Dr. Rollo "Van" Van Pelt was interviewed in 1982 by Susan Cortte for a radio series about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Dr. Van Pelt was an official veterinarian for the Iditarod Race and certified pathologist who performed autopsies on dogs who died during the race. In this interview, he talks about duties of a pathologist and race vet, caring for race dogs as athletes, the specialized physiology of a race dog, health and physical problems of the dogs, dog breeding, and use of medication for dog teams.
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Role of a veterinary pathologist
Caring for race dogs as a type of sportsmedicine
Changes in dog care and dealing with injuries
Learning how to care for race dogs
Caring for race dogs as athletes
Physiology of the sled dog
Ailments typical of race dogs
Differences between sprint dogs and long distance race dogs
Breeding dogs for desired traits
Changes in health issues among sled dogs
Problems a musher might face in terms of dog care out on the trail
Use of medication for dog care in the Iditarod Sled Dog Race
SUSAN CORTTE: Dr. Van Pelt, you're the only certified pathologist in the state, as far as I know. What does a pathologist do, first? And how is that work different than -- than a normal vet or a regular vet? R. W. VAN PELT: Well, basically, I perform the autopsies on dogs either dying of natural causes or other reasons. We do a gross autopsy where we determine the basic cause of death, and then usually I collect various representative tissue specimens for examination under the light microscope, or maybe submission to a lab for bacteriologic cultures or viral studies, essentially trying to determine the cause of death, or in the case of a biopsy for a tumor or something like that, fundamentally whether it's benign or malignant. SUSAN CORTTE: Okay. You mentioned once while I was here that you feel that you're in a branch of sportsmedicine. Just judging -- just judging by the amount of dog mushers and dogs that go through this place, I'm sure that's true. Could you expound on that idea a bit, you know, what you think about sportsmedicine and why you think you're in a branch of it. R. W. VAN PELT: You know, that's correct, we are in a branch of sportsmedicine, or I should say I am, and that fundamentally, we're -- you know, we have injured dogs come in, we have ill dogs come in, and I feel I'm in no different -- in no different position than I would be if I were, say, a team physician or a physician with an Olympic team. And the East Germans and the Russians have advanced sportsmedicine so greatly to their advantage that I feel that while the U.S. has lagged behind it, and I feel that working with dogs or trying to overcome some of the problems in the racing dog, whether it be a sprint dog or a distance dog, is fundamental to the dog's health and its performance and well being. SUSAN CORTTE: Okay. You were mentioning one thing like ten years ago, for instance, a dog might -- maybe even five years ago, a dog would get -- maybe longer than ten, but a dog would, like, for instance, get a fracture in a foot, and you know, the -- I don't want to get down on the old timers but it would be more or less, well, that's the end of the dog, you know, you couldn't use the dog again, whereas now, that -- that isn't necessarily true. R. W. VAN PELT: That's correct. You know, ten years ago, and particularly, I hate to say it, in some of the old time mushers, they were more prone if the dog, say, had a minor fracture in the foot or a strain or a tear in a ligament or tendon, there's a tendency to put the dog to sleep; where now we can go in and fractures, even major fractures, correct and repair the fracture, correct and repair tendons and ligaments, and we can usually have that dog back on the next racing season. If we catch a minor injury early enough, even a minor fracture, we many times can get that dog back in -- in racing form within the same season very easily. This wasn't done much 5 or 10 years ago, and certainly not 15 or 20. It was unheard of then. And frankly, I have no -- I sort of had to learn it on my own in that we have no source textbooks to go for, for racing dogs. And I've applied most of what I know on the racing dog here in Alaska from experiences on the horse racing tracks in the Lower 48, and I did work the greyhound tracks at one time. And there's very little information on racing greyhounds either, either in textbook or literature. There's just practically none. So I sort of had to learn it on my own, and basically apply the fundamentals of anatomy, the physiology, and your use of various pharmaceuticals to the racing dog to the best advantage. SUSAN CORTTE: What about you also mentioned that you -- you know, you look at the dog, and just listening to you discuss dogs, you treat them as like superior athletes, athletes that are like Olympic athletes. What about that, what kinds of things do you think about with the dogs? And I guess it's everything from diet all the way up to training. R. W. VAN PELT: You know, that's correct. Even diet has come a long ways within the last -- even the last two or three years, and fundamentally, when we -- I examine a dog, basically, I look at the dog as far as his overall health. And he is an athlete and probably a very superb one, certainly far more superior to we as humans in that not many of us can go 50 or a hundred miles day after day or, for that matter, sprint 20 to 25 or 30 miles and maintain the performance over a two or three day race as the dog is, but he is a superb athlete. Probably the best animal athlete we deal with at the time, probably next would be the race horse. The greyhound is certainly up there, but he's in a sprint category, much like a racing quarter horse or a thoroughbred, but the -- the mushing dog is a distance animal and is an absolutely superb athlete. And the dogs we have come in that are in training are absolutely in superb condition and health. They have to be to perform. You just couldn't perform with dogs that are either in ill health or not up to health standards or not up to training performance. SUSAN CORTTE: What about, like, the physiology of the sled dog. Now, there was two things that I recall hearing. One -- one that surprised me as someone that didn't know much about dogs is that the sled dog's heart may be twice as big as a normal dog's heart; and also that the -- something about the fat on the dog is located inside the ribs or something like that. What about the difference in the physiology of the dogs? R. W. VAN PELT: That's correct. The sled dog, from doing a number of autopsies on sled dogs that have been brought in to me, I've ascertained that the heart on a sled dog is about a third larger than that of the average pet dog. The same holds true for the racing thoroughbred, his heart is also about a third larger than the average horse. And I feel that with the racing dog, or the dogs on the northern tier here, that they have a fundamental ability to store fat internally, even though they may appear thin outwardly, and I feel this is probably an adaptation over the years to the cold northern climates. In other words, he does have a reservoir of energy or fat which is internal. I see this also on the Malemute dog, too, and this was something that I had not seen or do not see in pet dogs or dogs from -- developed in the Lower 48 or in European countries. SUSAN CORTTE: Let's talk a little bit about the things that you'll find in, let's say -- first, let's just talk about Iditarod dogs. What kinds of things will you find in an Iditarod dog, I guess, in terms of problems that you might not find in other types of dogs? R. W. VAN PELT: Well, probably the first and foremost problem that comes to mind will obviously be the foot problems, depending on the terrain and the snow and the snow conditions. When a dog -- these dogs are forced to go over, or not forced, but have to go over a terrain- -- they don't have groomed trails, the dogs are in and out of drifts, where trails are drifted, so these dogs would be prone to various types of frostbite, not necessarily of the feet or the pads, but it will be on the ventral aspect of the abdomen and down between the hind legs. Other problems that would afflict the Iditarod dog and/or distance dog and particularly on a long race with a lot dogs is they seem to pick up various intestinal ailments, which with any large grouping of dogs would be expected. And certainly the sprint dogs get it, but usually they have contracted these things around town, and by the time they arrive at a race or a sprint situation, they are over them. SUSAN CORTTE: Let's compare Iditarod dogs to sprint dogs. What -- what differences were you aware of, let's say a sprint dog have that maybe an Iditarod dog may not have? R. W. VAN PELT: Well, basically, they both are essentially the same type of dog. There's a tendency now in Iditarod dogs for the Iditarod racer to move on to a slower type of sprint dog, maybe a dog that's even a little larger, although some of them are down now in that 35, 40, 45 pound range that most of the sprint dogs seem to run in. However, they seem to prefer a dog that will trot for miles at perhaps a 10 or 12 mile gait, as opposed to a dog who will be loping a good distance of the race. The sprint dogs will lope pretty well throughout the race, if it's any kind of a short race. It's fundamentally the same dog, though it's just a slower type of dog, and he's gaited down slower than a sprint dog because he's got to, to pace himself out for the distance. SUSAN CORTTE: With that breeding, I guess it's from my own experience of knowing mushers, they -- they really breed for different types of traits in their dogs. Could you talk about the breeding for a while, like what -- what -- it seems as though it's been going on for years and years, people breeding in different things, breeding out certain things. R. W. VAN PELT: Right. SUSAN CORTTE: A lot of people seem to think that if, you know, for instance, dogs out on the coast that are out there now, they wouldn't be out there if genetically -- genetically the poorer ones didn't make it and they are not there, like with bad feet, for instance. R. W. VAN PELT: That's right. It is as sort of, in a sense, a survival of the fittest in that basically, they try to breed for the dog who will maintain the desired performance. And they've introduced other lines of dogs; for instance, the Irish Setter has been introduced for its speed and stamina. The hound dogs have been introduced into the lines for stamina, the hound having a lot of stamina. They may be a little bit slow. They've tried other pet dogs. I've seen Airedale introduced into them, we've seen various hunting breeds, particularly the Labrador Retriever introduced, and I understand among some of the coastal dogs where at one time they had reindeer herds, the Australian Shepherd was introduced to herd reindeer and ended up intermingling with the coastal sled dogs, which gives them their odd tricolor that they have now and then, or the black and white dogs we see are what we call a Blue Merle type of dog, much like a domestic Collie. SUSAN CORTTE: What about along with the good points, there's always the bad points. You know, you start stressing -- stressing a dog, and of course, there's going to be some things cropping up. You mentioned before that there were some things that you've started to see in sled dogs that weren't there, perhaps, 10 or 15 years ago. What about that? R. W. VAN PELT: That's true. There's been quite a bit of interbreeding or line breeding or very close breeding. In other words, oftentimes a person has two desirable individuals, they'll breed, say, a brother sister mating, or perhaps a sire back to a daughter, or a mother back to its son, and this has introduced things like epilepsy in some of the dogs. We are starting to see things like one or both eyes being somewhat small in the dogs. We're starting to see some bone deformities, but usually these dogs are eliminated from the dog lot before they become too major because those dogs just will not run. We're seeing primarily now a condition that afflicts most dog yards and many of the top dogs, and that's where they have very low thyroid activity, and this seems to carry on down through family lines. It may skip generations, one or two generations, or it may show up every generation. And it's very definitely become a problem. Very much as many of the pet dogs. In other words, we're seeing the same genetic problems that are seen in the show or pet dogs. The one exception being is that we do not see the poor hips or dysplastic hips that we see in so many purebred pet dogs. The sled dogs have superb hips and obviously have to have superb bone formation and confirmation in order to run. They just can't do it without it. They are like a race horse or any running athletic animal. SUSAN CORTTE: I think I'm going to run out of tape there. R. W. VAN PELT: I get longwinded, too. SUSAN CORTTE: Oh, no. It's one of the best interviews I've ever done. What kind of -- this might be a little repetitive, but what kinds of -- could you go over some of the problems that an Iditarod musher is going to face with his dogs out on the trail. I know, for instance, like dehydration, foot problems, and stuff like that. Could you just sort of go over those briefly. R. W. VAN PELT: Probably the first thing that the Iditarod musher is going to face when he leaves Anchorage or wherever is his jumping off point is fundamentally probably most of the dogs are going to pick up some form of viral diarrhea like an influenza much in humans. And obviously, if this diarrhea is not brought into control or if there's any vomiting associated with it, we're going to be faced with a problem of dehydration. Normally the dogs don't have a problem with dehydration. Perhaps some if the weather conditions turn very warm, but basically no. The next problem they're going to have, and it's an obvious one, is going to be foot problems, particularly with poor trail or snow conditions, and maybe, as in years past, where they are going to have to run over open spaces of rock or sand, and it's going to be tough on the dog's feet, it's going to be tough on the sleds and the runners. And another problem that we do see in distance dogs, because of the physiology of the dog, is that we may see dogs show up with some exhaustion pneumonia. And this will be more pronounced if the weather turns warmer. The dog is an animal that must sweat through the lungs and oral cavity, unlike we humans or unlike horses who race, and so we do see fluid accumulate in the lungs on long runs with prolonged elevation in blood pressure, and particularly under warm conditions. And I do see this problem in sprint dogs on warm days, they salivate quite heavily, and they do have pulmonary problems with the heat. That's the only way the dog has got of cooling himself is through the lungs and via the oral cavity. SUSAN CORTTE: Okay. Okay. Now on to one -- one question that I'm going to read this directly so we can make sure I don't phrase it incorrectly, but there's two different types of thought on the drug rule of the Iditarod. One school seems to think that no drugs at all are -- you know, that that's the way it should be; and then there's another school that seems to think that drugs such as like take aspirin or foot medicine would be actually better for the dog than nothing else. For instance, I guess the argument is that, you know, like if you've got a headache, it makes sense to take an aspirin rather than sitting there and ending up, you know, with a headache, you can function better. What do you feel about -- about drugs on the Iditarod? R. W. VAN PELT: Well, drugs kind of brings up in people's mind the connotation of either using drugs that are stimulants or depressants. I like to think of them as medications much as you or I would take, for instance, if we have intestinal flu or going to take something to control the infection and control the diarrhea or vomiting. If we should get a blister on our foot or sore on our toe inside of a boot or something, we're going to do something about that rather than let it go. I personally feel that a lot of the medications should be allowed. I don't approve of either stimulants or depressants and wouldn't advocate their use. I personally don't think they do that much good, particularly over the long span of time, or long run. I definitely feel that there should be some sort of medication permitted so that the dog can maintain himself in reasonable health. The medications I would have in mind would be of a minor nature with respect to the overall health of the dog; and certainly if he became seriously ill or incapacitated, the musher would be dropping him off at a checkpoint anyway, and certainly the race veterinarians would ask that the dog be also dropped off. But he's going to be encountering things, the foot problems could be medicated while on the trail, the frostbite problems could be taken care of, the diarrheas could be taken care of, combatting the dehydration associated with the diarrheas, and also some of the early pulmonary problems before they got severe could be very nicely taken care of. And I just see no reason why that can't be done. I'm not advocating stimulation or depression at all.
Joe Redington Jr. - Tape #ORAL HISTORY H2011-19-05
Joee Redington was interviewed on June 2 & 3, 2011 by Robert Drozda and William Schneider at Joee's home in Manley Hot Springs, Alaska. Joee is the son of Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race founder, Joe Redington, Sr. He grew up on the family homestead in Knik, Alaska and got involved with dog mushing at an early age. In this interview, he talks about his family history with dog mushing and dog racing, raising and training sled dogs, breeding dogs, living in Unalakleet, development of his own racing career, changes in dog racing, the importance of family support for a dog musher, and the future of dog mushing. Go to first recording. Image Gallery
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Introduction and his brothers' involvement with sled dogs
Ramie Redington leading dog sled rides at Iditarod Headquarters in Knik
Ray Redington Jr. running his own dog team
Ryan Redington doing dog sled tours in Skagway
Trying to keep up interest in the Fur Rendevous Dog Sled Races in Anchorage
His children's involvement with sled dogs
Mushers staying connected with each other and breeding their dogs
Why he loves training and racing dogs
Knowing which positions to put dogs into in the team
Attributes of a wheel dog
Good lead dogs he's seen during his career
The cost of running a kennel
For the love of dog mushing
ROBERT DROZDA: Today is June 3rd, 2011, and here again with Joee Redington doing a little bit of a follow up. And Bill Schneider's here, and I'm Robert Drozda. So Joe, we kinda wanted to ask you a little bit more about your family and, you know, like maybe when you boys got old enough and you -- you went your separate ways, you know, who went into mushing. And I know we see the Redington name a lot these days still, so -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, my brother Ramie and Timmy, Ramie has a -- Ramie still has a kennel. Timmy has -- I don't think he any longer has a kennel. ROBERT DROZDA: Where are those guys located? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, Ramie is down in Knik, and Timmy is over in Copper Center area, Kenny Lake. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh hum. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: And Ramie continued with the -- with his kennel, and he works at Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla giving rides to the people that come to the Iditarod Headquarters. And I think he's been doing that for, like, maybe the last 15 or 16 years, and it's a seven -- seven days a week, he goes there from nine o'clock in the morning until 5:00. ROBERT DROZDA: Summertime rides? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: In the summertime, rides with a cart. This is small -- this is a little -- or actually, a short trail. And it was designed, I think, to show the people when the Iditarod first started how mushers treat their dogs and -- and it gives the people from the Lower 48 or from different countries a little idea of what dog mushing's all about. And I think at one time he was -- one year there I think he did up to, like, 15,000 people, so he gets to meet a lot of different -- different folks. And I think that as far as I know, he's gave every ride. He hasn't had a substitute driver or anything, he's gave every ride that's been given there, you know. So he really works hard at it and I think he enjoys it. It's something that he likes to do. He might get a little burnt out and want to run dogs a little less in the winter than some of us, but his wife helps him, sometimes his boys, but his boys now have got their own kennels. Ray Junior and Ryan each have a kennel of their own. Ray's been running in the -- Ray Junior's been running in the Iditarod, and last year he came in, I think, tenth or something like that in the Iditarod. And -- ROBERT DROZDA: Is he out in Two Rivers? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, he was, but then he moved back down to my -- he was living on the land at my mother's -- my mother's place on Knik Lake and he has a kennel there, him and his wife Julian. And then Ryan is working in -- with him and his wife is working in Skagway. They've been off and on for quite a few years working in different tourist places giving rides also to tourists. ROBERT DROZDA: Do they do the glacier stuff or -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, Ryan was doing some glacier stuff, and now they're doing in town in Skagway there with the dogs, also with the cart. But Ryan also was running in the Iditarod, and last year he ventured out and went to -- down to run in Wyoming in the stage stop race. And then -- He was kind of interested in the Rendezvous, so I leased him some dogs and -- and he ran in the Fur Rendezvous last year and had a really good time. I'm trying to get him interested in Fur Rendezvous. I'd like to see the Fur Rendezvous continue to -- to go, so we need new mushers coming on because some of us are getting a little older and we're -- we're losing -- losing mushers. But the Rendezvous's really been working hard at it here to get the money up and so there's getting to be a little more interest in that. Hopefully, some of these distance mushers and stuff will start putting their younger dogs in the Fur Rendezvous and training them there, and we'll get the number of teams back up to where there's 30 teams or something like that. And Timmy, I think he sold his dogs a few years ago, and I think he's into trapping, so he doesn't have any dogs anymore. And my -- my kids, Joee Ray, he ran in the Fur Rendezvous and in the North American, and my daughter did some racing also, but it's just kind of hard. There's not a lot of money in it, and when you have a family, it's pretty tough to -- to make a living doing it, you know. So -- ROBERT DROZDA: You bet. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: -- they've kind of went in different ways and doing their own thing now. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh hum. One thing that I think is interesting is how the whole mushing community is kind of connected and networked, like you had mentioned this morning that, you know, having somebody come over that wants to breed one of their dogs with one of your dogs, can you talk a little bit about that, and how you guys keep in touch and -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I think a lot of it is done with, you know, how -- how you -- how well you do in races. People -- people look at the results of the races. And then Jeff Conn puts out a pedigree of the North American, a pedigree book, and I think people look at that. A lot of guys have their stuff on the Internet, and there's a lot of people even in the villages and stuff that do a lot of looking on the Internet. And -- and people are trying to -- to -- people that are winning are up there close to the top, always have people interested in maybe breeding to their dogs trying to better their kennels, you know. And the thing that's been working out for me is that I have more of a Husky line of dogs, so some people are looking for a line of dogs that is doing well that have the old -- older Husky type blood lines, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: A little less Houndy. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: A little less Hounds, you know. So there's some that -- some of that going on as people are wanting to get a little more Husky in their dogs. ROBERT DROZDA: Well, Bill kind of touched on this yesterday, but maybe we can finish up with this question about, you know, if you could boil it down, what is -- what's the thing that keeps you most interested in -- in working with dogs and dog mushing, and what's -- what's that special thing for you about dogs today and over all these years? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I don't know. To me, what I really enjoy, and I think it's kind of like all this kind of stuff relates to other sports. You know what I mean? Like you wonder sometimes why some of these managers and ball teams and stuff, why are they still there, you know. I mean, I like taking a bunch of yahoos and trying to make something out of them, develop them, try to put them in the right positions. And to me, in dog racing, there's a lot of -- you've got to know -- if you're going to be good at it, you've got to know which one does the best in certain positions and stuff, you know. And the lead dog is like a pitcher of a ball game, if you don't have a good pitcher, you don't win many games, you know. And it's the same way with that lead dog, you know, it's like a quarterback or it's a very important thing, you know, but you've got to have the rest of the team to go with it, and you've got to know how to place them, you know. And that's the part that I really enjoy. I enjoy training dogs. I enjoy raising them and working with them. And -- and I don't know, they're just like a family -- they're like, to me, my kids are gone and stuff, and these dogs have always been like family to me. My wife and I work at it together. She does a lot of the training, like I said, of the pups. It's a family -- it's a family thing, and I think you -- in order to be successful, you've got to be driven. You've got to really enjoy what you're doing, and you've got to work hard, you know. And it's getting harder all the time to go to these races because you've got more guys that are really working hard at it now, and it's a lot of full time, guys are doing it full time, you know. But -- ROBERT DROZDA: Do you have an example, maybe, of, you know, of -- of a particular instance or a dog that you put in a position with another dog maybe in lead, and you didn't really know what would happen, and it turned out to be like a crackerjack at that position, or -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I don't know. Sometimes, you know, I ask my wife when these pups are growing up -- growing up about which -- how good are they and all that, and she'll say something like, "Oh, wait until you try this one," you know. And a lot of times they turn out to be good. We try to give all the pups an opportunity to be leaders. And just certain ones, it's like people or anything else, there's just certain ones that don't want to -- don't want to be leaders. I mean, they'll do it for a few times, and then they don't want to do it anymore. And then you get some that are just naturally, they want to be up there, and they can handle the -- the speed and they are not scared about the rest of the team running over them and they're focused. You know, you can train about any of them to -- to run up there, but whether they'll stay ahead of a race team and take the pressure of every day race training, you know. I don't know, I've never had any that just really surprised me that much. I guess -- I guess I shouldn't say that. I have taken some that I've ran in the team, for a long time back in the team, and put them up in the front, and all of a sudden realized that maybe I should have been using that one for a leader that, I mean, does well up there. But I don't know, it's -- and I think the other thing with the dogs is they all got different personalties and you've got to learn the personalties. They're just -- they're like people and they -- you can really -- I mean, I can tell a lot about how they bark whether what kind of animal's around, whether it's people or whether it's bears or different things, you know. By -- and a lot of -- you can learn a lot just from their body language, how they act, how they move around, what's going on with them. It's just a thing that I think experience and being around dogs for a long time, you -- you see that kind of thing, you know. BILL SCHNEIDER: It's probably pretty hard to put that into words. You just -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, it is, but when you're around them a lot, you can just see how -- I can tell a lot of times when they're not feeling good, or -- or yeah, I can definitely see a lot of times if there's a little something, like if they have a cut on their foot or something by the way they walk, or if they're a little lame, or -- I mean, after you're around them a lot, you learn a lot of things about them, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: We always hear a lot about leaders, so what about the rest of the dogs in the team? Do you -- there are some special attributes that you really like about, say, a wheel dog or a team dog? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, like when I'm dealing with wheel dogs, I need something that's fairly durable, one that can take a lot of -- when you go around corners. And it especially used to be that way. Nowadays with these modern sleds and stuff, you can steer a lot of the corners and stuff with the sled, you don't have the problem of jerking the dogs around as much as you used to. You know, you used to have to have a pretty skookum dog to be able to handle all of the sliding around of the sled and all that kind of stuff, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: A good wheel dog can -- can -- like if you're coming on a turn in the trail, he can anticipate that and jump over the line, and pull. That kind of thing? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah. And, yeah, they can -- if they get tangled or something, they can jump over the line fairly easy and all that, but they just -- they get pulled around a little bit more than the rest of the team, you know, so -- ROBERT DROZDA: Uh hum. Physically it's a little tougher on them because they're right there. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah. Yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: Okay. Bill, any more questions? BILL SCHNEIDER: No, I think -- I think this has been great. Unless there's any particular dogs you want to point out and talk about that stand out in your career. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, you know, there used to be a lot of Native mushers that used to come in. And there used to be some of them dogs that were exceptionally good, like Nellie that Lombard had was an exceptionally good leader. I think she was running when she was, like, 10 years old. That's one that Lombard had bought from George Attla. There's a number of -- like a dog called Yogi that Isaac Oklaesik had. An Eskimo guy from Teller. A dog called Yogi was a very good, exceptionally good leader. I know there's been a lot of good leaders over the years from a lot of these guys. Lingo of George Attla's was really an exceptionally good leader. There've been numbers of really good, outstanding dogs that a guy always wished that he had, you know. BILL SCHNEIDER: Maybe one final question. We haven't talked about how much it costs to run a kennel like this. And maybe you could just outline some of the costs, not in terms of dollars, but in terms of expenditures of time and energy. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I don't really -- I don't understand what you -- what you mean about expense. I mean, the expense, you're not talking about how much it costs to take care of them, or -- BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. In terms of feeding 40 dogs and getting commercial dog food and then fishing and straw and vet bills and that sort of thing. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, like -- especially like if you live, like, in the villages, I mean, you've got to figure if you go to town and you buy a bag of commercial dog food, it'd probably cost you almost as much to get it to the village as it does to buy it. I mean, it's extremely expensive for them people, so naturally, they're going to have to do a lot more with fish in their diet. And they probably have to go cut grass or use spruce bows or something like that for some of their bedding. Some of them that are really dedicated to it possibly might have straw and stuff shipped in, but it's very, very expensive for them people, you know. They -- the price, the freight of getting it there. Like a lot of times here, with us, we have the road system so we can truck some of it in to here. And also the mushers nowadays are all using a lot of frozen meat mixed, maybe, with a little bit of fish, and they're using commercial. And I don't know, a bag of commercial now is probably at least $40 a bag or close to it. ROBERT DROZDA: A buck a pound. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: So -- and then I think it's 60 cents a pound or more to mail it, to send it. So I think that's why you see a lot of the villages and stuff that just, it's just too expensive. The price of gas and everything, the price of dog food, to get it there is probably why there's not a lot of kennels there, you know. So some of us are lucky to have the road system and stuff to do it, but still it's a very expensive deal. You've got to really love this sport, you know. I get some of these goody good people that, you know, think that we're not taking care of our dogs very well, and all that kind of stuff, but when I think about when you spend $50 a day, just start laying a $50 bill on the table every night when you feed your dogs and see how long you'll be in the dog business. No, you've got to really love this. It's got to be part of you to continue to do this, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: And some of us, we've -- you know, we've dedicated our whole life to this type of style. And I'm hoping that people will continue to do it, but I don't know with the price of the thing. You know, every time gas goes up, the fuel, everything goes up, groceries, people are bitching about grocery prices and all that. And it's the same thing with dog food, you know, prices keep going up. But I don't know how long people will be able to -- I think it already has reduced the size of a lot of kennels. They're probably not near as many young pups, you know, pups being born, people raising pups as there was years ago, you know, so it's definitely cut down some. Some people, you know, got sponsors and stuff so they are able to continue to go on, you know. Definitely an expensive hobby. BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: And you've got to -- you're not in it -- I'm not in it for the money. If I was in it for the money, I would have been broke a long -- out of it a long time ago. I mean, I love it. I like doing it, it's something that -- you know, they have places for people to dry out from booze and drugs, but they don't have one for dog mushing. Not yet anyway. BILL SCHNEIDER: That's a good place for us to quit. Thanks. ROBERT DROZDA: Thanks a lot, Joe. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah.
Carol Kleckner was interviewed on July 31, 2011 by Robert Drozda and Karen Brewster at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Carol is the vice president of the
Second Chance League
, which is a sled dog rescue organization in Fairbanks, Alaska. With a life-long love of dogs, it was only natural that Carol would become involved with dogs and dog racing when she moved to Alaska. She has had a successful career as a sprint and skjor racer. In this interview, Carol talks about how she became involved with rescuing abandoned sled dogs, the formation of the Second Chance League, and how dogs are selected, assessed and adopted. She passionately talks about both the joys and the challenges of sled dog rescue work, as well as tells some particular success stories. She also discusses working with the animal shelter to make the program a success as well as her feelings about over-breeding and culling of dog teams.
Click to section:
Introduction and coming to Alaska
Getting involved with sled dog rescue
Starting Second Chance League Sled Dog Rescue
Her dog racing career
How dogs are selected for Second Chance League
The process of assessing and writing up the dogs
Goal of Second Chance League
Application process and advertising dogs
Husky and Pointer-mix breeds of dogs
The benefits of a free-run kennel
Why she loves having a free-run kennel
Advice to others wanting to try a free-run kennel
A day's schedule at her kennel
Using a dog barn
Response from professional mushers to the Second Chance League
Cooperation from the animal shelter
Challenges of working with rescue dogs
Success stories of rescuing dogs
The importance of socializing and working with your dogs
Running the Yukon Quest with Second Chance League dogs
Joys of working with Second Chance League
ROBERT DROZDA: Today is July the 31st, 2011 and me, Robert Drozda, I'm here with Carol Kleckner. And Karen Brewster is here in the room, too. And Carol is the Vice President... CAROL KLECKNER: Correct.
ROBERT DROZDA: ...of the Second Chance League, which is a sled dog rescue organization here in Fairbanks. And we are going to talk with Carol today about sled dog rescue. Before we get into it Carol, let's maybe hear a little bit of your background, how you came to Alaska and how you got involved with dogs? CAROL KLECKNER: Well, I came to Alaska 26 years ago, but I got involved with dogs many, many years ago as a very young child. I've always loved dogs. My parents wouldn't let me have one. I made my little sister be a dog, fed her grape nuts and water out of a bowl in the ground. This was when I was five years old and she was three. I always, always wanted a dog. And so I think that kind of put my whole career of dogs into perspective as I grew up and was denied them. That once I was an adult and able to have them I kind of probably went maybe a little overboard. But I lived in Colorado for many years and then moved to Alaska and I really never thought I would get into dogs the way I got into dogs, but I love to ski. I love being outdoors and my friend, Lynne Orbison (phonetic), had a dog that she thought would be a good home or thought -- me have a good home for him. And so she said why don't you try skijoring? So, I tried skijoring with this dog and ended up taking Robin. And from then on in I just found out how many sled dogs were just kind of cast off from peoples' kennels when they didn't work out and how many ended up at the animal shelter. So, people would start calling me going, ah Carol, could you take this dog? I'm either going to kill it or I'm going to take it to the animal shelter and it's just not working out for my kennel. So, that is kind of how I got into dogs and taking on a lot of the rescue type dogs myself, even before Second Chance League got started. ROBERT DROZDA: Can we back up just a second? What was your educational background? What brought you to Alaska? CAROL KLECKNER: Well, my educational background, I was a biology and chemistry major and I worked a lot on my master's in environmental chemistry in Colorado. But then I went back to school and got my teacher's certificate in secondary science. And when I came to Alaska, I just came up to work for a summer in Denali National Park. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: A friend of mine who had come up to Alaska in the early 80's had come back to Colorado and said Carol, you would love Alaska. It's like Colorado without the people. So, I thought well, I just got my teacher's certificate and I thought I can find a teaching job in secondary science anytime at all where that profession's certainly in demand. So, I thought nope I am going to go to Alaska and work for the summer. Came up and drove back that fall, packed up my car, and said that's -- that's it. I lived in Healy for five years, was the only certified substitute teacher in the valley. So, I did that and worked at the Park, generally as a waitress for all those summers. And then I worked out at Red Dog Mine for a couple years and then I moved into Fairbanks. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, and went many different routes from being a science person and an educator. Once I got into sled dogs, I didn't want to work days so I worked nights. So, I'm usually a waitress, been at Gambardella's for going on nine years at Gambardella's as a waitress and work summers, both days and nights, work in the winter just nights, so that I can be with my dogs during the day. ROBERT DROZDA: Ok, good, yeah. I wanted to get a little bit of that. So, after then -- so we are back in Fairbanks and you got your first dog from Lynne and it grew from there. CAROL KLECKNER: It just grew from there and how I kind of started getting into the rescue mode was that I had about, I think, eight dogs at that point in time, all from somebody else, all who just wasn't working out for their team. And I spade and neutered them all. I knew there were a lot more puppies in the world than needed to be, and I didn't really want to breed any of the dogs that I had gotten. So, well, one day I'm driving down Peger Road and I never had gone to the animal shelter. I just never stopped there. And so for some reason my car just turned into the animal shelter and I walked in and there was this one dog, Pippie. And she was a Husky. She didn't have her dewclaws. They had found her out somewhere around Eielson Air Force Base. She was at Eielson for a while at whatever their vet facilities are and then they brought her into the Fairbanks Borough Shelter. And I had talked to some people there about her and they said well, she is going kind of kennel crazy. Because they had her inside and she was just -- concrete block walls, couldn't see any other dogs, could just hear them and she was going a little crazy. So I ended up adopting Pippie. She was my very first ever dog from the animal shelter and she is still alive at the age of 14 plus. But just walking around the animal shelter that day and I walked outside and all these sled dogs are chained outside and I'm like oh, my gosh there is so many of them. And I was talking to one of the animal tenders and she goes well, we just keep them for 72 hours and then we put them down. I'm like they don't even get a chance. And she goes well, nobody wants a cast off sled dog you know. Somebody drops these dogs off at the shelter for a reason and they are unwanted. And it just got me to thinking that I mean they were nice looking dogs and when I took Pippie home and started running her I mean she was just an amazing dog. Fast and driven and I'm just like, well, you know, she was worth saving. And so I had gone into the shelter and I said is there any way I can take out some of these dogs just to try them out. And Laura Hood was the manager at the shelter at the time and she goes, well, this is unprecedented, you know. We just -- we don't do things like this. And I said but you are killing these dogs after three days. I said maybe I can -- maybe I can find one or two homes. And so she reluctantly said well, ok, we will just see how this goes. And that winter I found homes for 25 dogs. And so then the animal shelter kind of scratched their head and went, hum, well, maybe there is a place for these dogs. So as the years went on Second Chance League was started. It was a group of people at first of like twenty people. And Second Chance League went through a lot of growing pains at the beginning. Our Articles of Incorporation were dated October 19, 2003 and we went through the first quite a few years -- I even got uninvolved in the whole organization just because with that many people with a lot of different ideas on how a Husky rescue should be run. There were just so many different ideas that I just dropped out. And there were lots of -- several different presidents through the first growing pains of the first several years. And then we just got to a point where it was either going to be dissolved or a small group of people were just going to come up and say we can do this. So, Don Kiely is the President. I'm the Vice President. Our board is Bruce McIntosh, Lisa Baraff, and Laura Katucki. And every year I am so grateful for our small board that really sticks in there with the organization. We have a lot of volunteers -- Lesley Hoffmeister (phonetic), Iris Wood -- behind the scenes that -- Pam Laker, that really do a lot of stuff for Second Chance League behind the scenes, too. And I'm just -- I couldn't do this by myself, you know. I did it by myself that first winter of just running the dogs and taking them out and test driving them and it's just -- it's a lot of work. And it's a lot of emotional pain, too, to see what goes on at the shelter and how many dogs you can't save. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, that is kind of how Second Chance League got started. ROBERT DROZDA: And everybody you mentioned they're also, I mean, actively involved with rescue, not just on the board, but they -- they have dogs of their own? CAROL KLECKNER: Absolutely. Absolutely. Everybody has rescue dogs. Yeah, every one of those persons, and a lot of SCL dogs in that small group of people -- and fosters. So, yeah, they are very involved. They are mushers. They are skijorers. ROBERT DROZDA: And you have raced competitively with dogs from the shelter and some of these people have, as well? CAROL KLECKNER: Absolutely. Absolutely. And when I first started doing this, in rescuing dogs, I though, wow, I can make a big difference because I'm taking these rescue dogs and cast off dogs. I'm spaying and neutering them and I had a very good sprint career. I mean I was amazed really and -- because I didn't go out to race to win because I'm not that type of person with dogs. I just didn't think that, oh, I'm just going to drive these dogs until, you know, they can win or I'm going to get more dogs until they can win. I just went out to have a lot of fun with dogs. And to run dogs and to skijor and I just had no idea though that I would have this success that I did, sprint mushing with these cast off spade and neutered dogs. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: And back in those days I really thought maybe I can change stuff. I really don't think I've changed stuff that much. Maybe some attitudes maybe in the rec musher world, but, you know, when people get competitive, it's like they're competitive for their own selves and not really for the benefit of the dogs. And I think that is anything in racing is that way. You know, horseracing, greyhound racing, dog mushing when you involve animals, it's like the peoples' egos always kind of start getting a little more in the way of truly the outcome of what it's for the animals to do these races. But especially sled dogs, it's like these dogs love to do this. They love to run. They love to pull. They want to work. So there is that big Catch 22 of and, you know, and my dogs knew the difference between racing and just going out on a training run. You know all the excitement of the sprint race, all the different teams and oh, my dogs -- they all -- oh, yeah, they knew. They just knew -- ROBERT DROZDA: They just feed off of all that energy. CAROL KLECKNER: Exactly. It's that wonderful, wonderful energy and the dogs just loving their job and loving to work and loving to pull. And then, you know, you have the little dark side of the mushing world where there is just so many dogs out there that aren't working out for teams, so much over breeding that so many dogs end up at the shelter that it's that Catch 22 we are going, ah. It's such a great sport but there is such, you know there's a lot of bad in it where, you know, if a dog doesn't work out, it's basically a farm animal. It's a working animal and when it can't do its job then it's time for that animal to go. So this is where sometimes I think rescue versus, some mushers that are into strictly for themselves or for the money. Which is kind of a laugh, when people think they are mushing for money because only very few people make good money at mushing, but -- ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. Especially in the limited sprint classes where -- CAROL KLECKNER: Oh, yes. ROBERT DROZDA: How many dogs were you running when you talk about sprint -- four, six, eight like? CAROL KLECKNER: I was normally -- I would skijor with three dogs. I would run the four dog class and run the six dog class. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: Those were my -- my three races. I have done the 10 dog class before. To me it's a lot of power. It's a lot of fun but I really am a person that I do like to have control over my dogs. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So thinking of taking out and running a 10 dog team on the snow when I stand on the brake and they are still pulling me down the trail at 20 miles an hour with my light frame, you know, I usually stuck to six dogs, sometimes eight dogs. I never raced eight dogs. I raced the 10 dog team twice, but -- ROBERT DROZDA: That's a lot of power. CAROL KLECKNER: It's a lot of power. It's a lot of power. It's a lot of fun. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: It's a lot of fun if things go good, but if things start going wrong and you got to like hook down and then, you know, it's like I never really trusted myself to get out of any situation that I could be put in when I had that much power in front of me. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: And my view was always the welfare of the dogs, so... ROBERT DROZDA: Well let's -- let's start talking a little bit more about the dogs again and how you go through the process of selecting dogs and that whole thing. When you go to the shelter, what do you do there? There are a bunch of dogs there. CAROL KLECKNER: Yes. We -- it's always nice when whoever takes the dog to the shelter, that they fill out the form that is there at the shelter. It tells why the dog is there, the dog's age, the dog's name. If we had information on every single Husky that was dropped off at the shelter, I would be in heaven. You know, I always try to not judge people that drop dogs off. My -- my main job there is for the dogs. To find the dog a home, to work for that dog. You know, if the person had way too many dogs or bred 40 puppies and dumping 20 at the shelter, I really bite my tongue to not be judgmental. It drives me crazy, things like that, but my views are this dog is an individual dog that needs a home. So I see all these dogs out back. Some of them have information written about them so that we do know, ok, at least they have been in harness or this dog is chronically injured, let's not take it. Or this dog is 14 years old even though it looks six years old. Maybe we won't take it. Being a part of SCL and running the dogs is very disconcerting to me at times because we make a lot of choices for these dogs, too. I mean mushers drop this dog off because it doesn't work for their team and then we're potentially writing a death sentence for this dog at the animal shelter because it doesn't run at all. KAREN BREWSTER: Do any of those -- do any of those dogs get adopted just as pets by other people, if it's one that you can't take as a second chance? CAROL KLECKNER: Sometimes. Sometimes. A lot of these dogs have not had any experience in a house or running free even or interacting with other dogs, in a like a two or three dog household. We have had a lot of the dogs adopted as pets, but we really impress upon the people to know what they are getting into. And this is when we run dogs in all of my write ups, I try to be one hundred percent perfectly honest. ROBERT DROZDA: Talk about the process, the write up and all of that. CAROL KLECKNER: Okay, so we see all these dogs. We -- I always take two good leaders from my home. Robin, who was my first dog, is a huge loss now. I lost him this past winter at the age of almost 15 and he was always the dog I took as a leader. He would get along with anybody. Dogs could hump him, could sniff him, could growl at him, could even go to fight him and Robin's just like, you know, we're here to do a job that is what we are doing. So we take -- usually we take an eight dog team. Sometimes on the sled, often on a four-wheeler. When I first started doing this myself, it was all either skijoring or on a sled because I didn't even own a four-wheeler back then. But -- so we'd take these dogs normally to the end of Peger Road at the dike and put a couple of my good leaders up front to start with, take six dogs that chances are they don't know each other at all. They are not even from the same place and we put them in the team and go and people are like how do you do that? How can you -- you don't even know these dogs. You don't know if they are fighters. You don't know if they are injured. You don't even know if they have been harness broken. And I'm like but they are a Husky and that Husky mentality that drive to run and pull, is like having a Border Collie and telling it not to herd. That instinct is so strong in a Husky, I've never had any doubts that I am going to put a harness on a Husky and he is going to go. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: Even if they're not harness broken. We've harness broken a lot of shelter dogs that we're like, I don't know if that dog is gone or a Husky is brought into the shelter, say a military person adopted them as a little Husky puppy because they wanted a little Husky puppy when they came to Alaska and then realized that oh, my gosh, this dog is like barking and howling and digging in my yard and jumping my fence on Base. And so they bring it back to the shelter, a year old, a very well socialized Husky but never been worked. And, you know, you put the harness on and sure they jump around a little bit and they bump into the dog beside them, but it's like once they feel that pull, off they go. And I think in all the years that I've been doing this, we've maybe had to carry four or five dogs in the sled or the four-wheeler because they just won't go at all. So we hook them up, off we go down the dike, really carefully watch every dog. Watch -- look at their gait. Look at how they're pulling. If they're crabbing. If they're pulling straight. If they're favoring one side. We look at their knees. We look at their legs. We look at their back. Think of any chiropractic problems. A lot of people don't understand that when dogs don't want to pull I always think it's number one it can be a physical issue. When somebody says my dog's not pulling right or he quit pulling or whatever and I said look at something physical first. It could be a chiropractic problem. It could be the dog's thyroid. I got a couple of my dogs from the shelter the distance mushers had dropped off and they were actually pretty sprinty looking dogs and said the dog won't go more than 20 miles. Well, they're thyroid dogs and they, you know, they could go for 20 miles and then that's it. And I mean it costs eight cents a day for a thyroid pill and the dog could do a hundred miles a day. So just little physical things and chiropractic, you know. If a dog has a hurt back or something, sure it's not going to pull and a lot of people, you know, they say well this dog pulled at one time in its life, but it just, you know, last year it's just been horrible. And chances are it's -- to me it's physical. And so if you look at those physical things first, and then mental second, and then third it's just sometimes dogs just get soured. Just totally soured and sometimes just give them the time off will help them get going again. ROBERT DROZDA: You mentioned four-wheeler and sled, so there's a group of you. There's somebody sitting in the sled that's also watching it. CAROL KLECKNER: Yes. ROBERT DROZDA: How does that work? CAROL KLECKNER: Yes. There's always two people. And, in fact, in the four-wheeler we will take three people nowadays. It's usually Don and Leslie and I. And I'm driving the four-wheeler and Don and Leslie are sitting on the back. And so we got three sets of eyes there looking at the dogs. And if we have any tangles or something, two can jump off while I'm holding the four-wheeler. Especially on a four-wheeler, if you've got a strong eight dog team, it can pull that four-wheeler down the trail even with the brake on it. It's just like oh, my gosh hang on. So yeah, we always have a second set of eyes. When I first did it, it was just me. I'd just go out by myself that first year and, you know, write up my write-ups and do the best I could with being totally honest. Because our big goal for Second Chance League is we don't want to see these dogs back. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: We want to find them a home that's really going to fit them. And if this dog was a distance dog that didn't want to do a hundred mile days, it might end up in a rec home that they do little trips and 20 miles a day. And same with a sprint dog, a lot of the distance mushers try to make sprint dogs distance dogs and found out these Pointer mixes, you know, their coats aren't really appropriate. Just different things with the Pointer mixes that didn't make them a good distance dog, but it makes them a good sprint dog or makes them a great mid-distance dog. So, our goal for SCL really -- and in critiquing these dogs when we'd run them was to find them a home where they fit in, and that they weren't going to come back through the system. We have had SCL dogs come back through the system that, you know, people just got in over their heads or thought they could take an SCL dog and ended up two or three years later, well we can't, you know, and -- But, overall I would say the huge percentage majority of SCL dogs have found permanent homes. And that's -- that's our goal. That's my joy is to find just a good home where the dog works to its capabilities. Isn't pushed for anything more than it can do. And to know that whoever takes this dog isn't going to shoot it when it's 10 years old. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, we do have an application process that we do go through and do references and vet checks for people who want to adopt SCL dogs. Some people have said we're too hard and our criteria is maybe a little too stiff. But we just want to make sure that these dogs end up where they're not going to be another farm animal and come back through the system or get shot prematurely. ROBERT DROZDA: How do you advertise the dogs after you write them up? CAROL KLECKNER: So after we've run them -- and we always try dogs in lead, too. As we're going and trying these dogs out, we take each dog and some of them -- every now and then we'll have a dog that it's just too shy or you're just like no, I am not even going to try that one up front. The confidence isn't there, but the majority of dogs we put up front. And there have been a couple of dogs that have come into SCL that the people that have dropped them off have actually called me up going, "That dog leads?" Because they never tried it in lead. You know, as a musher and I know people have a lot of dogs that are racing, you know, 40 -- 40 dogs, 50 dogs. Some people have kennels of a hundred dogs. And they're going out and training 14 dogs at a time when they might not have time to put every single dog they own up in lead. And so some dogs they think oh, that one will never be a leader. We throw it up there at the shelter and that's where the dog shines. So -- so once we've run them and put them through the paces and tried them in lead and -- and also we really look at how the dogs interact with other dogs, too. Nobody really wants a fighter on their team or one that's going to create, you know, really havoc on a team. We do all that. We chain them very close together at the truck. My truck is only really set up to drop six to eight dogs. And sometimes we'll have -- with my pet dogs running around -- 10, 12 dogs around the truck sometimes. And I always like to have a loose dog to see what one of my loose dogs is like with the chained dogs. See if there's any aggression or a dog gets real territorial in its little space. So, we really, really do a pretty good job in a very short time with checking out these dogs and how they run, how they interact with other dogs. And then I go home and I write up a paragraph usually on each dog. And we send them out to at least five different e-mail lists in the Fairbanks area. There's a skijor list. There's the recreation dog mushers list. There's the Alaska Dog Mushers Association. There's sleddog.L, which goes all over the world. We send to sleddog.L and that's how a lot of our dogs have gotten to the Lower 48. The people in the sleddog.L list have seen my write-ups and e-mail me in Fairbanks, Alaska saying, "You know, I can't find a dog down here. What do you think about shipping a dog down here?" And we have. And they've worked out really, really great. And this says something too, I think, about the Huskies. It says something about SCL. And our volunteers. And what they write up and how people answer questions is that every single dog that we have sent to the Lower 48 is a star. I mean it's -- I have never had one person even remotely say this dog's not quite working out, because we really try to do the best job we can with matching these people up with a dog that matches them. And, yeah, when I see these pictures from the Lower 48 in Virginia and Boston and Wyoming and California, these dogs -- SCL dogs that have made it down there and they're just -- they're stars and these people love them and it's really -- it's really heartwarming and some people go, you mean to tell me that they can't find a dog in the Lower 48 for their team? I think in the Lower 48 the views are somewhat different than they are up here. I don't think there's that huge number of dogs that are sent to the animal shelters or cast off type of dogs. Many dogs that go down there aren't in places where mushing is usually prevalent. I mean Virginia and Maryland we have SCL dogs there. And they have actually some dry land racing there, but a lot of Siberians -- not the good old Alaska mixed breed Husky that people so end up loving. And so, you know, people have tried to like go to the animal shelters or they've called mushers down there and mushers go, "Well, yeah I got a dog to sell you. For $500 or $1,000." But, you know, it's people who are like, no, I just want a dog -- I just, you know, a mutt or whatever and -- And so, yeah, our adoption fees are $100. Normally, we find somebody to fly with the dog. The dog is $100 to fly and so a lot of the SCL dogs have become stars basically have cost the people $200, you know, and a health certificate, which is usually like $40. ROBERT DROZDA: And that includes a spay or neuter? CAROL KLECKNER: Oh, it includes a spay, neuter, rabies and a microchip. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, we've always kept our prices low. Our $100 adoption fee has not been changed since we started. I think it encourages people to adopt, but yet it discourages people who just want a free dog to try it out and then like cast it off or something. So it's kind of that -- it's not too much money, but it's enough money that people like I don't want to spend $100 to just take this dog for six months, and then don't want it any more. So, all these dogs are written up over at the e-mail lists. I have my own website. The borough shelter has their website. We keep them up to date. They have the written little paragraph of how we've run the dogs on both websites. So that people if they're just kind of perusing the shelter website, they can go and say oh, they ran this dog and this is its -- kind of its write up. KAREN BREWSTER: So on the shelter website there's like a link that says Second Chance League and it explains the program or -- ? CAROL KLECKNER: Not at all. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. CAROL KLECKNER: Not at all. I think the shelter does have a link to us, but basically on their pet finder site, you can just go to the shelter dog and it's written up there. So that dog isn't even a SCL yet, it's still at the borough animal shelter. And there have been a lot of dogs through the years. I mean I don't -- probably about as many as we've adopted through SCL, which has been over 350 dogs through the years. There's probably been at least that many that people have just gone directly to the shelter after they've read my -- our write-up and just adopted directly from the shelter. A lot of people do that. They just, you know, they don't want to fill out application or one thing or the other and they're just like, you know, that dog sounds good for my team. I'm just going to go to the shelter and adopt it. Even though it is more expensive adopting through the shelter, but some people just that's the way they want to do it. And so, yeah, many, many dogs have been adopted just directly through the shelter. Just from our running them and our write-ups and stuff. ROBERT DROZDA: Sled dog's kind of a generic term. What kind of dogs do you see a lot of at our shelter? CAROL KLECKNER: Ah, boy, sled dog is a generic term and it's funny because working with -- in the tourist industry particularly in the summertime at a restaurant. I get a lot of tourists. I have a lot of pictures that people express interest in sled dogs. I always pull out my little book and show them the Alaska Husky. And they're like well like this isn't a Husky. And I'm like oh, yes, no it's not a snow dog. No, it's not a Disney Husky because you're thinking the Siberian with a mask and the blue eyes. I said, you know, I try to explain the Alaska Husky and all the different dogs that have been bred in the Alaska Husky through the years. So, at our animal shelter you don't really see a lot of Siberians. And a lot of people don't run them up here. And you don't really see a lot of -- especially registered pure breed Siberians come through our shelter. We see a lot more Pointer mixes nowadays. When I first started this, you'd never see a Pointer mix. A lot of Pointer mixes now coming through the shelter people get into running these Pointer mixes and realize that, you know, they don't have a dog barn. They don't want to keep the dog inside. They're feeding the dog 10,000 calories a day just to keep weight on it in the winter. So we're seeing a lot more of these Pointer mixes coming through the shelter lately. Whereas, even five years ago, it was just the traditional Husky distance-type Husky with a good coat. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, you know I think the worst thing for breeding in Alaska has been the introduction to the Pointer. Yes, they're sprint dogs. Yes, they're some of the fastest dogs in the world. People breaking all kinds of track records with these Pointer mixes, but they're not an Alaska dog. Forty, fifty below zero these dogs have a hard time surviving. We see just about every Pointer that comes to the shelter has divots out of its ears. Its tail -- the end of its tail is frostbitten off. A lot of frostbitten spots on its -- on its legs and its underbelly. You know, unless you have a dog barn, which I fully advocate because I've got one and I love it. You know, the Pointer is really -- it's kind of sad to have these Pointer mixes being bred and raised in Alaska, because they're so short coated. KAREN BREWSTER: Is that the same as I've heard you referred to as a bird dog or a Eurohound, are those the same? CAROL KLECKNER: That is correct. Yeah, these -- they -- the -- basically they've taken the Alaska Husky and bred in either German Shorthair Pointers, Wirehair Pointers sometimes, the Eurohound, the English Pointer, sometimes Saluki's, which are also short coated, Greyhounds. If you go to a lot of these sprint races, a lot of the dogs now are just -- are Pointers, but you can see some remnants of Greyhounds, some of that almost streaking. They look kind of like Zebras in a way with that Greyhound brindle look to them. A lot of the Pointers, the speckled legs. The Pointer mix is a really, really -- they're very easy to pick out even down to about an eighth Pointer. They still have all those Pointer genes. It's a very, very strong gene, but even -- even you get down to a fourth, an eighth, they still have a short coat. They still have, you know, a lot of that ticking with the Pointer. They still have the floppy ears that are prone to frostbite. So, yeah, they're a fast dog. They're a great personality dog. The Pointers do tend to have a different personality than the Alaska Husky. The Alaska Husky to me is much more independent. They -- a lot of the -- they have a stronger prey drive, I think. The Pointer is a much more people dog. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, sometimes the thought of these Pointers all chained up in a yard without getting a lot of human interaction kind of breaks my heart. But then when I think too about -- and I was going to mention this earlier -- I always think about my attitudes. And the way that I think about dogs versus the way that some mushers think about dogs. Because some mushers that is that they're just a commodity and they're not, you know, to me every one of my dogs is also my pet. You know, I form a really strong bond with them. We have a lot of indoor dogs. We don't chain dogs. They're in -- they're in their little packs in all these big fenced in areas and every day we open the gates and all the dogs come in together. It's just this big happy family and sometimes, you know -- Somebody once told me they said, "You're just too New Age Carol. You know the line like this, foo, foo, New Age, spiritual, ahhh, fatalistic person with my dogs, but my attitude with dogs is they're really -- they're my companions, too. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: Whereas, there are mushers that the dog is not a companion dog. It's strictly a working dog. It's more of farm animal. It's just here to do its job and not to basically be your little foo foo pet. So, when I, you know, kind of start getting up on my soapbox I realize that a lot of us that just recreational mush or skijor that our dogs are so much more a part of our family then say in some of the big racing world kennels. That, you know, the dogs are -- that are out there in the yard are their working dogs. And then I always get a big kick out of people driving up in their big dog truck and they have a couple of Jack Russell Terriers and a Poodle in the front of their vehicle. ROBERT DROZDA: Right. CAROL KLECKNER: And there's all their Huskies and then they lose their, you know, oh, man, I had my couple pet dogs die and I'm like, well, make one of your Huskies a pet dog. They make wonderful pets. And this is why people sometimes and you hear it a lot of times from different people's mouths. Huskies don't make good pets. But ah, to me they make fabulous pets. They're basically a nonaggressive dog. They -- yes, they may be a little more independent, but, you know, I see these people with Labs that you can sit there for eight straight hours and the Lab is doing nothing but bonking your arm to make you throw a ball for it. You know, and it's just like I can go out and run -- run with my dogs for an hour and a lot of my Huskies love retrieving. I mean I can go and throw the ball for a couple of hours for it, but then they're happy. You know, they're just to me if the Husky gets good exercise, it makes a wonderful pet because then they are really a satisfied happy dog, contented in the house. They're to me the most easily housebroken dog I've ever had to deal with. They -- especially these Huskies that have been chained outside for such a long time. It's almost like they're grateful to find a pet home. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: You know, as long as they can do some work on the side. You know, it's a rare Husky that I brought into the house that has never been in a house and goes and pees in the house. You know, they just like, well I can't go in here. And it's like once they understand that you can take them to the door and they go out and they're like, oh, then I get to come back in. That's it, they're housebroken. It's like it's easy, easy, easy. So, back to the different breeds. It's like -- Yeah, we're just seeing a lot more smaller dogs. We do have certain people that they say if you ever see a dog that's over 70 pounds that comes in the shelter that's a Husky, give me a call. They will almost take it sight unseen, because so many of these hard working village-type dogs that were bred for a working purpose are not bred anymore. They've been bred down to be a smaller racing dog. Probably the average dog we see come to the shelter is 40, 45 pounds, because they're mostly all racing dogs. The true Bush working dog, there's very few that even exist any more. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. Very few people using those kinds of dogs. CAROL KLECKNER: Exactly. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: And they certainly wouldn't use them to race. ROBERT DROZDA: Right. Carol, can you talk a little bit about your free run kennel and how that works. And some of the dynamics that go on in a free run kennel? CAROL KLECKNER: Yes. I think I encourage everybody to let their dogs off the chains. I think it makes for an extremely cohesive kennel. You can't do it all at once. I mean I don't tell people yes, just go home and like, let six of your dogs off the chain. You're going to have fights, because these dogs have been chained for most of their life. Their territory is their little circle and their doghouse. And you just, you know, to take the risk of just all of a sudden starting to let your dogs loose when they're not used to that, you're probably going to have fights. Ever since I got dogs -- I always had dogs and I chained dogs when I first got into mushing, because I really didn't know any better. I didn't know any different, you know. It was just like this is what's done to Huskies and -- But I always had a bunch of dogs that weren't chained. So my dogs that were on chains were used to dogs running free through their yard, through their circles. So my dogs never really had that territorial view towards their circle. Whereas, in a lot of kennels where no dogs are ever free then, you know, a dog comes running through their kennel and chances are that dog is going to get nipped at or, you know, punctured or something because the group isn't used to that. So I always encourage people to just, you know, start small. Have a -- get some fenced in areas, you know, one or two dogs that get along, throw a third or fourth in there and you just kind of gradually build up to where you know that -- what dogs get along. And there's always going to be dogs that don't get along or don't want to be in that loose pack. Even when I open all the gates, we have 24 dogs, there's 20 that like to be in the group and the four that don't they wouldn't even step foot in the yard. They're just like this is too much hubbub. It's too much chaos. This is not for us. So you really have to know your dogs, know who likes to be in the group, who doesn't. I think that having that cohesive group of dogs I rarely have a fight. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: And it's not that I never have a fight, because you always have those hierarchy issues. And if you do a lot of study and let the dogs kind of work it out on their own, then the dogs they respect you as the leader and they respect the whole hierarchy of the pack. If you constantly are in there with every single time a dog growls at another dog and punishes it, then I'll say you're going to always have fights in your yard, because the dogs have not worked out their hierarchy themselves. I mean I never let it get to the point where there's a knockdown drag out fight. Because, you know, they -- the dogs respect us as being their leader of their whole pack. But amongst the dogs, you know, let a dog tell another dog off. It's the only way they communicate and say, you know, leave me alone, get out of my face. And if you do that and then everybody kind of gets to this status where everybody knows where they're at in the hierarchy, and then you just have a real cohesive dog pack. So when you're out there on the trail, on the Iditarod or Yukon Quest, and you'e got 16 dogs hooked up in front of you, you just know you're not going to have fights. But, you know, a lot of people it's a big fear in their mind -- ROBERT DROZDA: Right.
CAROL KLECKNER: To start letting their dogs loose, because they just think fight. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: You think my dogs are going to fight. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, well, spats are common in any family and -- CAROL KLECKNER: Absolutely. ROBERT DROZDA: And you need to kind of recognize when to intervene and not. CAROL KLECKNER: That's exactly right. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, you know, I love -- I love the interaction of the pack mentality. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: I love to free run a lot of dogs. We -- we don't free run 20 of them, but we've taken six to eight out at a time. I always go some place where I know there's not any danger of them going to maybe chase a moose or, you know, rabbits are pretty smart any more. I don't think any of my dogs have ever caught a rabbit, but -- but I know, you know, there's neighborhoods that have goats and chickens and rabbits in cages and stuff and so, you know, you do want to be careful when you're free running dogs, because the Husky does tend to have a good prey drive. And so we're are always very careful with that and we do have dogs that have very strong prey drives that we don't take out in the woods on a free run. You know, their freedom is the yard and the fence and then running all the time. But yeah, to take them on a free walk would kind of, you know, be asking for some problems. But I think, you know, the majority of people who have had their dogs on chains for such a long time really have a fear of letting them loose. ROBERT DROZDA: Your advice would be to go real slow then? CAROL KLECKNER: I'd say to go really slow and have confidence in yourself, too. I think that's a huge, huge, huge, big thing. People that don't have confidence in themselves with their dogs and don't have the respect of their dogs, they're going to have fights. You're going -- if you're thinking right off the bat that you walk up to these two dogs and you're going to take them off the chain, you're going to put them in a pen, and you're already nervous that these dogs are going to have a fight, you're going to have a fight. ROBERT DROZDA: And then if you flip out, it just escalates it. CAROL KLECKNER: Oh, exactly.
ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: If you start screaming and, you know, and just like oh my gosh they're, you know, and your confidence is shot, your dogs don't respect you any more, yeah. Although I -- often with the spats that I have had and I've got a loud voice and if I start screaming, it's either that the dogs are like oh, she's one of us in the fight or oh, my gosh, we better break this up because the sound's coming from our master is like oh, my gosh, something's really wrong, break it up, you know. It's -- but you really have to have confidence in your own abilities as a dog person and being able to read your dogs and understand the dog mentality and the dog hierarchy, because if you don't, you're -- you are going to have fights. ROBERT DROZDA: Let's take a little break. So let's just pick up there again, Carol. I know in my dog -- in my kennel free running I like to just go out there and hang out. And you get this sense of really how varied the personalities of the different dogs are. I'm imagining you enjoy and find the same kind of thing. CAROL KLECKNER: Oh, exactly. I mean that's -- our afternoon basically is at least two hours of being out there with the dogs all loose in the same group. We do this in the morning. We actually broth in the morning even all through the summer. I just think it makes for a more contented dog. And then we always feed in the afternoons. So really our mornings consist of about an hour. All the dogs are loose and then I do chain up quite a few to feed. The ones that I know that are going to go and like just create havoc in other dogs' bowls. And we have dogs that are on some different diets too, so we do chain up several dogs to -- during feeding time, but there're quite a few that are loose also. That, so in the afternoon we have this basically two hour block of time. I get home from work. Don's already started the chores and we just sometimes pull out our chairs and we just sit out there with them. A lot of them we brush. Grooming in the afternoons's a big time for us. I walk around with my little FURminator brush. And some dogs -- I've got one dog that's like, you know, I said, I should like take a video of this because she's like this little show dog. She'll jump up on a house and she puts her front legs out like this you'd see a show dog and her back legs out and you can just brush this dog all over like she's going to be ready to go to an AKC, you know, dog show. And other dogs it has taken some time to get them used to being brushed. A lot of dogs that have come into our yard have really never been brushed. So, you know, you bring the -- they're like what are you doing and, but it feels so good. And even our -- our shyest dog enjoys being brushed. That, you know, get all that old fur out and we do a lot of nail clipping, just a lot of kind of dog maintenance during those two hour times. Our joy is to sit there and we'll be sitting in our chair and we'll look and we're like every single dog is laying down. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: Because that usually doesn't happen. You know, there's always and the dogs that are over on the side yard that don't like to join the pack, they're over there and usually one of them's up and around and -- and, you know, there's always one of the 20 that they're like walking around and every now and then we're just like everybody's laying down. And, you know, it's just like you look around and you're going our dogs are so contented. You know, there's no twirling on the chain and, you know, just going bonkers all the time, because they get good exercise. They get good interactions with the other dogs and just for us to just sit out there. And some dogs, you know, I mean, one dog will just be between my legs the whole time and I'm just petting him. And, you know, other dogs are just like, okay, I had my five minutes of petting I'm going to go lay on the doghouse. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: It's, you know, they're just -- And I think this just is a sign of a happy contented dog where they're not this needy, oh, my gosh, I'm off a chain I need your affection all the time, because I'm never shown any affection. They're just contented. So, you know, and I tell people to let dogs loose if you can just go over there and sit and interact with them for even just 10 or 15 minutes. I mean it's a lot more than most dogs on chains get in a day. You know, they get fed and of course in the winter they're run, but there's a good, what three, four, sometimes five months that a lot of sled dogs aren't run at all. And I've been a huge advocate that, you know, the second I hook up my dogs in the fall to run, you know, they can pretty much run five miles at 20 miles an hour, because that's what they have been doing free running all summer. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: And the big thing I impress upon people about free running their dogs and letting them loose, is that I have rarely have wrist or shoulder injuries. It's rare, rare, rare, because my dogs, they're running behind the shed. They're making sharp turns. They're stopping on a dime and going the other way. Their muscles are really used to all those changes. Whereas, if you've got a dog on a chain, a lot of dogs like to circle one way. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: You know, they'll get really strong on one side and really weak on another just from spinning around.
ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah. CAROL KLECKNER: One way. So if you can just let them loose. Starting out small. One time a day with a few other dogs just run and use all their muscles and it just, I think, it makes a much happier and much healthier -- physically healthier dog, too. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. Yeah. Earlier you mentioned your dog barn. CAROL KLECKNER: Yes. ROBERT DROZDA: Maybe you can talk about that a little bit. CAROL KLECKNER: People often say and you hear it all the time, oh, my Huskies would never come inside. It's too hot inside or they don't like to be warm or they've got a good coat or -- There was one time I looked out and even -- even before I had a dog barn I'd always on the coldest days I'd load my dogs up on my truck in my garage. My garage is always kept at 40 degrees and -- and it would be like my dogs were at the garage door scratching to get in it at 30 below zero. You know, at 30 below zero even your furry dogs aren't going to be laying out there in the snow. You know, they're in their doghouse. They're curled up. They're keeping warm. You stuff their houses with straw, but I just remember looking out once and I saw Chert, who's still alive. He turned 15 in May. And he put his head out and his whole face was just frosted with frost. And I was like, oh, my gosh, you know, because I never used to put the dogs in the dog truck during the day, it was just at night. And so that's when I built a dog barn that summer. And it used to be okay 20 below they're going in the dog barn. Then it was 10 below they're going in the dog barn. Then it was zero they're going in the dog barn. Well, now it's like they're in the dog barn every night. Number one, it's so quiet. You know, if a moose comes through my yard or outside on the other side of the fence, we don't hear it because the dogs are in the barn. My neighbors aren't woken up at two in the morning by my dogs going crazy with moose in the yard. And I just find that they recover so much quickly. And this is where a lot of mushers now are getting into dog barns, because they find out that after 50, 60, 100 mile run during the day at 30 below they put the dog in the dog barn and they just recover so much quicker to be able to then go and, you know, do some more distance the next day rather than, you know, trying to keep warm after running 50 miles in a little ball curled up in their dog house. And then have to get out the next morning and, you know, they're stretching and they're stiff from just the cold and the run the day before. ROBERT DROZDA: They've used up a lot of energy just trying to keep warm. CAROL KLECKNER: Just trying to keep warm, exactly. KAREN BREWSTER: It doesn't affect their acclimating to the cold and building up their coat? CAROL KLECKNER: Not at all, because they're outside, you know, they are outdoors enough. I mean even my dogs that are indoor dogs, let me tell you, when they shed in the spring, oh, my gosh, it's like they had -- they still get really thick coats, really super thick coats. And I have mainly sprint dogs. So, no, these distance dogs -- And you can talk to a lot of the distance mushers that have dog barns that now swear by them. It's like, you know, their dogs are outside enough and are marching through, you know, eight hours of training that they still get a good coat on them. But to just be in a warmer area where they don't have to curl in that little ball and get all stiff. I'm a huge advocate of dog barns. ROBERT DROZDA: What about the structure itself? CAROL KLECKNER: Yeah, I've just got a little 12 x 16. People, well, you have a big straw -- straw barn. ROBERT DROZDA: It's not that big. CAROL KLECKNER: Kind of in your yard, you know. It's just a bunch of straw bales all built up together and the dogs can go in there and it's amazing the warmth and -- ROBERT DROZDA: Three story. CAROL KLECKNER: Oh, my gosh. ROBERT DROZDA: We call it the condominium. KAREN BREWSTER: Is it like a horse barn where they each have their own little stall or you just put them all in there together? CAROL KLECKNER: Mine is -- they each have their own little area, yes. They have -- in fact, my boxes are two feet high by either two to three feet wide and four feet deep. So they're big. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: They're big. I could fit two or probably three of my sprint Huskies in there, but I just wanted enough area so that the dog wanted to completely lay all the way out, they can. In my first years I just -- I always kept -- keep the barn -- I just have a little electric heater in there. And I always impress upon people if they're building a dog barn to have windows at either end. Because you put -- my barn is 12 x 16, you put 15 dogs in there and let me tell you it's humid. And one person once accused me of you're going to make you dogs deathly sick by doing that. You're going, you know, and I'm like, you know, if you have ventilation, I leave two windows cracked. I have a fan at one window. I keep my little electric heater -- it heats the barn to 40 degrees. My dogs will up the temperature by 15 degrees throughout the night. So sometimes I start out at 30 degrees, so it's not too hot in the dog barn by the next morning. But I always keep that fan running. It's never humid in there. Now if it gets as my house does at 40 below, oh, yes, that ice is going to build up on the inside of those windows. My dog barn is -- I mean the windows are cheesy little windows. It's not like I built a triple pane window dog barn. So, you know, if you keep good ventilation, keep a little fan going in there, my dogs have never in the nine years I've had a dog barn now have never shown any sort of bronchial problems or cold problems or anything with the humidity, because it doesn't build up in there because of my ventilation. But, and there's many different ways of doing that and you can ask all kinds of different mushers about their dog barns, but everybody says that ventilation's the key. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, I've seen some mushers' guest cabins where they've become dog barns. CAROL KLECKNER: Oh, exactly, exactly, yes, yep. KAREN BREWSTER: I have a question about -- back about Second Chance League before we finish, if I may ask it? ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: Which is what's been the reception amongst the more professional racing community and the ones who maybe have been the ones culling their dogs and putting them in the shelter? What's been their response to your efforts with the Second Chance League? CAROL KLECKNER: That's an excellent question. Gosh, it's a hard one to answer, because I would say some people think we're too New Age. You know, it's like we -- a rescue group is just -- we're too foo foo with our dogs. We, you know, it's like no, it's a working dog. When its life is done, it's done. What do you, you know, why -- why rescue a Husky when it can't work. KAREN BREWSTER: I mean there is -- yeah, there's a history within dog mushing in the villages. I mean people always culled their teams. CAROL KLECKNER: Absolutely. Absolutely, yes. It's -- I mean basically it is the history. And it's, you know, in the dog mushing world if I could just ask for anything in the dog mushing world would be to not cull so much and to not breed so much. Because so many people, I think, have gotten onto that mentality of that it's a working dog. We can breed 40 puppies this summer. If 20 of them don't work out, so what, we shoot them. You know, and in Second Chance League we do. Everybody that is involved has a totally different view of dogs and again it goes back to that view of dogs. Whereas, it's the working dog versus that this dog is an individual -- yes, a working dog, but it can be a companion dog and it's a dog. Dogs are, you know, they've been pets for years and mankind's main companion for a lot of history. And, so -- so the reception for SCL basically overall I think is very good. I have had mushers call me up saying I'm dumping this dog at the shelter. I hope you can find a home for it. And when we first started, we thought that that wuld end up being a lot of what would happen. Is that, you know, people would oh, well Second Chance League can find a home for these dogs so we're just going to go dump our 20 puppies off at the shelter that didn't work out. It didn't work that way. I think a lot of people almost got embarrassed in a way that some of their dogs end up at the shelter and then ended up on like winning teams. In a way it's kind of unfortunate, because then you realize that those people that don't bring their dogs to the shelter are just shooting them themselves. So these dogs aren't even getting a chance with somebody else. They're -- they're just gone. But I would say overall the response to SCL has been good and positive. But, too, I just mainly, you know, I don't deal with mushers who cull their dogs. You know mushers who adopt dogs from SCL kind of have the same mindset as I do. So, but I think overall the reception's pretty good. The shelter's been wonderful with us as far as nowadays and we -- I didn't talk about this but it's been the progression of the shelter through the years of taking these Huskies that were basically killed after 72 hours and sometimes keeping them for months. If we run a dog, if we think it's a good dog, even a potential for a pet home, the shelter as long as there's space, will keep it for a long, long time. And it's sometimes hard on the animal tenders that work there. It's a horrid job. I could never be an animal tender. Horrid, horrid job. They kill a lot of animals, not just dogs, all kinds of animals, down to ferrets and rats and birds and cats, of course. But their attitude was well, you've run this dog, it's a good running dog. It's a friendly dog. It's a nice dog. We'll keep it as long as we can and as long as we have space. So there have been dogs at the shelter that have been there sometimes for months and months. And it does get really difficult on the tenders when -- I mean they recently euthanized a dog named Willow. And, you know, she -- and I can get real emotional about these things so pardon me, but she was there for quite a long time. And she came in with her brother General and she came from a mushing home that had actually tried to find these two dogs pet homes. And they ended up in a pet home where they were basically locked in a back bedroom, because the people didn't have fenced yards. They didn't take these dogs for a walk. The back bedroom was full of feces. These two dogs came in just filthy. And Willow was pretty aggressive. She loved her brother. General is still at the shelter and this was -- they'd been there for months. Willow we -- the first time we ran her she tried to get into a fight with every dog we put next to her. So she ran beside General when we ran her. And she was spayed. She's such a nice dog. Pretty nice with people. She's a little shy, but, you know, nobody was looking at her. There was a couple mushers, actually a woman in North Carolina, but she had three other female dogs. And it was just like, I don't think I would send you Willow to North Carolina. You know, maybe up here to try her out with somebody knowing that we could take her back. But, you know, and everybody at the shelter liked her. And she was euthanized last week because nobody looked at her. So it's -- sorry -- So it's those things at the shelter that to me are really, really difficult to keep going time after time, and running all these dogs and knowing that this is a wonderfully individual nice, nice dog that does not deserve the life that it's had so far. And then in the end to just be euthanized anyhow is just heartbreaking and I see that all the time. You know, it's my hardest part of doing SCL and people have often asked me how do you continue to do that? Because, yes, sometimes I'm no better than some musher who's dumped off their dog to the shelter, because I've written a death sentence for dogs. You know, you run it or it's got, you know, it's -- we ran a dog not too long ago, super nice dog, its whole back knee was blown. So, you know, the dog's, you know, eight, nine years old that's got a blown back knee. Are you going to find it another mushing home? No way. You know, so that dog got put down and, you know, it's a horrible feeling for me because it's like, you know, that that happens. But, you know, I went to the shelter once with one of my favorite dogs that got euthed and I just sat on their doghouse and was crying. And the animal tender came up to me and she said you cannot think of all the dogs that end up euthanized. You have to remember Spiderman. You have to remember Misty and Cracker. You have to remember the dogs that you had a hand in finding a good home for. Because if you just think of all the ones that have been euthanized, you would just have a nervous breakdown and not be able to do this. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, they'll give up. CAROL KLECKNER: And give up. So I just always have to keep in my mind that, you know, that we just -- it's one dog at a time and we've made a huge difference in that one particular dog's life. And with the numbers up here, there is no way that we could save them all. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: How many did you say you saved so far approximately? CAROL KLECKNER: I, you know, I haven't counted up for a long time. My guess is between 350 to 400, just through Second Chance League. That doesn't include the people who have gone to the shelter and adopted them directly. Probably I would say it's upwards to double that over the years. ROBERT DROZDA: Maybe we can finish up, Carol, if you have a particular story, a success story. CAROL KLECKNER: I just mentioned two of my favorite success stories. In fact, one belongs to me and one belongs to Robert, although, you know, there's so many success stories out there that I could write, you know, many, many books about them, but Misty and Cracker. Cracker came with the name Cracker Jack. And Misty they were confiscated from a guy who just got in over his head. His dogs were just breeding left and right. He had no money. He was feeding them lard. And Animal Control went and confiscated -- he had about 70 dogs, confiscated 40 of them. They'd called me at home and I ran to the shelter and by the time I got there three full Animal Control trucks had already been euthanized. So there was one truck left and they said -- and I said I want to save at least one dog for Second Chance League, you know. And actually some other people had grabbed dogs and we ended up -- then bringing into Second Chance League, from this whole group of dogs. But so I opened the back of the Animal Control truck and there's 15 dogs chained in the back of this truck, all in horrible shape. I looked and I looked and I -- just this one little white dog -- and a lot of them were white. So I just grabbed this one and she tried to bite me. I went and put her in my truck and the Animal Control officer looks at me and she goes you're taking that one? She tried to bite you. And I'm like, you know, call me New Age, call me fatalist, I don't care, I said this dog just called to me, I'm taking her. So we managed to like give her -- her shot -- her rabies shot and her distemper, whatever they do when you first bring them to the shelter. And so I thought ah, just I have got to take one more, this whole back of this truck. So, I open the truck door again and there was this male and he was -- they were all just emaciated, skinny. Fifty percent of the fur on Misty's body was gone. She looked like she had some sort of horrid mange, but it was all from nutrition and just feeding lard. So I grabbed Cracker Jack and Cracker Jack was just so skinny and mangy looking and just horrid. So I pulled them into SCL and took them home and it took pretty much three months before they would even like come up to me. And I could let them -- eventually let them loose. I had to chain them both, because I was afraid I couldn't catch them. And Misty I would just kind of put food in my hand and put my hand down and turn my back to her and just make her eat at least something out of my hand. The first few days she wouldn't at all. And I would just, you know, I would just kind of put it on the ground and gently walk away. And so after about three months they kind of started to trust us and I could let them loose, but I could only get them to come to us by offering them a cookie or something. And so long story short, Robert ended up with Cracker Jack after he actually went to a distance musher home where he wasn't working out. Cracker Jack should be -- have some other different name like Excavator. This dog dug such a huge hole in my yard at his house that his house was teetering on just this tree trunk size dirt pile. He would have to like stand on his very back tip toes, put his feet in the door of his house and pull himself up into his house, because -- he would even dig with his back feet as far as he could roam on his chain. This hole was probably at least like five foot down and six feet out as far as this dog could dig. ROBERT DROZDA: And he wore all his teeth down. CAROL KLECKNER: Yes.
ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: His teeth are totally worn down, but Misty now has -- she's a great sled dog. She's a leader. She has the most beautiful thick white coat you'd ever see on a dog. Everybody always comments. She's a beautiful, beautiful dog. She's like this 45 pound dog with a thick white coat and I carry her around the yard like a baby. She gets along with everybody. I free run her, can take her anywhere out in the woods and free run her. This is a dog that basically you could not touch. Could not touch this dog, could not catch her if she was loose and it just takes with a lot of these shy dogs it just takes time and trust in building this dog's confidence. And Cracker, he ended up -- he was out at Kantishna giving tours to -- yes, tours to tourists. I mean this dog that you couldn't touch that was so emaciated. I have a picture that Robert sent me of him holding out the line as leader out at Kantishna as he's putting the other dogs in line. I mean these are dogs that were so close to ending up dead. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, you have pictures I think on your website -- CAROL KLECKNER: Yes.
ROBERT DROZDA: Or Second Chance -
CAROL KLECKNER: Yes, on my web -- ROBERT DROZDA: Of both Misty and Cracker and they -- CAROL KLECKNER: Yes. ROBERT DROZDA: When you first got them and they both look just completely dejected and -- CAROL KLECKNER: Yes, and that's -- I love both of those pictures, not that they're because -- they're horrid pictures, but I love that you can look at their eyes and they're vacant. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: And you look at their eyes now and these dogs are so happy. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: And, you know, Robert has plenty of stories about Cracker and how he ended up, you know, he's a shy dog but follows Robert everywhere. And this is, you know, and this to me is the success of so many of these Huskies that if they're not socialized or if the only thing they've known in life is a chain, how they can with just giving these dogs some confidence, having them trust you as a benevolent nice person that they just come around to being the most wonderful, wonderful dogs. So -- KAREN BREWSTER: Can I ask one more question? ROBERT DROZDA: You may. KAREN BREWSTER: Assuming that I can hear this on the tape. That the way you talk about it's just this passion and this commitment and this time to build this relationship with these dogs and I wonder if the racing community that has 100, 200 dog kennels, is that part of it that they just don't have the time to be able to do that with rescue dogs? CAROL KLECKNER: I think these -- well, yeah, the big kennels rarely rescue a dog, but they -- Yes, I think it's just -- it's a time thing and it is my passion and I understand, totally understand, that the majority of people in the world don't take their passion for dogs to the extent that I do. I know many people that do -- that, you know, the Robert's of the world, the Katukie's (phonetic) of the world, you know. I -- the people that really, really love their dogs as companions as well as working dogs. So these big kennels, you know most of them do have handlers. A lot of them do socialize their puppies and I do like to see that. That, you know, that you can go into a lot of these kennels and see that their puppies have been socialized, that you can -- you yourself could as a perfect stranger could walk through this whole dog yard of chained dogs and every one of them is going to be jumping on you to be petted and loved and even -- even in my yard to this day I've got dogs that I would not suggest somebody walk into my dog yard because getting a dog that is totally unsocialized and some of these dogs I've gotten as five and six year old dogs that are so ingrained with the fear and not being socialized that I just kind of wouldn't trust them with a stranger walking right into my free kennel yard. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, that's probably the hardest thing is when you get a dog that wasn't socialized properly as a puppy. CAROL KLECKNER: Exactly. Exactly. So, I give huge credit to the mushers that really do socialize their puppies, that spend a lot of time, you know, taking them for little free runs and walks and holding them and handling them because a lot -- there are quite a few mushers that don't do this with their puppies. And you can pretty much immediately tell when you walk into somebody's yard like that, when the dogs aren't socialized. KAREN BREWSTER: But it's interesting that most of your, I guess clients, most of the people who take Second Chance dogs tend to be the more recreational type mushers versus the racing mushers? CAROL KLECKNER: That is correct. That is correct. Yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: And I think that, you know, a lot of a people don't realize just how many recreational mushers there are out there. CAROL KLECKNER: Yes. ROBERT DROZDA: And these can be the perfect kind of dog -- CAROL KLECKNER: Right. ROBERT DROZDA: For them, you know.
CAROL KLECKNER: Exactly. ROBERT DROZDA: We don't need to run 50, 60 miles at a crack, four or five days a week to train for the Iditarod or something. CAROL KLECKNER: Exactly. ROBERT DROZDA: And there's lots of different scenarios, too. It's not just, you know, big kennels, big mushing kennels, you know. I know of other situations and I'm sure you do too, Carol. I know at least a couple of guys who thought well, I want to run the Quest. I don't have any dogs and they wind up buying a whole team of dogs from somebody getting out of dogs, and they can't get the dogs to run for them. CAROL KLECKNER: Exactly. Right. ROBERT DROZDA: They just can't, you know, they don't have the time or they don't have any time invested with those dogs to make it work. CAROL KLECKNER: Right. And I think, too, a lot of that we see in the mushing world isn't so much the winners or it isn't so much the red lantern people, it's almost sometimes that -- that middle segment and not everybody. I mean there's -- it's, you know, it's probably not even a majority, but there's always that segment in the middle that say gosh, I know I can do better if I had different dogs. So, they get rid of all the dogs they have. Buy some $2,000 breeding pair from somebody. Breed their own dogs and they'e still in the same place. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: Because those -- that little fraction of people I think just don't really understand dogs. And don't understand training and don't understand nutrition and don't understand hierarchy and pack mentality. And so it doesn't matter if you are going to give these people a team of dogs that were winning dogs. They're probably not going to be winning dogs for those people because it's just -- it's usually not the dogs. I find that it's usually not the dogs. KAREN BREWSTER: Isn't there an example of somebody who's run like the Quest with a whole team of your Second Chance dogs? CAROL KLECKNER: Oh, yeah, Iris Wood. Iris Wood is -- was -- was our -- our famous Yukon Quest musher and she got the red lantern. But that year many, many people dropped out. Many people dropped out. And that's a huge other success story. She had many Second Chance League dogs, several foster dogs in that team, but her star of her team was Twiggy. A dog that was at the animal shelter, came through the animal shelter. I think it was dropped off without any information. It was a big tall lanky dog. That dog ran single lead for Iris for half the Quest. So, you know, some dog that somebody thought was absolutely worthless helped a person. And it was really the reason that Iris finished the Quest -- that Iris finished the Quest because of Twiggy in single lead. Just almost unprecedented for any dog to run half the Quest in single lead. So, yeah, and a lot of sprint racing teams, lots of skijorers, lots of fast skijorers are racing dogs from the animal shelter. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. CAROL KLECKNER: So, they can be successful. You just have to find the right home, match up those dogs correctly. And I would just, you know, pray that in the mushing world that people would just quit breeding and culling so many dogs to get, you know, a team of so few of dogs. You know, this breeding 40 to end up with five good ones is like just, ah, wrenches my heart. But again, I have a different view of dogs and what they are in this lifetime than what a lot of people do. ROBERT DROZDA: Ok. CAROL KLECKNER: Thank you. ROBERT DROZDA: Thanks so much, Carol. CAROL KLECKNER: You're welcome.
Joee Redington was interviewed on June 2 & 3, 2011 by Robert Drozda and William Schneider at Joee's home in Manley Hot Springs, Alaska. Joee is the son of Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race founder, Joe Redington, Sr. He grew up on the family homestead in Knik, Alaska and got involved with dog mushing at an early age. In this interview, he talks about his family history with dog mushing and dog racing, raising and training sled dogs, breeding dogs, living in Unalakleet, development of his own racing career, changes in dog racing, the importance of family support for a dog musher, and the future of dog mushing. Go to second recording. Image Gallery
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Introduction and family involvement with dog mushing
Living in Knik, at Flat Horn Lake, and using dogs to haul things
Listening to dog races on the radio and getting interested in racing
Feeding and caring for the dogs
Using a fish trap to catch fish for the dogs
Running dogs for the Army
Running the first Iditarod Sled Dog Race in 1974
Switching dogs from sprint to long distance racing
Things learned in those early years of distance racing
Moving to Manley and putting up fish to feed his dogs
How his father, Joe Redington, Sr., got the idea for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race
His father's dog sled trip up Mount Mckinley
His father's influence on the mushing community
Marriage and children
Living in Unalakleet
Development of his dog line and breeding dogs
Special dogs that stand out in his memory
Raising his own dogs
Changes in dog racing, like the trails, size of the teams, dog training
Training and teaching Michi Kono, a Japanese musher
More changes in racing and technology
Running sled dog races in the Lower 48 and Canada
Future of his dog racing career
Importance of having a supportive wife
ROBERT DROZDA: This is June the 2nd, 2011, and we're visiting -- myself, Robert Drozda, and Bill Schneider, with Joee Redington, Junior, up in Manley, Alaska. And going to have a chat with Joe today about dog mushing and his experiences and history of his family. So I think you can start, Joe, by maybe just telling us, you know, from the beginning, your -- your experiences as a lad and with your family and father. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, my dad came to Alaska in 1948, and we moved -- and he homesteaded in Knik. And he got a dog in Canada, and then he bred up -- bred up some dogs and got some -- got a bunch of pups. And then I think he watched the Fur Rendezvous or something like that, and was interested in some dogs that a guy named Jake Butler had. And he told -- he told Jake if he'd ever get any extras of those dogs, "I would like to have some." So my dad was contacted by a guy named Jack Tyone who said that Jake had sent down some dogs. And my dad went over there and -- to get the dogs, and he says, "How much does Jake want for those dogs?" And the guy said, "$35." And my dad said, "Gee, that's a lot of money for a dog." He said, "No, that's for all of them." And I think there was five of them, and my dad got those dogs and they were really a good breed of dog. And we used to put up a lot of fish and stuff in Knik there. A lot of red salmon. And we had a, you know, a fish camp there and racks of fish and all that kind of stuff. And then my dad -- those days you could run right on Knik Road. There wasn't hardly any traffic at all, so you could run right on Knik Road and run dogs. And I think I was, like, only five, six years old when I first started learning how to run dogs. I guess you'd say that my dad was mainly interested in -- or he got a job working for Air Force for reclamation, going out and -- with downed airplanes and stuff like that. Back those days before helicopters and stuff came in, if somebody crashed a small plane somewhere and needed a wing or something like that, my dad would haul it in to them by dogs. And also if the Air Force -- if there was planes down or something. I know at one time he went to Mt. Susitna and recovered 11 bodies from a Navy Neptune by using his dogs because there wasn't, like I said, helicopters and stuff at that time. Just small ones was the only thing there was. But I don't know. As kids growing up, we stayed around Knik quite awhile. And we was fishing there, and then Fish and Game started frowning on us fishing there, so then we moved to Flat Horn Lake. And I think the first time that I ever went to a race, though, was, like, in 1956 or something like that, I went to the Fur Rendezvous Juniors, and it was held right down on the street like the Fur Rendezvous is today. ROBERT DROZDA: Whereabouts is Flat Horn Lake? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Flat Horn Lake's over Mt. Susitna. It's off of the Big Susitna. And I don't know, my dad always had lots of dogs, and he had us boys always taking care of them, as far as feeding them and that kind of stuff. He brought the feed in and he kind of expected us boys to cook the dog food and take care of dogs, you know. And we used them for everything at that time because, I mean, if we wanted to haul water, we used the dogs; if we wanted to haul wood, we used the dogs; or if we wanted to go visit somebody, like make a trip to Knik or something from Flat Horn, we always used dogs, too. So as boys growing up, we learned a lot from how dogs act and how to take care of dogs and all that kind of stuff because you depended on them. You know. And my dad was -- my dad was always interested in -- he wasn't so interested in racing it, but he used to -- it used to be a big deal for us living out in the woods, you know, we didn't have television and stuff at that time, mostly just the radio, you know, and when these races came about, like the Fur Rendezvous or the North American, we'd all get around the radio and listen to it. And then after the race was over, we'd tell our mom to get the stop watch out and us boys would hook up dogs and kind of more or less pretend that we was some of them guys. You know, they were guys like George Attla and Lombard and those kind of guys that were racing. It was like sports heros to us. You know, we didn't have all this live stuff like we have today, you know. So to us boys, you know, Lombard and George Attla and stuff was sports figures, you know, we wanted to be like them as we was growing up, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: You were teenage boys at that time? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, at that time we were, like, teenage boys, you know, running in the Juniors, and... But my dad was doing a lot of freighting and stuff, hauling out airplanes from different -- different parts of Alaska and things like that. He wasn't so much interested in racing at that time, but I think he was raising dogs or we always raised dogs with the idea of the Fur Rendezvous and the North American, you know. There wasn't no Iditarod and stuff at that time when -- when we were growing up. ROBERT DROZDA: Distance racing hadn't really come out? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: No, not really -- really caught on. Just some early races that we used to hear about in Nome and stuff when they had them early sweepstakes races. ROBERT DROZDA: Were you able to listen to the Open North American from Fairbanks down south and -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, we could -- ROBERT DROZDA: -- on the radio? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: -- we could get it. But that used to be a big thing. Everybody huddled around -- everybody everywhere. There wasn't a lot of live -- there was no live sports, and any -- whenever we used to go to the races, there used to be a lot of people there because in Alaska there was a lot of outdoor people. And there wasn't snow machines and there wasn't any live things for -- you know, I mean, so if there were a dog race going on, almost everybody went there to watch the dog races. That was a big exciting thing back in the '50s, early '60s, you know. But then when live sports and stuff come along, then a lot of people stayed home, and snow machines came along and a lot of people are out doing their own thing that way, you know, so we got less -- I think we got less spectators. But, I don't know, we did a lot of things with dogs, you know. Trapping, did a lot of trapping with dogs. Some hunting, hauling in game and different things with the dogs. You know, the dogs was a big thing. And my dad always had lots of dogs. I don't know why he had so many, but he always had lots of dogs. And then we used to -- the big thing, though, when he had lots of dogs there, we had to hustle like heck in order to get food to them. So we were constantly trying all kinds of different things, so we -- we thought at one time that the hooligans would really be great for dogs, but then we found out after we put them up, my dad started going and getting them with the boat, and he had my mom and us kids putting them up on -- we had chicken wire, and my dad went to Tealands (phonetic) and asked them if they had any toothpicks there. And they said, "Yeah, we have some toothpicks." He said, "I'll take every one you got," and he bought, like, 25,000 toothpicks. And what we used to do was stick these fish up through a chicken wire and put the toothpick through their eyes, and we just had rows and rows and rows because we thought this was going to be a great way. And then we come to found out as we fed them to the dogs, it was too much Vitamin A, and it started killing the dogs. They'd start urinating blood or -- and they would either get over it in a short time or they would die. So then we had to burn all the hooligans that we were using. Some people thought they could do it, but after awhile, you'd see them burning theirs, too. It just didn't work. But we were very lucky that there was a couple -- at that time, there was a couple of seal hunters, a guy named Cliff Forsberg and a guy named Howard Ross that was seal hunting at the mouth of the Big Su. Back those days they had a bounty on seals, and those guys would save the carcasses for us. And we would go down and get them and we'd get about 500 every spring. And then all of the big ones, my dad would have us take the -- the fat off of them big seals and cut it in square chunks, like a 2-inch square chunk. And we were putting it in what they called baker drums, a 55 gallon drum with a lid that -- a snap lid on it. And as long as you didn't have any meat at all on the fat, it would render out and be perfect for the following winter; but if you left some meat on it, it would blow the top of the barrels. So you had to be pretty careful when you were putting it up. And my dad had us boys doing that all the time, and we were feeding our dogs a lot of seal meat. So -- but when you live out like that and you have a bunch of dogs, you've got to constantly be on the move looking for things to fish and putting up fish and all kinds of stuff in order to take care of them. And then my dad would, by boat or by dog team, he would bring in oats or cornmeal or rice or something like that that we would put it in with the fish and stuff, and... ROBERT DROZDA: Kind of developed your own formula? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, that's how you had to do it back. And when I first started racing a lot of people were still doing that, cooking fish and rice, and probably some of them today, they still do it. Sometimes you're lucky to live in some place where you can get that kind of stuff, you know. It's not cheap either because, you know, you've got to put in a lot of hours and you've got to -- you know, price of gas and all that kind of stuff, but it's one way of taking care of your -- your dogs, you know. And then another thing that my dad used to have us do was we'd go to all these big meadows, build a big wire -- like a big wire rack, and we would cut the grass and put it on them wire racks, and cover them up later on, and that's what we'd have for bedding for the dogs. It wasn't like we could just go to the store and get a bale of straw, you know, so he'd have us boys going out and in the meadows and cutting grass for them. He always had plenty of things for us boys to do, and we had -- you know, in the wintertime in the Flat Horn there, we used to have a fish trap in there. And it's kind of interesting because when I was a kid growing up on that lake, we knew just about everything that was going on in that area, with game or fish or whatever, you know. And there was a lot of whitefish and suckers and burbot. And we had a fish trap there, and that's how we were getting our dog food. But now I understand that that lake has got nothing but pike in it. And there wasn't one pike in there when I was a kid growing up. ROBERT DROZDA: Interesting. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: And we used to go down, you know, before 1972, we used to go beluga hunting. And I used to stay down in the mouth of the Big Su for a month and hunt belugas. And take them to town and sell them to Pop Carr at 13th and Gamble, and that's how we made money, you know. That's a big thing, too, when you live out in the boonies like we did, hustling to make a living, you know; commercial fishing and hunting seals and whales and whatever, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: When you were fishing at Flat Horn Lake, what kind of fish trap did you have? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, we just had a square box with a -- you know, with a funnel in it, and had wings on it -- out of chicken wire and it had wings on it. And we'd just dip them out with a dip net or with a -- you'd gaff them with a gaff hook or something to get them out of there. But we used to -- we didn't get a lot, but we'd get, you know, enough to take care of the dogs. ROBERT DROZDA: And you'd dry those? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: No, we didn't dry them. We fed all them -- we had that mainly only in the wintertime, the fish trap. ROBERT DROZDA: Oh, okay. Through the ice and -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, through the ice. I don't know if it was illegal or not, but Fish and Game never said nothing about it, so... You know, a lot of times back those days like if you were out -- lived out in the woods and you were -- Fish and Game wasn't really after you because they knew you weren't wasting things, and they'd more or less kind of turn their head at that kind of stuff, you know, as long as they knew you weren't wasting it. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah. Maybe there was less pressure on the resources then. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: I'm sure.
ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah. A lot less people. ROBERT DROZDA: So then, when did you move north of the range? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, after I was at Flat Horn, I went to the Army and I served two years in the Army. The Army -- a guy came to me and said, "Hey, we're getting ready to draft you. Are you interested in coming to the Army and run dogs for us?" So I said, "Sure, I'm interested in that." So I went to the Army and I went to basic training and then I came back to Fort Rich and I spent two years in the Army. And the main thing that I was doing was racing dogs for the Army. It was like a public relation type deal. We used to go on some maneuvers and stuff up Fort Yukon and Venetie, Chalkyitsik, different places. But I spent two years there at Fort Rich in a place called Camp Denali, which was a -- it was a great thing for me because I was interested in racing dogs. And I thought when I went to basic training that when we got our MOS's, I kept telling all the guys there that I'm going back to Alaska and drive dogs. It was the time when Vietnam was going on, and all my friends or all the guys that was in the Army were saying, you know, yeah, right. But anyway, when I got my MOS, it said that I was going to be a Howitzer operator and going to school in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. And I thought they'd tricked me, so I got a hold of a few different guys, and it wasn't long and I was back in Alaska and we were training dogs for -- for the Army. ROBERT DROZDA: And the Army didn't use them for work at all? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, we used them on some maneuvers and some different things, you know, reconnaissance stuff and things like that, but mainly they were a public relation type deal with the Army. And brought a lot of people to the races and that kind of stuff. And I was lucky, the first year that I was there we worked with the dogs really hard, and I came in -- I came in third the first year in '65, and in '66 I won the Fur Rendezvous with the Army. I always say that I had one of the biggest sponsors that anybody ever had, you know. Took me and the U.S. Government to win. So it was a good duty for me. I enjoyed it a lot, and they seemed to be plenty satisfied. I don't know. I had a lot of -- the dogs have done a lot of good things for me. Sure beat going to Vietnam anyway. ROBERT DROZDA: What about after you got out, then? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Oh, then after -- after I got out of the Army, I went back to Flat Horn for a short time. And then I think in about 1970 I moved to Unalakleet for a year and a half. I went to Unalakleet. And then I came back to Knik for a little while, and then after that I -- in seventy -- in '74 I entered the Iditarod and started running in the Iditarod, which was kind of a new -- well, it was a new thing for everybody, but it was really new for me. It started in '73, so in '74 I went, and my brother and my dad; and my brother came in seventh and I came in ninth, and my dad came in eleventh. And then in '75, I went again and I came in third in '75. And then Rick Swenson called me up and wanted to know about how to train for Iditarod; and then in '76, he came and stayed with me in Knik. And he was a rookie of the year, and then in '77, he won; and then he helped me move my stuff here to Manley. So in '77, we moved here to Manley. So I've been here in Manley since '77. ROBERT DROZDA: When you and your brother and dad ran the Iditarod race, were -- were you all running your dad's dogs, or did you -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: No, I had my own dogs, and my brother had his own dogs, and maybe some of his friends had some dogs in there, and then my dad had his own dogs. A lot of the -- in the later years, a lot of my dad's dogs that he had came from dogs that I'd bought from different sprint racers and different things like -- you know, and different mushers. And my dad bred them up and -- because he kind of got out of the hauling and freighting and working that kind of stuff, and he started getting interested in -- he raced a little bit in some sprint races, but when the Iditarod -- when he got the Iditarod going, then he started getting interested in the Iditarod. And he got some -- he got some dogs from my brother and raised them up, so they were all -- all the dogs that he had were out of -- I mean, raised -- they were raised for the North American and the Fur Rendezvous is what they were used for, you know. And then they -- the guys that were running long distance races at the time started breeding them to suit what they wanted, like trying to get better feet and longer hair and all the things that they needed to do the type of racing that they were doing, but the blood line came from guys that's been racing dogs for years and years and years and trapping and different villages, and that's what the -- they didn't go to anyplace that I know of, Greenland or anywhere, and get a special breed just for the Iditarod. They were all dogs that came down through the line from dogs for North American and Fur Rendezvous. You know. And they just tried to make them to suit what they -- the eating better, the drinking better, the going longer hours of running, and that kind of stuff, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, that's what I was going to ask, what were some of the main things you learned in switching to distance like that? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, what I was doing was I was trying -- at the time I was training a team for Fur Rendezvous and North American and a different team for Iditarod and that kind of stuff, you know, and it just -- back those days we didn't know very much about things like booties. I mean, when we started using booties, we were putting them -- the booties on after the dogs got sore feet, instead of like they do today when they boot them ahead of time so that you don't get sore feet. We didn't know that kind of stuff because everybody -- it was a learning -- a learning thing. They've been at it now for 35 years; I mean, they know what to do now, you know. We didn't know anything. Guys were cooking in washtubs or cooking in five gallon cans, or building campfires. I mean, when we went on the Iditarod, we didn't know anything about -- amazed how far we were even going then, and it's really amazing today how far these dogs can go. I don't think there's a tougher animal around than these dogs. And I don't think there's anything around that's taken care of better than these dogs, you know. Guys -- I think guys really take care of their dogs good. There is exceptions to the rule and like in anything, you know, but I think these guys really feed and take care of their dogs extremely good. ROBERT DROZDA: What do you think about these dogs now they run a thousand mile race and turn around two weeks later and run -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: It's amazing. I think my dad would really be impressed to see how, like, what Lance Mackey did with -- with his team and stuff, I think he would really be impressed with -- with that kind of stuff. It amazes me how tough and durable they really are. ROBERT DROZDA: So getting back North now, it was Swenson who got you to -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, not really. I had a friend -- I had a friend, Bill Taylor, that was running a fish plant here in Manley, and I don't know, where I was living at was on one of my -- my grandfather's homestead, and right above me there was a guy unloaded a dozer and they started dozing. I was the only one on that road, and next thing you know there's 350 lots for sale there, and I just said, I don't know, it's getting to be too many people for me. So I told Pam that I wanted to move somewhere else. And it was a little school here, I thought it would be good for my kids, so we came here. The kids, we'd take -- we used to take the kids to school with the dogs and pick them up with the dogs and all that kind of stuff. And I don't know, I thought it was really good. And some of the teachers and stuff that came here were -- I think they were really, really good teachers that we had. And I don't know, I just thought it was a great place to live, you know. And it hasn't really grown a lot since I moved here; if anything, maybe it's even gotten smaller, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: You like to be off the beaten path? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I've always lived in the woods or kind of in the woods. You know, I mean, this is probably as big a town as I've lived in, you know, for -- so I like being out in the country where I can go down and get in my boat and go fish or go do what I like to do, you know, and I've been lucky to be able to do that. I think it was in '97 or '98 I had a four-way bypass and wasn't able to go commercial fishing. I used to go commercial fishing from here to the mouth of the Yukon. Drive my boat down, stay down there a month or so and fish and take my son with me, and -- and go back and forth. That used to be a lot of fun to go do that, you know, but fishing's not like it used to be, so you can't do that. But I don't know, I just like to be a little bit free, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Nowadays you can go down to the Tanana here and get the majority of your dog food? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, I go down here and fish in the falltime, and put fish up for my dogs. And that's just -- you know, people think that we're taking a lot of fish, but that's just a small part of what we feed them. I mean, we feed them a lot of meat and commercial dog food. And I don't know, we do go down here and get some of these dog salmon, what we call them, dog salmon. I mean, they've been -- people have been getting them for a lot of years, a lot of years around here. I guess that's why they call them dog salmon. ROBERT DROZDA: Okay. Do you want to take a little break? BILL SCHNEIDER: Sure. (Recording paused.) ROBERT DROZDA: Joe, before we continue, I wanted to go back and ask you about your dad and where the idea came from to start the Iditarod and how that all came about. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I think my dad had been travelling around different -- different parts of Alaska, and he didn't see that -- didn't see very many dogs anymore. And I think he was getting kind of worried about maybe that the snow machines had came in, and guys were getting rid of their dogs, and that that's where the main good dogs would come from, from the guys that trapped and all that kind of stuff, and worked with their dogs every day. Even in the summer a lot of them worked with their dogs using them for different things. And I think he was concerned about that. And I think that between him and Dorothy Page and probably a few other people, they started talking about possibly putting on a race. And, you know, first they had a small one that was just a -- just like a 28 miler or something like that in '67. And then had another one again in '69, and then actually in '73. But the big thing for me, as I was growing up, my brother and I was fairly well known in sprint racing, you know what I mean. And then my dad comes up with this idea about having this distance type racing that -- to Nome, you know. So he started trying to raise money, and he even went as far as putting our homestead up -- a acre of our homestead land and all that kind of stuff, you know. And then a lot of people were making fun of him. Like here I was a boy growing up and a lot of people are making fun of my dad, calling him Don Quixote, a guy that chases windmills, and all that kind of stuff, you know. And then my dad was constantly wanting us boys to help him work on this or work on that, or go out on the trail and then somebody will come along and we'll do some photos. And in my mind, I'm trying to train for Fur Rendezvous and North American and that kind of stuff because I've been doing well in it and all that, you know. And, I mean, I remember the time that I even told my dad, I said, "Dad, if this thing doesn't work, I'm going to change my name to John Paul Jones." And a lot of people took it the wrong way as far as I feel because they acted like I was against my dad. It wasn't that I was against my dad, it was just that I felt sorry for him in ways that people were making so much fun of him. And putting our homestead up and, I mean, he was really going out on a limb. I mean, my dad was going to meetings and not coming home until 2:30, and different things like that, you know, so... ROBERT DROZDA: It was a pretty grand idea. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah. And you know, my dad, they call him the Father of the Iditarod, and he did do a lot to get it going and all that kind of stuff, but I've always felt like my dad was the lead dog and he had a good team behind him. He had a lot of good people, a lot of good people helping him do things, but he was the one that was in the lead. And he was the one that was going forward. You know what I mean? And that's the kind of a guy he was. He was one of them kind of guys, whenever he set his mind to do something, he did it. He wasn't a quitter on anything, you know, but he did have what I thought was a good team behind him, a lot of good people helping him with that Iditarod. But I don't think it would have happened if it wasn't for a guy like him that was pushing all the time. And he got along well with people; governors, lots of different people that he got along well with. He was one of them kind of guys that could talk to them kind of people and he had people behind him, you know, but I give a lot of credit to a lot of other people that helped him along, you know. But he put in lots of hours. And I think when he went in the Iditarod himself, he more or less trained his dogs as he went. And he did quite well for a guy that was -- I don't think he even started until he was probably 55 or even older when he first started, and I think he went 19 times and he went when he was 80 and finished in the middle of the pack, so... And he was always -- he was always one of them kind of guys that when we were growing up, he always -- I mean, he told me things that, like, before transistor radios for, like, racing, you know, he used to tell me about if you just had a radio that you could listen to, and like these wheels and stuff, he was always one of them kind of guys that was thinking of something ahead before it ever happened. You know what I mean? He was a very interesting guy to -- to grow up with. I mean, he was the type of a guy that he would help you do anything to get going; like if we wanted to go commercial fishing, he would get us set up, but then you're on your own. It's like he had his own things to do, and you're on your own, you know. But he did work a lot on getting the Iditarod going, and I give him a lot of credit for that. Then he decided that -- in '79 that he wanted to climb -- he decided this a long time ago, before that, that he wanted to climb Mount McKinley with dogs. And somebody asked me, "Do you think your dad can make it?" I said, "I know he'll make it. I don't know how long he'll be there, but he'll make it."
I mean, he wasn't a quitter. He was the type of a guy that when he went to do something, he did it. ROBERT DROZDA: That was in '79? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: I think in '79 him and Susan and Rob Stapleton, Ray Genet, climbed McKinley with dogs. ROBERT DROZDA: How many dogs did they get up there? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well -- ROBERT DROZDA: One team?
JOE REDINGTON, JR.: -- he started with seven, and they got to the top with four, but I think what they realized, you know, people used to always say about going to the top, they never said anything about coming down. And coming down was the hard part. I mean, them dogs have a lot of power especially when you're coming down, you know. So I think they realized that they didn't need -- they didn't want to have seven to come down with, so they left some at different camps as they went to the top. ROBERT DROZDA: That seems like almost an unbelievable accomplishment. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, he -- he did a lot of different -- a lot of different things. And I don't know, he's way ahead of us boys. We don't seem to have the desire to do some of the things that he did, I don't know. We still got dogs, though; my brothers and I still have dogs, anyway, after all these years. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah. BILL SCHNEIDER: Maybe one more question on that. He had a big influence on a lot of people in the mushing community. Could you talk about some of the people he influenced? Your dad. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, he -- he did a lot with people from other countries, you know, as far as coming over. You know, like, he had Jacques Philipe that come over from France, he had two -- two teams from Russia that came over. He had some from Norway. We had a lot of different -- a lot of people come over from different places. And I don't know, I think he's -- he's made -- made a lot of people fairly well off from the things that he did as far as the Iditarod goes. There's a lot of people in the tour business. Yeah, I don't know, he -- I think he brought a lot of people into -- to the dog mushing world, you know, and a lot of people got interested in it. BILL SCHNEIDER: What about Susan Butcher? What was -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Susan was one of his ones that came there. I think she'd already ran some dogs. I think he said that she came to his place with a Volkswagon Beetle with, I don't know, 8 or 10 dogs in a Volkswagon beetle or something like that, and then she stayed around -- she stayed around there helping him with the dogs and learning about the Iditarod, and that kind of stuff. So she's one of the ones that he worked with. He worked with quite a few different ones, really. BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, how about your family? We got you moved up here to Manley, but what -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, let's see. In 1966, I think, I got married. And in 1969 my -- I had a son born, Joee Ray. And then I got a divorce, and then I married a farm gal named Pam. And then her and I had a -- had a daughter named Heather. And then we went -- moved to Unalakleet when they were quite young and stayed there for a year and a half, and then moved back to Knik, and then in '77, we moved here to Manley. So I have a boy, Joee Ray, and a little girl, Heather. And Heather now lives in Canada. And my son now lives down in Wasilla. ROBERT DROZDA: What took you to Unalakleet? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: My dad was buying fish -- my dad was buying fish for a guy named Lloyd -- Lloyd Kline (phonetic), and wanted -- he wanted to know if I was interested in going up there to help him with buying fish and fishing myself. So we loaded -- we took two fishing dories. Loaded about 40 dogs in those dories, and put them on a flying boxcar that Northern Air Cargo had at the time. And my dad said -- I said, how we -- "What are we going to do with these dogs when we get them there?" He said, "Oh, we'll just tie them up to some trees." Well, when we got to Unalakleet, there wasn't no trees. So we had the dogs tied to driftwood and scattered up and down the beach for a quarter of a mile until we finally got that taken care of. He let us off on the end of the airfield with them boats and dogs, and no transportation; and it was kind of interesting for a while, but everything worked out pretty good. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh hum. And you ran dogs out of Unalakleet? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, ran dogs around Unalakleet there. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh hum. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Which was a lot different for me, too. I wasn't used to -- used to that type of where you could go anywhere you wanted to go, you know, from the wind. But I enjoyed Unalakleet, it was a great place. There was so many things to do around Unalakleet, that fishing and hunting and all that kind of stuff. It was a great -- really a great place. I enjoyed -- a lot of the old timers were telling you stories about different things that they -- they did. The only thing would have been better if I would have knew how to speak their language because they could probably tell their stories better in their languages -- language than in ours. And my wife went to all the -- every time we'd get a chance for her to go to some type of skin sewing thing that the ladies had, my wife would go and learned how to cut wolf for ruffs and how to sew all kinds of different things from the older ladies and stuff there. And I was constantly on the go hunting and fishing, and it was a really a great place, one of the greatest places for hunting that I've ever been. ROBERT DROZDA: And fishing primarily in the Bering Sea, then, or were you going up the Yukon River, too? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: No. This was mainly there right off of the -- off of Unalakleet. I mean, we were fishing for herring and salmon and tomcods. Whitefish and char, and all kinds of stuff like that, you know. Yeah, it didn't take me long to start putting up fish for my dogs when I got there. BILL SCHNEIDER: We should take a minute and have you talk about the development of your dog line. And what you're looking for in developing the dogs that you are using for racing. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, you know, I've tried a lot of different -- I've tried a lot of different lines of dogs. You know, most of the dogs that -- that I had came from, like, villages like Huslia. And then I -- you know, I bred those kind of dogs up. And then I got dogs, like, from Gareth and crossed those dogs in. I remember one time Gareth had came down to Flat Horn and brought down -- I was just about maybe 18 years old or somewhere, I don't remember how old I was at the time, but anyway, Gareth brought some dogs down. Him and Al Wright brought some dogs to Flat Horn and I trained those dogs for Gareth. And then I had them for a year or so and then I gave them back to Gareth, and so I had some of that line. And I got a -- I stayed with Westcott in 1961 when I was in the Juniors in Fairbanks, and he gave me a Belgian Sheepdog cross that Warren Brewer had. And we bred that in, and we got a lot of good -- a lot of good dogs. My dad bred it in, and he got a lot of good dogs from that Belgian Sheepdog cross that -- that we had. And I had that for -- for quite awhile. And then, you know, I kept -- I kept breeding the best that I could get of -- of the Huskies. And Egil Ellis come along with Pointers and started beating us, so everybody had to start trying that. So I -- I tried some Pointer crosses, but here in Manley, it's -- it's -- you know, you have to have a dog barn, for one thing, and I had a dog barn, but still, it's -- for them kind of dogs with a short coat and stuff, it's pretty hard -- hard for them, harder for them than a Husky, you know. And Huskies have been -- mentally been used to this kind of weather and stuff for years and years and years. So I kind of phased out -- I kind of phased out the Pointer line. And some of these dogs that I have here go back to -- to a dog called Burner, and then one of his pups called Sailor, and that's mainly what I have now is -- and I went back to where I had mostly all -- all Husky or very little Pointer in there. If it is, it's only a 16th or something like that. But I think at the time it was a pretty good deal to get a new line of dogs to -- to breed in there, you know, because a lot of these dogs are really related. If you check with a lot of different people, they are really closely related, you know, so once in awhile it's good to get something new in there and breed something in there. ROBERT DROZDA: So was that Sailor an Ellis dog, you said, or -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: No, Sailor was -- actually how that came about was, was my brother raised some dogs with Gareth. And then Gareth got one of those pups, or Roxy did. Got one of those pups and a dog called Burner, and that's where that line, Burner and Sailor. Sondersons got in there where they would cross one of their dogs and got into that line of dogs. But a lot of the dogs are related, distance dogs, you know, a lot of people have distance dogs that go back to Sailor. ROBERT DROZDA: Are there some -- some really special dogs that stand out in your mind over the years and that -- ? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, you know, like when I was a kid growing up, my dad had got a dog called Lady that -- and I never realized this at the time, I just found this out a few years ago, that when I was a kid in the first grade going to school, we had a cook, her name was Ila Zinsky (phonetic). And she had gave my dad this dog named Lady because she had got into the chicken coop and killed a whole bunch of her chickens, so she gave him this leader. And I just found out here that -- that Ila Zinsky was a mail carrier, one of the only female mail -- mail carriers in the Independence Mine area. And that's why that she -- because I never could figure out, why would she have a leader, you know, as a cook in the school. But I found out a few years ago that she was one of the only -- the only woman mail carrier, and that's why she had this leader. And that was a really nice leader. And my dad had a dog called Lobo that he used for lots of his reclamation work. And he was a really good leader. And then we had one that -- a dog named Wolf, and I think he got it from one of our neighbors, but that dog was an exceptionally good leader; and he not only knew gee and haw and come up -- come gee and come haw and all that, but if you were going through the woods and a tree was leaning, you could holler "over," and he'd jump over it; or if you hollered "under," and he'd go under it. I mean, he was really a -- really -- you know, a lot of them dogs are really good, but they didn't have the speed that it -- that it takes, you know. And then I had a dog when I was in the Juniors called Snag that I used in both Anchorage in '61, I won Anchorage Junior North American -- or Junior Fur Rendezvous there with Snag for a leader. And then I went to Fairbanks and raced in the Junior North American and won there with that dog in the lead. And then my brother had got -- actually, my mother had bought 'em from my brother, some half Labrador, half Setter dogs that I -- that he had, and he sold them to my dad. And then I -- the Army bought them off my dad, and that's the ones that I won the Fur Rendezvous with was Happy and Windy. And they were -- had no Husky in them at all; they were half Setter and half Lab. And I used them in the lead in the Fur Rendezvous and won that. And I've had some other really good dogs. Like I had a leader named Trainer that was exceptionally good that I bought from a guy in Fairbanks. I had a dog, a good leader that we raised here called Carlo that my wife trained as a pup. I don't know, I just have had lots of good ones. I have some even now that I -- I consider pretty good, you know. I've been pretty lucky with dogs. I've loaned dogs out to guys, like I loaned them to Michi Kono, a Japanese guy, and he won the North American. I had a dog called Banjo, I think she ran six North Americans, and he had her as a leader. And then I've been letting Jason Dunlap use mine in the Fur Rendezvous and North American, and I got a couple -- I got about three or four leaders here now, Raisin and Ruger and Toast, dogs that we raised. Most of the dogs that I have here now we've raised. A lot of these guys that are racing are racing their own. You can't hardly buy -- people that are racing can't really afford to sell one to somebody that's really a competitor, because you need it to race against him, you know, so it's pretty hard to go buy a good one, so you almost got to raise them. And I've been lucky with some of these dogs that I've bred up, the whole litter is good. And I don't know, people -- I think people nowadays and dogs, they probably work with them more like letting puppies chase them when they're small with chasing four wheelers and chasing snow machines. And, you know, it's just a lot different now, because I can remember years ago when all it was was just a snow machine -- I mean, a snowshoe track. I mean, you didn't have snow machines and stuff to put the trail in. You'd go out there and snowshoe a trail, and when somebody got ready to go past you, you would turn your sled either on its side or turn it upside down and stick the brush bow in the snow, and try to help the guy get by you, you know. It wasn't these wide trails like we've got today, you know. There was a lot of single leaders back when I was younger, a lot of guys were using single leads instead of double. A lot of bigger teams now. When I was -- when I was young the teams were small, you know, like 9 dogs, 10 dogs for going in some of these races. And I think in about 1962 or something like that, George Attla came to the Fur Rendezvous and had 16. And he had a leader named Nellie and Tuffy, and then he won with 16, and I think that started the -- the bigger team. Then Gareth went to the Fur Ren -- to the North American, I think, with 20, and I don't know, it's just a lot different today. You know, you got good feed. Guys specialize in that now, I mean, guys are training dogs and specializing in that, you know. And you get snow machines and drags. A lot of things now that I don't know if the dogs are trained any better today than they were years ago. I have my doubts. I think years ago they might have even been trained better than they are today, you know. People used them a lot more for a lot of different things. You know, they had good leaders because they used them for a lot of different -- a lot of different things, you know, especially in the villages. But, you know, like, in the villages, it used to be a big thing, a pride thing where people had dogs, and they'd like to loan their dogs to somebody and send somebody in from the village to race, you know. There was a lot of that type of -- a lot of that type of pride. And, you know, a lot of people used to come to the North American from the villages and watch, they still do today, but a lot more years ago. You know, some guys just running them might not even own a dog in the team, or maybe just one, and the rest of the village would -- people in the village would own them, you know. There used to be a lot of that. ROBERT DROZDA: When you were working with some of these other mushers, like Michi Kono, you're -- you're providing him with the dogs, and he'd work with you throughout the season with those dogs or -- ? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: No, he came here for, like, two months or something like that. ROBERT DROZDA: Did the dogs respond to him? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Oh, yeah, he was -- you know, everybody's different. You know, there's -- some dogs really take to some people real quick. And, I mean, it didn't take him but just a little awhile and the dogs knew him and he knew their names. I mean, he was focused -- he was really focused on at that time coming over here and racing, you know. He was a bus driver over in Japan, came over here, stayed with us for a couple months. And when I first met him, I didn't know what to think when I -- when I first met him, because I thought all Japanese people ate fish and rice, and so I asked him about going to McDonalds or Burger King or someplace like that, he said, "Oh, that's okay, we have those." But he brought a dictionary, one from Japanese to English, one from English to Japanese. It was a little hard to -- hard to work with him. I had an interpreter, a girl in -- in Fairbanks that was -- that had taken Japanese, and I would call her once in awhile because he couldn't -- you know, it would be hard sometimes for us to -- to communicate, you know. But he wrote everything down. And that year I had him -- the first year I had him, he was a rookie in the North American, and then he wanted to come back the next year, and he came back the next year, and then that's the year that he won. And very good with dogs. Very good. I mean, he was dedicated and he was very interested in dogs, but -- and then he moved over here. Well, it's harder for him to come over here. I never sold him any of my dogs, but I helped him buy dogs. But now he's got to make a living and he's got to put it all together himself. You know. Sometimes that's not as easy to do as a person might think, you know. He's raised a lot of good dogs, but to get enough of them to be able to go do it is kind of hard. And, you know, I've been doing it, I've been racing, you know, since '56, so... I may not always win, but I'm usually right in there, and I still know a few tricks of the trade, you know. Even these young guys, they know, too. They do it a lot different now. Nowadays they race with a GPS watch. They do it a lot different. I race with the moon and the stars, you know, and the sun. And these guys use a watch, you know. It's a lot different racing nowadays. They use mats, and it's just a lot different than when I -- when I first started racing. ROBERT DROZDA: Lots of changes in technology. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Oh, yeah, lots -- lots of things, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Sled technology. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah. And -- and I think -- I mean, I hear different people have -- you know, they're anti Iditarod; they're -- you know, I think we've learned a lot from the Iditarod. Myself. I mean, those guys have experimented with a lot of different things, and I think we've helped them with some of the breed that they have, and they've helped us with a lot of technology and stuff, you know. I think it goes hand in hand, you know. I'm always interested in all kinds of dog mushing, you know. BILL SCHNEIDER: Hang on a sec here. (Recording stopped momentarily.) BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. ROBERT DROZDA: Have you done much travelling for dog mushing, racing? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I don't remember exactly what year it was now, but I did go out to that Midwest circuit out to Bemidji and Ely and Grand Rapids and that area there racing. And then we went over as far as in Saranac, New York. That was a lot different for me. We -- well, actually, we raced, I think, in, like, down through Canada, we would race in Ft. Nelson, and then went on down into Minnesota and raced there for -- for a while, and then we were gone for quite awhile, but did that Midwest -- Midwest circuit and then... ROBERT DROZDA: Were there a lot of the same characters as -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, like, George Attla was there, and some of the ones that came -- who would come here for the North American and stuff. Like, Gary Hettinger and Harris Dunlap and some of them guys were travelling that circuit. ROBERT DROZDA: Streepers, or -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, Streepers, too. They were there. Yeah. So we did -- did that. I only went out to the Lower 48 just one time. I went to Canada a couple times and Ft. Nelson and raced down there. ROBERT DROZDA: You said it was different for you? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, the travelling, and finding places to train and stuff I thought was hard. And it was kind of a -- it was one of those kind of things where, you know, a lot of the JC's and stuff put the trails in and stuff, and these guys really worked hard at it, but when you go to put them trails in, it's not like trails where dogs have used it and punched it with their feet and hardened it up and all that kind of stuff. So, like, the first few teams that go out, have a crust that they run on, and then the rest of it starts breaking up, you know. And some of the mushers come back and raising heck, and you feel kind of bad for these guys that's really worked their tails off trying to put the trails in, and then they're getting their butts chewed out for the trails not being very good, you know, so I don't know. Sometimes you just got to grin and bear it, and that's how it is, you know. It happens even here sometimes, you know. I've had things happen in the North American where the gate's locked, you know, at the golf course, and different things have happened. You know, things happen sometimes, you know, that you don't expect. BILL SCHNEIDER: So where -- where are you now in your career? What are you looking forward to? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I don't know. I'm getting up there. Like today's my birthday, I'm 68 years old, you know, and when I start thinking about raising pups, by the time I get them ready to race I'll be 70. And I'm getting to the point where I have a hard time handling. These dogs that I have here now are pretty wild, and I have to get some young driver to drive them in some of these races because I don't feel that I can handle them as well as I used to be able to, you know, so I don't really know. It depends on, you know, I -- I'm sure I'll have dogs as long as I possibly can, you know, but it just depends on how my health and that kind of stuff goes, you know. I feel that I have some really good -- good dogs right at this time, you know, but I don't know. It's just everything seems to be getting a little harder for me than it used to be, you know. Stiff and sore. And I still like it, but it's harder to do it, you know, compared to what it was when I was younger. And when you're not racing them yourself, it takes a little bit away from it, you know. It's hard to find some -- I'm fortunate to have a guy, Jason, that's been running mine that's really good with the dogs, and he does a great job for me, and -- but he's got a family and probably wants to do his own thing, and takes a lot of time. I mean, it's not something that you just do a few hours a day, you know. I mean, it's -- when you're training, you're training from daylight until dark, and then that's not enough in Alaska in the wintertime, you know, you need more hours. More hours of daylight anyway. But I don't know. We'll see what happens here. I guess George Attla, he's 70 some years old, and he just got a team again, so I guess there's hope for all of us. BILL SCHNEIDER: I'm sure there is. You're doing a great job. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: I'm lucky to have a wife that's into it. And she trains all these dogs that I have here, she's trained from when they were pups. And she's not that interested in racing, but she likes to train the pups, so we have a pretty good team effort, her and I work together taking care of them and all that kind of stuff, so fortunate that way. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah. It sounds like a good balance there. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah. I remember years ago, somebody asked me about buying dogs and stuff and I said, "Well, you've got to have a family that's behind you, you know." If you come home with a dog and your wife's standing there with her foot sticking out the side of her tennis shoe, and she wants to know why you didn't get two, that's the kind of wife you've got to have, you know. They're hard to find. BILL SCHNEIDER: Thanks so much. This has been good.