Nearly 40 running and barking Chinook sled dogs raced at Perley Pond on Saturday, February 28 at the first annual Folley Road Dog Follies. The snow-packed road and pond were taken over by dozens of dog sleds from the Chinooks New England! club as the dogs and their owners raced each other for the pure joy of being outside on the bright and sunny warm day.
In the winter Folley Road is plowed from Route 114 in North Sebago as far as Perley Pond. From there until almost Route 107 in Center Sebago the road in winter belongs to snowmobilers and cross country skiers. But on Saturday the dogs owned Folley Road. The atmosphere was festive with people visiting back and forth and admiring the dogs tethered on lines in the woods along the road. One- and two-dog teams pulled light wooden sleds with small children and grandmothers, while cross country skiers hooked to eager Chinooks flew across Perley Pond. Teams of six and eight dogs were hooked to larger sleds for a longer seven-mile loop on the roads and trails in the area. At noon the club put on a feed to satisfy both man and beast.
At the outing there were dogs of every size and color, from a small Chinook puppy to a Saint Bernard. I talked with Jessica Maurer from Lewiston, the President of the Chinooks New England! club and the Chinook Owners Association. She said that most of the nearly 40 dogs at the outing were Chinooks, a breed that was originally a mix of a Greenland Husky and a Mastiff/St. Bernard-type dog. The dogs are a light brown in color and are known for their intelligence, power, endurance, speed, as well as their gentle disposition toward children. They are loyal family pets and are as devoted to their owners as their owners are to them.
Recalling stories about sled dogs from Jack London I asked Jessica if it was true that sled dogs were fed frozen raw fish. "No" she laughed. "I had heard that tale also, and one time I decided to see if it would work. I took some frozen smelt and gave them to my dogs. All of them turned up their nose at this disgusting raw fish except one dog."
"And that dog ate her fish?" I asked.
"No, she promptly took it outside and buried it in the back yard!" she said. "They eat regular dog food like any other dog." I guess that shows how much I know about sled dogs!
The first of the breed, named Chinook, was born in New Hampshire on January 17, 1917. Arthur Walden of Wonalancet, New Hampshire was Chinook's owner, and was famous as the lead driver and dog trainer for Admiral Byrd's 1929 Antarctic Expedition. Walden is credited with bringing the sport of sled dog racing to New England and founded the New England Sled Dog Club in 1924. With Chinook in lead, Walden and his "Chinook" dog sled team were the first to successfully climb Mount Washington.
Byrd wrote in his book Little America, "Had it not been for the dogs, our attempts to conquer the Antarctic by air must have ended in failure. On January 17th, Walden's single team of thirteen dogs moves 3,500 pounds of supplies from ship to base, a distance of 16 miles each trip, in two journeys. Walden's team was the backbone of our transport."
The Chinook breed was recognized by the United Kennel Club (U.K.C.) in March of 1991. Today over 400 purebred Chinooks are registered with the U.K.C. The Chinooks New England! club is affiliated with the Chinook Owners Association and is devoted to promoting the Chinook breed in the northeast. Every year they sponsor several events. The club held a winter fest at Hickory Hill Farm in Standish on February 22 with 38 dogs, and will hold their 2004 Chinook Olympics in York in July.
The Folley Follies was organized by Cathleen Griffin from Sebago. For more information on Chinooks, contact Cathleen at 207-787-3620, or Jessica at 207-783-4863 (e-mail at email@example.com). Also go to Chinooks New England! or the Chinook Owners Association websites.
Last updated March 1, 2004
Copyright © 2004, Allen Crabtree
Photos by Allen Crabtree except as noted
Copyright © 2004, Allen Crabtree