Dale Kondracki ’17 and Wren Holden ’17 spent this past spring in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, training sled dogs for the Iditerod. Here is what Dale has to say: This Co-op I am working at Nature’s Kennel, a dog race and touring Kennel in MacMillan, Michigan. My position is a caretaker, mostly, but it varies from what needs to get done. I enjoy it. The kennel is set up in three rows, each row with 48 homes. The rows are split in half and then numbered 1-6. Looking at the set-up, it is pretty easy to compare the kennel to a college dorm.
Dorm 1: a fraternity. This kennel is filled with big, loud males. They are the loudest, and range in all ages from seniors to new recruits.
Dorm 2: the co-ed dorm with those who are spayed or neutered. These are the race stars. Though the majority are male, the females hold their own. Here you are greeted by Cyborg, a white female who is the queen of the co-ed dorm, and Cupid, the long time resident who knows all there is to know about the kennel.
Dorm 3: The sorority. Here are all the breeding females. This is the kennel that I take care of. My favorite dog here is long time resident Wink, who, despite her age, could outrun any of her minors.
Dorm 4: the freshmen. Here we find the female puppies. They are young, energetic, and eager to run with their more experienced seniors. They have to realize how tough the job is actually going to be. But before they can tested for the race kennel, they need to be trained. This is why race and tour veterans Gail, Lickety, Caulie, Erie, Mussle, Sheldon, and Fedor have taken residence in the Freshmen Hall. They supply guidance by example, and the puppies frequently are walked and run with these older dogs for training. All puppies have great potential, and through the next few winters they will work on becoming the best of the sled dogs. A personal favorite of mine is Flip-Flop, the water shoe, who enjoys lakes just as much as snow.
Dorm 5 is empty, and Dorm 6 hosts the honor students. These are the dogs that show the most potential in all the dorms. All the dogs in this kennel are going to be tested for the official Iditarod Race Team. They are the strongest, brightest, and friendliest of the kennel.
We workers take up the position of RAs, chefs, teachers, and janitors. We feed every morning and night, scoop up their poop, and water them at least once before our own lunch, but as summer continues we will also water later on in the day. We fix what needs to be fixed and walk puppies, who are in the pre-school area. We walk older dogs and stop fights, and mostly just give them love.
If you would like to find out more about Nature’s Kennel, visit: https://www.natureskennel.com/