A few months ago, Blair Braverman wrote a Twitter thread documenting what her days look like while training for the Iditarod. More than just sharing cute dog pictures, Blair offered an inside look at the sport of dog mushing. Animal Rights groups like PETA are constantly spreading propaganda against the Iditarod and dog sports. Dog sledding isn’t something that’s easy to stumble across in suburbs and cities. Without exposure to mushing, it’s easy for people to fall for PETA’s misrepresentations.
Mushers like Blair, her husband Quince, Mari of ATAO Kennels, Alice of Wolf Moon, and many others have begun sharing their lives and their dogs. By being transparent about the sport we love, I hope those who question mushing will see our side.
I am by no means preparing for a distance race like the Iditarod (which Blair is currently running—GO BLAIR!), but many have asked what it’s like to take care of so many dogs. So in the spirit of bringing visibility to mushing, here’s what a typical (winter) day looks like for my little team.
The dogs and I usually wake up around sunrise. The dogs sleep indoors, so it’s a mad dash to get out back into the dog yard. Many winter mornings involve fresh snowfall.
While the dogs are outside stretching and playing, I come back in to get a fire started in the wood stove. On the coldest days, where highs barely reach double digits, I keep the fire going all day long. When it’s milder, I tend to wait until evening to get her burning.
After the fire has been lit, it’s back outside in full winter gear for chores. First I scoop poop while the dogs continue to dance around the yard.
Next, I deal with whatever new snow has fallen. For smaller storms, I’ll clear my entire driveway myself, but for bigger dumps I’ll call in a snowplow. Either way, the snowblower still comes out to clear walkways and the space in front of the garages.
Every couple of storms, I have to bring the snowblower into the dog yard to fling snow out. Most of the time, I shovel around the perimeter. The dogs appreciate the pathway, and it ensures snow doesn’t pile up so high that the dogs can jump out.
Finally, after all the chores are done, it’s time to mush! We run straight from the dog yard and the distance depends on how much trail breaking we need to do. Once trails are packed down, we can go for four to five miles right around the property. I made the late-season discovery of an entirely new trail, which should add a few miles. Next season, after the ATV club has cleared up some logging debris and I (hopefully) acquire a snowmobile, we should be able to go even further.
After their run, the dogs cool off in the yard while I put away the sled and peel off my layers.
Once everyone is sufficiently relaxed, it’s food time! The team eats Inukshuk 32/32 kibble with some canned food, Nupro glucosamine supplement, and bone broth. Dexter gets a sensitive stomach recipe kibble with lower fat content, because he’s not nearly as active.
The dogs head back outside after breakfast in their crates. Now it’s finally time for me to eat something. Some mornings look like this. Others involve a bowl of cereal and a gallon of coffee.
After the fire is lit, poop has been scooped, snow has been cleared, dogs have been run, and we’ve all been fed, it’s time to start my work day. I devote roughly 40 hours a week, sometimes more, to a remote tech company as their project management lead. My time consists of organizing development team features and fixes. And roughly a half dozen video calls every day.
While I’m somewhat bound to my desk for eight or nine hours, I’m still able to take breaks to roll outside with the dogs, clean the house, do a load of laundry, or any of the other dozens of household chores that exist outside of snow-stuff. Some days, I won’t get a chance to run the team until my afternoon break. On even busier days, we don’t get to run until sunset.
After work wraps up, the dogs let me know it’s dinner time. The feeding routine repeats and I usually do a 45 minute workout—unless it’s Tuesday, which I devote to art-marking in the evening.
I’ll scrounge up some dinner and a fruit protein shake for myself while the dogs find their spot for the rest of the evening. Couch space is a hot commodity, but the dogs rotate pretty often. The fire keeps this room toasty and they can only stay tight little donuts for so long.
This is what a regular weekday looks like for me and my team. There are days when I pile everyone into the dog truck and venture out to new trails well before dawn. There are days when freezing rain is pummeling the house and we barely step foot outside. We’ll see what warmer weather brings!