GONE TO THE DOGS

The mighty husky playing its part in the Phoenix Winter Games at Tedworth House in Wiltshire...

MUSH! West Country veterans have been harnessing the power of the mighty husky to aid in their rehabilitation.

Dogs from the Alaskan Malamute Working Association and Sled Dogs As Therapy UK have been providing an insight into the breed as well as providing sporting fun and excitement to injured West Country service personnel and veterans.

They were taking part in a competitive sled dog scurry as part of the Phoenix Winter Games at Tedworth House in Wiltshire.

The theme of the games, which are based around the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, is very much fun with a competitive edge.

Teams of soldiers and veterans from the various recovery centres across the country – including Plymouth and Tedworth – made up the competitors.

Paul Randall, centre manager at Help for Heroes, said: “The games are designed to bring together wounded, injured and sick veterans and service personnel in a friendly yet competitive environment, where they can re-experience the camaraderie and social environment of the military.

“Sport can be a huge part of the recovery journey for an individual, giving them a sense of purpose and empowering them to challenge themselves.

“The games are a fantastic example of what military personnel can achieve post injury.”

Alaskan malamute owner and the day’s organiser Steve Whitfield, 56, who served for 23 years in the army, said: “Alaskan malamutes are freight dogs, weighting about 40 kilos.

“By nature they travel long distances across a variety of terrains, in often bitterly cold and wet weather conditions making them ideal animals to pull dog sleds.

“We are here to help those in need and hope that they enjoy the day and learn a little bit about this fascinating breed of dog.”

Shane Kennedy from Sled Dogs as Therapy UK spoke about the role of the dogs and the interaction with the service personnel and veterans,

“It means the world to them. Some of them really open up during the day and connect with the dogs.”

Following the morning talks on an introduction to the breed, safety briefs and demonstrations, and the opportunity to get to know the dogs, the group got to try out the dog rigs with their allocated Alaskan Malamute teams.

This consisted of a 50m chute, where the teams could race each other to the finishing line. The other team members form a support team, with each one playing a vital role.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.