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YUKON ENCOUNTERS - The Dog Musher

August 15, 2018

 Meet Linda Fair, her 11 dogs and 4 cats - first person in recorded history to cross Canada from Coast to Coast (5000 miles) by Dog Team on a tricycle!

 

Linda was featured in "Ripley's - Believe it or not"

 

You can find her most days of the week at the small community library in Carcross - Yukon, welcoming you with her smiley hazel eyes and her stories about her unique life. Born and raised by a very conservative family in Alberta, she soon felt the need to travel out of her hometown in addition to taking up lots of jobs during her life – manager of a show horse stable, Registered Nurse, Animal Health Technician, Computer Maintenance Technician…and finally ended up in the Yukon where she felt she has always belonged.

 

Surrounded by pine forest and her friendly 11 dogs and 4 cats, her off-the-grid log cabin welcomes us with a lovely smell of food – she’s cooking a pot full of meat, beetroots and carrots for her dog Kiper who has cancer and needs a special healthy meal. Everywhere you turn there’s an object which tells you a little bit about her peculiar life. On the floor, four dog crates make sure her dogs get a warm sleep during Winter time – she tells us the youngest of her crew does pretty well even at -20 degrees Celsius but they might suffer more in Summer time.

 

Linda's kitchen in her wooden off-the-grid cabin in Carcross, Yukon

 

After our good friend Keith, her neighbor, told us about her unbelievable journey of 5000 miles across Canada pulled by a dog team from one coast to the other on a tricycle, leaving home with two dimes, a nickel and a pocketknife (check out her interview with CTV here ), we couldn’t stop asking questions about her adventures finding her surprisingly humble when she talks about her life. She wrote two books about her adventures, called “Five Dog Night” Volume 1 and 2 (check them out at authorsden.com) and after reading her extraordinary deeds, you can only feel honored to meet such a special person and try the tricycle she used on her expedition between 1998 and 2002. She invited us to have a try on driving it on a Summer rainy morning and this experience will never leave our memory.

 

Linda and her three-wheeled tricycle

 

First, she showed us around her dogs to get them accustomed to us – she keeps them on the leash around her house and the youngest of the team are in two big cages. They are quite noisy, barking and moving along the cable line she built for them to move more freely (each leash is attached to a cable and dogs can slide up and down it for few meters). However, as soon as you offer them some cuddles, they are the tamest dogs.

 

One of Linda's oldest dogs, Keeper (14 y.o.)

 

She explains she feeds the dogs 2-3 hours before any dog sledding session to avoid their stomachs to turn upside down and get entangled when they are full as this can easily happen when they run that much.

 

Secondly, she takes us out by car on the intricate roads and trails in the forest behind her cabin and she tells us to memorize the path – she takes many turns and I already fear I will forget it as soon as I am back at her cabin.

 

Third, she gets the tricycle ready for us attaching it with a system of metal chains to her car for easy release once the dogs start to pull. She then chooses two of the oldest dogs, Kipper (14 y.o.) and Mac (7 y.o.), short for “Macadamia Nut” (his sister’s name is Hazelnut), and shows us how to harness them and attach them to the tricycle. You can tell they are very excited and as soon as Fabio sits on the vehicle and releases it from the car, they start pulling like crazy and after 2 minutes Fabio and the dogs are around the corner and disappear from the view. When back after a good 15 minutes, he tells us Mac wasn’t pulling much and that would probably be because it was his first time pulling the tricycle for a stranger. Mac was a little bit disoriented and was probably expecting Linda to ride the tricycle instead.

 

Fabio after his ride with Mac and Keeper on Linda's tricycle

 

Soon enough is my turn and Linda choses two different dogs for me, Stella (6 y.o.) and Frankie (14 y.o.). Not a great start as the dogs start pulling the opposite way of where we were supposed to go, however, as soon as we’re taking the right direction nothing can stop them and I really struggle to maneuver the tricycle. I finish a couple of times inside the bush and capsize twice. I`m full of mud just after 10 minutes out and struggle to keep on the path.

 

Luckily the dogs understand I`m a complete mess and slow down obeying to my “stay/stop” commands. Few days after this experience my legs will still be full of black and blues from the falls but my heart full of gratitude for having experienced all of this!

Silvia after her ride with Stella and Frankie on Linda's tricycle

 

I can’t imagine how Linda managed to keep her tricycle straight on the road with -20-30 degree Celsius temperatures and snowstorms while being pulled by five dogs during her coast to coast trip! Her weird-looking vehicle (a three-wheeled tricycle and a two-wheeled trailer attached) was dubbed the Mushmobile and she called herself and her team of five dogs the “Muttly Crew”. Probably the best way to describe her journey is just reading through some of Linda’s words from her first book.

 

This is probably my favourite part of all: “It is still a beautiful world. There are still a lot of very good people in it. You can have your dreams. Just go out and do them.”

 

Linda cooking for her dogs in her kitchen

 

All of my dogs are second-chance boys, strays, runaways, give a-ways, mutts, the lot of us, me included. We have discovered that if you love each other and treat your team members with respect, there is nothing that can not be accomplished by all pulling together. I believe the whole world is one team, wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if we treated each other with love and respect and all pulled together.

 

We had a delicious salad with fireweed flowers with Linda after our rides

 

Picture this: A petite blonde lady sits in a tent surrounded by five sled dogs listening at “As it happens” on CBC radio and scribbling furiously in her journal with a pencil (ballpoint pens do not work well in the -20 degree Celsius range). She is comfortable in her hand sewn and beaded moose-hide mukluks, and with a cheery navy studded with bright red maple leaf ski pants on her legs and on top, her Canadian owned business jacket. A flashlight is in the other gloved hand, lighting the way for the pencil across the paper.I`ve just described the Muttly Crew at rest in our usual late evening routine. Mork, Bug, Dexter, Harley and King Ted are my five “Second chance” boys. Like me, Linda Fair, they are Mutts with a story, usually a sad one, behind them. Together we share the hazards and fortunes of the wonderful journey.”

 

Linda's cute cat waiting for cuddles

 

Many people have travelled this road before. But, few have done it on the spur of the moment, with a budget of two dimes and a nickel, for the purpose of raising people’s awareness of the wonders of this country and its people. Not to mention trying to encourage appreciation of what we have in this world.”

 

 

 

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