The sled dog world from a distance seems like one of romance and grandeur. I will not even begin to protest that I was, and still to a certain extent am, seduced by the lure of the sport and the lifestyle, but there are many things that must also be taken into consideration when entertaining the idea of working your way into the world. This article is intended as much as an account of my experiences as a bit of a guide for those of you out there Googling away on the whim of coming to Alaska with dog sledding on your mind. Please keep in mind that my experiences are mine and mine alone and, in large part, created by and representative of my own personality and the personalities of Goldstream Kennel. While I’m sure that there are many bonafied, well run and managed, successful kennels out there, I just didn’t happen to be so lucky.
I feel a little as though I should have been taken aback at a time when I was not. When I first met Karen and Andy in Anchorage to discuss the position advertised as “Handler, Manager, and Tour Guide wanted for Winter Tour Operation” I just sort of assumed that Karen was Andy’s daughter or Niece, not so. I suppose I’ll just leave it at that. Here’s a quick diagnosis of the ad: First, in order to run sled dog tours you would actually have to have tourists. Hence, even the root of the word is the same. During the course of my two month tenure there was not a single tourist that graced our presence, which immediately eliminates the tour part of the job. Manager, if there are no tours, and no tourists, there is not much left for managing and it is not as if you would ever get to actually manage anything anyhow as the guy who runs the joint, Andy, turned out to be an egocentric maniac with the people skills of a fourteen year old boy. And that’s giving the benefit of the doubt. That leaves handler, which basically boils down to kennel slave, you feed the dogs and shovel the shit while everyone else plays in the snow. Joy.
Now for the terms of the deal, room and board was of course included as well as a small salary and a bonus based on tourist traffic to be deposited in a savings account opened on my behalf and to which I would be entitled at the conclusion of my stay. Didn’t happen, no savings account was ever opened, no money was deposited, no tourists ever came, period. I’ve never been subject to people who will just stiff you and be done with it. I was stiffed. I learned my lessons. I did get a story and these experiences, but I was stiffed. Now I’m generally not one to take up the cause of maniacal retribution, but maybe search engine optimization and the good folks over at Google are. Hey, I’m just telling my story.
I suppose I started this article with the intent of bashing away and there is a lot that could be said, but I think that I’m going to cut it short and not say all of those things and let bygones be bygones for the time being. I’ll just conclude for the moment that Goldstream Kennel has sweet smelling skin, just be sure not to scratch the surface and you’ll have a wonderful time.
Update: Goldstream Kennels is now also using the name Alaska Outback Adventures, LLC