Seaveys had abuse



Despite earlier claims that everything was hunky-dory this fall at the Willow kennel of Dallas Seavey, a four-time champion of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, it has now emerged that there was an apparent dog-abuse problem.

The revelation comes surprisingly from none other than Jen Seavey, the wife of the Iditarod champ.  A letter she wrote in October reveals she fired a dog handler because she believed he was abusing dogs.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough officials obtained the letter during an investigation into accusations of abuse at the kennel. The investigation cleared the Seaveys.

But in a letter to dog handler Whiskey Miller, Jen informs the young man he is being “terminated due to concerns regarding your treatment of our dogs on a training run reported to us by another handler at the kennel. While neither Dallas, myself, or kennel manager Jesse Salyer has personally witnessed you practicing inappropriate discipline or rough training methods, this report has concerned us considerably.”

Miller’s girlfriend, Hanna Hurt who goes by the name Hanna Rose, said in an email today that she was fired along with Miller, even though she contends there was no inappropriate discipline or rough training.

“These claims, in a series of bizarre events, ultimately led to our dismissal from the Seavey kennel, despite the claims carrying no evidence nor, quite frankly, any truth,” she wrote. “That said, we understand the current climate within the dog sledding industry in regards to the anti-mushing community and that rumors, big or small, are not taken lightly.”

The email exchange ended when she was asked about Jen’s reference to Miller getting a “negative reference” from a previous employer, and why Jen would fire Miller if she thought the claim against him was a bogus statement from an animal-rights activist.

The Seavey handler who started this all of this is identified in borough records as Abigayil Crowder. She has not dealt in rumors. She has flatly said she saw Miller manhandling dogs.  Crowder walked out of the Seavey kennel at the end of October and filed a complaint with MatSu animal control alleging abuse.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) – a radical, California, animal-rights organization critical of the Iditarod – rushed to support Crowder, and the Seaveys subsequently attacked the young woman as a PETA plant.

“This complaint was filed by PETA in conjunction with a woman who had been working at our kennel as an entry-level handler since early September,” Jen posted on the “Dallas Seavey” Facebook page on Nov. 7. “A few hours before it was filed she abruptly packed her things and left the kennel citing ‘a family emergency.’ It seems we were the target of an organized attempt by anti-mushing activists.”

The complaint, however, was not filed by PETA. The MatSu recorded Crowder calling to “report sick and dying puppies and other abuse occurring at the dog kennels.”

seavey complaint

Whistleblower? interviewed Crowder hours after she left the Seavey kennel and before PETA entered the discussion. Her experiences at the kennel were recounted in a Nov. 2 story reporting MatSu animal control had cleared the Seavey kennel of any wrong doing. Her background was probed in a Nov. 8 story. 

Crowder was not identified in either of those stories. She was at the time staying with a friend in Fairbanks, and both she and her friend, along with some others, expressed fears Crowder could be in some danger if her name was known. Whether the threat was real or imagined is impossible to determine.

The Iditarod is an iconic sporting event in Alaska, and the 30-year-old Dallas was the race’s brightest start until he was discovered to have a doped dog team in Nome this year. Dallas has repeatedly denied any responsibility for that doping, and has hired a high-power, San Fransisco public relations firm to investigate in hopes of clearing his name.

Crowder is now reported to be back in the Lower 48, and her name is being disclosed here in the wake of the Borough publicly revealing it in a release of public documents. has been unable to find any connection between Crowder, a veteran dog handler from Colorado, and PETA predating her issues with the Seaveys.

In an interview, she sounded like many young people who come north with bright eyes and big sled-dog dreams.

“I always wanted to run the Iditarod,” she said.

A couple of weeks at the Seavey kennel pretty much took the shine off that idea. Almost immediately, Crowder encountered Miller handling dogs in ways to which she was unaccustomed.

“Whiskey will abuse the dogs,” she said. “He chokes and beats them. It’s horrible.

“I yelled at him once, and he stopped doing it.”

Crowder told kennel manager Salyer what was going on, and Crowder said, “she told Whiskey to knock it off.” Crowder said she never again saw Miller abusing dogs, but suspected his behavior continued when she wasn’t around.

Miller remained at the kennel. Jen’s letter indicates he was not fired until Oct. 30. Crowder reported the Seavey kennel to the MatSu borough three days earlier on Oct. 27

whiskey letter

Short stay

Crowder said she went to work at the Seavey kennel on Sept. 4., and by the “second week of being here, I realized, ‘My God, this place is horrible.’ It got worse.”

What concerned her most was the regular death of puppies born at the kennel. Natural mortality is often quite high among puppies, according to veterinarians. An Australian study that looked specifically at puppy deaths in kennels reported an overall death rate of 18.5 percent.

“The death of live born, apparently normal pups, in the neonatal period accounted for 5.7 percent of all pups born and 31.2 percent of the total mortality,” the study said. “Over half these losses were attributed to fading puppy syndrome. The remainder was due to mismothering / mismanagement and other miscellaneous causes.”

A significant number of dead puppies would  be normal and expected in a kennel birthing dozens of puppies per year.

“I’ve seen so many dead puppies in the last couple months,” Crowder said. “They let seven puppies die from one litter.”

Seavey family members have suggested some of the puppies might have belonged to people other than Jen and Dallas. Dallas’s brother Danny, a fellow dog musher, has said Jen is known for trying help others with puppies sick with parvo by treating them with homeopathic remedies.

Canine parvo is a highly contagious viral disease. Puppies are most vulnerable to the virus from age six weeks to six months, according to the American Kennel Club. Vaccination against parvo is recommended at six to 14 weeks.

The virus is hard to control in busy kennels. It “is resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and drying, and can survive in the environment for long periods of time,” notes the American Veterinary Medical Association. “Even trace amounts of feces from an infected dog may harbor the virus and infect other dogs that come into the infected environment. The virus is readily transmitted from place to place on the hair or feet of dogs or via contaminated cages, shoes, or other objects.”

The AVMA stresses the importance of kennel hygiene and vaccinations. Veteran Alaska musher Joe Runyan, however, raised questions about the quality of some parvo vaccines in his 2003 book “Winning Strategies for Distance Mushers.”

Runyan is a past winner of both the Iditarod and the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. During his time in Alaska, he oversaw the births and rearing of hundreds of sled-dog puppies.

He reported solving his parvo problems while living in rural Alaska by building elevated puppy pens. He got the idea, he wrote, from Delmar Smith, a legendary bird-dog trainer. 

“Delmar and his sons ran a big, professional kennel, wash-down concrete runs and so on, and housed a considerable number of bird dogs for training,” Runyan wrote. Ryan toured Smith’s Oklahoma facility and noted raised pens with wire floors.

“When I questioned Delmar about it,” Runyan said, “he kind of looked at  me like Luigi that just got off the boat. Everybody knows this is the cleanest way to raise pups….People always ask if the wire on the floor bothers the pups feet. I don’t think it does. One thing for sure, all of the crap goes through the wire and onto the ground. Rain, sleet or snow, the pups are immaculately clean. It made a big difference on the appearance and health of the pups.”

Though the Seavey kennel got a clean bill of health from the MatSu Borough, which regulates dog kennels to “livestock” standards, other mushers have noted it is not the sort of neat and clean facility once run by Runyan or now run by borough Mayor Vern Halter, another musher.

vern's puppies

Vern Halter puppy kennels. A virtual tour is here:

Different worlds

A self-described military brat, the 23-year-old Crowder grew up on the move among U.S. air bases. She still lists her home as the family residence in what is described as a semi-ghost town in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She used to work for a woman who runs a sled-dog tour business near there.

Like most dog handlers in Alaska, she was young and adventurous. A Facebook friend in Willow helped hook her up with the Seaveys because of shared interests in sled dogs.

“I believed that Dallas was a good person,” Crowder said, and that she could learn a lot by working for him.

Miller and Hurt/Rose arrived at the Seavey kennel by following a similar path. The couple met while working with dogs at Krabloonik Mountain Dining and Dogsledding in Snowmass, Colo. – not far from the Lucky Cat Dog Farm in Gunnison, Colo., where Crowder got her start. 

Hunt/Rose said sled dogs are the main interest in their life. Krabloonik has a checkered history. It features heavily in the documentary “Sled Dogs,” a movie that is critical of sled-dog tour operations and raises questions about the Iditarod.


Krabloonik was originally owned by Iditarod veteran Dan MacEachen, who in 2015 pleaded guilty to animal abuse. He was accused of starving six dogs and refusing to seek veterinary care for two badly in need of medical treatment.

MacEachen died in 2016 only a couple of weeks before the start of the 2016 Iditarod, a race he’d six-times run. His last race was in 1993. His best finish was 17th in 1988.

“Few people have simultaneously frightened me, infuriated me, and garnered such profound respect from me,” Hurt/Rose posted on her Facebook page at the time. “I am glad I was able to know him for as short and tumultuous as our relationship may have been. Without the opportunities he and Krabloonik provided me when I was young and dumb, I would not be where I am today — young and dumb but with the clarity of mind to ‘not complicate shit’ and carry on.”

It is unclear whether Krabloonik is the “previous employer” Jen’s letter references as providing a “negative reference.” Equally unclear is to why the Seaveys only checked references after problems allegedly arose with Miller.

Miller’s Facebook page indicates he left Krabloonik earlier this year to take the job with the Seaveys.  A week ago, in a text exchange on Facebook, he responded to a question about his firing by asking for “a link to said letter. There have been a lot of conflicting rumours going around in relation to my involvement with the dog sledding industry, so I’m hesitant to make any statements without being sure of the details.”

He was sent a copy of the letter. He did not respond to subsequent text messages until today when he sent a text apologizing and saying he did “feel the urge to elaborate a bit on the progression of events.” He asked for an email at which to respond. The Hurt/Rose emails followed.

The Seaveys have not responded to repeated requests for comment since Oct. 17 when Danny, Dallas’s brother and the son of defending champ Mitch Seavey, texted a message saying, “not that you care, but it’s not Mitch or Dallas.”

The message was a reaction to an Iditarod report of that date that a dog team belonging to an unnamed musher had been discovered to be doped after the finish of the 1,000-mile “Last Great Race” in Nome this year. 

Six days later, with other mushers angry that the failure to name names damned them all, the Iditarod revealed the musher was Dallas. He said then his team had to have been sabotaged because he did  not give the dogs tramadol, a synthetic opioid. Dallas suggested jealous competitors or someone connected to an Iditarod Trail Committee board angry about his opposition to a rule change might have done it.

Or, he said, animal rights activists like PETA might be trying smear the Iditarod by taking down its brightest star. The latter suggestion is nebulous. Until Dallas’s team was found doped this year, the race had never publicly reported a doping case.

There was no legitimate reason for anyone to believe that if dogs were doped, the doping would be detected and if detected publicly reported.

No dope

Crowder said she has no idea of whether Dallas doped dogs. He was pretty much a nonpresence at the Willow kennel run by Salyer, she said.

“I saw Dallas maybe three times,” Crowder said. “He actually hires people. He doesn’t train any dogs himself.”

When controversy swirled in the wake of the doping revelation, Dallas announced he was withdrawing from the 2018 Iditarod in protest. The race did not punish him for the doping this year. It said it couldn’t prove the dogs were intentionally doped, and then proposed to change the doping rule to reflect a strict liability standard, meaning any musher caught with doped dogs going forward would be considered guilty unless he or she could show how the dogs might have gotten the drugs elsewhere.

Crowder said Dallas’s Iditarod withdrawal appeared disingenuous. He was already planning to run the Finnmarkslopet in Norway, she said. Both races take place in March. A racer cannot run both. The Finnmarkslopet attracts about twice as many entrants as the Iditarod.

Crowder helped train the potential Finnmarkslopet team, “and they’re good,” she said.

“He didn’t want to run the Iditarod,” Crowder added. Dallas had known about his Iditarod doping problem since shortly after the March finish of the race. He was informed of the positive test for tramadol promptly after a Oregon lab discovered the drug.

Both the Iditarod and Dallas kept the information secret for more than six months. Dallas said he was led to believe that since the Iditarod couldn’t prove he doped the dogs, the case would be allowed to fade away.

Once it went public, he said repeatedly that he didn’t know what tramadol was before eventually admitting it had once been prescribed for his Golden Harness-winning lead dog Guinness.

“I know he knows what tramadol is,” Crowder said. “Dallas lies a lot.”

The doping case rocked Seavey world at the end of October, but Crowder said it had nothing to do with her decision to quit the Seavey kennel and report it to authorities. She said she just couldn’t stomach the way dogs were treated at the kennel, especially puppies.

It was clear, she said, nobody wanted to go to the trouble and expense of seeking veterinary care for sick puppies.

She called the kennel a “puppy mill.”

When Crowder called her former boss, Lucky Cat Dog Farm owner Becky Barkman and asked for advice on what to do, “my boss was like come home,” Crowder said.

The 70-year-old Barkman, in an interview, said Crowder was clearly a little naive as to big-time kennels and didn’t really understand how things work in Alaska. The Iditarod is a highly competitive sporting event. It takes the best sled dogs in the world to win the race, and they aren’t acquired by accident.

Some mushers spend a great deal of money buying dogs. Others grow them.

How it works

Runyan, the former Iditarod and Quest champ and once a regular Iditarod  race commentator – in his book writes with blunt honesty about the steps necessary to win.

Chapter 2 is titled simply “Realities.” In it, Runyan writes that “a good racing dog has a career lifetime of about five years, if he or she is lucky and avoids injury.

“In the early ’80s, I figured the competitive teams were raising at 50 pups a year….That  means in five years that a competitive kennel would put 250 pups on the ground. Out of that, one could probably expect to get 25 really championship caliber dogs and hope that none of them got hurt bad enough to put them on the sidelines.”

Mushers, veterinarians and others familiar with the race contend that this sort of dog farming later declined as selective breeding became better, but there are indications that the practice has resumed as the Iditarod has become faster and faster in recent years.

The MatSu report does not say how many dogs were being kept at the Seavey kennel, but Dallas has regularly referenced 90 to 100. The MatSu report also did not detail the number of puppies. The standard Iditarod team has 16 dogs.

As speeds increase in endurance races, faster athletes are required to compete. There are really only two ways to get them: breed a lot of dogs and carefully select for the best of the best, or dope, or do both.

Behind the scenes, veterinarians familiar with Iditarod admit they are suspicious of an increase in doping. The problem was serious enough in the 1980s that the race’s then chief veterinarian, the late Del Carter from Eagle River, said he suspected some dog deaths were tied to the improper use of performance enhancing drugs.

That fear helped lead to the 1994 doping program.

Over the course of the 23 years that followed, not a single case of doping was publicly reported, but some former Iditarod board members says there were mushers asked to leave the race after dogs tested positive. The cases were always handled quietly by the board in executive session, they said.

Most people believe drug usage stopped or at least decreased dramatically after testing was implemented, but it might simply have gone underground. With no out-of-competition testing of Iditarod dogs, it would be easy to gain an advantage by using PEDs in pre-race training, doping experts say.

Iditarod is now considering experimenting with a test that could use the hair of dogs to detect testosterone and steroid use during training. Both drugs help to build lean muscle mass, a distinct advantage for an Iditarod dog.

Veterinarians and mushers all agree most mushers don’t dope their dogs. There is a simple reason for that. Most of the people who enter the Iditarod aren’t in the race to win. They do it for the experience of making it across one of North America’s last great wilderness areas on a dog sled.

In any given year, there are only 10 or 15 teams thinking they have a shot at victory. Within this highly competitive group, however, it is not unreasonable that someone might decide to resort to PEDs to gain an edge.

Some might even be able to rationalize doping as a good alternative to dog farming. The potential puppy-mill accusation, Runyan wrote, “is a serious question to resolve for some people. If you are the type of person where questions like this don’t bother you, skip the next couple of pages and get back to the meat of the book. More power to you, your path is clear and unencumbered.

“Now, for the rest of the readers, the real answer to the question ‘Are you running a puppy mill?” is essentially ‘yes.’ Let’s face it, you made the decision to raise 70 pups and pick out the 15 or 20 best ones. That means there are 50 pups left to sell, give away or put down. You can’t keep the average dogs because it will ruin your focus on developing a championship team and besides that, unless you are independently wealthy, you cannot afford it.

“My viewpoint is to just get realistic and be a good farmer. Most of the pups will have such good breeding behind them that they will sell themselves. The ones that are just not performers are going to have to be eliminated.”

Runyan’s book was written shortly after the Iditarod emerged from a pitched battle with the Humane Society of the United States – an anti-hunting, anti-trapping, anti-fishing animal rights group. A HSUS attack in the 1990s led to a number of sponsors abandoning the multi-million-dollar race.

Iditarod responded by finding new sponsors connected to hunting, fishing, ranching and other businesses generally less concerned dogs might need to be farmed to create a winning team.

Since then race sponsorships have crept back more toward businesses that might worry about their public image if Iditarod dogs were to be treated as merely working animals.  PETA claimed a $250,000 cut in the Iditarod purse this year was due to declining sponsorship revenue after it hyped five dog deaths in the 2017 Iditarod.

Many in mushing circles today admire Runyan for being candid, but they question whether the race can survive if mushers are revealed to again be in the “dog farming” business.

The Iditarod is now marketed as an almost cuddly affair. Dallas, in defending himself against doping charges, demanded Iditarod conduct a thorough investigation into the possibility of sabotage because “we all have our best friends on the trail with us.”

To hear Crowder tell it, however, it might be more accurate to say Dallas is on the trail with his best performing acquaintances. There are other mushers on the trail with their “best friends,” plenty of them in fact. But these are generally back-of-the-pack mushers who sometimes take house pets on the trail.

There are few house pets in the teams at the front of the Iditarod, and those teams are competing in an almost wholly different event. At the front are highly trained canine athletes carefully selected for one reason: performance.

“To me,” Runyan wrote, “what is the difference, raise 70 pups a year for three years and develop a championship team, or waste 25 years raising 10 pups a year? Some mushers like to raise a few pups and then pay the money for top performers. But, really, what is the difference. Somewhere, sometime, somebody had to raise some numbers of pups to get the quality animals.















38 replies »

  1. I have given the doping allegation against Dallas a great deal of consideration, and as a retired musher I can honestly say that Tramadol would not be a good choice for a sled dog during a race. It does not remain in the dog’s system beyond 12 hours, but it has a side effect of making a dog drowsy. I know this from experience as my dogs have been on that medication on more than one occasion — and dogs actually do not like its taste. Only some idiot from PETA would be likely to try to use a pain med like Tramadol since they have no fricking clue as to how that would impact a dog team in competition — Nitwits. So I think it was likely a member of PETA who tried to sabotage Dallas since members of PETA are so ignorant of dog mushing to begin with – that would be my guess. If Dallas really intended to mask one of his canine competitor’s stiffness or soreness or pain, he would have chosen an entirely different drug – like Rimadyl or Deramaxx which are Canine Anti-inflammatory medications which do not produce drowsiness.

    • Funny, Rimadyl has always made my dogs drowsy. But that’s neither here nor there. Then again, maybe it was just from their being tired from the heavy workout before it was given.

      You have your opinions and others have their opinions. I’ve heard from some who’ve said the opposite of you. Not to mention that many of the dogs by the end of the Iditarod are largely sleeping walking anyway. I’m not sure that in the condition they are in any drug could make them drowsier

      So you think it was a well-trained member of PETA who was able to quickly get tramadol down a whole team of exhausted dogs not interested in much by sleep? The PETA people I’ve known couldn’t get a pile down the throat of toy poodle. They always have to put it in a hotdog or something. So what do they do if the dogs, or even one or two of the dogs, don’t want to eat?

      Not to mention, why do they have yet to claim credit? What good is it today this if you’re not going to threaten to do it again, thus forcing Irod to put in expensive security measures at every checkpoint? And if it’s PETA, and they really want to mess with the race, why haven’t they just gone out and moved the trail on occasion, which would be way easier than doping dogs, and could cause a whole lot of chaos.

  2. I find this subject moderately interesting; it’s not the center of my life. But I will say that PETA’s biggest problem is that they kill more dogs and cats than any musher or charity. They even steal people’s pets so they can kill them.
    PETA is also famous for jumping on other’s issues and co-opting them, while having no relationship with the person.

  3. “Dallas’s brother Danny, a fellow dog musher, has said Jen is known for trying help others with puppies sick with parvo by treating them with homeopathic remedies.”

    Are we really to believe that Jen would bring sick and infested puppies to Dallas’s Iditarod lot and take the chance of infecting one of the other dogs with an “outside” person’s K9?
    I guess once someone is pushed into a corner with a lie, the only future answers regarding the accusations are lies.
    If Abbie has multiple videos of puppies from Seavey’s Kennel (ie you can see by the buildings and inside of shops where she is at) then she has what courts call EVIDENCE of the abuse.

    • says, “Because parvovirus is such a serious disease, it is not recommended to attempt home treatment. Even with the best veterinary care, this disease is often fatal.” Jen uses homeopathy to treat puppies sick with parvo. How many pups have died as a result? She should be telling people to take their animals to a veterinarian.

  4. Dallas hired a bad employee. The bad employee did bad things at Dallas’s business. The bad employee was fired by Dallas. What is the news here? How is this different than any other business in Alaska, the US or the rest of the world? Every business encounters a bad employee eventually. Oh that’s right … it must be “pick on Dallas by grumpy old people in Alaska” day. That day occurs at least 3 times a week up here.

    • James: you presume Dallas hired a “bad employee.” what is that based on? the “bad employee” was a “bad employee” in the eyes of another employee. the other employee quit. Dallas said that employee has no credibility; that she was an animal-rights plant trying to sabotage his kennel. so he fired the “bad employee,” plus the “bad employees” girlfriend, on the recommendation of someone who has no credibility?

      pick on Dallas? Alaska’s biggest sport star either wrongfully fired two people, or he gave significant credibility to the supposed animal-plant his kennel publicly attacked as lacking credibility when she said there were “bad” (to use your word) things going on there.

      • Well Craig, Jen’s letter also mentions that there was a negative reference given from one of Whiskey’s previous employers. Hard to say how “bad” an employee this Whiskey was, without said negative reference, but for some reason the Seavey’s felt the need to dump him-may not have been totally based on the recommendation of that someone who has no cred.

      • Dallas wasnt paying attention. Hes too busy trying to make money. Abbie Crowder is a close friend and I emergency extracted her from Dallas Seavey’s kennel. Things were worse than bad. I encouraged Abbie to take pictures and document the happenings that she reported to me. I asked her to take pictures and videos. I asked her to keep a journal. At night we discussed what happened during the day. The pictures tell the tale. Dogs were denied medical care and perfectly find and healthy puppies were allowed to die because of accidental breeding where the female was only a year old and lay on the puppies, smothering them. LOTS MORE

      • Um Abbie Crowder is no plant. I asked her to take the photos and videos when she told me what was happening. I am a musher. Things are going to change.

    • The desperation in these dogs faces is palpable. I am a dog musher and a very close friend of Abbie Crowder, gave her her first sled dog. I fielded the phone calls, and I asked her to take the photos, I have all the photos, and its bad. You big racers are in for some accountability. This is unacceptable. I am no PETA and neither is Abbie. Neither of us are old or grumpy. We are dedicated to humane and responsible and yes, LOVING animal care. You want to know what our problem is? we love dogs. Yeah and its that simple. We want the animals cared for responsibly. We want medical care and names and clean environments and good positive training techniques. These photos and videos show the opposite, very very opposite.

      • You keep referring to these “photos” and I’m reminded of an old saying “talk is cheap, whiskey costs money!” We have your large build-up on these photos that you intend to “puplish,” perhaps that pun was intended, too.
        When do we get to see these “bad” photos? Have I overlooked them on here??

  5. I’m stuck on the math and dog genetics side of things here. So Runyan said that 25 pups out of 250 would make the race team. Or 10%. And that a dog’s racing life is five years, barring injury. I take this 5-year stretch to mean from racing maturity at age 2 to around 7 years of age- this is common for most working dogs.

    Nothing real unusual so far except the percentage that make it. Now possibly, for Iditarod racers, the demands of racing have become just so extreme that only the best genetics of the best genetics make the cut? But, given what I know about dog breeding, usually, if you have a highly line-bred (cough, inbred) dog, and you breed him or her to another line-bred dog, you’re going to get fairly uniform pups, if you know what you are doing. Inbreeding/linebreeding is fine if you know the genetics behind each dog, and understand you might get a few real culls in a litter, but mostly super stars. What I mean when I say uniform is that the pups should all be fairly similar in performance (structure, drive, temperament).

    Given the known genetics of linebreeding, it seems that careful breeding would lead to mostly superstar pups that would make the team, barring injury and the low percentage of pups that don’t inherit the genetics you’d hoped they would. I’d argue that, if the breedings were done carefully, and with full knowledge of the dogs behind each breeding (generations back), a far greater percentage than 10% would make the team. I’d say, also, that some sire-dam combos would produce all superstars– and if so I’d breed that female each heat cycle with that male, exclusively. Females can safely breed every heat cycle from around age 2 to 8. Those superstar combo litters will give you most likely half of the super pups you need to make your race team each year (for the math I’m saying that number is 25 pups/year). That would greatly cut down on the 90% of pups that need to be culled, sold, rehomed, (eliminated) from the kennel. It would also mean fewer pups overall, thus less saturation of the sled dog market- meaning more pups are likely to be sold than culled.

    Egil Ellis practiced extremely selective breeding, often off his superstar stud Mike. Few were able to recreate his success, but one could argue nature vs. nurture, as it’s not just genetics (another discussion for another time). My observations of most Iditarod top-15 kennels, tells me that they are not being as selective with breeding pairs as they could/should. And, probably not investing enough in each individual puppy to bring out the best.This is partly because they need pups for the tourists but also there’s a philosophy that more must be better- try this combo just to see. And then there is just poor management leading to accidental breedings.

    The whole point of the rambling comment, is that, even given the demands of today’s Iditarod, far greater than 10% of pups born in a top kennel should qualify for the racing team. I’d even go a far as to say that the numbers should be more like 90% of pups could make the team- or another top team (not culls), while only 10% would not make the cut. But, it would seem that in most top-15 kennels, only 10% of pups continue to make the teams these days.

    So, what’s going on then? We’ve come a long way with dog genetics, seems that it would just make sense, for top mushers to practice extremely selective breeding, and produce far fewer pups. That 10% number just doesn’t make sense and is pretty despicable, no matter how you look at it. Even if you are OK with thinking of dogs as livestock, if only 10% of the livestock you are breeding make the grade for milk, egg, or meat production, and the rest are such poor quality there isn’t any reliable market for them, that’s poor economics and poor husbandry all around. Personally, I do not consider dogs livestock, and based on its marketing, neither does the Iditarod.

    I could be way wrong, maybe dog genetics really are that messy… would be interested in what other mushers have to say, people who have produced many litters over the years.

    • Runyan’s book was published in 1997 about his 1980’s career. Genetics were different then. He is for the most part not talking about breeding lines as creating them. He goes to some length about where to source your breeding dogs. But the 10% problem has been around a long time. Northern mushers, at least a percentage, seem to breed for quality through quantity, looking for the fluke superstar. Horse racing calls them nics. I can recall John Shandelmeier at numerous symposiums making the point that you just made; ‘if 9 out of 10 dogs aren’t making your race team, you shouldn’t be breeding’. Unfortunately if you are an individual unencumbered by the ethical empathy of dogs as individuals, you don’t worry about a 90% failure rate since they won’t be around long any way. There isn’t enough market for 20, 30, 40 kennels breeding multiple litters every year. Breeding kennels like Streeper and Saunderson used to have a market for pups due to superior genetics, which is what Runyan advocated doing with the culls; selling them, but genetics these days are relatively equal across much of the sport and most people are unlikely to out breed 30 year plus pedigrees like Mitch Seavey or Jeff King so the pendulum seems to be swinging in the wrong direction again. Breeding for nics.

      • Pete: i’d generally agree with those observations, but can we still say Jeff is producing the dogs with super genetics? Jeff has yet to break 9 days in the Iditarod. he came close in 2016 when he missed the 9-day barrier by a matter of seconds, but he was ninth.
        Mitch is now closing in on a sub-8 day Iditarod. Dallas isn’t far behind his dad. clearly the Seaveys have dogs with superior genetics. a few others are buying Seavey dogs (i admit i don’t know how many) and staying close. i know Aliy has bought Seavey dogs.
        others, meanwhile, appear to have upped their breeding game. the pool of mushers who’ve gone under 9 days it pretty small. you can sort look at them as the real contenders going forward.
        there are only 14 mushers in the sub-9 day family. neither of them are named King or Buser. six have gotten under the bar once. let’s dismiss them as people who had really good teams who got lucky when everything went perfectly. John Baker and Ramey Smyth are in that group. Baker broke the 9 day barrier in 2011 on a near-perfect trail and Ramey followed him in and under 9 as well. neither has really threatened 9-days since. Ramey came closest when he got within a couple hours this years.
        meanwhile, since the Dallas won in 2014 every winner – 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 – has broken 9 days.
        there have been 25 times under 9 days in this period. mushers named Seavey ran more than a quarter of those sub-9s. Joar and Aliy have three each. Petit and Kaiser have clearly upped their game and went sub-9 this year and last.
        i kind of hate statistics, but these clearly indicate there is a pretty small pool of mushers with really good dogs at the front and if you’re going to hope to compete with them you’re going to have to come up with some really, really good dogs.
        so how does one do that?

      • John: she was not prompted. she volunteered her opinion on Dallas.
        i did not ask her how she formed her opinion. maybe she just watched all of Dallas’s videos. go watch. the changing stories would lead a reasonable person to the believe that, at a minimum, his stories change considerably.
        the sabotage, the revenge, the i’m-so-good-i-don’t-need-to-dope argument, and the i’m-so-smart-i-would-never-do-something-this-stupid argument have all been used by athletes who later turned out to be dopers. any of them could prove to be true, but historically they’ve nearly always proven to be wrong.
        but just for a minute, let’s assume for a minute that you’re right, that the Iditarod decided to do this to get even with Dallas “from filing this complaint aka petition about race last year?”
        why wouldn’t ITC just dope Dallas? slipping some marijuana oil in his coffee or tea at White Mountain would be a lot easier than doping his dog team.
        i’ve spent a fair bit of time in White Mountain over the years. it wouldn’t have been hard to slip dope into whatever anyone was eating or drinking there. it would be so much easier than doping a team. the degree of difficulty isn’t even comparable.

      • Craig: OK leave King out for a moment, otherwise breeding for success appears problematic. But why are King’s lines fading? Race wise he may not be trying as hard, and he has had some unusually tough luck a couple of times, but after all these years has he suddenly become sentimental and is breeding favourites instead of best? One could start investing even more time in your best dogs, using innovative training techniques…say a secret training camp where nobody gets a look at your dogs until the big race, but you can only squeeze so much out of a dog so, yea, how does one do it. Good question but without OOC testing we can’t entirely answer that can we?

      • This is about animal abuse of the worst kind. Dog farming is wrong. period. Screw good genetics, the suffering isnt worth it. All my dogs are competitive and I rarely breed. My dogs look like real Alaskan Indigenous dogs. Brains, good feet, great fur, great temperaments. And great expectations. of me. And if you cant run a race with those qualities you dont know what you are doing. You are factory farming dogs and causing great suffering. Get it?

    • Kiersten: your logic is generally sound, but… you presume superstar pups will give someone the chance to win the Iditarod. what if the pace has reached the point where the best of the superstar pups are required to win the Iditarod? the last best estimate i saw in the running world calculated that Kenya now has 100+ marathoners who can run 2:10.
      most of them aren’t competing on the international stage. most of them can’t get the sponsorship to get out of Kenya to compete on the international stage. why not? because they’re not competitive in today’s marathons. there is talk now of a sub-2 hour marathon.
      and there is talk of a sub-8 day Iditarod. it used to be that if a musher showed up with a team of superstars (not the best of the best superstars, mind you) the vagaries of the Iditarod – bad trail, badly marked trail, storms, bitter cold – gave him or her a chance to win.
      the environmental factors have narrowed. the trail is better. when it has been bad, the restart has been relocated to Fairbanks. the trail is better marked. when is the last time you recall anyone getting lost? there has been some cold snaps, but not so bad that we’ve seen people going back to dogs with the heavy coated dogs of previous years.
      so then the question becomes do you need a team of the best of superdogs to win? or do some of the competitors believe a team of the best of the superdogs is needed? either could change the dynamics of what one needs to breed and select in hopes of winning.
      it is interesting to note that neither Jeff King or Martin Buser, who were once thought to be regularly producing superdogs, have broken the 9-day barrier yet. Buser’s best was 9-1 back in 2014 when he finished sixth. King did come within 46 seconds in 2016. he finished ninth.

      • Craig,
        Some may say that the Iditarod race is at the point where you need to be a liar and a cheat to win…and don’t forget your stash of Tramadol pills for when the odds are stacked against you!

  6. Any musher could have reasons to dope dogs. For example, Iditarod rule 36 says that race officials can withdraw any musher they think isn’t “in a position to make a valid effort to compete.” Mushers don’t want to be kicked out of the race. Dogs who run slowly could get a musher withdrawn.

    Mushers have a variety of reasons for running dogs in the Iditarod. Profit is normally the chief motive. Someone who wants to start or maintain a sled dog touring business, and brag or tell stories about racing needs his dogs to cross the finish line. Place in the race doesn’t matter. Finishing is what counts. The same is true for mushers who hope to be paid for giving talks, giving mushing lessons, leasing dogs, getting book royalties, etc.

      • if she only saw him three times what exactly is he “lying a lot ” about? maybe she could point out each and every instance of him lying and see if that qualifies as him a) actually lying b) lying a lot. and we can better determine if her statements are , truthful. of if she is lying, to make it look like dallass is lying.

      • you have to see someone to conclude they lie? you’ve never discovered someone you’d met only a few times, or never met, who was a liar? we could debate “a lot,” but i figure it was fair comment. “a lot” means “a lot” to different people. and “lying” itself means different things to different people. it sometimes “depends on what the meaning of is is,” doesn’t it?

      • craig: where exactly is abigail ,and her precise words, saying that dallas lied a lot? can you prove she said that? and than can she prove , or provide examples? to support her claim? of him lying a lot? shouldnt be hard if thats the case.

      • John: can i prove it? WTF? i guess you can come by my house and look at the my notes and read where it’s written down “Dallas lies a lot.” what’s your point? as a point of fact, most humans lie a lot. the best study calculated 1.65 lies per day on average. click on the link below. if Dallas is average that’s602.25 times per year (1.65 X 365 = 602.25). that’s “a lot.”
        but let’s say Dallas is twice as good as the rest of us. so he only lies 301 times a year. that’s still a lot.
        i guess Abby could make the accusation against any of us, including me, and be right. just the other day i was asked one of those female to male questions about how something looked and instead of being totally honest, i provided the appropriate answer for the moment which just happened to be a lie.
        the point is, you’re focused on the wrong question. and that question is this: “does Dallas lie about important matters?”
        was he lying when he said he’d never heard of tramadol? was he lying when he said he didn’t dope his dogs? was he lying about having reasons to believe others were trying to sabotage him? was he lying when he suggested he had names that he wouldn’t public reveal to attach to those potential saboteurs?
        i don’t know. those are questions probably only Dallas can answer.

      • craig like i pointed out on your facebook “the plot thickens” maybe it was the capacity of that post for comments but several of mine dont show up, not sure if thats you censoring certain comments? but regardless. –> one of my points was 1) dallas has history of concusions; memory loss headaches 2) the seaveys have a big kennel tourism thing and cant be there for better or worse to micromance everything. 3) inconsistency with abbys two quotes leads me to believe the possibility is there for you to be leading her to the space in a conversation back and forth between you veteran reporter, trying to get a girl to say what you want, “Dallas lying” without her volunteering this data by her own will and volition ; coming to the conclusion to voice that sentiment independent of the conversation with yuo. thats basically, if this was court. you tampering with a witness, and telling them or geting them to say something that they wouldnt otherwise say. of course maybe it didnt play out that way: but than why is there not audio or written record of your back and forth with abby? i remember years ago when mushing magazine greg sellentin interviewed dallas, and many other mushers. he took the time to record audio, and posted that online, in addition to the written articles. a lot of the interviews and shit u see with reproters these days, is not really objective, and they love to insert their own, –not just you — but reporters in general, their own slant or angle on things and opinion on things to the point where its pretty easy to spot a bias and a person sort of projecting their own ideas and opinions on a a subject on to someone they are speaking to. unfortunaetely here. in this instance. we get into the real tricky ground of –> “Retaliation is illegal, and occurs when employees are penalized for filing complaints or lawsuits against a company.” sourced from ( dallas had a big petition, never any issues with drugs, but a lot of success with racing. prior to this year. now why , right after his big petition, does it look like the race might have penalized him from filing this complaint aka petition about race last year. now this, combined with the fact the seavey kennel is so big, so economically successful, and positions dallas so well, that to suggest that tramodol has somethign to do with a win for a musher like him, positioned as he is, i think anyone who is savvy with dog racing and iditarod would laugh at it. thats not the ingredient that makes it so that him and his dad can win the race. and they have won the race a lot without a positive test, and the test is too glaring , wrong time, too saturated not enough data from itc. too many problems with process and transparency. if i were you tho i wouldnt speak to abby again unless you got audio or written from her because it looks like you are tampering with a witness, imo. and if she has something she wants to volunteer, we, as an audience. would want to make sure we see it in context: aka for instance if you were in the conversation and said to her, so “do u think dallas lies a lot” and she said yes to you. than thats not the same as her coming up with this herself. and additionally, like i pointed out. it conflicts with the earlier sentiment that she had very little contact with dallas, and her issues were with the other handlers and mismanagement. i think to be fair if yuo took the average twentiesh girl form teh states and stuck them in a semi remote place in alaska, in a wierd room and board work situation with maybe not a lot of other friends or time off, regardless of where they were working. a dog kennel or somewhere else, the potential for their to be cultural differences and problems and unhappiness is really high. anyway. the issue with the other comments showing is problematic for you, as a reporter, like your lack of evidence and proof in context that abigail said “dallas lies a lot” because it makes yuo look like you are censoring some parts of a conversation, public dialogue re this, to try to give a impression of what you want to convey, not all sides of a debate. and same with the lack of raw data re your correspondence with your source, abigail, who frankly, i think is not really qualified to be commenting on this thru yuo, too much, because the data has too much potential to be corrupted by you, aka tampered wiht. and to lose its integrity.

      • yeah why? a young kid knows that her boss has other plans. so he uses dropping our of the Irod as an excuss to have a public temper tantrum when he already was running a different race. LIE. just one of many.

    • radical: “advocating thorough or complete social change.” everyone becoming a vee-gone or veg-ann or however you pronounce “vegan” would be a complete social change. california has not reached the definition yet, but might be approaching it.

  7. Not very important, but: Finnmarksløpet is a Norwegian event. Finnmark is the northernmost county of Norway.

    • of course it is. i met the Finnmarkslopet researchers who came here to study the Iditarod. somebody’s fingers slipped up on the Finn…. it’s now fixed. thanks.

  8. Mat-Su Animal Control actually let it slip on 10/28 that Jen had redirected and backtracked on abuse allegations, AFTER Abbie filed her complaint and we also had PETA file on her behalf (with both animal control and the state police – the state police case being STILL OPEN). I was waiting to see what her angle was. Clever, but too late and inexcusable for the conditions they are harboring dogs in.

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