WASILLA — The Keller family is a tight and unified pack. The father and son mush, the whole family helps, and every dog on the family lot is on the same page as the family unit.
Jeremy ran his second Iditarod last year. His 15-year-old son, Bjorn, recently finished his second Jr Iditarod in Willow Sunday, March 1.
“It was a relief to finally get there,” Bjorn said.
While Bjorn finished too late for the Awards Banquet, he accomplished what he set out to do, have a fun and safe overnight trip with his family dogs.
Bjorn said that he plans to run the Jr Iditarod again next year and also plans to run the Willow 100. He said most of his training for the 2021 races centers on long camping trips with the dogs. Connecting with the dogs and enjoying the great outdoors is Bjorn’s favorite part of mushing.
“Taking them camping is about as good as it gets,” Bjorn said.
The camping trips help Bjorn and the dogs build up their endurance and the experience boosts both parties’ overall beings. Bjorn said the dogs love going on camping trips, saying they permeate joy while they’re out in their element.
“You can just see it on their faces,” Bjorn said.
Bjorn and his younger brother Liam go on camping trips every summer with their father. Jeremy’s love for camping and mushing carried on. He said they all look forward to the annual opportunity to bond the way only a father and his sons can.
“It’s a blessing for all three of us,” Jeremy said.
Each dog has its own personality and the Kellers can literally sense how each dog doing and what’s going through their heads at any given moment. Jeremy said the art of mushing is working with each dog’s aptitude and individual needs while moving dogs to different jobs to make a cohesive team.
“Because we’re such an intimate pack, we know them inside and out,” Jeremy said.
Jeremy and his son share the same group of dogs on the trail. Jeremy said they keep a level “kennel mentality” with their small but intimate crew of dogs.
“The goal is to get them in that group vibe… one organism,” Jeremy said.
Liam said that he also enjoys the family’s mushing lifestyle with various furry relatives to visit with every day.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Liam said.
Bjorn said the camping trip is less about racing and more about team building. He said the dogs have so much fun it fuels their next race and makes them better athletes.
“That’s what they like to do; and if they’re happy when they’re training, they’re gonna have a much better experience… everything is just going to work better,” Bjorn said.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org