Originally from Fort Resolution, Andrew Charlie grew up with dogs as his family's primary means of transportation. His father's dogs were very well-trained, and he describes a relationship of mutual respect and understanding. Today, Andrew lives in Aklavik, a small community northwest of Inuvik, NWT, and keeps dogs for racing.
Ashley Macdonald is a recreational musher who fell in love with the North when she moved here in early 2010. Her sled dog team is comprised of “sled dog misfits”, a mix of rescues and hand-me-downs from other mushers. New to the sport, she talks about the community feel of Kam Lake, and the challenges and joys of having a working relationship with her dogs.
Fran Hurcomb moved to Yellowknife in time to experience the last few years of trapping and mushing as a way of life, just before the skidoo gained widespread popularity. She quickly fell in love with Old Town Yellowknife, a ramshackle community of artists and trappers and is still there today. She has witnessed firsthand the changes that have taken place over the years and is a passionate storyteller about her life here.
Scott McQueen grew up hearing stories from his father, Danny McQueen, a trapper and champion dog musher, who had a special relationship with his team. Danny would spend months in the Northern wilderness with his dog team, trapping for furs and surviving. Scott shares a few of these phenomenal stories with us here.
Scott McQueen and Jordee
Scott McQueen still continues the tradition of keeping dogs today. He lives with his family just outside Yellowknife, NT, and keeps a team of dogs for racing. His daughter, Jordee, started learning to drive a dogteam when she was only seven years old, and has competed in the Yellowknife Championship Dog Derby, a three day race that both her grandfather, uncle and father competed in before her. They share stories about three generations of mushers, and what keeping dogs has meant to them.
Working Dogs VS Pet Dogs
In many ways the role of dogs in the North over the past several decades is similar to how the role of horses has changed down south. In fact, time and time again we hear from dog people about how keeping a dog team is a bit like having a farm. There is usually a very clear distinction between working dogs and pet dogs. Pet dogs live in the house, but the dog team sleeps outside. A pet's primary role is companionship, but a working dog will help you survive in the wilderness. Just because they don't sleep in the house doesn't mean that the relationship between working dogs and their handlers is any less meaningful though. There are unique challenges and rewards to keeping working dogs, and a bond that often transcends words and conventional dog-training.