Checkpoint #5 Egil Ellis & Helen Lundberg – Dog Shopping Excursion

Before we headed to Egil and Helen’s we made a trip to Anchorage.  As soon as we hit downtown and saw all the shops me and Anna screamed to be let out.  We were not leaving Alaska without a souvenir or two.  The four of us agreed on an hour of non-dog shopping and hit the pavement running.  I was laughing while I was grabbing touristy type stuff and throwing it on the counter.  I told Anna she was going to see me at my worst since I didn’t have time to be conservative.  If I wanted Alaskan goodies I just had to BUY AND NOT THINK!!  It was a blast.  We wound up at an ivory store and I just had to get a piece of native art and had my heart set on these beautiful masks that I had seen everywhere.  They were primitive faces often carved out of wood, bone or ivory and had fur ruffs around them.  Well, I found something even better.  It was a carved ivory musher with a 6 dog team on a piece of old whale bone about a foot long.  I had 4 to choose from and Anna helped me select the most expensive one; thanks Anna!  We logged in our memory banks that next time we’d come back to shop in Anchorage. 
Despite the shopping highs, by this point of the trip we were starting to wear down.  However, we had all been looking forward to meeting Egil and Helen in person and had put their kennel on a pedestal.  We were not going to pass up this opportunity no matter how weary we had become.  As we traveled throughout Alaska we learned that Egil is highly respected throughout the state and folks often had complimentary things to say about him and his dog training skills.   This, of course, can be fairly intimidating to any aspiring musher and we were no exception.  I mean, come on we were about to meet the musher who has tied Attla’s record and a guy that musher’s from every venue of this sport had nothing but good things to say about.   As for Helen, does she ever lose a race?   We were all worried that we were too weary to socialize and hearing that Egil was a bit shy we hoped we wouldn’t struggle with uncomfortable silence.  However, all our concerns turned out to be a waste of energy.  Helen and Egil were phenomenal hosts and we had a blast visiting with them.  Egil is very open, friendly and has a very fun sense of humor which kept us amused during our entire stay.  He is very much a dog man and you can see the wonderful repoire he has with his dogs as he walks through his kennel of thoroughbreds.  Once again, here was a kennel where the dogs stood out as uniquely different from everywhere else.  His dogs are very athletic looking and have a presence about them.  More interestingly, they are very large dogs.  We got to see Peavey and Ruby and they were just powerhouses.  The dogs were very social and eager to say hi to strangers.  As we had expected, since both Helen and Egil are of Swedish descent, the kennel had a Scandinavian feel and was immaculate.  All the dog houses were painted with the traditional Scandinavian red paint and the house was a beautiful Scandinavian blue.   You could immediately see the organization and care that is put into this kennel.
We chatted and laughed effortlessly about dogs over beers while Helen played the ultimate hostess.  She took me back several times throughout the evening to our visit to Sweden as she is the epitome of a Scandinavian woman.  She is very vivacious, with an infectious laugh and you can’t help but be enamored by her energy.  She loves to cook as many of you know from reading her blog and she is darn good at it.  While we were talking dogs and drinking beer, she served us some delicious appetizers that we could have ate all night.   We called them Helen’s Quesadillas.  Dinner was entertainment in itself when they hauled out a large black pan called a Murikka.   This is a Finnish method of cooking that is quite popular.  I later learned that Helen is half Finnish, which makes her ok in my book being part Finn myself.  They built a wood fire and put the murikka on top of a iron holder above the fire to make a sort of outdoor wok.  Then in went the oil and her and Egil starting tossing in chicken and vegetables stirring it and talking in Swedish as they jumped from the popping fire and laughed over needing longer tongs.  We all enjoyed the presentation immensely and now I am in search of a murikka.  When we were called to dinner Helen had set a beautiful table that had a very distinctive Scandinavian feel to it with cloth napkins and bright colors.  She had set out at each place a plate with a small piece of quiche and raw salmon.  I could almost read everyone’s mind when they saw the raw fish and had to giggle at how we were all about to step right out of our comfort zone.  Much to our surprise the raw salmon was the highlight of the meal and something we all agreed we would eat again and again.  It was a Swedish specialty that Helen had prepared for the occasion and I can’t thank her enough for introducing us to something truly wonderful.  Everything that Helen made that evening; the appetizer, bread with butter and truffle salt, quiche, salmon, chicken & vegetables with curry sauce and the wonderful Scandinavian dessert were out of this world.  Egil and Helen gave us a truly unique and wonderful scandinavian experience right in the middle of Alaska.
Bruce and I bought a little leader from Egil named Zipper with a wowza pedigree and she has already won our hearts with her fun little personality.  We had thought were done shopping; however, there was a yearling he had offered us via e-mail and when we saw him free run in person we were sold.  He is a beautifully built dog with a very smooth gait, but is just a step too slow for open class.  We look forward to working with this guy.  JR and Anna did not leave empty handed as they secured a dog named Cash off of Egil’s main team, which thrilled them to pieces.

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