who we are


Located in Willow, AK and carved out of the spruce you can find home to some of the "hardest working athletes and truest friends"  Matthew Failor says he "has ever known". 

These 20+ athletes are the focus of all of Matthew's time and attention.  Located amongst numerous winter trails and close to the Big Susitna River, 17th-Dog / Team Matthew Failor has it's eye on the future.  With plans to begin a top-notch breeding program at the end of 2014, Matthew is well on his way to his utlimate goal; winning Iditarod. 

While on this path, Matthew has not forgotten his roots, and consistently supports, promotes, and empowers his home community (and beyond) through giving back; be that through Catholic Charities, local schools, or National Awareness.  While Matthew remains focused on his future, he is firmly rooted in his past. 

Matthew Failor, 32, was born and raised in Mansfield, Ohio.  He is a graduate of St. Peter’s Schools (2000) and The Ohio State University (2007); BA Fine Arts, Photography.  Matthew says “My family taught me a love of the outdoors: camping, fishing, canoeing, backpacking and hunting were all things we did on family vacations. My mom and dad, and brothers and sister all enjoy an active, outdoor lifestyle.  My three brothers (Patrick, Jonathan, Ryan) and I are all Eagle Scouts.”  

Matthew first fell in love with AK and it's culture while working summers, during college on the Mendenhall Glacier.  Through Gold Rush Dog Tours, Matthew formed a relationship with Veteran Iditarod Musher, Matt Hayashida, and through that relationship Matthew was able to earn a handler position with 4-time Iditarod Champion, Martin Buser (Happy Trails Kennel).

In 2010, while scooping the dog yard at Happy Trails Kennel, Martin Buser approached Matthew about running his puppy team [in Iditarod 2012].  And so began Matthew's racing career.  In 2014, Matthew will be racing from out of his own kennel, 17th-Dog/Team Matthew Failor.  Matthew, due to his diligence, character and hard work, has earned himself a spot amongst an elite group of athletes.  He is so excited to share this with his family, friends, fans and dogs!  Thank you everyone, for your interest in, and support of 17th-Dog / Team Matthew Failor!


2000 Eagle Scout (BSA)

2007 Bachelor of Fine Arts, Photography (TheOSU)

2007 Firestone Photography Award (TheOSU)

2008 Tour Guide of the Year - Princess Tours (Alaska)

2011 Kuskokwim300 Rookie of the Year (k300.org)

2012 Sexiest Mushers of Iditarod (Alaska Dispatch)
2008, 2009, 2011, 2012 Princess C.R.U.I.S.E. Award Recipient

                           (Courtesy, Respect, Unfailing in Service Excellence)

2014 Tour Guide of the Season - Princess Cruise Tours

Matthew's race history to date:

2011 Kuskokwim 300 - Rookie of The Year Award (9th place)

2011 Willow Tug 300 - Checkers Choice Award (7th place)

2012 Knik 200 (34th place)

2012 Northern Lights 300 - Humanitarian Award (17th place)

2013 Yukon Quest Finisher (19th place)

2012 Iditarod Finisher (47th place)

2013 Iditarod Finisher (28th place)

2014 Iditarod Finisher (15th place)

"Ever since I was introduced to the sport of mushing, or more importantly Iditarod, I have noticed and people have told me that you cannot become competitive in this sport on your own. You need help, whether it be from a spouse, friends, family, sponsors, fans, etc...so I decided to somewhat honor my friends, family and sponsors by naming my team and kennel 17th-dog...implying that anyone who cheers us on, and or supports us in any way is apart of our team. You can only take up to 16 dogs on the Iditarod. Thus the meaning behind the number 17. Our sponsors, family, friends and fans are definitely a big part to this team, so they are the 17th-Dog." ~Matthew Failor