Digital Asset Information
Project: Dog Mushing in Alaska
Date of Interview: Jul 31, 2011
Narrator(s): Carol Kleckner
Interviewer(s): Robert Drozda, Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
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
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.
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 Change 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.