Dashing through the snow with a team of sled dogs in the White Mountains

  • Dog sledding at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, N.H. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

  • Didi, an Alaskan husky-hound mix, looks on eagerly as the morning’s final visitor arrives.

  • Dog sledding at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, N.H. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

  • Dog sledding at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, N.H. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

  • Dog sledding at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, N.H. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

  • Dog sledding at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, N.H. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

  • Dog sledding at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, N.H. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

  • Dog sledding at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, N.H. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

  • A team of sled dogs from Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson work their way up the Presidential Rail Trail earlier this month, with Mount Washington seen in the distance. Muddy Paw offers a variety of tours, ranging from 5 to 12 miles in length. MICHAEL PEZONE photos / Monitor staff

  • Dog sledding at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, N.H. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

  • Dog sledding at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, N.H. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

  • Dog sledding at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, N.H. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 12/28/2018 5:47:03 PM

Didi greeted the morning’s final visitor with a wet kiss.

“They’re people pleasers,” said Wes Guerin, senior musher at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson.

The Alaskan husky-hound mix had just returned from a 5-mile dog sled pull along the Presidential Rail Trail in the shadows of Mount Washington, and wasn’t due back out for at least a few more hours. Nonetheless, the 9-year-old K9 – hardly a young pup alongside her 83 brothers, sisters and cousins – had plenty of energy and affection for her guests.

Noticing her success, Didi’s relatives cried out in search of similar attention, resulting in a noisy meet-and-greet while the business’s two-legged employees set up their sleds.

“I could probably leave people in the yard for an hour and a half and they’d be fine not even going for a ride,” said Guerin, who’s worked at Muddy Paw for the past 5 years. “People love meeting the dogs, but of course the ride itself is pretty cool, too. I’d say the whole experience really is something to look forward to.”

Like many kennels in the region, Guerin said Muddy Paw incorporates a mix of rescue dogs with dogs bred specifically for its sled teams. Their days start early with breakfast by 7 a.m., followed by the morning’s first tour at 9:30.

Muddy Paw’s tours range from 5 to 12 miles in length, and take between 2.5 and 3 hours to complete – but don’t worry, plenty of time is left for petting. Guerin said each dog works two shifts a day during the winter months – they get Mondays off – and average about 60 miles on the trails per week.

And while it may seem exhausting pulling sleds fit for three guests and a musher, Guerin said the work is instinctual.

“The miles add up, but it’s what they’re bred for,” he said. “The dogs absolutely love it.”

Once on the trail, there’s no time for barking.

The team of eight dogs strategically picked by Guerin and his coworkers worked in tandem as they navigated the former railroad bed, listening intently for the commands of their musher. Guerin said he typically picks proven, more focused dogs to lead the way, with stronger dogs picking up the rear.

“We like to mix up their roles every now and then and let them try new things, but for the most part, each dog has one or two positions they’re most comfortable in,” he said.

As the team stopped to rest near the halfway point of the trip, the dogs were too tired to notice a white-tailed deer rummaging on the trail only yards ahead – the doe was quick to notice the dogs, though, and made a swift retreat across a nearby field.

The team picked up the pace as they retraced their steps back to camp, making sure to burn up every last ounce of energy before being delegated back to their spot in the yard while they wait for their next assignment.

Guerin said it’s rarely too cold for the dogs, though staff sometimes puts “booties” on their paws during subfreezing temperatures to protect from freezing. Heat is a different story, however, as the dogs can’t pull sleds in temperatures above 65 degrees.

Muddy Paw does offer snowless tours, utilizing carts instead of sleds, which Guerin said is popular during peak foliage. But, Guerin warned, employees won’t take dogs out unless the temperature is right, so always double-check the weather ahead of your tour.

No matter the season, Guerin said most people are excited to get outside and spend a day with man’s best friend.

“We get a lot of people from the Boston area, the New York City area, more populated cities more or less,” he said. “Most people come up here to the White Mountains to get away from all the craziness and I think this is just something they really enjoy doing while they’re here.”

And when dogs are too old to pull or start to show a waning interest in the sport, Guerin said, they’re either put up for adoption or welcomed into the home of one of the kennel’s employees as part of the family.




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