go! Ready, sleddy, go! The dogs bark and cry, excited
Santa’s Carol’s pack could give money... reindeer a run for their
Dashing through the snow, In a four-dog open sleigh, O’er the fields we go, Laughing all the way… Well, there was no snow, but plenty of mud to dash around in!
Me and my team of huskies were Essex’s next best thing to Father Christmas and his reindeer.
‘They’re having fun aren’t they?’ I shouted to my husband, Alan, 52, on the sled next to mine as we rattled through a field, borrowed from a local landowner.
It was winter 2017 and we were dryland mushing – a version of dog sledding. My ‘sleigh’ was a three-wheeled rig – a bit like a tricycle – which I stood on as four huskies pulled me along. Alan’s was a scooter, with two dogs out in front.
It all began 12 years ago, thanks to a man down the pub.
The landlord at our local asked if his six-month-old husky could visit for a play date with our German shepherd Razor and Lurch the Lurcher.
The husky was called Wolf and lived up to his name – wild and not too keen on human contact.
‘We can’t cope,’ the landlord admitted when I rang to ask about
dropping him back. ‘Could you keep him, Carol?’ I was torn. Yes, I’d trained German shepherds but huskies were hard work, requiring a minimum of two hours’ exercise a day.
They can’t be left alone for long as they go stir crazy.
But I was beguiled by Wolf’s eyes – one blue and the other brown.
And the kids, Perry, 16, Warren, 15, Tyler, 10, and Mitchell, eight, were all keen.
‘OK,’ I gulped.
We began training and gaining each others’ trust immediately, but Wolf still had his moments – ripping up the carpet, pulling down curtains and chewing skirting boards – but he was intelligent and, in time, affectionate.
Soon people began to contact me about other huskies in need.
I adopted Spirit, after her owners had a baby; Taz, an unwanted Christmas present; and Angel, who someone put a note through my door about.
The day after she arrived, she leapt at our six-foot garden fence in pursuit of a cat!
‘Angel!’ I yelled, grabbing her as she teetered on top of the fence. We had to extend it after that with four feet of trellis and wire… And we put child gates up indoors. The dogs loved visitors but had to be introduced in pairs – otherwise there was the risk guests might suffocate under a tangle of fur!
‘I could make a mural of the huskies,’ a builder said while plastering the outside of our house.
‘OK,’ me and Alan agreed.
Soon we’d rescued two more huskies – Sky and Hunter – and organised chaos reigned.
There was the odd scrap – most memorably over a slug that Angel found and Wolf wanted. Then Spirit decided to jump in!
‘Steady,’ I snapped, banging two saucepans together. Huskies have bags of energy. So, when me and Alan discovered dryland mushing on the internet, we were intrigued. It was the perfect sport for huskies, we read, as the instinct to pull is innate in them…
We got the dogs used to wearing harnesses and taught them basic commands.
Then, one cold November afternoon, we took them out, secured them to the scooter – and they flew!
Witnessing their exhilaration at doing what they were bred for was a joy.
If Santa’s reindeer ever needed a day off, the huskies would deliver pressies in record speed.
But as cute as they are in winter huskies need lots of exercise, all year round. They’re for life, not just for Christmas!
Wolf’s an old man now, so hears about their adventures from the comfort of the sofa.
Driving to the field in our van, the dogs bark and cry, excited.
As we’re sorting out their harnesses they fidget and stamp their paws, as impatient as footballers on the bench at a World Cup final.
But once they’re off, they’re off!
Mush, mush – my huskies are sleighing it!
Carol Booty, 50, Chelmsford,
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We’ve got quite a pack of huskies now!
with Jane Common
Our house really stands out from the crowd!
Alan loves taking the dogs out for a ride