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The Markovo Kennels Rescue Project: 1969 - 1975
Copyright © 2003 J. Jeffrey Bragg

BY THE TIME a year had elapsed, I was training a ragtag team of green young dogs (including KODA's three progeny) and older show-pet stock, making heavy weather of it with lots of tangles and frustration. I was struggling to come to terms with the Siberian's sleddog heritage, but most of my dogs seemed as bewildered as I was.

Ditko of Seppala lying, front view 1969, who inspired J. Jeffrey Bragg with the vision of a Seppala Siberian Sleddog breed.

     I had a clunky old sled purchased from Bunty and an even clunkier three-wheeled rig. I traded in my Plymouth Barracuda and bought a 3/4 ton GMC 4WD pickup, for which I immediately set to constructing an eight-compartment dog box.
     In October 1969 I received word that Bunty wanted to sell two of her older stud dogs: CH. SNOW RIDGE CHIEFSON and DITKO OF SEPPALA. "Son" was the grandsire of my show-dogs and many others in southern Ontario. My buddy Robert Reiber, Kamenka Kennels, had long admired "Son." We agreed to buy the two old dogs and co-own them, DITKO to lodge with me and CHIEFSON with Bob.
     DITKO was wonderful -- sweet, friendly, relaxed and co-operative. I was impressed both with his wonderful personality and his incredibly swift, smooth, flowing gait. Never before had I seen a Siberian move like that!

Ditko of Seppala 1969

Learning the hard way!

AT THAT TIME there were virtually no racing Siberians in southern Ontario! DITKO was old, but he was a reliable leader and was far more useful than what I had been running at lead up to that point. I began looking for more racing Siberians. Hearing from someone that J. Malcolm McDougall had such dogs but was phasing them out in favour of Alaskans, I tracked "Mac" to his lair in Ste. Agathe des Monts, Québec. It was November and already in the Laurentians the snow was piled twelve feet high on either side of the mountain roads, but with my new truck I made it to McDougall's kennel and managed to persuade him to sell me MALAMAK'S OKLEASIK. "Mac" gave me fair warning that if a dog was no good to him it was probably of very little use to anyone else. Okie taught me a lesson. He could run in a team quite well, but in all else he was a schmoo of a dog, inept, apologetic and lacking much self-confidence.

Malamak's Okleasik 1969, a Seppala Siberian Sleddog ancestor
Malamak's Okleasik, November 1969

Undeterred, believing that I was now learning who had the real working dogs, I decided to import two Siberians from Earl F. Norris in Willow, AK! First came SEPP OF ANADYR, a white male from a brother-sister mating out of NICOLAI/CHORNYI lines: SEPP was a wild wolf, totally unsocialised, panicky, afraid of absolutely everything, an utter, irredeemable spook. Then came LASKA OF ANADYR, a linebred IGLOO PAK'S TOK granddaughter: if SEPP was a wild wolf, LASKA was a wild fox, feral, sneaky, jittery, just as spooky as SEPP if not more so. Eventually I managed to run the two of them at wheel, but whenever I had to hook down and come forward to sort out a tangle (which was still quite frequently), there were SEPP and LASKA, curled up in foetal position in the deep snow off the trail, shivering with fear. I found this depressing.

DITKO WAS THE BEST dog I had, but he was ten years old and I had no Seppala bitch to breed to him. By this time I was slowly, painfully acquiring the knowledge that would define what turned out to be my life's work. Through a brief correspondence with none other than Short Seeley, I learned of Lawrence L. Prado of Milton, NH, who was writing a book about the early breed history of the Siberian Husky. There ensued an intensive correspondence of frequent long letters as we each explored Siberian breed history. Like myself, Larry Prado was the proud owner of a copper-coloured show champion, but he also owned a leggy, black and white bitch named MONTE ALBAN XIPE out of pure Bryar Seppala lineage! Eventually we talked each other into attempting a breeding, but Larry would neither bring his bitch to my kennel nor entrust her to my care, so we met halfway -- beside an eastern-Ontario highway. Of course, DITKO was tired from the drive, put off by the strange setting, the bitch turned out to be too early in her cycle and hostile to the male; nothing happened, and we each returned home feeling put out. Nevertheless the correspondence continued, and I gradually came to realise that there existed an "alternative" Siberian, the Seppala dog, that was totally separate and apart from the show-dog that had been so heavily promoted by Eva B. Seeley and Lorna B. Demidoff.

Having discovered through research that the McFaul stock was sold to Earl F. Norris in 1963, I resumed my correspondence with him, as it seemed the best bet. Earl informed me in the winter of 1969-1970 that he had farmed out two Seppala males in eastern Ontario, and directed me to pick them up and look them over to see whether I thought they might be of use to me, and if not, to have them euthanised. I took delivery of TONY OF SEPPALA and PIETRO OF SEPPALA II. TONY was an unattractive scruffy animal, so incredibly short-backed that at almost any gait he crabbed extremely; by no means could he move straight forward at any speed. The other dog, PIETRO, was very large and heavy-boned, probably twenty-five inches tall and well over sixty pounds. He was rangy, handsome and short-coated, but when he moved, he seemed to be coming apart: legs, paws, pasterns, shoulders flew wildly in all directions, everything flopped. Never had I seen a dog with such loose ligamentation, nor have I since. After much soul-searching, I took them both to the vet. I could not see my way to breeding either one, particularly as I was having difficulties finding bitches. Even now I doubt whether I would risk using either one.

Tony of Seppala 1970, a McFaul Seppala Siberian Husky male
Pietro of Seppala II 1970, a McFaul Seppala Siberian Husky male
Tony of Seppala 29 March 1970
Pietro of Seppala II 29 March 1970 
Photos courtesy Elsie Chadwick, Siberian Husky Archives

     Seen in retrospect after thirty years, perhaps it was a mistake not to have attempted a trial breeding of each one, but as I had yet to discover any pure Seppala females I could not at that point see what use I could make of them. At that point, the notion of attempting to rescue Seppala strain had not yet entered my head; I barely realised just then that it stood in need of rescue, because I was only just beginning to comprehend what these late McFaul dogs represented. I was learning as quickly as I could, but hardly fast enough.

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