The Stardancer Challenge
My goal is to reenact eighteenth and early 19th century dog mushing
methods using only historically authentic equipment and dogs while maintaining the highest standards of humane
treatment and training. Historical dogs, sleds, lines and
harnesses are just as useful and practical today as they were 100 and
more years ago, but the historical
treatment of sled dogs was considered extremely brutal even by the lax
standards of those days. Today they are considered horrendously
abusive, and they deserve to stay where they belong, documented in the
time-faded pages of historical journals and memoirs of another age.
Meanwhile I try to take full advantage of
the best available current scientific information on canine behavior,
physiology, psychology and other dog-related
topics. I am proud that my Stardancer Historical Freight
Dogs kennel meets or exceeds all of the kennel management and dog care
and I strive to manage and train my dogs in the most humane and scientifically
sound manner possible.
The two goals are not mutually exclusive, but the do create some unique
challenges. The larger "village" or "trap line" types of sled dogs
that allowed humans to survive and thrive in one of the most harsh
climates on the planet are no longer plentiful, having been largely
replaced by snow machines, light airplanes and other mechanical devices.
Most of today's sled dogs are bred for racing, and so they pull and run
differently than the working dogs of history.
Historical equipment is no longer manufactured and I have to make much
of my own historically authentic gear in order to pursue my goal.
This is, and always will be, an ongoing process as natural materials
such as wood for sleds or leather for harness and lines is not so
durable as newer materials favored by modern mushers.
While the challenges are significant, as with many
things in life the reward is in the journey rather than the destination.
As I research both the history of dog mushing and the current sciences
associated with dog care and training I find great satisfaction in each
step of the process. It isn't always an easy journey, but is
certainly an educational endeavor.