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19 March 2016 / leggypeggy

Totally mushy for dogs

Harnessing the dogs

Steve harnessing the dogs for a spin on the Chandalar trail with Josh mushing. Photo by Dick Guiliani

Dog mushing in Coldfoot

We’re off

If you’ve followed this blog, you probably know that I’m crazy about dogs. I like cats, too, but I tend to own dogs that think cats are on the menu.

We’re lucky enough to have someone mind our dog when we travel, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss my furry companion. That said, I tend to avoid dogs in many countries. Years ago in Burma, I was bitten by a dog that became rabid and ‘enjoyed’ getting all the anti-rabies injections.

But we were lucky on this trip. Alaska is probably the dog mushing capital of the world and Coldfoot, where we spent six days, is a great place to try out the sport.

Jason has been looking after the dogs at Coldfoot for several years now, but he’s had foot surgery and is planning to move to Anchorage to be with his girlfriend, so Josh and Steve are working with the dogs now.

I didn’t do a full head count, but I think Jason said there are 23 dogs at Coldfoot, including five 18-month old ‘puppies’ from an unexpected pregnancy.

White sled dogs

Four of the five ‘puppies’

White sled dogs, Coldfoot

The dogs are friendly and love attention

We had the chance to go dog mushing one morning in Coldfoot—and could visit and pet the dogs as often as we liked—they’re all friendly and calm.

I suppose it’s not quite mushing if we ride and someone else drives, but we had a blast anyway.

Josh and Steve got the dogs in harnesses and bundled us into sleds complete with covers and sleeping bags if you got really cold—we didn’t need those. It was easy to see that all the dogs wanted to go for a run. One in particular howled at length to signal her displeasure at being left behind.

Howling sled dog

Don’t leave me behind! This is the grand old dame of the mushing team

The ride lasted about 20 minutes and we got a good laugh out of the fact that most of the dogs had to stop for their morning crap. Of course they didn’t all stop at the same time, so the beginning of trip was a bit of stop–start affair.

Four groups had rides that day and everyone experienced the crap stops. Nothing like morning ablutions. I resisted taking photos. No need to embarrass the dogs. 🙂

A bit of dog mushing history in Fairbanks and Alaska
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Fairbanks was often called the ‘Dog Mushing Capital of the World’. This followed a 1927 race organised there in an attempt to revive mushing.

Jeff Studdert, known as the ‘Grand Old Man’ of dog mushing in Fairbanks, was instrumental in organising that race. He also helped to organise the Alaska Dog Mushers’ Association and founded the Jeff Studdert Invitational Race (more about that in another post).

Dog mushing in Coldfoot

Milly and Dick returning from a run

One of the most-publicised events in dog mushing history was the ‘Mercy Race to Nome’ in the winter of 1925. That’s when diptheria broke out and there wasn’t anough antitoxin (serum) to treat those who were ill.

The ‘race against death’ took one week to cover a 674-mile trail, which ordinarily took 15 to 25 days. Temperatures fells as low as -64°F (-53°C) and the serum arrived in Nome frozen but useable.

This story inspired the 1995 Disney movie, Balto.

Dog kennels

Outdoor kennels for the sled dogs. They are too furry to live inside

Found innocent
I love a 1948 dog-related quote,by a Buck Landru. It was posted in one of Fairbanks’ museums.

‘Nowhere else in the world has a jury of twelve men sat in judgement on a sled dog accused of sheep killing, pronounced the dog innocent, and heard the judge, native of the Kentucky Bluegrass region, proclaim that in Nome sheep must look out for themselves—“This aims to be dog country”!’

Mary Shields—the first woman to finish the Itidarod
We also had the good fortunate to visit Mary Shields at her home in Fairbanks. I’ll be doing a post on that soon. Remarkable woman.

Howling dog

‘I still want to go!’

56 Comments

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  1. wfdec / Mar 19 2016 3:19 pm

    So! Did you sit down the whole time or not? Seems like an easy trip for some!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 19 2016 3:26 pm

      I stood around until it was my turn to ride. The ride is sitting only. A bit like not being allowed to skydive by yourself. haha

      Liked by 1 person

  2. gerard oosterman / Mar 19 2016 4:11 pm

    That must have been so exciting. Are you sure you didn not take a crap shot of the dogs? When we take our Jack Russell, Milo, we make sure he does it before we hit the main shopping Street. Do all the other dogs in the team stop when just one does it? So many questions.
    In Canberra all is quiet. One man was questioned by police for excessive laughter after 7.30pm .

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 19 2016 10:30 pm

      I swear I did not take a crap shot—or a shot at craps. But when one dog stops, they all stop.

      Bet I know the laugher. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. toutparmoi / Mar 19 2016 4:26 pm

    That’s something I would like to try.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Whitechapel Whelk / Mar 19 2016 4:31 pm

    My feet turned blue reading that one Peggy. I hope you’re satisfied. An interesting and beautifully written piece. Obviously, it wasn’t as sublime as my piece yesterday on the new British national anthem but it was a gallant effort nonetheless 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 19 2016 10:32 pm

      Nothing quite compares to the decision to replace the British national anthem. Sure wish they’d change the Australia one.

      Like

      • The Whitechapel Whelk / Mar 20 2016 1:32 am

        I’m all for that Peggy…as long as it doesn’t make them better at cricket!

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Mar 20 2016 1:57 am

        Oh gosh, I nearly choked on that comment. hahaha

        Like

  5. Jane / Mar 19 2016 5:51 pm

    Had to laugh at the stop and start trip because the dogs did not synchronise their defecating! 🙂 What a fun but cold experience! I remember reading Jack London’s “Call of the Wild” and being fascinated and in awe of sled dogs from then on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 19 2016 10:34 pm

      Jack London probably wouldn’t have thought these were real sled dogs. Most of the ‘pups’ were out for training runs, so were looking over their shoulders and playing a bit with each other. Definitely not racing dogs but certainly getting the hang of things.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Worlds Biggest Fridge Magnet / Mar 19 2016 7:55 pm

    Love the “old dame” still wanting to go with the young ones and pull the sleds. Poor old bird 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Vicki / Mar 19 2016 8:25 pm

    Wonderful post. Your mushing ride sounds like great fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 19 2016 10:35 pm

      It was lots of fun and not as cold as I expected.

      Like

  8. spearfruit / Mar 19 2016 9:51 pm

    What a wonderful adventure and the reading was exciting and educational. Thanks Peggy, the pictures are amazing – I can tell you are having a great time! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. pagedogs / Mar 19 2016 10:46 pm

    Mush on.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. apriltulip / Mar 19 2016 10:55 pm

    Amazing pictures! The dogs look so happy doing their thing (except for the one left behind). What an excellent adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 20 2016 12:11 am

      The dogs clearly love to run and their coats are made for the outdoors.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. poshbirdy / Mar 19 2016 11:16 pm

    Wow! What an adventure, and the dogs are so happy and SO photogenic

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Elizabeth Helmich / Mar 20 2016 2:27 am

    How incredible! What pictures! I would have loved such an experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 20 2016 2:28 am

      A really wonderful experience. Highly recommended.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Elizabeth Helmich / Mar 20 2016 3:40 am

        Ah, I could dream. I appreciate you sharing this with us! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  13. thefoggyfoodie / Mar 20 2016 3:57 am

    Love your photos and the experience sounds amazing! Does anyone pick up all the poop or do they just carry on and run over it? (Asks the city gal, lol)

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 20 2016 9:22 am

      I asked the same question, which was answered when we whizzed by without picking it up. 🙂 But I realised it’s easy enough to avoid it and by spring it’s a memory.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Curious to the Max / Mar 20 2016 5:48 am

    A totally cool post – literally and figuratively.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 20 2016 9:36 am

      Thanks. It was a cool experience—literally and figuratively.

      Like

  15. Lynz Real Cooking / Mar 20 2016 11:36 am

    I love the pictures of the dogs so cool! What experiences you are having Peggy! What a fun and interesting place to visit!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 21 2016 2:54 am

      We feel so lucky to have made it to Coldfoot. Apparently only 1 per cent of visitors to Alaska go as far north as the Arctic Circle.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Sy S. / Mar 20 2016 11:46 am

    I guess there are no “Pooper Scooper” laws in Coldfoot. I know that after my dog does #2 (secret code LOL) he is so energetic from relieving himself that he goes bunkers, running around with joy. I guess with all the sled dogs relieving themselves near the beginning of the run, it gives them extra energy to give you a fast ride. Did you see any Polar Bears, White Rabbits, Caribou, Snow Owls…

    I “LUV” dogs, so this blog write-up and photos is another gem… by the one and only, “U” !

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 21 2016 2:56 am

      Haha, Sy. Even if there were pooper-scooper laws in Coldfoot, there’s only one State Trooper and he is responsible for 78,000 square miles.

      As for wildlife beyond dogs, we saw a few things fleetingly, usually too quick to get a pic—two moose, two snowshoe hares, some birds and two grouse.

      Like

  17. Carol Ferenc / Mar 21 2016 4:17 am

    This looks like so much fun, Peggy. Those dogs are awesome ~ I’d want to take them all home.
    There’s another good sled-dog movie called “Eight Below.” It takes place at a research station in Antarctica and is based on a true story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 21 2016 2:03 pm

      Thanks for the movie tip, Carol. I’ve never seen that one, so will add it to the list. And the dogs at Coldfoot are so affectionate—real lovers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Carol Ferenc / Mar 22 2016 4:55 am

        I think it’s a Disney movie. I really enjoyed it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Mar 22 2016 7:49 am

        I’m a sucker for Disney movies, so I bet I will too. 🙂

        Like

  18. Stephanae V. McCoy / Mar 21 2016 9:41 am

    Beautiful dogs, and what a marvelous experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Norbert Haupt / Mar 21 2016 12:14 pm

    My girlfriend just went to Ely, Minnesota for a week of dogsledding about a month ago. Came back with great pictures and all excited.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 21 2016 2:21 pm

      Wow, I should put that on my must-do list. Sounds incredible.

      Like

      • Norbert Haupt / Mar 21 2016 2:52 pm

        Speaking of the pooping questions: The dogs all poop while they are running. Don’t even miss a beat. Of course you just run over it all.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Mar 21 2016 3:41 pm

        The pups in Coldfoot haven’t yet learned the poop-on-the-run technique. Maybe someday. But then they aren’t meant to be racers.

        Like

  20. tony / Mar 22 2016 8:23 pm

    Great looking dogs! Wow again. Nice story.
    Tony
    http://breadtagsagas.com/

    Liked by 2 people

  21. milliethom / Mar 23 2016 2:23 am

    I’d love to try dog mushing, Peggy – before I get too old to enjoy it, that is. I really enjoyed your description of Coldfoot and your ride out. The ‘crapping’ references gave me a hoot!). Wonderful photos, too! I hope that poor ‘grand old dame’ Got taken out next time round.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 23 2016 2:30 am

      She did get taken for a spin on the very last run. She was mighty pleased. Amazing how they are so keen to run. And don’t worry about getting too old to mush. The dogs do all the work. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • milliethom / Mar 23 2016 8:11 am

        Yeah, that’s true. 🙂 I just don’t want to be too arthritis-ridden or suchlike to enjoy it! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Mar 23 2016 2:32 pm

        I think the dogs would carry you to the sled if it meant they got to run. 🙂

        Like

  22. cinnamon4789 / May 19 2016 10:37 am

    I love this blog and I am a huge dog fan, too! All the photos are beautiful and it sounds like you had a great trip dog sledding! I did that one time too and it was fun! I’m glad you mentioned Balto, too I love that movie 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 19 2016 2:44 pm

      Thanks so much for the lovely comment and the follow. We’re dog fans too, obviously. So glad you’ve had a chance to go dog mushing. And Balto is a great movie.

      Liked by 1 person

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