Who Let the Dogs Out?

Oh my goodness, I went dog sledding! It was such an adventure, more than I expected. We took a ride in a cool vehicle to get suited up and to sign waivers.

The company provided the boots, gloves, goggles and snowsuits. We got back in the vehicle but this time it was even more of a challenge. Try climbing/rolling gracefully into a high vehicle wearing a snowsuit!  I felt like the kid in the Christmas Story movie all wrapped up in his winter suit.

When we arrived, we were encouraged to interact with the dogs.  The first dog I walked up to jumped on me and then proceeded to pull my gloves out of my pocket. I had to pry them out of his mouth.  I think that’s when the intimidation started…immediately!  We watched as our guide demonstrated the technique of harnessing the dogs.

We split into pairs and were instructed on how to retrieve our dogs and hitch them to the sleds.  Once a dog was hitched, one member of the pair had to stay with the sled, otherwise the dog would take off with it. You can’t imagine the enthusiasm of the dogs. Each was hoping to get picked and harnessed.  It’s an understatement to say that they wanted to run! 

I let Nik harness the first couple of dogs and then decided I could do it.  I found my dog and was about to give up because he was jumping and twisting and difficult to maneuver.  I finally got him and walked him on his hind legs to the sled. Because the dogs pull so much, they recommend you hold them up so only their back legs are touching the ground. This reduces the pulling and makes it more manageable to pass by other dogs on the way to the sled.

Once I got that little rascal hooked up, I let Nik get the rest. Each sled was pulled by 6 dogs. 

One “preflight” instruction was to not let go of the sled if you happen to tip over (which I was told happens regularly…maybe to scare me).  You let the dogs drag you until they look back and notice.  They will stop momentarily and you’ll have 7-10 seconds to jump back up (in the overstuffed suites) and hop on the sled before they start running again. Now I was thoroughly intimidated.  I sat in the sled (because I wasn’t about to do the driving) and looked to my right. Exactly at eye level was the red, metal hook you use to anchor the sled to the ice when you stop. All I could imagine was tipping over and having my eye impaled on the hook.  The best we could do was to turn it in the other direction. 

The closer we got to hitching up the last dog, the more vocal and rambunctious the dogs got.

The guide, with gun strapped on back, led the team.  And we were off! 

I was paying attention to each snow heave and made sure to lean appropriately.  I was determined that we were not going to tip.  Thankfully no one tipped the entire time.  That was not to say that the ride went without consequence. 

We had to stop numerous times for a variety of reasons.  Dogs were fighting and getting caught up in the lines. Some had to be rearranged to be paired with more compatible dogs. 

We were instructed to not pass sleds but to stay in line and I was surprised to see dogs out the corner of my eye.  Twice, the same pair of dogs got loose from their sleds but were still joined together.  They were running freely passing the other sleds. Luckily they were captured and returned. It appears that one of them was chewing through the lines and releasing them.  When offered to drive the sled, I declined.  I was content to sit! 

Because of the frequent stops we were making, we weren’t going to get to experience the full course.  Our entire dog sledding experience was to be about 4 hours.  The guide asked if we wanted to stay out longer which would then require our help to feed and return the dogs and break down the sleds. We were all game!  On the second half of the trip, the dogs seemed to get into the rhythm of things. That’s when I got up the courage to drive the sled and I’m glad I did.  It was something I may never have the opportunity to experience again.  It was one of the highlights of my trip. 

Oh, here’s an interesting tidbit, prior to my trip I had read that if a dog has to go to the bathroom while running, they don’t ask for a potty break but just go.  Yep, it’ true! 

After we got the dogs settled, we enjoyed a warm drink while socializing with the puppies.  They are enclosed in a cage with their mother and a surrogate step-dad.  They were adorable!  It seems they have a penchant for gloves and boots!

Shortly before leaving, the dogs started to howl.  It was quite the day!

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