I’m so fortunate and so are the dogs to have a great kennel partner in Maine. The purebred Siberian side of the house now has 7 Champion Siberians, 4 have made International champion status. Not only that they pull sleds and work like they were meant to.
Also, Seraph is currently the #4 fastest dog in the USA at “Fast-Cat” competition. This is a 100 yard dash chasing a rabbit lure. He’s clocked at 25.26 Mph. Pretty fast for a show dog?
On the Seppala side of the house, the Sepps took Hannah to her second win in the Ironpaws 2021 6-dog team sled classic. They completed 1526 miles by sled, topping second place by 1000 miles. We aren’t done yet.
Ivan is a cross between the Seppala lines and his cousins, the Purebred Sibes. So far he is a monster bred from two lead dogs. His future is bright, but time will tell what this outcross produced.
2.53 miles in 18:40 minutes. My boys, Mr. Cooper Lee, Left (6 years), Northlane’s Poison Ivy (Ivan), right (9 months). Both weigh around 60lbs; 24-25” tall at the withers. This was a daylight run which means there were lots of distractions out. It was good training for Ivan to learn to ignore them. He didn’t, but having them become commonplace is the point. Eventually, he’ll learn to ignore all of this. He has to be exposed to it first, in order to do that. Music by Deep Purple: “Highway Star,” because that’s what these guys are to me.
Last night was not much different than any other one except for the “Rain.” Ivan is acclimated to the night runs. When the sun goes down after his supper, he is ready to run. Me not so much, especially when it’s raining.
Using the recumbent bike does have some disadvantages and that is two wheels next to you with no fenders. This creates water spraying all over you especially at speeds exceeding 19mph. I just hold on and hope they see what I can’t. Disc brakes are cool but skinny tires don’t do much on wet pavement.
Do you know what “Drifting” means? Well, Cooper and Ivan together can make my 3-wheeler drift without any problems. We met a couple on the run-walking their dog. Their dog was well behaved and had the good sense not to bark at the flying Dutchman Husky mobile. They huddled down in the ditch and let us nut jobs go by. Even so, Cooper and Ivan thought it would be fun to say hello. I hit the brakes as they did a 180-degree turn.
The sensation of sliding sideways on wet pavement is similar to being on an inner tube behind a boat! We ended up behind them, instead of passing them. I really need to work on the “On-Bye” commands a bit more. No harm was done, and we got back on track to turn in the best time so far. I didn’t see much of it, but we clocked a good fast run.
Maybe I’ll get a scuba mask and snorkel for next time. Ivan can trot at 9.5 mph. I’m so impressed with his abilities. I just need to get more in control of him. The work never stops unless you have a death wish. After 20 years of motocross, I’m pretty used to this kind of thing. It still amazes me how silent and fast they are. No screaming motors, just acceleration. The throttle is how much control you have over them with training and voice commands. It takes work, and nerves of steel to run with these clowns.. lol. Great dogs and they always keep it exciting!
I wanted to take a little bit of time to explain about hooking up dogs to a bike or any contraption be it ski’s, scooter, or your body without some basic knowledge of what you are doing.
– First and foremost you don’t just get a wild hare and do it. If you do, you probably are going to sustain a crash and possible injury to you or the dog(s)…maybe both! There are two things you must do before you ever hook them up and get on board.
1. You must be fully competent with your own skills at riding a bike or scooter etc.
2. Your dogs need a minimum amount of training. The more the better!
In my case I started riding mini-bikes in 7th grade. That quickly progressed to riding motorcycles and racing moto-cross, and trials over the next 20 years. I’m completely at ease on two wheels. That doesn’t mean that you need twenty years of experience but you must be able to balance, brake, and control the bike without any thoughts about it. Things happen fast, and the faster you are going the less time there is to fix it, or control it.
Basic training is pretty simple. Of course that depends on the breed. Some dogs are pre-destined to be pullers and runners. Huskies, Malamutes, and other northern breeds have it in their DNA. If you have one of these dogs the instinct is there already. The problem is training them to obey directional commands. At the bare minimum “Left and Right” have to be well known and acted on by the dogs. “Stop” is fun to yell but to a hyped up dog it goes unanswered for the most part. Do not count on that one at all…that’s when good brakes are your best friend.
In my case I use standard mushing commands. “Gee” is right, and “Haw” is left. “Hike” is go. And “Whoa” is just a wish. Any short distinctive words will work if you train them that way.
“So how do you do that?” you may ask.
With a naturally pulling dog it isn’t difficult. It just takes a lot of footwork. There is no shortcut for practice of commands. Some dogs take to it quickly, and some don’t.
I start walking a young pup and if they already are out front pulling I pick a spot and yell “Gee.” I immediately turn 90 degrees and walk to the other side of the road. Then we walk some more and I yell “Haw!” turn left 90 degrees and go to the other side. The dog on the leash gets the idea the more and more you do it. Eventually when you say either of these commands the dog will do it without you pulling on the leash. They go right and left on command.
“Hike” is probably the easiest. Especially if you use and excited voice, “HIKE-HIKE-HIKE!” It’s similar to telling a dog to “Get HIM!” when you want that dog to run off a vermin of your choice. They get excited and they go for it.
“Whoa or Stop” is pretty much a wish, but in time some smart dogs figure it out. How much? That depends on the dog and the level of excitement. Deer or rabbits running across the road in front of me? Not much is going to stop the prey drive from kicking in. That’s when “Disc” brakes make a huge difference in crashing. Good brakes are the safety valve!
Next on the list of important things is your equipment. You must ensure the rope does not get into your front wheel. If it does your front wheel will lock up and you will find yourself doing what is called an “Endo.” That is when you do a front somersault and end up with the bike smashing you into the ground and on top of your back. Not fun as you might imagine!
There are cheap and expensive ways to prevent this. A simple small pipe of PVC that extends past your front wheel is the cheap method. Your tug rope goes through the pipe and attached to your bike frame. More expensive is a device that automatically keeps tension on the rope at all times. It’s like a power reel that can let more rope out, or reel it back in as the dog goes faster or suddenly slower.
Eventually you have to take that first ride. Go slow and make sure your dog is obeying the commands. Be prepared with your hands on the brakes at all times! You only have a second or less if a squirrel decides to make a suicidal run in front of you. This I know from the only crash I’ve had when I first started out doing this. You would be amazed at how strong a dog can pull, especially when a meal appears in front of them!
It is a slow process to become a disciplined team. I’ve known folks that said, “Hey that looks cool!” and hooked a couple of dogs to their bike and made it almost a block before they crashed. Heed my warnings!
In spite of the work to train, the miles walked, the equipment bought I can tell you this. There is nothing that compares to running down the road being pulled by dog power. It’s exciting, it’s amazing, and it’s satisfying to know you did it. People stare, people yell about how cool it is to see. But they have no idea what it’s like to feel the surge of power and speed as you cruise by with a big smile and wave! Nothing comes without work. Dogs are work that never ends.
I find it interesting that groups like PETA prefer to try and shut down a dog sled race, but let humans kill themselves climbing Mt. Everest. It’s okay for people to die doing what they love, but not dogs. To top this off, they prefer that all dogs should be euthanized in order to be “Free” from being slaves.
So if I understand PETA right, humans are allowed to kill themselves, but dog sledding should be banned and the dogs should be killed by PETA, instead of risking a death doing what they love. Now I may not be the smartest person on earth, but to me, that is some messed up thinking.
Dog’s lives are more important than humans, but they should be killed anyway to set them free. How Fucked up is that logic? This kind of thinking is what is ruining the world right now. In fact, it is not even thinking, its called blind faith, and fanaticism. Where an ideal or misguided concept is more important than the truth (See COVID-19 Anti-vaxers.)
The number of people that have reached the summit of Mt. Everest: 4000 since 1953, Number of human deaths attempting the summit: Over 250
Number of people that have finished the Iditarod: Less than 1000 since 1973, The number of dog deaths: 143 is the best estimate I can find. The number of human deaths: Zero that I can find.
I think Sir Edmund Hillary’s comment explains the Iditarod better than I ever could.
“People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.” ~Sir Edmund Hillary.
This is what the Iditarod is about, accomplishing an extraordinary thing with the help of their extraordinary dog partners. For without them its an almost impossible 1000 mile walk.
Ivan now has 60 miles in harness on his big body. About 17.5 miles of that is running solo. He’s getting more confident and stronger each day. Every night when the sun is going down he gets worked up to go run. Just like in the morning before sunup he’s ready for his 1.5-mile foot walk with Cooper and Nikki. The video is last night’s solo run. Music is a cover of Time Machine by Grand Funk Railroad. Performed by my old band. Kevin, Dave, and me. A power trio that kicked ass in my opinion.
Night Moves: So, what’s it like to hook a couple of powerhouse dogs up to a 3-wheeled contraption and head out into the dark? I don’t know what people who have been doing this for years would tell you, but I can tell you how I feel about it. As I’ve only been doing this for about five years, mostly in the daylight.
Things change and you have to adjust to your environment. It used to be that there were few dogs around the neighborhood. People move, come and go and the last couple of years have seen an increase in dogs. I don’t mind that one bit if they remain under control. Some folks think it’s fine to open the front door and let Fido out to do whatever. Then they go back to re-runs of Mayberry RFD and forget the dog.
This lets the dog run wild to do whatever. Dog’s are protective of their home ground and when someone walking their dog, or God forbid a Husky train whizzing by makes them go insane. Especially the Terriers. They think nothing of attacking a pack of dogs 10 times their size. Kamikazes with four legs absolutely have no fear. They should! So, the sun is setting and the dogs want to run. I’m thinking about all the bad things that can happen on any given run. The dogs don’t think like that at all. That is why they have me. My job is to think of those things that could hurt us and be ready for it. Now, it may be dangerous to run dogs in Alaska because of a big Moose, or a drunk snowmobiler. The city has its own dangers as well.
Pitch dark, loose dogs, not to mention cars and trucks that may be driven by drunks as well. All of this needs to be considered and planned for to the best of your ability. The dogs and your own life may hang in the balance when split seconds matter. A relaxing run you say? Not hardly, not if you care about those dogs and your own body.
For me, I have to slowly work myself up into the proper mood before I hook up any dog. I’m filled with some anxiety thinking about what might happen and how I would deal with it. The dogs, hey they are jumping around and ready to rock n’ roll. Their job is to pull and run, they leave safety up to me.
Each run to me is an intense exercise in observing everything around us. That includes watching my dog’s ears, and body language. They can see in the dark and give suttle warnings that something is out there. A night run takes concentration and a strong constitution. Once moving the game is on. You have to be ready to react to whatever comes out of the dark to ruin your run. The dogs sense it too. Maybe from me but when we are on the last stretch to get back home they cut loose. They know we are almost home. Maybe they feel my thoughts of relief that we made it without any incidents.
I know that when we make it back safe and sound from another run, that I can let my guard down at last. The dogs are happy and so am I. To them, it was a grand adventure, and to me, it was too. We did it together, and that’s pretty much how it should be.
Maybe I’m a worrywart, but I have too much invested in my dogs. Not as financially important as the emotional attachment with them. They are everything to me, and that’s why I worry about each and every run with them. That’s my job, to keep them safe to run another day. They know their job as well as I know mine. It’s a team effort. Together we get it done. There is a lot of satisfaction in that for all of us. A job well done, maybe not a perfect run, but we live to run another night. That’s urban mushing for me.
Unlike “regular” dogs, sled dogs like Siberian Huskies are specifically designed to be incredibly athletic and to be able to run for so long without negative consequence. They have larger hearts to pump more blood more quickly, and through selective breeding, they’ve adapted to their functions (running great distances while pulling a heavy sled, for instance) by developing a sort of metabolic on/off switch. You know how humans produce energy?
Basically, they burn glucose, which is a simple sugar. When they run out of that, they start to burn fat. Fat requires much more oxygen to burn than does glucose, so it’s a lot more taxing on the system. As a result, fatigue sets in. Sled dogs (who typically consume very fatty diets) burn glucose at rest and in the beginning of long exercise, but after awhile, they’re able to switch to burning fat instead. They’re also able to pull as much as twenty times as much energy from their bloodstream as humans. It allows them to exercise hard for insane amounts of time without succumbing to fatigue. The exact mechanism that allows them to use their metabolic on/off switch is not totally understood. Scientists are working hard to figure it out, since they believe that it may benefit humans.
Ivan just turned 8 months old. 57lbs. 24″ tall at the withers. He’s all legs and a product of us trying to breed taller (Faster) dogs. Over the years as the breeding pool of Seppala’s has become stagnate and the COI increased. The Sepps have become smaller in size, and some reduction to performance as well. Long legs, hound-ish bodies, and efficient movement are all qualities sought after. There are lots of things that make a better sled dog. Being a good eater is another of them. I have a couple of standard Sibes that are finicky eaters. That doesn’t work when racing, they need to intake huge amounts of calories in order to perform, and then sleep when it’s time.
This is the 9th run solo for Ivan. I’m now running him solo as he is too fast for my other dogs. He still has a ways to go. He looks around, gets distracted, and does novice things that I expect and accept. I’ve increased his runs to 2.5 miles. This video is not about speed but about seeing how fast he can trot while pulling without breaking into a lope. The verdict is about 7-8 Mph. while pulling 250lbs on wheels. That is an exceptional speed for his age. I only run him every couple of days. He gets a walk every morning on foot but he only runs when I think he’s rested. It’s sort of like weight lifting for me. You work out hard one day, and take a couple of days off for your muscles to recover and grow. This is the story of Ivan, in the early days. What he becomes as an adult is due to his genetics and what I give him in training. I can only hope that I do it right. It’s no different than helping choose a school for your own child. It means that much to me to help him become all that he can be. Any parent will understand where I’m coming from. He’s part of my family, not a dog tied out on a stake. He eats, sleeps, and runs with me. RIght or wrong I’ll do my best for him.
I couldn’t be prouder of my friend and kennel partner. Some dogs have it all, and it takes a great owner/breeder to bring that out. Hannah’s new champion Acacia, “Northlane’s Tilting the Hourglass.” Service dog, Lead sled dog, team member of Hannah’s second win in a row of the 10th annual Iron Paws stage race (1500 miles in harness), and now Acacia earning the title in Florida, of International show champion. More great things to come this year God willing.
They may be working dogs, but they can also be show dogs. Some are just destined for greatness. But all of them are loved beyond belief. Thanks for reading!
I’ve been engrossed in the drama of this race. Dallas Seavey wins number 5. That hasn’t been done in 30 years and he is only 34 years old. He posted daily videos recorded in advance and released on that day of racing. It’s like he was clairvoyant. He nailed every day of the race and his strategy was perfect!. I was on pins and needles at the end but he made it happen. Beating 2nd place by 19 miles. I guess I’m a big fan of Dallas, and the race itself. This race is the crown jewels of working sled dogs.