What could be more reliable than a piece of machinery? Well, they have a heart, may sometimes chew up your slipper, love to run, have a built-in GPS, and are widely known to be our best friends.
That’s right, we’re talking about dogs. More specifically, we’re talking about a way that they’ve helped us survive for centuries!
Dog sledding is ingrained in so many cultures and still alive and well. So let’s head out to see some cute pups, uncover a little history, learn how some National Parks are using dog sledding to their advantage, and what makes people love the sport. (We also have a surprise story at the end about a relay of sled dogs that saved the town of Nome, Alaska after a disease threatened to wipe them out. It’ll blow your mind, so stick around!)
“The amazing thing about dog teams in Alaska is that sometimes they still prove to be the most reliable and effective means of transportation in really challenging winter conditions”
—Jen Raffaeli, Kennel Manager at Denali National Park.
Our first stop is to Denali National Park in Alaska, where dog sledding is the most effective way to maintain and patrol the park in winter. This brilliant form of transportation has been utilized in the park since its conception, over 100 years ago. However, it’s been used on the continent (and around the world) for thousands of years.
Hurtigruten states that “as far as archaeologists can tell, dog sledding was invented by the native and Inuit people in the northern parts of modern Canada, and it then rapidly spread throughout the continent.” Then, it didn’t take long for people around the world to employ dogs on their journeys—even bringing the first human to the south pole. 1(You can learn more about the history of Dogsledding and how it shaped society by clicking here.)
Conor Knighton of CBS Sunday Morning brings us to the park to chat with Jen Raffaeli, the kennels manager. We get to meet a few of their adorable recent additions to the pack and see just how important they are to the park in this lovely video.
Denali has put together a series of videos on how they train their puppies to become sled dogs! It’s called Puppy Paws, and you can check out all of this cuteness by clicking here. And if you want to see that puppy live stream (of course you do), you’re going to want to follow this link over to their website.
A unique way to experience the world.
Has someone ever brought you along to do what they love to do? As they introduce you to all the different nuances, their excitement is almost infectious. And suddenly, you find yourself loving that activity as well.
This is almost how it seems dog sledding is. Walking through the snow on your own two feet is nothing like gliding through it with a pack of excited companions. You’re with pups who are born with the strength and excitement to run, pull, and socialize. They’re in their element, and you get to connect to that freedom.
You can imagine that this allows the visitors of Denali National Park to have a new experience with the park while they’re there. But people are working with dogs all around the world, and sometimes, it’s just for fun.
The following video from National Geographic brings us to a dog sled race, where teams compete for the best times on the trail. Not only do we get a peek into the race, but we also get to see what makes these people love doing what they do when it’s not out of necessity.
So, what’s it like to work with these pups?
In this last short film, we get to visit Steve Crone. He’s the owner of New England Dogsledding on the Maine and New Hampshire borders. His description of what it’s like to be with and experience these dogs in their element is one of the most beautiful statements I’ve heard in a long time. See for yourself with this wonderful film from Joe Carter.
If you’d like to learn more about Steve Crone and New England Dogsledding, head on over to their website by clicking here. (They have a really lovely dog retirement set up!) And if you’d like to see more of Joe Carter’s absolutely beautiful films, check out his Vimeo portfolio here.
But how are sled dogs able to run for so long?
You’ve been hearing people in the videos above saying that the dogs are doing what they love. “They’re born to run” most remark, but what’s the science behind that?
The fantastic channel, MinuteEarth, gives us a peek into what’s happening inside of a sled dog to make them the best long distance runners in the world. It’s pretty amazing. Check it out:
Awesome, right? So running is what they’re meant to be doing!
Are you ready for that surprising story now?
Okay, so this is a bit of a bonus. Right after I wrote this I was in my car on the way to the gym (humblebrag: I’m proud of myself) listening to a new episode of This Podcast Will Kill You (it’s all about the diseases humans have faced and is very very good I urge you to check it out) when they started telling the most epic story about how dog sledding literally saved the entire town of Nome, Alaska by bringing them an antitoxin to them after a disease swept through.
The story begins at about minute 38 but as I said, the podcast is very very good so if you’re interested at all in how diseases have shaped human history and you have a long drive or you need to do the dishes, you should definitely give the whole thing a listen.
Now, let’s head back to Alaska and see just how important dog sledding really is.
You can read more about the details of this life or death dog sledding relay that sparked the creation of Iditarod, the biggest dog sledding race in the world, with a great article from History.com by clicking here.
And of course, you can listen to more episodes of This Podcast Will Kill You by following this link, or by finding them on any of your favorite streaming services. They’ve completely opened my eyes to how diseases actually work and the impact they can have on a community, so do yourself (and everyone around you) a favor and give it a listen! The more we know, the more we can protect ourselves.
Now, all of this can be summed up with the idea…
… that we can have awesome, mutually beneficial relationships with animals. I know it sounds kind of cheesy (because it’s definitely something you’ve heard before), but there’s this tendency to put ourselves in the role of the owner when it comes to taking care of animals. Aren’t we working together? If we shaped our mindset into one of a shared experience, all of us are more likely to get what we love out of it. The dog gets to run, play, and receive tons of love, while we, the humans, get to ease our workload, travel, and even save lives.
There’s a whole world of potential.
Stay open to new possibilities!
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”—Albert Einstein
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- “History of Dog Sledding.” Antarctica & Arctic Expeditions, www.hurtigruten.com/destinations/norway/inspiration/attractions/history-of-dog-sledding/. Accessed 27 Dec. 2018. ↩
- “Raising Sled Dogs at Denali National Park.” YouTube, CBS Sunday Morning, 18 Sept. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTsJdImZIIA. Accessed 19 Dec. 2018. ↩
- “Sled Dogs: More Than Meets the Eye | National Geographic.” YouTube, National Geographic, 2 Feb. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nVfFNbxX7s. Accessed 19 Dec. 2018. ↩
- “NORTHERN COMFORT – New England Dog Sledding.” Vimeo, Joe Carter, 7 Dec. 2014, vimeo.com/113848545. Accessed 19 Dec. 2018. ↩
- “Why Don’t Sled Dogs Ever Get Tired?” MinuteEarth, YouTube, 3 May 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDG4GSypcIE. Accessed 9 Jan. 2019. ↩
- “This Podcast Will Kill You.” Exactly Right Podcast Network, This Podcast Will Kill You, www.exactlyrightmedia.com/this-podcast-will-kill-you/. Accessed 28 Dec. 2018. ↩