By Linda Cole
Animals are such amazing creatures, and we can learn a lot from their attitude about a disability. Life continues, regardless of what happened to cause a disability. I grew up with someone who had a debilitating disability, and I've also dealt with a dog that was deaf and blind. I learned from my mom and my dog that the best way to live with a disability is to simply keep on living the best you can. So when I run across stories that exemplify courage and determination, in disabled humans or dogs, they catch my attention. Gonzo, an eight year old Alaskan Husky, is blind but he continues to run with his team pulling a dog sled, with a little help from his brother, Poncho.
Gonzo's life changed three years ago when kennel manager Ben Morehouse noticed the dog tripping over his food bowl. After a variety of failed treatments, everyone realized the dog would soon be blind, and there was nothing they could do to stop it. But Gonzo is a sled dog, and he couldn't wait to get back on the trail with his team. He wasn't going to let a little thing like no sight stop him from enjoying life.
Now, the brothers nudge each other with their heads and noses in their own special way of communicating with each other. When Gonzo is running, he uses his sense of hearing, touch and smell to help him navigate. He's adapted to his disability and instead of watching a trail he can't see, he pokes his nose into the wind and tilts his head to listen. Very few dogs would allow another dog to invade his personal space the way Poncho has allowed Gonzo to do.
Beaulieu takes in retired sled dogs and rescued sled dogs, some that were living in bad situations. Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel, where Gonzo and Poncho were born, is also a no-kill shelter. They give sled tours, 20 minute trips and 50 mile overnight trips to raise money to help support the kennel that houses 120 dogs. Beaulieu's desire is to find forever homes for the rescued and retired dogs. His commitment to the dogs that aren't adopted is a home and a job for the rest of their life.
The Alaskan Husky is an intelligent, strong and friendly dog. They have plenty of stamina and love to run. The breed is a little bigger than a Siberian Husky, with a leaner body, shorter coat and longer legs. Denali National Park and Reserve has had their own breeding program of Alaskan Huskies since the beginning of the park, and they use teams of sled dogs to patrol the back country during the winter months to protect the land and wildlife living in the park.
Photos courtesy of Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel
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