If you were a dog living in a kennel, you would probably dream of living at the one run by Normand Casavant.
There is moose stew, slowly simmered with rice in fish stock, a personalized physical fitness program with an experienced professional trainer, genetics carefully analyzed to ensure offspring are as healthy as possible and, on top of it all, a whole lot of love.
“They are my friends,” the musher said, explaining his relationship with his pack. “And they always give me what I want,” he added, half joking, half serious.
His canine athletes are indeed always ready for a race, an excursion or a long expedition. The dogs came from Quebec by truck four years ago and have adapted to life in the North. They have twice taken part in the Yukon Quest, known as the longest and most difficult dogsled race in the world.
“I also came to the Yukon because, in the Laurentians where I lived, areas for dogsledding were becoming more and more restricted,” said Casavant, adding that the lack of snow was also a problem. “The Yukon is a reliable place where there is always plenty of winter.”
For 20 years, Casavant operated a tourism business with his canine friends. He went on hundreds of outings, from taking vacationers out for an afternoon ride, to enjoying a forest getaway to observe nature. But his client base gradually started to change. Businesses started sending their employees for team-building sessions.
“The relationships between dogs and people, and those developed within the pack, teach values and principles that are perfectly applicable to human relationships and social life,” the musher said. As a result, Casavant began to imagine a whole new area of business. He would not only offer people rides, he would also offer them his knowledge.
With his experience and communication skills, Casavant developed a school program. He teaches children all that dogs can teach. “The values of loyalty, respect, confidence, the need to work within the hierarchy, the importance of nutrition and physical fitness. Working with sled dogs involves all these elements,” said Casavant, who hopes to visit schools in the Yukon and, eventually, across Canada with his sled-class.
For adults, his school offers an introduction to a musher’s life. His clients can go on shorter or longer trips to learn the basic elements of the lifestyle. “The ones who are keenest can even train and take part in their first race,” he said.
Like most of the territory’s inhabitants will tell you, the Yukon is the perfect place to achieve the impossible so what are you waiting for?
Contact Normand Casavant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is excerpted from the third edition of a tourism brochure created by Association franco-yukonnaise. You can get a copy of the brochure (in French) at the Centre de la francophonie in Whitehorse or at the tourism information centre in your community.