no matter where on the planet we are. And another 'especially' when Lourdes said 'excellence, love and dedication.' Aliy and Allen – all of the handlers and helpers – it's obvious that getting (some of them very young!) 13 healthy happy dogs to a successful finish of this 1000 mile race was because of the excellence, love and dedication you all feel for the life you live with these 4-legged members of your family. Congratulations and we're all hoping you have safe and happy travels to the start of the Iditarod.

  • Allen's dog care is amazing. I hope he gets the Vet's Choice for bringing 13 healthy athletes over the finish line in 3rd! And without DRAMA!

  • WOW is right. Allen should definitely win the vets care award. Dittos to above comments. Yes Aliy it is time to celebrate. Thanks for such a fantastic report and video. Straight into the dog barn.

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