Project Background

Why the Yukon Quest?  Why the Winterdance Race Team?

Personal connections to the Yukon, Winterdance Sled Dog Tours, and a member of the Winterdance race team, led me to create a study unit intended to inspire my students to learn prescribed curricula in a new and exciting way.

The Yukon Connection
When I was an Applied Geography student at Ryerson University, I spent three summers in the Yukon, doing field work with professors and fellow students.  That experience was one of the highlights of my life! 

A Kennel with a Difference
My daughter and I are great animal lovers.  Five years ago, we heard about a dog sledding kennel like no other.  It is owned and operated by Hank DeBruin and his wife Tanya McCready-DeBruin, who came to dog sledding from a pet-owner background, rather than a working-dog background.  Several years ago, they decided to take a huge risk and follow their dreams of owning a sled dog touring and racing kennel.  They quit their jobs in Guelph, purchased a piece of land in Haliburton, and began to build "Winterdance Dogsled Tours."  The company currently offers tours to over 3,000 visitors each winter and enables Hank to participate in sled dog races all over North America. 

What makes the Winterdance kennel different is the state-of-the-art bunkhouse and play yards Hank and Tanya constructed for their dogs.  While most working-dogs are chained outdoors year-round, Winterdance's 150 Siberian Huskies each enjoy sharing a room in the bunkhouse with one to three friends/siblings, and playing off-lead for two hours each day, with a cohort of friends, in one of three large play yards.  Another aspect of Hank and Tanya's kennel that sets it apart from most other working-dog kennels is their commitment never to sell or give away any of their puppies or dogs.  A dog that comes to Winterdance has a home for life.

When I found out that Hank's race team was participating in this year's Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to revisit the Yukon with my students, albeit vicariously, through the Winterdance race team.

Retirees enjoying the play yard
Some of the "retired" sled dogs enjoy one of the Winterdance play yards.
Their L-shaped bunkhouse is in the background.
Photo: Tanya McCready-DeBruin

Lead Dog Lily
Five years ago, my daughter and I went dog sledding with Winterdance Sled Dog Tours.  One of our lead dogs was named Lily.  Following our visit, Lily became part of Hank's newly-formed race team.  For the past several years, she has been an enthusiastic and reliable race team lead dog.  Lily is now nine years old.  The Yukon Quest will be one of her last races, before she retires back to touring.  Given my connection to the Yukon, Winterdance and Lily, it seemed only fitting to my daughter and I sign up to sponsor Lily, in the Yukon Quest.

Dog sledding with Winterdance in 2005
We enjoyed a day of dogsledding with Winterdance, in 2005,
My daughter is hugging Lily in the bottom, middle picture.

With Lily in 2010
My daughter with Lily in 2010.  We are sponsoring Lily in the Yukon Quest.


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