Sledding, or MisAdventures of a Southern DogSledder
They are sled dogs, after all, our Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies, and their heritage, and greatest joy, is running. But in our modern and crowded time, running free is a death sentence. Our lively, intelligent, social sled dogs have no more road sense than a squirrel, AND they have a fascination with all other animals, living and dead. They love to play and don't understand why horses give out and goats a re cranky and cats -- well, cats are the most fun of all if you are doing the chasing...
So what we do here to harness (Sorry, for the pun) all that lovely energy is: during the day they are in a big, open play yard with lots of shade and wading pools and a great big hill for them to charge down. At night they come in with us. And every chance we get -- that it's below 50 degrees -- we harness them up and release the sled brake and away we go. (For those of you who have never seen a dogsled team in person, animal abuse is the one you leave behind!)
It started as a way of exercising more than two dogs at a time. After all, a tired dog is an obedient dog. It has become a means of getting rescue publicity. And as soon as we get our cart (soon, the welder promises) we are going to do fundraising with the team. And they love it! They not only get to GO FOR A RIDE! (What could be finer?) They get to meet people and get harnessed up and run off some energy and meet people and GO FOR A RIDE!
We have trails behind the house and 4-lane
construction in front of the house and hayfields and power lines and lots
of wood's trails. Our co-leaders Tosha
and Nu-Nu are learning commands, but
are pretty much trail leaders and not command leaders. Chief
and Mark will follow behind as team dog
and Misha is wheel dog (up next to the sled).
For anyone interested in learning about sledding (or just curious), we recommend several books. I order them from my local book retailer. You do need some equipment, but not that much. And there are some great email subscription lists for Malamutes, Siberians, and Sleddogs. Also, check out the International Sled Dog Racing Association (ISDRA).
We do NOT put rescue dogs on the team for serious sledding. They have neither the muscle tone nor the experienced teamwork to handle it. (Unless he was a sleddog before rescue -- and we quickly find out by harnessing him up.) We do NOT take rescue dogs to publicity events with the team, because the last thing a rescue dog needs is to be adopted on impulse. We take pictures and Adoption Applications and sample contracts and business cards with us. (And we do hitch all rescues up for short yard runs, or runs across the hay fields to Momma's.) So Wayeh's Dogsled Team is composed entirely of "our" dogs or permanent rescues who cannot be placed elsewhere for reasons of health or temperament.
And there is nothing finer than "four dogs, snowing heavily, resting on the handlebar of the sled because the dogs are in a nice steady slow-downhill trot and the only sound is the fall of snow and the runners sliding through the snow."
The British Mushers Association Sleddog