Each dog has its own harness and its own
position on the team. The lead dogs are always harnessed and
placed on the gangline (line attached to the sled that goes down the
middle of the two lines of dogs) first otherwise the other dogs fret as
they do not have leaders.
When you stop for the day a
chain is strung on the ground between two points and from that chain
there are shorter chains spaced along its length on which to clip the
dogs. The shorter chains are just far enough apart so that the
dogs cannot get to each other.
When you have finished
sledding the dogs come off in the reverse order i.e. the dogs nearest
the sled come off first and the leaders last.
Dogs always come first,
water is collected for the dogs' meal before water for the humans.
Dogs are fed first.
The dogs don’t drink water
so you have to make up a soup of reindeer meat for them to eat to get
water inside them, although you will sometimes see them putting their
face in the snow as they run as though they were taking snow to eat.
Once they have had the soup
they are given a block of reindeer meat. Along the trails there
are lodges, one of the outbuildings will hold a boiler for the water to
make the soup. Beside the boiler are large blocks of frozen
reindeer meat which look like large bars of chocolate. You take an
axe and chop off a cube which is 1 kilo, you then chop this in half and
throw that half to the dog. If you hand it to the dog it will bite
your fingers off. The frozen block is gone in a flash.
The dogs’ capillaries stop
about half an inch or more from the skin so that they do not lose
heat. They rest during the summer and eat so that come the autumn
they are quite plump by the spring they are quite skinny through running
all winter. They do not enjoy the heat.
When sledding if you go
through soft snow you have to get off and run pushing the sled to help
When going up hill you have
to get off the sled and run pushing the sled to help the dogs.
You mustn’t let the
gangline go slack otherwise the dogs get their paws caught in it and get
When you are sledding and
the dogs turn to the left you have to lean to the left and when they
turn to the side you have to lean to the right.
If you fall you have to
keep hold of the sled even if it means being dragged along the trail –
you must not let go of the sled. Particularly important if
reindeer are near.
When you stop the sled you
have to stamp an ‘ice anchor’ (metal double hook) into the ice to hold
the sled and then tie a line to something secure to hold the sled.
|All photos come from Rona Cant's
2003 dog expedition.|
|Dogs harnessed to a
|Chopping frozen reindeer meat for
the dogs to eat.|
|Cooking reindeer meat soup for
|Any takers for a
Cathy O'Dowd & Rona Cant 2004. All rights
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