With the exception of three of the dogs listed (Mohawk, the kennel matriarch, and brothers Big Ben and Starman) all of the dogs have been bred and raised by us. We purchase very few dogs, preferring to raise and train our own puppies. Our dogs are not only used for racing on our competitive teams, but also used to run our sled dog tours here in Michigan. We have worked hard to breed and raise dogs that are fast enough to win mid-distance races, tough enough to finish the Iditarod, and lovable enough to win over the hearts of our tour guests. Our website is www.natureskennel.com, where all of our dogs and their pedigrees are listed under the “Our Athletes” section. TSGus, male, born June 12, 2005. 52 lbs.Thank goodness nobody buys one year old dogs that don’t pull much, are mediocre eaters and not real excited to run because as a yearling, due to these inabilities, we had Gus up for sale. Then as a two year old, under the patient training of one of our guides Jake Berkowitz, Gus started to shine. Gus concluded that year by leading Jake and our young team for over half of the Iditarod. Last year Gus joined our main race team and improved even more. Just like his sister Rhu, he is now a perfect command leader and one of the most animated dogs in the kennel.Gimli, male, born August 20th, 2003. 58 poundsGimli is the super-model of the kennel. He eats as if he is always concerned about getting fat. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that he doesn’t eat. He is skinny in the fall, he is skinny in the winter, he is skinny in the spring, and he is even skinny during the summer. He has finished the Iditarod but it is his lack of appetite that has kept him from being a great distance sled dog. In mid-distance racing, Gimli is almost untouchable. He is a very hard driving leader that seems to have the tightest tugline in the team. When running lead with his brother Clark, and has a strong dog team behind him, it is a loping magic carpet ride.Arlo, male, born March 18th, 2003. 50 lbs.A book will someday be written about Arlo. As a small puppy, he became deathly ill and spent a week in intensive care at the vet hospital. Even when he returned home he was too weak to go for walks. We refused to give up on Arlo and soon learned that Arlo refuses to give up on anything. Even after four Iditarods and multiple mid-distance races, we have yet to see him tired…..or act normal. This dog is weird! If we stop the team for too long, he will dig in the snow and stick his head in the hole. When loaded into the truck for transport, Arlo sticks his head into a corner and wags his tail uncontrollably. He also growls all of the time with his tail wagging wildly. Not at anything, he just growls. This dog is weird!Ayn, female, born September 17, 2007. 40 lbs.Ayn is another amazing TC daughter. We usually like to let our one year olds develop some before testing them in races, but Ayn seemed mature for her age. Therefore, we lent her to our friend, Trent Herbst, for the season, and Ayn did not let us down. Even though she was only a year old, she often led Trent’s Iditarod team through the storm-ravaged Iditarod. After the race season was over, Ed took Ayn on a 300 mile training run with the main race team and she fit in perfectly. We expect her and Rhu to be paired up together this coming winter. Let’s hope the boys can keep up with them.Bert, male, born October 2002. 68 lbs.Bert was given to us as a yearling from Jim Warren. Jim was worried that a slight turn of Bert’s wrist (evident since birth) would make him a better tour dog than racing dog. We gave Bert a chance to run with the “big dogs” and he surprised us all. Bert has been a go-to leader for our race team the last four years. He ran lead with Big Ben on Ed’s record setting UP 200 team, has finished both the Iditarod and La Grande Odyssee, and yes, is even a great tour dog. Thanks for the free dog, Jim! Big Ben, male, born October 5, 2002. 72 lbs. Unlike his brother, Starman, Big Ben is the gentle giant who puts up with his brother’s antics. He’s controlled, considerate, and follows us everywhere around the dog yard. Ben has one of those magical personalities and is loved by race vets, tour guests, and children. He is a phenomenal leader and incredibly fast for his size. He has lead both Ed and Tasha to UP 200 championships and has run multiple Iditarods. Thanks Aaron for raising such an amazing sled dog!Chong, male, born October 12, 2004. 50 lbs.Thanks to Ed’s not so favorite dog, TC, we have another kennel superstar. Chong is a naturally gifted athlete, with exceptional speed and agility. He’s a natural born leader, having inherited some of his mother’s cockiness. His most memorable trait, often witnessed at the start of races and when leaving checkpoints, is the pounding of his front feet on the ground as he anxiously waits for the rest of us to get our act together. Clark, male, born August 20th, 2003. 58 lbs.Clark is the perfect sled dog and a great best friend. He has been in lead or swing at every finish line we have crossed. He is incredibly hard driving yet has never had even the slightest injury in training or racing due to his superb athleticism. Clark is probably the fastest dog we own, most likely thanks to Pluto, Gunnar, and Burner in his pedigree. Clark is also one of the happiest dogs in the kennel. He puts on a show during hook up and will be the first one waiting in line to get love from tour guests. We have had him sire only one litter so far, but two of those pups (Gus and Rhu) will be main leaders for our race team in 2010.Cupid, male, born February 14, 2006. 58 lbs. Cupid, Ero’s brother, is another of the Valentine’s Day puppies. Cupid and his siblings are as sweet as they come, some would say because of their birth date, but it probably more due to the fact that they are line-bred Mohawk dogs. Cupid, like his brother Ero, is also a quiet superstar. Both brothers are great gee-haw leaders and will run through anything with anybody. We are looking forward to seeing what he can do as he matures as an athlete.Ero, male, born February 14, 2006, 58 lbs. Ero is a very easy dog to overlook. He’s always calm, he gets along with everyone, and never makes a peep. He’s an easy keeper, never gets injured, never acts up, but always gets the job done. If we have a problem dog, we run him with Ero as he’s a model student of good behavior. At only three years old, he and his brother, Cupid, have both finished two Iditarods. I don’t think we’ll be overlooking him in the future!Jade, male, born November 4th. 55 lbs.Onyx’s athletically challenged but very tough brother. When the team is really flying, Jade is struggling. When the team is pulling hard up a hill, Jade is pulling the hardest. He is a natural born leader that can lead a team around a three mile tour loop 20 times a day or can lead a team through a storm on the Yukon River. When in the team, Jade is one of the dogs we forget about. He always is excited to run, always eats, always rests, always pulls, and always smiles.Luke, male, born September 15th, 2002, 55 lbs.Luke is almost the exact opposite of his sister TC. He has been Ed’s go-to leader in the past two Iditarods because he will lead through any kind of weather or obstacle. He is the slowest dog in the kennel, lacking the speed necessary to compete in mid-distance racing in the Midwest. Everything he does seems to be slow and calculated. Maybe it is this trait that makes him so valuable in distance racing. He can run 8-10 miles an hour forever and never questions a command. In fact, sometimes we swear that he can read our minds because he will take commands before they are given. He is one of the few dogs in our kennel that is shy toward strangers. Once you earn his respect though, you have a friend for life.Onyx, male, born November 4th, 2005. 55 lbs.One of Ed’s favorite dogs of all time! He received all of his father’s (Starman) good traits but none of his bad ones. This dog is the happiest, strongest, running and eating machine that you could imagine. He has the speed to win a U.P. 200 and the durability to finish an Iditarod fatter than he started. We are still working on his potential in lead as it seems that his body sometimes moves faster than his brain.Rhu, female, born June 12, 2005. 44 lbs.Everybody loves Rhu! Our guides argue over who gets Rhu in their bunk at night and there is already a waiting list for this Clark and TC prodigy when she retires. In fact, one of our friends suggested that we auction Rhu off on E-bay to fund the ridiculous cost of running the Iditarod. We are sure she would bring in the money but the problem is we need Rhu leading our race team. She is incredibly intelligent and a perfect command leader. As the big boys comfortably plow right through the drifts, Rhu seems to effortlessly float over them.Starman, male, born October 5, 2002. 59 lbs.Starman and his brother, Big Ben, were purchased from Aaron Peck in 2005. Starman is the child who never stops moving, bothering, pacing, poking, jumping, and getting in other people’s business. He never tires, loves to run, and just about drives us crazy. Luckily, he is a sled dog machine and can run forever. He is always the first one to pound the line when leaving a checkpoint. Starman has finished multiple Iditarods, has been on our winning UP 200 teams, and was even allowed on the plane to France to run with Tasha’s 2006 La Grande Odyssee team. Mohawk (Momo), female, born August 23, 1996, weight no longer disclosedPurchasing Momo from Susan Butcher was the best investment we have ever made for our kennel. Momo is the daughter of Roxy Wright Champaine’s Pluto and Susan Butcher’s Sissel. Momo is one of those once in a lifetime dogs who produces such incredibly athletic and social pups that our kennel would not be where it is today without her. Momo is now fully retired from “kennel life” and spends her days sleeping by the woodstove, going for car rides, and visiting thousands of classrooms each year with Tasha as part of our educational programs. Tasha Canine (TC), female, born September 15, 2002. 53 lbs.There’s only one dog in the kennel who never gives Ed the time of day, and that’s TC. In fact, the only two reasons she still resides here are, number one, she is Tasha’s dog and, number two, she, like her mother Momo, produces phenomenal pups. Besides the fact that she’s bossy, listens to no one, and sleeps on Ed’s side of the bed when he’s out of town, TC is a great asset to our kennel.
Racing in the ACE Race with Tonya Helm On this episode of the Mushing podcast,