IN 1990 AFTER AN EXTENDED
period of "Wanderjahre," Isa
Boucher and I settled down on a small farm in Catalunya, a
semiautonomous region in the northern part of Spain. The
setting, located in the Pyrenean foothills was a hillside
terraced into small fields with drystone retaining walls;
the house, a primitive construction of thick mud-and-stone
walls. The farm had once been a vineyard; there were huge
oaken barrels seven feet in diameter in the basement. Our
neighbours were independent farm folk and shepherds. It was
a romantic and lovely place to live.
Of course, once we had land of our own again, the urge to have sleddogs made itself felt! Isa bought three white Euroberians and started to work with them on her bicycle, then flew to New York to visit Harris Dunlap's Zero Kennels at Bakers Mills. She returned with two racing Siberians -- and the news that there were still Seppalas in existence!
ISA TRAINED A THREE-DOG RACING TEAM while I wrote letters to
breeders in the USA. The Spanish mushers were mostly
novices, but a nicer bunch of dog drivers we have never met.
Isa took ZERO'S SUGAR to Denmark for breeding to ZERO'S
MILKY WAY II and returned with a sled that wouldn't steer
correctly! She soon became notorious on the mountain racing
trails at ski stations in Catalunya and Andorra -- for
wiping out spectacularly, and winning her class in spite of
it. Her dogs attracted interest among the Spanish mushers,
since true Racing Siberian Huskies were still quite rare in
Spain at that time.
On the 1st of October 1990 I acquired KARCAJOU'S DREAMA OF WINDIGO from Doug Willett. Supposedly bred to ATILA OF SEPP-ALTA, a male of the BARON/MOKKA mating, she turned out not to be pregnant; in the end this proved to be a lucky break. HERCULES OF SEPP-ALTA, it turned out, was on lease to Anneliese Braun-Witschel in Auetal, Germany. Dreama was in heat on the autumnal equinox of 1991 (I remember -- we were at an equinoctial festival in the hills with some Spanish hippie friends and Dreama attracted canine admirers). Isa drove to Germany (to the astonishment of our Spanish mushing buddies) to breed her. According to Isa, "Hank" met her at the gate with a wild, feral cry of recognition! Isa said that Hank and Dreama appeared to have a very deep relationship somehow. While in Germany, Isa saw the Solovyev Siberians imported by Jörg and Ursula Deutgen in Deimburg.
THINGS WERE STARTING to move very fast. Willett offered me DALLY OF SEPPA-ALTA and ZIRCONIA OF SEPP-ALTA, and then withdrew the offer before I could telegraph an acceptance. (It turned out that ZIRCONIA wasn't his to offer -- she belonged to Carolyn Ritter, though Willett had borrowed her.) Willett offered to sell me HERCULES OF SEPP-ALTA, and then changed his mind (it turned out that "Hank" was on lease to Anneliese Witschel and the lease still had several months to run.) This was getting me nowhere fast. I began a correspondence with Carolyn Ritter and wrote letters of enquiry to several other Americans who had Seppalas. Some were surprised to hear from me; rumours had been spread that I was dead or kidnapped by Arabs! All of a sudden Seppalas started to become available to me, and I decided the best course of action was to fly to the USA to collect a few dogs and take them back to Spain. (This was in early November, while Dreama was pregnant with the LL-Litter.)
As I had committed to purchase RIVER VIEW'S HURLEY from Carolyn; the Ritters agreed to lodge me for a few days and help me collect the dogs. KIDRON OF SPIRIT WIND, NORDE OF SEPP-ALTA and DALLY OF SEPPA-ALTA (who mysteriously became available once again) were on the agenda. Visiting Carolyn was a delightful experience. Her enthusiasm and love of Seppalas were heart-warming. Her help in organising the logistics of getting all the dogs together, ready for their trip to Europe, was invaluable.
IN THE COURSE of the visit, we went to Iron
River, WI, to visit Deb Serbousek of Windigo Outfitters and buy
some dog harnesses. Deb had a massive scrapbook of Seppala
memorabilia, many memories of her own Seppalas, and good
advice -- as well as the world's best H-back harnesses. (We
could never wear those harnesses out; I have them still, in
perfectly usable condition!)
Carolyn was emotional about losing HURLEY; in a flurry of last-minute arrangements, I offered her a co-ownership in HURLEY to make her feel better; DALLY stayed in Mercer with Carolyn, and RIVER VIEW'S CROBAR came with me to Spain. I continued to correspond with Carolyn and other Seppala owners after I returned to Spain with HURLEY, KIDRON, NORDE, and CROBAR.
THE TRIP TO WISCONSIN was an extremely emotional experience for me, from long before I actually flew there until long afterward. I was deeply affected by the process of acquiring Seppalas again after being parted from them by adverse circumstances in 1975. Our fifteen years of wandering in Europe and the Mediterranean had, perhaps, been a necessary and salutary experience; but these little dogs touched a chord within me that had lain hidden since the painful experience of having been forced to sell them.