By the luck of the draw, I had the chance to race in my first ever sled dog race. I say that is was luck because I met a wonderful couple the week before the race that supplied me with some dogs to run as well as a bunch of training about what it takes to own and run real sled dogs. I got the chance to work with legit, hard-pulling, fast Alaskan Huskies that could easily survive on their own in the wild. I immersed myself in their daily care, even though I was just with them for 2-3 days. The days consisted of feeding, watering, and cleaning up after about 20 dogs. The food was messy and consisted of a balanced kibble combined with water and another source of fat and protein. This source of fat or protein is not what you would feed your usual domestic dog; it consisted of things like fat scraps from a butcher, or pure hamburger. These dogs live outside, so they need real meat and fat to meet their caloric demands.
On top of daily care for general dog maintenance, these dogs need to be exercised. This happens to be the most time-consuming part of owning sled dogs and the most fun! Before the real fun starts, each dog needs to be guided over to the gangline and hitched up to it via a harness. They are attached by way of the “tug line” on the back of their harness as well by a neck line to their collar. These attachments keep them in a straight line (most of the time!) and allow them to pull comfortably. Let me tell you, these dogs LOVE to pull! If a Labrador fetches, a Border Collie herds and a Yorkie sits on your lab, then Alaskan Huskies pull!
After hitching up the 2 dogs I was skijoring with, they got very excited. They know what is coming next. They watch a few teams take off before they do and they get almost inconsolable. It is like a house dog with a food bowl in front of it filled with hot dogs. They are so excited and all they want to do it go for it. Once the humans holding their harnesses back release them, get ready for the ride of your life. The dogs will propel the person behind them with ease, and if you are not a good skier you may have some trouble staying up when going around those tight turns and going down hills. Good thing I have been skiing since I was 3 years old!