The joy of rescuing and training Siberian huskies
Trainer gives dogs 'second chance at life'
Several Siberian huskies are howling and barking at owner Noel Dagley.
They know she is getting ready to attach them to a mushing rig, and they are excited to run.
Dagley, 47, and her husband Mike are at Morton Arboretum in Lisle for a demo run at the annual Husky Heroes, an event featuring Siberian husky sled pulling, skijoring, and speed demonstrations. Although there is little snow, the dogs can still pull a mushing rig with wheels.
Dagley and her husband Mike have been raising and training Siberian huskies for the past 14 years. They currently have five dogs.
In addition to sledding, they also do agility training and all the dogs are certified for rescue response. Their purpose is to comfort people in times of crisis. Sometimes they will mingle with victims or the family of victims. Other times they help first responders when they take a break to lower their blood pressure or keep their mind off the situation at hand.
They also help relieve the stress of soldiers who are going into combat. Sometimes the soldiers just need to sit with them; other times they talk with and pet the dogs to relieve some stress.
"The huskies are special," said Dagley, who lives in the Western suburbs. "They have a special aura about them."
Dagley enjoys the teamwork and camaraderie of working with huskies. They participate in three to four sledding events a year. She stresses how much the dogs enjoy pulling a sled. In the off season they compete in flyball and agility.
Dagley grew up with dogs, including small and medium dogs. But she likes that huskies are independent and intelligent. Agility training and sledding also builds the dogs' confidence.
One of her rescue dogs, Dallas, came out of a neglectful situation.
"When we got him he was completely shut down. He sat in a corner, like a statue for the first two weeks he lived with us," she said.
By getting him started with sledding, she helped break the ice and build his confidence.
"Today he can now do things that normal dogs do." she said. "Within a very short amount of time, he was moved up to the lead position."
Another dog, Breeze, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 5 and underwent two surgeries, 18 radiation and four chemotherapy treatments before she went into remission. She has had two recurrences and additional treatments. The dog, now 13, is on chemo protocol several times a week.
"She is an inspiration to many people," Dagley said.
Dagley has worked with Adopt a Husky Inc. for the past 14 years. Not only does she help foster dogs, she is also treasurer for the organization.
"To rescue the dogs is giving them a second chance at life." Dagley said. "They learn to trust you, they learn to love you and they learn to be happy. It's a feeling that you just can't describe."
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