Wolfpack: A Reflection on Dogsledding

Written by: Justin Bereczki, Gen1 Program Peer Facilitator

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to go Dog Sledding for my second time with the Gen1: First in the Family program, and it was an awesome experience. Everything about the day screamed “adventure,” from beautiful snowy panoramas and barking dogs to a great sense of teamwork and group achievement.

Although we started the day early (the sun rose at about the same time we did,) the brisk morning air kicked us into gear as we got on the bus. After a small bus ride and some training from our guides, we were sent out to round up teams of sled dogs and attach them to their sleds. These dogs were excited, and I mean EXCITED. Imagine four hundred kindergarteners set loose in Willy Wonka’s factory, and you’d have a pretty good idea of the atmosphere we were in (provided you imagine that the kindergarteners were very hairy with four legs, and Willy Wonka’s factory produced snow and doghouses instead of chocolate). After that, we climbed into our sleds and were off!

If you are like I was before I went dog sledding for the first time, you might think it’s just standing on a sled while some dogs pull you around. You might think the hardest part of the day will be getting the dogs to start running for you. To be honest, it’s quite the opposite: the hardest part is getting them to stop!

These dogs love to run. It’s what they live for, and from start to end they are revved up and ready to go. However, dog sledding isn’t getting the dogs to work for you, it’s about being a part of a team. They might be in charge of bringing the dog power (Get it? Like horsepower?) but you’re in charge of controlling the sled, braking, making sure the dogs are safe, and facilitating the team. Also, sometimes the dogs need a bit of help staying on the right side of the path or travelling up hills, so you have to help them out by getting out of your sled and running with them. This was honestly my favourite part of both experiences, simply because I felt more than ever like I was one with the dogs. (Note: That is not my admission to being a werewolf. I just mean the dogs and I understood and supported each other. There was no howling at the moon.)

(… Okay, I might have howled with the dogs a little bit, but I swear I didn’t eat anyone.)

Near the end of our trip the dogs (and me!) were super tired, and the pace started to slow, which was nice. We got to enjoy the scenery, breathe in the refreshingly cold air, and just enjoy our last little bit together before getting back to the dog yard. We put the dogs away and thanked them individually for all of their hard work, and were on our way back home. Although I’d done it once before, I still learned a lot from the experience and have a lot to take away from it. By working as a team, we were able to cover a lot of distance and have a magical experience. Sure, running up the hills and pushing down on the brake was hard, but I’d be lying if I said I worked nearly as hard as any of the dogs that pulled me that day. However, I’d also be lying if I said that any of the dogs could have done it without the other, nor without me. We functioned as a unit. A team. And that was awesome!

Until next time,