Carol Kleckner died in her sleep early the morning of Monday, January 11, 2021. From the late 1990s until a few years ago, she was very active with ADMA and the skijoring club. She served on both organizations’ boards for multiple years, and during her and her dogs’ prime years was the person to beat in any given race. She won every ADMA championship race multiple times—other than the Open—in the skijoring, 4-, 6-, and 8-dog classes.
Dogs have always been a big part of her life, and she found a special connection with sleddogs after living in Alaska for a few years. During her time at the B&B that she owned on Birch Hill in the mid 1990s, sled dogs began arriving in Carol’s life, coming mostly from friends who mushed and skijored. Robin was her first sled dog, followed quickly by several others. She also started learning about sled dog sports, and she and her dogs began competing in and winning races. At that point she had many years of experience with dogs of all kinds, and had developed a deep empathy that gave her an uncanny ability to sense what might be wrong with an unhappy dog or what would help it excel.
Carol was never interested in breeding dogs, since there are far too many dogs who are born and then abandoned. As she looked to increase the size of her kennel, she noticed that the Fairbanks North Star Borough animal shelter regularly had sled dogs. At the time, sled dogs were normally euthanized not long after arriving at the shelter; conventional wisdom was that if a sled dog was dumped at the shelter, there must be something wrong with it. As a result, people adopted very few sled dogs from the shelter.
Carol spotted a dog at the shelter, Pippi (Longstocking), who was personable, healthy, and seemed eager to please. She decided to take a chance on Pippi, who turned into one of Carol’s best mushing and skijoring dogs ever. That opened Carol’s eyes to the wonderful sled dogs who passed through the shelter, many of whom were dumped for reasons that had little to do with the dogs’ abilities and interests. Some were too slow for a sprint musher’s fast team, but proved to be an amazing distance dog, or vice versa. Some had easily solved health or behavior issues that the person dropping off the dog didn’t have the time, money, interest, or experience to resolve. Sometimes the former owner fell ill and could no longer take care of dogs. And many other reasons.
With the permission and blessing of the shelter management, Carol started taking groups of dogs out regularly and running them to see how they would do in a mushing or skijoring team. She tested them in lead and other positions. Even in a run of just two or three miles, she was able to assess each dog’s potential. Then she would write up a report on each dog and post it to the various sled dog email lists around Fairbanks. She would spend countless hours on the phone or in person with people interested in a dog, helping them feel confident in their decision to adopt. And in many cases, she dissuaded a match that wasn’t right for whatever reason, often redirecting people to another dog that would be a better choice.
In 2003, Carol and several other wonderful sled dog people in Fairbanks started Second Chance League, a 501(c)3 nonprofit sled dog rescue organization that continues to this day. Until shortly before her death, Carol continued to facilitate matching people with dogs, or helping abandoned dogs find their way to safety.
Over the years, Carol had a direct hand in well over 500 dogs finding their perfect, permanent, loving homes.
For many years at its peak, Carol and her partner Don’s kennel had 31 dogs, almost keeping to their decision to cap the size at 30 dogs! Most were Alaskan huskies, and most were working sled dogs, although a few chose not to be, most notably Ivy. (Ivy was always happiest as a couch potato and riding in the car.) Together, Carol and Don fostered and then inevitably adopted more than 20 dogs that came through the animal shelter.
With Carol’s death, sled dogs in Interior Alaska lost one of their greatest champions and advocates.