Cannington Dog Sled Races

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While much of my experience at the Cannington Dog Sled Races were positive, there were a few certain aspects of the event that I didn't enjoy.

A few people explained the red snow was bait water and a dog marking over top of it is what I saw, so I apologize for thinking it was a urinary tract infection. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit my first clue should have been the large volume of red snow there was. I was in good company though, as other spectators were just as confused and making comments such as, “eww blood” and “did a dog get hurt”. Perhaps the dog owners should clean up a bit or failing that, have a sign explaining as this would be helpful to avoid misinterpretation for those of us that are not familiar with these kind of things. 

I did hear a few yelps as twice dogs were caught up in the lines briefly. They continued to run once free  and appeared just fine with no problems. However I found it very unsettling to watch and hear them yelp. We all have our own tolerance for what we enjoy or not. If you read some of the comments, a few dog sled owners explain why that can happen and what is done to ensure safety.

What started out to be a fun day for me doing what I love doing most; photographing dogs, did not end that way (or even that day). In the end, my experience at the Cannington Dog Sled Race as well as the aftermath that unfolded surrounding this post, has been enough of a disappointment for me personally, that I won't be back. 
~~~~~~~~~
Adding this "Husky Puppy" to my
The Canine version of "100 Strangers".
A photographic record of all the wonderful dogs I meet in my travels.
 Began in 2012 and ending... TBD.

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6 comments:

Kathy said...

These photos are fabulous. Your photography just keeps getting better and better. Are you taking lessons?

Andrea Williamson said...

I can't speak for all of the dogs, but I can speak for one! My husky girl was there. I loan her to a musher friend to train and run races. It's a great arrangement for all of us! She absolutely loves to pull. Our pup, while a bit shy with strangers, is happy, healthy, and definitely does not have a urinary tract infection. She has a pet home and a big backyard and she sees her vet twice a year.

I think (and hope) the red patches of snow were no more than spilled baited water. This is one of the ways that mushers give their team some much needed energy and electrolytes without filling their digestive systems up with solids (which is dangerous during a race). Its like doggy gatorade; looks gross but the pups love it.

All of the mushers I know love their dogs as if they were children, and the dogs love them back. There will be injuries at any athletic event, and any good musher will make sure that their injured dog receives proper care - it's in their best interest. It takes a very long time to train these dogs, and they are not considered to be a disposable commodity.

I sincerely hope you will give mushing photography another chance. The vast majority of dogs are very well taken care of, and it's so sad to think of all the beautiful shots you will miss.

RunningPointer said...

Hi,
Your post has caused quite a disappointment in the Eastern Ontario sprint sled dog community. Even though you did state most dogs were very happy, half your post and your conclusion is depicting the sled dog racing as negative, at least that's what comes out of it.
Yes, it is your personal take but by expressing it publicly without allowing fair reply you are unfairly scaring our community.
Here is a response that we hope will come up with similar searches as those linking to your blog and give us a chance to provide a different point of view. You can also choice to post my comment or a link to the page. I think that would be fair and kind. http://beyondthedogyard.blogspot.ca/
Hoping we will get our chance to see you at some other sled dog event, we don't hold grudge when it all comes from good intent.

bcarroll1971 said...

I just wanted to post a link to a video of me and my dog from a dryland race a couple of years ago (http://youtu.be/4Gne5WhJRYQ). Given the enthusiasm you see with him leaning into his harness at the start, the drive throughout the race and the warm greeting I get at the finish line, would you say that he wasn't enjoying himself and didn't want to be there? The reality is prior to starting he did have his ears pinned back and his tail tucked. Not because he doesn't want to run, but because he is anticipating the run, his adrenalin is pumping and he hates waiting. He is a thinker. He knows that there is a job to do and he wants to get on with it, but doesn't like waiting around.

Just like people, dogs express the pre-race jitters differently. Before a race, some people are bouncing around nervously chatting to everyone, while others are very quiet and calm in their demeanor and don't want to interact with other people. Dogs can be the same. Some are bouncing around, barking and completely unfocused. People often look at those dogs as being excited and raring to go, but in fact those are the hardest dogs to control at the start line and often cause tangles. Others, like my dog, are calm, ears may be pinned back, tail may be tucked, but as soon as they hear the countdown from 5, start leaning into their harness and can't wait because they know the fun part is finally coming. Both types of dogs are nervous, it is just manifesting differently depending upon their personality.

I have another dog that doesn't like mushing. When I started to try to train her, she exhibited none of the body language that you have associated with unhappy dogs. Her ears were up, her tail held high and wagging and when I said "let's go" she looked at me as if to say, "maybe next time buddy, I'd rather go hunting for squirrels." She didn't want to do it and there was no making her.

To understand whether or not a dog wants to race you have to watch them running during the race. Dogs that are unhappy don't make an effort to run.

I can only speculate on any number of reasons for seeing blood on the snow. Sled dogs are often fed raw diets or provided with "baited" water to make sure they are properly hydrated. Given that they can't roam the dog yard freely and are tied up near the trucks when preparing for a race it's possible that food or baited water was spilled near the same spot that a dog urinated. My dog constantly has his nose on the ground walking through the dog yard because of all the goodies that get spilled near the dog trucks. If you are ever in a dog yard and see something that concerns you, you can mention it to the musher. If you have spotted something that the musher didn't notice with one of the dogs I am sure that he/she would want to know. Most of us spend a lot of time and money making sure our dogs are in the best shape possible. During two day races you will sometimes see teams running with fewer dogs than the race category allows. If the musher sees that one of the dogs had problems on the first day, they'll drop that dog from the team the next day and get the dog the medical attention it needs.

I hope my comments help to explain some of the things that may be observed in the dog yard at a race.

Beyond the Dog Dish said...

Andrea and BCarrol, I thank you for taking the time to explain things to me. It is unfortunate others were not as helpful.

Rambling Woods said...

The photography is wonderful. The comments interesting. I did wince before reading anything of your post as I viewed the photos. Maybe I would feel better if it wasn't a race, but just for the fun of it as the owners say that the dogs enjoy it. Too bad they can't tell us how they really feel....

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