Inspired by books: Dogsledding

It’s hard to not be inspired by books. When I read about a delicious food in a book, I want to try it. When I read about an exotic – or even nearby – location, I want to visit it. And when I read about a fun adventure, I want to give it a try. Luckily, my children are just as excited to try new things as I am.

My second grader is very interested in reading books about dogs and right now he’s hooked on the Puppy Place series by Ellen Miles. My son is especially interested in huskies, so I knew he would really enjoy¬†Bear (The Puppy Place #14).

And I was right.

My son loved hearing about the fluffy husky pup and about the sport of dog sledding. So did my younger son, age 5 and my older son, age 10. We read Bear during a nice, snowy Pittsburgh winter and we talked about what it would be like to dog sled to school in our neighborhood. I admit, the boys weren’t the only ones interested in the adventure. I couldn’t resist a quick online search and learned that we could try dog sledding ourselves, less than two hours from our house!

On a chilly afternoon in February, we left Pittsburgh and headed south to try dog sledding at Nemacolin Woodlands. The Chateau was ¬†booked so we stayed at Fallingrock. Saturday morning the sun came up bright but it was almost 0 degrees outside. That didn’t stop us. We had a warm breakfast then headed to the Animal Wildlife center. We could hear the dogs barking and howling before we saw them.

dog sled 1

Dog sledding in Pennsylvania

As our driver took us up to the kennels, the barking grew louder and we realized we weren’t the only ones excited by the idea of a ride! The dogs leapt and yelped, each one clearly asking to be chosen for the harness. I settled into the sled for the first part of the ride with my 5 and 7 year old sons. The dogs slipped into their harnesses and pranced in place waiting for the command to go. The driver called out “Hike!” and we were off.

It was exhilarating to pulled over the sparkling snow, speeding through the freezing air. The dogs ran silent but some let their tongues waggle out of the side of their mouths. When the driver gave them a break, they turned back, watching for the moment they could go, go, go again.

The dogs stay outside year-round and in the summer they pull a wheeled buggy on shorter routes. To stay cool they wear ice vests. But in the winter months they are in their element. We wondered, like many probably do, if the dogs actually enjoy the task of pulling the sled. Once we had completed our ride, we could not deny the eagerness of the dogs to be chosen to pull, the energy and excitement they showed during the ride, the silent but expressive happiness of a dog who is healthy, active and strong.

I love that we had the chance to bring dog sledding to life for our boys. But even if we couldn’t experience it for real, I love that they are eager readers and can learn about the world around them from books like the Puppy Place series.