Last week I shared my trip upstate to a wolf sanctuary, where the residents stole my heart, Here is another journey with canines that was quite extraordinary.
I introduced you to Gerald Azure in this post on the Indigenous people of Manitoba. As a reminder, he is a Métis who was born and raised in the Northern Cormorant, Manitoba as the youngest of 10 children. He is a man of quiet grace and dignity and it was indeed an honor to spend an afternoon with him at his Bluesky facility in Churchill, Manitoba to learn about the magnificent sled dogs that have worked side by side with the Indigenous People for generations.
These dogs are not pets – however they are respected and loved and given the best life possible. Below you can see the dedication that Gerard and his staff have to these marvelous beauties, listed on the website:
Bluesky is committed to responsible dog care including the following philosophies:
- A “No-Cull” policy with a Sled Dog Adoption Program;
- Vaccinating, spaying and neutering our pets to ensure our dog team numbers are kept under control;
- Every dog in our yard has a unique personality. Some dogs are slower, some faster we are dedicated to nurturing their personalities and spirit, and finding a place for them on the team.
- We are committed to ensuring every dog has the best quality of life we can provide, including shelter, food and water, but it doesn’t stop there. Human contact with our dogs beyond the harness and dog yard is a vital component to a healthy and happy dog. Our dogs are very much a part of our family.
- Churchill Manitoba is a unique place, and as responsible citizens and tour operators we endeavor to maintain the environment and the well being of our dog teams. We are a responsible and eco-friendly organization.
- We believe that responsible tourism involving dog teams ensure both our dogs and clients are happy!
And these are some of the dogs:
Lest you think that these gorgeous dogs are forced into pulling a sled, let me set your minds at ease. When we arrived at the “depot” the dogs were waiting patiently in line:
A sled has a team of six dogs and when it was time for selection for the first team run the dogs became overwhelmed with excitement, begging to be picked – and when each was chosen they ran to the sled to be strapped in, jumping for joy.
There was also a bit of preparation for us humans who were going to ride in the sled. Manitoba may only have a few weeks of summer weather, but during that short time it is overrun with mosquitoes, sand flies and the ubiquitous “no-see-ums”. But, no fear – as I mentioned previously, the citizens of Manitoba are quite prepared for anything. We were given caps with an attached facenet (there are even full body nets, but those weren’t needed for our sled run. I think they look quite fashionable – and if you look close you can see some of the thousands of flying insects desperately trying to get a taste of us:
I also took the extra precaution of wearing bicycle gloves as generally I am the first target of any and all biting insects.
Chomping at the bit, so to speak, the dogs were anxious to get rolling
And we were off – video courtesy of Lenore.
Since the sleds only carried two people plus Gerard as driver – we all had to take turns, but it was fun to watch each group and they took off.
After everyone had a run on the sleds, the dogs were all released from their traces and we had a free for all, meeting the dogs one on one as they gamboled about begging to be petted while still dancing with joy. Finally drained, the dogs walked to their individual dog houses for a night of rest.
The grand finale was a sit down in the depot’s comfy lounge where we ate scrumptious big helpings of freshly baked bannock with honey. Bannock had been a staple of traders and early settlers and it is easy to see and taste why:
While we ate, a few of the “House” dogs draped themselves over us, which obviously necessitated lots of additional petting. I was struck by how the dogs did not beg for any of our food – love was all they wanted.
As we all parted ways I can say with surety that all parties were content and happy.