Adaptive Dog Sled Project
The idea for an adaptive dog sled has been on the minds of us all here at the Sanctuary for a very long time. Our dream was to craft a dog sled that would not only enable someone with a disability to ride comfortably in the basket but to offer complete access for a person to drive their very own dog team without ANY outside assistance.
In 2014 we started working with some wonderful groups who's main goal is to provide services for the mentally and physically disabled. As we worked with their clientele our creative spark grew brighter and the desire to push forward on this project became more focused. The reality of running the Sanctuary and caring for the dogs always seemed to leave little time to devote to this idea, that is until we met Daniel Lee!
We first met Daniel during a visit from Challenge Alaska and in no time he literally read our minds on what we wanted to see in this idea and exactly how we wished the project to advance. Daniel could see how this new sled design could not only become a great subject for his graduate project but also how it would push the boundaries of what we could offer to our visitors here at the Sanctuary. Combining both our knowledge of the sport of dog mushing and Daniel's training in therapeutic recreation we merged all thoughts seamlessly into one goal that developed beautifully on paper. But would it work on the trail?
Operating the sled brakes from the basket of the sled was the biggest challenge. As any musher knows, stopping the sled is the most important thing on a mushers mind when driving a dog team.
With the help of Daniel's grandfather, Norman Kemp, we soon had a great set of plans that not only were complex enough to operate the braking system from the sled basket but simple enough to put directly into use on the sled without changing the structure of the sled itself.
With some fantastic welding from The Tool Doctor, Israel Hale, all the pieces and parts were assembled in shop, mounted to the sled and we were ready for our first test run! With a borrowed sit-ski chair from Challenge Alaska, Daniel and Brandon headed back out to the Sanctuary where the sled would meet the dogs once again to see how all our plans and dreams would work out on the trail.
The first run was a dream, the one after that even more so... the sled handled far better than we expected and the brakes were flawless! The initial idea worked better than we hoped and naturally fueled our desire to not only make this dream a reality but to have more sleds on hand, just like this one, to help serve those who have always wanted to explore the wilds of Alaska by dog team but were told was impossible because of their disability.
At the Sled Dog Sanctuary we are all about changing lives and offering hope in all kinds of wonderful ways, from the dogs we work with every day to our very special visitors from all over the state of Alaska, and all over the world. The sled used in the first prototype was one that had seen heavy trail use for over a decade and is in need of extensive repair or replacement. With support through the Quality of Life grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation we are able to turn this dream into reality!!