Dogs (and humans) do their best to constantly create a mess. Some more than others! Keeping the kennel clean and tidy is a challenge. In order to effectively keep the property clean, we do ‘dog chores’ every day. After the morning meal and watering, we scoop poo and clear the yard of any debris, rubbish or clutter. This might be wet straw, chewed on sticks or even a neighbor’s bowl. The dogs constantly dig, tunnel and chew on everything ~ they are DOGS! But, we try our best to keep the yard free of any and all hazards. So, when we saw a small circular green piece of plastic in front of Creamer’s dog house last week, we picked it up. It was an Iditarod dog tag from 13 years ago!
We were pretty excited to see who’s tag it was. After searching through our records, we learned that for the 2004 Iditarod, dog “38C” was Rosco.
Rosco was born in June of 1998 at a friend’s house in Fairbanks. That friend, Mike, had been Aliy’s handler on her rookie Yukon Quest February earlier that year. As ‘payment’ for helping, Mike wanted to bred SP Kennel All-Star, Fats, to his dog Winton. Mike had gotten Winton from Yukon Quest champion, Bruce Lee, a year earlier. Aliy thought that was fair but asked Mike for one pup out of the litter. At 8 weeks, Mike reluctantly gave up Rosco.
We have many memories of Rosco.
One of Aliy’s best was in 2006 when her teams was leaving the Elim Checkpoint on Iditarod. A small group of competitive mushers all left the Checkpoint within 10 minutes of each other. Jessie Royer had actually gone through Elim and everyone had followed her out. It was: Mitch Seavey, Jason Barron, Lance Mackey, Aaron Burmeister and Aliy. But there had been a blizzard on top of Little McKinely – a substantial mountain climb an hour out of Elim – and the route had been blown shut. The trail follows the ridge line along the tops of the mountains for many miles. The six dog teams were lined up tail to nose scouting for any sign of the trail. In the end, Rosco, who was in the front of Aliy’s team in single lead, found the trail under a foot of snow. He showed his amazing strength and determination and brought all of the teams up and over the final ridge. The teams dispersed as they all went different speeds down hill, onto the frozen ocean and across the sea to the village of Golovin.
Allen remembers Rosco on the Copper Basin 300 in 2005. It had been one of the most difficult races he had ever run. Over half the racing teams had scratched at the half way point. The snow was waist deep and the trail markers had teams circling in a blizzard on Summit Lake. Then the route was diverted last minute when a snowmobile just ahead of the dog teams fell through the lake ice. The last leg of the race was a very tough 110 miles and the SP Kennel team was leading the race. Rosco was the lead dog and he seemed very perky, so Allen said he “just let him go with 100 miles to the finish.” The first 55 miles was great but the second 55 was very difficult. The snow built up and the trail conditions were tough. Allen could feel the teams behind him catching up. He knew that something was going to have to happen in the last few miles in order to hang on to the lead. And then something did happen – Rosco’s ears went straight up in the air. In the trail ahead of them was a tornado. Allen is from Arkansas so he knows what a tornado looks like. But, a winter tornado seemed peculiar. Rosco was very excited. The closer they got, the faster Rosco ran. He rejuvenated the rest of the team. Allen got closer to the “tornado” and realized it was a herd of caribou chasing each other in the middle and stirring up the snow.But the team’s speed had picked up from 7 mph to 15 mph and they ripped down the remainder of the race route. He felt very good about the team with only 20 miles to go and knowing no one else could be running 15 mph while chasing the herd. Until 10 minutes later the caribou took a hard left off of the trail over the rocks and through the woods. But, the team had been far enough ahead that they were able to pull off the win. Which was the first time Allen won the Copper Basin 300 (now a six time Champion.) Thanks Rosco!
Rosco was always a mellow, loving, long legged, happy boy from his puppyhood days until his last days ~ 13 years later. He successfully raced the Yukon Quest, Iditarod and every mid distance race in between with SP Kennel. He was the kennel greeter for many years and was also known as ‘Rosco the rooter’ because he could snuggle down into the bed covers better than any husky. Rosco retired from SP Kennel to an awesome home in Wisconsin – thanks Gilson Family – and enjoyed frozen popsicles, truck rides, doggie day care and a long, happy life.