Dog tracks in the U.P. winter snow

Courtesy photo
Ambo the collie catches a snowball.

Courtesy photo Ambo the collie catches a snowball.

ESCANABA — Dogs tracks have danced, trotted, pounced and played in the Upper Michigan for many generations.

Call it the “call of the wild” or call it “man’s best friend” either way, canine tracks have intermingled with our foot prints for centuries.

There is something about watching dogs in the snow that elates us!

Maybe we’re jealous of their fur coats and nibble paws.

Maybe watching Spot or King frolicking through snow and ice brings us back to a more primitive time when a good snow dog meant a better chance of surviving until spring.

For thousands of years, sled dogs have been a very important commodity in frozen Michigan. The native peoples of the north woods depended on log-furred, pointed-eared dogs to pull their sleds and toboggans through the snowy wilderness.

From beaver pelts to mail, medicine, firewood and family, working dogs hauled it all according to the pages of Michigan history.

In the summer months, some communities would gather up their best sled dogs and take them by canoe or boat to one of the many small islands. There the dogs were free to rest, feast and reproduce until it was time to work up sled teams again.

Pioneer families took advantage of having a dog around the homestead especially in the winter time. Safety from predators, protection from the cold and helping one find his way home in a white-out blizzard, were a few of the jobs the dogs could help with.

Sporting dogs and hound dogs added another whole bunch of “snow fun” to winter time. Hunting in the snow is not only pretty but also a practical way to put a nice rabbit stew or meat on the

table.

Even more importantly than all of the “jobs” snow dogs can do for us, is the simple joy of watching our companion’s nose dive, romp and roll in the fresh, fluffy snow!

All dogs, of course, shall the same gene pool as the wolf, so they have a natural love of the snow. From tiny toy poodles to big St. Bernard’s, all dogs enjoy a good walk with their people on snowy afternoons. Owners must use common sense with house pets however.

My family and I have beagle dogs and for a small dog with short fur, they have an amazing love of the snow. They can literally swim through it for hours chasing a rabbit or following behind a bunch of snowshoes.

This mid-February week is a very doggy week around the U.P. Beagle clubs are holding their annual A.K.C. field contests. The U.P. 200 dog sled race is ready to begin up by Lake Superior this weekend. And on the home front, many folks are watching the Westminster Dog Show going on out in New York this week.

Enjoy the show dogs and the snow dogs, but most of all enjoy your dog. Go for a walk and made some paw prints in the snow or mud just for fun!

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Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.

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