Eva B. Seeley's Chinook Kennels
How the Seppala versus Seeley Dichotomy Got Started

'Short' Seeley with pups
"Short" Seeley with Chinook Kennels pups

CHINOOK KENNELS IS GIVEN PRIDE OF PLACE by Siberian Husky breed book authors in the early history of that breed. Eva B. Seeley's bloodlines gave rise to Lorna B. Demidoff's Monadnock breeding, which in turn became the cornerstone of the modern Siberian Husky show dog. Thus early breed history has become skewed, distorted out of shape by the need to glorify the origins of the show dog. Chinook Kennels is accorded a prominent place in The New Complete Siberian Husky by Michael Jennings, with nine pages of commentary on the Seeley operation, while the Harry Wheeler kennel is dismissed with just a half-page of inaccurate generalities. Shameful treatment, indeed, for so important a kennel as Wheeler's Seppala Kennels, but in Jennings' book (which was first written in collaboration with Mrs. Demidoff) historical accuracy takes a poor second place to the expediency of SHCA dog politics.

THE TRUTH IS THAT THE SIBERIAN HUSKY BREED could have got along very well without "Short" Seeley, but there would have been no Siberian Husky breed without the Wheeler kennel and its relationships with the Belfords, Bill Shearer's Foxstand, and the Cold River Kennel (Marie Lee Frothingham and her daughter Millie Turner) -- and no show dogs, either, because the Wheeler and Cold River dogs between them account for over sixty percent of the ancestry of Lorna Demidoff's "Monadnock" dogs! Seeley herself used such Wheeler dogs as Sapsuk of Seppala, Wolfe of Seppala, and Vanka of Seppala to form and carry on her own bloodline, and would indeed scarcely have been able to continue her breeding programme without them. Yet Wheeler inexplicably gets no credit from SHCA and its authors!

Seeley with Alyeska Siberians
Eva B. Seeley with Alyeska Siberians

LOCATED IN WONALANCET, NH, the original Chinook Kennels had belonged to Arthur Walden who bred and drove big yellow mongrel sleddogs, called "Chinooks," that took their name from Walden's well-known leader. Milton and Eva B. Seeley, who owned one of Chinook's puppies as a house pet, had gotten involved with Walden. Eva drove a team of Chinooks in 1929; the previous year she and her husband had managed the Walden property during his absence on the first Byrd Antarctic Expedition. On his return, they "bought out" Walden and straightway became involved with Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. At Chinook Kennels the sleddogs for the second and third Byrd expeditions were collected and trained. This led to further involvement with the US Navy and US Army Search and Rescue units as the military laid plans for the use of sleddogs in the Second World War.

EVA B. SEELEY was a rather ruthless person in her relationships with other dog people. She acted as though she owned both the Alaskan Malamute and the Siberian Husky breeds and made constant threats to call the American Kennel Club and get them to de-register one dog or another; she pretended to have special close political connections there. Her aim seems to have been to monopolise and control both breeds insofar as possible. Robert Zoller of Husky-Pak Alaskan Malamutes was one of the few people to stand up to "Short" successfully. His article the Zoller Files (MS Word download) is well worth reading just to understand her psychology and the lengths to which she would unhesitatingly go to exert control over a breed.

CHINOOK KENNELS' BREEDING was shunned by sleddog breeders who carried on the Leonhard Seppala heritage; that is an historic fact. Harry Wheeler, William L. Shearer III, the Belfords, and J. D. McFaul all ended up with the same policy: no Seeley or Seeley-derived ancestry in pure Seppala strain. Shearer and McFaul both started out with Seeley or Seeley-derived stock and both of them later discarded those bloodlines in favour of pure Seppala. Why did they do that?
          If we could ask them today, I'm sure the answer would be, "Because she was breeding show-dogs and changing the original Leonhard Seppala type sleddog to something else -- and her dogs weren't much good, either!" The early Chinook dogs as they appear in photos -- CHEEAK OF ALYESKA and her progeny, TOSKA OF WONALANCET the daughter of SAPSUK OF SEPPALA -- mostly seem to be nicely-built dogs, very like our Siberia import SHAKAL IZ SOLOVYEV in general appearance. But Seeley was dissatisfied with her early stock and wanted a more "close-coupled," stocky dog. In time, she got what she wanted.
         In the 1970s I corresponded with Lawrence L. Prado Jr., who researched all the early New England kennels for his book Canis Sibiricus. Larry discovered multiple inconsistencies and corrections on the AKC master cards relating to many key Chinook Kennels Siberians. Dates failed to correspond, entries were "corrected" -- there was disquieting evidence that strange things had gone on at Chinook Kennels.
          Chinook Kennels was first and foremost a commercial dog-dealing enterprise. The Seeleys' Chinook Kennels supplied sleddogs to the US Navy, to US Army Search and Rescue, to the Byrd Antarctic expeditions. Both Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies were being "promoted" and bred at Chinook Kennels at the same time. One former kennel worker, questioned about registrations at Chinook, bluntly claimed that "they registered the brown-eyed ones as Malamutes and the blue-eyed ones as Siberians!"

Chinook Kennels Siberian team
Chinook Kennels Siberian team,
obviously in no hurry, driven by Eva B.!

TODAY SEPPALA KENNELS acknowledges that the decision of the major Seppala pioneers, Wheeler, Belford, Shearer and McFaul, was an astute one. We continue the same policy of excluding Seeley-derived bloodlines from Seppala breeding. We have no interest in the re-designed Siberian Husky! Unfortunately, elsewhere mainstream Seeley-derived racing Siberian Huskies are accepted as "Seppalas." The racing drivers of the ISSSC have no respect for the judgment of Wheeler, Belford, Shearer and McFaul. They seem to have found it easier to accommodate their breeding to whatever is found in local dog yards. The greatest danger for Seppalas has always been that of assimilation by the much larger population of mixed-lineage stock. Those who assist this process by registering RSHs as Seppalas are, we think, making a decision that is disastrous for the future of the breed.

Photos courtesy Elsie Chadwick, Siberian Husky Archives