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I’m a planner. I’ve got note books with me everywhere I go to keep track of plans. My Evernote account is filled with reminders for things I need to get done. If I write it down, it’s the first step towards fruition.
Of course, circumstances change and the things you plan for don’t always work out. That’s why you make back-up plans, and back-up back-up plans.
I planned to go on a cross-country, dryland-mushing road trip this fall. I wanted to hit a few national parks, camp out with the dogs, and experience amazing new places. I even had enough vacation time to make the trip do-able (though it would basically drain my PTO for awhile).
As much as I wanted to make this trip happen this year, there were too many things weighing against it. Aside from some personal matters and job related concerns, the main issue was my equipment.
I’ve got two dryland dog rigs/gigs/carts (whatever you want to call them):
The smaller one on the left is about 40 pounds and I can lift it, by myself, onto my bike rack. It’s what I primarily use when I travel around NJ trails, but it’s not really the most comfortable or sturdy contraption. The steering bar is far from intuitive and the wheels aren’t big enough to go over branches.
The larger rig is close to 90 pounds. It’s clunky and doesn’t fold down, so there’s no easy way to hang it from my bike rack. I ended up buying a cheap, China-made trailer to transport it. Which works, but I don’t trust it for a 4,000+ mile journey.
So, now what? I obviously need a safe, easily transported cart to make this journey possible. I found myself circling around the Arctis Carts website, as I tend to do at least once per season. I’ve wanted one of these dog carts since I first started mushing, before I even had enough dogs to pull it. The price tag and shipping cost always pushed me away, but I decided it was finally time to take the plunge:
(Photos via Arctis Carts)
Since things never work out as you plan, I couldn’t actually place my order for this season. The manufacturer is back-logged until next year. In this case, it works out for the best – they’ll be traveling to the Northeast next summer, so I can avoid the shipping cost and pick the cart up directly from maker. So then, just maybe, I can start making plans again.
Obviously, I support mushing. Owning huskies, I know they have this built-in desire to run for miles, and mushing literally harnesses that drive. They were bred selectively to have this mindset and ability. If you’ve ever encountered a working dog, whether it’s a herding Border Collie or a retrieving Labrador, you realize there’s something in these dogs’ brains that tell them, “I have a job to do.” And, not surprisingly, they are most happy when they get to do it.
Mushing can get a bad reputation, from the extreme “activists” like PETA to every-day-folks who are just ill-informed.
The other day, Kevin Russ posted a photo on Instagram showing a sled dog mama and her litter. My immediate reaction was, “Aww, yay, sled dog pups!” I scrolled passed a few of the comments, and saw an uproar about how the dog was kept.
I don’t know anything about the musher who owns these dogs or the quality of the kennel. The only judgement I can make is based on this single photograph, and from what I see, it’s nothing out of the norm for a sled dog kennel. Take this photo for example. This is what a typical, large scale kennel may look like:
This isn’t the photo in question (you can navigate to Mr. Russ’s Instagram yourself and take a peak), but I’ll describe it for you:
People saw a mother dog chained to her dog house, in a fenced in, grassless yard. There were a few turned over bowls near the dog house, and in the distance I could see what was likely tumbleweeds of shed fur (dogs normally blow their coats when they whelp a litter). The kennel looked clean, and the puppies themselves were surprisingly pristine and happy-looking. I say “surprisingly” because puppies are usually covered in dirt from wrestling with each other. Source: I’ve raised three dogs form puppihood.
I get it – people don’t like seeing a dog on a short chain, attached to a house. They want to see clean bowls side by side, filled with food and water (which they likely were, but after a tornado of puppies blows through, that doesn’t last). They want to see thick, lush grass beneath their paws.
This just isn’t realistic. I only own three dogs and I can tell you, lush grass and nice aesthetics in your yard aren’t going to be a priority. I also know plenty of mushers who chain their dogs to their houses, while also having large dog-runs available for exercise.
There are plenty of good reasons to have a dog chained. If you have 20+ dogs, meal time would be absolute mayhem without a means of separating each dog. Or if a dog is in season and needs to be kept away from males. Or if you’ve got dogs that don’t get along unsupervised. It’s no different than a person who crates their dog at home (and if you try to argue that crates are cruel, you can take a look at my dog currently napping in his crate on his on accord).
People seem to forget that these dogs are living the life they were bred for. Yes, they may spend some time on a chain, but what about the hours they spend running along beautiful wilderness? A pampered house dog could only be so lucky to experience what these dogs do on a regular basis. These dogs aren’t suffering, your overfed couch potato is.
Again, I can’t speak on behalf of every single kennel. There are good guys and bad guys in everything. But that’s why you can’t make sweeping generalizations. Then the good gets lumped with the bad, and mushing gets labelled as inhumane. To me, it would be inhumane to outlaw what these dogs love. Take a look at my three wack-jobs prior to a run last season and see for yourself – they look pretty miserable, huh?: