And this one goes out to all the working dogs! There are so many beautiful working sled dogs. The Alaskan Husky is my sled dog of choice. (read an interesting discussion of the breed here, and learn more about recent genetic research showing the Alaskan Husky is its own breed.) But many dogs are out there in harness with their humans, doing what they love to do.
So here we go, a la David Letterman, my own top 10 list.
10. They are beautiful!!!
No scientific research for this one, just my own biased belief that the Dew Claw kids are beautiful. All working sled dogs are beautiful, and their beauty derives from the amazing athletic feats they are capable of and the special nature of our relationship with them.
9. Dogs are bi-lingual.
They learn our language and body language, and in many cases do it better then we have learned to understand theirs. As a matter of fact, along with understanding our non-verbal cues “Some dogs even show a vocabulary as vast as a human toddler’s.” There is more information in this interesting article, How many words do dogs understand?
8. They have a VO2 Max that puts us to shame.
“Sled-dog huskies have been recorded at 240 ml/kg/min! Quite incredible. That’s why these dogs can literally run all day” to understand this measure and see where human athletes rate, read the meaning of VO2 max. I promise you will be humbled, after seeing where humans rank comparatively you may feel the need to fall to your knees before your sled dogs saying “We’re not worthy“.
7. They are in it for the long haul.
They quickly adapt to prolonged endurance activity, and over time can actually recover from it while continuing to run, truly making them Ultra-Endurance Competitors.
6. They handle cold.
And they handle it really well. Much better then we do. There are a few adaptations that make this possible and you can read more in Temperature Adaptation in Northern Dogs.
5. These dogs have heart.
From Matters of the Heart, By Jerry Vanek, DVM. “In fact, if you compare the size of the heart of any mammal to its total size you will always get a ratio of roughly six-tenths of one percent (0.6 percent). … If you compare the weight of a dog’s heart to its total body mass you will get a ratio of 0.8%. That’s a third again as large as other mammals”
4. They are eating machines.
A working sled dog can burn 200 calories per pound of body weight each day. A human cycling in the Tour de France burns 37 and an Ironman triathlete 68. Read more here.
3. They burn fat in ways I can only dream about.
From, Learning Fat-Burning Secrets from Sled Dogs, “Specifically, sled dogs seem to flip an internal switch that acutely changes how they burn fat calories, allowing them to keep going and going and going with no obvious pain.” Yes that would be like a coach telling you to eat more bacon and butter while running to preform better.
2. They run 4-5 marathons a day, easily!
And they do it for days on end. I run one marathon all year and will be on the couch recovering with my good buddies Ben & Jerry for at least 2 days. These Iditarod / Yukon Quest dogs are so amazing with what they can accomplish in endurance events, even the Pentagon wants in on it. Learn more about Mike Davis’ DARPA funded research on sled dog endurance.
1. You Can’t Push a Rope.
All other reasons aside (not that they are not impressive enough) this is what always gets me about these dogs. To put this in perspective, I am hanging onto an 8 foot sled, with about 40-50 feet of cable gangline and ropes in front of me, and what keeps it all together is the dogs pulling forward into it.
Because I ask them to, they travel thousands of miles with me…
And they do it, joyfully, happily,
with an attitude and ability that keep me in awe…
It is my honor to run with such amazing dogs.