You might have read my previous post, Becoming an Olympian, about checking off bucket list items and learning to ski. The other half of my trip consisted of hiking, enjoying fine foods and checking off another bucket list item – dogsledding!
As a child I had attended an event at a library about the Iditarod and dogsledding. If you’re a 90’s kid like me (or older), you’re probably familiar with the film Balto in which a husky/wolf sled dog leads his team from Nenana to Nome, Alaska carrying a cure for Diptheria. If you haven’t seen this film, find yourself a VCR player and watch it now. I’m not kidding. The differences here were that there was no race, no urgency and the temperature was about 50 degrees warmer than in Alaska.
The local library put on events such as this one to 1). draw people to the library; and 2). get kids to engage with literature. Pretty brilliant, if you ask me. The event combined three of my favorite things: dogs, libraries and Alaska (I’ve never been, but it’s a lifelong dream… like seriously, since the second grade) I had the chance to learn all about this topic and, much to my younger siblings’ dismay, sit in a dogsled and pretend to mush. At the conclusion of the event I was given doggie booties as a souvenir (sled dogs often wear fabric booties to protect their paws from ice, rocks and other harmful items).
Pictured above, L to R: myself and a pup named Sausage, Granite and Rooster, a goofy dog that belonged to a different sled, and Elizabeth Taylor begging for meat soup (she’s a strong independent woman who knows what she wants).
Flash forward ten years and I had the opportunity to mush a team of sled dogs – for real this time. Our sled was pulled by eight huskies with sassy, vibrant personalities. Granite and Rooster took up the lead, with their piercing blue eyes and sharp intelligence. Next came Bentley, an 11-month-old pup, and his sidekick Pepper. Behind those two were Elizabeth Taylor and Axle. Elizabeth Taylor was a no-nonsense kind of lady who just wanted to go home and eat lunch. She was a woman who had her eyes on the prize. Axle was the oldest member of the team at eight years old. He had been put up for adoption because of his age, but missed dogsledding too much. He was brought back on the team but for limited runs only so as not to jeopardize his health. Bringing up the rear were Sausage and Jabba, two happy-go-lucky pups who fought on occasion (like bickering brothers, only they weren’t related).
Each of the dogs had their own magnificent, unique personality and we had so much fun learning about them. The dogs used by this specific dogsledding company are all born into themed litters, which explains the namesake of our breakfast friends Sausage and Pepper.
We learned that traditional sled dogs can run upwards of 20 miles per hour and that they prefer temperatures below zero – the colder the better. The mushing wasn’t extraordinarily tough, save for trying to turn corners. This involved leaning your hips low and swinging them around at the exact right moment. If you missed this by even a millisecond you’d tip the sled. I was passenger in the sled a few times when this happened, but fortunately for me, I survived injury-free.
If you have the chance to dog sled, do it! You will not be disappointed.