Mush Dogs-in-Training

Updated: Oct 6, 2018

Princess Cruise Line, my employer in Alaska, offered an array of activities for its guests at the Kenai Peninsula Wilderness Lodge. One of those "excursion" options was attending an educational hour with a woman who raised husky puppies to be mush dogs (this event was complete with said puppies, of course).

These puppies were one of the first things I was told upon arrival to the lodge. The employee orientation basically went like this: "do your job, and always act professionally when in sight of guests. Oh, and by the way, there are husky puppies here that need to get used to humans as quickly as possible so you need to play with them."

Wait, what?

The woman who took care of the dogs lived in the campground on property. She had a permanent site, with a large pen set up in the backyard for the dogs. She often had two mothers at once, along with their puppies. She did not own any of the dogs herself but took care of them while the puppies were growing. Once they were weaned, the mothers went back to their owners and the puppies were sold. And while this process occurred, she presented the dogs to guests of the lodge so that they could learn more about dog mushing.

The employee lodging was behind the campground and often I would cut through the campground in order to play with the puppies. Puppies being puppies, they were always very excited to see me/anybody who came by. When my parents came to visit, this was one of the experiences I made sure they had because who wouldn't want to travel over 3,000 miles (5,000 km) to play with a dozen puppies?

One of my favorite Alaskan memories was the day I had off and decided to spend the post-lunch hours with the puppies. I crawled into the pen, sat next to their little doghouse, and next thing I knew my lap was covered in puppies. At one point, there were four snoozing pups on my legs. I was there for awhile (obviously I couldn't move!), and spent the afternoon calling various friends back in the Lower 48 to brag about my current situation. Talk about a great job perk.

A few months later, I was driving around town when I suddenly hit this unique little traffic jam - a local man and his daughter were taking their mush dogs for a practice run with their 4-wheeler before the snows came. So while I can assure you that dog-mushing isn't nearly as common in Alaska as the stereotype/this blog might indicate, it still does exist! And thank god, because that summer would certainly have been less exciting without those little husky loves.