Most people start their day with a morning coffee, shower, or stretch, but Al and Tanjala Eischens kick it off by taking care of their 38 dogs. The two operate Double E Kennel, an Alaska-based business that raises dogs bred for sled dog racing. Al regularly competes in sled dog races and their business offers captivating sled dog tours. Al and Tanjala use their unique careers to drive a platform for pediatric disease awareness and fundraising. “Children are our future and they are precious,” they write on their business’ website.
Al is a three-time participant of the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, an annual race held within Alaska. Entrants are called “mushers,” and ride in a sled pulled by highly trained and specially bred sled dogs. The event is extremely long and grueling: the physical trail starts in Anchorage and ends in Nome and racers are expected to cover the distance in 8-15 days or longer! Sled teams traverse through sub-zero temperatures, blizzards, and barren snowy fields – riders and dogs will not compete unless they are in peak form.
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race debuted in 1973 and has been ingrained into Alaska’s culture. The event is regularly covered by large sports news networks and media outlets, such as ESPN, CNN, and NPR. Top mushers gather sponsorships and become local celebrities. Various movies, books, and media have been inspired by the legendary event (most recently, Netflix’s critically acclaimed sports series Losers features an episode on Iditarod musher Aliy Zirkle).
The two treat their dogs with the utmost care and respect, to the point where Al often refers to their dogs as “the kids.” Al notably holds an unmatched record for completing the race twice with all 16 of the dogs he started with! Racers typically bench their dogs at checkpoints throughout the course, but Eischens team consistently remain in top-shape throughout the entire event. The Iditarod has since lowered the team size cap to 14, which means that Al’s achievement will likely remain unmatched.