PEOPLE OF LA SAL
Amy has lived in La Sal for a year and a half.
She was born and raised in Brigham City, Utah. After high school she moved to Logan to attend Utah State University, where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Parks and Recreation. She remained in Cache Valley and worked at Icon for a while, then she started a successful pet-sitting business and ran it for ten years before selling it and doing odd jobs for a few years before making the move to La Sal.
While living in Cache Valley she worked her way into becoming a self-taught musher, or dog sledder. She started out with one dog, a Malamute, pulling her on her skis, called skijoring. Then she started to foster dogs at her home. Meanwhile, she got her hands on a dog sled and started hooking them up to it. The dogs had no experience pulling a sled. But Amy persisted. For five years. Needless to say, with new dogs coming and going all the time it was a challenge and sometimes downright chaotic. She had had enough. She decided to buy some dogs that already had experience. Amy hooked her new dogs up to the sled. Let off the brake. And gave the command to go. They went. In the right direction. She gave them the commands for turning right (gee) and left (haw). They obeyed. It was the first time in five years that she went without one of the dogs getting distracted and trying to run off to chase a mouse or a rabbit. They were actually listening to her and staying on the trail! It was amazing. It was serene. She marveled at the experience, and tears started to run down her cheeks.
Ten years later she is still going strong. She couldn’t let go of that feeling.
When she first started out she had no intention of competing in any races, but now she enters a few races each year. She doesn’t race to win. She doesn’t even train her dogs for speed, she trains them to have fun. She enters the races to meet people with the same interest. For the comradery. For the fun.
She likes to run four-dog teams. She currently has ten sled dogs. Two are retired, Myrtle and Sam. While all the dogs are dear to Amy’s heart, Myrtle is the one who has never let her down in any circumstance. Myrtle has been most loyal and reliable. They each have qualities that make them special. For example, Adel is the sweetest. Athena has a beautiful spirit. Bonanza is the “Michael Jordan” of the group. Squeaky has grown a lot in her confidence. Blueberry is adorable and has stepped up to being a leader. Treo is the most friendly. Garbo is loving and a good worker. Lex is a good worker too and knows it but doesn’t brag about it. And Sam is full of joy like a fun-loving clown. She loves all of the dogs so much, and they love her. They have formed a strong bond with each other. That is part of the reason why she mushes. For the relationship with the dogs.
Other reasons are because she enjoys being outside, taking in the splendor of nature. The delicious smell of the trees, the alluring sight of what’s around the next bend, the placid sound of the landscape breezing by, the flowing feel of the sled gliding on the snow, and the fresh taste of renewal at the end of a ride. She also loves the amazing feel of strong animal power. There is nothing else like it. However, while she is absorbing what she can from the environment around her she always stays focused on her team and on the line. With what is happening with them. Making sure everything is as it should be.
Having a dog sled team is a lot of work. It takes relentless dedication. Hours of consistent training and conditioning. Attention to diet. Attention to potential injuries. Plenty of patience. And a generous expense for nutrition, gear, and health care. Amy admits it is the hardest work she’s ever done just to have fun, but says it is all worth it because the payoffs far outweigh the cost. She does a fantastic job of taking care of her dogs and they do a fantastic job for her pulling the sled willingly and indulging her with ardent companionship.
A few years back Amy contracted with an outfit in Park City giving dog-sled tours with a team of eight to ten dogs. She had fun doing it. When asked if she might do tours again, in La Sal, she says maybe. She thinks it would be a good way to raise awareness for Mt. Peale Animal Sanctuary and Healing Center, where she houses the dogs, lives at, and works for. “Mt Peale Animal Sanctuary and Healing center is a comprehensive center that includes healing for people, animals and the land. The Animal Sanctuary component is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping injured, special needs, abandoned and unwanted animals.” (from the Mt. Peale Animal Sanctuary and Healing Center website).
It is amazing to see sled dogs at work. See some of the action below or click here.