I have mentioned here and there that there are five adult members of the ATAO team currently. You all know Hooch and Bonnie and Ophelia… Now I am super proud and excited to introduce the two newest members of the team:


Annie used to be called Candy. I have to admit, that was a tough name– So I changed it to something close that I liked. Now the name seems to fit her perfectly.

Annie is shy but incredibly sweet– I guess that might be where her original moniker came from. She really is such a good girl. She’s smart, too. And she works hard. She’s the one screaming to go at every single stop on our training runs, and digging in, full-force, the whole way. I’m excited to see what her potential is.

Annie is 3 years old. When I run Iditarod, around 2020, she’ll be 6, or Quest in 2021, she’d be 7. A little older but still hopefully in her prime. I knew and got to work with some of her grandparents (and a couple great-grandparents) back in my handling days. Annie will absolutely be part of the core of the team as I train in my other yearlings. I’m very excited to have her at ATAO.


Our other newest recruit is yearling Nala. Nala comes from Ryno Sled Dog Kennel, owned and operated by my good friend Ryne Olson. The first night Nala was here (the first time she had been separated from her siblings and original pack!) she howled pretty much non-stop through the night. She is next door to Ophelia, though, and those two have become good friends. They spend a lot of the day playing with each other (and showing off their digging skills to each other, I think), and chase each other around the play-pen, back and forth. Now the dogs have their morning and evening howl, and tuck themselves in for bed. Nala is goofy and happy. She is small but a very hard worker. She has a beautiful smooth trot, which mushers always hunger after.

Nala is part of Ryne’s “Africa” litter. Her mom, Perm, was on Ryne’s winning Copper Basin 300 team. Here’s a little excerpt from Ryne’s Copper Basin recap last winter:

Perm never gets tired! Whenever it was time to leave a checkpoint or we stopped for a quick snack break on the trail, Perm would start her high pitched BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK. There’s no stealth mode when Perm is in the team.

You can see why I’m excited! Nala certainly seems to have inherited her mom’s enthusiasm!

The two new recruits have been running with us this whole first week of training, and have both been kicking butt. I feel like I’m easily won over by dogs, but to be honest, both of these guys seem incredible! And in fact, the whole team (even if it’s just five dogs) is looking slick. I don’t think we’re ready for Iditarod yet (we need more dogs!!!), but I’m excited to see how steady training, a happy environment, and a sense of team will get us down the trail.

You can click the pictures of Nala and Annie above to check out their profiles! Or you can find them at the ATAO Team Page!