JEFFERSON, N.H. —
Beaulieu, a high school teacher, was living in Alaska 10 years ago when he volunteered to help out with the famed 1,000-mile Iditarod dog sled race. He was taking care of a team of dogs after their owner dropped out of the race, and somehow got talked into giving them a permanent home after the woman told him she never wanted to see a sled dog again.
Beaulieu grew up in Maine and had worked as a registered Maine Guide for more than a dozen years before heading to Alaska to teach. He knew nothing about sled dogs when he acquired his first team, but ended up starting his own business after moving to New Hampshire and helping a friend who ran tours from a local hotel.
"I had fun with it. I didn't think I would, but I did," he said. "And the dogs absolutely loved all the socialization and belly rubs and meeting all kinds of new people."
Sled tours range from 20-minute trips from the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods to a 50-mile overnighter billed as the "Longest Dog Sled Ride in the Northeast." Money from the tours help support what Beaulieu says has become a main focus — finding loving homes for dogs that might otherwise be killed.
"It's become much more than just a sled dog kennel," Beaulieu said. "A lot of shelters deem sled dogs unadoptable, and they put them down. For myself and the entire crew here, we know that's false. They are very adoptable."
Sled dogs do best with active families, he said, but that could mean regular hikes and long walks — not necessarily full-throttle running adventures. The kennel staff offers training in running, skiing and biking while hitched to a dog. Adoptive families are given phone and email support.
"Every time I run these dogs, whether it's Gonzo or anybody, I'm still in awe of the ability of these animals," Beaulieu said. "It's just amazing."