J. D. McFaul's Seppala Kennels

JD McFaul and Foxstand's Sunday
McFaul with his leader Foxstand's Sunday

DONNIE MCFAUL HAD HIS START in sleddogs in the early 1940s when he was employed as game warden in a private hunting preserve. Winter patrols of the area could best be made by dog team. McFaul was not satisfied with the mongrels with which he had started. Soon GATINEAU Kennels had its start from a part-Seppala Siberian Husky foundation provided by FOXSTAND circa 1942. The kennel was sponsored by C. S. MacLean, a wealthy manufacturer. The partnership bought the remaining stock of the Wheeler kennel in 1950 and began a pure Seppala breeding programme using Wheeler and Shearer stock. An occasional Gatineau dog has contributed to the preservation of the Seppala line, as much of the Gatineau lineage was overwhelmingly Seppala. Donnie was very proud of his patrol team, much more than he was of his later racing dogs. When I visited him at his home in Maniwaki, Quebec, in the early 1970s he showed me stacks of photos of his Gatineau teams, usually in single-file "trapper's hitch", often lined out and lying down in the snow with no snub-line or snow anchor in sight. He reminisced about his precision command leader NICKO OF GATINEAU whom he could gee and haw in figure-eights through the legs of a table and who would drive only for Donnie.

THE SEPPALA KENNELS of MacLean and McFaul in Maniwaki was crucial to the continuation of the pure Seppala trunk from 1950 through 1963. Prior to the purchase of the Wheeler stock and kennel name, McFaul had acquired FOXSTAND'S SUNDAY from Shearer and ZARINA OF SEPPALA III from Wheeler. CKC stud book records show eleven dogs transferred from Wheeler to MacLean and McFaul. Seven of them were resold to Shearer; McFaul kept only four: BILKOFF OF SEPPALA, BILKA OF SEPPALA II, VOLK OF SEPPALA, AND VODKA OF SEPPALA III.
      Five litters were bred in 1951 and 1952 making use of the new genetic resources from the Wheeler kennel. BILKOFF sired two litters out of BILKA II. VODKA III sired a litter out of ZARINA III. VODKA III also sired a litter out of one of the BILKOFF/BILKA II progeny, while VOLK sired a litter out of another. At that point the partnership acquired FOXSTAND'S GEORGIA. The breeding carried on from there over the next ten years, producing a total of thirty litters.

Last McFaul team 1962
The last McFaul team
(1962, Ste. Agathe des Monts, QC)

LIKE WHEELER, MCFAUL SOLD his share of stock to New Englanders, especially to racing drivers like Keith Bryar, Charlie Belford and Joel Nordholm. In the 1950s Donnie asked for and received the sum of $1000 for his male Seppalas (the equivalent of $10-20,000 today). He was reluctant to sell females at any price, though. Keith and Jean Bryar who purchased over half a dozen McFaul Seppala males were unable to persuade him to part with an open bitch. J. M. McDougall, a fellow Scot, finally conquered McFaul's resistance and managed to purchase two females, VIXEN OF SEPPALA IV and CHUGACH OF SEPPALA. Others had to go to William Shearer or Allan Gagnon to find bitch stock.
      Like most racing drivers of his day, McFaul did not customarily drive big teams. He usually raced with seven or nine dogs, using a single leader. McFaul was a rather quiet, dour and very private person. Few traces are left of his twenty-year career in Seppala sleddogs. Relatively little information can be found about his kennel and his career, apart from the bare facts. Photos of him and of his dogs are rare, apart from a few taken at races. He was not much given to self-promotion.
      In 1963 Donnie retired and sold the remainder of his stock to Earl F. Norris, Alaskan Kennels, of Willow, AK, who had no interest in keeping Seppala strain going. He had purchased the McFaul stock only as an aid to the genetic renewal of his own Seeley-derived strain. He took just a few McFaul dogs to Alaska, leaving many "farmed out" in eastern Ontario and western Quebec. The author of this article is probably the last living man to have seen, certainly to have owned, dogs from McFaul. Doug Willett, the ISSSC guru, came along too late and never saw a living McFaul Seppala.

THE RESCUE OF SEPPALA STRAIN from impending extinction in the early 1970s was achieved through the use of McFaul-bred stock and the McFaul-derived Malamak line. After Donnie's retirement the main Seppala trunk came very close to extinction; Shearer and Turner had quit in the mid-1950s. McDougall and Bryar had made the switch to Alaskan village dogs as the races became shorter and faster. The strong network of the 1940s had fallen apart and no one was breeding Seppalas any longer. Had it not been for dogs like DITKO OF SEPPALA, SHANGO OF SEPPALA, DUSKA OF SEPPALA, VANKA OF SEPPALA and the Malamak-derived LYL OF SEPSEQUEL and FROSTFIRE ANISETTE the Leonhard Seppala sleddog heritage might have been irretrievably lost in the 1970s.

Photos courtesy Elsie Chadwick, Siberian Husky Archives