SHAKAL IZ SOLOVYEV has gone to the Rainbow Bridge. He was with us from late summer of 1992 when we bought him as a three-months-old puppy. We were still living in Catalunya in the foothills of the Pyrenees at the time; we drove to Deimburg, Germany, to pick him up after his flight from Ekaterinburg to Moscow to Prague. He was brought out of the Czech Republic by Joerg Deutgen who bought his sister Shura.
SHAKAL saw it all in his sixteen years. He was born in the Ural Mountains of western Siberia at the kennels of polar explorer Sergei Alexandrovitch Solovyev. He grew up in the heat of northern Spain (which at first he found appalling, but he quickly adjusted). He learned to be a sleddog pulling a three-wheeled rig on the gravelled back roads around Els Masos de Llimiana near Tremp in the province of Lérida. As a yearling he flew across the Atlantic Ocean with our other Seppala sleddogs, from Spain to Milwaukee, and drove to the Yukon with us in Carolyn Ritter's amazing dog van. He was trained as a leader in that first year in the Yukon wilderness, but decided he didn't like the pressure. From there on he ran a very strong wheel position with RIVER VIEW'S HURLEY who had made a similar decision. They were probably the best pair of wheel dogs we ever had, both strong , hard-working and intelligent.
At first, knowing that we had the dream of generations of Siberian Husky breeders, a genuine Siberia import stud dog, after so many years, we applied to The Canadian Kennel Club for CKC registration for "Jackie" along with our other Seppala-strain Siberians. The manager of the Registration Division from the beginning told me that they "did not know what to do" about our application. In the end, after two years of exchanged correspondence, briefs, articles, and discussions, the Club simply refused the application -- because, though "Jackie" had a valid FCI Export Pedigree with three generations of ancestry, the pedigree did not show three generations of NUMBERS. Thus the Siberian Husky in Canada lost its one opportunity for genetic renewal -- and thus began The Seppala Siberian Sleddog Project. We sought separate "evolving breed" status for our dogs from Agriculture Canada, and got it, with the Solovyev import line written into the Breeding Guidelines from the outset.
The early years of the Project in Canada saw little comprehension or notice taken of what we were doing; we had no great financial resources, and no hope of selling dogs for several years after we left the Canadian Kennel Club and its Siberian Husky registry behind. So we did not breed Shakal as extensively as we ought to have done. But he at least produced two litters that showed his worth, one on Norde of Sepp-Alta (Hercules of Sepp-Alta x Uelen's Ali) and another on Zirconia of Sepp-Alta (Uelen's Beowulf of Sepp-Alta x Powder of Markovo); in both instances, the progeny were a long step ahead relative to their Willett dams both in sleddog performance and in overall conformation and quality. In due time we produced grandprogeny of Shakal iz Solovyev that set new standards for Seppala excellence.
"Jackie" went with me along with two dozen other SSSDs, including several of his progeny, to the now-infamous "Seppala Symposium" in summer of 2002 at the Willett kennel in Seeley Lake, Montana, when he was ten years old. He endured the whole fiasco with good humour, including the enforced weekend camp-out in the river bottom at Fort Nelson, BC, when the van blew out a radiator hose. The members (including the Grand Panjandrum) of the newly-minted pirate organisation had no idea what they were seeing on that August weekend in Montana. Willett hardly gave Shakal a second glance. Out of the group of forty people only John Coyne and Mark Hartum gave Jackie the benefit of long, thoughtful study.
Throughout the following year, when I attempted in vain to arrive at a reasonable settlement of the issues raised by the 2002 Symposium and its unwelcome news of an attempted hijacking of the SSSD Project by Willett and his hangers-on, Shakal was always a major issue. Willett screamed hysterically about "performance-deteriorating Eurasian dogs" and then contradicted himself, saying "take it to Siberia and bring it back and you're in" (implying that Shakal was originally a European Siberian, a canard for which he had not one shred of evidence). I was obliged to write yet another brief in defense of Shakal explaining his significance to the "Continental Kennel Club." In the end, a waste of time and effort as there was never much real possibility of DW accepting any kind of compromise. Sometimes it seems to me as though I shall have to spend the rest of my life defending a Siberian who needed no defense whatever, so manifestly superior was he to 95% of what gets registered in the USA and elsewhere as a "Siberian Husky."
SHAKAL IZ SOLOVYEV retired as a sleddog and stud dog to live in the log cabin in the middle of Seppala Kennels with Isa Boucher. He mellowed somewhat from his impetuous prime, but he remained wilful, aloof and regal. He seemed to know that he was in a class all by himself at the kennel, and always bore himself with good humour, dignity, and a mild agreeable temperament. "Jack the Bear" was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Isa and Jeffrey. We never knew a sleddog quite like him; he reminded us of Olaf Swenson's descriptions of "Bilkoff" the white Siberia leader that he coveted and finally owned. Jackie was his own dog always. He became quite affable and affectionate in his old age.
Shakal was an epochal dog who represented a turning point in the history of Seppala strain, the point at which it returned to the principles of its origins, forsaking the showdog Siberian Husky stud book and truly becoming a Seppala Siberian Sleddog, bred (as were the dogs of Leonhard Seppala and Harry Wheeler) from Siberia import stock. He was the last of our original Seppala Siberian Sleddog founder generation, and the last survivor of the twenty-five Siberian sleddogs we brought with us from Spain.