The Bonds

Mr. Cooper at 13 months old. Born to pull and loving it.

There are many facets to dog ownership. I’ve grown up with dogs of all types. I’ve bred and raised German Shepherds and had everything from labs to Scotties as pets. I thought I knew what it meant to love a dog…that is until I met the Siberian Husky.

At first I didn’t understand him. I thought he should behave as all the other dogs I’ve known. That was the start of my enlightenment and my training. You see the huskies have their own way about things. They have a fierce determination to do what their DNA tells them. They don’t resist what they are, they answer the call inside of them.

This is not to say they are un-trainable because they are very trainable, but it takes a different mindset. It takes understanding where they came from. How they lived and what is hardwired into their minds before you have a chance to mold them into your family.

Trust is not given freely, it is earned slowly over time. You cannot build a bond with a husky in a few hours…or days. It takes a long time, but it never stops growing if you remain true and treat them as you would a partner instead of just a “Dog.”

They will meet you halfway, but they will never become servants that support a task master with no heart. I learned a very important thing on my journey with the huskies. And that is for true success you build your life around them. You rearrange your life and thinking to truly know this gift. The husky will accept many things and they will rearrange their own desires for you to a point. But it will not all be for you. There must be some give and take on your part.

The fastest way to a bond is to work with them in what they love the most. And that is running together with sled, bike, or other means. The important part is the bond that forms from doing what they have love and been bred to do. It is what they love for many reasons. One is adventure…the need to see and experience new things…sights and smells.

They want to bring you into that world that many people don’t even know exists. I must admit even mushing on the streets with a bike will open up your mind and heart. The thrill of being pulled along and working with these amazing athletes is almost a spiritual experience. It’s teamwork at its finest, even if it’s a bit dangerous at times.

From a puppy to a groan adult, you’ve been their whole world since they were 8-weeks old. You walk the miles, and you teach the commands that will serve you later. Day by day you work towards that point that you are free to tackle the elements and adventure. That magical day when it all comes together as you blast down a trail or road. That is when it hit me, that was when I knew I’d discovered something special I’d been missing in my life.

My dogs didn’t come from working lines at that point. They’d been bred in houses and treated as dogs of the pet variety. They found something that they had been missing as well. They found the missing connection to what they were made for. And from that day on our bonds grew. I saw as much change in them as I did myself. Dogs and man had achieved together something not historically important but life changing for all of us.

Now almost 4 years later we have learned to work together. That maturity includes the dogs. They don’t fuss when we can’t run on some days. They seem to understand that sometimes I have other things more important to attend to. They settle down and wait patiently for that to pass, because they know I will meet their needs as soon as I can. We work together because we are a family that has learned to understand the way each of our lives are interconnected.

This is the bond between us that only other mushers can understand. People pay to go on a sled dog ride to catch a glimpse into this other world. Some actually go on to find their own pack of dogs to run. But it takes commitment and work to achieve it. Nothing worthwhile is free, there is pain and sacrifices to be made along the way. And there is loss when they pass away, just like any family deals with.

That is true of all life endeavors, but the rewards are huge if you are willing to give it your all. That is the bonds that separate these dogs from the pet variety. There is so much more to that beautiful husky than meets the eye. You just have to understand them and join the team.

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