Why are we called Dew Claw Kennel? A common question with a simple answer. But leave it to me to make a short story long…
Dan got his very fist Alaskan sled dog before he had even met me. At the time he had not developed the addiction of mushing, and was getting a dog to ski-jor with. She always held a special place in his heart, and only begrudgingly gave up the front seat of the truck when I entered the picture. Heck, and even then it was only when Dan told her to.
Her name was Jperz, or Shnapers, or Shnapes. She had these dramatic eyes, and a set of mismatched ears that gave her an overly expressive face. Her eyes were like deep pools that reflected her moods. Bright and shinny as she excitedly anticipated a trip or adventure. Dark and sad as she tried to convince you that you really really ought to share whatever you were eating with her. She had amazing athletic abilities, and yet clever girl she was, she learned how to coast in team and was never a race super star. But that was fine, she much preferred her summer role as Dan’s constant companion. During the years he worked in field camps Shnapes would go, spending her days chasing Dan on the four-wheeler as he worked and sleeping in his tent at night. She was always an athletic runner, but not above hitching a ride. Shnapes never met a mode of transport she would not ride; four-wheeler, canoe, truck, snowmachine, whatever. Her legacy was in her loyalty and comic personality. As well as the 4 dew claws she sported, the dew claws behind Dew Claw Kennel.
All dogs are born with front dew claws, rear dew claws are rarer, one of the many unique quirks that made Shnapes such a character. She had dew claws on all four, and Dew Claw Kennel name is in her honor.
Which, if I am anticipating your thoughts correctly, will lead to the question of weather or not Dew Claw dogs have dew claws?
At Dew Claw we do remove the dew claws on our working sled dogs. This article tells how simple the procedure is. It does not explain the reasons for removing them in working sled dogs. It is much more then a mere matter of ‘looks’ or ‘standards’, although it is standard procedure with mushers to remove them. The reason is for the long term comfort and health of the dog. If left the dew claw can become irritated in some snow conditions, could be torn on rough terrain, catch on things, and can cause painful rubs when wearing booties. These issues are faced not just by mushers, but by other working dog owners as well, as seen in this article on how to treat dew claw injuries. And this blog from Lab Tails does a very good job of explaining the responsible rationale behind dew claw removal.
And I am guessing your next question will be, where is Shnapes today?
She lived with us to a ripe old age, and ultimately left us a few year back. Her grave is marked on the property, and she is always remembered. As I prepared to write this I had occasion to go digging through all our old photos, you remember the kind that were taken with film, mailed off, and returned on paper with negatives. Jperz was in our lives before digital photography. (her original name was jpeg, for the file type, Dan was working with computer graphics at the time, we were not digital camera owners till much later) Ultimately I picked a digital photo from when we were rebuilding the garage after the fire, as it shows her beautiful eyes. Also found this one, from when she was younger, if you look close you can see the rear dew claws she sported. You can not miss the expressive face.