Kennel Life – 365 days of dogs!
By Sophia Bromund
Learn about what a year in the life of our alaskan huskies looks like in this informative account from our Kennel Manager, Sophia.
Winter Season; November – March
The 1st November usually means season opening day! If the ‘Snow Gods’ bless us with their white gold in late October, our dogs are more than ready to move back home from Training Camp and welcome our first guests out on a sledding adventure.
To the untrained eye, you may not realise how much work goes into getting everything ready for the first tour of the season. Training the dogs in the autumn is a full time job. Our huskies are the same as any athletes, without good training they cannot simply jump out of bed and run a marathon!
Autumn training is 2 – 3 months of intensive and carefully planned training. Autumn time is also the time to try out youngsters in lead, observe potential dogs for the racing team and also encouraging the dogs to let off steam in the big free-run area where they can socialise and play.
Once the winter season begins, both staff and dogs all fall into the winter ‘bubble’
Our tours run 7 days a week, and we welcome over 300 guests each week in the peak season. It is just ‘go, go go’. Christmas is always the peak time before things slow down a bit in January and then pick back up again in the school holidays.
February is my favourite time of the year. The sun comes slowly back, peaking over the mountains and offering bright pink skies and incredible light sparkling on snow. The youngsters are now more used running in the dog teams and any new staff are into a slick, efficient routine with hours of practice behind them. The scenery of Kvaløya at this time of the year feels magical. It is my paradise on Earth. Guests often say to me “It must feel so good to be on holiday the whole year around” – in these moments I can only agree.
Our day trips on Kvaløya are usually around 10 – 15 km
When the sun gets stronger and the snow starts to melt and crumble – thats usually the sign for our dogs to get super excited for something big to come! At the end of the dog sledding season here on Kvaløya, we welcome back guests who have been ‘bitten by the bug’ and have taken the plunge to sign up for one of our weeklong trips.
The dogs know that it is adventure time when they see the big dog trailer taking up its place in the dog yard. Sleds are strapped down onto the roof of the trailer and all of the rest of the kit goes into the van. Then we are ready to embrace the 300km of Scandinavian wilderness ahead of us.
For the weeklong trips, I only select the younger and stronger adult dogs for the teams. Puppies and oldies get to stay home, enjoying some extra attention and some relaxing snowshoe in our ‘backyard mountains’.
The weeklong trips begin in late March and run until the end of April.
By the last weeklong trips, most guests are sledding in t-shirts and sunglasses!
Springtime; April and May
Springtime is the time of straw raking and cleaning. We call it our washing and relaxing month! Lots of our guides take some time off to rest and rejuvenate before the summer season starts. But springtime is also an exciting time to be home at the kennel. Those dog handlers who are around during this time may get the chance to have a say in choosing puppy names.
There is always a big fight over who gets to decide the puppy names; but we always come to a good agreement since they are all just so adorable
Usually we have two to three litters of puppies in spring/summer. This always depends how many older dogs we expect to hang up their harness and hop onto the sofa into retirement over the summer. We love getting regular updates on our pensioner huskies, seeing them adapt to swapping their cosy straw houses for soft blankets and family life. I strongly believe that our dogs deserve the best retirement home we can find after they have worked so hard for us as sled dogs. It is hardly a surprise to me that we have so many people who want to welcome an ‘oldie’ into their family as they are so sweet natured, adaptable and just love being around people.
Summertime; June to early August
June and July are the time when the cruise ships arrive in Tromsø. With the charm of the midnight sun, lighting up our days 24/7, the Arctic is also a fantastically unique destination in summertime as well. Pro tip: investing in ‘black out’ curtains is essential during this time of the year!
Coming from the polar night into 24 hour sunlight gives you such a happy, positive feeling when your surrounded by the beauty of nature
If the temperatures are not too high we take the dogs on hiking trips (using little creeks and rivers to keep them cool), or even drive wagon trips with a team of 14 dogs. We sometimes return early to Training Camp to let the dogs stretch out and run free in our big fenced off enclosure. It is still so important to keep the dogs moving in these summer months, but carefully managed to prevent overheating. While the grown ups dogs are ‘sunbathing’ and relaxing their muscles most days, our little tiny puppies are growing braver day by day to leave their mum’s side and take mini explorations into the garden and of course enjoying all the attention from our visitors.
Autumn time again; August to October
When the temperatures begin to drop and the mosquitos decide that it is too cold to torment us any more, that’s the time when we move back to the forrest to begin a new season of autumn training. New guides join the team from all over the world, there are lots of new things to learn.
How long would it take for you to remember the names of each of our 120 huskies?
From our dog’s point of view, Training Camp is heaven on earth. After a hearty breakfast, they spend the day training in their teams pulling the quad bike, running loose in the free-run area with their friends or relaxing in the forest with the sun warming their muscles. After a summer of rest, for a breed like the Alaskan Husky, there is nothing better. Once the dogs arrive at Training Camp, they all know what to expect – and certainly in the first few weeks it is a lot of work to contain their enthusiasm!
Having joined Arctic Adventure Tours in summer 2015, I have watched plenty of seasons come and go. Although in theory the recipe is the same every year, no season is ever identical. As Kennel Manager I love to watch the dogs develop from fluffy balls into incredible athletes. I meet people from all over the world. I face different challenges at every turn and each day I learn something new.
The ‘year of the dog’ is an intense one, but I wouldn’t swap it for anything