Meet Dori Hollingsworth
2001 IFSS 6 Dog World Champion
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was born in Seattle, but at one month of age whisked up to Alaska where I spent the next 6
months on a fishing tender. I then bounced back and forth between Seattle and Alaska until
I was 13. At that time we made a permanent move to Alaska. A move that I have never
regretted. I thank God every day that I live in such a beautiful country.
I have lived in Seward for over 30 years. Seward is known for its rain and warm
winters. It's really not a good place to work with sled dogs. People often ask why we stay
here and the answer is my family. My parents live here as well as both my brothers and
their families. My oldest niece, who is married with children, also lives here and my
oldest daughter, Nita, and her family have made their home in Seward. I may not be in dogs
forever, but I hope to always be around family. My youngest daughter, Linnea, is in
Anchorage going to school and studying theater.
Racing sleddogs was a great thing to do with the girls while they were growing up.
Although Linnea never got into racing the dogs, she did always come with us on the trips
and was good with the puppies. Nita on the other hand was very into racing dogs. She won
the Junior World Championship 5-dog class, as well as winning three Gold medals in the
1996 Arctic Winter Games. And all that after she had broken her arm quite badly in a race.
Although we would like to be more involved in sleddog clubs, the closest one is over
100 miles away and it's just too hard for us to get there for meetings, etc. It's rare for
us to even make it to a drawing. Usually we don't find out what position we are going out
or whom we are running against until we get to the race.
What is your primary sled dog activity or area of interest?
We like to race and that means training for the races. I don't think we would make very
good recreational mushers as we like a goal to work towards. My preference is the 6-dog
class although we run everything from 4-dog to open. Usually my husband, Daryl, runs open
class for the Montana Creek, Chugiak, and Anchorage seasons. Then about the time of the
Women's World Championship I take over the team. I then do the races in interior Alaska.
How long have you been involved with sled dogs?
We have been involved in sleddogs for about 12 years, although I did do a class on
Sleddogs in High School.
What sparked your initial interest in sled dogs?
One winter I took the girls to see the one dog sled races held during the Polar Bear Jump
in January. It was called the Slush Mush and lots of kids showed up, most with their
family pets. It looked like a lot of fun so I asked Daryl to build me a sled. Well, he
built the sled and then started taking it out with our Golden Retriever. That was so much
fun that he went and borrowed my brothers Golden Retriever. Pretty soon he was going
around town borrowing all these dogs and stacking them in our Ford Escort. And then I
bought him an old retired lead dog and that was the real start.
If you remember your very first time behind a team of dogs, tell us about it.
My first ride was one of the scariest in my life. My husband took me out with about 4
dogs. I'm sure they were very slow dogs, but they didn't seem so at the time. We climbed
the first mile going through residential areas. Then we hit the woods and started down
hill on a very narrow trail. Numerous times I thought we were going to slam into trees or
boulders. I remember screaming much like one would on a roller coaster. Every time I
screamed the dogs went a little faster. The next day I sent my mother out and she had the
same reaction. Anyway, we both survived the ride and I think the thrill got to me although
to this day I dont like riding in the basket.
Who have been your mentors?
I was very fortunate in that Bill Sullivan took us under his wing right from the start. He
saved us from making many mistakes that newcomers usually make. He also taught us a lot of
sleddog terminology such as dropping dog. For the first couple of years that we were
running dogs it was like I had a tape-recording of Bill in my head always telling my what
to do and how to do it. He was never afraid to tell me what I was doing wrong. It was
nerve wracking to have him go out behind me on the snow machine, as I knew he would be
critiquing everything I did, but in the long run it really helped.
One time I was at a race and I wanted to run a single leader. Since I didn't know if
she would do okay all the way around I put both leader lines on her instead of just using
a single leader line. I looked around to see if Bill were anywhere in sight as I knew he'd
tell me to just use one and I didn't see him. Well, he was somewhere out on the trail and
would you believe he noticed I had two lines hooked to Mitzie. I never got away with
anything, but he sure taught me a lot. Dan Grey helped me to ride the sled better and Bill
Taylor has helped through the years with much sage advice.
What size kennel do you operate?
We usually keep between 20 and 30 dogs. A lot depends on how many puppies we have. Right
now we have 12 dogs, 6 yearlings, 3 retirees, and 7 puppies.
What type of tether/bowl system do you use?
I like to attach my bowls to the dog's houses, but I also need to be able to bring them in
for cleaning and to thaw them out if they freeze, so I use a snap attached to the house. I
have been going to Stainless Steel buckets as they last longer and are easier to clean.
We like our chains off the ground so we have a pipe about 4 feet up with a swivel
coming out of the pipe. We tried just using a piece of bent rebar in the pipe, but we get
so much rain that it was always freezing and was a real hassle to thaw in the winter. Also
when the snow piled up the dogs could get the pipe out if they jumped. Then we would find
them running around the yard dragging this piece of rebar. We now have a D ring welded
onto a piece of pipe that rotates around the rebar. If it does freeze it's easy to knock
loose and when the snow piles up they don't get loose as the rebar is frozen into the
pipe. Having the chain off the ground is much cleaner and makes it much easier for us to
clean up the yard.
What are the most important considerations in housing sled dogs?
For us the most important thing is keeping the dogs dry as it rains so much here. It
seldom gets very warm in the summer, nor does it get very cold in the winter. We have
built our doghouses with large overhanging roof and 2 X 4's around the doors. This helps
keep out the rain. (Photos of dog lot
in summer and winter.)
Give us an overview of your feeding program.
During the summer we feed dry dog food. We just add it to their water and then they drink
the water as well as eat the food. We water in the morning and add feed at night so that
they have water in front of them at all times in case it gets warm out. We like feeding
dry in the summer as it helps clean their teeth. When we start training in the fall we
start adding meat and by the time real racing hits we will be feeding about 65% meat. We
like to feed a complete Race mix such as Champaine mix.
Summarize your basic kennel management style.
Cleanliness and consistency
What breed(s) do you work with?
For years we bought dogs (Alaskan Huskies) from Bill Sullivan. It was a sad day for us
when he stopped selling dogs. We then bought dogs from Bill Taylor and also got some
really good dogs. Finally we had to start breeding our own dogs. Last year I bought a
German Shorthaired Pointer and as he turned out to be a super dog, I bred him to one of
our best bitches and got one of the nicest litters of pups I've ever raised. We call them
What physical characteristics do you look for in your dogs?
I like deep chests and long backs, but the final word is what their tugline looks like.
What mental or emotional attributes do you require in your dogs?
I want a dog that keeps going even when the chips are down. The dogs like to run on fast
trails, but I want ones that will keep going even when it's super hard pulling. I like
dogs that will go out every time I hook them up. My dogs are pretty mellow. They don't
jump around at the line. In fact, sometimes I wonder if they are even going to leave the
line at all, but when they say "go," those dogs can go from 0 to 30 in about a
half a second. I like dogs that are easy to handle. I don't want them beating each other
up while I'm hooking up. I'll take performance over screaming attitude any time. One
person looked at our team at the starting line and said, "These dogs are conserving
energy." I've actually had sled holders see who was at the line and get up and walk
away. At Tok this year one of my leaders was laying down while we were hooking up, one leg
tucked under her body in relaxation. I was going to start worrying when she started
snoring, but instead she went out and won the race.
Tell us about an all time favorite dog or two.
My all time favorite is a little female named Mitzie. She was in the first litter that
we raised ourselves. This was a phenomenal litter. All four went on to be leaders and set
track records, but Mitzie was extra special from day one. She was the first out of her
house, the first to escape the puppy barrier and the first to scale the 6-foot fence. When
I hooked her up for the first time she was about 5 months old. We didn't know anything
about training pups so we put her in lead and she took off like she knew just what she was
doing. When we came in she held the line out while we unhooked the rest of the dogs.
From there she just got better. As a yearling she led my 5-dog team (all yearlings) to
ASDRAs points championship. As a two-year-old she started setting track records and
continued to do so until she was 7 years old. She led my team to victory at the Tok Race
of Champions, Su Valley Championships, Limited North American and many club races. For two
years she ran in my 6-dog team and never lost a race. Then when she was five we hooked her
up in the open team. She looked behind her at all those dogs and I could see her thinking,
"At last, I have some help!" She not only won her first open race, but also set
anew track record in the process. She is 10 now and I have never known her to have a sour
day. No matter how bad the run was the day before I can count on her to be ready to go the
next time out. When Mitzie is in the team I know we are going to have a good run. It was
really hard for me to take her out of the main string, but she is really showing her worth
by training pups now.
2001 IFSS Championships
Photo by Dave Partee
Although only a year old I can tell that Chip, our German shorthaired pointer, is
going to be another favorite. He's a gentle soul that likes to lie at my feet in the
evening while I read. But come running time it's another story. He goes ballistic. He runs
through the house whining and carrying on. When I load him in the truck he immediately
turns around with his teeth against the screen and begins to foam. I'm going to have to
keep his rabies certificate with me at all times. He was chewing through the top of his
box so we had to metal plate it. He would bark from Seward to Fairbanks (500 miles) so
that we finally had to get a bark collar for him. When you get where you are going and
open up his box the straw is all shoved to the back of his box while the front is bare
wood. He ran up front from his third run out and is super strong. He led my 6-dog team to
victory in the 2001 IFSS World Championships and Tok Race of Champions.
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