Monday 16.03.2020, 10:24

I have owned Huskies for over 12 years and currently have 7 dogs ranging in age from 2 years to 12. They all have different personalities. Some are quite lively, while others are calmer. Some are more dominant while others have a submissive role in the pack. Some love to be stroked constantly while others are more reserved. One thing they all have in common is that they love to run in harness. There is no better feeling than being pulled through the forest on a cold dark night with the Northern Lights dancing overhead. As my children became big enough, they would often come out with me in the sled. Usually after just a few kilometres, their excited chatter would stop and they would fall asleep as the dogs ran quietly through the woods.

Getting up and Running

During the summer of 2019, I first became aware of AirBnB experiences. They provide a platform for people to offer local experiences that can cover every conceivable activity from cooking or painting lessons to fishing trips and city tours. Having been an apartment host for a few years, I knew the platform well, so it was easy to design a new experience with my dogs for the Oulu area. I wanted to create an experience where I could share some of the stories that I have collected over the years, and at the same time, create new memories with the guests. I knew that I didn’t have enough dogs to offer sled tours. The 2019/20 winter season has been tough and the lack of snow has meant that sledding has been impossible for many weeks. The experience needed to be available all year round and I began to wonder if people would be interested in a more personal experience with the dogs.

First Happy Customers

Once I had created the “Walking with Huskies” experience and it had been live for a while, I was contacted by two young ladies who wanted to book the first walk. We met up and we started by introducing them to the dogs. I chose Robin, Kirma and Aurora, 3 of my older dogs, for this first trip as I knew that the ground would be icy, so it was important to have calm dogs who were old enough to know better than pulling for the whole trip! As we started walking, the conversations began to flow. I tried to give the guests the space to enjoy their own company but we also came together to chat quite often. We talked about the dogs, our lives and a whole lot more. I was able to tell some stories about each dog and something about their personalities and history. After a while, we stopped at a Laavu for some coffee. The guests took pictures of the dogs, and we spent 20 minutes petting the dogs, giving them treats and generally giving them lots of attention, before finishing the walk.

A Dose of Wellness

One of the guests told me that she had been very nervous before the walk having had some bad experiences with dogs in the past. By the end of the walk she was hugging all of the dogs and telling me how great they were. To see this transformation was truly eye opening and I have started to realise that the power of dogs goes beyond merely taking them for a walk. I was starting to see the potential of the Husky walks to have an impact on people’s health and wellbeing. While the dogs will always want to run in harness, they also have a gentle side to them that has the power to make people feel calm, relaxed and happy. The dogs take us on a journey that may last 2 hours or a whole lifetime. Regardless of the amount of time we spend with them, they touch our souls in a way that has to be experienced.

Ian Walker
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