Retired sled dogs. I met my first 'sleddie' back in 2012 and I've been under their spell ever since. A spell that goes beyond Whistler and the dogs who died and those who survived the massacre. There are thousands of sled dogs working in commercial and sport operations in my corner of the world and it's a tough life. Being 'just a dog' is not an option. As sled dogs they're considered different in the eyes of the our government, our lawmakers and those who use them to pull sleds for sport and commercial purposes and the public.
But they ARE dogs.
Yes, it can be hard for some to shake the romanticism of going on a sled dog ride, or getting caught up in the Iditarod (US) or Yukon Quest (Canada) long-distance races. But behind the scenes is not so romantic and not so fun. Arguments are made over their purpose, their lineage, what they're 'bred' to do. But I know the dogs who have rocks embedded in their stomachs. Who have suffered from arthritis, fused spines, adrenal diseases, cancer. The puppies who have never pulled a sled, but suffer from mental and physical challenges because of poor breeding practices. When not running, their life was spent on a 6-foot chain.
As a photographer, I've photographed over 500 rescue dogs in the last 6 years and I can say that the sleddies (which made up 170+ of that number) are no different than any of them. They have fears, likes and dislikes. They can be silly. Some like to be couch potatoes, some like to run around, some continue to surprise their humans time and again, year after year... like all dogs. The vet bills, the baby steps and giant leaps, the laughter and heartbreak and the time to say goodbye...it's all there.
When you look through the images in the projects below I hope you too will see and begin to understand the diversity and uniqueness of each of these dogs and get to know them like I have. Because sled dogs are dogs.