A date with man’s best friend

DogsleddingThere are some quintessentially Canadian activities that every local and foreigner should experience at least once: poutine, hockey, powder days, and dogsledding to name a few.

Taryn Rixon and Chris Schwanke, owners of Mountain Man Dog Sled Adventures probably can’t speak to the allure of poutine, but their experience with 48 sled dogs at their Sun Peaks kennel give them a lot of know-how when it comes to dogsledding.

The couple purchased their Sun Peaks dogsledding business three years ago, and they haven’t looked back since.

“Chris has been dogsledding for 13 winters; (he) hopped on the back of a sled and never wanted to do anything else. (I met Chris) and fell in love with the dogs,” Rixon says.

Caring for the dogs on a day-to-day basis is an intensive labour of love, and involves cleaning the yard, feeding, checking each dog’s feet, trimming nails and so on. The couple takes extra care to keep the dogs healthy through active living and nutritious food, a priority that keeps the dogs happy and mitigates the need to see a veterinarian.

“Currently they’re eating a combination of salmon and chicken soaked with lots of water and a dry dog food which is a specifically designed sled dog food . . . if the dogs are really busy they get extra meals,” says Rixon.

The dogs are born to be active, and running is part of their joy. When the dogsledding tours are running the dogs, they’re grouped in teams of six or eight. Rixon said that managing each dog’s workload is also important.

“Some of them just have naturally high levels of energy and some of the older (dogs) are happy to go every other day or less some times,” she adds.

The dogs have individual kennels that are filled with straw to keep them warm, especially on colder nights. In the summertime the dogs are moved off the hill in specially retro-fitted horse trailers. Rixon and Schwanke have relied on friends’ land in the past, but look forward to buying land of their own to keep the dogs in the summer. Amongst the challenges of finding space for 48 active dogs in the summer is ensuring there are back-up acreages they could be moved to in case of fire.

But, in the winter meantime the dogs are quite content to go for a run on the gently meandering trails that Schwanke grooms for them each day. Their personalities shine through as they howl in delight as they sense the trip is near, then poof, as soon as they’re off, the scene turns to a quite peacefulness as the dogs fly through the snow.

For more information visit: mountainmanadventures.ca

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