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Along for the Ride In Windsor

  • Kathy Bennett, of Windsor, Vt., spends time with two of her 42 Siberian Huskies, Getta, left, and Dahlia, who is dying of cancer, on Monday, Jan. 15, 2017, at her home in Windsor. Bennett said that some of the dogs will cycle through the house instead of sleeping out in the kennels. "Mostly the females," she said. "The males are always lifting their leg." (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • TJ Kuhn, of Philadelphia, takes a break from preparing for a 30-minute dog sledding tour to receive love from Allie, left, and Coal, both Siberian Huskies, on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, at Great River Outfitters in Windsor, Vt. Kuhn and his wife, Jenny Kuhn, are taking part in an internship with Braeburn Siberians, a dog sledding adventure company. The couple works with the dogs before, during and after the dog sledding season. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A group of Siberian Huskies drink soup on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, before a day of 30-minute dog sledding tours at Great River Outfitters in Windsor, Vt. To trick the dogs into hydrating themselves in frigid temperatures, Alex MacLennan and Kathy Bennett, owners of Braeburn Siberians in Windsor, add meat to hot water to entice the dogs to drink it. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Alex MacLennan, center, of Windsor, Vt., puts away a snow hook and releases the brake to a sled on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, during a 30-minute dog sledding tour at Great River Outfitters in Windsor. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • As Kathy Bennett, of Windsor, Vt., checks on some dogs in a doghouse, Tatkanka, a Siberian Husky, climbs on her back on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, at her home in Windsor. Bennett and her husband, Alex MacLennan, own Braeburn Siberians, a dog sledding adventure company. They own 42 Siberians. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Skye, center, a Siberian Husky, takes a rest on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, while TJ Kuhn, of Philadelphia, gets the dogs ready for a day of 30-minute dog sledding tours at Great River Outfitters in Windsor, Vt. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • John Cullen, left, of Oceanside, N.Y., recieves instruction from Jenny Kuhn, center, of Apple Valley, Minn., while Hope Slovin, also of Oceanside, takes a photo of a dog team before a 30-minute dog sledding tour on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, at Great River Outfitters in Windsor. Cullen and Slovin said that they took the tour as part of their honeymoon. "It was unforgettable," Solvin said. "I feel exhilarated." (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Alex MacLennan, of Windsor, Vt., holds back a team of sled dogs as another team mushes by on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, during a day of 30-minute dog sledding tours at Great River Outfitters in Windsor. MacLennan and his wife, Kathy Bennett, got into dog sledding 16 years ago when their daughter, who was nine at the time, expressed an interest in dog sledding. The couple started out with a team of two experienced lead dogs and now has a total of 42 Siberian Huskies. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jenny Kuhn, of Apple Valley, Minn., fills dog bowls with a soup on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, before a 30-minute dog sledding tour at Great River Outfitters in Windsor. Alex MacLennan, who owns Braeburn Siberians with his wife, Kathy Bennett, said that they gives the dogs the soup before mushing in order to keep them hydrated. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



STORY BY LIZ SAUCHELLI
Saturday, January 20, 2018

Windsor — It started as many things do, as a hobby. Then it grew into a passion. And now it is a way of life.

“If you told me back then I would have a kennel of 42 dogs, I would have said ‘yeah, right,’ ” Kathy Bennett said as she recalled her introduction to the world of dog sledding and Siberian huskies. “Some passions become an addiction.”

It’s an obsession that developed into a company for Bennett and her husband, Alex MacLennan, who run Braeburn Siberians, which offers dog sled tours from December through March.

Bennett also works in the education field, while MacLennan is a vegetable farmer.

“We have a very close working relationship with these dogs,” Bennett said. “They’re literally our working partners. They’re our friends … we’re very connected to them.”

Bennett got involved with dog sledding in 2002 through her daughter Elizabeth, who was 9 at the time. She wanted to try it out and Bennett readily agreed.

In 2004, the family got their first dogs, and for a time, Bennett and her daughter raced as mother-daughter duo.

Eventually, Elizabeth opted out of dog sledding, “but by that point, I was smitten,” Bennett said.

MacLennan also caught the sled dog bug. “He slipped down the slippery slope too,” Bennett said.

The 42 dogs living on the couple’s property in Windsor is the most they’ve ever had.

“We certainly wouldn’t want it to get much bigger,” Bennett said. “We like to get to know every dog like it’s our only dog.”

While the dogs primarily live in a kennel, they cycle through the house — “a dog on the bed every night,” Bennett said. Personal relationships are formed with each canine.

The dogs like to run because it’s part of their heritage, Bennett said. Siberian huskies were bred to pull mid-weight loads over long distances.

“They get to do what they love to do,” Bennett said.

The dogs begin to slow down around age 10 and then retire to live out the rest of their days. All of the dogs the couple own participate in sledding.

“It’s a pack thing. They don’t want to be left out of the pack,” MacLennan said. “Whether they’re fast or slow they want to be part of that.”

There’s a misconception out there that huskies are forced to run — mush, mush! — but that’s not true, Bennett said. It’s the opposite.

“It’s making them stop,” Bennett said. “They would probably run for 30 or 40 miles if you let them.”

In the last few years, the couple have added an internship program where people come to learn about managing a large kennel.

“We need the help and we like to teach and there are people out there who like to learn about dog mushing,” Bennett said.

The pack continues to amaze the couple. In addition to being smart, the canines are intuitive.

“We’re always full of respect and awe for all they can teach us mortal humans,” Bennett said.

Currently, their dog Dahlia is dying from cancer and her offspring, through their interactions with her, demonstrate an understanding of her plight.

“They will grieve when she dies,” Bennett said. “They accept it better than we do.”

Losing dogs remains the biggest challenge for the couple.

“It never gets any easier, because you love them all in a different way,” Bennett said. “They always take a little piece of your heart with you when they go.”

What started as a hobby has become all-consuming and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We’re passionate about what we do, and the most rewarding thing is working in partnership with the dogs,” Bennett said. “And doing that out in nature and making people happy by sharing that with them.”

“It’s pretty cool seeing the dogs share their magic with somebody who has no frame of reference for something like this. They’re just blown away.”

Editor’s note: Learn more about Braeburn Siberians, visit http://www.braeburnsiberians.com/.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.