Kathy, You moved here in 1975 from New York City, how did you get ever get involved in dosledding?

I had never seen or even heard of dog sledding when I moved to an Athabascan Village in Interior Alaska. One snowy morning, I looked out my cabin window and was absolutely stunned to see a fur clad Athabascan man gliding silently across the snow ... pulled in a sled by eight brown dogs!

What a fantastic sight! A few days later, a dog musher named Barbara Carlson offered to take me for a ride in her dog sled. Several miles into the forest, she let me ride the runners and she sat in the sled. This experience changed my life.

That winter I had the chance to run the dogs of a local teacher who had no time to take care of them. I knew nothing about sled dog ... except that they were attached to the front of a sled. So ... the sled dogs and I had daily adventures, mishaps, wild dog sled rides through the trees and sometimes into them. I was fascinated.

Let me interrupt for a minute Kathy. What does it mean to “run the dogs of a local teacher?” {kathy.... fill this in for me.....}

In 1980 I had the opportunity to help train the sled dogs of an Iditarod winner in the Wrangell Mountains. It was exhilarating it was to fly through the wilderness behind animals with tremendous speed and endurance. Every day was an adventure, some brought me to the edge of disaster (but that is another story). I felt intensely alive and very much in the moment. My previous existence left me wondering daily what life was all about. That question has never crossed my mind since coming to Alaska. I have been driving dogs full time since that trip to the Wrangell Mountains.

Kathy, You said you’d been "driving dogs full time." Don't most people say "mushing dogs?"

Well Terri, "Dog driving" is a more descriptive term than the common "dog musher." The word "mush" probably came from the early French Canadian fur trappers word for their 2- or 3-dog team’s ‘marche’ or ‘walk.’ We really don't use the term any more at all.

Dog drivers seem to have the reputation for a pretty special relationship with their dog team. It is kind of romanticized by the general public. Can you explain that relationship to us Kathy? How special is it, really?

It is very special and it is hard to put it in just a few words Terri. The relationship between a dog driver and her team evolves with the time and care she (or he) gives her animals ... I've had a really psychic connection with 2 or 3 of my lead dogs through my 33 years. We communicated without words or gestures in tough times, and it was because of their talents. I have been brought to tears of awe watching what they have done for me.

What happens is this; I am the dogs’ manager, trainer, their leader, their nurturer. They respect me and are willing to listen to me. When we come together as a team, there is tremendous power and speed. I accept no rebellion, they know we have to all work together, or there will be consequences, usually deadly.

There has been not one minute since that day in 1975 when I am respectful of what they can do. My job is to feed them properly, take care of their feet, make sure their harnesses fit well and have good padding around the shoulders too, and I know what they are capable of and when to stop.

What ARE Alaskan sled dogs capable of Kathy?

They run, they pull, they work. And they love it! On a good trail we can cover 10 or more miles an hour, depending on the dogs, the weight in the sled and trail conditions. They can easily cover, 60 miles in a day (that’s 6 hours), over 100 miles in a race if we've trained for it.

I'm telling you Terri, Alaskan sled dogs pull not only with their bodies but with their hearts! Neither should be broken. They will work until their teens if you learn who they are, what they need, and treat them as the finest endurance athletes in the world. Because they are!

It sounds like the dogs require a lot of physical training, they need to really be in shape to pull heavy loads and to run races. What about you ~ do you need to be in good shape as a dog musher ... Er, I mean, "dog driver?"

These dogs are athletes! The truth is my abilities are inferior to theirs. However, you need to know, dog drivers don't just ride around on the sled like Queen of the Tundra!

It takes strength and endurance to balance on the sled, run up and down mountains, turn corners with the right amount of speed, have lightening quick reflexes (a loose team will run far and fast). This has been one of the greatest ongoing learning and training experiences of my life. Dog drivers have to stay in really good shape to be able to keep up with our dogs.

Flying over the tundra under the stars and the Northern Lights behind a team of dogs! Wow... that's something I can only imagine right now. I wanna try it. Kathy, you own an Alaskan dog sledding business, with a dog sledding school right? So people can come to you and spend a half a day learning how to drive a dog team. I assume you outfit them in proper winter gear, and a good team of dogs (what are the dogs names, by the way?) Tell us a little bit about dog sledding school!