Thursday, June 9, 2016

While in Whitehorse we toured a sled dog training facility. The owners live there year round and in the winter their house becomes a bed and breakfast. They provide sledging adventure packages complete with meals, lodging, and equipment. They are off the grid and all power is via solar or diesel generator. Television is almost non-existent up here and even a satellite receiver will not work if the dish is located in a low area. There was a large television in the dining area that was used to watch movies or other recorded material. The owner said they did a lot of reading but we noticed four guitars in the living area.

We were given a tour of the kennel area and then five or six dogs were released to run and play as we followed their trail down to the river. There were 136 dogs and everyone had a name. Amazingly the owner, who was also our guide, knew each dog's name and would call them by name. There names were based on themes such as hockey players, authors, musicians, etc. Even Mork and Mindy were represented.
The dogs loved the water and they also liked to play with big sticks.
One of the dogs had one blue eye and one brown eye.
At the end of the tour the owner gave a presentation on sled dog racing and some of the difficulties of competing in a 1000 mile race such as the Iditarod or the Quest.  We were told one of the most difficult tasks is putting booties on the dogs because you had to use your bare hands without gloves. In a 1000 mile race the musher and his team would go through about 1000 booties. The Iditarod team consists of 16 dogs and the Quest 14 dogs. It is unusual for a musher to finish a race with all the dogs. The dogs are all chipped so they cannot be substituted and a veterinarian checks the dogs at each re-supply location. If a dog shows signs of exhaustion or dehydration it is pulled from the team. Sometimes a dog will be injured and the musher will have to carry the dog on his sled until the next supply point. We were even given a demonstration of a device the musher uses to melt snow for water and thaw meat for the dogs.
Racing sled
To demonstrate how far the lead dog is from the musher I took a photo of our guide at the lead dog position while I stood at the musher position on the sled.

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