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KONA IS NO damsel in distress. For starters, she’s a dog — a white Alaskan husky, to be exact. But the story of her rescue does carry a whiff of fairy tale (spoiler: it has a happy ending). Before Kona arrived in Golden, B.C., to trot off into her snowy sunset, she was in a rough spot in Saskatchewan. (The details aren’t entirely clear but indicate she was neglected by an ill-equipped dogsledder stretched too thin.) She was saved from that life by her current musher-cum-prince Charming, Matt Parr. When I first meet Kona and Parr, they’re snuggled on a couch next to a crackling potbelly stove, Kona gazing into the blue eyes of the man who’s devoted his life to saving pups in similar positions. Over the past 11 years, Parr has rescued some 50 dogs. He has trained and successfully found homes for most of them with nearby farms and families. But 14 of those dogs now run for Parr’s Golden Dog Sled Adventures, the touring business he launched in 2013 in the town best known for skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. A tour with Parr, however, is an opportunity not to be missed for visiting winter enthusiasts. It offers an introduction to the tradition of dogsledding and a heartwarming story of a man dedicated to saving sled dogs. People have been using dogs as a means of snowy long-distance travel for centuries; the earliest evidence of sleighbound dogs dates back to AD 1000 and the Thule people of Canada’s North. From their history as mail-carriers in northern Canada and Alaska to the famous lead sled dogs Togo and Balto — who relayed medicine by team to a remote Alaskan village suffering from a diphtheria outbreak — to the fictional Buck from Jack London’s 1903 novel The Call of the Wild, sled dogs have long held a special place within the northern narrative. Today, the human-dog transportation relationship is less about survival and more a matter of lifestyle. Some opportunistic sledding outfits, says Parr, take advantage of aspirational dog-lovers and prioritize profits above the health of their charges. Some owners have simply grown too old for the business, he notes, but are too attached to their dogs to let them go. Parr says the small size of his outfit — he caps his capacity at two teams — is what makes it particularly special. “People want to see the connection, that bond, between the musher and the
A team of huskies owned by Golden Dog Sled Adventures rests on a trail in Golden, B.C.
0 20 km ALBERTA BRITISH COLUMBIA ALBERTA Enlarged area 93 BANFF NATIONAL PARK GOLDEN DOG SLED ADVENTURES BRITISH Donald YOHO NATIONAL PARK Lake Louise Blaeberry Field Rogers Pass Golden 1 GLACIER NATIONAL PARK C o l u m bi a Ri ve r 1 95 KOOTENAY NATIONAL PARK COLUMBIA