SLED DOGS IN AMERICA
There is still a story to be told in the 21st century of disappearing cultures and traditions that are linked with animal partnerships.
There is still a story to be told in the 21st century of disappearing cultures and traditions that are linked with animal partnerships. These changes are not due to dramatic violence, but to the introduction of machines and the rapidly melting ice.
What began as a joke in 2009 to tease professional musher friends, has become one of the most challenging artistic journeys to date. I put a harness on 12” tall Mickey, my naughty Jack Russell Terrier and taught him to leap forward at the “MUSH” command. The next thing I knew was I was running behind a small kick-sled and had enlisted the reluctant help of my Rottweiler cross, Annie. She thought this was the worse idea I had ever had. Mickey, on the other hand, did not think his role as a sled dog was a joke and his enthusiasm was contagious.
I soon had a team of four real sled dogs and could actually ride this sled (the team in now retired). I also have an entire bookcase dedicated to the remarkable and relatively unknown history of the many roles these dogs have played in American History for more than 12,000 years.
People in the Arctic regions of the world could not have survived the harsh climate without dogs.
Archeological findings show that dogs accompanied Homo Sapiens when they crossed the Beringa Land Bridge.
In more recent times, sled dogs first pulled mail from 1778 until the last delivery in 1963 – almost 200 years. The furthest South I have seen documented dog team mail delivery was in the1870’s in the San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado.
“Sled dogs are to natives and anglos alike, what the horse was to the Plains Indians and the cowboy.”
Sled dogs were indispensable to the Arctic explorations between 1853 through 1909.
The Klondike Gold Rush of 1879 created such a demand for dogs, that many were stolen and sold on the black market to would be prospectors.
The first ascent of North America’s highest peak, 20,310’ Denali, in 1917 was only accomplished with sled dogs pulling the gear.
Denali National Park has been patrolled by “Canine Rangers” since 1922
During World War II, sled dogs were sent to France to get supplies to snow bound troops and bring wounded soldiers back from the Front. Back in America, Sled Dog teams were parachuted into airplane crash sites along both the Alaskan and Greenland corridors to rescue downed pilots.
The 1950’s television series, “Sargent Preston of the Yukon” was actually filmed near Aspen, Colorado – not in the Yukon.
My objective is to bring awareness through art of the many roles that pulling dogs and their drivers have played in the history of America.
— Veryl Goodnight