Steve Brooks is good friends with Jessica Maurer, a Chinook owner in Maine. He’s told her about his visits with his family to the Perry Greene Chinook kennels in the 1950’s, and how he almost purchased a Chinook from Harry Gray in the 1980’s. However, he could never quite come up with proof of any of this. Then, one day, he appeared with the following photos, a letter from Harry Gray and the first ever Perry Greene newsletter, called The Chinook News. He couldn’t stop talking about how gentle the dogs were - he had a choke hold on many of them and they just kissed him. We are grateful for Steve’s willingness to share these photos of these beautiful Chinook dogs and his stories. (Courtesy Chinook Owners Association)
Chinook breed was saved from extinction by the efforts of loyal fans
By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
Editor's note: This is the final part of a three-part series on Chinook dogs, in honor of the breed's 100th anniversary.)
TAMWORTH — Rick Skoglund met his first Chinook the summer of 1960 when his uncle, Stan Victor, obtained a Chinook from Perry Greene. Chinooks have been a part of his family since then. Victor and Skoglund would later found Victor's Chinooks and breed several litters, beginning in 1985.
But the Chinook breed, which had been started at Arthur and Kate Walden's Wonalancet Farm and Inn in 1917 and had made headlines around the world with victories in the first international sled dog race in 1922 and as the freighting dogs on Admiral Byrd's 1928-29 expedition to Antarctica, had dwindled in number to about 60 dogs by the 1960s and were listed as among the world's rarest breeds. Challenging days lay ahead for the breed and Victor and Skoglund would play a key part in keeping the breed alive.
By 1966, the Chinook population was estimated to be 60 dogs. It was during this time a Chinook named Charger was purchased by the Vetrol Division of Boeing Helicopters. Boeing produced a helicopter named the Chinook, a powerful transport for troops and equipment, and Charger was sent to Vietnam as a mascot for an Army division.
Perry Greene, the legendary Maine woodsman and outdoorsman, who had taken control of the Chinook breed in 1940, died in 1963, and control of the breed eventually passed to Peter Richards, Greene's grandson. Skoglund writes that, due to escalating costs, Richards could not keep up the kennels and sold the remaining stock to Peter Orne of Connecticut.
"Orne established the Chinooks at the Sukeforth Kennel (Sukee) in Warren, Maine. Kathy Adams, a caretaker at Sukee, helped maintain the breed for two years then disbanded the remaining 12 Chinooks to two other families. Neil and Marra Wollpert of Ohio, and Peter Abrahams of California, and Kathy Adams took over the responsibility for continuing the breed. They would later establish the Chinook Owners Association (COA) in 1982.
"In 1985 Stan Victor and Rick Skoglund whelped the first of three Victor's Chinooks litters. They would become the foundation dogs for several kennels including Winterset Chinooks, Northdown Chinooks, Mountain Laurel Chinooks and the modern Perry Greene kennels. By 1985 the Chinook population had risen to approximately 60 dogs.
"In 1986 Harry Gray purchased the abandoned Perry Greene Kennels and moved his Northdown Kennel there. Gray made improvements to the property from 1986 to 1993 and bred many Chinooks and Chinook crosses during this time. During the Northdown period at the Perry Greene kennel Gray took in many Chinooks from various breeding kennels. These Chinooks, along with Chinooks bred by Gray, appear in the pedigrees of almost all of today's bloodlines. Harry and Katy Gray created the Chinook Club of America and became the first club to offer pedigrees to Chinooks, keep computerized databases of breedings, and published the first owners directory.
"In 1988 Harry Gray and his Chinooks from Northdown Kennel went to Alaska in what would later become an aborted attempt to train and eventually run in the Iditarod. According to Bob Johnson of Northern Lights Chinooks, Gray ran headlong into one of the worst Alaskan winters in memory. Heavy snow, up to 212 inches, buried Gray and his Chinooks at their training camp. Out of dog food and fearing for the welfare of the Chinooks, Gray placed an emergency phone call to Stan Victor of Victor's Chinooks. Victor financed the rescue of Gray and his Chinooks with Bob Johnson coordinating efforts from Talkeetna, Alaska. Johnson found and leased more favorable land for the Chinooks while they recovered from their ordeal.
"Chinook owners must forever be grateful for Stan Victor and Bob Johnson's efforts. Almost every modern day foundation sire and dam were rescued by Stan and Bob. These dogs included Toes, Yukon Jack, North Wind Nome, North Wind Kiska, Victor's Nikiska, Northdown Nugget and Kaltag, to mention a few. Without these sires and dams, the breed may not have recovered."
"In 1993 Martha Kalina, Skoglund's wife, purchased the Northdown Kennel and restored its historical name of Perry Greene Kennel. Martha took responsibility for the care of 26 Chinooks who remained at the former Northdown kennel. In 1994, the first Perry Greene litter of Chinooks in over 25 years was whelped. Today, people still come from all over the country and world come to visit the historic home of the Chinook in Waldoboro, Maine.
"During 1996 Bob Johnson of Northern lights Chinooks found himself in need of help. Bob placed a call to Rick Skoglund of the Perry Greene kennel. Bob explained his health was poor and was having a difficult time caring for his Chinooks. Stan Victor once again came to the breed's assistance. Stan placed $4,000 of his own money in to the Chinooks Worldwide treasury to aid in the rescue of the remaining Chinooks in Alaska. The Chinook Owners Association, CWW members and Chinook owners in general would add to this fund. The Chinook Owners Association also made direct payments for expenses involved with removing the remaining Chinooks from Alaska.
Skoglund writes, "Thus ended the long Alaskan saga of the Chinooks that began in November of 1988.
"In 1996 the Perry Greene Kennel made arrangements with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to have the signs replaced on the Chinook Trail with a likeness of Walden's Chinook. Today, the trail is marked with the historically correct signs. That year Chinook's last harness, along with Chinook's son Endure's harness worn on the Byrd Antarctic Expedition, were discovered along with seven other harnesses from one of Walden's teams. A celebration to commemorate Perry Greene Kennel's 50th anniversary was held on February 7‑9th, 1997, in Waldoboro, Maine. 24 Chinooks and their owners met for the third annual Chinook Winter Carnival at the historic Tamworth Inn, Tamworth, New Hampshire. Chinooks and their families attended sled dog races, skijored and ran their Chinook sled teams along the historical Wonalancet trails.
"During June 2001 Chinooks Worldwide sponsored a Chinook Summer festival in Wonalancet, New Hampshire, in cooperation with the Remick Museum, the Tamworth historical society and Arthur Walden's descendants. Tours of the Remick museum, the Antler house, Union Chapel, Walden's grave site, Chinook kennels and Wonalancet farm were arranged to the delight of Chinook owners and the public. The goal was to educate the public to the rich history of the region and the Chinook breed. It was the first time that these historic sites were opened to the public since the Walden 'era.'"
"In 2002 the Perry Greene Kennel and the Remick museum combined efforts at the Tamworth Winter carnival. A large history of the breed was on display for the winter carnival and Chinook owners and their teams gave sled dog rides to residents of the Tamworth region. It was an instant success and continues annually in February.
"In 2003, Bob Jones and Connie Jones of Woodsrunner Chinooks trained a team of six Chinooks for the annual Sandwich Notch 30 held in New Hampshire. Bob with his team of Chinooks successfully completed the race in seven hours and seven minutes that included a one hour layover. This was a brilliant return of the Chinook breed to the trails that their ancestors and Arthur T. Walden had raced on decades ago."
Skoglund writes, "2003 marked another first. The first Chinook 'cross' or hybrid was allowed in to the U.K.C. purebred registry. This was as a result of a unique partnership and program with the U.K.C. that began in 1996. This program was developed, with the assistance of renowned canine geneticist, Dr. George A. Padgett, to invigorate the breed and has been a success by adding genetic diversity to the Chinook breed. Other fine examples of the cross program have followed and been re-introduced in to the purebred registry.
Chinook owners begin having fun events such as the Winter Festival, Chinook roundups, winter carnivals, National Specialties and get-togethers throughout the United States. Regional UKC clubs were formed, such as Chinooks New England and Mid Atlantic Chinook Club. Many new breeding kennels are formed and the Chinook breed now surpasses 800 living Chinooks.
"During 2009 Jennifer Wells, a Chinook owner and teacher at the Ross A. Lurgio Middle School in Bedford, along with her students, drafted a bill to petition the state of New Hampshire to make the Chinook the official state dog. After several successful hearings, Gov. John Lynch signed the bill in to law on June 8, 2009, and the Chinook became the official state dog, thus adding another chapter in the history of the Chinook breed."
And, according to Skoglund, the mystery of the Chinook ancestry may have been solved. "During 2009 a DNA study was done by Mars Veterinary. DNA determined that the Chinook is closely related to the Leonberger, another rare breed. Kim, Chinook's sire looks remarkably like a Leonberger and further investigation revealed that there were Leonbergers in Massachusetts and at least one litter during the Walden era. A mystery solved?
"The 'modern' Chinook has been brought back from the brink of extinction. While diversity remains in the breed, many of today's Chinooks have regained the size, type and general appearance of Walden's beloved Chinook breed."
A celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Chinook, who at one time was the most famous dog in the world, will be held Jan. 13-15 at Camp Cody in Freedom. Chinook dog owner Bob Cottrell of Freedom, director of the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room and a past director of the Remick Country Doctor Museum in Tamworth, says that the event is being organized by the Chinook Owners Association and is expected to draw Chinooks and their owners from all over the Northeast for a variety of outdoors activities and programs on the history of the Chinooks, who are the state dog of New Hampshire.
For more about the Chinook, visit the Chinook Owners Association web site www.chinook.org.
Bob Jones and Woodsrunner Chinooks team on the trail. (Courtesy Rick Skoglund)