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If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes

Day Two – and we’re still in love with the land of the midnight sun…  Sadly, we’re having our asses handed to us at euchre, and like everyone else we play with, we’re convinced the Outlaws have some kind of ‘secret signals’ to tell each other when to pick up and when to throw down.  I swear they must’ve known each other for fifty years for the amount of times they’re able to squeak a point in (or a game for that matter).  Oh yeah, they’ve been married that long.  Disregard my last comment.  They just really understand the rules of the game and they have their own unwritten understandings…none of which I always (or hardly ever) get.

After a fairly relaxed morning at our B & B (Versleuce Meadows, which is run by a really awesome lady named Roseanna by the way) we went and visited a kennel called Muktuk Adventures.  When Mel and I were here a few years ago, we met a really great guy: Frank Turner.  For all of you who follow our blog and follow the sport of mushing (I know there’s at least none of you who read our blog and follow the sport of mushing), you’ll know Frank Turner as a Yukon Quest participant for 20+ races, and the winner of the 1995 Yukon Quest.


Frank has a kennel just on the outskirts of Whitehorse where he has more than a hundred and twenty dogs.  Yup, that’s right.  120.  We met them.  All of them, I can probably name about two dozen, but I’ll save you the torture and let you look at the pictures with their names on their little houses.It was pretty hot in the sun when we arrived for our tour, and we got there about an hour early, not sure what to expect.  The one thing we did expect, however, was to be greeted with the very familiar Yukon charm and friendliness that we’ve come to adore and we weren’t disappointed.  Within a minute of getting out of the truck, we were welcomed by Manuela who is the ‘alpha’ (person).  She’s basically the handler of all 120 dogs and was born in Germany.  She was a remarkable person and had a really interesting story.  Here’s the reader’s digest version.

Manuela came to Canada from her home base in Germany (the Black Forest specifically, which Mel and I visited in May of this year).  She landed in Whistler on a year-long work & tourist visa and started as a housekeeper for a while, then a front desk attendant and by her own account, she felt like she wasn’t seeing the Canada she had come to see.  She asked around and seemed to get a general consensus that the Yukon was definitely worth visiting.  She called around with her very limited English to some work-stay type establishments to see if there was any farms/businesses who could use help from a carpenter (that’s her trade) in exchange for room and board.  She found a job and thought it was a perfect fit.  She came north via Greyhound from Whistler and got to Whitehorse, stayed at the local Tim Horton’s from 3:30 am to 8:00 am when she called her new boss, only to find out that the guy who was prepared to give her the job no longer needed her.  What an epic disaster.  I know I wouldn’t have handled that situation nearly as well as she seemed to have.  Turns out, she met someone at the Tim Horton’s that night who would prove to be a true knight in shining armour.

I don’t know him, but she called him JF.  He was a french guy living in Whitehorse and offered to let Manuela and her friend stay at his house that night.  I was waiting for her to start telling us how JF got freaky, or weird, or just plain asshole-ish, but she never did.  He really just wanted to help.  Seems to be in the water up here in the Yukon.  People really seem to just want to help.

Anyhow, I digress…  JF put Manuela in touch with a few people, including Anne Taylor (Frank’s wife) and Anne explained that Muktuk would need some fences built and some work around the property etc…and Manuela seemed to think it would be okay until her visa expired in September.  Just one small problem.  When JF was explaining that Frank and Anne owned a lot of dogs, Manuela (with her own German understanding) heard JF say ducks.  So, Manuela thought she was going to work on a duck farm.  I should’ve asked what she thought when she arrived.

Another quick digression…this reminds me of the time when Mel was working at the RCMP and one of her colleagues from Germany came to stay with us for 6 weeks.  We were sitting at the dining room table one day and Maria (Germany cop) asked me if we had beers.  I said ‘Yes’.  She asked where they were.  I told her they were in the fridge.  She looked at me very confused and said ‘You keep your beers in the fridge?’  I was confused by her confusion and said ‘Yes’.   Turns out she wanted to know if we had bears in Ottawa.  I later explained that they only came out at night in Ottawa and they weren’t fond of fridges.

Ahh….I forgot how much I like blogging!  Here’s really the readers’ digest of the rest of our day here in Whitehorse…

-We saw, played with and pet the most amazing sled dogs.  They were all so incredibly friendly, except the ones who were shy.  When we walked by, they just went into their houses.  Reminded me of people, including me on some days.

– We were just standing around when all 120 dogs who were really quiet a second before all of a sudden went CRAZY.  Like no kidding, CRAAAAAAZY!  Howling and jumping straight up in the air, barking, squealing, etc…  We looked around (I’m guessing we all did a 360 because it was like someone just flipped a switch and these dogs went nuts).   Turns out, Manuela and her team of handlers walked up the driveway towards the dogs.  We didn’t notice anything was happening until we saw them being unclipped from their houses and that’s when the ones who were untied got to go play in their big open pens.  It was amazing to watch.

(Mel has a video that we’ll upload here when we get a stronger internet connection)

-We went on a 40-minute walk with Manuela and 7 of her dogs down to the river.  She told us all sorts of amazing stories about mushing dogs.  I know more today about mushing and mushing dogs than I’ve ever known before.  Granted, that was never very much, but now I know way more.

-Manuela has aspirations to run the Yukon Quest, she said it was on her bucket list (yes Trix, that list…)  We don’t know how old she is, we’re guessing not more than 30 (if that).  We are all incredibly hopeful that she gets to realize that dream.  She brought both Mel and I to tears at one point, she was so passionate…. just so real.

When we finished our time with Manuela, we walked back to the common deck area (which she helped to build, incidentally) and got to spend about an hour with Frank Turner who told us about what he’s up to and some stories about his life.  What an amazing guy.  He used to be a social worker in Toronto and left that life to spend it up here, with his amazing wife Anne and their 120 furry friends.  I know that’s really minimizing who he is and what he’s all about, but every time I talk to Frank (twice now), I’m reminded that there are some really awesome and unpretentious people in this world.

Sandy, Frank Turner and Irwin

Frank’s got an incredible ability to draw people in and to remind them that the world you live in is the world you create for yourself.  Twice, I had to blink tears away, and it’s Mel that’s peri-menopausal.  I just love it up here.

After a bit more chat with Frank, we piled into the truck and his parting words were ‘So how did you guys meet, I really want to hear the story’ – to the Outlaws.

I’m being rushed for an amazing wild Alaskan sockeye salmon dinner and more wine, so we’ll catch up on the ‘how did you meet story’ the next post.  Hope everyone is well back home and want you all to know that we highly recommend Muktuk Adventures for anyone who’s planning a trip up here.  Definitely worth the time and money, and it might even make you think.

Hope you’re all having as great of a week as we are!


Sign on a post on the way into Muktuk Adventures...


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