For the Kreiders of Vermontville, winter means cruising through the snow with their pack of furry friends
Throughout 2019, in celebration of Adirondack Life’s 50th anniversary, we’ve been sharing an article per week from our archives—one for each year since 1970. Long-time readers of the magazine may have noticed that we’re a canine-loving bunch, so it’s only appropriate that we close out the series with this January 2019 profile of the Kreiders and their sled pups.
Winter fun for Deb and Bob Kreider means hooking up their fluffy Siberian huskies and hitting the snowy trails that meander around their 100-plus-acre forested property in Vermontville. With the long winters and plenty of snow in the higher elevations, the Adirondacks is the perfect place for dogsledding.
“This is Tekna,” Deb says, holding out a Siberian husky in miniature who offers up an ardent lick. Under her arm, a tiny furball muscles to freedom and starts sniffing the ground madly. Deb has brought Tekna to a basic obedience class at the Clinton County Canine Club to start the intensive training process that sled dogs must go through. Nearby, a diminutive, feathery Lhasa apso strains at its leash and a tawny Irish setter pup won’t settle down. Tekna does her best to sit and stand and lie on command but it is clear she would rather squirm and sniff.
“Uh-oh, potty break,” Deb says, snapping the little dog up and rushing out of the building.
Outside, while Tekna relieves herself on a bush, her aunties Sequoia, Breeze and Buddha, seasoned sledders, wait patiently in the family van. All of them will soon be ready for the winter’s sledding.
“Siberian huskies love to run,” Deb says, “and what they love most is to pull the sled.” The dogs are connected to one another by gang-line, but there are no reins held by the human driving the cart. “It’s just voice-operated,” says Deb.
It’s not all sliding joyfully through a snow and pine-needled wonderland, however. At times, she confesses, dogsledding can get scary. Especially if you aren’t aware of the environment, trail and weather conditions. “Aside from the usual North Country winter concerns in terms of frostbite and hypothermia, ice and shallow snow, snowmobiles can present dangers,” she says. “We have friends whose teams have been hit by snowmobilers while running.”
If sled drivers don’t have good control of their team, accidents can happen. “The number one rule of dogsledding,” Deb says, “is never let go of the sled. A loose team flying down the trail without a driver can get tangled up and injure themselves.”
Deb showed dogs as a hobby when she was a teenager in New Jersey, and she once attended the Westminster Dog Show with her mother. There she saw a woman showing a Siberian husky named Sierra Cinnar that won Best in Show, the first time ever for the breed. Years later, after discovering she loved the Adirondacks and relocating from New Jersey with Bob, she visited Innisfree Kennels in Chateaugay, where that same woman, Trish Kanzler, and her family, had been continuously breeding Siberian huskies. At Innisfree, Deb admired the husky puppies and tried riding on a dogsled for the first time.
“I was hooked,” she says. Hooked on dogsledding, but also on the breed. Before long, Deb ditched her day job as an English teacher (Bob remains an IT specialist) to work as a groomer. Later the couple opened The DapperDog boarding kennel and began breeding Siberian huskies. “Since we got our first Siberian husky in 1999, we have bred three litters, a total of 11 puppies.”
They do not breed to sell, she says, nor do they offer sled rides or regularly compete for prizes, preferring to subsist on the kennel earnings and keep their husky obsession a hobby.
But in 2013 life circled back for Deb when the couple showed one of their Siberian huskies, Misschief, in the Westminster Dog Show, a huge coup.
“Misschief didn’t win—but just being there, at that show, that was the experience of a lifetime,” Deb says.
While Tekna chews with passion on a stick she has found, Deb wonders if this little pup could be her next champion. Either way, it’s certain Tekna will get her chance to pull a sled with her siblings this winter.
“You hop up on the bar on a cart behind the sled and yell ‘hike’ or ‘let’s go,’ and the serious fun begins,” Deb says. “It’s addicting.”