The Future of Iditarod Dreams: Team Ineka-Part 3

The Future of Iditarod Dreams- Team Ineka Part 3

“Congratulations!! You own a home in Alaska! The Deed was just recorded”

Text from Dave S. realtor and friend  on July 20, 2010

So now the journey begins. Only just one week after the passing of our dear friend, our dog Ineka, and the inspiration for Team Ineka and the future of our Iditarod dreams, Michele and I are now officially the proud owners of a home (or is it just a musher’s cabin?) in the great state of Alaska.

I have thought about this day almost every day since I was about 19 years old, almost 20 years to the day. That was when I drove from Oregon to the Georgia mountains to look at a couple Siberian Huskies. It was a 72 hour drive in my 1975 Datsun 280z and I thought I owned the world. When I arrived in Georgia, I didn’t know the first thing about sled dogs or the sport of dog sledding but I did knew about Siberians, having owned one since 1987, his name was Axl (yes, after Guns and Roses lead singer Axl Rose, who was my favorite band at the time).

When I arrived at the breeder’s home, strung out from the road (wait… isn’t that a lyric from  a Bob Seger/Metallica cover song?) I was just expecting to take a look a a couple dogs. As a matter of fact I had no real intentions of purchasing them. I was heading to Florida to bask in the sun, not be a teenager held down by a couple sled dogs.

I  drove up and looked the pack of dogs over and one caught my eye. He was a red and white male with what I would call yellow eyes and then I saw his brother, a typical black and white Siberian Husky with a brown eye and a blue eye. I had money in my pocket but still not ready to buy until the lady said, “Do you want to go for a ride?”

“Sure,” I said and she and her son began hooking up a team of Siberians to a cart. After the dogs where hooked up and banging at the harnesses the lady could barely contain the feisty dogs that I thought were possessed! She jumped in the seat and told me to jump on the back and her son let go of the quick release. Away we went down a steep curve and almost toppling over (funny that same thing happened just about a month ago when I was visiting April Wood of Jaraw Siberians in California when we took her dogs out for a run).

After a couple miles the dogs settled into their gait and were pulling in sync and the lady asked if I would like to give it a try. I said of course and to my dismay (and soon to be pleasure) she jumped off the cart and we took off again. I had listened to her commands and as soon as I started barking out orders to the team they quickly responded. I have no idea how long I spent driving those dogs through the mountains of Georgia but something changed in me that day. Something primal, something connecting. Some call it the Musher’s Bug. It is true once it is in your veins it is hard to shake.

I picked up the breeder a short distance from her dog yard and she guided the team into the kennel with expert grace and we all chipped in on un-harnessing the team, watering them and just spending time with them in the yard.

I left that day with two pups, that I would soon call Rutgrr (the red one) and Ryche. Their full AKC names would soon be Rutgrr the Grreat (like the old Tony the Tiger cereal commercials) and King Ryche (named after another big rock band of the time, Queensryche). I soon bought a bicycle designed for the elderly and began training my pups. Very soon two dogs became four and four became eight. If you are a musher you know just how quickly they multiply, something like they taught us in high school biology class…

In the mid 1990’s I moved to Minnesota and began mushing with a team of thirty five Siberians with hopes of one day running the Iditarod. I ran on the snowmobile trails in the middle of the night so I wouldn’t get run over by the snow machines” running up to 45 miles most nights. During the day I was dabbling in the stock market as a day trader. The Internet was becoming really hot and just about anyone could make money in the market. What a perfect life, right?

Then I met Michele who lived in Denver and I had to “grow up” fast. I ended up moving to Colorado and put my sled dog dreams on hold for what I like to call, “life getting in the way”.

Fast forward to 2010. Michele and I are now married for almost a decade, we have a successful business and the kids are getting older. I got a chance to go to Alaska for a conference and the ceremonial start of the Iditarod and that changed our lives forever. Soon, we were talking to realtors and making plans to head to Alaska to look at a property that used to be an Iditarod kennel. We signed the purchase agreement sight unseen with the provision that we would approve after we looked at the place.

On July 4th weekend, my daughter and I (she had never been on a plane) flew to Alaska and looked at the place. I needed Nicole there because she was the lone hold-out in committing to move up North. She approved of the place and the cool high  school she will be attending and we sent word by text message to mom that we were buying the place.

Within sixteen days, the purchase was finalized and I was making plans of heading up at the end of the month to start work on the place (it needs remodeling really bad!) while Michele and the kids stay in Denver for a year to make sure that our business will have a successful transition when all all move to Alaska part-time (six months in Alaska and six months in Denver) in 2011.

During the next year I will be attempting something I am not good at all, construction, and begin to build our dog team. My goal is to qualify in 2012 for the 2013 Iditarod and run the race under the Team Ineka banner, named after our dear friend. I don’t know if I will have my own team by then or will lease a team from a friend of mine, but either way I am on track for something I have thought about since I was 19 years old. Some may call this my mid-life crisis. I don’t think so. and I don’t care if I ever have a corvette. I am chasing my dream and I will see where the trail leads. Hopefully to Nome…

Never Forget Your Dreams!

Next segment: Way Up North to Alaska


Dr. Robert Forto is the Dog Sledding Examiner, a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the popular radio program, Mush! You Huskies.