Craig Lawrence and Carmen Baum from Snow Forest Adventures offer unique 2 to 10-day dogsledding expeditions and winter camping trips that will allow you to disconnect and immerse yourself in the outdoors as well as learn and improve your teamwork and dogsledding techniques.
Experienced and professional guides and instructors will make your Canadian wilderness experience in Algonquin Park, Temagami, and Northern Quebec, an unforgettable and life-changing adventure.
1. How and why did you get involved in mushing? Why are you passionate about it?
I worked in the field of animal rescue for a long time and have a background working with horses, but I was looking for something involving animals that was different – I just didn’t know quite what it was. I was on vacation in Alberta and found myself snowshoeing a trail that I probably shouldn’t have been on, and was quite surprised when several teams of dogs passed us. I looked at those dogs and the mushers on the sleds, and something inside me shifted. The pure joy on the faces of the dogs and humans was all it took to suck me in. I went home and started researching the topic right away, and was lucky enough to land a job with what I still consider to be the top touring kennel in Canada. I am thankful every day that I got my start learning from the best and working to such high standards.
My passion comes from the working relationship with the dogs; quite simply, there’s nothing else like it.
2. What has mushing taught you about leadership?
Mushing has taught me that every member of a team has something important to offer.
A good leader is imperative, but that leader also needs to be willing and able to work with every member of the team, recognize their unique abilities, and stay focused on the trail ahead.
3. How do you choose your dogs?
When choosing dogs, we definitely want one that is physically up to the task, but we are also looking for temperament and a dog that fits into our pack personality-wise, as they are our family and our companions.
4. What is a “good” sled dog?
A “good” sled dog is one who loves their job as much as we do. Of course, a sled dog needs to be physically capable in terms of their level of athleticism, thickness of coat and strength of heart, but equally important is their true and authentic enjoyment of being out on the trail and working as part of a team.
5. Can you please explain a little bit about the breeding process?
We don’t breed, but there is good reason behind it.
Because we are committed to not having more dogs than we can responsibly manage, we choose to get our dogs from other mushers with proven breeding programs. And….it’s much too hard on my heart to find alternate homes for puppies who don’t show potential as working dogs.
6. How important is teamwork in mushing?
Teamwork is everything in mushing – without it, everything is a struggle. Teamwork doesn’t apply only to dogs either, and a lot can be learned about the importance of it from them.
Both our canine and human teams must work together and rely on each other to live and thrive in a remote setting for days at a time; it requires a tremendous amount of trust and respect.
7. How do you house and what do you feed your dogs? How do you ensure their overall safety and wellbeing?
Our dogs live within the kennel on tether. We have found this to be the best option for us, as it allows us to move through the kennel freely, touching and interacting with each and every dog. It also allows dogs to interact and play with each other. Using this method allows us to better monitor each dog’s health and wellbeing much more fully and easily than if they were penned.
They live in dog houses that are raised up off the ground and filled with either straw in the winter, or wood shavings in the summer. Each dog has 2 bowls affixed to the side of their house to keep their food and water up off the ground and safe from spilling.
A clean, comfortable kennel environment is the first, and most important step in ensuring the wellbeing of our dogs.
Our dogs eat quality kibble year-round. When the temperatures drop and they start running, we add lots of meat and fat as needed to ensure they are reaching their optimum caloric intake daily, which is often different for each dog.
8. What do you do with your dogs when they retire?
When our dogs retire, they move on to the next stage of their lives and what that looks like is different for each one. The most important thing to note is that our dogs tell us when they are ready to retire. Often, they are adopted out to those who have been on trips with us and fallen in love with the dog. Our extensive Adoption Questionnaire must be filled out and, from there, we work with people to help ensure that the fit is right for both the family, and the dog. Because our dogs are family, they are well socialized and have spent time in our home, so the transition is usually pretty simple.
Our extended adoptive family is nothing short of fabulous, and there is absolutely nothing we love more than the updates we get from them. No dog that retires from our kennel is ever gone from our lives.
Each and every one of our dogs comes to us with the understanding and promise that they have a home with us for life. If we are not able to find them the perfect retirement home when the time comes, they retire to our home.
We have never, and will never euthanize dogs as a means of population control.
9. Are mushers born or made? Can mushing be learned and improved upon?
Some are lucky enough to be born into mushing families, but for those that are not, it can be learned, if you have the heart and are willing to put in the time and work. Being a true musher is not about standing on the back of a sled watching the world go by. It’s about endless hard work, dedication and a continual desire for the absolute best for your dogs.
I remember when being interviewed for my first job at a dog sled kennel – I was told that “dogsledding is the hardest thing you will ever do. It’s harder than climbing Mount Everest, every single day”. I came to learn quickly that it was not just a line meant to weed out those who didn’t have the heart, it was the absolute truth.
In terms of improvement , I think this is something that should be at the forefront of the sport. Not just improving your performance as a musher, but improving the way you do things when it comes to the dogs. There is always, always, ALWAYS room to improve!
10. What tips and tricks would you give to someone interested in getting started in mushing?
Being a musher is about living a life dedicated to the dogs. There is no place for ego or an agenda. It will test your limits and fill your heart every single day.
Do your research, find a good musher/kennel who needs help and learn everything you can. Don’t jump into anything until you have spent some time fully immersed in the experience and all of the work that is involved in the sport.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and try new things every chance you get!
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Snow Forest Adventures
1162 Tom Parris Trail Dwight, Ontario, P0A 1H0