Stardancer Historical Freight Dogs

Two Rivers, Alaska

 

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My Own Mushing History and Activities

     I wasn't born in Alaska, but I got here as quickly as I could, arriving in October of 1992.  I have been casually interested in the sport of dog mushing throughout the 16-plus years that I've lived in Alaska but active participation was limited to training my own pet dog to pull a toboggan during historical reenactments and winter camping trips.  Following the death of my beloved wife, Shiloh, I had free time on my hands and needed an activity that would keep me mentally and physically active during winter.  Dog mushing seemed the ideal solution.    I have many good friends in Two Rivers who encouraged me to pursue the sport, and have served as teachers and mentors. 

     From the very beginning I have wanted to combine mushing with historical reenactment.  My mushing goal is to be able to accurately recreate eighteenth and 19th century mushing techniques while exploring the back country, hunting, camping and sight-seeing.  Focusing on a limited number of large, historically authentic freight dogs allows me to do all of these things within the financial constraints that are a fact of my life and lifestyle.  I feel I am making good progress toward that goal, but don't expect to achieve it for another 3 to five years.

    The first step in the project was to learn the mechanics of driving a team and dog sled.  During the 2005/06 season I handled for local sprint mushers Edie Forrest and her nephew Randy Dunbar. Edie races the 6 dog class and Randy is currently running the 8 dog class with an eye toward advancing into the unlimited. I also ran dogs with my good friend Mike Green.  Last year (2006/07) I trained with Lynn Orbison as well as working with my own team.  Lynn specializes in fostering, rehabilitating and re-homing rescued sled dogs, and many of the dogs I handle for her are DWIs (dogs with issues). 

    Being a handler and training assistant offers some great advantages to a new musher. It allows one to learn the craft under the supervision of a mentor before investing considerable time and money in dogs, sleds and equipment. It also allows one to decide what style of mushing is most appealing, establish personal mushing goals and create a plan to achieve those goals.

     Over the summer of 2006 I was able to acquire two good sleds and all the necessary lines and harness needed to run a small team. In a tremendous stroke of good luck I was also able to adopt two excellent experienced sled dogs from the Fairbanks North Star Borough animal shelter to compliment my two pet dogs.  In the spring of 2007 I was given a pair of Hedlund husky pups that are proving to be excellent sled dogs.  Recent additions to the team include a truly brilliant leader retired from long distance racing teams, another big trap-line leader, a hard working team dog who can run lead and Amazing Grace, a young female with tons of talent I am training for a friend. 

As a result I currently have a strong team of 12 hard playing dogs.  When compared to the huge kennels of other mushers my kennel is very small, yet we are able to follow any trail a larger team can negotiate.  Sometimes we just do it a lot more slowly.

I frequently post information about our current training progress on my Old School Alaskan blog.