Fairbanks, Alaska is situated in the heart of Interior Alaska where sled dogs have historically been an important part of the culture. Many people are familiar with the long distance race, the Iditarod, an 1,150 mile race from Anchorage to Nome that begins every March. There’s also the Yukon Quest, a 1,000 mile race between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks which happens in February. But to the average Alaskan living off the grid, a team of strong Huskies means a lot more than just going fast. We got the opportunity to learn so much about what an integral part of life a team of sled dogs can be when we took a tour at Sirius Sled Dogs this weekend. The first thing we learned is that are actually 2 different breeds of sled dog, the smaller, sleeker kind that go fast, and the larger, stronger Alaskan Freighter Husky that can race but are usually bred to work hard as part of a family. Nita, owner of Sirius Sled Dogs, breeds the larger of these two, and she uses her dogs for working; as a matter of fact, the only racing she does is friendly neighborhood racing. From the moment we arrived at her home, we felt welcomed by both Nita and her dogs (all 17 of them!)
Nita taught us everything we could have wanted to know about how a sled works, the different kinds of sleds, about the different positions dogs can have on a dog sled team (lead, point, team, and wheel), and what it takes to care for a team of dogs. (A lot of love and commitment, among other things!)
Next, it was time to get the dogs dressed in their harnesses and ready for our sled ride! We couldn’t go far, since it’s summer now and dogs that are used to pulling in -40F can get overheated in even cool summer weather. But a short 1/4 mile pull would be ok on a crisp morning, so we were in luck! Time to get dressed, dogs!
Then, it was time for the dogs to get hooked up, and for us to get in the cart! These dogs couldn’t have been more excited for their chance to go!!
And, once everyone was locked in…it was GO time!
Phew!! What an awesome morning!! But, we may have a new dog musher on our hands. Sienna is now asking questions about dog mushing every 5 minutes! Time to head to the library I guess! Thanks Nita, for a morning we’ll always remember!
See you after the next adventure!