Ear rubs and chin strokes are part of the package at Braeburn Siberians.
The Windsor dog sledding company, owned and operated by Kathy Bennett and Alex MacLennan, is dedicated to sharing what Siberian huskies have to offer: unconditional love, respect, and remarkable energy. It’s clear that after an outing on the trails, Kathy and Alex want their dogs to get full credit for the ride.
“Don’t thank me, thank the dogs,” Kathy cheerfully tells us after a 30-minute dog sledding excursion at the Path of Life Garden in Windsor. We follow her lead, petting and thanking the Siberian huskies for a wonderful trek through the cold Vermont snow.
With names like Aster, Juno, Aspen, and Phoebe, the huskies are helping to keep Kathy and Alex’s sledding business running like clockwork during the winter months. Most of all, the dogs get to spend the coldest months of the year doing what they truly enjoy.
Adventures of Dog Sledding in Vermont
Kathy and Alex started Braeburn Siberians more than a dozen ago after their daughter Elizabeth, then 9, expressed an interest in dog sledding. Since dog sledding had long intrigued Kathy and the couple were already avid dog lovers, the idea was a natural fit.
Sled dogs have coexisted with humans for many thousands of years in the northern regions of North America and Siberia. That coexistence and partnership is the very foundation of dog sledding, Kathy says.
“When you get to be with dogs at this level, you learn about pack behavior and ‘dog speak.’ So much of their communication is body language,” says Kathy, an educational consultant specializing in literacy and dyslexia. “What I love most is that these dogs would much rather work with you than for you. You just need to earn their respect.”
Kathy and Alex, a vegetable farmer, started their enterprise by adopting two, eight-year-old expert lead dogs to train them in dog sledding 14 years ago. They built a wheeled cart (called a rig), put together the kennel, and mowed trails on their property to get started. Their effort and investment paid off as they now have 41 Siberian huskies and bookings throughout the winter with people coming from as far away as California and the United Kingdom.
For anyone who has misgivings about dog sledding, it’s important to know how much love and attention these dogs get every single day. “They’re family,” Kathy says, adding, “They’re doing what they love.”
Dog sledding is in a Siberian husky’s bones. The Chukchi people of northeastern Siberia originally developed the Siberian husky to be an endurance sled dog and to herd reindeer. During the short summers, they roamed free on the tundra, fending for themselves before returning to the villages. These two historical activities put predatory drive and a desire to run into the dog’s genetic code, Kathy says.
More than anything, Kathy and Alex want people to know their dogs are loving, hardworking, and loyal.
“There’s a bond you get working with them,” says Alex. “You could be on a somewhat difficult trail with them in the middle of a storm and you can trust that they won’t put you in harm’s way.”
The couple is of Scottish descent and named the business Braeburn Siberians because their kennel is located next to a hill and brook. “Brae” is the Gaelic word for hillside, and “burn” is Gaelic for stream/brook. Braeburn is also a checkpoint in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, a 1,000-mile race that runs between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon every February.
“We’re passionate about what we do,” Kathy says. “The most rewarding thing is being outside with the dogs and making people happy.”
**If You Go: Braeburn Siberians offers 30-minute rides on Fridays and Sundays and two-hour excursions on Thursdays and Saturdays (plus Tuesdays and Wednesdays during holiday weeks) between December and March. Visit www.braeburnsiberians.com or call 802-738-8337.