With winter around the corner, I’m looking for ways to keep both myself and my furry companions Jill and Samson active. When the snow flies, there are lots of options for fun in the area — but one I hadn’t considered until I read this National Geographic article was dogsledding!
Turns out, some of today’s most effective sled dogs are not the pure-bred malamutes or Siberian Huskies of yore, but a catch-all category called the Alaskan Husky. Alaskan Huskies are a mix of particular breeds (including Northern-type dogs, pointers, and even greyhounds) selected for speed and pulling strength.
But genetics isn’t everything, writes Jane J. Lee: dogs have to have a healthy, almost indiscriminate appetite, to carry them through gruelling, multiple-hundred-kilometre-long races. They also need tough paws — while booties can be worn, they reduce the dogs’ speed overall.
Check and check, for both Samson and Jill… But my favourite aspect of an excellent sled team is one that is easily mapped onto human work relationships too: teamwork!
“Lead dogs—the ones out in front—help maintain order. They execute a musher’s commands, set the team’s pace, and ensure everyone’s going in the right direction. […]
Backing up lead dogs like Sultana are the swing dogs—positioned right behind the leaders. They help to turn the team left or right. Wheel dogs may be last in line, but they help to steer the sled. The good ones know to go wide on turns to guide thesled around trees and other obstacles […]
The dogs in between the swing and wheel positions are called team dogs; they provide the muscle. Their job is to keep pulling until it’s time to stop.”
I wonder if I can convince Jill and Samson to team up and mush me to the grocery store or music practice this winter…? If I can’t get them off the couch, at least I now have concrete knowledge behind a new metaphor for the magic — and necessity — of teamwork