Follow Me Foodie to Muktuk Adventures!
Visiting 130 sled dogs and lunch at Muktuk Adventures.
I think I met more dogs than people during Follow Me Foodie to the Yukon. If you think Vancouver, BC (my hometown) is a dog city, then wait until you see the Yukon.
The breed of dogs are completely different though. They’re not the tiny little dogs with painted toenails, haute puppy couture, Gucci booties, Tiffany dog collars, Louis Vuitton carriers and gluten free diets, these dogs are tough mutt-ers. Ha! See how I did that there? “Tough Mudder” and “tough mutt-er”… I tried. Anyways these dogs could probably finish the Tough Mudder challenge faster than most humans.
Welcome to Muktuk Adventures and meet the 130 dogs.
I’ve never seen anything like it. To be honest, I was asked if I wanted to visit a “Musher’s Yard” and I didn’t even know what one was. I thought it was a grape stomping wine making facility, or baby food facility, and I had to look it up to confirm. I quickly learned it was a dog yard and I was surprised I didn’t remember because my grade 5 teacher was obsessed with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. We even had to do class projects on it. Being in a new place I was game for all Yukon festivities and activities – food-related or not.
Meet Yukon Quest Legend Frank Turner and his wife Anne Tayler (Anne not pictured) who are the owners and operators of Muktuk Adventures. They have dedicated their lives to raising 130 Alaskan huskies, many born, raised and retired on the property.
Frank is one of the Yukon’s most successful dog mushers. He’s been in the Yukon Quest 24 out of 25 times, crossed the finish line 17 times, and placed in the top 6 ten times, and finally won the 1600km race once.
I had no idea what to expect, but I knew the political protests against it. Animal cruelty is always of concern when it comes to using animals for entertainment purposes, but I didn’t sense any of it here. The dogs are chained up and have a cubby hole box they sleep in, but this is standard at mushing yards. It might look depressing, but these dogs are another breed and they’re meant to be outside in tough conditions. They can go inside, but they risk overheating.
I don’t know much about the Alaskan Husky breed, but some of them looked part wolf. It was intimidating yet intriguing. Some of them looked dangerous, but like most dogs they just need to smell you and they’re friendly. They are not trained to attack and would do so only if provoked.
So going back to the animal cruelty thing… not here, well from what I know and saw. The dogs were well taken care of and treated and they don’t put them down until they need to be (after veterinarian’s approval). They have regular check ups from veterinarians, see chiropractors and get treated when they’re sick.
Anne, Frank, and their staff treat the dogs like children and they take social, ethical and environmental responsibility in day to day operations. They have solar powered electricity, water from a well, recycling and composting and an organic greenhouse with homegrown veggies – see more here.
Frank has a masters degree in social work and moved to the Yukon in 1973 from Toronto and pursued dog racing as a hobby. His name is notorious in Canada for dog sled racing and he has nothing to hide. Everyone knows him as one of the most ethical and responsible tour operators when it comes to dog mushing which can be controversial.
These dogs certainly get their daily exercise and while I didn’t go for a dog sled ride, I wouldn’t oppose to it next time. After seeing the operations and learning more about dog mushing I was feeling confident about the business.
Competitive mushers depend on these dogs, and the good ones invest in giving them the best welfare. I can’t write much more about it, and I’m barely scratching the surface of what there is to learn and know, but it was my first introduction, impression and experience, and I’m pleased to say it was positive.
All of the dogs get their daily exercise (minus the retired ones, who still walk around the yard, but as they please) and their diets include Redpaw dog food for super active dogs (they spend $40 000/year on dog food), and then arctic char! Take that Vancouver dogs! And you thought you were being spoiled?
I was shocked they got fed Arctic Char, but I learned afterward it was usually freezer burn Arctic Char from restaurants who couldn’t serve it anymore, which is appropriate and makes sense.
Although these dogs don’t have their “painted toenails, haute puppy couture, Gucci booties, Tiffany dog collars, Louis Vuitton carriers”, they are treated with as much love and care.
So as cute as those puppies were, there had to be a food aspect to this whole experience… and there was! And no, no, no, the dogs were not being served, so don’t even go there, but after dog sledding activities, they also offer a lunch service.
Lunch was house smoked Arctic Char (amazing), bison burgers and elk sausage served with a simple salad. Unfortunately the elk and bison were not local, for reasons I mentioned in Follow Me Foodie to the Yukon.
Basically, they do not have an abattoir to process the meat and the government only invested in a mobile abattoir in 2006. They have some elk farmers, but they can’t sell their elk meat due to government restrictions. People can hunt for animals and serve it at private and personal functions, but it cannot be retailed in any context. This article explains it better.
The lunch is prepared by one of the girls who lives at the house and helps take care of the dogs. In the Yukon, it’s a standard trade off to provide free room and board to anyone helping care for dogs at a musher’s yard. They have maybe 6 or so helpers there, and with 130 dogs they need it.
The culinary experience is rather recent and I think it’s a great idea to tie in with the dog sledding. It’s first and foremost about the dog mushing experience, but the home made lunch is a nice addition, and I’ll never pass up an opportunity to eat.