Don Hutton

Urban Skijoring with the ultimate dog guy

By the Get Leashed Doggy Style team

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In an unavoidable deviation from our traditional Doggy Style format, we’re focusing on someone that partakes in one of the most hardcore dog activities: Skijoring. You’d be hard-pressed to find many people that make a habit of strapping skis to their feet and attaching themselves to their dogs, but they’re out there, loving their life more than most. But take your search into the city and it becomes completely unlikely you’ll find anybody skiing through parks and ravines being pulled by two eager huskies. Oh wait, there’s one guy: Don Hutton. Don’s a seasoned dog sled tour leader (not in the city, because that would be crazy), a heavily-researched raw dog food chef, a past employee of the Humane Society, and the new proud owner of his own dog sled (okay, so you might see him sledding in the city soon) – all things that contribute to the label we’ve bestowed on him – the ultimate dog guy.

As dog lovers, we’re obviously big fans of people who dedicate the majority of their lives to dog care and culture, so it’s hard not to fawn over Don (or make up rhymes). But instead of going on, we’ll let this dog guy woo you with a bit about his life:

Tell us about yourself:

Currently, I work for Mama Earth Organics – they do home delivery of local and organic produce and goods. I’m super into food so it’s a good fit, but it’s not the end of the line for me. I’m currently taking animal training courses that will help me to further my dream of working with dogs and other animals full time.

I spend a lot of my spare time with my dogs; we go on adventures whenever possible. Otherwise, I like to cook and pickle things, I enjoy having drinks with friends and from time to time I take photos with big old cameras.

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Tell us about your pets:

Tenasi (or Ten for shIMG_1215ort) is a husky mix, but sometimes I just call him a sled-dog. When I got him I was longing for a dog in my life again. I love huskies and I’d been guiding dog sled tours for a couple years at this point. I’ve had him for 3 years now.

Merlin is a sled dog through and through; I adopted him nearly a year ago from a dog sledding touring kennel that I was working at. He’d run 9 years in lead and was at the age of retirement. I liked him because even though he’s a bit of an odd duck, I knew him to be super sweet. I was also super impressed with his ability as a lead dog; his work ethic is crazy! I hoped that that might rub off on Ten.

Personality-wise, they couldn’t be more different. Ten is a gregarious socialite, but super flakey; he’s got that classic cat-like husky aloofness. Merlin is a shy old man; I find that unbelievably endearing. He is tolerant of people and dogs but connects with very few.

How did you get into Skijoring?

About 6 years ago my partner and I adopted a bit of a mongrel in Dawson City, Yukon. He came to us with a dog sledding harness. Before long I was guiding dog sled tours in Haliburton. The same season I spent all my days off Skijoring with my two new husky pups, Emony and Ara. Skijoring is basically dog sledding but instead of the dogs pulling a sled that you stand on, they are connected directly to you and you wear x-country skis. It sounds a little crazy, and it is, until you sort out and agree on some of the details with your dogs. Once you’re all on the same page it’s the best!

Getting started really isn’t that hard, especially if you’ve already got some skis and boots. Beyond that your dog or dogs need a harness (ideally one intended for pulling) and you’ll need a comfortable belt or harness as well. I use an old climbing harness, but you can just wear a backpack with a waist strap. And finally you’ll need a ‘gangline.’ This can just be a leash, but I’d recommend something a little longer — about 3m is good. The last things you need are an easy, mostly flat trail and a positive attitude because you’re not going anywhere if your dogs aren’t having a great time.

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Tell us about this raw food diet:

(Please note: Get Leashed does not endorse a raw food diet. Consult a veterinarian before making any changes to your pet’s food intake).

About 10 years ago our family dog was on her way out. She barely got up, her coat was dull and clumpIMG_1298s of hair had fallen out leaving bare, flaky skin patches all over her. She was on a handful of meds, and a handful more to address the side effects of the first batch. Dietary alternatives weren’t nearly as common as they are today but someone suggested to my mom that we try out a whole food, raw meat diet. Incredibly, before our eyes, Marley came back to life and lived for another two years. I’ve been feeding raw/whole/home made ever since.

I feed my dogs this way because I believe good food is the best preventative medicine. That, and Tenasi has allergies. Fortunately, just after getting Ten I learned of a vet who had an “integrative practice” combining conventional veterinary medicine with other Eastern medicine modalities. She also believed that a solid diet was the foundation of great health. She was able to prescribe a diet that agreed with Ten.

What inspires you?

I try to live “an inspired life,” which means knowing what I most want in my life, what is most important to me, and making sure I don’t let those things fall to the wayside. I often think of my friends and family and my dogs. Adventures are important to me whether near or far. And I try to get in as much art, music and good reading in as I can.

A relationship-defining pet story:

In the fall of 2013 I loaded up my car and took off with Tenasi to spend the dog-sledding season in the Rocky Mountains near Banff and Canmore, AB. I’d had Ten for a year at this point. He was lovely and really great at a lot of things, but he was also a handful at times. I was about to introduce him to dog-sledding, but was a bit nervous. He had a harness, we’d skijored before, he’d even run in a small team of 3 onc, but this was going to be very different. We’d be running teams of 6-8 dogs, and these dogs were the real deal. I took it really easy on him at first, just a tour or two per day (9kms/tour) but he always seemed to have more energy. Eventually he would far exceed my expectations, running full days of 30-40 kms, back to back to back on a few occasions. I couldn’t believe it. He also stuck by me and listened better than ever. By the end of the winter I had recorded Ten running 1750 kms in 6 months! We capped all this off with more road tripping up to the Yukon and then all the way back to Toronto with our new pal Merlin. Ten and I have never been closer.