{Tsuga Siberians}
October 26th, 2009 - "Changes In Latitude"


Our New Home

Getting Settled

Well, Alaska, “Here we are!” Alaska doesn’t even shrug her big shoulders to notice us, but we’re here just the same. Maybe not all settled down, but certainly having fun. TeamTsuga has relocated to the town, and I use that word loosely, of Two Rivers, Alaska. It’s really more of a place than a town, but the big city of Fairbanks is only about 25 miles west of here and it has everything you could need, and more. Two Rivers has a bunch of little cabins and smallish houses that sit down on the silty, spindly black spruce covered Chena River valley or on the low hills with paper birch and more stately white spruce. On clear days, you can see the Alaska Range to the south, over 100 miles away. You’re just as likely to see an atv roll by on any side road as you are a car or truck. We see Iditarod and Quest champions and/or their handlers out on the trail nearly every day with our dog team. The “town” is the one stop gas station/post office/liquor store/convenience store/coffee shop/gossip hub. Our new home is about a mile off the Chena Hot Springs Road that runs from Fairbanks almost sixty miles to its end, at the resort that encompasses the springs. We are also about a mile from the Yukon Quest trail that runs 1000 miles into my soul. The Quest embodies all the reasons we uprooted our lives and moved nearly 5000 miles from home. Wild open spaces and the freedom to explore them with the dogs that have become our best friends. The day-to-day lifestyle of mushing is what keeps us so immersed with the dogs, but the Quest is our proving grounds, and so much more. We’ve come here determined to continue to refine our skills, improve our training, and thereby maximize our performance. So here we are and here we go…

It's Official

We pulled in to a very wet Two Rivers on August 31st with two weary drivers, 30 dogs, and every thing we own that made the cut and made the trip. It’s been almost two months since then and we’ve settled the dogs in, filled an empty house up, made it our home, and got started on our best season of training ever. Now the ground is frozen and we have a thin layer of snow with more falling. So, on to the dogs…

A few dogs have retired from racing and I’ll start there.


Kobuk is the only dog that isn’t running at all. He has not aged as well as his brother Jim and sister Squiggle. The big guy got to ride shotgun with me the whole way up from NH and even ran in harness a few times since we’ve been here, but sadly, he’s telling us recently that his time with us is short.


Jim is still pulling like a wild man and Squiggle still does the remedial leader training for us, but their bodies aren’t what they used to be and we won’t push them to race. Sue is very glad to have them both on “her” team.


Curly in wheel with Gecko

Curly and Maple are much the same way. She is smart as a whip and he pulls too hard, but they can’t make the race team anymore.

Zirkle in lead with Squiggle

Zirkle, is of course, way above racing, although she loves to get off the recliner for short runs, as long as she is promptly let back in the house when it’s done.


Mugs is also probably done racing, although she’s leaving some room for doubt with recent efforts. She was spayed this summer and still seems to be adjusting to her new self.


Gecko had a disagreement with Ambler and came out on the loosing end during a rest stop on the trip north. Unfortunately, this has meant he’s taken most of the fall off as an injury to his toe healed-up. Dogfights are strictly not allowed in our team, but we made the mistake of leaving rowdy, grumpy dogs alone near the end of a very long trip, staked too close together, and poor Geck’s toe took the brunt of it. He is just now working back in to training and Sue is bringing him along with her team to try to catch up to the other Quest-pool dogs.

Togo & Boom, the new boys.

Boom and Togo, the two new boys, are coming along. It’s very hard to expect peak performance of dogs thrown in to completely different surroundings. All of our other dogs have been with us most, if not all of their lives. Often people expect a dog bought from another kennel to be perfect immediately and maybe some dogs can do that. I’ve found that any dog taken on beyond a puppy takes a whole season, at least, to really fit in to the new place. The best tool in the training toolbox we can use with them is patience.


Hawkeye is back in the training pool this year. After a year off, running tours in Vermont last winter, he is showing his old form, at least in the early going.


Ambler is the new strongest dog on the team with his Uncle Jim retiring. He is still the biggest cheerleader to go, all the time!

Gila leading with Squiggle

Gila hasn’t been doing much leading, but she is pulling hard and has the experience to make the team.

Hood in lead with Stump

Stump is the only other dog outside of the twelve 4-year-olds. He’s our dog wizard. He can do anything he feels like doing. All the other dogs show complete respect to him, even King Jim. Stump often reads my mind. I strive to read his. I have relied on him too much the last two years, yet he has not let me down. I’m trying to not push my luck. This season I’m forcing myself to only run him in lead once a week and when I do, he’s got a rookie leader running beside him. He can make any dog look good and I need to count on the other leaders the way I know I can rely on Stumper.




Now for the 12 “pups.” These dogs are all of the litters that Mugs and Gila had about a week apart just over four years ago when we decided the Quest was a real goal, not just a dream. Some of them have been making the team consistently and some of them have been slower to mature, but already this season we have seen them shift a gear. It’s possible that all 12 of these dogs will make the Quest team. The four boys are the core of the team now. Hood, Wilson, Logan, and Merlin all can lead and all have their father’s exceptional drive. Wilson and Merlin are both solid command leaders. Hood and Logan are trail leaders, but they can run anywhere in the team, making them tough, strong, and versatile!



Reba and Eliza are both excellent command leaders and can run upfront with any other dog paired with them. Reba has in power what Eliza has in effortless movement. It’s really fun to watch them run together.



Lotus and Trip have both made the Quest team before because they can lead well in most situations and are usually “invisible” when back in the team.


Cassin is our shy girl but so far this year she’s been just awesome as long as we keep her towards the back of the team.


Moon has also made great strides this year and her enthusiasm and leading ability begin to make me overlook her small size.



Esther and Isis are both having their best year yet, although like Cassin, they’re a little shy and sometimes skittish of new things. We’ll see how they do as training distances start getting longer, their weakness in the past.

So, once Gecko gets up to speed with the others, I’ll have 19 dogs in training for Quest. With the experience this team has, and the earliest and most consistent start to our training ever, we really expect to see a solid jump in what this team is capable of accomplishing.





Sparkle (our new pup from O'Hearns)

Eliza’s four puppies, Stinson, Pemi, Bebee, and Baker, were recently joined by another pup. Rhonda came to visit and brought us Sparkle, from their recent litter. We started with them in separate pens, but Sparkle quickly integrated with the others and they all will be headed for stake-outs before too long. They are already learning much about what it takes to be a sleddog, months before they’ll ever run in harness. Sometimes we do wonder if we made a mistake breeding our two loudest and rowdiest dogs together…

We’ll have more on training and our plans for the racing season ahead soon-

Thanks for checking in with us – Mike and Sue.


Huskies | Dog Log | Racing | Photo Gallery | Mushers | Sponsors | Contact Us | Links | Return Home