Immediately upon finding out about this alleged cull, Mush with P.R.I.D.E.’s (Providing Responsible Information on a Dog’s Environment) President, Karen Ramstead issued the following press release:
“We are shocked and saddened to hear that one of Mush with P.R.I.D.E.’s Board members is being implicated in the mass killing of sled dogs in Whistler, British Columbia. The Board has passed a motion to remove Bob Fawcett from the Board of Mush with P.R.I.D.E. immediately.
Euthanasia should not be used for population control and what happened in this case is simply unacceptable. No responsible sled dog owner or caregiver treats dogs in this manner.
Mush with P.R.I.D.E. was created by mushers who love their dogs and feel strongly about promoting responsible and humane sled dog care. We are dismayed that the organization so many of us are passionate about is being tainted by this situation. It is revolting that those of us who take care of our dogs from puppies to geriatrics may be forced to wear the sins of those responsible for this atrocity.
Please bear with us as we struggle to come to terms with this horrid situation.”
Other mushers and dog sled tour companies joined in on condemning the actions of this man.
The timing of this news happens to coincide with two of the biggest sled dog races: The Iditarod and the Yukon Quest. Unfortunately, the actions of one man is now affecting decent and caring mushers with cries for more regulation, outlawing of tethering, and even outlawing of sled dogs altogether.
Even more unfortunate is the 5 February 2011 article in the Sports section of the Vancouver Sun by Jill Taggart with the shocking headline: “Sled dogs’ training makes re-homing impossible”.
Ms. Taggart cites studies performed in clinical settings and her observations and from this, she concludes that “...the practice of continual tethering is the main reason it is virtually impossible to re-home sled dogs in a non-kennel environment”. Since her article appears in the sports section, rather than an OpEd section, the reader is led to believe that this is fact, not opinion. It may lead people willing to adopt a retired or slower sled dog to change their minds, thus leaving mushers with no alternative but to humanely euthanize what they consider to be members of their families.
If Ms. Taggart had left the safe confines of academia, reports, and clinical control studies and had simply reached out to the mushers and real life, she would have found what we already know for a fact: sled dogs are constantly re-homed successfully without issues.
Since pictures speak louder than words, we present to you our “case study” on the rehoming of sled dogs in the words of their adopters:
Karen E writes:
North Wapiti's Chiclet RN CGC (aka Trina)
Chiclet came to live in San Diego in late September (I think) 2009. She had just turned 2. Chiclet parent's are Olena and Crunchie, both multi-Iditarod veterans. At that time I had 2 other Siberians both males, one 5 1/2 the other 3 months younger than Chiclet. Both I had raised since 8 weeks of age.
She was flown into San Diego on a Sunday and immediately Monday morning immersed in her new life. That entailed going to work with me everyday. All 3 dogs are in the office and interact with staff, customers, children and delivery people. For the first 2 weeks or so she was a bit on the shy side, but could easily be bought with "cookies".
I think there are a couple of really important things in her life with us. First on Day 13 of her San Diego life she attempted and passed with flying colors, the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. This was the first step to eventually get her certified as a therapy dog.
Chiclet is my 4th Siberian, all 3 of the previous dogs were raised from puppies by me and interestingly. she has been the easiest and most focused to work with of all of them.
if he had lived there all his life. We never had housebreaking issues, or aggression towards other dogs, or separation anxiety. He just fit in with our lives and our other two siberians.
Cricket is the daughter two of Karen Ramstead's North Wapiti dogs and was on the racing team of Kathy Carmichael. I adopted her at 2.5 yrs of age (she turned 3 a few months later) and she will be with us 2 years this April. She and Binks (now 12 y.o. male Siberian Husky rescued from BASH) play all the time and really enjoy each other's company. In fact, he was used to being an "only dog" and didn't really know how to play well with other dogs. Cricket, having come from a kennel of about 40 dogs, had lots of play experience and taught him how to play! So that shows that sled dogs aren't necessarily "socially challenged" and that they can settle into the daily flow of a pet home.
In this photo, Cricket is the light grey dog at the foot of the bed. Binks is in the background. Although Cricket has her own deluxe LL Bean dog bed, she prefers to sleep on "her side" at the foot of my bed!
I had just awakened them from a nap!
Barbara B. writes:
This is Mischief, retired Iditarod finisher and Alaskan husky just like the Whistler huskies, in retirement a couple of years ago. We call it "Mischief's idea of training for races in retirement." She is now nearly 14, prefers her own bed at the foot of my bed to getting on a people bed, loves her food but stays pretty slim (oh, to have that ability...), and is a wonderful and loving house dog / couch potato. I've even been amazed at how well she does on a Florida vacation or when the heat index gets way up there at home.
retired from Bill Borden's Iditarod team
bred and originally trained by Lynda Plettner
Doug and Donna write:
First, the picture below shows my furkids watching the Puppy Bowl yesterday. On the couch is NW Koyuk (Grover x Spot) black and white dog, the red pie bald is Sibersong Paige (NW Smiley x NW Lyra), on the floor is blk/white- NW Born to Run aka Lou (NW Grover x Joey) , the white and black piebald is NW Minto (Grover x Spot), the grey is NW Mystique (aka Mysty) (NW X, NW Tolsona), the red is Kazlo's Sedona who we got as a puppy for our recreational team.
We have 3 other dogs not pictured (2 we bred, and the other is NW Elim (Grover, Spot).
We had 2 other NW dogs- NW System Crash and NW Lyra- both have crossed the rainbow bridge.
Our story, we got Crash in 2002. He has some health problems and was not wanted by the family he lived with. Karen was looking for a new home for him and there we were! Unfortunately Crash died for complications following surgery just before his 4th birthday. Karen then asked if we would like Lou. Karen felt she may be too small for her team. She was 11 months old when she came to live with us. About that time someone gave us a sled. 1 sled and 1 dog didn't work well so the Berg Twins asked if we would like Lyra. They were looking to rehome her. She was a little too slow for their team but thought she'd do well for us. 2 dogs couldn't go up hills well so we said we'd like 2 more. Then came Paige and Elim. We grew from there. I went to see Karen ( I took Chester back to her after she has sent him down to us to breed with Lyra) and came home with Koyuk. Then came Sedona, and Mysty. Mysty was 9 months old and already diagnosed with cataracts. We then had our own litter- kept 2. Minto joined us about a year and a half ago.
We don't get out to run on the sled much but we do ATV running in the fall and spring. Basically we have 9 family members. They have an outdoor kennel area and large run area. They are inside in the evenings, and they all have a place in our bedroom to sleep- 3 on the bed with us!
I was working at Karen's kennel as her handler for the winter of 2007-2008. Bean was the runt (out of 7 puppies) in his litter. He was half the size of some of his sisters and almost died around Christmas.
He was often beat up on and wasn't allowed to eat much. After watching this for a while, I decided to pull him out of their area and let him eat by himself while his siblings fought over the rest of the food. The pen that they were all in was the last one in the dog yard and every time Karen left the yard, Bean was the one that ALWAYS watched them leave. Some of the others never paid any attention of the other dogs running past them, but Bean always did.
For the first 7 months of his life, he stayed outside, either with all of his siblings or later on with just his brother. Karen felt that Bean was going to be too small to ever make her main string, and since I cared for him for most of his life, she let me take him home.
He has adjusted great to living inside of the house. He didn't have any problems becoming house broken, gets along well with our two other Siberians and LOVES the couch. He has run two 5k races with my husband and plan on running more and we all go hiking for at least 5 miles an outing.
He loves the water, running in the snow and spending time outside. He goes to doggie day care twice a week and has even helped the staff during their interview process of new clients. I couldn't imagine our family without his silliness.
Three years ago I drove up to northern Alberta to visit and pick up Addie. On the way home after driving for about 15 hours, I had to find a hotel and get some sleep. Addie was very well behaved in the hotel room and we fell asleep watching TV. She was leaning against me and my arm was around her and we slept that way all night. Once we returned to Tucson I was amazed at how quickly and well Addie fit in and learned the ropes. A year later Pitch was just the same and has been a delight. He is loves people and is quite the “talker”.
As a long time Siberian owner I find absolutely no behavioral differences in our ex sled dogs and our house dogs. Addie and Pitch are wonderful additions to our “pack” and we can’t wait to get Tie down here.
Brenda B. writes:
We have had up to five retired sled dogs at one time living with us in a regular suburban neighborhood setting in Georgia. They have free run of a large backyard and a full supply of doggie treats and squeaky toys.
While they may pant a little in summertime, they have electric fans and misters situated under our deck where they can lie in the shade, enjoy the breeze and chill out. They have individual dog houses and are not chained but many times choose to all pile in together or play musical houses all during the night.
These are the BEST, most loving animals one can imagine. They regularly go to local schools where they are part of a talk for children about the Iditarod sled dog race.
This is a highlight for them any time they get to be around the kids. They LOVE to be petted, hugged and pose for pictures with kids and teachers. I would say that these guys are very happy dogs and enjoying their retirement to the max! I would highly recommend a retired sled dog to anyone except perhaps an apartment dweller.
Donna's rehomed sled dogs
I have 30 dogs, several of them retired. Some are mine and many are from other kennels, and no, I am not a collector. We run our dogs recreationally and occasionally in races, but I have one special dog among my retirees...actually 2 special dogs.
The first one came from a small lodge out in the bush. It was love at first sight for me after I ran her on my first trip to Alaska. Her name was Lacy. When she could no longer run, they graciously sent her to me. Lacy was a dog that had never been out of the bush. Never been in a dog truck or a car and always had been on a tether because it was unsafe to let dogs go out there because of the wolves. I had no idea how she would react but I desperately wanted her. She was shipped to me in Key West, Florida, and within 24 hours she was housebroken (She was 10 years old at that time), and was on the couch within 2 days. She is the reason we moved to Alaska. She lived until a month before her 17th birthday. We loved her dearly and we still mourn her.
My second most wonderful retiree is Tang. Tang was Sebastian Schnuelle's main lead dog for many years. He ran her in both the Iditarod as well as the quest before she retired to my house. She was 11 years old then and had put on more than 5000 miles that year. She retired to the couch except to become my puppy trainer and the queen of the dog yard. She sleeps in my bed every night as do several of my retirees. They (usually) make wonderful pets and couch potatoes.
Diane F's rehomed sled dogs
I do not have a retired sled dog but I do have a rescued "beast" and just wanted to contribute.
My Husky may not have been a sled dog when I rescued him from death row in the city pound in Meriden Ct. but he was so bad that nobody thought he could be "tamed". Workers at the pound would not even check to see if he had been neutered.
Willie spent at least 2 month running loose in and around the city of Meriden, he was know as the "white wolf". I have had him now for 6 years and he is a very happy Husky to say the least. I am sure it would have been much easier to bring a retired sled dog into my home. A retired sled dog has had a lot of contact with other dogs and people, Willie had neither. He was 25lbs underweight, had mange, lice and was anemic. If this "wild dog" could be re-homed then sled dogs should be very easy to re-home.
I love Willie very much, he is my best friend and hiking buddy.
Diana M's rehomed sled dogs
Ch. NorthWapiti's Valkyrie Kara - Born: July 27th, 1999
2007 Neckbone 120
2006 Sheep Mtn 150
2006 Copper Basin 300
2006 Knik 200
2005 Sheep Mountain 150
2005 Copper Basin 300
2005 Knik 200 Finisher
Iditarod 2004 Finisher
2003 Knik 200 Finisher
2007 Neckbone 120
2006 Sheep Mtn 150
2006 Copper Basin 300
2006 Knik 200
2005 Sheep Mountain 150
2005 Copper Basin 300
2005 Knik 200 Finisher
Iditarod 2004 Finisher
2003 Knik 200 Finisher
Kara, Cricket, and Bet with Karen Ramstead
Kara relaxing on her own personal cloud
Kara sharing her "cloud" with Bet, the resident Border Collie
There has been such an outcry in regard to the "impossible to rehome" statement that more adopters of retired sled dogs have asked to be included in our "case study". They have been added below, and we will continue to add them as stories come in and want to be shared to set the record straight.
Lee D from Ontario writes:
May I introduce you to Sam and Slik, our retired working sled dogs from Alberta.
Sam came from a racing kennel in Northern Alberta. Up to the time he adopted me, Sam had trained and raced in mid distance races, lived with his fellow 50+ team mates in a rural dog lot. He lived a typical sled dog life, in a typical sled dog environment. He had his own dog house, eating, socializing and sleeping totally outside
In the summer of 2000, Sam and I were first introduced. It was mutual love for both of us. Sam immediately adopted me, a few days later, he jumped into the back seat of the car, into his new crate and we drove south. The next day, we were at the Calgary airport. After proudly parading him thru the airport, luggage checked, etc. Sam and I boarded our Westjet flight, heading east to Southern Ontario.
A year later, also from the same kennel, Slik with his distinctive black and white markings joined Sam, my husband and myself. They were known as "the Boys".
From their first day with us, (direct from dog lot to a city setting) both retired Siberian Huskies were housebroken, sociable with others, (human or canine, our guests (human and canine) and folks we meet on our walks and travels. They traveled with my husband and myself across Canada even crossing the border to spend American Thanksgiving with friends and their dogs. In our 5,000 miles plus travels, we stayed in hotels, B&B's, and friends homes, some of which had other dogs or cats. Never was there a problem with accidents or fights with other dogs. From the day they first arrived to live with us in Ancaster, they adjusted well, adapting quickly and easily to life in the suburbs. They loved to travel in the back seat of the Volvo (see photo), especially to go with us to our friend's cottage on Lake Erie, where if not relaxing in the shade were given long walks along the shoreline.
Although both have been gone for over two years, there isn't a day that pasts, they are not missed.
In conclusion, given the opportunity; would we again adopt and be adopted by retired sled dogs, the answer is YES!
Joanne L writes:
Flash, or MR. Flashy Pants as he is more commonly referred to, came to us from Karen Ramstead in August of 2010 (whose parents are the famed North Wapiti Grover and Kara). He was the perfect gentleman on the ride home (20 hours by car). You couldn't have asked for a better mannered dog. Not one word, bark or woof all the way home.
Since his time here, he has adjusted nicely into the "Home" routine. As we also show AKC Registered Siberian Huskies, his time is spent now with his best friends, Des-Mar's Fire Fly and Snowkittens Arctic Twilight. He and his new buddies have a secured yard for them to run in and a covered kennel run to protect them from the rainy Pacific Northwest while we are at work.
He has a number of habits that are cute to no end and LOVEs to bury his head into your chest or "Shake". And since he is now with the show dog crowd, that means regular trips to the dog groomers where he is a prince!
No sooner than we get home, he knows it is time to come into the house to relax and spend time with his human family...and yes, the "CAT" who thinks that the "upstairs" crate is really hers, really rules the house!
Brenda P writes:
I adopted Freya, Ch. NorthWapiti's Freya, from Karen Ramstead in Nov. 2003. I have a small show kennel and was looking to incorporate a girl from working lines into my breeding program and Karen was kind enough to let me have Freya.
Freya was born, raised and lived with Karen as primarily an outdoor sled dog for the first four and half years of her life. She participated in several races with Karen including being on her ceremonial start team of the 2003 Iditarod race. She also obtained her Canadian dog show championship prior to coming to me.
The day I arrived home with Freya, I took her to a fun match where the SPCA had a booth setup for getting pictures of your dog with Santa Clause. I’ve included that picture because it obviously shows that Freya was a very healthy and very well socialized dog before ever coming to me. There were numerous people and dogs at this indoor match and Freya was great with everyone.
Freya was a wonderful, valued member of my family who slept at the end of my bed at night and on the couch with my other dogs during the day. She passed the Canine Good Neighbour test with ease and went on to become an incredible Saint Johns Ambulance Therapy dog, bringing absolute joy to the many seniors she visited.
Freya had a wonderful, sweet temperament, one that I’m thrilled she passed onto her children. She was a great mom!
I have told Karen on several occasions that one of the best decisions I ever made was to bring this wonderful little sled dog into my life.
Heather W writes:
We have four Siberian huskies: two are rescued pets and two are retired Iditarod veteran sled dogs from North Wapiti Kennels. Sprite and Holly made the transition from sled dog life and long distance racing to house pets very easily. Sure, they don't know everything about suburban living, but they are smart, observant, inquisitive and eager to learn. The commands they know from sledding are very handy for moving them around, loading into the car for trips to the park, etc.
Sprite and Holly love to meet new people and immediately join in play with strange dogs at local dog parks. They are happy to go to for walks in nearby parks or around our neighborhood, visit Farmers Markets, attend charity events for dogs, and participate in other pet events.
Both girls are very approachable and kids are not at all afraid of them. They have been doing sledding demos this winter with our area's husky rescue group. They love to get out and run, and bask in all the attention. It's a great retirement "job" for them.
Compared to the efforts we had to make to help our rescued pet dogs cope with changes, the sled dogs adjusted faster to their new environment. Holly became the little sister to our elderly husky and keeps him company. Because she lets us know when any of the dogs need attention, we call her our 'mother hen'! Sprite has been with us for less than 3 months but she is fitting in well--relaxed and always with a wagging tail.
In the house, the 'NorthWapiti girls' quickly learned from the resident rescue dogs to choose the fleece dog beds to sleep on, or hop up on the couch when invited. They learned our routines for meal times and potty breaks, where the dog treats are kept, and how to weasel us out of them. At 9 years of age, they are healthy and lean with no chronic illnesses. We expect to enjoy them for many years. We are delighted to have Sprite and Holly spend their retirement years with our family!