Jillian has been around dogs her entire life, and even though her sister sprinted as they were growing up Jill never showed much interest in racing herself. Although she loved the dogs, she never really wanted to race until she was in her 20's.
In 1980 the family moved from the Yukon and settled their kennel, Ice Haven, in the Rocky Mountain House area.
After her Dad finished with the tour business he suggested she race a 6 dog team in the 2007 Canadian Challenge 150 mile race that started in La Ronge and ended in Spruce Home.
Jillian figured her Dad thought she was lighter and would go faster. She did finish the race in fourth place, and says she learned so much that year.
Jillian has since run the Canadian Challenge 7 times, and says she is most proud of the 2015 race. She was running with 12 dogs, and finished with only having dropped 1 dog.
This, to her, was a testament of how well all the hard work put into the dogs paid off.
Over the years she has become attuned to her dogs, learning how to manage them and getting to really know each one.
With a feeling of great accomplishment she mentioned that her and her family have spent many years raising and breeding their own dogs.
Zak a retired 11 year old in the kennel is very much Jillian's dog, doing anything she ever asked of him. A loyal super smart dog that ran some tough trails, and has fathered many pups who share the same temperament, is now allowed to do whatever he wants.
This year you will find 7 year old Hermes once again leading Jillian and the team. He has been with her at every race since he was a yearling.
A favorite Canadian Challenge memory was the year she ran with her dad in 2014. She says they ran the entire way together sharing 2 nights of the most amazing Northern Lights she has ever seen.
Running with Dad, she says, gives them a chance to come up with solutions together. They both have very different ideas at times and they work out what is best for each of their teams. Jillian is looking forward to having her Dad on the trail with her again this year.
Jillian's very busy life as a mom, wife and working full time keeps her juggling the 'normal' with the 'mushing' life. Her very supportive husband makes it easy for her to continue to run dogs and now that her son Lane is talking about running the Jr. Iditarod with his dog Daisy I don't think we will see the end of dog sledding out of Ice Haven kennels any time soon.
Photo Credit: From Jillian's Facebook page