Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Jennifer Raffaeli, Part 2

This is a continuation of the interview with Jennifer "Jen" Raffaeli on April 27, 2015 by William Schneider and Karen Brewster at her home at Denali National Park, Alaska. Jayme Dittmar, a sled dog kennel staff member, was also present during the interview. In this second part of a two part interview, Jen talks about the history of Denali's sled dogs and their breeding program, as well as about the staffing and operations of the kennels in both winter and summer seasons.  See the Denali National Park website for more information about the sled dog kennels and the role of sled dogs in cleaning up wilderness (including a short video clip of a clean up effort in Gates of the Arctic National Park). To keep up with the kennels' current activities, see their blog, "Runnin' With the Kennels."

Take a guided tour of Denali National Park's sled dog kennels with kennel manager, Jennifer Raffaeli (April 27, 2015; 19:41 min.).

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2015-11_PT.2

Project: Dog Mushing in Alaska Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Apr 27, 2015
Narrator(s): Jennifer "Jen" Raffaeli
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Karen Brewster
Videographer: Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
People Present: Jayme Dittmar
Funding Partners:
Alaska State Library, Institute of Museum and Library Services
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.

Sections

Preserving freight dog bloodlines

Understanding dog structure and relationship to performance

Importance of mixing bloodlines in dog breeding

Documentation of dog geneology

Traits important for a good freight dog

Sled dog kennel staff in winter and summer

Importance of consistency and building trust when training sled dogs

Kennel staff versus general Park staff driving dog teams

Summer season versus winter season activities

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.

Transcript

JAYME DITTMAR: In terms of historical relevancy to the Park, what are we doing now for freighting bloodlines with the sled dogs?

JENNIFER RAFFAELI: So I mentioned it a little bit before that the Park dogs go back to our first sled dogs in 1922.

As we were just discussing, Harry Karstens purchased the first seven sled dogs from Norman Hadley who was a man who had a fish camp on the Tanana River just outside of -- between Fairbanks and Nenana.

And when we were on our Mail Trail trip, we were really lucky to connect with the Titus family.

And the brothers there knew -- they had a fish camp right next to Norman Hadley.

So they knew him after his era of having dogs, but our first seven sled dogs came from Norman.

And then, you know, I mentioned that we had dogs right up through World War II and then we got different dogs back.

And then in the '50’s and '60’s, really was the Malamute era that they had pedigreed Malamutes.

The Park was all about what looks like a good big freight hauling dog.

And when Sandy Kogl came in -- actually Linda Forsberg or Linda Johnson realized this is was well, that the Malamutes were just really slow. And not as capable of hauling freight, as they had hoped.

And they were also a little bit challenging for rangers who -- by that time it was becoming harder and harder to find somebody who had the dog skills.

The sourdoughs who kind of knew it all about traveling the country by dog team.

And so there's more and more documentation of rangers struggling working with dogs. So when you think about 150 pound Malamutes, it's probably not the best of breed.

So Sandy started breeding in Alaskan Huskies and that particular foundation female was Susie, who was a Greenland Husky from the ice flow outside of Barrow.

And if you look back at our old bloodlines, there's old Jeff King lines in there. There's old Libby Riddle lines. There's old Seavey lines.

So the Park dogs were tied to those old 1970’s Iditarod teams where all the dogs were still the big fluffy trapline-style dogs.

And then as racing has evolved, so have the dogs that are successful in it.

But what we've tried to do is maintain our separation from what is modern racing. Our kennel is not a racing kennel.

And so keeping those big fluffy freighting or trapline-style dogs. We share a lot of bloodlines with the Collins sisters, Miki and Julie Collins.

We have shared bloodlines with the Sager family, Sonya Sager up in Eagle. Andy Bassich in Eagle. Wayne Hall has some of our dogs, and we've shared bloodlines with him in Eagle, as well.

And we're working now with the Helmer family and the House family in Eagle. So Eagle still has probably the greatest concentration of similar style dogs that people who are using their dogs for long-distance travel and heavy hauling so --

You look like you know some of the --

BILL SCHNEIDER: Oh, I know the names, but this is fascinating information.

I didn’t realize there were that many working dog teams in Eagle.

JENNIFER RAFFAELI: And the tricky part is that they all share the bloodlines. So as we're looking at what is actually bringing in fresh blood, there's been so much swapping and trading of dogs amongst that group that it is a pretty small pool.

And at this point. And I am always keeping my feelers out for who haven’t I met. That somewhere way out there off the road system that has those nice big fluffy dogs that might still help continue our bloodlines.

So one of the things that I've done a little bit differently in recent years, and it has to happen every so often. The Park has a couple of separate bloodlines, and so the previous kennels manager had been able to do a lot of breeding within those lines particularly with a lot of the Collins’ dog lines.

But I started to see that we needed to bring in some fresh blood.

So we bred in one of Paige and Cody’s dogs. Opus is now part of our kennel.

And he traces back to Seavey bloodlines. So as far as I'm concerned, it's a pretty fun full circle back to some of the 1970’s Park dogs of the big fluffy Seavey dogs.

We bred in one of Mike Ellis’ Siberians.

Again with the idea of keeping those nice thick fur coats, but giving us a little bit of a different bloodline to work with.

We bred Brent Sass’ Silver. So he's a nice big tough dog who's proven his mettle in pretty challenging conditions.

So we've been really lucky with, you know, the folks in the racing world who recognize what we're trying to do.

And trying to help us achieve that of bringing in diversity without losing the big freight hauling dogs that can still camp out without straw and without blankets.

And then one of the things that I personally have been really focused on is just learning more about structure and conformation and how that plays into a dog’s performance.

We've worked with a couple of folks just on learning about dogs’ build and how a well built dog, well built for the job you're asking it to do, is going to suffer less injuries, is going to have a better attitude.

So trying to make sure that we're being as informed as possible. When we have that litter of puppies which ones are we keeping to work here in the Park versus which ones are we letting go to other kennels that we share puppies with.

It's very rare that we'll actually adopt puppies out to pet homes.

But rather than just looking at well, I just can of like this one.

Trying to be a little bit more scientific and methodical about what leads to the decision to keep this dog in this kennel to be a freight hauling dog.

So that's been a huge learning curve for me of just studying angulation of shoulders and legs and what pieces of the puzzle work to make the perfect dog for what we do.

And I think the biggest lesson I've come to is that every single kennel is going to have their own version of what is their perfect dog. There is no one perfect dog.

You know, certainly Brent Sass would be terrified to have a racing team of our dogs. That wouldn’t do what he wants them to do.

But for us, you know, we wouldn’t want to pick up a racing team. That's not what we do.

So -- and people ask a lot well why don’t you just pick up dogs from the local shelter? There're so many good sled dogs, why are you still breeding them?

And I always try and educate visitors on the importance of this historic bloodline and the importance of making sure that we're breeding dogs capable of the work and the conditions that we're asking them to go through.

And most of the dogs that we find in shelters just aren’t capable of that. And it wouldn’t help us keep those bloodlines going so --

KAREN BREWSTER: And why is it important to bring in new blood every once in a while?

Why not just keep breeding within the dogs you have?

JENNIFER RAFFAELI: A lot of genetic weaknesses will start to show up and one of the big things that defines like what -- I was amazed when I walked around kennels in Eagle. I could actually pick out the dogs having never met them before of which ones were related to Park dogs.

They’re -- if you talk to somebody in the '70’s or '80’s, they would have told you the Park dogs are big black dogs -- big black furry dogs.

And that definitely traces back to Susie, who was a big black Greenland Husky.

So folks always associated that. And then, of course, that's how the Forsberg dogs were known, too. And we share bloodlines with them.

So I would say the Park dogs now are more known as big dogs.

A lot of white face, blue eyes, which is a really recessive phenotype.

So for me, I have to be really careful to not breed back too much of the weaker traits. We want to keep the strong traits and not the weak ones.

So you can’t breed blue-eyed dogs with other blue-eyed dogs. They're doing a lot of studies on that now. You get the Wheezer syndrome.

So we have to make sure that we're bringing in enough outside blood because we do have a lot of blue-eyed dogs that --

And a lot of dogs that I can go a few generations back in their ancestry and trace. Again, because it's a small pool. They might come from a separate kennel, but they still share bloodlines.

So it's just important for the vigor of the breed.

And for me now, it's like okay I’ve done those three generations of outside breedings to kind of re-strengthen our in-kennel pool.

And now hopefully for the next few years, I can continue to do in-kennel breedings before I look again for someone from outside who's big and fits the bill of what we want to add into our dogs.

I was also looking to add in a little bit more of that drive to pull and run.

The Park dogs were pretty good at, like, we travel and we stop when we're ready to stop and we go when we say go. And that's great. You know, you were talking about the dog that you just got and how different they are.

But at a certain point, I think you need to add in -- add back in that desire to work hard and pull otherwise you can start to trend towards too mellow, of eh, why pull, so --

KAREN BREWSTER: And you did answer my question, too, about why you keep track of the genealogy.

It's because you need to refer back to know what bloodlines have been used.

JENNIFER RAFFAELI: Yeah, exactly. And it's a huge and complicated chart.

And we actually have files upon files, but, you know, this goes back -- There's Susie, the foundation female.

And it flips over onto the other side too, but --

BILL SCHNEIDER: Just an example.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow, it's complicated.

JENNIFER RAFFAELI: So like Whooper -- Whooper here is a Libby Riddle’s dog.

When you get into -- where are the Jeff King dogs?

KAREN BREWSTER: You know, it doesn’t -- on there it doesn’t say what kennels they're from or is that what's --

JENNIFER RAFFAELI: So we have an on-line database, as well. I can pull that up on my computer for you, but the on-line database does track all the kennels where the dogs came from.

And I can filter that to just show our current dogs or to show every dog that's been through this kennel.

We do have an Excel spreadsheet of that and again historic files.

We have all the pedigrees from the Malamute days. We have all the transfer of properties with the military and things like that, so there's a lot to keep track of.

JAYME DITTMAR: What are some other traits that you look at that you consider when breeding a successful freighting backcountry dog? As opposed to a racing dog?

JENNIFER RAFFAELI: Yeah, I think we still want those longer legs.

Longer than average is important for our snow travel, though I keep joking that as our climate is changing and our weather is changing if we don’t start getting more snow on the ground we can have a Chihuahua team soon.

But those long legs are important.

A dog that has a pretty strong front end to be able to really lean into a harness and pull. We don’t need that speed. And it's something that I was just talking with Michael about this weekend.

We were watching the dogs walking, and saying our dogs pace a lot.

And coming from a racing world that drives me nuts. You know, you don’t want to see a dog pacing where both of their legs on the same side of the body are moving simultaneously together.

But I think it may be a gait that they have adapted to use for the speed that we travel at, which is usually six or seven miles per hour.

So we're much slower. So we might be not at trotting speed for them.

So it's a fine balance where we want long legs, but not too long. If you get your legs too long then the dogs can’t move efficiently.

And we still want to see efficient movement so they’ve got that power -- that they're not tiring themselves out just trying to move.

As far -- I think a lot of what I prioritize is really the head. That leader personality. And I think that's something that's really special about the Park dogs and the Park kennels is their open country leading.

Their ability to handle all sorts of conditions, of terrain, and weather, and not bat an eye about it.

And it's really neat to watch puppies grow up in that environment and come into that comfort with the conditions.

So that, you know coming from, again, a racing background where traveling across glare ice was always a big deal. And oh, there's a glacier across this section of the trail. And it's different when you’re racing and you've got a 16 dog team and you're running by headlamp in the middle of the night.

You know, for us we're running in the daylight hours, but glaciers across the trail are just the normal.

And glare ice for miles and miles. You know, one of our kennel staff this winter was like, I never thought I would say it, but I'm so grateful. It's really easy once we're just on glare ice on the rivers.

So our dogs are exceptionally good at handling those things. And a lot of that is the head and also a small kennel. We keep 30 to 35 dogs.

And we do a lot of fall training down in Riley Campground and a couple other places where we can constantly practice gee and haw on three different campground loops and all the cut-through trails.

So it's pretty neat when you can see even your wheel dogs are jumping for the commands.

Everybody learns their commands.

And granted they all have a different confidence level about being the one up front and in charge of getting everybody to follow those commands, but I think the Park dogs do have an exceptional capacity for leadership in pretty challenging conditions. And that's something that I am always looking at to continue down the bloodlines.

Physical traits, still again that fur coat. The nice thick fur coat.

My personal preference is I like the shorter fur with dense, like hairs per square inch as opposed to the longer coated dogs.

A lot of the dogs that look really fluffy have these nice long guard hairs, but you flip them back and look at the undercoat and there's just not enough undercoat there to keep them warm.

So some of our dogs might not look like they have a ton of thick fluffy fur, but they actually do have a lot of hairs per square -- fur per square inch that I think makes a huge difference in protecting them from the winds that we get here and the cold temperatures.

So that's a big priority for me.

Personality with people, of course. I think that's something that's always been a priority in the kennels is --

We’ve got dogs that have to be able to interact with everyone who comes through here to meet them.

So we start -- a big part of our summer training with the dogs is socializing with people.

What we lack is socializing with other dogs outside the kennel. So our dogs are definitely a tight knit pack and an outside dog is a big deal.

So it's been good practice for them to go out onto the Stampede Road or other places and pass other dog teams, and they do just fine with that.

But they don’t get as much practice as some other kennels or as a pet dog in just interacting with every dog they cross paths with so.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Good.

KAREN BREWSTER: I have a question.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Go for it.

KAREN BREWSTER: What you mentioned -- you keep mentioning your staff. JENNIFER RAFFAELI: Uh-huh.

KAREN BREWSTER: So maybe you could talk a little bit about what is the staff here? How many staff? What they do? You have winter staff, and then maybe you have summer staff that's different?

JENNIFER RAFFAELI: Good question. And the staffing model is something that changes really frequently.

Not just in the kennels, but Park-wide based on budgets. And so everyone is really familiar with what the government budgets have been doing in the last few years and all the challenges and the government shutdown and things like that.

And I think that's a unique aspect of running a Park kennel. You know, on the one hand I'm incredibly lucky that I get paid to run dogs as my job.

On the other hand, the amount of bureaucracy and paperwork I deal with to run dogs is one of the things that I always try and make sure people are aware of when they're like I think I want your job some day.

Think about how good you are with paperwork, 'cause it takes paperwork to take a dog team out the door here.

But budgets are very much tied into that. The government shutdown, it's interesting to get the letter of the law passed on of "No, no one can do anything."

No one can come to work, except you can come in for the basics. And I said, "Well, hey, the basics for sled dogs is they need exercise and I'm not going to have an undetermined of time where these guys just sit at their houses."

And so that back and forth with higher government officials all across the country to figure out okay, so I guess you can run dogs during the government shutdown because you need to.

But that's huge to try and tackle those things that don’t normally even affect dog mushers.

BILL SCHNEIDER: And that would be really hard to explain to a congressman wouldn’t it?

JENNIFER RAFFAELI: Exactly. Unless they come and meet the dogs and then I think they get it right away because it's pretty amazing.

But going back to the staffing model. Typically, up until a few years ago -- I’m the only permanent year-round staff.

I had a permanent assistant manager, but that position was vacated and has not been refilled, and has not been approved to be refilled based on current budgets.

So hopefully some day, we'll have a second permanent person.

You know, again, trying to get government schedules and a schedule of a dog kennel, which is essentially a farm, and that doesn’t fit in a nine to five, Monday through Friday world.

So my supervisors have been really supportive of understanding that we need a more creative staffing model to keep the kennels going 365 days a year.

So right now, it's just me as the year-round permanent person.

Our summer staff, I have a summer seasonal lead who helps kind of run the daily show when I'm not around.

The beauty of government work, I do take days off.

And my summer seasonal lead is a musher who has his own dog teams up on the Stampede Road. So he's a great -- great dog person who also has a background in interpretation. Is great to leave in charge of everybody else.

We have two seasonal GS-5, which is an entry level government pay, summer seasonal staff who are usually here -- April 15th through September 30th is our summer season.

And that summer season has really expanded.

Back in Sandy Kogl’s days -- one of my favorite things to do is to read the log books that are out in the cabins throughout the Park.

And the Park dogs used to be out on trips in the Park right through the end of April.

That is not our normal now, and that's, you know, based on changing operations in the Park, but it's also changing conditions.

It would be hard for me to be running dogs. Even further west in the Park.

So April 15th to September 30th is kind of the busy summer season now.

So those two summer seasonals, I try and have people who already know the Park dogs to some capacity. Maybe they've worked with them in a previous summer as an intern or who have some level of dog mushing or interpretation experience.

Then I have two Student Conservation Association interns.

So they're volunteering in exchange for a stipend and housing.

Usually they've never worked with sled dogs before, never been to Alaska before.

I usually try and find people who've worked in animal shelters or Vet’s offices or some background with dogs before I bring them up to work with our dogs.

Because what we do is in front of the public all day long. We want to have a professional show.

We need to have people who have a base set of skills of working with dogs.

So my GS-5’s, my seasonal lead, and myself act as the mentors for these SCA interns.

This summer we have a really cool program called the SCA Academy that is to bring Alaskan youth, and hopefully Native Alaskan youth, into the Parks and introduce them to Park jobs.

So we'll have a Native Alaskan youth joining us for 12 weeks this summer as part of the academy program, which should be really cool.

We have a Youth Conservation Corps student. That's a local high school student who's right in the area outside the Park who comes in for eight weeks during the summer.

So you can see a lot of my job in summer is managing and training people and introducing them to dog mushing.

So a lot of our spring training is just traveling around and connecting them not only with the Park dogs, but with what our visitors might be learning and experiencing about sled dogs and mushing outside the Park.

So try and send them out to Jeff King, so they understand the difference between an Iditarod kennel and our kennel.

Send them up to the Riverboat Discovery to Mary Shields, so that they get an introduction, because they're not coming from a background of a life of running dogs in Alaska.

So summer is really focused on training human staff and then working with visitors. And then winter is a very different season.

Usually it's myself, one winter seasonal GS-5, so again entry level, but I try and require -- preference is given to someone who has at least a year of running dogs some place else.

Denali is not the place to be introduced to the concept of running dogs. And I think that's something that I do really differently from a lot of previous kennels managers is they would bring in brand new mushers and train them up, and that was part of their goal was to introduce people to mushing.

What I'm finding is with my emphasis on doing real project work, that I need people who are capable of diving in and doing that project work. And if I'm teaching them to run a dog team, I can’t teach them to haul these huge awkward loads while running a dog team. And I think the culture of the Park Service has just changed over time, and the culture of the government in terms of safety and risk management.

And probably our American culture in general, you know.

So I think whereas everybody used to be willing to just jump on the back of a dog sled and get pretty banged up in the process, we really try and prevent that learning style nowadays. So bringing somebody in who knows how to run a dog team. Maybe they've learned with a tour country in the Lower 48?

And then teaching them what it is to run dogs in the subarctic, in Denali, off trail.

You know, all of those things are pretty advanced mushing skills.

So that winter seasonal has usually spent at least one winter, if not more, as a volunteer for me, and then has run dogs elsewhere.

Then I usually have two or three volunteers who get nothing.

We feed them when they're on the trail. We house them here, but they don’t get any living stipend or any pay.

But they get paid in dog teams -- trips with the sled dogs out in the Park.

We'll usually go out for a minimum of a week and up to four or five weeks at a time. So they're out in the Park more than they're here, traveling with the dogs.

And I think people really love the program, but my hope is to continue to work with Park managers to help them understand the importance of consistency in working with and training sled dogs.

I think our seasonal turnover is asking a lot of the dogs to be really good dogs as they're constantly training new people.

And I think if we want our dogs to continue to be really high performing dogs, one of the best the things we can do for them is to start to reduce the turnover of people and look at whether we can have some more consistent year-round people.

Minimize the number of changes that the dogs have to go through, 'cause I think dogs -- dogs need steady leadership. They build strong relationships with people. And I constantly am telling kennel staff before you can ask a sled dog to do anything you need to earn their trust and respect.

And earning trust and respect is a daily kind of re-endeavor.

You're constantly re-enforcing that. And it takes a long time to learn how to do that and to build that bond with each and every dog. And just by the time you're getting good at it, winter wraps up and new staff come in.

So I'd like to see us moving more towards a model of more people who are with the dogs consistently who can really form those strong relationships. 'Cause, again, my goal is to make sure we're giving the sled dogs the best life that they deserve as sled dogs and I think they deserve to have really consistent trainers. And there's a tradeoff.

I mean the power of spending a summer or spending a winter working with the dogs really changes peoples’ lives and teaches them a ton.

Sled dogs are amazing teachers.

So I recognize that there is inherent value just in a lot of people getting to interact with the dogs, but I think when I look at what the dogs would benefit most from, I think they would benefit from less people.

KAREN BREWSTER: It's interesting. It sounds like in the early days the rangers were the ones out driving the dogs and now it's your -- you and your kennel staff, the rangers don’t go out and drive them.

JENNIFER RAFFAELI: So that's a really important distinction to make. When you say ranger, there're lots of different types of ranger. And a lot of people, when they say ranger, they're thinking law enforcement or what we call Visitor and Resource Protection.

And indeed, the kennels did used to be under the Division of Rangers or Visitor and Resource Protection.

That switched in 2000 -- the end of 2010, fiscal year 2011.

So early on when I started. I was hired under rangers and then moved under interpretation.

So the whole kennels operation has moved to a different division. And that was with the recognition that a lot of what we're doing these days is more outreach and education with the public. That's the driving force behind our summer programs.

But again, because the summer programs are based on what we do in winter, is also the driving force of winter is outreach and education. So the Park felt like that was a smart shift.

And also because as, again, as we move into modern times Visitor and Resource Protection has very different goals and objectives and duties. And whether they can better and more efficiently accomplish their work by airplane, by snowmachine outside the wilderness boundary, where most of the enforcement that they need to be working on and visitor education.

You know, people snowmachining on the south side on Broad Pass being out there, being up on the Stampede, being out in the Kantishna area.

They just slowly moved to a different model of patrolling and of contacting people.

So that has been a huge shift over time. Just as our staff has grown -- I mean you talked to Grant Pearson, there were three or four rangers and they kind of did everything.

Now people have become much more specialized. We have interpretation. We have trails. We have resource and visitor protection. We have resources where they're doing all the scientific research.

A fee collection. All these different aspects of what used to be just a few people.

So kennel staff are still considered rangers. That's a really general term.

But you're right. The connotation is always towards law enforcement.

But I think it's been a good shift. And I think there was just a realization, again, that it was becoming less and less common in Alaska that everybody had a dog team and everybody knew how to travel with dogs and work with them.

And so as that became more apparent, they tried for a while to continue to train rangers to come over and work with dog teams, but there just wasn’t enough time available in the schedule to get people up to a point where they were capable of taking a dog team out on their own.

So it became more and more kennels focused.

So now we do take people out to travel with us. We'll share runners with them.

Sometimes we'll ski tow them behind the sled pulling them along. Skijor.

It kind of depends on their individual capacity, level, interest.

If people want to actually drive dog teams, they have to work with me for a while in advance of the big trips to get to that point.

So it's a time commitment. And I think a lot of people just have so many -- so many other duties that it's hard to really invest the time in becoming a dog musher, in addition to everything else they do. But that's a good question.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, it is interesting that the summer season is your big season in your dog kennel who runs dogs in the winter. Seems somewhat counterintuitive.

JENNIFER RAFFAELI: In terms of the staff numbers? KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JENNIFER RAFFAELI: That the summer season -- yeah, but again it's like --

KAREN BREWSTER: You’d think your big season's the winter. That's when you're out traveling around.

JENNIFER RAFFAELI: And that is -- that's when -- I say my busy season is winter and then my other busy season is summer and then my other busy season is winter.

There really isn’t a break. I mean Jayme and I finished our trip on April 11th and on April 12th my summer staff arrived to start their training.

So it is counterintuitive until you look at the operations and it's --

It takes so much more to put on programs three times a day for the public. To interact with the hundreds of people coming through the kennels in between the programs.

It's just -- it's a massive staffing numbers that are required, but I think on top of that again there is that desire to introduce people to dog mushing at a time when it's not as scary as spending a cold, dark winter in Alaska, you know.

So it gives them a little taste of working with sled dogs in a way that's attainable for a lot of people.

So I still, you know, I think that's the great thing about all those different types of hires that we have in the summer, is we can connect with a lot of folks. Introduce them to sled dogs and mushing without the commitment and responsibility of driving dog teams in winter.

I like the small staff in winter. It's the right number of people for being able to really get to know the dogs and build those relationships and work with them. It's busy.

I mean anyone who's worked in the kennels here in winter will tell you that it's exhausting and it's back to back trips. Again, I think --

I love long wilderness trips and it's what we need with the Park dogs, because we're breaking trail, trying to access these really remote locations.

We can’t do a three day trip or a five day trip.

In order to get to these places, we need four or five weeks.

For a lot of people, that's a huge adventure. And I say, okay, welcome to the kennels. We're going to do that a few times this winter.

And it takes a lot. You know, they're learning a lot about how to take care of themselves and their co-workers, both human and canine.

Camping out at 30 below and doing all sorts of things, but I think it's pretty amazing to be able to share those stories directly with the kennel staff and then indirectly with everybody who wants to hear about them.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Great. Good job. JENNIFER RAFFAELI: Thanks.