The Union Recorder

Local Sports

January 25, 2013

Blind NH sled dog thrives with brother's help

(Continued)

JEFFERSON, N.H. —

The barking continues as the dogs pull away from the kennel onto a snow-packed trail. Within a few minutes, however, they settle into a nearly silent rhythm, the sled's runners skimming through the woods. While the other dogs look straight ahead, Gonzo often lifts his head up and to the right, using his hearing and sense of smell, said Karen Tolin, who has worked her way up from volunteer "poop scooper" to business partner in the years since she first came to Muddy Paw.

When Gonzo first went blind, Poncho didn't treat him any different, she said. But then he realized his brother needed help.

"At first, he'd be a little bit nervous when Gonzo would lean into him. And then somehow — I don't know how dogs communicate — he learned that he was utilizing him to determine where the turns are and how fast they were going. And he would let him do that — he wouldn't get as grumbly as he did in the beginning."

Usually if a dog trips, the others just keep going, Morehouse said.

I've never seen it with any other dog," he said. "There's definitely a bond there and communication beyond what we do with the two dogs, between the two of them themselves."

Beaulieu describes a spring day when he took the pair for a ride on a trail known for its deep snow, and Gonzo strayed to the edge of the trial and stumbled. With the team still moving forward, Poncho reached over, dug his head in the snow and pulled his brother out, grabbing his harness with his teeth.

"He essentially picked him out of the powder ... threw him back on the trail and never skipped a beat," Beaulieu said. "I've run dogs in a lot of places, all over the country, and it was the most amazing thing I've ever seen sled dogs do."

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