Norwegians drop by Lakewood Ford dealership with 22 sled dogs

Staff writerMay 14, 2013 

Yvonne Daabakk and her husband Kenneth weren’t exactly sure how to get their team of 22 sled dogs from Norway to Alaska, but they knew they needed help and that they weren’t leaving anyone in the family behind.

It took some planning to figure out what to do with 21 Siberian huskies and one Shiba Inu upon arrival at Sea-Tac Airport Tuesday.

“You can’t take a cab,” Yvonne Daabakk joked.

That brought the couple to the Lakewood Ford dealership, on their way to Fairbanks, Alaska — where they will train to race in the Iditarod sled dog race and Yvonne will do postdoctoral research about the physics of the northern lights at the University of Alaska.

The Pierce County pit stop was to get a truck for the trip and to let some of the team stretch in the parking lot.

Flying the dogs to Seattle alone cost about $8,000, and driving the rest of the way to Fairbanks is far cheaper than taking a plane the rest of the way, they found.

It’s a long trip for the dogs, but they’re used to traveling in the boxes they flew in and feel safe in them, the Daabakks said.

From 20-pound Shiba Inu Oki — the team mascot who sometimes rides in the sled — to 70-pound Klut, who is the brawn that pulls the brunt of the weight at the back of the line, the Daabakks said it was never an option to leave anyone in the family behind.

“Don’t get fooled by the size,” Yvonne Daabakk said as Klut gave Dad kisses in the dealership parking lot Tuesday. “He’s just sweet.”

Likewise, while Oki is the smallest of the team, he’s the king, she said.

“The most difficult of them all,” she said. When the couple sometimes leave him behind on sled trips, he gets upset. “He feels like he’s part of the gang, and he wants to join.”

The couple may have been determined to bring the whole crew, but it wasn’t simple.

They drove from their home about an hour north of Oslo to Frankfurt, Germany, took an international flight to Sea-Tac, and spent 3ß hours waiting as the dogs barked and howled their way through U.S. customs. They expect to leave Wednesday for Alaska.

How to get a truck for the rest of their journey was a problem they started trying to solve in January.

The first two dealerships near the airport that they called weren’t much help.

Sure they’d sell the Daabakks a truck — in person.

The third call, to Lakewood Ford, connected them to salesman Rick Bauer, who has worked since January to find the couple an F-150 with about 9,000 miles on it, insurance and permits to drive to Alaska until they get licenses there, and a trailer to haul the dog team, all for about $36,000.

Bauer picked up the Daabakks and their team from the airport in their new rig Tuesday, which was the first time he’d ever met them in person. He’s been invited to visit the couple in Alaska.

The Daabakks met in 2009, when Yvonne Daabakk was on a “girls weekend” with her sister to a trapper’s hut in Norway.

“Then came one guy in a fishing boat, and that was it,” she said.

She and Kenneth were both sled-dog owners, and the family grew from there. Both 31, they married about a year ago in a wooden church in the mountains of Norway.

“She had some dogs, I had some dogs, and then we decided to get some more dogs,” Kenneth Daabakk said.

They plan to run the 2014 and 2015 Iditarods with the team.

That’ll take a lot of training. The longest race they’ve done is 300 miles. The Alaska race is more than 1,000.

Yvonne Daabakk will mush the Iditarod at least the first year, and her husband will do other dog races up north.

She said they’ll be ready for the big race.

“Of course, we have to,” she said. “It’s the only chance we have.”

In two years, they’ll drive back to Washington and fly back home to Norway.

“Then we’ll have a car for sale,” she said.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268

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