The Lead Dogs of Seppala Kennels IV
Mr. & Mrs. J. Jeffrey Bragg, Rossburn, MB


Tonya and Yolanda
         lead a Seppala Kennels passenger team in 2003 with Michael Roy in the basket
Yolanda and Tonya of Seppala at lead, eight little Seppalas bringing Michael Roy home after a 20-mile run in January 2003
SEPPALA KENNELS (IV) always had more than its fair share of fine lead dogs. Usually we needed to pick and choose our leader trainees, because we had too many lead prospects to train them all adequately. This page can't begin to recognise all of them, so we'll mention only those who bore the brunt of the hard work, day after day, year after year. Two exceptional workers appear in the photo above, in which Continental Kennel Club CEO Michael Roy was the passenger on a 20-mile run in the Grizzly Valley hinterland in winter of the year 2003. Tonya of Seppala and Yolanda of Seppala turned in a flawless performance that day, negotiating a bewildering maze of snowmobile tracks on Flat Lake by voice command without the slightest hesitation. Two adult 200-pound males is quite a burden for eight rather small dogs but our Seppalas handled the assignment with ease!
On that particular run I chose the leaders to demonstrate what Seppalas could do — Tonya for her drive, initiative and obedience, Yolanda for her perfect backup and support of the command dog. Both were Markovo-Seppalas (the strain that Doug Willett was so enthusiastically denigrating to Mike Roy and anyone else who would listen). I was completely satisfied with those two dogs' performance on that day. Seeing is believing and actions speak louder than any amount of bluff and bluster.

Kidron of Spirit Wind

Kidron of Spirit Wind leads
         a young team in training
Kidron leads a rig team in training on a gravel road in Catalunya (Spain)
Kidron and Zirconia
         stop on a frozen Yukon lake in the hinterland
Kidron and Zirconia stop on a frozen Yukon Lake in the hinterland
KIDRON OF SPIRIT WIND came to us late in the year of 1991 as a young bitch from the kennels of Dick Whitmore in the State of Colorado. She quickly proved her worth as a steady, honest lead dog who would do her best in difficult situations. In Spain she quietly endured the heat, despite her long coat, and in 1992 led our growing team of young Seppalas in rig runs on gravel and dirt surfaced side roads in the foothills of the Prepirineo.

KIDRON was born 1st December 1987, sired by Farkle of Sepp-Alta (by Uelen's Beowulf of Sepp-Alta ex Seppineau's Oka of Windigo) out of Holly of Sepp-Alta (by Ash of Markovo ex Alma of Sepp-Alta). She was rather a throwback to the Harry Wheeler dogs, a big long-coated bitch whose usual weight was around 53 pounds (24 Kg). Her size and coat limited her speed somewhat, but not her heart and determination! Allan Gagnon and Bill Shearer would have loved her.

Kidron of Spirit Wind leads a puppy team in the Yukon
Kidron of Spirit Wind leads a puppy team in the Yukon

When we returned to Canada in 1993 to settle in the Yukon Territory, the wild and rough trails of the bush between the Miners' Range and Lake Laberge came as a rude shock both to the dogs and their drivers Jeffrey and Isa. KIDRON proved a rock of strength and reassurance to us in those first difficult seasons of adjustment. No matter what happened, no matter where we went, KIDRON would always get us home safe and sound. Soon we developed faster, younger leaders like SEPALLEO, but KIDRON continued to lead the second string and to lead exploration teams in attempting unfamiliar or difficult trails. I took teams led by Kidron and Zirconia into steep mountain trails in the Range where I would never have dared to go with the first-string team.

KIDRON was also invaluable in training our youngsters. Her steady, unflappable nature and her honest working attitude (we called her "our Scotch Presbyterian leaddog" and nicknamed her "Kiddles MacFiddles") provided a strong good example for flighty green-broke pups and callow yearlings. Her ability to perform at single lead made her particularly useful with small tricycle wheel-rig puppy teams.

Kidron of Spirit Wind   
Kidron of Spirit Wind

As well as being a staunchly honest and reliable utility leader, KIDRON was a cherished friend and sidekick of Seppala Kennels' owner J. Jeffrey Bragg. She was a beloved "girlfriend" second only to DREAMA in those early years. Kid died in 2001 and I still miss her greatly. For everything that you were and all that you gave us, thank you, KIDRON — I shall never forget you.

Zirconia of Sepp-Alta

Zirconia of Sepp-Alta (nearest the camera) leads the "Russian" team, the Z-litter progeny of Siberia import Shakal iz Solovyev
ZIRCONIA OF SEPP-ALTA was acquired by Seppala Kennels in 1993 when Carolyn Ritter sold out her River View Kennels. She was a dour, serious bitch with a great deal of her sire Beowulf's intensity as well as his noise-making potential. Nominally bred by Doug Willett, she was born and raised at the Ritter Kennels. Zirc ran double lead in ATV training runs with Carolyn, but she was not a very fast leader.

ZIRCONIA was one of our cherished "Powder people." Sired by the immortal UELEN's BEOWULF OF SEPP-ALTA (by Surgut of Markovo ex Helen of Markovo) out of POWDER OF MARKOVO (by Nutok of Markovo ex S-A Athena of Markovo), born 21 March 1988, Zirc represented a strong and nostalgic connection for Isa and myself to the breedings of our Markovo Kennels days in the 1970s. Like KIDRON, she was a big bitch who usually weighed 53 pounds (24 Kg.) and she had the rough, rawboned appearance that was characteristic of her famous sire.

Zirc made her own decisions about trails and trail conditions. She was especially wary of overflow and when she saw standing water on the trail would just come haw with an apologetic but determined look that said, "Sorry, Boss, but that there's open water up ahead and it just ain't safe, so we better turn around and head back home. Hope you don't mind too much!"

Kidron and Zirconia, Seppala Kennels Leaders
Zirconia (right) and Kidron after a run

ZIRCONIA joined forces with KIDRON to lead Jeffrey's slower second-string team in the Yukon. She was the quintessential utility leader: up to the toughest chores of exploring unfamiliar trails, leading excursions into the Miners' Range that demanded extreme caution and steadiness when the snow was deep, the trail unknown, or the descent from the mountains rocky and treacherous.

At the age of nearly ten in December of 1997, ZIRCONIA gave us her greatest gift, the P-litter sired by our Russian import SHAKAL IZ SOLOVYEV. She raised her pups with the same seriousness and dedication that she gave as a leader. The P-litter were very fine sleddogs and often made up around half of Jeffrey's first-string team in the closing years of the 20th century.

ZIRCONIA had an honest, strong, unshakeable personality all her own. She did things her own way, according to her own conscience. She could be annoying with her noisy barking in the kennel and her independent decisions on the trail, but when the chips were down, Zirc was one of the leaders you had to trust. For all that you did for us, those years of honest service, thank you, ZIRCONIA.

Zirconia of Sepp-Alta 21 March 1988 — 1 July 2001

River View's Hurley

River View's Hurley 16 December 1988 — 12 July 2004
RIVER VIEW'S HURLEY was a wonderful all-round Seppala Siberian Sleddog. He was a competent leader, especially for the homeward-bound leg of longer distance runs. Even better than that, he was a perfect and utterly reliable wheel dog, that precious rarity! Running HURLEY at wheel not only gave you the security of a steady, consistent puller right next to the sled where it really counts, but also the knowledge that if you had leader troubles, you could always run HURLEY up front and get home in fine style.

HURLEY was acquired by Seppala Kennels on Jeffrey's watershed visit to Carolyn Ritter's River View Kennels in 1991; he was just coming into full maturity then, and Carolyn was quite reluctant to part with him. HURLEY's sire was JAZZ OF WINDIGO (by Fast Fred of Sepp-Alta ex Dynamikos Badger of Windigo) out of POWDER OF MARKOVO (by Nutok of Markovo ex S-A Athena of Markovo).

Kidron and Zirconia, Seppala Kennels Leaders
River View's Hurley 1998

As soon as we got HURLEY back to Spain, Jeffrey tried to make a leader out of him using the Fishback method of leader training. I mowed a small circuit of connected paths in the tall grass of our little olive orchard and worked the poor boy on foot with harness, ten-foot line and trekking belt! He was mentally too young for that kind of foolishness, I now believe. Perhaps it gave him some notions of gee and haw, but it also injected a lot of anxiety into the idea of following commands. HURLEY did become a reasonable leader, but he felt the strain of the position. Later on in the Yukon, he began to react against leading by looking for a way out -- sometimes taking unauthorised turns or trying to come haw and go back home. Big and strong as he was, he made an ideal wheel dog, so we began hooking him mostly in wheel position next to the sled, where he happily worked at full capacity. He remained useful as a leader in rig training or (especially) on the homeward leg of longer distance runs -- hooking HURLEY up front anytime after the turnaround point would give the main leader a rest and provide a strong drive in the latter part of the run.

Paired with XPACE OF SEPPALTA or with our Russian import SHAKAL IZ SOLOVYEV, HURLEY was the best wheeler we ever had. On rough, narrow, twisty-windy Yukon trails maintaining good control of the sled is essential. HURLEY's steady, strong reliable pulling was just what was needed to keep good sled steering and stay out of trouble.

HURLEY was a serious, good-hearted sleddog. He loved to run at wheel; he loved his people; he loved his food. In general he was a great big sweety, a real creampuff of a dog for all his impressive appearance. He was beautifully put together, and his standing side view photo was always the one we chose to represent the Seppala Siberian Sleddog as a breed. His colouring was the true, authentic "agouti," of which he was the most beautiful example we have ever known. All his life his one ambition was to be a house pet, but he lived the first nine years of his life in the kennel. Finally one day he gave up and quit eating; he looked very low and we thought he would be dead within 24 hours; Isa took him into the cabin. He didn't die that night. The next day he started eating again and was soon okay. We were never sure, but we suspected that once he got into the house he decided either that he couldn't die then, having just realised his ambition, or else that he had already died and this must be heaven! Anyway, HURLEY lived another five years as the happiest and most gentlemanly of house pets, despite a bleeding skin tumour that gave him trouble in his old age. His dear friend SEPALLUNA kept the tumour scrupulously clean for him and he never let it bother him.

River View's Hurley and Zirconia of Sepp-Alta lead a 6-dog team, Isa Boucher driving (Russian import Shakal iz Solovyev visible behind Hurley)

River View's Sprite

River View's Sprite, mother 
         of super-leader Tonya of Seppala
River View's Sprite, dam of super-leader Tonya of Seppala
RIVER VIEW'S SPRITE was an, affectionate, highly bonded command leader acquired by Seppala Kennels when Carolyn Ritter sold out her River View Kennels in 1993. A long-coated white in the tradition of JEUAHNEE OF COLD RIVER, SPRITE was run at double-lead or point in Isa's fast team during our first two years in the Yukon. She was at her best with apprehensive young pups or green-broke dogs, as she communicated her confidence and trust to them.

SPRITE lost the next two winters to maternal duties, but later on we were very glad we had been able to spare her from the teams, as three leaders resulted from her two matings with XPACE OF SEPPALTA. We foolishly sold or gave away all the bitch pups from the first litter except for TONYA; probably two of them would have become leaders had they remained at Seppala Kennels. SPRITE was another of our "Powder people," sired by Carolyn's command leader PETER OF SEPP-ALTA (by Hercules of Sepp-Alta ex Uelen's Ali) out of POWDER OF MARKOVO (by Nutok of Markovo ex S-A Athena of Markovo).

Most of our photos of SPRITE at lead seem to be of small 3-wheeled tricycle rig teams. She was chosen to lead such teams very frequently, due to her strong, steady running style on dryland at shorter distances, her good behaviour and the dependability with which she took directional commands. I am sure that her daughter TONYA's skills as a command leader came from her mother; SPRITE seemed to have and to be able to transmit the perfect "head" for a command leader. Her abilities were also passed on to her daughter KOLYMA OF SEPPALA and from her to Spritely's granddaughter LIZAVETA OF SEPPALA. RIVER VIEW'S SPRITE was a powerful genetic engine driving leadership qualities in our bloodline.

SPRITE was a devoted "girlfriend" who loved nothing better than to be in the wall tent with Jeffrey; she raised two litters there, both whelped on my bed. SPRITE amazed more than one Siberian-Husky-oriented visitor with her ability to go outside off-leash and to remain within call without running off on a hunt. Her temperament was pure pet with a strong desire to please. I'm happy to say that her sweet nature was strongly inheritable and was passed along to her many descendants. We miss you still, Spritely-Go-Lightly, but all your inheritors remind us of you!

River View's Sprite leads
         a 3-dog rig team with verve and determination
Sprite leads a 3-dog rig team

Xpace of Seppalta

Xpace of Seppalta and River View's Hurley, 
         Seppala Siberian Sleddogs at Seppala Kennels, Yukon
Xpace of Seppalta and River View's Hurley at wheel after a run
XPACE OF SEPPALTA was acquired from Carolyn Ritter when we returned from Spain in 1993. Although basically he was a wheel dog, we soon discovered that he would run at lead with considerable enthusiasm. As we were usually training four teams at once in our first two years in the Yukon, we pressed into service any of the dogs that would stay out front. This inevitably resulted in some interesting situations, particularly in the case of Xpace, who knew nothing of directional commands and had quite a mind of his own. One never quite knew what he would take it into his head to do! I can recall a couple of scary episodes when one of our trails briefly paralleled the Mayo Road (the highway between Whitehorse and Dawson City) and passed right beside a local impromptu hockey rink. Suffice it to say that one ordinarily would not want one's dog team in the middle of a game of shinny nor making its way down the shoulder of a highway!
Markobosco and Xpace of Seppalta at wheel
         on a dog team at Seppala Kennels, Yukon
Xpace (right) at wheel with Markobosco

As time went by we developed several good young leaders and XPACE gradually retired to wheel position where he usually ran with HURLEY, making a very powerful wheel pair. It was not without regret that I retired XPACE as a leader, because he was willing, strong and far from slow. Fortunately, in Yukon hinterland dog driving good wheel dogs are fully as important as good leaders, so XPACE always made a strong contribution to any team in which he was hooked. His one fault was that he had a tendency to give out through overexertion. I can recall many runs on which as soon as the team returned to the dogyard he would immediately lay down on his belly. Despite this ominous flaw, he sired some of our best sleddogs. XPACE was an outgoing dog, crazy about people and always an attention-getter with his unique appearance and rich agouti colouration.

Shakal iz Solovyev

Shakal iz Solovyev, Seppala Kennels' Siberia import dog
Shakal iz Solovyev circa 1996 in front of his big log doghouse — truly a magnificent male
10 June 1992 — 25 February 2008
SHAKAL IZ SOLOVYEV was born 10 June 1992 in Yekaterinburg, Siberia, in the Ural Mountains. His breeder was polar expedition leader Sergei Alexandrovitch Solovyev. As a 3-month-old puppy he flew from his birthplace to Moscow, thence to Prague, and was brought to Deimburg, Germany by Solovyev's associate Ivan Síbrt, where he was picked up by Isa Boucher and brought to our farm in Catalunya. Small for his age, the tiny pup was appalled by the Spanish summer heat and spent most of his time looking for deep shade. At just over one year old he flew with our Seppalas across the Atlantic to Milwaukee where we began the trek by dog truck to our new kennel location in Grizzly Valley, Yukon Territory, nestled between the Miners' Range and Lake Laberge 20 miles north of Whitehorse.

We started our kennel in the Yukon with twenty-six dogs and a parcel of unimproved busy land, no buildings, no water, and no electricity. Jeffrey and the dogs arrived in June, Isa lingered in Spain to pack our belongings and wrap matters up there; she arrived in the Yukon in September with our two Bernese Mountain Dogs. Winter would be coming on fast. A kind neighbour loaned us a small travel trailer and we bought a big insulated wall tent. Then the overriding concern became winter firewood, our only way to keep warm through Yukon cold snaps of minus 40-45C! SHAKAL was put right to work with our firewood teams, since the distances were short and we were both there with the team, he could learn leader work "on the job" beside KIDRON and others.

Shakal iz Solovyev leading a wheel rig team with two of his Z-litter progeny

"Jackie" (as we called him) quickly became a useful leader. But it didn't last. By the following season, both he and HURLEY decided that the lead dog bore too much heavy responsibility and caught too much flack when things went wrong. Jackie told us he had had enough of leader work: he would suddenly jump off the trail and sit down on the trail side, and nothing would induce him to return to his position and resume the run. I would move him to wheel just to get home.

Jackie was a natural wheel dog. He was both strong and steady. Soon he and HURLEY joined forces to become Jeffrey's favourite wheel pair. All of his misgivings disappeared and he became a trouble-free and dependable worker. He had no use for strangers; he would stand and bark at them endlessly. With Jeffrey and Isa, he was happy and humorous. His was a very distict individual personality and we loved him dearly. Due to our difficulties with the Canadian Kennel Club (who refused to register him or even his progeny) we had only two litters sired by SHAKAL, but both those litters became crucial to later SK breeding; they were fabulous dogs. Like Hurley he became a housepet in his hold age and died finally with Isa and Jack in winter 2008, four months short of sixteen. SHAKAL IZ SOLOVYEV was a one-in-a-lifetime experience. I remember everything about him vividly to this day and still miss him greatly.

Shakal iz Solovyev with Xpace of Seppalta (barking) waits to haul a load of firewood home from the bush

Ninnis' Sabrina Two

Sabrina and Seppaleo lead
         a 1996 Seppala Kennels team
Sabrina and Sepalleo at lead in 1996
NINNIS' SABRINA TWO was not a Seppala. She was an Anadyr-strain mainstream Siberian Husky from the Bill and Gloria Tolley kennel in Alberta. We bought Sabrina from her owner Terry Cook (who lived in nearby Deep Creek on Lake Laberge) when he gave up sleddog racing and went back to his original sport of dirt bike racing. She was a capable command leader although she had a rather pushy personality (we called her "Big Nose"). For awhile she was a routine co-leader with SEPALLEO, until we began trying out MARKOBOSKO in her place and discovered how much she had been holding that team back. For the truth was that SABRINA was very slow and could not hope to keep pace with any of our three LL-litter leaders.
Anadyr strain leader Sabrina could not keep up with SSSD leader Sepalleo
Anadyr-strain leader Sabrina could not keep pace with Sepalleo and got quite fatigued trying

Thereafter SABRINA was relegated to puppy training, where she was very useful as she was experienced, steady and assertive. She was, after all, a pretty good command leader as he had had a lot of individual training from her former owner. It wasn't Sabrina's fault that our Seppalas were simply too fast for her.

Unfortunately in deep winter of 1996 she had a silent heat during a spell of -40C weather; SEPALLOP, turned loose out of the wall tent briefly one morning in the hard cold, jumped the kennel fence and the first we knew of any of it was when we found the pair on her stakeout in coital lock. Of course she conceived from that single mating; we sold the pups locally. Again not SABRINA's fault, but the whole experience with Sabrina strongly reinforced our conviction that Seppalas and "Racing Siberian Huskies" just weren't a good mix. Two other Anadyr-strain racing Siberians from the same source proved totally useless (both were pathologically shy and completely unmanageable).

Sepallop and Sepalluna

Sepallop and Sepalluna lead a 1996 team, Isa Boucher driving
SEPALLOP and SEPALLUNA were, with their brother SEPALLEO, our earliest homebred leader successes. Together they led Isa Boucher's team in the early Yukon years when it was Seppala Kennels' fastest team. Later LLOP became J. Jeffrey Bragg's first- string leader. LLOP was our fastest leader, especially when paired with young TONYA OF SEPPALA.

The "double-L litter" were born in our farmhouse in Spain, Masía Maurí in the Prepirineo foothills. The sire of LLOP, LLUNA and the rest was Doug Willett's famous "Hank," HERCULES OF SEPP-ALTA (by Ash of Markovo ex Alma of Sepp-Alta) out of our foundation bitch KARCAJOU'S DREAMA OF WINDIGO (by Xephyr of Sepp-Alta ex Ali-Sons Vixen of Seppin). It was the enthusiasm and desire to run of these dogs that convinced us to return to Canada where they could better fulfil their destiny as sleddogs.

As we trained them as yearlings in the Yukon, it soon became apparent that we had three leaders out of the five we had kept! LLEO, LLOP and LLUNA each had his/her own distinct personality. Isa began running LLUNA and LLOP at double lead; on their bad days they became known as "Airhead and Bonehead"! LLUNA had a tendency to be dizzy and distracted, LLOP to be stubborn. Nonetheless, the pair established their credentials as fast, strong leaders in spite of minor personality issues.

Sepallop and Sepalluna, Seppala Kennels
         leaders, after a run in winter 1995
Llop and Lluna — "Bonehead and Airhead " — after a run in early winter 1995

LLOP became such a fine, fast leader that he was promoted to the job of leading Jeffrey's eight-dog strings, while LLUNA tended to stay with Isa's six-doggers. LLOP's speed and heart were soon matched with the rising young star of TONYA OF SEPPALA. Together they made an unbeatable lead pair, reinforcing one another's strengths. TONYA always loved to "race" the dog beside her and she specialised in connecting up the "places where we lope," thus improving our times. LLOP found that quite to his liking and seemed very happy to be paired with a young co-leader whose watchword seemed to be, "Hey, let's RUN!"

Sepallop at single lead
Sepallop single-lead in a 5-dog team driven by Isa in 1996

Unlike most of our leaders, LLOP was quite happy to lead alone without the psychological security of a co-leader. He regularly led five-dog teams of younger trainees.

Eventually as LLOP grew old his position beside TONYA was taken by her young daughters HAPPY and later (too briefly) MOKKA. LLOP went back to partnering his sister LLUNA on Isa's teams in the sunset years of his career. Finally he retired to housepet status, living in the log cabin with Isa. His sister LLUNA went before him over the Rainbow Bridge, but had only four months to await his arrival in the fields of gold.

LLOP was the most affectionate male Seppala I ever owned. The icing on the cake was that he sired a new young leader LIZAVETA OF SEPPALA who outshone most of her predecessors, along with. a strong group of her siblings who made up a fine team all by themselves! In retrospect I could wish we had used him more often in the breeding pen. Eventually we did try but I think rather too late in his life as the matings failed to take. For all you gave us, Lloppie old fellow, we give our heartfelt thanks to you! And to you, SEPALLUNA-Ji, bright star -- watch over us all until we shall be together again, blessed spirit.

Llop and Lluna at lead (probably early 1995)


Sepalleo and Markobosco, Seppala Siberian Sleddog leaders
Sepalleo (right) and Markobosco leading an eight-dog Yukon team
Tonya of Seppala and Sepalleo lead the S-litter team
Sepalleo and Tonya lead the S-litter team 1997
Sepalleo, a Markovo Seppala lead dog
Sepalleo after a frosty run
SEPALLEO is a dog whose story was one of triumph over adversity. LLEO acquired Leishmania (a serious Mediterranean blood parasite disease) as a young dog in Spain. His first winter in the Yukon he was too weak to work, living in a travel trailer with Isa, wearing a red-and-gold sweater that gained him the nickname of "Our Little Japanese Prince." Treated with a semi-experimental drug normally used for human gout, LLEO missed out entirely on our first season of driving dogs in the Yukon. Indeed, we had doubts of his survival.

One might have thought that the dog would never be worth much after enduring a winter in which he nearly succumbed to his exotic systemic infection. But his great heart and determination helped him to overcome his illness almost entirely. The following season of 1994/95, SEPALLEO rapidly became a first-string leader for Jeffrey, tackled our hardest 20 and 30-mile trails, and ended the season logging over 1000 miles in harness. Lleo never faltered thereafter, until finally in his advancing age he began to experience some moderate joint swelling due to the aftereffects of the parasitic infection. In the summer of 2006 he was still with us at 14 1/2, somewhat crippled now but still able to go in and out on his own and to enjoy his privileged house-pet status with Isa. He died in the Yukon with Isa and Jack on 22 October 2007 only a month short of sixteen years old.

SEPALLEO proved his worth in that initial 94/95 season as a reliable leader on long and difficult Yukon trails. He was always a useful and versatile leader, like MARKOBOSCO with whom he frequently ran double lead. He contributed hugely towards the education of TONYA OF SEPPALA in her formative period, before she began to run exclusively with SEPALLOP. He would run with a variety of other leaders and would also run single lead. Isa enjoyed Lleo's tractable, sweet nature and frequently chose him as her leader as I took over his brother Llop for an ideal running mate to Tonya.

SEPALLEO was always a wonderful all-round dog: first-string leader, affectionate and gentle companion, and a good sire. His last litter sired (our M-litter) was raised not only with their dam TONYA OF SEPPALA kept with them for as long as possible, but their sire as well. Lleo proved himself to be gentle and forbearing with mischievous young puppies. Finally they became too much for him and he begged to go back to his place in the kennel, but he never so much as curled a lip at a puppy no matter how they plagued him. Lleo was a male of striking beauty, with his luminous dark brown eyes and his flashy jet black patches on a snow-white ground -- he knew he was sexy and beautiful . . . we called him our "Mick Jagger Dog."

Sepalleo 29 November 1991 — 22 October 2007


Markobosco and Sepalleo, Seppala Siberian Sleddogs from Seppala Kennels, Yukon, at lead
Markobosco (left) and Seppaleo at lead in an eight-dog team circa 1995-96
MARKOBOSCO was an unsung hero at Seppala Kennels. This plain, unspectacular, unassuming son of RIVER VIEW'S HURLEY gradually became an essential part of our constant rotation of leaders as we strove to train multiple small teams in the Yukon hinterland. "Boz" was at his best running with SEPALLEO, but would run lead with just about any other leader.

MARKOBOSCO was bred in Spain, born on Christmas day in 1992, the son of RIVER VIEW'S HURLEY (by Jazz of Windigo ex Powder of Markovo) and NORDE OF SEPP-ALTA (by Hercules of Sepp-Alta ex Uelen's Ali). Parvovirus was rife in northern Spain at that time, and three of the males in his litter fell ill despite a good vaccination schedule. Boz pulled through with hydration therapy, although the virus killed a brother, a lovely brown- eyed white male that looked so much like his sire we had called him "the white Hurley."

We never expected Bosco to be a lead dog! In early training he was started at wheel, where he showed himself to be strong and enthusiastic. One September day in 1994 on a 4-dog tricycle rig run Isa "promoted" him halfway through the run to lead position, where he did quite nicely. His next chance came a month later, with another run at lead on snow about a month after that. But that 1994-95 season he was mostly run at wheel paired with XPACE OF SEPPALTA, usually on Isa's 6-dog team which was the fastest of our teams that season. Boz seemed set for a career as a wheel dog.

The next season (1995-96) began with BOSCO at wheel on Isa's team as before. But soon she ran him a couple of times at double lead with SPRITE; he seemed bewildered at first, but performed well enough. His big break came on 13 February 1996, when Jeffrey hooked him at lead with SEPALLEO in an 8-dog team. LLEO had previously been paired with SABRINA (an Anadyr leader we had bought that season). LLEO and BOSCO ran the 8-mile course in 37 minutes (13 mph), 4 or 5 minutes less than the same team had been doing it with the LLEO/SABRINA pair — Jeffrey commented, "Didn't realise just how badly SABRINA was holding us back!"

MARKOBOSCO ran double lead with SEPALLEO routinely from that day forward. The Anadyr leader was relegated to puppy training where her slow pace was an asset. BOSCO and LLEO were excellent together and Boz gradually learned his directional commands through "on the job training"!

Thereafter BOSCO became an all-purpose leader. He would work happily with any other running mate, and quietly accepted the responsibility of command leadership. As I look through stacks of old photos I see Boz's distinctive dark face and blaze at the head of many different teams. He was a trouble-free standby for us, a dog we could put at lead wherever and whenever we needed him, any time there was a front-end vacancy to be filled. Isa and I both miss his quiet dependability and his unfailing friendliness and cooperative nature. Thank you, Bosco — may you romp in fields of gold forever, beyond the Rainbow Bridge!

Markobosco, born 25 December 1992 (photo winter 1998)


Seppalara, a Seppala Siberian
         Sleddog leader at Seppala Kennels, Yukon
Seppalara 9 January 1993 — 17 January 2004
SEPPALARA, like MARKOBOSCO, was a homebred who came with us from Spain to the new location in the Yukon. She was born 9 January 1993, out of our last Spanish-born litter sired by RIVER VIEW'S HURLEY ex KARCAJOU'S DREAMA OF WINDIGO, shortly before we decided to return to Canada. She was a clear fawn-sable, rangy and a bit on the homely side. Isa liked to run 'Lara, usually pairing her with SEPALLUNA on the lightweight, speedy 6-dog teams that she preferred to drive.
Seppalara and Sepalluna
         lead Isa Boucher's 6-dog team at Seppala Kennels, Yukon in 1997
Sepalluna and Seppalara lead one of Isa's 6-doggers in winter of 1997

'Lara was a willing and eager co-leader for 6-dog teams and she saw a lot of use in the mid-90s particularly on Isa Boucher's teams. Although we had no litters from her and no one outside of SK has ever heard of her, she was an integral and valuable part of the whole SK training operation and deserves her full share of credit for her contribution.

Tonya of Seppala

Tonya of Seppala,
         greatest of the Seppala Kennels SSSD leaders
Tonya awaiting hookup January 2007
TONYA OF SEPPALA was one of those out-of-the-blue phenomena. Somehow you wouldn't have expected to get her from those two parents! Picked out of the nest as a companion for Jeffrey, "Tonner" proved the value of Seppala "girlfriends." When broken to harness in mid-winter at three and one-half months' age, she just about pulled the Boss flat on his face. Consistently TONYA turned in the best trail times of any of our leaders; as a youngster life was a race for her, and "extending the sprint" was what she was all about.
Tonya of Seppala in harness as a puppy
Tonya harnessed at 3 1/2 months

TONYA was a Seppala Kennels homebred, sired by XPACE OF SEPPALTA (by Uelen's Ebony of Sepp-Alta ex Dynamikos Ruby) out of RIVER VIEW'S SPRITE (by Peter of Sepp-Alta ex Powder of Markovo). She was born the 1st November in 1995. She developed rather strangely; at three or four months she was so stocky and compact that I called her "my little show puppy;" then as a yearling she became super-skinny,and was called "Tonner the Twig." Throughout all the changes she maintained a terrifyingly strong attitude: as a youngster she felt compelled both to run and to make her way to the pinnacle of the kennel's social hierarchy.

Tonya of Seppala and Sepallop, speeding out of the chute
The young Tonya developed a hard-driving, head-down, full-out running style unmatched by any of our other Seppalas

As she came quickly into her prime, TONYA ran with our best leaders, SEPALLEO and SEPALLOP. Particularly when paired with LLOP, we found that putting Tonner at lead in any given team would probably cut an average of five minutes off the total time of an eight-mile run. It was TONYA who first proved to us that the Russian-cross Z-litter could run as fast as our pure Markovo-Seppalas if they were hooked with a high-attitude front end. (Previously we had mostly run them with our slower utility leaders.)

Tonya of Seppala and Sepallop, show the young Russians how to run fast
Sepallop and young Tonya of Seppala show the Z-litter half-Russians how to run fast (March 1997)

TONYA grew in trustworthiness and reliability as she matured. Unlike her frequent running-mate SEPALLOP who was stubborn and sometimes persistent in his refusal to correct an error, Tonner proved compliant and cooperative, always trying to do a better job. Her training was not without problems, however; she was so fast and impetuous that in her early years she was not easy to control. There were times I dreaded running the first-string team, because sometimes Tonya was frightening to drive on a primitive, winding trail.

Tonya was as fine a mother as she was a leader. She had three litter (the Alaskan-cross H-litter, the M-litter by SEPALLEO, and her last Russian-cross F2 litter by PYOTR OF SEPPALA. Tonya did not abandon her pups when they were weaned; she was always willing to be with them, to play with them, to help train them to harness, to run with them.

TONYA knew heavy responsibilities all her life. As her career slowly drew to a close, her main focus was training her successors and enjoying her unquestioned status as Queen Bitch of Seppala Kennels. She did a final stint in the whelping box at ten years of age, giving us a pair of "Russian Princes" (Prince Ivan and Prince Igor) sired by Shakal's fantastic son PYOTR OF SEPPALA and finished by training a new leader in LIZAVETA OF SEPPALA who could in time have been every bit her equal. Our move to Rossburn, Manitoba in fall of 2007 brought her career as a leader to a natural close at an appropriate age and she spent her days in Manitoba as a pampered house pet and beloved personal companion. Tonya died on 2 August 2011 a few months short of sixteen. Her loss was crippling for Jeffrey and marked the final closure of the Seppala Siberian Sleddog Project — actually she outlived the Project itself by several months. For all you did for us, Ton-Tonamera, Noble Lady, Gorgeosa, your old Bossie thanks you from the bottom of his heart! My life hasn't been the same since you left to explore the undiscovered country.


Tonya of Seppala and Sepalleo, Seppala lead dogs
A young Tonya goes out of the chute giving Sepalleo all he can do to stay with her

Excerpts from the Seppala Kennels training log:

Seppala Kennels' star leaders Tonya of Seppala
         and Lizaveta of Seppala
Star leader Tonya of Seppala with her understudy Lizaveta of Seppala after a training run in 2004

Kolyma and Korek of Seppala

KOLYMA OF SEPPALA and KOREK OF SEPPALA were littermate leaders. They were Isa Boucher's personal leaders; she always preferred brother-sister leader pairs and liked best to run six-dog teams. Sired by XPACE OF SEPPALTA (by Uelen's Ebony of Sepp-Alta ex Dynamikos Ruby) out of RIVER VIEW'S SPRITE (by Peter of Sepp-Alta ex Powder of Markovo), this pair of Seppala Kennels homebreds were very similarly-gaited and worked beautifully together.
Kolyma and Korek of
         Seppala at lead
Kolyma and Korek of Seppala at lead

Neither of these two (though they were full sibs to TONYA via a repeat breeding) was truly first-string lead dog material. KOLYMA, although very reliable, tended towards a let's-don't-get-in-a-hurry attitude, while KOREK was all too ready to bring the team to a stop at the nearest brush pile or squirrel tree to hunt critters. Occasionally Isa would succeed in shifting their gears up into speed mode (as in the coming-home photo above) but it seldom lasted for very long.

KOLYMA, though, was without doubt a stellar utility leader in the "Scotty" tradition. Although she was basically a trotting leader, she was tireless and honest, always a pleasure to drive. KOREK perhaps took a bit of putting up with, but generally XPACE's male progeny were less satisfactory than his daughters. KOLYMA was above all a top-drawer brood bitch — they don't come any finer — her contribution to the Seppala Siberian Sleddog heritage through her many fine progeny puts her in the same category as such bitches as SIGRID III OF FOXSTAND, FOXSTAND'S GEORGIA and POWDER OF MARKOVO. Kolyma survived to the age of seventeen years one and a half months (our longest-lived Seppala. She is sorely missed to this day by Susan and myself.

Kolyma of Seppala 18 February 1997 — 23 April 2014

Yolanda of Seppala

Yolanda of Seppala and Kolyma of Seppala, 
         experienced SSSD lead dogs, initiate a novice driver
Yolanda and Kolyma initiate a novice dog driver on a dark 18 January 2007
YOLANDA OF SEPPALA was a homebred Seppala Kennels leader (born 12 June 1995, sired by Sepalleo ex Kidron of Spirit Wind) who specialised all her life in being "the other leader" on many different teams. She was a versatile and dependable trail leader. "Landy" could run — and keep up — with any of our best command leaders, always sustaining a steady, fast pace and never interfering with the command dog. Since relatively few leaders thrive under the pressure imposed by running single lead, good "trail leaders" like YOLANDA are essential to team stability and to the mental health of command leaders.
Yolanda of Seppala and Sepalluna, Seppala Kennels lead dogs
Yolanda and Sepalluna summer 1996

YOLANDA's career reached its pinnacle in the 2001/02 season when she served as a very strong partner and backup to half-Alaskan HOPPY OF SEPPALA, easily keeping pace with a very eager and impulsive younger leader, serving as a calming and steadying influence on him in a demanding and difficult series of 20 and 30-mile runs through our chain of hinterland lakes and portages. In those runs with a strong young leader who didn't always have his commands down pat, YOLANDA not only had to put her thinking cap on, but also proved that she could handle sustained speed pressure.

In winter of 2007 at the close of her career, YOLANDA triumphed by birthing a brand new Seppala dog-driver. Jacob Heigers came to the Yukon for a six- weeks initiation course in Seppala driving and handling. Landy, backed up by the indefatigable KOLYMA OF SEPPALA, kept everything cool on Jacob's white-knuckled novice runs — especially his first attempt at a full-scale training run with a six-dog team on a very dark and overcast 18th of January.

Yolanda of Seppala and Kolyma of Seppala, Markovo Seppala lead dogs
Kolyma and Yolanda 2004

Unfortunately the strong command leaders are the ones who get the lion's share of the respect and attention both from the driver and from the world outside. The truth is, though, that steady, reliable trail leaders and backup leaders like Landy, even if they don't know commands or have the fortitude for up-front decision making, are indispensable to a smoothly functioning training routine. Yolanda did yeoman's service at Seppala Kennels, both at lead and as a very strong and reliable point dog. She did all that we asked of her from training puppies to initiating novice mushers to backing Tonya on critically important runs like the one pictured at the top of this page. I remain forever grateful to modest Yolanda for her many years of uncomplaining steady work in the front ends of our teams.

Yolanda of Seppala, a Seppala Siberian
         Sleddog leader at Seppala Kennels, Yukon
Yolanda of Seppala 2nd, 12 June 1995 — 26 October 2011

Surgut of Seppala 2nd and Splash of Seppala

Surgut of Seppala 2nd, a Seppala Siberian
         Sleddog leader at Seppala Kennels, Yukon
Surgut of Seppala 2nd, 22 May 1994 — 16 February 2005
SURGUT OF SEPPALA came from our first Yukon-born litter born in May 1994, sired by Sepallampo out of Dally of Seppa-Alta. As the S-litter grew up we often ran the entire litter of six in one team together, at first led by older dogs, but quite soon we realised that Surgut was quite capable of leading his siblings himself, usually with his sister Splash beside him.
Splash of Seppala, lead dog
Splash of Seppala (photo 1998)
Surgut of Seppala and Splash of Seppala, lead dogs
Surgut and Splash, leaders

Splash was a small, fairly compact female and we used her at lead only with her brother Surgut. We made no effort to make anything of her other than a trail leader to hook with Surgut. In fact it would probably be fair to say that neither of these dogs were given a full and fair opportunity to develop their talents as leaders, as we were spread a little too thinly to have unlimited time and energy for leader training.

Surgut and Splash lead the S-litter team in March 1997
Surgut and Splash lead their litter's team in March 1997

When Agriculture Canada sent a local Whitehorse dog driver to conduct an informal onsite survey of the newly-fledged SSSD Project (that would have been late in 1996 or early 1997), I sent the young chap (accustomed to Alaskan husky teams) out on a 6-mile trail with the S-litter 6-dogger. When he returned to the kennel less than a half-hour later, he had just one comment: "That team runs like it was all the same dog — I never saw anything quite like it."

Surgut was never quite as speedy or ambitions as our LL-litter leaders or Markobosco, so we didn't use him very often at lead except with his sibling team. More often he was hooked at point. But he was always a calm, trouble-free dog in harness, one of those that the driver never has to worry about. He passed his nice temperament and mentality on to the all-female C-litter of 2005 and that was his major legacy. Splash led quite nicely hooked with her brother but died relatively young from cancer and had no litters, though we did try to breed her once.

Hoppy of Seppala (A Tragedy)

Hoppy of Seppala
         in bicycle training with J. Jeffrey Bragg
Hoppy bike training with Jeffrey
HOPPY OF SEPPALA was initially the real star of Seppala Kennels' sole experimental Alaskan-husky crossbred litter. He alone seemed to have inherited the unusual leader mentality of his illustrious sprint and stage-racing world-class sire, Terry Streeper's "HOP." He declared himself as a leader trainee early on. But like his dad he was an independent thinker. This could have its disadvantages in the Yukon: if Hoppy spotted an ice-fishing hut on the far side of a frozen lake, he would without hesitation abandon the broken trail and cut across the ice for a closer look! Still, as a youngster he was bright and ambitious, well on his way to learning directional commands hooked alongside his dam TONYA OF SEPPALA.


Yolanda and Hoppy of
         Seppala at lead
Yolanda and Hoppy of Seppala (right) at lead

Tragedy struck in his second year. One day he began to experience grand-mal seizures in in a very serious and ominous form: he would have two or three in quick succession and continue having more at roughly hourly intervals through the day. He was put on the usual phenobarbital tablet medication and seemed to recover. But as we resumed training runs with him, something strange became apparent: HOPPY appeared not to remember the familiar trails he had trained on, taking wrong turns and missing turnoffs. Our veterinarian had given us a few Valium suppositories to be used if HOPPY began cluster-seizuring again. About a month after the first episode, he had another cluster series one morning in the kennel. We administered a Valium suppository and he went in his doghouse and lay down. A fifteen-minute check found him unconscious, and fifteen minutes after that he was dead.

We never learned the real cause of his death. Our vets told us they would be unable to determine much from an autopsy at their clinic, and recommended courier-shipping the cadaver to Vancouver for specialist neurological work. We couldn't begin to afford it, so we never knew if he had a brain tumour, a reaction to the heavy Valium dose, or something else. (Epilepsy isn't ordinarily a fatal disease as long as cluster episodes are controlled by medication.)

HOPPY had the makings of an exceptional leader. We were sad indeed to lose him. The whole H-litter seemed fraught with problems. HIPPY could have been a great leader had she not been obsessively concerned about dogs in the team behind her — we ran her exclusively at wheel (where she was stellar). HAAKON could not run peaceably in a team without picking quarrels with his teammates. HOLLY died from ingesting gravel. HELEN hated going out and was back on her neckline for the first two or three miles of any run; though very small, she was an incredible worker going home — until a turn of the trail took it in a direction that was not directly homeward, when she'd immediately be back on her neckline again. Only HAPPY was truly a fine leader, and only as long as she ran beside TONYA. But above all, HOPPY's death was a tragedy that deeply influenced us. We never took the AH-cross experiment any further; the entire litter had no descendants, for we never mated any of them.

Hoppy of
Hoppy of Seppala

Happy of Seppala

Kolyma and Korek of
         Seppala at lead
Tonya of Seppala and Happy of Seppala lead an eight-dog team in 2003
HAPPY OF SEPPALA was the best female of Seppala Kennels' sole experimental litter sired by world-class Alaskan Husky stud dog Terry Streeper's "Hop." Trained from puppyhood alongside her highly-skilled dam TONYA OF SEPPALA, Happy was a superior co-leader — when paired with Tonya. Together the two of them made up a truly fine front end, one of the best I've ever driven.


Seppala Kennels team 2002 led by Tonya of Seppala and Happy of Seppala
A team to die for, led by Tonya and Happy   Jeffrey's 2002 mixed team of 4 half-Russians, 2 Markovo-Seppalas and 2 Alaskan/Seppala crosses

Unfortunately HAPPY had mental issues that made her unsuitable as a main leader. She was apprehensive about ice, overflow, heavy trails and similar tricky situations, and a little truculent with other females, apart from her dam TONYA. Running beside her mother seemed to give her enough confidence to do a good job, but she was less satisfactory with other running mates.

HAPPY was very affectionate with her owners, a sweet dog, and quite intelligent. She was the best of the Alaskan-cross H-litter. (I felt that this litter was a big disappointment, given the hype that surrounded "Hop" and his progeny among the open-class racing fraternity. The entire litter had mental quirks that prevented them from being first-class dogs, and I am reasonably certain that the quirks did not come from the Seppala side of the mating. The experience of this litter proved to me that breeding for speed alone while ignoring issues of mentality does not produce the kind of sleddogs that I am interested in.) Happy often travelled and camped with me in the truck, along with Tonya; she was a pleasant companion dog and, truth to tell, I was very fond of that little sable girl.

In many ways the teams led by HAPPY and TONYA during the period 2001-2003 were really "to die for." Fast, powerful and steady, with very few problems for the driver (as long as the trail was not bad enough to arouse apprehension in Happy). In those years we usually had the half-Russian P-litter males and SURGUT OF SEPPALA in the team, all powerful, steady, tireless team dogs. In 2003 I did an entire photo series of over twenty images taken from the runners in the course of a 30-mile excursion with eight dogs, something that could be contemplated only with an exceptionally steady and trouble-free team. Those teams were composed of Markovo-Seppalas, Russian/Markovo crosses, and Alaskan/Markovo crosses; the combination was compatible and there was little to choose among the three genetic groups, all of them could work together well with no problems of pace or gait.

Tonya of Seppala and her daughter Happy of Seppala
Happy of Seppala and her mother Tonya of Seppala (2001)

HAPPY worked to the last at Seppala Kennels. She was a valuable co-leader when paired with her dam. I only wish that TONYA's daughter HAPPY had been able fully to replace her, but the experience with Hap and the rest of her litter proved to me that "racing performance" is far from the last word in sleddog efficiency, and may indeed prove less than satisfactory in terms of general sleddog ability and versatility. The simple-minded speed criterion has relatively little to do with all that we should expect nowadays from Seppalas in their capacity as versatile working sleddogs that are a sheer pleasure to drive. Serious racing competition these days is best left to specialist dogs. It isn't that Seppalas are particularly slow — it has been proven often enough that they are not — rather it is that we expect a great deal more of Seppalas than just speed.

Happy of Seppala

Lizaveta of Seppala

Lizaveta of Seppala, a Seppala Siberian
         Sleddog leader at Seppala Kennels, Yukon
Lizaveta of Seppala, SSSD leader and companion, born 2 November 2002
LIZAVETA OF SEPPALA was the final star leader born at Seppala Kennels, a homebred leader who is the daughter of two homebred leaders. "Little Lizzy Lineout" displayed a high degree of aptitude quite early in her career and quickly learned her directional commands. She seemed likely to become another such mainstay leader as TONYA OF SEPPALA and her sire SEPALLOP.

Born 2 November 2002, sired by SEPALLOP (by Hercules of Sepp-Alta ex Karcajou's Dreama of Windigo) out of KOLYMA OF SEPPALA (by Xpace of Seppalta ex River View's Sprite), Lizzy was not harness-broken until she was a yearling in the 2003-04 training season. Her litter was trained together as a team with TONYA presiding as command leader, and by the time the L-litter team had accumulated their first sixty miles in short-distance training runs on snow, they were working together as a team as smoothly as if they had two full seasons of training. Never have I seen a team integrate so quickly.

In spring of 2005 she did mountain bike runs in a local complex of community horse trails and proved conclusively that she knew her directional commands quite well already. Liz could gee-haw as much as you liked in solo mode, without another leader to help out. She was still rather a youngster, but what a gal!

LIZAVETA was, like her mentor TONYA, a product of J. Jeffrey Bragg's "girlfriends system" of leader selection and training. As did TONYA, she goes everywhere with the Boss, sleeps in his bed, becoming very closely bonded. Her affection for and trust in her driver are both very strong, as is her motivation to please. For some people that probably wouldn't work (and maybe people of that sort should consider some sleddog variety other than Seppalas), but this hands-on, intensive and emotional way of producing lead dogs gave us our very finest leaders. Had we been able to carry on training and running dog teams in the years 2008 and thereafter, Lizard probably would eventually have surpassed even her aunt Tonya as a first-string command leader.

Tonya of Seppala and Lizaveta of Seppala lead a 2006 Seppala Kennels team
Lizzy co-leads a team with Tonya in 2006
Lizaveta of Seppala, a Markovo Seppala lead dog
This is why she's called "Little Lizzy Lineout"
Lizaveta of Seppala with Tonya of Seppala after a run in December 2004

Lara of Seppala

Lara of Seppala, a Seppala Siberian
         Sleddog leader at Seppala Kennels, Yukon
Lara of Seppala accompanies her sister Lizaveta of Seppala on a run in 2006
Lara of Seppala, a Seppala Siberian
         Sleddog leader at Seppala Kennels, Yukon
Lara of Seppala accompanies TONYA OF SEPPALA on a run in 2006
LARA OF SEPPALA was for many years an also-ran, point dog, member of the team, ignored and taken for granted for the most part except when she whelped the spectacular D-litter in 2005. But after her litter, as they commenced growing up, we followed our usual practice of harness-breaking pups with their dam. And we discovered we had a nice leader about whom we knew very little!

Lara had long been a trouble-free performer at point, steady and reliable. Moved up to the position of co-leader with her sister or TONYA, she displayed the same steadiness and reliability. We have more than once found that older Seppala females mature mentally to a point at which they can handle lead work even though it may have been a bit beyond them as younger dogs.

It became obvious that LARA could serve as an excellent backup to the ageing TONYA and to her litter-sister LIZAVETA. In the final years of Seppala Kennels' sojourn in the Yukon, little LARA became a mainstay. Sometimes I suspect that perhaps there are relatively few Seppalas that cannot run at lead if properly managed. LARA is fourteen now as I write this, long since retired from service. But I deeply appreciate the support she gave our teams in the final years, and I am starkly reminded of that every time I view the brief video clip taken by Jacob Heigers in 2006 that is still viewable from my Facebook account.

Zaki of Seppala 2nd

Zaki of Seppala 2nd and Happy of Seppala, Seppala Siberian
         Sleddog leaders at Seppala Kennels, Yukon
Zaki of Seppala 2nd with Happy of Seppala on a run (probably in 2006)
ZAKI OF SEPPALA 2nd was for many years a trouble-free performer anywhere back in the team. He would run at point, team, wheel, wherever he was needed. Finally — just like his dam NORDE OF SEPP-ALTA — as he was coming into senior-citizen status, ZAKI decided that he could also make himself useful at double lead!

Especially with green-broke trainee teams, his steady drive and trouble-free nature made for a pleasant training experience. He was even able to lend the necessary strong reassurance and support to enable HAPPY OF SEPPALA to lead successfully without her dam TONYA.

ZAKI was, in the end, unquestionably one of SHAKAL's two finest sons (the other being PYOTR). He gave us some stupendous progeny and made us very proud when he decided that his final contribution to the SSSD Project would be to lead and to help train our young stock.

Mokka of Seppala (Another Tragedy)

Mokka and Tonya of
         Seppala bicycle lead dog training
Mokka and her mother Tonya of Seppala bike training with Jeffrey
MOKKA OF SEPPALA was the star performer of TONYA's M-litter sired by leader SEPALLEO. Like Lizzy in the L-litter, "Mini-Moke" stood out from an early age as an obvious prospect for leader training. She had inherited her daddy's long legs along with her mother's brains and willing attitude. We did what we liked most to do — put her to work alongside her dam. MOKKA was a bright pupil and quickly picked up the rudiments of leader work.
Happy of Seppala and young Mokka of Seppala
Happy of Seppala and tall young Mokka of Seppala
after a training run

She did so well that soon we were trying her out with HAPPY as co-leader! It was starting to appear that MOKKA might become a major leader, perhaps as good or even better than TONYA. Inebriated with that possibility, we were ripe for the fates' sport. She had always looked like a "big-eyed chick," but one day we had to admit that those big brown eyes really were getting bigger and bigger. It soon became evident that MOKKA had bilateral glaucoma.

We put her on Latanoprost (Xalatan) opthalmic solution drops, but in her case the drops failed utterly to control the situation. Her eyeballs continued to swell and she lost her sight. When we asked the new Alpine Vet Clinic in Whitehorse about surgery, they told us that a bilateral enucleation would cost "in excess of $1200" (~15 years ago) but they would give no firm estimate. At that time it was beyond our reach. Xalatan would not even halt the increase of the swelling; her eyes became engorged and inflamed, protruding from the sockets. There was nothing we could do but put her down.

Tonya of Seppala and daughter Mokka of Seppala
Tonya of Seppala and her daughter Mokka of Seppala after a training run

MOKKA from puppyhood had lived in the little shack with Jeffrey and Tonya; she was a "girlfriend." I was terribly broken up by all this, so that it became a part of the growing mass of pain, disappointment, mistrust and misgiving that in the end put an end to my dog-breeding and dog-driving career. Perhaps I should have quit then; it might have spared me a lot more suffering.

TONYA was gonioscoped and cleared when she was a youngster. Yet she developed glaucoma in one eye when she was an old dog, and produced two affected progeny in the M litter (both females). This disorder is endemic in northern dog populations. Some persons claim Seppala strain is peculiarly at risk; maybe so, but Eva B. Seeley's founder female Cheeak of Alyeska did the same thing as Tonya — produced two early-onset severely affected progeny. I think it is more fair to blame the purebred dog-breeding system itself. The genetic load (including things like glaucoma, epilepsy, etc.) was present from the beginning in the landrace population. But purebred methods bring it out and make it into a major problem. I don't know any easy answers for all this, and the answers I think come close are unacceptable to purebred dog people. So in the end, like so many others, I'm a disillusioned ex-breeder. MOKKA, dear little Moke, so eager, so full of promise — you deserved better. To this day I mourn you.

Prince Ivan of Seppala

Prince Ivan of Seppala who should have been a great leader
Prince Ivan of Seppala, son of Tonya, who should have been a great leader but was deprived of the chance
PRINCE IVAN OF SEPPALA is a son of PYOTR OF SEPPALA out of my super-leader TONYA OF SEPPALA, born 17 November 2005 when TONYA was ten years old. From the day he opened his eyes as a puppy he was totally devoted and affectionate to his Boss. He grew up to be a stunning adult, big, tall and athletic. He showed great promise in his first few runs in the Yukon and in one-dog bicycle training. His athleticism, devotion and intelligence made him a natural candidate to become the kind of leader his mother was.
Prince Ivan of Seppala, who 
         should have been a great leader, Lizaveta of Seppala and J.  Jeffrey Bragg
Lizaveta of Seppala, Prince Ivan of Seppala and Jeffrey after a bike run in Manitoba (2010)

But our timing and the force of circumstance were against Vanni. Economic pressures forced us to move out of the Yukon to farming country in Manitoba where feed prices were dramatically cheaper and fresh beef abattoir scrap plentifully available. Jeffrey and new wife Susan moved in October 2007 and looked after the Chinooks and a handful of Seppalas, including the newborn T-litter; Isa and new husband Jack remained in the Yukon over winter with the bulk of the Seppalas, including Ivan. All the dogs were reunited the following summer, but before summer's end we lost half our work force — Isa and Jack headed for first Alberta and then the Yukon again, leaving all the dogs, Seppalas and Chinooks alike, behind. With "catch-up" Seppala litters to care for, plus the entire dog population of two big kennels, there was no way Susan and I could manage sleddog training as well.

It was General Quarters at SK — emergency mode — for the next seven years. It also proved that the Manitoba parkland was poorly-suited to sleddog training. The constant winter winds wiped out a trail overnight, invariably. The only groomed trails were very dangerous high-speed snowmobile trails on which it would be suicidal to run a dog team. So Vanya never got to become a lead dog. Just another small tragedy, I suppose, in the inevitable long list of small tragedies that are part and parcel of the dog game. I wish I could have given Prince Ivan the opportunity he deserved to become another great name among Seppalas. Perhaps he doesn't even know or think about what he missed. We haven't even had progeny from him — nobody has been interested in stud services, in the way that seems typical of purebred sleddog fanciers. But for me PRINCE IVAN OF SEPPALA will forever be the last of the great Seppala leaders, no matter the circumstances. Let's just say that he is symbolic of the final extinction, after an entire century, of the Leonhard Seppala sleddog strain. It hasn't quite happened yet. Each year a litter or two is still whelped. Yet the Seppala rate of replacement seems insufficient to afford much security for their survival. Finally, after a century, the end appears clearly in sight.

Xapka of Seppala

Xapka of Seppala who should also have been 
         a great leader
Xapka of Seppala, grandson of Shapochka iz Solovyev, who should also have become a great leader but never got a chance
XAPKA OF SEPPALA was born 4 November 2006, sired by Cocù de Sa.Ra.Be. de Cal Segù ex Darka of Seppala. His lineage featured some extremely willing and intelligent sleddogs and in XAPKA those bloodlines really demonstrated what they could produce. He is a replica of his paternal grandsire XAPOCHKA IZ SOLOVYEV who was Ramón Rojas' main leader (he is also a great-grandson of SHAKAL IZ SOLOVYEV so the Russian lineage is very strong in him.

He was barely harness-broken in the Yukon. Now in Manitoba he has gone only for a couple of bike runs. When he did, though, he impressed me as no novice sleddog has done since 1996 when TONYA was started. My log entry for his first Manitoba run in 2010 reads: "I haven't seen anything like this since Tonya was a youngster! (...) A natural leader — how do I know? Because he listened to me every step of the way, and he tried to do what I asked of him!"

To my shame I have to admit that I've done nothing to fulfil XAPKA's huge potential. For one thing, small though he is, he's rather too strong for me to manage comfortably at age 72. When I try to take him for a long-line walk, I often wind up prostrate on the earth just hanging on, that being the only way to restrain him when he's excited. I suspect that he's another dog that could have been fully the equal of TONYA — but I'll never know for sure. Like IVAN, he doesn't even have any progeny.

These tales of wasted potential may seem an ignominious end for such a promising sleddog breeding enterprise as we maintained in the Yukon for 15 years. That, however, seems to have been the Seppala story more often than not; it has happened repeatedly in their history. In fact it seems to have happened to most of the major Seppala kennels — the Seppala/Ricker Poland Spring operation, the Belford kennel, Cold River Kennels, the Harry Wheeler kennel, the McFaul kennel, the Markovo rescue operation, Sepp-Alta. Sooner or later grievous loss and wastage occured in every case. Perhaps that's just the dog game for you. Bloodlines arise, see their glory days, and mostly achieve extinction. I now tend to think there's really no way of ever truly getting it right.

End of story. Finis. That's all she wrote. Of the above described Seppala Kennels leaders, all now are dead save Lizaveta of Seppala, Lara of Seppala, Prince Ivan of Seppala, and Xapka of Seppala. May all of them — and all departed Seppalas — rest in peace. Whatever their owners and breeders did or failed to do, the Seppalas themselves did their job and did it well.

The Seppala Siberian Sleddog Project - Mr. and Mrs. J. Jeffrey Bragg - Box 396 - Rossburn, MB - R0J 1V0 - Canada