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Rescuing huskies a life-long passion

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Two generations of travel seen in Port Elgin - four legged and four wheeled

They are loyal, social and love to run.  They are the  sled dogs of Victor and Trish Hutter of Bruce County.

The Hutters, who lived at Deep River in the Ottawa Valley when Victor Hutter worked for Hydro One, got their first sled husky some 30 years ago.

"Trish [Hutter] and I were cross-country skiers," says Victor Hutter, "and I always wanted a dog.  We had looked at German Shepherds but decided on a Husky.  He went with us when we skied and pulled us along.  Because there were two of us, we then got another dog.  When one of us couldn't ski though, the other then had two dogs to contend with, so I decided to make a sled."

The first sled Hutter made was a make-shift from cross-country skis and other bits and pieces but it served the purpose and, as a result, along came a third dog.  Before they knew it, the Hutters were  rescuing huskys from kennels and various abuse situations.

Today, the Hutters have eight sled dogs that Victor Hutter runs every second day.  "When we get a new young dog, or even one not so young, we start out training in a one-to-one environment," says Hutter.  "The dog goes through a variety of training techniques, including, pulling a wheeled cart before ever progressing to a sled." 

The dogs range in age from the new three-month old addition, Rocky, to the matriarch, Kira, at 15 years.  "She's a wonderful dog," says Hutter. "Her heart is strong and she's healthy.  In 2006, when we did a run of the entire Bruce Peninsula, over 430km, she went on the run with no problem."  Hutter prefers smaller, sleek dogs.  "They are fast, high energy and love to run," he explains.

As a social group, the dogs determine the hierarchy for themselves.  The 'alpha' dog [dominant leader], Yukon, was a young dog that challenged the older, more experienced, Ryker.  Despite the fact that Ryker is 40 per cent wolf and larger, he defers to the young alpha male, although he still will stand his  ground.

The Hutters have adopted out many Husky dogs, both Alaskan and Siberian.  The dogs are rescued and often require much socialization.  "Once we think a dog is trained and socialized, we can then look at adoption," explains Hutter.  "We fully consider any family that wants to adopt and, once we determine a family is a candidate, they can then take the dog for a two week trial - we have yet  to have a dog returned," smiles Hutter.

Hutter and his dogs have also worked with various organizations, including McGregor Point National Park, demonstrating the skills of sled-dogs.

"We are looking forward to the Rail Trail being completed all the way through to Kincardine," says Hutter.  "As it is now, we can go north from our home right through to the Bruce Peninsula along trails, but to go the other direction to Kincardine, we have to travel part of the way on roads and, although the dogs are okay with that, I don't like the traffic."

The lady, Kira, at 15 is the Matriarch

Making a turn in unison

Ryker, extremely intelligent and older has deferred to a younger alpha male ...

The new young 'alpha' leader, Yukon

Yukon and Hutter have a conversation about a treat!

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009