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MUSH!

MUSH!

~ Amy Lignor

My mammoth, beloved dog always reminds me that ‘dog’ spelled backwards is ‘god’. (No matter how snooty your cat may act,

they must also deal with the fact that ‘tac’ is not nearly as powerful).

Even after all this time dog power is utilized by hunters, campers, backpackers, hikers and plain, old people who want and need Husky_boenisch_2005the security, protection and love of the family friend. Dogs hit on all cylinders in life and sports, and play an extra-special role when it comes to the winter months.

Hunting and traveling has been done for centuries – far before the luxuries of RV’s and ATV’s came into our lives. The dogs were the ones who led the pack; they helped their masters and made sure to get the job done when it came to finding food, and working their proverbial tails off in order to pull the sled so travel could occur.

The dog makes up that amazing sled team that now not only helps their master hunt and travel, but also allows their master to enter events in order to show off just how amazing their particular sled dog team is.

Building the team is not an easy thing to do. A lot like the dreaded dodge ball choosing in grade school, dogs must go through a very intense selection process in order to see just where they will end up on the team. However, each and every dog has their own skills and talents required by the sled’s owner.

When picking the lead dog, the human must be very, very careful, seeing as that these are the facets of the team that are not only the head of the ‘mush’, but also take care of all the other dogs in their crew. They must be intelligent, courageous and able to keep going while encouraging all of their mates to do the same when times get rough out there.

Wheel dogs are also a huge part of the team. They need the most strength and power because their ultimate job in the harsh winter wonderland will be to pull the sled out from the snow if something bad comes to pass.

Right behind the leaders on the team come the point dogs; the swing dogs also work hard between the point and wheel dogs; and the rest of the team brings much-needed expertise to the pulling of the sled.

Endurance is a must when it comes to creating the perfect team. Let’s face it, more often than not the dogs have a whole heck of a lot more endurance than the human being along for the ride.

Two of the most beautiful species of dogs ever created make up the majority of the sled dog team. Siberian Huskies, which literally look as if they were born to do nothing else (although they deserve a little down time in front of the warm hearth enjoying some Christmas cheer); and Alaskan malamutes, which are not only born with the inbred skills of a sled dog, but are also extremely hard workers who will never lay down on the job.

Just remember that recreational dog sledding is not a whole lot different than the competitive sport. With each, you must take into consideration the dangers that lie ahead. Checking weather reports is absolutely necessary before heading out there. But when it comes to a competition, you’re stuck with the dates handed to you, so the sled dog team needs to be in perfect shape before ever beginning the race of a lifetime.

 

Balto with Gunnar Kaasen

Balto with Gunnar Kaasen

Map the trail you’ll be using if night falls so that even if the worst type of weather creeps up on you out of nowhere, you can

recognize various checkpoints or familiar locations.

The most famous sled dog remembered was named, Balto. As the lead dog of the team that was responsible for the last leg of a

journey that carried the only cure to Nome, Alaska, where people were suffering the horrific diphtheria epidemic of 1925, Balto became a true hero. A statue still stands in this brave dog’s honor with a plaque that reads: Endurance – Fidelity – Intelligence, which are the three main factors that made Balto a hero we will never forget.

So as you get the team ready to venture out into that frozen land, make sure you always remember, honor, and respect the power of these beautiful ‘gods’ who have a history of saving lives, and never giving up.

 

Until Next Time, Everybody,

Amy

 

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