The Happy Trails Kennels Athletes
From a photo by Melissa Laggis - "The Picture Lady"
Born in Winterthur, Switzerland in 1958, Martin Buser became fascinated with sled dogs while still a teen. He came to Alaska in 1979 to enhance his knowledge of care and training of sled dogs. He began working and training with long-time Alaskan mushers Earl and Natalie Norris and ran his first Iditarod in 1980. Martin, wife Kathy Chapoton, a teacher, and sons Nikolai and Rohn (both named after Iditarod checkpoints), reside in Big Lake, Alaska, where the family owns and manages Happy Trails Kennel.
Martin spends a large percentage of his personal time speaking with youth on the humanitarian care of animals and the spirit of the Iditarod. A favorite celebrity of the children of Alaska, Martin treats them with surprise visits from his dogs during many of these appearances.
Martin runs the race each year with his dogs to test the success of their breeding, training and physical endurance. He regards his racers as true competitive athletes and prides his team on their longevity and spirit of competition. Says Martin, "I run the Iditarod to prove that my dogs, bred, trained and raced by Happy Trails Kennels, are the best amongst the world's long distance athletes."
In 2002, Martin's team was the first to complete the race in under 9 days (8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds) - setting a record that remained unbroken for nine years.
As tribute to his treatment of his racers, Martin was awarded the coveted Leonhard Seppala Award in 1988, 1993, and 1995 and again in 1997 for the most humanitarian care of his dogs. The award was named for the famous Alaskan musher who ran the longest and most dangerous stretch of the 1925, 674-mile diphtheria serum run from Nenana to Nome, which saved hundreds of lives.
Following Martin's 2002 Iditarod victory, the process for his becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States was completed under the burled monument. Upon completion of the 2005 Iditarod after a woodworking accident 4 days prior to the race start resulting in the amputation of a part of his finger, his fellow mushers awarded him both the Sportsmanship and Most Inspirational Awards.
In the summer, Martin and his family give tours of their working kennel. The tour begins with a DVD trip from Anchorage to Nome narrated by Buser and includes his unique anecdotal stories gathered over 23 Iditarods. Visitors are offered a glimpse of a mock up of the Cripple Checkpoint complete with campfire and wall tent. Veterinary and dog care topics are discussed and of course, there's the cuddling of puppies. The tour ends with a riotous symphony of dogs barking as a team is hooked up and taken on a demo run to show folks the dogs in action.
Martin began running the Iditarod in 1980. As of this writing, he currently holds the record for the most consecutive runs (27 consecutive in 2012, out of a total 29 runs and counting ) and is second only to Rick Swenson in total finishes.
My family taught me a love of the outdoors; camping, fishing, canoeing, backpacking, hunting, were the things we did on family vacations. My mom and dad, and brothers and sister, all enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle. My three brothers and I are Eagle Scouts.
I grew up in Milton, Wisconsin with a big family that loves the outdoors and I was raised learning how to hunt, trap, fish and work hard - but I always dreamed of going somewhere with mountains. My father went to Alaska when he was young, and hearing his stories made me realize that I needed to get to Alaska. I got a job on a horse ranch in Wyoming for 2 years guiding horseback rides and antelope, elk, and mule deer hunters. The next winter I fell upon a job giving tours by dog teams also in Wyoming and I loved it, after that there was no going back. I went on to Juneau for my first trip to Alaska and gave dogsled tours on the Mendenhall Glacier. I met James Volek on the glacier and he asked me if I wanted to come to Happy Trails Kennel, and of course I said yes. I feel honored to be here working with Martin Buser and some of the best dogs in the mushing world.
Born and raised in lower Michigan, I have always been an admirer of the outdoors. My family instilled in me an appreciation of nature. Camping, hunting, trapping and helping my aunt raise Leader Dogs for the Blind are my fondest childhood memories.
After finishing high school I continued my education at Northern Michigan University on the shores of Lake Superior, in the Upper Peninsula. There I combined my classroom studies with activities that expanded my understanding of the great outdoors. Upon graduation I answered my own "call of the wild" and sought adventure in a land rich with opportunity, Alaska. I worked the summer of 2011, outside of Juneau, on the Mendenhall Glacier as a dog handler. It was an amazing experience. I fell in love with sled dogs and this great state. Working on the glacier left me wanting to learn more about the mushing lifestyle. I am grateful to have the honor of working with Martin Buser. I consider it the opportunity of a lifetime, and know that I am privileged to be mentored by a four-time Iditarod champion .
Leader Snakeriver, From a photo by Kent Harrington
The Dogs of Happy Trails Kennels! We can say without exaggeration that the dogs of the Iditarod are the greatest athletes the world has ever seen. Their accomplishments are legendary. And the dogs of Happy Trails are the best of the best! We wish that you could meet every single one of these dogs, who are truly the heart of what we do here at Happy Trails Kennels, and of all our racing success.
Meet the dogs of the "A" team from Iditarod 2010! Here.
Meet the rest of the 2010 Team Here.
Here is the varsity squad that took 4th place in one of the toughest races
in Iditarod history!
The Happy Trails 2007 Iditarod Team Gallery