A very special destination halfway between the White Mountains and the Maine Coast
Washington Kennel at Oak Hill Farm
Alaskan and Siberian Huskies
The Kennel "Tunnel"
Art Melanson founded Washington Kennel as a sled dog kennel in 1987 in Washington, Maine. He bred, raised, trained and raced both Siberian and Alaskan Huskies. In 1995 the kennel was moved to South Hiram, Maine where winters are rumored to be longer and snowier. Our AKC Siberian Huskies are noted for their even temperament, intelligence and handsome markings. Our long-legged Alaskans are a crossbreed developed for running.
The configuration of the kennel was carefully planned, placing the pens side by side under the pines where everyone had plenty of space to romp and play. None of our dogs were chained. Each pen was approximately 15’ X 25’ constructed from 4 foot high welded horse fencing stretched between wooden posts. All the pens opened into a 250 ft. long fenced “tunnel” where the dogs are given daily runs. The tunnel also provided a safety net if one of our escape artists slipped by us when we are entering the pens. Each dog had a flat-topped house constructed from a single sheet of plywood. The dogs love to lounge in the sun...and even the coldest snowstorm, savoring the feel of the snowflakes on their thick fur. We filled the houses with cedar chips in the summer to help fend off fleas and ticks, and with hay in the winter to provide snug insulation. The dogs always smelled wonderful! We carefully monitored the diet and health of each dog and have always fed Fromm dog food. We administered our own inoculations with the exception of rabies; a vet came to the kennel to do that. All dogs are vaccinated against canine distemper, adenovirus type 1 (which can cause infectious hepatitis), adenovirus type 2 (which can cause respiratory infection), leptospirosis (a bacterial infection that can lead to kidney damage), parainfluenza (a respiratory infection), parvovirus (causes dehydrating diarrhea), and coronavirus (an intestinal virus that causes diarrhea and vomiting). We protected the dogs against heartworm with monthly oral doses. As soon as the first tick of the season is detected we sprayed everyone with a product called “Front-line” (manufactured by Rhone Merieuz, Inc., 115 Transtech Drive, Athens, GA 30601). We have a tick problem in this area and Front-line has proven to be a very effective tick control, that lasts for up to 30 days per application.
As soon as the leaves changed color, there was an air of canine excitement here. The dogs knew it is time! Above the kennel is a ridge, which we call the Birch Meadow. Art carefully laid out and cleared a one mile dog-sled trail through the woods. When Art and James were training intensely, they began well before the first snowfall on local dirt roads with a wheeled rig until the snow started to fly and we could pull out our two Moody sleds. We would transport our teams in a wooden dog box that fit on our pickup truck. The dog box provided cozy hay-filled compartments for up to 13 dogs, each with its own porthole, and our sleds would strap on top. After January 1st there is a sled dog race somewhere in New England almost every weekend.
This race was held at Sabattus. James ran a six dog team (second team over) of Jack and Dottie at lead, Hood and Sheila, and Czar and Kodiak at wheel.
The set up we created during the time we were breeding may be helpful to other kennels. We remodeled a small barn behind the house into three whelping pens. By planning simultaneous breedings from different blood lines, we offered buyers a chance to purchase a breeding pair. We also were able to offer copper/ white or black/white pups...and sometimes a rare gray puppy. Each pen was designed for maximum comfort and safety for both mother and pups, as well as ease of cleaning and tending by us. The floors were linoleum with a divider board that separated the whelping area and the area for food and litter papers. A rub rail in the whelping area prevented the mother from accidentally smothering a pup. There was a shelf that could be dropped over the whelping area to provide a cozy den below and a place for Mom to jump up to get away from the pups when she needed a break. Heat lamps were in place if needed. We piped in music so the puppies got used to noise and developed a diverse appreciation for Classical music, Country & Western and Pop Oldies. We also installed a closed circuit TV that attached the main house to the pen and allowed us to keep an eye on everyone. A trap door led to a small fenced yard where we positioned stumps, logs, and a tunnel made from a chimney flu section for the pups to challenge each other.
As soon as Mom had had enough and the pups were weaned, we began to bring them into our kitchen for evening romps, partly because we wanted to make sure no puppy left Washington Kennel hand-shy, and partly because we got such a thrill from the puppies. The pups were ready to go at 8 weeks old. By law we were not allowed to let them go to their new homes any sooner.
Krissie shows off one of our little guys.
James with an armful.
Social time in the kitchen
This is Art with Blue.
A WARNING ABOUT ETHOXYQUIN
One particular word of caution that we feel we should put here involves a lethal pet food additive called Ethoxyquin. Ethoxyquin was invented by Monsanto as a rubber stabilizer and has been used as a herbicide and as an insecticide as well as a preservative for animal feeds. When a chicken or a cow, etc. arrives at the packing plant dead, dying, diseased or disabled it is stamped by the government inspector with a code which means it is unfit for human consumption. Some of this meat has already begun to turn rancid and the only way to preserve it so that it can be processed into animal feed is to treat it with Ethoxyquin. Because the feed producer did not actually add the ingredient they are not required by law to list it on their label. But some feed companies do add it directly to their feed and it is on the label. You should look for this ingredient on your pet food labels and avoid any that contain it. Ethoxyquin can cause many health and breeding problems including liver shut-down. This is Blue. He was Art’s beautiful black and white Malamute who became a victim of Ethoxyquin.
The days of maintaining 26 sled dogs is over, as are the days of breeding, training and sprint racing. Over the years, however, we learned a lot and the information here may be helpful to new mushers. We also would like to introduce you to our dogs, to honor and remember the wonderful canine personalities who gave us their loyalty, athletic spirit and companionship.