Whistler Animals Galore (WAG) has been working hard to find homes for dozens of sled dogs that formerly belonged to Outdoor Adventures Whistler, the local operator responsible for their care at the time of 2010’s tragic cull incident.
The non-profit has adopted out 55 former sled dogs in all, working in conjunction with Victoria’s SPCA, which helped find homes for 50 of the animals, including a litter of puppies. They’ve also spent a substantial amount of money covering the dogs’ medical expenses, paying for necessary surgeries and dental procedures.
“I think it’s part of our responsibility to (help the dogs), to help out the community,” said Dana Ewert, WAG’s shelter coordinator.
Following the cull, Outdoor Adventures Whistler donated 152 sled dogs and all the necessary materials to what would become the non-profit operator, The Whistler Sled Dog Co., which began sled tours in January 2012.
Wanting to reduce its numbers, Whistler’s newest sled dog operator turned to WAG to help them find homes for some of the older dogs who’s best sledding days were behind them.
“We’ve just been helping them to get their numbers down a little bit to a more manageable amount and finding the adoptable sled dogs homes. It’s more retired, sort of older dogs that can’t really work anymore,” said Ewert.
At the moment, WAG has four former sled dogs available for adoption, two of which, Windy and Beaver, have been at the shelter for five months.
The challenge, according to Ewert, is finding the right home for the dogs that may have difficulty adjusting to their new lives outside of sledding.
“The dogs that we have in shelter, Windy and Beaver in particular who’ve been here the longest, are very shy, so what they’re looking for is potential homes that have patience to work with them, patience and time and kind of a quieter home,” she said. “They’re not looking for a whole lot, a couple walks a day, they’re not crazy active anymore. Just a nice warm bed indoors. They’re looking to spend some time inside now.”
Ewert said potential owners looking to adopt one of the sled dogs should come to the WAG shelter for a few minutes every day for a couple of weeks in order to get to know the dogs.
“If you want to stop by and spend 10 or 15 minutes sitting with them, feeding them cookies, that’s basically what we’re looking for, someone who can come and spend some time and get to know them,” she said. “Their personality doesn’t come out until you spend that time with them.”
WAG regularly sends out surveys to new owners to see how the former sled dogs are adjusting to their home lives, and the feedback so far, said Ewert, has been promising.
“They’re really great animals, they’ve been adjusting to living indoors really well coming from living outdoors most of their lives. It’s actually, from everyone we’ve heard, seemed to be a very smooth transition for them,” said Ewert.
One of the 55 dogs adopted out this summer was Rumple, or Hank as he’s since been renamed, who hasn’t had any problems forgetting his former career pulling sleds.
“Hank has been a total blessing since I adopted him,” read an email from Maja Jensen, who adopted him in June. “We have created such a strong bond and he's become so social with every person and dog he meets. Most people I tell his story to are shocked that he was a sled dog. He seems so domestic,” she wrote, adding that Hank picked up several basic commands fairly quickly. This winter, Jensen said she plans to put Hank’s “sled dog skills to good use” by taking him for a skate ski trek through the Callaghan.
For more information on all the pets available for adoption, call WAG at 604-935-8364 or visit their website at www.whistlerwag.com.