Three years ago a sled dog named Gonzo started tripping over his food bowl. A veterinarian examined the Alaskan husky and tried a variety of treatments, but within a matter of weeks, Gonzo was blind.
However, the vet told Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel to keep running Gonzo, and the husky was only too happy to comply.
With his brother, Poncho, by his side at the back of their eight-member dog team, Gonzo kept on pulling sleds despite his disability.
But while the other dogs keep their eyes on the trail, Gonzo lifts his head up and to the side as he runs across New Hampshire’s North Country.
“We can only interpret this as putting his nose to the wind and listening to the sounds around him,” said Karen Tolin, one of the kennel’s business owners. “He has adapted in amazing ways. We see him utilize his other senses — smell, hearing, touch with his paws — to make up for the loss of vision.”
But Gonzo doesn’t rely on just his sense — he also has Poncho.
When they run, the two nudge one another with their heads and noses, and Gonzo leans into Poncho during turns.
“Poncho literally is able to communicate the turns through this series of leans and nudges, and he allows Gonzo to utilize him in this way. Many other dogs would get irritated by the closeness into their personal space,” Tolin said.
Today, Poncho and Gonzo run together four to five times a week and spend their days with the more than 100 other dogs that call Muddy Paw home.
Although these husky brothers were born at the kennel not long after it was established nine years ago, many of the other dogs are considered “second-chance” or “second-career” dogs.
“We are strictly no-kill and the dogs that come here — whether it be from other kennels as racing retirees or rescues from bad situations — have a home and a job for life,” Tolin said.
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