The best part is that the Sepp-Lok sled dog kennel was located in the same town – albeit in the country. My first job was working there and MJ and Curt even went out of their way to take me on a dog sled ride that spring - before the snow was entirely gone. I would work for them through the following summer and when we moved out to the country I was able to do a lot of training with them because we lived out where they trained.
That first winter I remember getting really, really cold during the rainy fall training runs and being very frightened of the crazy puppies – the “G” litter – because they could drag the 4-wheeler. I also remember double sledding with MJ quite a bit and loving every moment behind the dogs!
I was invited to handle for their two 6-dog teams at the 2006 Conconully Snow Dog Super Mush and it was a great opportunity to meet nearby musher’s. It was also my first taste of sled dog racing as more than just a bystander. I helped drop dogs, harness, bring the team to the start and help at the finish. The great thing about Conconully is that it was so well run by the organizer, Elaine, and the volunteers that it became a standard by which many mushers would compare races. While there, I also got to go on a sled dog ride with my friend Vicky's malamute team – which was probably the highlight of the trip! I don't think there is another 6-dog team I raced against while doing mid-distance that had a happier face or curlier tales - I can still see the happy team in my minds eye, trudging up the hills.
While there, I also met a lady named Amy who was getting into Seppala’s and had a Siberian mix named Cruiser who was too slow for her team. She offered him to me.
I think I forgot to mention that my mom came with me. I don't remember it being to hard to get her to agree to let me take him home…as a trial, of course, because Daddy didn’t know yet! Cruiser was the standard husky - black and white with striking blue eyes.
Let’s just say that I was thrilled to bring him home, but also nervous about what my dad would say. He just asked, “How much did you pay for him?” Since he’d been given to me...that was that! (This also marked the official downhill trend for being sled dog crazy – once you have two dogs, what’s three, then four, then twenty, right?!!!)
So I now had Nakota and Cruiser to run, but the Jr race at Priest Lake was a 3-dog race. Curt had an older, half-blind (blind in one eye) Seppala named Trapper who was a leader. I remember being very nervous about the race – it was 3 miles and I’d be on my own and what if I had to pass another team? Or the dogs didn’t take the turns?
It went without flaw, Cruiser and Trapper leading little Nakota in wheel, and I think I might’ve won – but it’s been long enough I don’t remember. But it just confirmed my wish to have my own team and race mid-distance. At this point my hope was to get enough dogs to run the 4-dog spring races for next season. Since February is virtually the end of the race season in
I began planning to obtain more dogs.
Curt agreed to let me work of Ella and Amy sold me Quest that spring. There are so many memories of Quest! I consider him my first real sled dog and although he died several years ago, I still miss his howl in the kennel. He was a gorgeous red dog with striking blue eyes and an excellent Seppala pedigree. He had been super shy, which is why the lady was selling him, but he came out of his house the first night and ate just fine. I found him the model of reserve and dignity - he liked people, so long as he could remain his refined self! After all, he wasn't just a sled dog - he was a Seppala Siberian Sled Dog!
Quest also led me down a specific “purebred Siberian Husky” path – because he was my first Seppala sled dog who was not AKC registered. Up till Quest, I’d only worked with AKC Seppala’s and there’d been a lot of controversy over bloodlines and registry. But I’ll get into that a bit later…