Arctic Adventures - My Dog Blog
My Dog Blog
As soon as David first mentioned the trip I picked up on the dog sledding straight away. I am such a dog lover that I forgot to be apprehensive about the sledding part which probably wasn’t a bad thing!
We met some of the dogs as soon as we arrived in Kiruna as our first surprise was that our transfer from the airport to the lodge was by dog sled. We were chauffeur driven on this occasion, but it certainly gave us an insight into what was to come.
Most of the dogs didn’t look like the traditional husky you would expect. I later found out that most of them are cross bred with speedier breeds such as German pointers and sometimes even greyhounds! This is because Gaynor and Milos use the same dogs for racing as they do for tourism so speed is of the essence.
We each had our own team of dogs which we were introduced to the next morning and given instructions on how to handle and harness up to the sled.
The dogs are used to this type of handling so were generally well behaved when being harnessed, sometimes even lifting a paw to help.
The dogs clearly love their job and get very excited at the prospect of setting off. The noise as they sense it is nearly time to go is cacophonous to say the least.
We rode in a line one behind the other and the teams were very good at following each other (most of the time, ask Julie about that one!).
It was important if you fell off to try to remain in contact with the sled so the dogs didn’t run off. This wasn’t the easiest of tasks and while some of us didn’t always manage to hang on we didn’t lose any dogs fortunately.
It wasn’t just on the sleds that we had contact with the dogs. There were also jobs to be done before and after the riding to make sure the dogs were taken great care of.
The two main jobs were feeding and checking the dogs feet as they can take a battering and develop cracks between the pads of their feet which need to be treated with iodine and zinc cream. Some of the dogs with more sensitive feet wear little booties while out sledding for extra protection.
As you can imagine feeding 44 dogs is quite time consuming but very rewarding. I was lucky enough to be on ‘dog duty’ both days and it was very satisfying to watch the dogs hungrily devour their meal after working so hard for us during the day.
Meals consisted of huge frozen blocks of meat, consisting of mainly pork cut into chunks (I say cut, hacked with an axe would be more accurate), pieces of reindeer leftovers and dry food all mashed together in warm water.
Hard at work feeding the dogs
It didn’t look very appetising but the dogs obviously love it. I regretted having porridge for breakfast after doing the morning feed though!
Contrary to the belief that working dogs need to be focused and not distracted by too much close human interaction we were not only allowed but positively encouraged to cuddle and make a fuss of the dogs.
They love it and are surprisingly affectionate in return. I didn’t need asking twice. I couldn’t go past any of the dogs without giving them a fuss. I even sang to them on the sled.
So it was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to Barney, Ossi, Boris and Feli, my team who looked after me for 3 days.
When I fell from the sled they stayed where they were, waiting for me to get back on instead of running away as we were told they would more than likely do.
I like to think it was the singing but I think honestly they were just glad of the rest!
Almost ready to set off with Barney, Ossi, Boris and Feli
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