Rescued Huskies find their purpose as sled dogs – Dogster
Down the trail, the Huskies of Richie Camden’s Breakaway Siberians sled dog team propel themselves through the snow, their eyes shining with determination. In the living room, they collapse on each other and fall asleep. Pets first and sled dogs second, this team of underdogs came together one rescue at a time.
They race for fun and came last in their only competitive race last season, but forming Breakaway Siberians is the realization of a dream that began when Richie had just one dog. He and his first Siberian Husky, Koivu, were rollerblading in the park one day when, out of nowhere, Koivu came to a complete stop, almost tripping Richie in the process.
“Five feet away from us was another Siberian Husky wearing what looked like a chewed leash,” says Richie, who hooked the other end of Koivu’s leash to the obviously lost dog, tethering the two Huskies.
“I turned to go back to the car, hoping to find the owner of this dog on the way home, and we just took off. The two dogs were just flying with each other.
Richie says he remembers being quite nervous as his rollerblades picked up speed under him, but at the same time he was impressed with the intuitive teamwork he witnessed. The trio returned to the parking lot and were able to find the lost dog’s human, but Richie was a changed man.
“It was around then that I realized I wanted to get a job where I could, one, work with Koivu and two, it would be great to start a sled dog team,” he said. he recalls.
Richie didn’t let the fact that he lives in St. Louis, Missouri — with its hot summers and light snowfall — deter him from pursuing a dream more geographically suited to Alaska.
He went back to school to become a dog trainer, and while completing the volunteer hours required for the shelter, he noticed that Siberian Huskies were not uncommon when it came to rescues. When he started dating his future wife, Leah, Richie told her he wanted to start a sled dog team out of rescued Siberian Huskies. In 2010, the couple adopted their first rescued Siberian, Fleury, from Indy Homes for Huskies.
Over the next year, Koivu and Fleury became best friends and teammates. The two Huskies have done it all together, and Richie says when it came time to add a new member to the Indy Homes For Huskies team in 2012, the two pals weren’t impressed.
“When Spezza arrived, they avoided him a bit. They didn’t open up and received him very well.
A former wanderer, Spezza was shy and timid, more around Richie than Leah.
“He immediately took to Leah. Still to this day, the way he looks at Leah is just right with so much love in his eyes – and he finally looks at me that way too, now.
It took time to establish the confidence that helped Spezza, now 6, gain confidence, but with love, care and teamwork, he was able to find his role. Richie says he’s come such a long way, not only as a sled dog, but also as a pet and an official member of the Breakaway Siberians’ welcoming committee.
“Whenever we adopt a new dog, he’s always the first to accept and welcome him. It’s almost like he introduces himself and then takes them out and introduces him to the team,” says Richie. .
Over the past few years, Spezza has welcomed 10 other teammates into the house. Dogs that were abandoned for being destructive when crated are now thriving under Richie’s regiment of long runs and routine.
The list now includes 13 Siberian Huskies, including Koivu’s sister, Mikko, and Balto, who was originally Leah’s sister’s dog. The rest of the sled dogs – Kaiya, Roenick, Marleau, Backes, Bure, Mandy, Chara and Cookie – are from rescues including Free Spirit Siberian Rescue, Dogingham Palace Rescue, Gunner’s Run Rescue, Raven’s Husky Haven and Rescue, Dog Saver , Texas Husky Rescue, Adopt A Husky and Indy Homes for Huskies. Leah’s Pomeranian, Bebe, is the team’s honorary coach.
Despite (by Richie’s own admission) having no chance of beating the Alaskan teams, the Breakaway Siberians recently secured sponsorship from Diamond Naturals. These professional athletes may never win a race, but they will always be the happiest team on the track.