Transporting the Star Dancer Team
Safely transporting 7 or 8 dogs to visit their
veterinarian or to explore a distant trail or even just over to a
friend's place to train can be a major challenge. It is never safe
to allow dogs to ride loose in the back of a pickup truck. Although
airline crates will work, they take up more space than is necessary and
don't always provide adequate protection for the dogs. Like many
other mushers, my solution to the issues was to modify my truck as a
purpose-built "dog truck".
One can think of the dog truck as being an RV for the team. The
dogs are just as warm and comfortable in their individual apartments as in
their houses in the yard, yet they can be safely moved to wherever they are
My truck started out in life
as a diesel powered 1998 Dodge Ram "heavy 3/4 ton" pickup truck. After a bit of horse
trading, I replaced the pickup box with a flat-bed salvaged from a wrecked vehicle.
I purchased a used "dog box" from my friend Mike
Green. The resulting rig did the job, but wasn't quite "perfect"
for the way I do things, and frankly was ugly as sin.
It got us through the winter OK, and when break-up finally hit I decided
a few modifications were in order. All winter long I had found
myself looking for a place to hang harnesses, lines and clothing on the
back of the truck. Of course, it didn't come equipped with coat
hooks, so I decided to add some.
Most mushers load their dogs into the dog box by lifting the dogs and
shoving each dog into it's individual "hole" in the dog box.
Stardancer Historical Freight Dogs are much larger and heavier than most
racing dogs, so I have trained them to walk up a folding ramp. The
"footboard" is a hinged board that runs the length of the dog box, just
below the doors. In use, it is flipped up and into place to help
hold the doors closed even if the individual doors come open. By
mounting 2X4 blocks just below the footboard, I was able to reinforce it
so that I can prop the ramp up against the footboard without causing
damage to the hinges.
When the reinforcing blocks were in place I discovered there is a
tendency to bang my arms on them when walking along the truck. I
solved that by fastening a thin strip of wood across the blocks as a
sort of guard rail.
In use, my sleds can be carried on top of the dog box. To help
ensure they don't bang around and to help keep them in place, I
installed "sled rails" on top of the box, spaced so that the runners of
my sleds fit perfectly between them. These are simply 2 X 4s,
mounted lengthwise on top of the box.
To hold the tails of the sleds down when loaded, and to provide more
space for storing and transporting gear, I fabricated a long wooden tack box
that I mounted across the front of the sled rails. Finally, I gave
the transformed the box a couple of coats of paint to make it look a
little nicer. The modified dog box results in a truck that allows
me to safely transport the Stardancer Historical Freight Dogs team
wherever they need to go and do the things I need to do once we get