You never know when one thing will lead to another. Associate Professor of Outdoor Education Elizabeth Andre took her winter skills students to Firestar Kennel in Cornucopia to learn about dogsledding.
That day sparked an idea. Kennel owner Krystal (Hagstrom) Hudacheck ’10 noticed that Andre’s students really connected with her huskies. She needed help training and caring for the dogs. The students needed and wanted to learn about animals and outdoor recreation.
Hudacheck contacted Stacy Craig, coordinator of applied learning, to discuss how to involve Northland students with her racing kennel. Craig piloted an internship in the fall and had two transfer students—sophomores John Hermus and Jasmine Poppovich—apply.
Hermus is a pre-vet student who needed contact hours with animals for his goal of going into veterinarian school. Poppovich is an outdoor education major who wanted to add dogsledding to her skillset for teaching people in the outdoors. A third position was added and freshman Alex Fischer, also a pre-vet student, started in January.
The internship learning goals are designed to provide opportunities in both outdoor education and pre-vet. “In the past, Northland College offered a dogsledding class and we had students participate as teaching assistants,” Craig said. “This is the first time we’ve offered a dogsledding internship with a racing kennel.”
The internship began in the fall with the students learning the basics of dog care as well as how to run a team with a four-wheeler and transitioned into mushing from the back of a sled.
The three students each raced a team at the twenty-second annual Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race, north of Bayfield, the weekend of February 4-5. “This is the best internship ever,” Hermus said, as he readied the teams for the race by placing orange booties on Hudachek’s Alaskan huskies’ feet then harnessing and hooking them up to the sleds.
Hermus and Poppovich ran in the two-day, sixty-mile race, placing third and fifth. Fischer ran in the six-to-eight-mile recreation race Saturday, placing first. “It was an amazing experience that I will never forget,” Hermus said. “And hopefully will do again.”