Manila students welcome Allen Moore and Aliy Zirkle
Manila upper elementary and middle school students welcomed Allen Moore and Aliy Zirkle, owners of SP Dog Kennels in Two Rivers, Alaska. The two are well-known dog mushers winning both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod, the two 1,000 mile dog sled races held each year. They also run in many shorter distance races leading up to the two.
The husband and wife team work together with their kennel but they race against each other in many of the events.
Allen, a Manila native, moved to Alaska 25 years ago. The couple was home for Mother's Day to visit his mother Donnie Moore, along with other relatives and friends in the area.
Trena Shedd, Manila counselor, thanked the couple for taking time to visit with the students on Thursday. Many of the students became fans of Allen and Aliy as they daily tracked the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest on line.
Students enjoyed the Power Point presentation introducing the dogs, watching the training, viewing Alaska's beautiful scenery, and clips from the start and finish of Allen's win in the Yukon Quest in 2014.
He also won the Yukon Quest in 2013 and came in second in 2012. Aliy has also won the Yukon Quest and has finished the Iditarod 14 times.
Allen told the students he was born on main street in Manila, went to school at Manila, graduated from Manila and spent 32 years in Manila before moving 4,000 miles away to Alaska. He said he did not like hot weather and decided to move where it was cooler.
When he first arrived in Alaska, his two daughters were small. Activities there included short dog mushing with a sled and one dog. As the girls got older, the races grew to two dogs, then four and up to 20.
"I went from one dog to 51 dogs in 25 years," he said.
Aliy talked about the care of the dogs.
"Our dogs are special to us," she said. "It takes a lot of work to care for and train them. We only have one litter a year. Dogs race for about two to 10 years then we adopt them out to pet homes. We never sell our dogs. Allen has been offered $5,000 for one of his lead dogs, but our dogs are not for sale."
Allen and Aliy shared several experiences they have had in the 1,000 mile races including dogs pulling the sled off the trail chasing a silver fox; meeting a herd of Caribou head to head, Allen falling through the ice at 56 degrees below zero and carrying each dog to the top of the mountain one by one when they were tired.
Mushers have to depend on themselves during the races. They cannot have cell phones or any outside assistance. The races are held in the winter when it is always dark.
"You have to take care of yourself and the dogs," Aliy said.
The lead dog leads by voice commands. There are no reigns. They travel about 10 miles per hour and the 1,000 mile races can take up to 10 days or two weeks when a wrong turn is made.
Allen added veterinarians are located at check points and the dogs are checked out throughout the race.
They were also asked to compare the schools in Alaska to Manila. Aliy said the schools were smaller in a lot of places and when teams competed from school to school in sporting events they traveled by small airplanes.
Allen encouraged the students to do their best in school and follow their dreams.