Meet Our Crew

Our Story

Family owned and operated since 1976, Trail Breaker Kennel is one of the longest operating kennels in Alaska. The kennel was founded in Eureka, Alaska by the late Susan Butcher, a four-time Iditarod champion, and David Monson, her husband and Yukon Quest champion. Built on a reputation of exemplary dog care and hard work, Trail Breaker Kennel became the premier racing kennel in the world. In 1990, Susan and David purchased property in Fairbanks, Alaska and established Trail Breaker Kennel on the banks of the Chena River.

Today, David, his two daughters and dedicated staff members provide visitors from around the world a look at the lives of mushers and Alaskan huskies in Interior Alaska. For over 20 years, Trail Breaker Kennel has been a favorite stop on the Riverboat Discovery tour. Kennel tours, dog sled rides, and other custom tours are offered seasonally. We hope to see you on your adventure in the Last Frontier!

David Monson Dog Musher Today

David Monson

Owner & Founder

David moved to Alaska in 1977 from South Dakota. After working for the Alaska Railroad in Anchorage, as a king crab fisherman in Dutch Harbor, and working with the people of the remote Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea, he turned his focus to mushing. In 1981, he joined forces with fellow musher, and future wife, Susan Butcher to train and race in the 1,000-mile Iditarod. Over the years, David and Susan built Trail Breaker Kennel into the premier racing kennel in the world. He participated in many races throughout his career, most notably winning the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest in 1988. For over 20 years, David has educated visitors from around the world as part of the Riverboat Discovery tour in Fairbanks. By welcoming guests to Trail Breaker Kennel, David has been able to share his incredible journey as a musher in one of the harshest environments in the world. 

Trail Breaker Kennel Family

Tekla Butcher-Monson

General Manager & Lead Tour Guide

Tekla, David and Susan’s eldest daughter, was born and raised in Alaska. For many summers, she has welcomed guests who stop by Trail Breaker Kennel on the Riverboat Discovery tour. After graduating from Wesleyan University in Connecticut with a degree in Theater, Tekla spent a year in New York City doing scenic and costume design for theater. Tekla recently moved back to Fairbanks to work as the Creative Director at Trail Breaker, while also independently pursing her many artistic passions.

Tekla has been mushing since childhood. She remembers being taught how to drive her own one-dog team by Susan at the age of five. In 2006, at the age of 11, Tekla mushed 700 miles of the Iditarod trail with her own eight-dog team. The trip honored and celebrated her mother’s legacy on the Iditarod trail. Tekla, and her father, David, traveled with racers and visited villages that Susan has stopped at numerous times throughout her career. In 2012, Tekla repeated the trip when her sister Chisana turned 11. In 2021, Tekla participated in her first competitive sled dog race, a 200-mile race along the Denali Highway. In 2022 she competed a team if Trail Breaker dogs in the 300 mile Copper Basin Sled Dog Race. Tekla plans to continue training the dogs at Trail Breaker Kennel for mid-distance races throughout the state of Alaska. 

Trail Breaker Kennel Family

Chisana Butcher-Monson

Summer Dog Handler

Chisana, David and Susan’s youngest daughter, grew up in Fairbanks. She spent her childhood exploring Trail Breaker’s property and finding new ways to express her creativity. After graduating high school a year early, Chisana spent a semester studying in Nepal. In 2019, she began studying at the New England Center for Circus Arts in Vermont. With an emphasis on the Cyr wheel and aerial silks, she hopes to work toward a performance career in the circus arts. In the summers, Chisana travels back to Fairbanks to work with her family at Trail Breaker.

As a child, Chisana was taught how to mush by her mother and father. In 2012, at the age of 11, Chisana mushed 700 miles of the Iditarod trail with her own eight-dog team. Joined by her father and sister, she mushed along the trail honoring and celebrating her mother’s legacy.

Katrina Handler with Jones

Katrina Handler

Reservationist & Tour Guide

Katrina grew up in Washington state and has always had a love for the outdoors. An avid mountaineer, and wildlife caretaker/educator, Katrina frequented the trails of Washington to get closer to wildlife. After attending Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, she decided to move up to Alaska in 2017 in search of fewer people and more wilderness to explore. After working for a tour kennel and running a short race in 2018, she started to seek out opportunities to work in the racing world of mushing. Katrina joined the Trail Breaker Kennel team in the summer of 2018, as well as a second racing kennel. During her time in Alaska, she has trained teams to compete in long distance races, and is working to get her Iditarod/Yukon Quest qualifiers. Katrina lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with her four Alaskan huskies while she continues handling and preparing for future sled dog races.

Keira Irish

Keira Irish

Handler & Event Operations Associate

Keira, born and raised in Fairbanks, has always been an outdoor girl.  On skis since the age of 4, she became hooked on dog sports after her first time skijoring in 2019.  Since then, she has competed in several skijoring races and just completed her first season of competitive dog mushing.  She capped off her rookie season with an 11th place finish in the 2023 Junior Iditarod, running a team from Re-Run Kennel, where over half of her team were rescue dogs with a lot of run left in them.  She looks forward to a few more years of junior mushing to work on her skills, and working with the crew at Trail Breaker Kennel will help her in that endeavor.  In addition to mushing and skijoring, Keira is a 2nd degree black belt in TaeKwon Do and plays on her high school’s flag football team.

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Tori Boulding

Tour Guide, Handler & Event Operations Associate

Tori was has lived her whole life on a remote homestead on the Tanana River in Alaska, where her family lives a subsistence lifestyle.  This includes fishing with nets and fish wheels, gardening, and hunting wild game.  Their cabin also serves as a school, since Tori is homeschooled.  All of Tori’s life, her family has owned a few sled dogs that are used as leaders when they train various other mushers’ pups.  Before Tori was born, her parents operated an 80-100 dog kennel while her dad Charlie Boulding raced competitively.  In 2022, Tori ran the Jr. Iditarod and Willow Jr.100 with a team of Brent Sass’s yearlings that she trained since they were pups.  She placed 4th in the Jr. Iditarod and 1st in the Willow Jr. 100.  

Emily Robinson

Emily Robinson

Tour Guide
Emily, born and raised in the Fairbanks area, is an Alaskan girl.   She grew up in a dog mushing family and has been raising Alaskan huskies since she was old enough to hold puppies.  Emily looks forward to the dark, cold winters in Interior Alaska because then she can run dogs with her dad.  This year she competed with her dog team in the ACE race, Minto Sprint Race, Willow Jr 100 and in her first Junior Iditarod.  She won the Jr. Iditarod by six seconds!   As the 2022 Junior Iditarod Champion, Emily has been working to promote the sport of youth mushing and hopes to inspire more young people to race dogs.  She manages Robinson Racing Kennel with the help of her parents and plans to keep racing through her high school years.   Emily also enjoys summer adventures on the Tanana River, fishing in Valdez and camping.   She plays old time fiddle and is learning traditional Alaskan river songs.

Keaton Loebrich

Tour Guide

Keaton first came to Alaska for a summer job in Denali where he met his 3 loves – Alaska, Erika (his girlfriend), and mushing. He happened to be living next to a dog sledding kennel and made friends with some people who worked there. One thing led to another and his love for sled dogs sprouted.

He soon knew he wanted to race. Keaton and Erika moved up to Fairbanks to run the Windy creek kennel and ended up doing 4 races this past season (Solstice 50, Willow 300, Yukon Quest Alaska 300, and the Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Run). The dogs did amazing, and Keaton is so grateful for each of those races. Now Keaton is officially qualified for the Iditarod and will hopefully run it within the next two years.

Trail Breaker Kennel is the 4th kennel that Keaton has worked at, and he loves learning as much knowledge as possible about mushing and sled dogs. 

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Skye Harbison

Assistant Tour Coordinator & Event Operations Lead

Skye, born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, has always had an avid love for dogs and the great outdoors. When she joined the crew at Trail Breaker in 2019, she found the perfect spot to meld those two loves. Currently a sophomore at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, she spends her summers in her home state of Alaska doing her favorite things: hiking Angel Rocks, playing with the husky puppies at Trail Breaker, and staying up late to watch the midnight sun.


Rachel O'Donogue

Handler/Tour Guide
Rachel is a multi-generation Alaskan, born and raised in Fairbanks. She graduated with honors from West Valley High School in May 2022. She loves animals, creating all kinds of art, camping, hiking, and travel. Rachel first rode in a dogsled on a winter family camping trip when she was 6 months old, with one of her older brothers holding her while her mom mushed the team. Her parents sold the family’s dog team when she was a toddler, but she became reacquainted with the sport and lifestyle this past winter working at Frisky Pups Kennel in Two Rivers. Rachel plans to attend the University of Alaska Southeast in the fall, majoring in Outdoor Studies. 
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Elena Herreid

Kennel & Projects Manager

Elena grew up in Minnesota. She first came to Alaska in 2014 and handled dogs for Brent Sass in Eureka, Alaska. While Elena has never had racing ambitions, she has been fortunate enough to help several friends as they trained for and ran the Yukon Quest and Finnmarksløpet. Over the past decade, Elena has spent time as a shipwright, building and carving ice, and working in remote Alaskan camps. 2023 is her second summer with the Trail Breaker Crew and she is excited to be working in such a fun community!

Anna Westfall

Anna Westfall

Event Operations Associate

Anna, raised in Fairbanks with a love for the outdoors. She went to Nome to watch her first Iditarod finish at age 1. Anna is excited about all the outdoor opportunities Alaska offers. In the summer, you will find her hiking, fishing, and camping. While in the winter you will find her skiing, sledding and snowshoeing. She is looking forward to meeting new people and playing with the dogs.

Learn about the huskies in our crew here!