Tell us a little about yourself and your kennel.
I’m 24 years old, from Palmer, Alaska but my kennel is located in Knik, Alaska. I have around 30 dogs at any given time, currently we’ve got 23 adults in training for this race season. I also have several pet dogs, including a 3-legged sled dog, a German Shepherd Dog, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. We’re a (somewhat) competitive racing kennel, I enter races but I don’t particularly care about “racing” I just like to get out with my dogs and see Alaska.
What introduced you to dog mushing? What was your first experience like?
I went on a tour with Seavey’s IdidaRide at two years old, and stood on a dog sled for the first time (though I don’t remember it). At six years old I started racing myself through Girl Scouts, with Bev Greer. The first race I entered was the Willow Winter Carnival 1-Dog race, and I won it by 1/5 of a second, and I was hooked! I ran races at six and seven, then took a break to focus on other interests until I was 12 when I was given my first two sled dogs, which happened to be from Mitch Seavey’s kennel.
Describe the dogs on your team. What about them do you enjoy the most?
I have a lot of dogs that are related, lots of littermates, and I like it that way because they seem to work better together. Many of my dogs came from two kennels, Mitch Seavey’s and Melissa and Jason Stewart’s. I’ve raised a lot of them from puppyhood, and I’ve had a lot of them since they were yearlings (oldest dog in training right now is 5 years old). I like that they’re young, I’m molding them into the team that I wanted when I was younger, and they’ve got lots of racing left in them! A majority of my team this season is 2-3 years old, perfect age to race in our first Iditarod in March.
What does your training regimen look like? How long are you on the trail with them?
I generally train 2 days on, 1 day off, and slowly build their mileage. For example, this week I’m doing 35 mile runs, next week I’ll be doing 40 mile runs, the week after 45 miles, etc etc. When we get to 60+ miles we’ll start doing more camping trips to get the young dogs used to camping out on the trail, expose them to everything they might see in a race. Then we’ll get into our racing season, which starts in January this year with my handler competing in her first mid distance race, the Knik 100.
What do your dogs do in the off season?
For the past six years I’ve worked at Seavey’s IdidaRide Sled Dog Tours in Seward, Alaska, and for the past three years or so my dogs have been able to join me. This past summer was the first year I had all my dogs in Seward all summer, and it really showed when we started fall training - they were lightyears ahead of where we normally are when we start fall training, even the yearlings amazed me. They get hundreds of hookups during the summer, so they always know what to expect when you’re harnessing them. Plus it’s super nice to be able to run my own dogs on tours and point them out to guests, because it’s fairly obvious I have a special connection with my dogs vs the other tour dogs.
What has been your most memorable experience as a dog musher?
Finishing my first Junior Iditarod at 14, it changed me a lot. I gained an amazing amount of confidence, I was always the shy kid that never spoke to anyone. I’m still shy, but I don’t let it get me down anymore, I do everything I want to do even if it’s scary! And it was even more memorable because I raced a team that is trained myself for two years, so it was super special to me.
What’s your advice to other mushers?
Find a good mentor, and start with good dogs! I’ve been lucky, I’ve been able to buy some pretty great dogs from the people I work closely with, and it’s so much easier than starting with subpar dogs and trying to turn them into something great. In my team now it’s fairly obvious that I’m the weak link, which hasn’t always been the case. And a good mentor (or mentors!) is invaluable, they’ve made all the mistakes you haven’t even thought about making yet, so they’ll help you get further, faster.