Spring is in the air and we have some exciting news to share. Oops I rhymed!
First of all, we have some new Monster Sponsors to introduce! Will V. snagged Nala as her sponsoree just before the Copper Basin. Thank you so much Will!!! (You’re welcome. Oh no wait, got confused there for a second…) CSpan sponsored her beloved “GOLs” (Grand Ole Ladies) Hooch and Bon also just before the Copper. CSpan has been a supporter from the get go… Thank you so much for loving on these old ladies!!! And finally, MVP Annie finally got her sponsor this week! Jenny Cieplak, who sponsors Egret, decided she had to sponsor Annie too! Shawn and I think it’s super fitting, since Egret and Annie are truly the best of friends. Thank you to ALL the Monster Sponsors… You are such an important part of the ATAO team!
As we head into summer (or, as I like to call it, preparation-for-next-year-time), some changes will be happening for ATAO– some big and some small (some very smol… if you catch my drift). We are on track to run Iditarod in 2021: a good and fateful year! We want a core of ATAO heroes to make up the bulk of the team, but we’ll need some other friends to join our ranks. How will that work? Who will that be??? Well let me tell you some of what I know!
First of all, after Annie’s incredible performance in the Copper Basin, I’ve decided she’s gonna become a momma this summer. I want to harness her sweetness and her drive. Her beau will be Hooch’s brother, Wizard.
I am also hoping Ophelia will become a momma. Ophelia is in heat RIGHT NOW but that puts a wrinkle in our plans… Her prospective beau is on the Iditarod! She might be out of season by the time he’s back. So, we are working out an exciting plan B. I’ll fill all of you in on that when the time comes.
One thing to keep in mind with pups is that breedings sometimes don’t work. We’ll be sure to let everyone know if/when we know if either of these good dogs is going to be a momma for sure. Both of these breedings would continue Hooch’s line, which is really awesome and exciting.
Because it’s important to ATAO to keep a small kennel so that we can dedicate more time to each dog, I’ll be splitting these litters with local amazing mushers. My plan is to keep only female pups, to continue the primarily female team dynamic. I really liked how that panned out for us on the Copper Basin. My ten female finishers were A+. Female dogs are often smaller, which I like! And, I’ve never heard of an entirely female Iditarod team, so it’s kind of an interesting thing to do!
But wait, what about Max and R2?
After consulting with the vets pretty thoroughly, we’ve decided to retire R2 from distance racing. He had a series of health concerns over this season. He may be just fine, but I’m not willing to take the risk of further issues over long distances. Instead, he’ll be joining “Joggin’s Doggins” rec kennel… AKA, the tiny team of Oliver, Bonnie, and Hooch with musher Shawn. He’s been helping teach Oliver how to be a Big Boy Sled Dog. It’s hilarious and heartwarming. R2 loves coming in for couch cuddle time too, and he’ll get to do that a lot more. He’s still an important part of ATAO, but he’ll let the girls do the racing.
And that leaves Max. Well, we have an exciting announcement about Mr. Softears!
As a big thank you to Sarah for all of her excellent help, we’re giving Max to her to start her kennel, Dream Catcher Sled Dogs. What?? Why!!! You may say. Well, there are a few great reasons:
- Max and Sarah have a bond that’s clear to see. We know Maxwell will be in his happy place with Sarah.
- Though Max is a Very Good Boy, he had some struggles keeping up with his female counterparts this season– not in speed, but in distance. That doesn’t mean he won’t excel in the future, but he doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the racers at ATAO as we progress towards Iditarod and the Yukon Quest.
- He’s got great potential as a leader, which will be a boon to Sarah’s kennel. With their bond, I can see Max being a core member of the Dream Catcher team.
But guess what… Max won’t be going very far. About… 1,000 feet to be exact. Why is that?
Because our schemes have all fallen into place and we’ve convinced Sarah to move onto the ATAO property, that’s why! BWAHAHAHA!
This summer, Sarah is going to put up a small yurt or cabin on the property and will stay with ATAO as a co-musher and handler on our journey to Iditarod (so for at least the next two years!). She’ll have a couple sled dogs of her own (Max included!) as her fledgling start to Dream Catcher. Living here on site will give her the chance to slowly build towards her own kennel down the line, and it will be a huge help to ATAO. It will allow both of us (Sarah and myself) to work (gotta make that money!) and train a team as fully as possible for next year’s race season.
This is huge news for the kennel. I swore up and down I didn’t need a handler, but I know for sure we wouldn’t have succeeded this year without Sarah’s help… Having Sarah on site will be huge. I have to get over my pride and accept assistance! Good life lesson for me. Hopefully it’ll be the best of all worlds for us both. And of course, it means we get to keep Max around for excellent couch cuddles even if he isn’t racing with the girls.
With Max and R2 bowing out of the race team, that leaves only 10 core dogs for the next two years. We’ll need to supplement that number to run the Copper Basin and Quest 300 next year… And of course the Iditarod the year after! After the tough last leg of our Copper Basin, I’ve decided we’re going to add some experienced female leadership to the front of the team. Annie can’t always do it all alone! So look for a few new (older!) faces to be joining the team in the next few months.
Last but not least… What will the dogs be up to this summer? They will be adventuring! The dogs will be heading up to the Denver Glacier outside of Skagway, Alaska, to run around in their favorite thing… SNOW! They’ll be working with Alaska Icefield Expeditions, a tour company I worked for in 2013. They’ll get a ton of human socialization and get to run, play, and bask in snow and sun. Glacier life is cooler (temperature wise… and otherwise!) and the dogs keep in great shape running 5 days a week. I have to keep my day job (plus we have ten million projects we have to work on at home), so I’ll be staying in Two Rivers. It’s going to be really hard for me to say goodbye to my friends for 4 months… But it will also be great for them and they’ll have a ton of fun!
Ophelia and Annie will stay at ATAO to be momma’s– And I’m keeping Egret here because she’s so shy I think she wouldn’t really love doing tours. Plus she and Annie are best friends and don’t you need your best friend when you are having a bunch of babies?
Okay, I think that’s all the news I can come up with at the very moment! I did not realize this would be such a long post.
We will continue to keep you updated with all the news that’s fit to print! We’ll be updating our Team page to reflect the big changes, and soon you’ll get to meet some new ATAO teammates– big and teeny!
There’s a lot of work and a lot of adventure ahead…