Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Dawning of a New Day...

Shhh! Don’t tell Tamra. Each morning, the dog yard once fed and watered, our house morphs into a concert hall. One of the grandest on this planet! Where we live, Annie Lake, is more than just a body of water- it’s a heavenly cathedral surrounded by 5 –7 thousand foot mountain peaks in any direction the viewer so chooses. Add a bit of Bono and ‘The Edge’ to the acoustics and –wala- Welcome to DAWG WORLD.

For yours truly this life is All about the ENERGY. A magical universe, where one’s greatest attributes might just as well be their worst weakness. As a young boy I sought to collect my very own ‘secret potion’ in order to get as much out of this existence on earth as possible. The ‘learning center’ I frequented the most was the local movie theatre in Evanston on Central St., just around the block was my grade school St. Athanasius. Going to movies was a religion. I figured that even if there were only a few useful minutes of film, at least they were something to learn from. Cinema, Books, Music: wherever I could find knowledge that I was interested in was the direction we were heading- North by Northwest.

It was time to create our very own movie, the protagonist? My furry buddy Maverick, over the following decade he would show me another side to the equation--The “University of the Wilderness”. A blonde Shepard/Labrador mix, Mav and I shared the same heart and soul: One Love, One Life. From the Appalachians to the Pacific, Florida to Alaska; our tails were always wagging away in search of the latest curiosity along the trail. As life progressed my love of his canine world multiplied. First with pups: Marcellus, lil’ June-June and Mr. Uncky Baby, the ‘last of the Mohicans’. And so the energy continued to flow as the auroras pranced across the nighttime sky leading us on into the unknown that lay just ahead.

Native Athabascans of the Alaskan interior welcomed the ‘cheechacko’ newcomers into their towns and villages. This was a gift like no other, the opportunity to view the true ‘Heart’ of Alaska’s Greatland. Who is the white man who walks his dog’s with leashes? Doesn’t he know what a sled is for? ( Is he Heyoka?) We shall teach them our ways, but will they listen? Through daily work, perseverance, pain and Love the tale unfolded- the energy increased. But was it for the best? By now there were 30 pooches in our tribe. It was time to see what the rest of the mushing world was all about.

Racing is unnerving. After so many years in the woods alone having other eyes watching you was a bit disconcerting to say the least. The easy part is being on the trail with the pooches. Mother Nature can be a bit demanding at times, especially in this modern age of manmade weather. The Dawgs are my meditative soul mates, my medicine. We use our eyes, ears, nose, tails and tongue to communicate. Choosing more often to sing than talk: there’s nothing like howling away after an enjoyable meal at the end of the day!! Mr. Marcellus and June-Mari, now 11 and 12 years of age, have been my greatest mentors. Though Junie became well known in racing circles, having been my main leader in 9 One-Thousand mile races, her boyfriend has always been the KING. He competed in dozens of events himself but because of his brute strength he was placed closer to the sled in the wheel position. Though Marcellus will always be an amazing “Gee-Haw” leader his greatest asset is his excitement and vitality. “Junie will get us there, don’t worry boy, you two can play later.”

I miss playing with the older pooches during competitive races but they are enjoying the days away giving tourist rides, pouncing on puppies (usually the other way around) or lounging on the sofa watching through the window as the beavers constantly reconstruct their wooden igloo across the lake. Looking into their wizened snouts life flashes back to full moons spent on the Mighty Yukon River, animal encounters, cheating death once again. The day after yesterday is..? And unfortunately they have to put up with a bit of noise from across the sea that I am enjoying listening to once again. No, its not our Buck-toothed friend chomping on a tree. It’s the t.v., today’s dvd features these fellas from Dublin playing a melody or two in some castle far, far away. Here, next to the lake, our daily performance has begun out in the dogyard – a professional pooper scooper dancing around with the pooches as the sunshine shimmers down upon us, pouring out of the mountains to the east. The ENERGY of the moment is captivating.

It’s a Beautiful Day….
Listen up, be careful what you wish for my friends- it just might come true. Fifteen years ago I had a dream, an epiphany – and now I’m… who? We’ve been featured in papers and magazines, on beer cartons, posters, documentaries and even an upcoming Discovery Channel feature. This ‘mushing career’ has had it’s successes and failures. Over time one learns that life allows us to fail if we choose to. Lord knows our kennel’s resume has had its ups and downs. On this trail of life evolution is inevitable, whether one finds the right path is up to them. This past summer has been the longest of my existence. Not only in anticipation of the future but pondering wasted potential as well. Nobody said this would be easy, it’s time to refocus the Vision. We know what direction we seek, now it’s all about “Controlling the Energy”- human and canine. Not in hopes of Victory but PEACE (of mind). We’re at ‘war’ not with others but ourselves-- in hopes of creating a prettier picture for all to enjoy. Viewing events that are happening around this ever changing planet of ours, we know how lucky we are to be surrounded by such unique loving creatures- nothing else compares. We realize that with ENERGY comes responsibility, we also realize that there is no power greater than that of a smile; whether it be on the tip of the Snout or… in one’s own Eyes.

Enjoy the View, Hugh and the Laughing Eyes Kennel Crew

Interested in viewing our unique world? We shall be presenting the “Tails of the North” Tour from Oct. 9th thru the 18th. For more info. on where we’ll be traveling thru in the U.S. e-mail us at There’s nothing we enjoy more than showing others our unique treasures—as well as helping them to find their very own :)

Here's Flame and Titan from the Yukon Quest last year. The photo was taken by Derek Crowe and will be featured in a photo essay of Derek Crowe's work in an upcoming Canadian Geographic. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 24, 2006

As the Wind Blows

Greetings Family, Friends and fellow Dogmushers!

Wet and windy back here at Annie Lake. It's WONDERFUL to be home considering it was wet and windy up on the glacier as well- been one of those summers all over Alaska and the Yukon. As promised here's a brief synopsis of our time living upon the ice. Though only a month in duration, at four thousand feet life tends to move in slow motion. Having the dogs to care for and play with as well as our daily visitors', from all over the globe, enthusiasm made it quite an enjoyable 'working vacation'. Located just across the bay from the town of Seward Ak., just south of Anchorage, Godwin Glacier would be our summer training camp for the yearlings as well as a chance for the older pooches to stay in shape.

Upon our arrival I was dismayed to see a billboard advertising IDITARIDE sleddog tours. "Is that the Seavey's?", I thought to myself. Being one of the more well known mushing families in the Greatland I was a bit apprehensive to be 'moving in' on their turf. Our objective wasn't to earn piles of money- we made alot more working in Skagway the previous 2 seasons- it was to experience glacier living, and most importantly, get back on the sled again. Crazy Larry was our helicopter pilot, an experienced Nam vet , this fella could fly in any type of weather. Once the dogs and various supplies were hauled up, we hooked up a team and went for a short jaunt. Sunglasses are a must at this altitude as the rays ricocheting off of the snowsurface can be quite powerful. Our camp was snuggled up against the mountainside with the main heart of the glacier a thousand feet below us, the valley stetching a half mile across. The loop we took tourists on was quite enjoyable. Immediately we whooshed straight downhill for nearly a thousand feet. If that didn't get their attention then perhaps having them be in charge of the team would. After taking some photos I'd inform them that they were now the 'dogmusher'. As I sat down in the sled I could usually feel their trepidation at such a daunting prospect.

Lil' did they know who was really in charge, "All right Marcellus, C'mon Junie!" Feeling the power of the dogteam before them usually created huge smiles which spread across the customer's faces. The energy and freedom of movement are invigorating. The aqua blue glacial ice with snowcapped surrounding mountains created a surreal landscape. Most of the time it felt as if we were residing closer to the south pole than Alaska. Our living quarters were white, propane heated tents. Though never terribly cold, the heat came in handy as we were constantly drying out wet clothing. Deyaah, our black pet labrador considered the area directly in front of the heater to be her 'parking space'. My two human cohorts, one french and one german were both enjoyable company that gave our community a mellow atmosphere. As usual meals consisted mainly of Spaghetti, guess I must have been italian in another life. For entertainment, besides the dogs, we went snowmachining up to a viewpoint overlooking the ocean or tabogganing down a steep hill behind camp. Our radio picked up a few stations from the Kenai so that we were able to keep up on world events realizing once again how lucky we are to have the chance to live out our "Dreams".

Speaking of which our "Tails of The North" Tour will be kicking off on Oct. 8th thru the 18th. Beginning in Chicago we'll be travelling throughout the lower 48 showcasing the unique lifestyle that we enjoy up here in the Northland. For those of you who have already inquired please contact us asap so that we can let you know where we expect to be and when. My buddy Mike Bayer will once again be our navigator as we trek across the country. Presentations include a short video, displays, posters as well as a Q and A session. Besides schools we're also hoping to book some senior citizens homes as well as civic groups (boy scouts, elks club, etc.) Our 1st short novel "Annie, My Life on The Trail so Far..." will also be available. It's basically a view of dogmushing that our furry lil' girl has been writing and working on for the last three years now. And what a tale she has to tell!

It's been nearly twelve years now since the 'big move' from Chicago to the Greatland. This year we shall be participating in our 10th One - Thousand mile race. Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed all the experiences that we would have shared on this trail of life so far. These dogs are a treasure that we enjoy sharing with the rest of the world. Life isn't just about trophies and money, what brought us here was imagination and love. Sure there's some heartbreak and hardship along the way but only through persistence and perseverance can the true 'rainbows' of this world be witnessed.

Hope to see YOU soon, for more info on the school tour: The rest of our Glacier experience, including the Discovery Channel shoot with Jeff Corwin, Make- A-Wish rides, bear encounters as well as Hobo Jim will be posted on our blog within the next week. I'd tell ya about it now but... I've got dogs to run!!

Enjoy the view! Tamra, Hugh and the Laughing Eyes Kennel Crew

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Here's the team taking Susan and John for a ride on Godwin Glacier in Seward.  Posted by Picasa

Puppy Playground

Playing with puppies with Susan and John who came to visit from Washington, DC. In the photo with Tamra and Susan are Ellsworth, Tolliver, Wildbill and Bullock. I think Delilah and Calamity were chasing John around :) Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 10, 2006

This summer at Godwin Glacier in Seward, AK Posted by Picasa

On the Glacier in Seward, AK

Greetings friends, family and fellow mushers,
After replying to an employment ad that was posted on, the pooches and myself have spent the last month just outside of Seward, AK (1 1/2 hrs. south of Anchorage) residing on a glacier at about four thousand feet. The "Dream" for us has never solely centered on winning some race, a big trophy and accolades from the papparazzi. Life in the northland is about exploration, not only of this grand and wondrous land, but of one's soul within. Though the weather and isolation have been demanding at times, the sense of awe at the dawning of each and every new day has been invigorating.

The pooches I brought with me are basically our yearlings, the main race leaders, as well as Junie, Marcellus and all the retired racing veterans. Now going on 11 years or older, most of these guys and gals have been with us from the start, showing this Chicago city boy the ropes from Fairbanks to Tanana, Whitehorse to Kotzebue-- over 30, 000 trail miles over the last decade. Some might speculate that last year's YukonQuest was our most difficult experience yet to be honest not being able to have fellas like Mr. Marcellus, Uncus, Malaki and Makaj as well as the lovely ladies; Shyela and Gracie on the racing squad was heart wrenching. That's what's been so wonderful about summer tourism. The opportunity to hook up a team to the sled everyday and show others from around the globe that there is beauty in this difficult world of ours; one must be willing to seek it in order to enjoy it. There have been numerous beautiful moments over the last few weeks that I will rehash in more detail when I have a bit more time around the computer: sled rides for kids from the "Make A Wish" foundation, a chance encounter with a fellow alumnus and his family from Loyola Academy, Sunday nights spent listening to one of my heroes, Hobo Jim jamming away at the Yukon Bar, as well as the chance to go "Hollywood" in a Discovery Channel event to be shown this spring starring Jeff Corwin flying around the glacier with the Laughing Eyes Kennel pooches leading the way.

Life is about change, evolution. Living on a glacier time moves in slow motion- silence rarely interrupted by the occassional bear or sheep sighting. The rumbling of the ice as chunks calve off into the river below. All of this a reminder of how lucky we are to be on this rare and unique planet. We are all afforded so many wonderful oportunities to view mother nature's wonders-- I wish you well on your own personal journeys!

Just a reminder-- The SCHOOL TOUR throughout the U.S. will be this October featuring our 1st book-- 'Annie, My life on The Trail So Far...' Presentations include a short video, dogmushing displays, q and a session as well as a chance for the kids to meet a 'professional' sleddog, Mr. Marcellus. There are some dates remaining, e-mail us asap at or call 867-456-7714. There's nothing we enjoy more than showing others the beauty of our unique northern lifestyle as well as our beloved pooches.

Look forward to seeing you on down the trail... Hugh and the Laughing Eyes Kennel Crew

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

1 week to go!

Hugh has been away in Seward since the beginning of July working for Godwin Glacier. He's due back next Wednesday and I can't wait! It will end up being 7 weeks that he's been away and that's a freaking long time. He's had awful weather up there (I'm usually able to talk to him once a week when he comes down to town - usually to see Hobo Jim play, have a shower and a real meal). It's been freezing rain and sleet most of the time and they're talking that they'll have to move camp soon because of dimishing snow. Hugh calls it the ice prison. Basically since he's been gone our projects have been put on hold. I'm working full time so with only me looking after the remaining 30 or so dogs plus puppies I can keep up with the daily chores but that's about it. The weather here has been very wet, overcast and cold in the evenings. Perfect dog running weather but because they're not running they're also playing harder and getting a few nicks.

Yesterday morning I let Sophie and Annie out and they decided to go for a run - straight to our nearest neighbour - Trapper Ray or as his sign proudly states Bumguts (I hear it's a delicacy but I have no desire to try). Anyway, after 10 minutes of them being gone I drove over there and they ran out and followed me home. I could smell Annie before I saw her. Why do dogs love nasty smells? She had obviously found a ripe one and by the time I'd hooked her up, I couldn't get it out of my nose. My only hope was the rain and mud yesterday would help to decrease the odours. It did but not enough that I'd let her inside again last night. Inside last night was Nathan who is always getting into fights and getting the worst of it. This week he is sporting a bite on his neck that looks like dracula got him. I tried putting him in a pen so his collar wouldn't rub at it but in 5 minutes he'd jumped the 6 foot high fence. So I compromise and keep him in every night now. He has his little rubber ball that keeps him (and me) entertained for hours (he likes to play catch with himself).

If anyone is reading from the Whitehorse or Yukon area, we now have Pursuit dog food available. A 30/20 performance food from Dr. Tims Pet Food. Check out for more info about it and Momentum (38/26). Finally good dog food in the Yukon at a reasonable price! Contact me for more info and prices.

I'm sure Hugh will have lots to say when he gets back. He hasn't had time to write much of anything since he left so he has lots of catching up to do. I see the first day of sign-ups for the Yukon Quest were this past weekend. So great that there were 20 entrants! Hopefully the purse increase and promise of a better trail will help get the race back on track. Thanks to the Quest board for finally listening the suggestions of the mushers. Hugh is having a hard time imagining not being on the Quest trail this winter. He wants to support the race and not let one bad experience dictate his future. So who knows? - maybe he'll add his name to the list some time this fall.

I'm still in shock about Susan Butcher passing. I had been keeping up to date reading her and David's updates on the computer. It sounded like there was hope. It didn't sound like the end was near. My only hope is that she is with her dogs that had passed before her. I can't imagine how hard it must be for her husband and daughters. I think because she was so strong throughout her life and mushing career that we all thought if anyone could fight this disease, she could. In the end I guess you never know.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Start of the 2006 Iditarod.  Posted by Picasa

Tamra and Mahoosic during the Yukon Quest Posted by Picasa