Poodles carry Santa’s sleigh

Local musher inspires children’s book


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A few weeks ago, John Suter received a children’s book in the mail titled “Flying Poodles A Christmas Story.” Along with the book was a note from author Karen Morss explaining that the Chugiak musher was the inspiration behind the story.

Suter, who gained national attention for running the Iditarod with a team of standard poodles four times from 1988 to 1991, was stunned.

Suter said his first reaction was, “Oh wow.”

“It was quite a pleasant surprise. Shocking actually,” Suter said. “I had no knowledge it existed before then.”

Tracking down the man behind the story was no easy task, Morss said.

Morss began work on the book in 2008, and it was published in October 2010, she said. But she only recently got in touch with Suter.

After receiving no help from Iditarod staff, Morss — who also runs a lemon tree orchard — turned to a client in Fairbanks. The client also came up empty.

In November, Morss stumbled across an old interview with Suter on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” that had been posted on YouTube.

In the interview, Suter told Johnny he was from Chugiak. Morss passed this information along to her client, and the client was able to find Suter’s address.

“I was so excited,” Morss said.

The two have been in contact via email, and Suter purchased 10 copies of the book, Morss said.

“He’s really a delightful man,” she said.

Suter said he’s looking forward to reading the story to his grandchildren this Christmas.

“It’s well written,” he said. “It’s a classy kids entertainment book.

“It’s got big pictures and only a small amount of words, so it’s not too difficult for me,” Suter quipped.

The book’s title was inspired by Morss’ standard poodle named Sophie Tucker. Morss — who owned a flight school in San Carlso, Calif., from 1995 to 2000 — said Sophie Tucker came to work with her every day. Her dog loved flying and hence earned the nickname “the flying poodle,” Morss said.

After an instructor told her of Suter’s accomplishment, the thought of running poodles in the Iditarod “just blew me away,” Morss said.

“I thought, if they could pull his sled, they can pull Santa’s sleigh,” she said.

The story — which is about a group of poodles that take over for Santa’s ill reindeer — reflects the same attributes Suter needed during the Iditarod, Morss said.

“It’s a story about being brave when you need to, being a friend and not being afraid to try something new,” she said. “Those are the same things John did.

“He showed that same kind of adventuresome spirit,” Morss said. “I can’t even imagine what it’s like to do that.”

In real life, there’s no better friend than the book’s main characters, Morss said.

“I adore standard poodles,” she said. “They’re smart, they don’t shed, and they’re just somebody you can enjoy spending time with.”

The book has an app for iPhones and iPads, Morss said. Morss said she donates 10 percent of all proceeds to Smile Train, a charity that provides free cleft palate surgery to children in developing countries.

The app can be purchased at http://flying-poodles.com.

Morss, who is currently working on a flying poodle sequel, said Suter showed a different side of the breed.

“He proved they were capable of it,” she said. “More than anything, he showed that poodles are brave.”

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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