Masters of the Trail

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For thousands of years, we lived up north,
in the lands of Ice and snow.
Living in the freezing cold,
where other’s fear to go.

We share a common bond with man,
that bond will never die.
It was forged upon this frozen land,
when we struggled to survive.

I’ll lead you through the darkest night,
and across the harshest lands.
We know you’ll keep us safe at night,
and feed us when you can.

Our hearts are true and given to,
those that understand.
The perfect bond between,
the husky and the Man.

Our bones are scattered along the trail,
as we blazed a path for you.
We lived, we died, we gave our all,
for that’s what Huskies do.

The storm is fierce, in dark of night,
the winds a blowing gale.
We will lead you home again,
the Masters of the trail.

Todd M. Johnson 2016

 

Resource Guarding

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I spend a lot of time trying to understand why my huskies do just about everything. Some things are easy and then the answer to some behaviors is baffling. Many times it takes several days to put the answer together by eliminating what you do know.

Nikki and Sammie had this fight over a treat, but before that it was brewing anyway. I think part of it is a dominance debate, and part of it is a learned behavior. The dominance behavior is easy to understand as Huskies have a hierarchical pack structure.

Everyone has their place. Someone leads, and the rest follow and that makes sense to me. It’s the way it has been with them for thousands of years. In our case I think it is more than that.

The problem is Nikki and Sammie are both guilty of resource guarding. Now this does not affect us humans as they have never acted aggressive to us over food, toys, or treats. I can reach down and pick up Nikki’s favorite guarded toy and she shows no sign of aggression at all. Same with Sammie so that is a good thing or we would really have problems.

So, I’m sitting around wondering about this one night and it occurs to me that Nikki is small for a husky. I started to wonder if maybe she had to battle for food as a puppy, and maybe was kicked out-of-the-way by bigger siblings during nursing.

I’ve known real children that hoard food because they rarely had food to eat and it left a life long-lasting impression on them. The idea had real possibilities until I remembered seeing all of her siblings at the same time. They were all more or less the same size so I don’t think she was a runt grubbing for a teat.

The answer was right in front of me the whole time. Sammie taught that behavior to Nikki as she grew up. You see Sammie has always kept treats and dared any other dog to take it from her. She would not eat them just keep them in some sort of game. Not a problem until Nikki grew up.

Now where Sammie learned this habit from I have no idea. I got her as a puppy as well as Nikki. It never seemed to have been a problem until Nikki came into her own.

Nikki is the first dog that was willing to fight for it. I believe the combination of learned resource guarding and the urge to move as high in the pack combined… brought it to a head.

Here you have a multiple dog thing to watch out for. A bad habit from one of your other dogs can be learned by your new puppy. It never even occurred to me to watch out for this. Something a puppy learns in that first year is much harder to fix. It becomes part of them, and may never go away.

I have yet to figure out the solution. The obvious choice is to keep them separated during treat and food times. If they don’t eat it…pick it up and don’t give it back. This should teach them they only have one chance to eat it. Better not save it or you miss out.

That is going to be my course of action and see if I can break Sammie of this bad habit as well. If you have any experience with this problem, please speak up. You never stop learning with huskies, and as soon as you think you have it all figured out….wham!

I try to share with you things I’ve learned or am still learning. It should go into the husky file in your head. It might come in handy someday.

Understanding these dogs is a combination of many things, that when mixed together give you an overall picture of what the breed really is. There are variances in each dog but an overall knowledge base can help you in your journey.

TJ

Spirit of the Husky

I wrote this for anyone who has ever lost a husky.

Spirit of the Husky                                                                        

When she closed her eyes forever,
another journey had begun.
Her spirit soared across the frozen sky,
to the place where huskies run.

Rainbow Bridge
The Rainbow Bridge

With wings of white upon her back,
like a comet passing by.
Racing towards that holy place,
beyond the midnight sky.

Soon her memories began to fade,
of her life left far behind.
The call of the northern lights,
was etched upon her mind.

At last she crossed the rainbow bridge,
to the place all huskies go.
A land filled with big tall pines,
and fresh unbroken snow.

 

A place where huskies run and play,
until it’s time to leave.
When one arrives another has to go,
and this you should believe.

Her spirit will cross that bridge once more,
to fly those frozen skies.
Arriving as a new-born pup,
with bright blue husky eyes.

Fear not when you lose a friend,
that one that meant so much.
A husky’s work is never done,
and your soul forever touched.

Again, and again those souls return,
to a place upon this earth.
To share their special gift of love,
for those who earn their worth.

They run and dig, and chase the cat,
but in the snow they fly!
It’s the spirit of your husky,
and that will never die.

Todd M. Johnson © March 7, 2017
You are free to use this for non-commercial purposes.


Feeding Your Husky

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Getting some help building a new sled.

Today’s topic is feeding your husky. I’m not talking about food that they require to live. I’m talking about something just as important…time and love.

Because I’m a musician I spend a lot of time in my “Man Cave.” Which is my garage or what I call the “Jamatorium.” I write, or practice, or just hang out because it feels home to me being surrounded by implements of destruction. Amps, drums, guitars, loud PA system to play back tunes.

Music has always been a way for me to unwind. I can beat some drums to Led Zeppelin and when I’m done I feel so much better. All those idiots hell-bent on getting to work even if they kill someone else or them on the commute seem to fade away. I’m still alive in spite of their attempts to kill me on the road.

I spend an hour each way to get to and from work. Two extra hours in my day to pay the bills because…well I chose it. Nobody’s perfect but it works out, that is the price I pay to have this job which pays for my dogs wellbeing besides our own needs.

Many of you work as well, in fact most of us do, but we took on these complicated partners called Siberian Huskies.

Huskies have many demands that need to be met. But have you ever stopped to see the life you give them through their eyes? We demand a lot out of them so that they can fit into our schedules and life style.

They do not complain unless it is unbearable for them. They don’t bitch, they might eat your couch because that is the only way they can tell us they are unhappy. Huskies in my opinion howl when they are upset. Sure they might howl at a siren, but the howl of loneliness is a very distinct one.

Because of my garage habits I’ve had much time to observe my dogs. I didn’t just look at them from time to time…I looked at them like a scientist would. I observed and recorded in my head how they react and treat each other.

I think I have a pretty good handle on how they act. I call this “Quality Time.” It’s quality because I learn about them, and its quality for them because they want to be with me. I think they want to learn about me as much as I do about them. It may be in their own way, but still I see it in their eyes when they look at me putting together some IKEA furniture or some other project like putting a sled together.

They get in the way and sniff everything. They lay on the parts, and grin because they are happy to be sharing time with me. They are enjoying our time together even if it makes no sense to them.

Its quality time for both of us. We learn and we grow closer because of that. I don’t get home from work and give them a pat on the head and then spend the next 4 hours watching re-runs of Judge Judy. I spend time with them.

They might have spent 8 hours in a crate while you were at work. You need to be a good partner and reward that with the thing they want most…your attention to them and their needs for exercise etc.

Huskies demand a lot, but they also give more than we do. They live in hot climates, they are stuffed in crates, they are neglected, but still they remain true. They cannot pick their boss any more than we can in our own jobs.

Spend all the quality time you can with them. It will only make you closer and the bond stronger. Your husky will be gone before you know it. Don’t look back and wish you would have spent more time with them while they were here.

Do it now, and every day for the sands of time run faster than you think!

No regrets, that is what I want to have when mine pass over the Rainbow Bridge. Feed them the love they need, they give their all for you in so many ways we don’t even think about.

Look at the world you give them through their eyes. Are you good enough for a husky? I hope in the end that I held up my end of this partnership.

They give me their entire lives… that’s worth some of my precious time.

TJ

Seppala Siberian Sleddogs

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Since most of you don’t really talk about daily life with your huskies I’m left to fill you in on mine. It might be interesting or boring depending on the day.

I’ve talked about the many levels of husky ownership before. We all have our own family units and different lifestyles. The thing we have in common is the love for our huskies. Some, if not all of you are happy at your level and that is so wonderful!

Then there are some who just can’t get enough like me. Every time I see a puppy picture I want to buy that dog! I’ve given this sickness a name, “Husky Acquisition Syndrome or (HAS) for short. It’s a terrible thing to have!

I often dream of a thousand acres of pine forest and trails I own. Huskies running free and all of us running sleds and bikes and just plain exploring and enjoying life. I would truly love that more than winning the lottery…but if I did you know what I’d be spending it on.

I’m involved in lots of husky things. My fascination with Leonhard Seppala and his dogs drives me to a higher levels than most of you. What he did either with luck or divine wisdom was breed the dogs that now are all over this world. The Siberian Husky in all his varied colors and personalities have spread out just about everywhere.

The original direct line of Seppala Siberian Sled Dogs (SSSD) has been kept going for over 100 years by a few people who wanted to preserve this original working line. They did their best, and some spent their entire lives trying. That’s how strongly they felt about these dogs. That is another level that most don’t achieve.

With declining numbers, the dogs have been inbred a great deal to keep the bloodline alive. Eventually this runs out. Health issues show up and attrition reduces the numbers of breeding pairs. Many have given up and say the line is dead or about dead.

This is true and why I’ve become involved in a new project with Jonathan Nathaniel Hayes and his kennel. Poland Spring Kennel in Fort Kent, Maine.

If you are a history buff of Leonhard Seppala you will immediately recognize the name “Poland Spring.” This is the first place in the lower 48 Leonhard Seppala brought his new breed of dogs.

“Leonhard Seppala brought his dog sled team of Siberian Husky’s to Maine in 1927 during a tour of the United States.
He and his dog team were part of a famous serum run in Alaska known as the Great Race of Mercy that used dog sled teams to deliver an emergency supply of diphtheria serum to Nome in 1925.
His team raced Arthur Walden’s Chinook team of New Hampshire at Poland Spring in 1927.
Seppala’s dogs won the race. Seppala and Elizabeth Ricker, wife of the Poland Spring Hotel manager and a “musher” herself, started a kennel breeding these Seppala Siberian sled dogs at Poland Spring.” https://www.mainememory.net/artifact/20920

The Seppala Husky traits are a dog that is more loving and bonded to the owner than a normal husky. A dog that has an unquenchable desire to pull and work. A friendly dog who gets along better with his/her teammates than a normal husky does. They do not look exactly the same as well. A practiced eye can pick out a Seppala if you know what to look for.

Seppalas don’t exactly look like the modern-day Siberian, and they have different traits as well. They are the performance dogs of the breed you and I enjoy now. If you could follow your dog’s pedigree back all the way…you would find him or her line ending at Togo and Fritz and many others of those original dogs Seppala bred. All of our Siberians share this.

So where am I going with all this?

Well I’m following my heart. I’m going to help do what I can to move the project to a happy conclusion. Not everyone wants a working dog that rips your arms out of their sockets. But some do, some still want to race even though they will never compete with the speed of Alaskan huskies (See Iditarod.) But that does not mean they are not without value. In mid distance races they are very competitive to this day.

I really don’t care so much about the racing part. But it is what they do, and how they are tested. It is what they are. They are Seppalas, the true decendants from the 1925 Serum run to save Nome. But race or no, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to help.

Some people are proud to have a classic car because of its history not its speed. I guess I’m one of those people, I’d rather have a yard full of Seppala dogs than one full of mutts only bred for speed no matter what they look or act like.

The goal is to bring them back to prominence.  It won’t be fast or easy but in time I think it will happen. It will happen because those who have been around these dogs find out how special they really are. Seppala Siberian Sled Dogs… a breed unto itself based on history and their unique traits as working dogs.

So if you are going to buy another husky at some point, why not consider a Seppala?

For the breed to survive it needs owners. They are not for everyone, but for some they are the only thing that will do.

The first step has been taken. And that is to add dogs to the kennel. From here we work towards a new future for the Seppalas.

I hope you will join us on this journey.

You can read more about the Poland Spring Kennel  here: http://www.polandspringseppalas.com/3.html

TJ

Sunset

The Husky is one of those creatures that will judge you by your actions. If you treat him well, you will receive his undying loyalty. Treat him badly and you will never see him again. To me these dogs have an uncanny ability to reason out things about the world that other dogs do not. They are not programmed robots or slaves. They are at ease in almost all situations that make other dogs go insane.

They are Intelligent enough to use reason first, and not training that was beaten into them. In fact, trying to force a Husky to do anything is a complete waste of time. They will only do what you ask if they trust you. Having a Husky work for you is more of a partnership than a dumb beast of burden.

In spite of their wanderlust and the free spirit that drives them. They want to be part of the pack. They hate being left alone more than any other dogs I have ever known. The will to travel and see new things is strong in them. They are like our forefathers who blazed unknown trails seeking adventures unknown. That is what is in a Huskies heart, and what made him such a valuable member to the gold miners, and adventurers for many years.

The Husky is willing to work hard all day for those in his pack. All he asks is some food in his belly and not to be left alone. Willing to strike the trail whether it be snow or asphalt. It’s taken me several years of observation to make these claims. I believe they are right as rain. They crave companionship, dogs and humans.

Huskies and man needed each other to survive the unforgiving frozen lands of the north. That bond was developed over thousands of years. It was a family that took care of each other and thus ensured their individual survival.

Sadly, the wild places are almost gone. I fear the Huskies days are numbered in his pure form. He will lose the wild spirit and become another lap dog who watches T.V. The urge to pull and travel long-lost from his genetic makeup.

The Husky is being over-bred and slowly losing those traits that make them what they were meant to be. Being bred to be lap dogs and fluffy eye candy with many genetic faults like epilepsy.

You can have no truer member of your family than this creature in his pure form. I’m going to do my best to keep that spirit alive. Be it paved roads or dirt trails, my dogs will run like they’ve done for thousands of years. I don’t want to see working huskies vanish from the world, at least not the one I live in.

TJ

Husky Story

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Everyone has their own husky story. Huskies change people’s lives and I wanted to share this with you.
This touching story is from my friend, co-owner and caretaker/trainer of Delta Dawn our Seppala puppy.
 
Why a Husky?
By: Heather Fulger
 
It all started in 1994, and that was the year Disney’s movie “Iron Will” came out. It was also my introduction to the Siberian Husky. Along with a glimpse into the world of “Mushing.” Although it was a fictional movie, from that point on in my life… I knew that I wanted one.
 
I was just a little girl of five years old, but I knew that I had to have a husky of my own someday. Seeing that movie set into motion feelings that would never leave me.
 
A year slowly passed and in 1995 the Disney movie “Balto” hit theaters. Again, I was reminded of my underlying passion for the Siberian Husky. But not just any Siberian husky…I wanted a Siberian Husky of my own. Although the hero of the movie “Steel” was a wolf/husky mix, I loved him just the same.
 
Steel was the lead dog as the movie began. I loved his coloring, he was such a beautiful animated dog! I also loved “Gus” who was the lead dog in the movie “Iron Will.” Gus a was more common black and white husky. 1995 would pass without a husky of my own, but my desire never stopped.
 
As time passed those feelings seemed to recede. Whenever I asked my Auntie for a husky she reminded me that money didn’t grow on trees. She just couldn’t afford to buy me my hopes and dreams.
 
In time, I quit asking because I knew the answer would be no. My dream wasn’t dead but at times it seemed so helpless that I tried to keep it out of my mind.
 
The husky dream wouldn’t die that easy.
 
In 2002 another movie came out called, “Snow Dogs.” The dream was still there but I had no way to chase it.
 
At the time, we still lived in the city, and I knew better than to ask for a husky. In 2004, we moved out of the city and I thought my life was over again.
 
No more friends down the road, no more walks downtown on the main strip of the city, or seeing my friends just two houses away. I’d forgotten about huskies, and worried more about how I would survive without my friends that I was used to seeing every day.
 
A few months passed and I ended up making friends with the neighbor named Brian. He owned the most gorgeous Rottweiler I had ever laid my eyes on. His name was Elvis, and that dog would change me, and make my dreams come true.
 
You see Elvis was an escape artist, and once free he usually ended up at my doorstep every morning, looking for some love and as many treats as I could give him.
 
When I think back now, it seems just like yesterday.
 
Elvis would show up in the morning just like he was on a schedule. He did it every morning for a couple of months.
 
One day when I was walking him back home…everything changed.
 
I was only sixteen years old during that walk and I spied the most beautiful dog in the world tied to a tree. Right there in front of us was a magnificent grey & white husky!
 
I could hardly wait for Brian to get home from work so I could ask him about that husky.
 
Brian told me that she had been given to him by a friend, and that he was looking to find her a new home. Suddenly my heart raced and the dream so long forgotten came back in a rush. I raced home to talk to my Aunt about that beautiful dog.
 
My Aunt was surprised that I still wanted a husky. She had thought it was just a kid thing that would pass but she saw how much it still meant to me.
 
My Aunt agreed to let me get that dog and it was the happiest day in my life. After all those years my dream had finally come true. Her name was Silver, but I called her Shay. Shay had a great personality, and her love for kids was beyond explanation.
 
For the next few months I was the happiest teen in the world!
 
Shay did that, she made my life better from the first moment I saw her. That big grey & white husky healed my pain, and made me forget all the little things that bother you when you are a teenager. But Shay wasn’t done teaching me yet. She had one more important lesson for this young girl to learn from her.
 
A few months passed and I was walking with Shay through Greenville one day. My Aunt had a job there at the time as a house keeper, and I had free run of the city. I happened to meet a younger couple with a daughter around the age of 5 years old or so.
 
The little girl had a bandana around her head, and they explained to me that she was a cancer patient. I can’t for the life of me remember the child’s name, but I remember her exact words to me “When I grow up, I’m going to get my very own husky!”
 
Emotions filled me in ways I really can’t explain.
 
I stood there talking to the parents as they had told me how they already had a husky at home, and hoped to have the funds someday to buy their daughter her very own puppy. They didn’t know if they could make it happen before it was too late.
 
As we talked I noticed Shay with this young girl, laying her head on the child’s lap. Shay just seemed so happy and content next to this sick little girl.
 
Now being a husky, Shay used to drag me on walks, and could pull my arm off. But when I gave the leash to this girl Shay never tried to yank or pull the leash.
 
Shay seemed to know that the little girl was very sick.
I don’t know what came over me at that moment but I knew Shay had a higher calling than me. I handed the child the leash and told her that Shay was now hers, if it was okay with the parents.
 
Mom & dad nearly cried as they thanked me and watched their sick child’s dream come true right before their eyes. And I really didn’t regret my decision. I had a long healthy life ahead of me. That little girl did not.
 
I knew I’d have another opportunity to own another husky. This sick little girl wrapped her arms around me and said thank you!
 
She told me she would keep her name and that she would never forget me. Shay licked my hand, but when we said our goodbyes, Shay knew she was going with them because that is where she was needed most.
 
I still feel like Shay walked into my life as a lesson.
 
A lesson in selflessness. In giving, and being kind to others. And at age sixteen I really was struggling with life, especially after our move. The fact that I had just changed a little girl’s life made my heart smile.
 
And to this day I remember her sweet little smile and her fragile and tiny little hands. The look in her eyes when hearing that she now had her very own dog was even better. I don’t know what happened to her or Shay in the end.
 
But if I know Shay they spent some grand days together no matter how long they lasted. All I have left is this old photo, but her memory will last a lifetime.
 
That’s why a husky.
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