Friday, 23 December 2016

Husky Haven: Aberdeen

My obsession for dogs sparked when I was a young girl. Disney obsessed it was the usual affair to find me glue to the screen on out TV, signing along to 101 Dalmatians and Lady and the Tramp. Those were the days...

Trolling the internet recently, I somehow stumbled upon a wee place called Husky Haven. Intrigued, I did some further research and found out the sanctuary was only a short drive away from where I lived. Getting in touch with the owner of Husky Haven, Wattie McDonald, I knew straight away we were going to have a great laugh catching up. One bitter afternoon, I headed out to interview Wattie and meet his charming dogs.

Husky Haven is home to 16 husky dogs, two of which are five month old puppies, and Iditarod musher, Wattie McDonald. A lover of Siberian husky dogs and sled dog adventures, Wattie has taken part in the Great Iditarod Trail twice now, competing against many other dog sled teams to win the race which is over 1,000 miles. Throughout the race temperatures can plummet to below -55 degrees celcius. On his second expedition he was the only musher to return with all eight of his dogs (dogs can sometimes get injured so end up being taken out of the race to be looked over by a vet immediately - some dogs have even been evacuated from the race via a helicopter which is on standby throrughout the challenging race).

Located on the outskirts of Stonehaven, the small kennel of pure-breed Siberian huskies offers the ultimate husky experience. Offering a full-on hands-on dog sled tour, Husky Haven gives individuals the opportunity to lead their very own dog team on some stunning tracks across Aberdeenshire.

On arrival, we parked at the designated car park and waited for Wattie and his team to let us in the complex. Due to the safety of the dogs, these doors need to be locked at all times. We were then taken up to the hut next to the dogs kennels and introduced to the business' concept.

To begin, Wattie taught us all about how to harness the dogs, challenging us to put our new found knowledge to the test. Stepping out, the Husky Haven team had already got the dogs out of their kennels and hooked them up to their outdoor wires. Saddled up with their harnesses in hand, we made a go at putting them on the dogs. Having a border collie who wears a harness I was no stranger to this process and managed to harness up three dogs pretty quickly, lending a helping hand when needed to the others.
I couldn't believe how excited these guys got. Realising they were going for a run, the dogs gradually got even more and more hyper. It was a little overwhelming and if you're not used to hyper dogs, may have been a little nerve wracking, but knowing how much these animals love to run, I knew they just wanted to get on the road. Boys first, the team strapped them up and took them for a run, allowing them to let off some steam. On the boys departure, the ladies seemed to calm down. We fixed everyone a bowl of water, ensuring the dogs could replenish their thirst once home.

Boys back, it was time for the girls to trot off. The dogs are only able to go out for a run when temperatures drop below 11 degrees celcius. Once temperatures get below this they can then begin their training and get their fitness levels up for the Winter. On the ladies return, everyone seemed a little more relaxed - phew. With the chance to spend some quality time with these gorgeous creatures, I took full advantage, cuddling and caressing them. Wattie then invited us back inside to hear more about the dogs, his experiences and the equipment he's used throughout his trips away.

It was so insightful finding out the hardships this man has faced over the years. Not only did he lose his late wife to cancer, he also survived a heart attack earlier this year after he was brought back to life. Battling with numerous implications and heartaches, he has worked tirelessly to ensure Husky Haven is a success. The health and wellbeing of his dogs is of the highest of standards and is of great importance to Wattie. His dogs mean the world to him and their wellbeing is the only thing he cares about. With regular visits to the vets, high quality food, and outstanding exercise regimes, his dogs are fit and well cared for. The Husky Haven team are always on hand and eager to answer any questions anyone has about the dogs.
Wattie also showed us videos of his expeditions and told us stories of his incredible experiences. I would have killed to have walked, or sled a mile in this man's shoes.

Exhausted after all the excitement, we were treated to a fine cuppa and a biscuit, and allowed to browse around the hut which replicated the lodges of which Wattie stayed in when embracing the Alaskan outback. After an exhilarating afternoon, it was time to say our farewells. With a short meander through the gift shop and a few cuddles, we waved goodbye to our new four-legged friends.

A brilliant afternoon out, and perfect for birthday parties, corporate days out, or just something different to do in Aberdeen, Husky Haven was surreal.

Although we only participated in the summer experience, the winter experience is much more hands-on. With your own dog sled team hand picked to fit your personality, and physique, Wattie takes you out on a real Siberian husky adventure, showing you just how outstanding these magnificent creatures truly are.
I would like to extrend a huge thanks to Wattie for allowing me to embrace these kind-natured, remarkable dogs. These animals love to be out running, and it's great to see them be able to enjoy doing something they instinctively want to do whilst being able educating the public about Siberain huskies.

Please double check with Husky Haven when they are open and remember to book in advance as tours get booked up very quickly. Visit www.huskyhaven.co.uk or call Wattie on 07752309953. The experience is suitable for all ages and tailors to those with diabilities too.

  For Now...


Just Julia
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