The first thing about Hooch is the ears.
They are literally what stick out about her.
When people see Hooch, they tend to comment: “She’s a pretty dog!” Then they remark about the ears.
Hooch has been living inside with me the last two summers, but she was born in a sled dog kennel, and has lived there or on trails her whole life. She is a dog of the snow. She has run multiple Iditarods, with people including Judy Currier, Linwood Fielder, Jeff King, Pete Kaiser, and Scott Smith. She is a product of Judy Currier’s breeding program, one of the “Harry Potter” litter, which has reached certain notoriety, especially in Pete Kaiser’s kennel. Many of Hooch’s siblings and children have run Iditarod, the Yukon Quest, and many mid distance races. A bevy of her puppies were in Pete’s Kuskokwim 300 winning team this last year.
Hooch is the daughter of Zorro, Lance Mackey’s famed leader who took him to multiple Quest and Iditarod championships. Her mother is Wilma, out of Judy’s breeding program.
This last year (2016), Hooch ran Iditarod for a second time with Scott Smith, and was again a key leader. They took 10th that year.
Hooch has many favored activities. These include running (especially fast– she has the build of a horse or a deer, with legs that go all the way to the ground my friend), eating dead fish (frozen or otherwise), nurturing puppies (until they become annoyances), sniffing things, chewing on bones, and shaking paws.
Hooch is not just a racing roster, though. When I got Hooch two years ago, I was hesitant. I knew her a little from working and racing with her in 2012 at Judy’s. I knew her siblings and kids very well, having working with them in 2012 and again on the Denver Glacier out of Skagway doing sled dog tours in 2013.
When I picked her up from the NAC building in Anchorage, along with her brother Weasley, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Pete had sold me Hooch, and I was picking up Weasley to go back to Judy. They had both flown in from Bethel. The first thing I thought was: She’s big! Bigger than I remembered. Long, long legs. She was scruffy and blowing her coat. I didn’t have a place to keep her for the winter, and she deserved to be running, so I ended up connecting with Scott, who took her in to be part of his kennel for the year.
I got to run her last winter at Scott’s kennel, Red Dog Racing. Scott always had me run Hooch, and I often ran her in lead. We got to a point where we were in good sync, where I could call her Gee or Haw and she’d jump off the path into empty snow to make the turn. I also finally got to run her in a race, the Copper Basin 300. Being so in-tune with a dog up front was an experience I hadn’t had in all my 15 years of mushing. It was so cool.
For the last few summers I’ve gotten to spend all my free time with her, and I’m so glad. I wasn’t sure if she’d like to be a house dog– I’ve met many sled dogs who don’t. She was terrified of a lot of things about about the new house life. Stairs were something she couldn’t fathom. The cat was the most terrifying being she’d met. For a long time her kennel was her safe space.
This past winter, living in Minneapolis with her puppy Ophelia growing up beside her, Hooch opened up more than ever. She learned to get on couches, to play(!), and to hang out withe people and even cuddle. She’s become a real house dog now. As a nine year old, Hooch’s age of racing is over. Fishing Iditarod in 10th is a pretty good last hurrah. I was hoping she’d run Iditarod with me, but with new plans, that isn’t meant to be. She’ll help me train the future generations though, and she’ll always be the staple of ATAO.