2014 Educator’s Conference

CopperDog is organizing a one-day conference for local educators. The conference will cost $25 with limited space and teachers must register in advance. Teachers will spend the morning learning about dog sledding: its history, socio-economic importance, hearing from vets regarding animal husbandry, and learning how to develop these ideas into curriculum for their own classrooms. In the afternoon, teachers will visit a local kennel to experience mushing first hand.

Coming in 2014, please keep checking for further developments!

Posted in Educators Conference | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Mushing into the Classroom

Welcome to the CopperDog Learning Site.  With the beginning of 2016 came the snow we all have been waiting to appear.  The students, musher, and dogs have ben anxious to get out and play.

I want to introduce to you a Facebook Group ” Pulling Together” created by musher, former teacher, and current sled dog tour kennel owner, Tasha Stielstra of McMillan. Working with Tasha she has shared and brainstormed many learning opportunities for children and adults, this new Facebook Group was an excellent  opportunity for sharing and learning.

It is a closed group for educators, teachers, and students to share ideas and information about mushing and sled dogs.

Check it out “Pulling Together”.  There have been many good classroom ideas shared for classroom use and collaboration.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


February is the celebration of President’s Day.  The students are able to recall the historical backgrounds of presidential leaders in classrooms.  I was able to relate a very real story of leadership after I completed the Midnight Run Dog Sled Race in Marquette..  Amid blinding snow beating against our faces and pushing us west we traveled along the trail next to the shores of Lake Superior. Every dog team experienced the mighty winds off Superior. I had a team of 6 small yearling females lead by my 2 experienced leaders.

What an epic lesson  for me to share.  My leaders Puddle and Mississippi brilliantly led these young team without hesitation to the finish line.  Though I could not see the wheel dogs at times, I did as I had been reminded leaving Chatham- “Trust your leaders!” Since I was unable to see the trail, I encouraged the team and helped peddle them along the way. Puddle and Missi were the leaders I hope my students will be as adults- Trustworthy positive individuals stepping up to lead when needed.

Puddle MIssi

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Student Mushers

Every student can be a musher driving their own team of sled dogs.  Here is a fun project we will do in my 2nd grade classroom on a day too cold for recess. Using bulletin board or butcher paper, have the students lay on the paper.  With a crayon or marker trace around each student.  Once the outlines are drawn, the students can color in clothing as seen on pictures of mushers.  Check the Copper Dog website for pictures.  Add a Copper Dog bib with the students favorite number.   We display them on the classroom walls.  It is a place to display that student’s art or writing projects.


Child Musher copper-dog-150-2014-brockit-205555-4_558

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Just a Spoken Word

Last weekend I had the wonderful experience to compete in the 6 dog Ironline Sled Dog Race in Iron River, Michigan.  It was a 2 day race with some passing of teams from behind and head on.  What a great lesson for the team of 4 yearlings and my 2 experienced leaders. The leaders played a major  role in our successful runs.  The yearlings followed carefully in line behind their leaders.  My only control from the back of the sled were mere words which have been learned over days of practice.

Here’s a list of the terms commonly used in dog mushing.  They are copied from the Iditarod website.

Mushing Terminology

Common Terminology

ATV:  All terrain vehicle
Big Su:  Refers to the Big Susitna River
Booties:  A type of sock that is made to protect the dog’s feet from small cuts and sores. These are made out of various materials, i.e., denim, polar fleece, trigger cloth, etc.
Burled Arch:  The finish line in Nome
By-Pass Mail:  Service provided by US Mail System for remote villages to get mail and goods delivered. By-Pass Mail has been used to ship everything from toilet paper to refrigerators. Service only in Alaska provided by US mail System.
Come Gee! Come Haw!  Commands for 180 degree turns in either direction.
Dog in Basket:  Tired or injured dog carried in the sled
Double Lead:  Two dogs who lead the team side by side.
Dropped Dog:  A dog that the musher has dropped from his team at a checkpoint. The dog is cared for at the checkpoint until it is flown back to Anchorage to the musher’s handlers.
Gee:  Command for right turn
Haw:  Command for left turn
Heet:  Alcohol based fuel used by mushers in their cook stoves on the trail.
Husky:  Any northern type dog.
Last Frontier:  Alaska’s State motto. Alaska was the last frontier in the United States
Lead Dog or Leader:  Dog who runs in front of others. Generally must be both intelligent and fast.
Line Out!  Command to lead dog to pull the team out straight from the sled. Used mostly while hooking dogs into team or unhooking them.
Mush! Hike! All Right! Let’s Go!  Commands to start the team
Neck Line:  Line that connects dog’s collar to tow line and between the two collars of a double lead.
Outside:  Any place in the lower 48 states.
Overflow:  When the ice gets so thick that the water has nowhere to go, it pushes up and over the ice. This overflow often gets a thin layer of ice when the temperature drops making it dangerous to cross.
Pacing:  Leading a team with some sort of motorized vehicle that can set the ‘pace’ at a specific speed.
Pedaling:  Pushing the sled with one foot while the other remains on the runner
Picket Line:  A long chain with shorter pieces of chain extending from it. Used to stake out a team when stakes aren’t available
Rigging:  Collection of lines to which dogs are attached. Includes tow line, tug lines and neck lines
Rookie:  A musher who is running the race for the first time or who has never completed the race.
Runners:  The two bottom pieces of the sled which come in contact with the snow. They extend back of the basket for the driver to stand on. Runner bottoms are usually wood, covered with plastic or Teflon. This plastic or Teflon is usually replaced at least once during the race.
Siberian Husky:  Medium sized (average 50 pounds) northern breed of dog, recognized by the American Kennel Club. Siberians usually have blue eyes.
Slats:  Thin strips of wood which make up the bottom of a wooden sled basket. Note: Toboggan sleds have a sheet of plastic as the bottom for their basket
Snow Hook or Ice Hook:  Heavy piece of metal attached to sled by line. The snow hook is embedded in the snow in order to hold the team and sled for a short period of time.
Snub Line:  Rope attached to the sled which is used to tie the sled to a tree or other object.
Stake:  Metal or wooden post driven into the ground to which dog is tied
Swing Dog or Dogs:  Dog that runs directly behind the leader. Further identified as right or left swing depending on which side of the tow line he is positioned on. His job is to help “swing” the team in the turns or curves.
Team Dog:  Any dog other than those described above.
Termination Dust:  The first snow that covers the top of the mountain in the fall. So called because this is a sign of the termination of summer in Alaska.
Toggles:  Small pieces of ivory used by Eskimos to fasten tug lines to harnesses
Trail!:  Request for right-of-way on the trail.
Tug Line:  Line that connects dog’s harness to the tow line.
Wheel Dogs or Wheelers:  Dogs placed directly in front of the sled. Their job is to pull the sled out and around corners or trees.
Whoa!:  Command used to halt the team, accompanied by heavy pressure on the brake.
*Checkpoint Pronunciations can be found at this link.


Note: It should be thoroughly understood that as dogs are not driven with reins, but by spoken commands, the leader of the team must understand all that is said to him and guide the others accordingly. An intelligent leader is therefore an absolute necessity. At times it appears that there is ESP between musher and lead dog. Don’t be surprised if you hear a musher have an in-depth conversation with his lead dog.Ironline turn around









Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fun Fact!

A fun fact to ask your students, ” How far in front of the musher are the lead dogs in a Copper Dog team?

A fun fact shared by the John Beargrease Sled Dog organization-

In a typical 14 dog hitch such as we use in our marathon race, there would be about 60 feet separating the nose of the lead dog from the musher at the back of the sled.
For our mid-distance teams using eight dogs, the measurement is approximately 35 feet from the nose of the lead dog to the back of the sled.

RacePic Tahq2015

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

From the Sled

Teachers and Students- Ever wonder what you see from the sled?  Students and teachers observe each other from different directions around the classroom.   The musher/driver watches their team from the rear mile after mile. There is only a gangline connecting your team of 6-12 or more dogs.  The leaders are expected to follow the musher’s spoken directions.  The musher watches the gait and body movements of their dogs.  After many hours of training they have learned to know each dog individually just like a teacher knows their individual students.   This attached view is from a training run near McMillan, Michigan. RacePic Tahq2015

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Trail Mail

Trail Mail StampEducational Project   
Deadline – Feb 15th

 Dog sleds transported mail in some areas of the northern U.S. and the Alaskan Territory during winter months. Contract carriers used these sleds across Alaska from the late 19th century into the early 1920s. Isolated for much of the year, remote populations sometimes relied on dog sleds for contact with the outside world. Weight was a critical factor for the dogs—mail traveling on sleds was usually restricted to first-class pieces unless room was available for newspapers, magazines and packages. These items were otherwise left behind until spring, when they might be transported by steamboat or wagon.


General Concepts & Instructions

This is to give the teacher some indication of just what should be included &/or required in an Educational Project to travel via Iditarod Sled Dog & Musher (cachets) over the Iditarod Trail during the race which starts the first Saturday in March every year.

  1. The document(s) should not exceed 8.5″ wide and needs to be folded to fit the packet of mail, no larger than fitting a standard legal size envelope (4.5″ x 9.5″). Anything larger will suffer damage on the trail. your (students) project will be vacuum sealed along with the 50 pieces of Official Trail Mail that the musher carries for the race’s promotional purposes.
  2. The project can involve a student reading program; so many pages read by the student per mile of the trail, charting their reading success on a map of the race trail or a book per checkpoint; “Race Against Death” etc., many Iditarod books available. With younger classes a collage of student made pictures put together by the class has traveled the trail and older classes have put together collection of the best student written poetry. You can let your mind fly on this one, no matter how you make the students get involved. A contest for the best projects meeting an educational requirements has been used. With prior acceptance, we can take more than one entry, but we have a limited amount of time to get this all together prior to race time. We finish packaging the mail two days before the race start.
  3. The project must reach this address:

    Iditarod Educational Trail Mail Project (ITEMP)
    c/o Leo B. Rasmussen
    PO Box 2
    Nome, Alaska 99762-0002

  4. The project should include a space prescribed for two witnessing signatures of theOfficial “End of the Trail Checker”
    Two students of the Nome Public School system
    Vacant place for a U.S. Postal stamp to be applied
    Cancellation in Nome at the U.S. Post Office on the day and date of that mail/project arriving in Nome by the Musher off the trail. Remember that the trail is Congressionally authorized as the Iditarod National Historic Trail; one of only 30 authorized trails in the United States.

  5. The project should include a space for:
    • Musher information: Number of dogs, start & finish.
    • Time to complete the Iditarod Sled Dog Race: ___dys, ___hrs, ___min and ___sec
    • Mushers signature
    • Musher commentary to the student(s). Please remember that if all information is on one side of the project, so you can frame it and make it openly presentable/collectable.
  6. We will attempt to get the information to you as to which team is carrying your mail, but that is sometimes hard to do. However, a call to Leo B. Rasmussen at (907) 443-2798 or fax two days after the race start can arise the current information so the student(s) can follow their mail’s progress. Further, it must be understood that a musher may have to depart the race for various reasons; broken arms, sick dogs, equipment failure, etc. therefore you can not know for sure that your mail will cross the entire trail. All mail regardless of mushers completion of the race does eventually come to Nome and then will be cancelled the day after the race completes/officially finishes showing that it has too, officially participated in the race.

  7. Any further questions? Cellphone (907) 304-2573 or (907) 443-2798 or leaknome@alaskan.com

    Additional Notes:

    The date your project should be or absolutely must be in the US Mails isFebruary 10th, past years we had some mailedas last as the 15th US Priority Mail and they showed up after the race started. We prefer one 8.5″x 11″ page one sided, the 2nd side can be used but definitely makes it hard to show when and if framed for display. You can limit the certifying signatures to two (Official Race Timer and Race Official) if you need more space. Most Mushers rarely use more than one line to give some form of greeting to the Students. By any means you can design your own form for the Project, but 8.5″x11″ makes it the right size to travel with the Mushers.

    Deadline to Mail 15 Feb for those sending inside the USA and Feb 5th for those coming from outside the USA, will be packed with 20 pieces of trail mail.

    The Form on which to send the Trail Educational Mail Project is to be – Require only 1 sheet of paper using both sides for the ITEMProject, Reverse to be used for Return Mailing information. (Strike the rest of  this – Change Stamp to Official Postal Stamp. Any reference to be ITEMP, ITEMP, ITEMP)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy New Year!

With the beginning of a new year and looks like snow is here to stay in northern Michigan, let the training on snow continue.
As a classroom teacher I am sure many of you finishing your long range plans for a theme of sled dogs/ Copper Dog/ Iditarod into your plans.
Send your questions regarding sled dogs, their training, their daily care, or preparations to teamwork send them to this blog site and I will be happy to answer them or get help from experienced mushers or vets.

Pictures here is a training run by my yearling team over the holiday break along the trails near McMillan, Michigan.

Trotting into 2015

Trotting into 2015

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fall Training

Training for a team or individual athletic is a journey. Every sport has their goals, expectations, and pre-season training routines. At our school I coached the middle school cross country runners this fall beginning with our pre-season conditioning and learning their individual paces.

For the musher and their team of dogs, the fall season of training will begin when the temperatures drop below 50′ normally. The musher ( coach ) makes a commitment to be diligent to prepare their team for the season. For the dogs, it is what they love to do- run! It is a time for the dogs to build muscle, strength, and endurance.

For my team I take advantage of the opportunity to run near home and in the UP of Michigan. we have wooded trails or use seldom traveled gravel roads to run using the non- motorized Risdon Rig, that is great for training a small team. The blending of my dogs with the female yearlings at Nature’s Kennel in McMillan happens on the weekends. It is an opportunity to train the larger 12-14 dog team with a quad.

Fall training is can be accomplished with different schedules and routines but it is the journey that builds and grows throughout the winter season

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ready for a Training Run!

Inwood Training

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment