A love of the outdoors is how Pete Kaiser arrived at making a life of running dogs in the winter and working on a tugboat in the summer.
Now 25, Pete was born, raised and graduated high school in Bethel, Alaska. His Bethel roots extend back three generations to include a great grandfather who came into the country as a goldminer and hired out with his dog team for extended trips from the Interior to Bristol Bay and a Yupik great grandmother orphaned by an epidemic and raised in a mission orphanage.
Pete’s love of fishing, hunting, boating, camping, snowmachining and even working at upriver fish weirs for KNA was fueled by growing up with wide open country and the Kuskokwim River. Undecided about a career after high school, Pete went to college for a while before choosing dog mushing as a full time occupation supported by summer work on the river.
The decision to become a dog musher gave his life focus and purpose. Twenty years old, energetic and hard working, he became serious about learning everything he could about dogs, training and racing. He found he was well suited for it, and liked spending most of his time with the dogs.
About then, Pete’s friendship with Ed Iten, an experienced Iditarod, Kobuk 440 and Kuskokwim 300 musher became an important mentorship. Ed was willing to share his experience and knowledge just as Pete was getting started in mid and long distance mushing and needed to know more. Ed remains a valued friend and is missed at the races.
Pete had been introduced to mushing years earlier by his dad, who had a dog team. With his sister Tillie and friends, there’d been hours of enjoyment running dogs to winter camps and racing in Sunday Fun Runs put on by the Kuskokwim 300 Race Committee. The Kuskokwim 300 race itself was a highpoint of the winter, especially with dad having run it and mom having managed it and served on the board.
Owning a dog team is expensive and paying work is a must. In summer, when the snow is gone, training is at a standstill and the river is free of ice, Pete works on a 48 foot tugboat, the Arctic Gull, for Bering Marine Corporation. For five years he’s been on the crew as the tug pushes a 150 foot by 50 foot barge carrying gravel or heavy equipment to and from construction sites. The work starts in early May and ends at freeze up in September or October. Although he’s away from the dogs, he says being on a boat and on the river are two of his other favorite things. Meanwhile the dogs are cared for by Ron and handler Jen Peeks , and they also help with early training, if needed.
Jen Peeks is a LCSW with a full time other job who loves the dogs and does major yard work and training year around. She works with the pups and trains the young dogs. Pete says he wouldn’t be this far without her. She won the Bogus Creek 150 in 2012 and placed 4th in 2013.
Pete was home for the early fall 2013 training season awaiting the arrival of the newest team member. Ari Joseph Kaiser was born August 5th . Ari slept through most of fall training but was awake for the Kuskokwim 300. He’s starting to see there are a lot of dogs in his life. He’ll be in Nome with his mom, Bethany Hoffman, waiting under the burled arches for Pete’s arrival along with other friends and family.
Bethel’s remote location makes it an expensive place to live but it’s offset by the generosity of the people and businesses here. With a healthy amount of support from many donors, Pete can run a competitive kennel far off of the road system.
Another plus to living here is the variety of extreme weather and training conditions. Dog folk wisdom has it that the worse it is, the better it is for training. Pete doesn’t have to look far for these “ideal” conditions.
Pete has a life that challenges himself in the great outdoors of Alaska and feels fortunate his dogs, family and friends, interests and passions are part of it.
Pete/s Race History
3rd Place – Kuskokwim 300, Bethel
1st Place – Norton Sound 450 (PMJ), Unalakleet
11th Place – Kuskokwim 300, Bethel
1st Place – Paul Johnson Memorial (PMJ), Unalakleet
5th Place – Iditarod, Willow to Nome
3rd Place – Kuskokwim 300, Bethel
8th Place – Iditarod, Willow
1st Place – Kobuk 440, Kotzebue
10th Place – Kuskokwim 300, Bethel
28th Place – Iditarod, Willow to Nome (Rookie year)
2009 (Iditarod Qualifying year)
6th Place – Kuskokwim 300, Bethel (Rookie year)
4th Place – Tustemena 200, Sterling (Rookie year)
3rd Place – Kobuk 440, Kotzebue (Rookie Year)