Profiles of Snow Caps Sled Dogs

It’s not hard to tell when you’ve arrived at Good Times Adventures in Breckenridge.

Several miles down Tiger Road, into the Swan River Valley, the recreation company runs snowmobile tours and dog-sledding adventures throughout the winter. Teams of eight sled dogs take up to eight people and a guide along a 6-mile course on snowy trails. The kennel, Snow Caps Sled Dogs, is home to 152 Siberian and Alaskan huskies, none of which are hesitant to voice their excitement at the chance to get out and run. Their enthusiastic barks, yips and howls echo through the trees and stir the blood of arriving adventurers.

Although the majority of the dogs are purebred Siberian huskies, no dog looks exactly like any other. They run from light gray to solid black, and all shades of red. Some have dark circular masks over their eyes, or stripes or spots on their muzzles. Many have the famous ice-blue husky gaze, while others regard visitors with multi-colored eyes.

Just as their looks vary, so do their personalities.

“Every dog is different,” said Dave Zajac, who has been working as a sled dog guide for 17 years. When introducing his tour group to the dogs, he calls each by name and gives some tidbits about their personalities.

Training

Most of the sled dogs are bred at Snow Caps, and training for sled running begins at an early age.

When the pups are ready, they’re taken on frequent walks, said kennel manager Sarah Spalla. When they get a little older and faster, they are trained to run loose behind a snowmobile. Dogs get their first taste of harness running between the ages of 8 and 10 months, and when they’re around a year or just a little older, they’ll start becoming part of a team.

Socialization, with dogs and humans, is also a critical step.

“It’s really important for us that our dogs are friendly and outgoing to everybody that they meet,” Spalla said.

Adopting

When a sled dog reaches the age where it can’t comfortably run on a team anymore, it is retired. The retirees range in age from about 7 to 10 years, depending on the dog. Many of the retired dogs are then available for adoption.

“We’re always looking for good adoptive homes,” said Spalla. “Our dogs still love to go. They definitely need active homes.”

Although there is no adoption fee, potential adopters are required to come in person to the kennel, so they can meet personnel — and the dogs — face to face, to determine the right match.

Even though they may not pull a sled anymore, the dogs are still quite active, and would be great for people looking for a companion to take walking, hiking or biking, Spalla said. For information about adoptable dogs, visit www.SnowCapsSledDogs.com.

Dog Profiles

Here’s a glimpse of a few of the dogs one might meet at the Snow Caps yard.

TYRA

Female, 5 years old

Status: Working sled dog

Details: Tyra is a slender, reddish girl. Her lineage is half Alaskan husky, which means she has a lot of speed. She took lead with her partner, Bullwinkle, during this reporter’s sled ride, and spent much of it with her tongue lolling out and a blissful look on her face. Spalla describes her as “the feistiest female we have.”

BULLWINKLE

Male, 7 years old

Status: Working sled dog

Details: Bullwinkle is a big, fluffy guy who likes to run in front. Spalla calls him a “goofball” and he is always up for a pat on the head or a scratch behind the ear. Bullwinkle also enjoys summer activities such as pulling visitors on “diggling” scooters or a specially rigged up golf cart.

MARLEY

Male, 6 years old

Status: Working sled dog

Details: Marley comes as one in a pair. He and his brother, Rev, took the back “wheel” position on this reporter’s sled ride, and they hammed it up the entire time. Marley’s coat is heavy and furry like Bullwinkle’s, but his ears are floppier, which add to his already expressive face. Spalla describes Marley and Rev as football players who have fun bashing their helmets together. When not running or getting petted, Marley is jumping all over his brother to show him who’s boss.

REV

Male, 6 years old

Status: Working sled dog

Details: Though Rev and Marley are brothers, they don’t look alike. While Marley is black and tan, Rev has darker shades of gray and has one blue eye and one brown eye. Rev loves roughhousing with Marley, but he’s also the kennel’s biggest sucker for belly rubs. “He loves belly rubs more than anything,” she said.

HAWK

Male, 9 years old

Status: Retired and available for adoption

Details: When Hawk was working, he was one of Snow Caps’ best lead dogs, Spalla said. Hawk is the spitting image of what one imagines when hearing the word “husky,” with his gray striped face and blue/brown gaze. He’s always eager for attention, and will thrive in an active home, said Spalla, where he can get a lot of exercise.

MAVERICK

Male, 9 years old

Status: Retired and available for adoption

Details: Maverick is a true ladies’ dog. He does best with a female companion that he can impress, Spalla said. He served as a wheel dog for much of his time running sleds. He’s mostly black, with tan marks over his eyebrows, giving him a constant alert expression. He would also do very well in an active home where he gets to exercise a lot.


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The Summit Daily Updated Mar 28, 2014 12:02PM Published Mar 29, 2014 11:07AM Copyright 2014 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.