tonight I saw Sled Dogs Film for the second time.
it was harder to watch the second time but you know what? i had to... because even though I know more than i ever wanted to about this industry, it's armed me with more knowledge to fight this ridiculous cruelty. knowledge to make governments accountable and knowledge to educate those who are willing to listen on how they can help end this...
Shrek and Grey came out tonight not just as sled dog ambassadors, but as survivors of the 2010 Whistler massacre.
And since then, neither the bcspca nor the provincial government have done anything to help the welfare of sled dogs even though they talked the talk and sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into a new regulation document that instructs how to shoot a dog "properly". yes, it's still legal to shoot a sled dog because as sled dogs they are classified differently than other dogs - even though there are lots of other working dog breeds out there, sled dogs are still considered different and their welfare is at the mercy of the economy and antiquated dog husbandry practices.
in b.c. we need to hold those agencies who can effect change accountable. write them. pester them. show them the medical records of dogs who come into care. remind them that sled dogs are dogs and they should have the same rights as the dogs that live in our homes. because animals are regulated under the ministry of agriculture, write the minister [when a new one has been appointed] asking for change.
ask the bcspca why they haven't followed up and done any checks on sled dog kennels here in b.c.. ask them why their five freedoms for dogs do not include sled dogs.
educate. advocate. stand up and speak out.
and... if you're interested in fostering a retired sled dog, please contact the Victoria Humane Society as they continue to take them in when operations fold, abandon their dogs, or even just ask.
#pullyourowndamnsled #getsleducated #lookbeyondthebrochure
[to see my "sleddie" experiences over the last 6 years please visit: http://www.wendynesbitt.com/the-sled-dogs-of-whistler.html]
There are a lot of myths circulating about sled dogs. One of them being that they can't lead fulfilling lives if they aren't 'working', pulling sleds.
I would argue that myth because I have seen over 100 sled dogs lead incredibly fulfilling retirements. Today was a prime example. The sleddies [our nickname for retired sled dogs] ran and played. They expended lots of energy. and when they got tired, they could choose to walk slower, hang back a bit, stop and sit with some humans and get some treats. They could then run again, play with their dog buddies and ignore the ones they wanted to. They have a choice and these retirees are doing a great job of making up for lost time!
Although I was mostly taking video, I had to get a group shot. And I've decided to show all of the photos from that gong show! As ridiculous as some of the photos are, you can get a little look into what it's like to try to get as many of the dogs [and their humans] into one shot all looking at the camera when there are seagulls flying, waves crashing, beachy smells and so many other distractions ~ including a border collie and his orange ball.
Always fun times!
Roll call - sleddies and their dog friends: Cedar + Niv, Kismet, Boomer + Knik, Pharaoh, Apex + Calli, Copper, Zeus, Shrek + Pique, Grey Grey + Daisy, Willow, Summer + Farmer, Jasper, Sassy, Saru, Cash and Ocea!
And click HERE to see my retired sled dog photo project!
As I've said before, the BEST part about delivering my latest book is getting to see the dogs!
Yesterday I got to see two of my buddies and meet a new friend.
First to the gate was Shrek [Shrekkie]! I hadn't seen him in ages and he just hasn't changed at all. He was one of the first retired sled dogs I met back in March 2012. Back when no one knew what to expect from 'these dogs' . He was a lovey, silly, goofy boy back then and he still is. Only now he's playing with toys - and LOVES his orange ball.
His 'sister' Pique was a doll as usual - she spent a lot of time getting right in close to sniff my face and then staring at me with her light blue eyes. She was Question's sister and the resemblance is pretty amazing... except Pique still has her whole tail. Apparently Pique doesn't play with the toys, but yesterday she decided to have a go at Shrekkie's orange ball - pawing at it and all. GAH!
And I finally got to meet Coyote. The dashing Coyote was no longer needed or useful on the sled dog racing circuit - he apparently ran the 1000 mile Iditarod race more than once - and ended up in a shelter in the NWT. He's currently a Victoria Humane Society foster with Barb and her family and if he didn't have such a keen interest in small animals, he might have come home with me. His racing years have not been kind on him - with bowed legs and arthritic wrists - this fella is happiest to just trundle around and snuggle and eat. Did I mention how gentle, and sweet and LOVELY he is?! He's looking for a comfy retirement home... *nudge nudge* *wink wink*
Big hugs to Barb and family for stepping up for the sleddies!
For more information on Coyote and adopting from the Victoria Humane Society, go HERE!
To view my collection of retired sled dog photos and goings-on, go HERE!
HOLY WOOFERS! Thank you to everyone who helped me along the way with this project! To those who would help wrangle dogs, share their dogs and stories, meet up for walks, hikes and hangouts. Who laughed with me and cried with me. Who travelled to reunions. Who've stepped up for them and have become a voice. Who opened their homes and hearts to these special dogs. Who let me follow them with my camera.
It's all helped raise... $2000!
This money has been donated to the Victoria Humane Society who has helped in the re-homing of hundreds of retired sled dogs. They've picked up the pieces, paid vet bills, travelled to remote locations, all to help more dogs... and they continue to do it, because they are dedicated to helping the 'sleddies'.
If you'd still like to order a book they are $50 each [shipping extra outside of Greater Victoria] and there are only a limited number left. You can purchase them in person at upcoming Victoria Humane Society events [watch their facebook page for information] or through me. Full ordering information can be found here.
For more on this project including photos that aren't in the book, please visit: The Sled Dogs of Whistler
The big WHOOPSY: how I will embrace it and how it leads to a half price book.
I spent five years on my photo book project. Countless hours of photographing, editing, designing, sequencing, more photographing, pushing back timelines, re-writes, more photographing... on and on it went.
When I finally gave myself a deadline I was excited and nervous.
I wanted this book to be perfect - well, at least perfectly convey what I wanted to share about the retired sled dogs.
I went the self-publish route as I had done for previous books and ordered a proof copy and when it arrived, I was satisified.
So I put it 'out there' and orders came in.
I put in my first bulk order to the publisher and could barely wait the 6 days until they were to arrive.
When they did, I eagerly opened the boxes, but my excitement turned to disbelief, then anger, then sadness. There had been what looked like a mis-alignment problem during the printing and there was a narrow white band at the bottom of all the books. NOOOOOOOOO!
The people I showed it to said "it wasn't a big deal", "you can barely notice it", "it doesn't look bad" and "at least the inside was right". But it's all I could see when I looked at it. It's as if it glowed extra bright, just for me. There was no way I could feel like the project was complete sending this 'out there'. And besides, people were paying a lot of money for this book so I couldn't in good faith present them with anything less than what it was supposed to be.
So I contacted the publisher and it took three weeks of back and forths - photo evidence and emails and a futile phone call - before they agreed to reprint the order. But because they couldn't guarantee that the cover would print exactly like the single proof copy had (what I've now learned is an all-too common result of using an on-line self publisher), they recommended I take steps to create more space around each dog. This meant I had to switch out one of the photos and re-work a couple things. OK fine. But after sending previews to the company and hearing again that there could be alignment issues on a large order, the time came where I had to press that 'order' button and cross my fingers.
When the re-order arrived a day later than expected, I was afraid to open the boxes so my husband offered and I took him up on it.
I'm not a nail biter, but I was nibbling.
Finally, he pulled out the first one and it was OK! They all were OK!
I got all the books delivered to their new homes and then wondered what to do about that first order. Do I have some sort of ceremonial burning of them? Do I just put them in the attic and forget about them? Try to print out new covers?
After a few days I decided I would sell them as is... at a discount, of course. Because this book is part photo album, part documentary feature, it's also about advocacy, fundraising, education, and telling a very unique story in a very unique moment in time. And really, when it comes down to it, I want to use it to raise funds - 100% of which will be donated back to rescues helping more sled dogs into retirement. As an artist there's ego in there - it's kinda what drives us, but from time to time I have to push it aside for the big picture. So I am embracing what I will now refer to the "PUBLISHER'S WHOOPSY EDITION" for the sake of raising AS MUCH MONEY and awareness as I can for the sleddies. They work hard for the sport and entertainment of humans, but they shouldn't have to.
To order your copy of either limited edition printing of Meetings With Remarkable Dogs: the road to retirement for Whistler sled dog survivors, a 300-page, hard cover photo book containing over 350 images over five years, please CLICK HERE!
For a bundle of sleddie stories, please CLICK HERE.
Last weekend I journeyed up to the Whistler Film Festival to attend one film. Sled Dogs. A ground-breaking documentary made by a woman who not only felt the pull of the sled dogs but was subsequently compelled to take a deeper look inside and share what she saw.
In addition to seeing the premier of what is now an award-winning film [I'll share more about the film in another post], I got to adventure with some of my sleddie family, eat some incredible food and once again realize just how special this group of retired sled dog adopters is - how the dogs have brought together such a diverse group of people, what a long way everyone has come, and how incredibly special it is to see these dogs doing as well as they possibly can. The sleddies and their families went on two snow-filled hikes totaling 11km.... so much running, playing, chasing and a couple dogs even went for an unexpected swim.
Here are some photos featuring retired sled dogs and their buddies: Jeff, Elwen + Keeva, Chocolate + Candy and Misty, who survived the Whistler killings in 2010, Apex, Calli, Ziggy and Jasper who survivied just being sled tour dogs, and Ben, Otis, Cedar and Maddie, sleddie buddies along for the ride.
Thank you dogs and humans for a truly memorable weekend.
For more retired sled dog stories click HERE
To check [and/or order] my 300-page photo book, Meetings with Remarkable Dogs: the road to retirement for Whistler sled dog survivors, click HERE.
It’s getting harder to write these.
What can I say that hasn’t been said. My sadness is sadness.
Sharing the lives and passing of dogs that aren’t my dogs, but for whom I’ve felt a kinship with from the moment I heard about the Whistler sled dog massacre and met my first retired sled dog.
They were survivors of a tough industry. Survivors of a massacre. Survivors.
Question has left her mark of goodness. Her mark of silliness. Her mark of solidity.
Looking back over the last three years I sort of feel like I took her for granted when I was with the sleddie gang… she didn’t have a lot of the fears that some of the other dogs had - in fact, she loved to give kisses and snuggle up to you. If you didn’t know where she was, you could find her at the foot of the treat human. She made friends with all the foster dogs who came through her home over the last couple years and showed them all the ropes - also showing them how much they can get away with until the human steps in.
After retirement she was adopted into two different homes and left both.
She then found a home with my dear friend Deb and never left… until Wednesday.
Question has left her mark on me.
The first image is of Question coming into care in Victoria, July 23, 2013. The rest are in no particular order.
*Please click HERE for 'three minutes with Question' -- Question's view of a recent retired sled dog reunion while she wore a Go-Pro!
*For more retired sled dog photos, please see HERE
I am at a loss for words and my heart is heavy over the passing of Cola, a retired Whistler sled dog who was adopted by dear friends...
Remembering you that day three years ago, hiding in your igloo and barking at me if I came too close only amplifies how far you'd come since then.
Your awkwardness and crossed eyes made me smile every time I saw you. Your being. Your presence.
You were proof that it was possible.
You will always be proof.
But you had to say goodbye today.
To your champions along the way, and to your humans, Heather & Chris, and adopted siblings I want to say thank you for everything they did to bring you into retirement and give you a few good years of lounging in warmth and safety on any and all manner of beds and couches. For the treats, snacks, walks, hikes, adventures and vet care they provided.And to you for allowing us all in.
The community that you helped foster will continue so that sled dogs will never have to go through what you went through in the first 10 years of your life.
I'm honoured and will always be thankful to have had the privilege of knowing you, sharing eightsies with you, and having you stay for sleepovers. Thank you for being so cool with the Mister and Bella.
You were a survivor. Stoic until the end. Remarkable.
Rest in peace and love, my friend.
:: More of Cola's and his retired sleddie buddy stories HERE.
:: "if someone had told me..." blog post
watch cola run: august 2015
Six months ago I met Laverne + Shirley for the first time. I had planned on chronicling their care and rehabilitation, but the day after I documented their first visit to the vet, they escaped their foster home and ran into the woods that was surrounding the property. It was no easy feat - especially as they both still had anesthetic in their systems from their dental surgery the previous day. Scaling one fence and finding a 6” gap to squeeze through, they did it remarkably fast. But once out, they ran in separate directions, not together. We were all devastated. We kept telling ourselves that it was lucky it wasn’t in town where there was traffic - that this was similar terrain to where they had spent the first 6-8 years of their lives… and they were survivors. But we all hoped they could find each other.
Posters were made and shared far and wide. Sighting parties were organized, just to keep eyes open. Everyone was under strict instruction to not try to catch them. The goal was to find out where they were travelling and what their habits were. Reports started to come in from the area where they went missing of dogs seemingly calling to each other. Sounds the residents hadn’t heard before. And then the calls stopped and it was confirmed on an infra red trail camera that they had re-united. But it still took time… 66 days they were on their own until the day they were caught. The volunteers only had one chance, but it worked. The girls were incredibly scared and the re-capture seemed to set them back. But it’s been four months since they’ve been back at ‘home’ and although to the naked eye it would seem that no progress has been made, to those who have been watching these dogs closely, baby steps are being made.
I wanted to give them time to settle before heading over to photograph them again… and this time they had company. Gracie and Maggie May were there too. I had met them, along with Simon last year and shared their story. Gracie was back in care after having been adopted last year, but was surrendered recently. Maggie May had moved to a different foster home, but had also come back. Gracie basked in the face rubs Penny was giving her. Maggie May was still terrified and although she'd glance my way, she didn't want to be seen by me. Laverne just watched me - I would sometimes hold the camera down by my stomach and in the photos you can see her looking up at my face, and not at the camera. She seemed to show interest in what was going on, but was still too scared to investigate. Shirley avoided eye contact as much as possible. But after I put the camera down and just listened to the birds, while basking in the sunshine, the dogs would all lay down and relax - something I couldn’t capture with my camera… this time. But I know that they can relax, which means there’s hope.
When it comes down to it though, this is what rescue is about. It’s about stepping up when others can’t/ won’t/don’t want to. It's what goes on behind the scenes. It’s about standing by the animals you bring in to care. Welcoming them back if the adoption or foster home doesn’t work. It’s about what’s best for the animal and putting a plan in place knowing that things can change in an instant.
The success of animal rescue isn’t always measured in Happy Tails. It’s measured in the knowledge that an animal is getting the help, love, support, care, surgery, food/shelter/water, place to heal, or whatever else is needed.
So although Laverne + Shirley, along with Gracie and Maggie May are on the road to healing, it’s unknown how long it will take and to what level. But whatever happens from here on in, there are people who won’t give up on them.
Thanks to the Victoria Humane Society for being there when needed and never giving up.
Please visit their facebook page to see more of the work they’re doing, where you can pick up some swag, and of course, the adorable adoptables in their care.
The Adventures of Laverne + Shirley facebook page
Mountain Man Dogs - the original story by Crooked Leg Ranch Society
Lady couldn't have been matched with a more perfect place to experience real dog-hood.
Her sled-pulling days left her with emotional and physical scars, but in time, the emotional scars faded and she was able to show who she truly was... and she was a Lady. The kind of lady who could rustle with the boys and then have tea with the queen.
She made wherever she was laying, the most regal place there could possibly be - whether on a rock, a treestump, or even in the bushes.
She was more special than we'll even know.
And though her life may have left a hole in our hearts, it's opened our eyes to what is possible. And that you can teach an 'old dog' new tricks... changing gears to live the domestic life, inside of a home at 13 years old, was proof of that.
Rest in peace and love, Lady.
To see more about Lady and her retired sled dog friends, please see HERE.