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Pets with Benefits

Pets with Benefits

This past weekend, Hilary and I went to my family’s cabin in Northern WI.  It is a simple log shack without running water or electricity that my G-grandfather built in the 1940s as a hunting cabin.  Anyway, it is a nice quiet retreat that we love to visit in winter when you can only access it by snowshoe.  This year, lack of heavy snows and some plowing early  on made snowshoes unnecessary to get to the cabin (although they were handy in the woods).  We went in on foot, hauling our gear on toboggan.  The first couple years we visited the cabin, this toboggan was pulled through the snow by me, but now life is easier as I let “Jolie the wonder-mutt” do the work for me.

Dogs were very common in most historical settings in North America, and in our area were almost a necessity for hauling goods, especially in winter.  Interestingly, as more and more reenactors are interested in historic dogs and having dogs for their historical interests, I see very few using them for hauling goods, whether with cart, sled, travois, or using packs.  Part of this may be due to the work involved and knowledge needed for training (as well as some historic sites do not allow “pets”), but I am proof that anyone can do it and would love to see more folks using dogs for work at historic reenactment.

Our dog, Jolie, is not heavily trained or worked in pulling.  For this reason, I prefer not to refer to her as a working dog but rather as a “pet with benefits.”  Since getting her as a rescue puppy, I have worked on obedience with her as well as some basic pulling commands in French and Ojibwe.  As she grew older, I built her a historic harness (as well as bought a modern one for training).  For the first few years, I worked with her fairly often but over the last few I have done less (partly due to lack of snow).  In spite of this, she has served us well, hauling loads of 100-200 pounds for short distances (up to a mile… sometimes farther).

Ahead are a few images of this past weekend as well as some historic images of dogs pulling sleds for fun!  Little more historical information will be shared in this but this is a topic with much more discussion to be held!

One Response to “Pets with Benefits”

  1. Bryce says:

    Great site! Thanks for all of the great information. A real pleasure to read!

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