Tell us a little about yourself and your kennel.
I have been fascinated by sled dogs since I was a teenager. Throughout my school years a filled my passion by working with other kennels, first in Europe and then later in Alaska. Our kennel currently houses up to fifty dogs, that is counting puppies and geriatrics.
What introduced you to dog mushing? What was your first experience like?
My first exposure was the day I encountered a couple covered in mud from head to toe. I recall the only clean part of the people was their smiling teeth. They had just trained a bunch of Siberian Huskies, on a muddy road, with a stripped down Volkswagen chassis. I was intrigued and also invited to go on a ride the next day. That would become a regular outing for me.
Describe the dogs on your team. What about them do you enjoy the most?
My dogs are extended family. Every single one has its own idiosyncrasy. I enjoy their company, their honesty and their strength. Black , white or polka dotted, each one is different. What they have in-common however, is something we humans can not do, run well over 100 miles per day effortlessly. I love their athleticism and enthusiasm.
What does your training regimen look like? How long are you on the trail with them?
There is no regular day. I think that is the beauty of the sport and my life style. We tune into the dogs and provide the stimuli needed. I say the shorter the daylight , the longer I am out on the trail. What is a two or three hour outing in November becomes a ten to twelve hour outing in December. Do that twice a day and you have a full schedule.
What do your dogs do in the off season?
I call my dogs eternal children, and very much like kids, there is no off season. Since dogs are very temperature sensitive, we tailor their outings according to the weather. Summer training is off leash and takes the dogs out to open water to cool off.
What has been your most memorable experience as a dog musher?
Forty years of working with sled dogs has left me with thousands of great memories. Races seem to raise your awareness and victories of course are very special but a lot of great encounters come on every day training runs. One of my favorite encounters was when a pack of wolves was inspecting my resting team. I was on a longish training run and had bedded the team down on straw. Twenty dogs were sleeping soundly and I was tucked away in my sleeping bag next to the sled. All of a sudden the dogs started barking wildly, hackles raised all looking in the same direction. The approaching five wolves were very curious but also apprehensive. Four of them approached within about twenty feet, not making a sound. One of the wolves was more timid and stayed farther back. After about fifteen minutes of inspecting each other, the wolf pack veered around the dogs and eventually disappeared into their intended direction, we were simply in their way. My takeaway from that adventure is that we met the dogs' ancestors.
What’s your advice to other mushers?
I usually try to talk people out of becoming dog mushers simply because it is such a big commitment. The dogs require and deserve year round care, stimuli and training. Throw in expensive nutrition and unpredictable veterinary expenses and most people find themselves over their head.
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