Been thinking about the person who called the cops on the dog truck yesterday, and the details that lead folks to make judgments, most of which have nothing to do with the actual health/safety/happiness of the dogs.
We bought our dog boxes used (after our last truck burned down, we moved them onto a new flatbed) and our priority has always been making sure they’re safe, dry, well-ventilated, and comfortable. The dogs jump right into their boxes; they love going for car rides.
We like the steel doors because they’re rustproof and let the dogs see/smell everything that’s going by. In our climate, we’re usually more concerned with keeping the dogs cool—and making sure they have fresh air and ventilation—than keeping them warm.
A few of you have suggested we put a sign that says “BRAVERMOUNTAIN MUSHING” or something similar on the truck, which is probably a good idea. It’s just something we never thought of because we’ve been focused on the comfort of dogs, not people.
Anyway. I’m just thinking aloud here. I think that one of the last things some people look at is the actual dogs and their body language. Dogs couldn’t care less about human signifiers (like the kinds of kennel doors, etc) but it makes all the difference in the optics of it all.
The biggest thing we’ve noticed? If your truck is old and dirty, people call the cops. If it’s new and clean, people give you the benefit of the doubt. Our culture has so many classist assumptions about who is worthy of having animals, and who is capable of loving them.
I have a world of empathy + gratitude for people who are looking out for dogs, and erring on the side of protecting them
I have zero patience when folks try to police others based on their (perceived) socioeconomic status—making judgments about their worth + compassion + ability
I’ll just say it: I think that a lot of public concern about the welfare of sled dogs comes from a culture that doesn’t trust the fact that the sport is based in rural communities, is largely working class, and has deep roots in Indigenous traditions.
There ARE mushers who abuse their sled dogs, just like there are pet owners who do. The problem is the abuse, not the mushing. But it’s much easier for “activists” to paint those tragedies as universal to the community when the community they’re scapegoating is already othered.
As a result, mushers become paranoid. The sport has a very suspicious attitude toward media attention--which means that it doesn't end up getting much coverage. As a musher and a writer, I straddle both of those worlds.
Even so, I'm aware that people may try to "catch" me, especially as the team gets more fans. Honestly, that's part of why we started the hashtag for #OperationFatMatt; I was afraid that people would see pictures of Matt looking emaciated and claim that we didn't feed him, or care
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