Monday, November 14, 2011

Help Wanted - Sled Dog Handler

Have you ever wanted to drive and care for a team of sled dogs while someone else paid for their feed, veterinary bills and equipment?  Well, here is a nearly perfect opportunity for someone to do just that.

I am seeking a new sled dog handler to begin some time between the first of 2012 and break-up.  In exchange for roughly 50 to 60 hours of work each month, the handler is provided his/her own new, private 12' X 16' dry cabin with sleeping loft with heat and electricity provided.  Water is easily accessible nearby and the handler also receives shower and laundry privileges in the owner's house.  Best of all, there is room to house up to about 20 of your own sled dogs if you happen to have your own team. 

In exchange, the handler is responsible for providing day-to-day care of up to 20 sled dogs with ABSOLUTE reliability for 2 to 3 weeks each month while the owner is working at a remote industrial site.  This requires about 1 hour each morning and 1 hour each evening.  Additionally, when the owner is home from work, the handler is asked to assist in various kennel related activities such as training and conditioning dogs, maintaining the kennel and so forth.  For more information on duties, I'm posting the full job description and barter agreement below.

The Stardancer Historical Sled Dogs Kennel is located in Two Rivers, Alaska, about 20 miles outside of Fairbanks.  This is far enough from town to qualify as rural, but close enough to be reasonably convenient for work and social activities.  We boast one of the most extensive trail systems in Alaska and consequently one of the highest concentrations of dog mushers and equestrians in the State.  Residents of Two Rivers are frequently referred to as "bush rats with electricity."  Both the kennel and handler's dog yard are immediately trail accessible, making it convenient to condition and train our dogs. 

Handler Agreement:
Consideration and Renumeration:

This document serves as a barter agreement. In exchange for reliably performing the duties listed below, the handler will be entitled to live in the handler’s cabin on the kennel premises free of additional rent and will be entitled to shower and laundry privileges in the main house and space to house up to 20 sled dogs.
If the handler is interested in learning to mush sled dogs, the owners will make every effort to teach you to do so at mutually convenient times or may help make arrangements with other experienced dog mushers to train you. Handlers who demonstrate the ability to safely do so may be awarded the privilege of “running” some of our dogs unsupervised, but doing so is not a condition of this agreement.

About the Stardancer Historical Sled Dogs Kennel:

The Stardancer Historical Sled Dogs kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska is a recreational sled dog kennel established with the goals of accurately reenacting historical dog sledding practices while maintaining the highest practical standard of humane dog care based on the best currently available canine husbandry information.

The Stardancer kennel is co-owned by Thomas “Swanny” Swan and certified canine behaviorist Janece Rollet. Although an absentee owner, Ms. Rollet is a full and equal partner in the kennel and has full authority to direct and supervise the work of the handler.

The kennel facility consists of six fenced pens and 7 elevated post & swivel tethers enclosed within a common perimeter fence. The canine population of the kennel ranges between 12 and 20 sled dogs, primarily Alaskan huskies of the type usually referred to as “village” or “trap-line” dogs. Many of our dogs have been rescued from the animal control shelter and sled-dog specific rescue organizations. Others are part of the Hedlund Husky Preservation Project, and some are from our own breeding. Support facilities include our small, 2-bedroom log home with ‘typical’ modern conveniences, 1 warm storage area (attached garage), several cold storage areas and the handler’s cabin.

Minimum Qualifications of the Handler:

1. The handler must be 18 years of age or older.

2. The handler must be physically able to safely lift and carry 5 gallon pails of water or prepared dog food, 40# bags of dog food and/or bales of straw from their storage areas to any point in the kennel.

3. The handler must be physically capable of safely walking a large, powerful, unruly dog on a leash without injury or release of the dog.

4. The handler must possess and maintain a driver’s license valid in the United States and State of Alaska.

Use of the Handler’s Cabin:

1. Under this agreement, you will be providing up to 60 hours of labor per month in exchange for the use of the handler’s cabin located on our property as your primary residence. The owners provide heating oil and electrical service. The handler may also use our DSL Internet connection through our wireless router, and is granted shower and laundry privileges in the owner’s home.

2. Guests visiting the handler do so at their own risk, and are not permitted to enter the owner’s home or the perimeter fence of the kennel. All duties described in this document are to be performed only by the handler or an owner-designated emergency responder. Guests are not permitted to interact with the dogs unless an owner is present and has agreed to the interaction.

3. You have the right to privacy within your own home (the handler’s cabin) and the owner will not enter the cabin unless expressly invited by you except in the case of emergency or exigent circumstances.

4. Appliances and furnishings provided in the cabin belong to the owners and are provided for your use and convenience only during the time you are renting the cabin. None of the owner’s possessions may be removed without the express consent of the owner.

5. Malfunction of any appliances provided within the cabin must be reported to the owner(s) as soon as possible to ensure their timely repair or replacement.

6. The cabin is equipped with both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. The handler is expected to maintain these important safety devices in good working order, including the periodic replacement of batteries.

7. The manufacture, possession or use of illegal substances anywhere on our property is expressly forbidden. Violation will result in immediate termination of this agreement and eviction. Violations may also be reported to the Alaska State Troopers.

Roles and Responsibilities of the Handler:

It is imperative that the handler recognizes and understands that everything done to, for or with our dogs and kennel is done for a reason and any deviation from the policies and procedures established by the owners may result in discharge from service and eviction. If you don’t understand why things are done a certain way, please don’t hesitate to ask. Your questions not only help you learn, they also make us reexamine our reasoning to ensure it is valid and consistent with recognized best practices.

The general role of the handler is to provide daily care, husbandry and health and safety monitoring of the dogs , to perform routine general maintenance of the kennel and home when neither owner is present, and to respond appropriately and effectively to any emergency which may arise in the absence of the owners.

1. The handler is expected to perform his or her kennel duties with absolute reliability, regardless of his or her personal circumstances. The owners will provide all resources necessary to make it as convenient to do so as we can. Failure to perform the duties listed in this contract will be considered a breach of this contract and may result in eviction. Should the handler be unable to fulfill his/her kennel duties for any reason a designated emergency responder must be contacted to perform the necessary work and the owner(s) notified as soon as practical.

2. The handler is expected to read and be familiar with the Mush with P.R.I.D.E. Sled Dog Care Guidelines and recognize that the Stardancer Historical Sled Dogs Kennel is a P.R.I.D.E. certified kennel, and must meet or exceed the standards expressed in the Guidelines at all times.

3. The handler is expected to collaborate with the owners to develop appropriate policies and procedures for the care, husbandry and on-going training of the dogs and for responses to emergencies or exigent circumstances. Much of that collaboration will be via telephone, Email or instant messaging.

4. The handler is expected to feed and water the dogs and scoop the yard of solid waste twice each day, once in the morning prior to 9 AM, and once in the evening any time between 4 and 10 PM.
     a. Feces is to be placed in a conveniently located cold-compost pile.

     b. Preparation of baited water and/or food will be as directed by the owners.

     c. The handler will be trained and is expected to learn to monitor the weight and body condition of each individual dog and to adjust quantities of food as needed to maintain optimal body condition.

     d. The handler is expected to interact directly with the dogs while feeding, watering and scooping. Such interactions may include, but are not limited to;

       i. Physical examination of each dog to identify injuries or signs of illness.

       ii. Positive training of desirable behaviors

       iii. Interspecies play

5. When neither owner is present on the property the handler is expected to live on the premises and to respond to any disturbance or emergency that may occur. Short-term absences for employment or personal activities are permitted and encouraged so long as dog care and husbandry duties are performed as scheduled and directed.

6. The handler is expected to collect, wash and redistribute all food dishes at least once weekly.

7. The handler is expected to accept deliveries of dog food or supplies if the owner(s) are not available to do so, and to ensure that delivered food or supplies are placed in the appropriate storage areas.

8. The handler is expected to administer any medications required by an individual dog on the schedule established by the owners in conjunction with our team veterinarian. When the opportunity arises the handler may be trained to administer deworming medications and subcutaneous injection of medical fluid solutions, vaccines or medications. In most cases these procedures will be performed by one of the owners.

9. The handler is expected to monitor the condition of straw bedding within the dog’s houses and replenish or replace the bedding as needed.

10. Although the owners will try to schedule routine veterinarian visits while one or the other is present, emergency or exigent circumstances may require the handler to transport a dog or dogs to and from the veterinarian’s office in Fairbanks using our purpose-built dog truck. Therefore the handler will be trained and is expected to learn how to safely load and unload dogs onto or off of the truck and how to safely operate a diesel-powered, four-wheel drive, standard transmission light duty truck.

11. The handler is expected to identify and correct safety hazards within the kennel. All necessary tools and supplies are provided.

12. The handler is expected to respond to emergencies that may arise as directed by written procedures or direct communication with one of the owners.

13. The owners of the Stardancer kennel are strictly LIMA trainers (Least Invasive, Minimally Aversive). The handler is expected to interact with the dogs in a non-aversive manner at all times, even when it is difficult to do so. If you have difficulty managing a dog’s behavior you are expected to contact the owners for guidance in training the dog to behave differently. Striking, kicking or in any way attempting to “punish” or intentionally injuring a dog will result in immediate eviction and a criminal complaint of cruelty to animals lodged with the Fairbanks North Star Borough Division of Animal Control. NO exceptions to this policy will be granted.

House Related Duties:

1. The handler is expected to monitor the condition of infrastructure (furnace, water softener, plumbing system, &c) and report problems to the owners as soon as possible so they can be corrected.

2. The handler is entitled to use some amenities in the house, including clothing washer and dryer, shower and kitchen appliances. The handler is NOT authorized to share these amenities with any guest or other person without the express consent of the owner(s).

3. The owners value the privacy of our home. The handler is not permitted to entertain guests within our home without our express consent.

4. The handler is not expected to provide “maid” or “house keeping” services other than what you feel is necessary for your comfort. You will be expected to perform the following tasks prior to the owner’s return.

     a. Wash all dishes that you’ve used. They may be either put away or left in the drying rack.

     b. Clean any appliances that you have used in the owner’s absence.

     c. Change the sheets on the bed if you have used it.

     d. Restore any furniture you’ve moved back to its original position.

5. There are several firearms stored in various places of the house. Many of them are stored in a “loaded and ready” condition. The handler is expected to leave them strictly alone (do not touch) unless or until trained by the owners to properly and safely handle them. If you wish to learn to operate and shoot them one of the owners (Mr. Swan) will be happy to train you at a mutually convenient time and place.

If you are interested in applying for this sled dog handler position, please send your resume' and contact information for at least 3 references to me by Email (preferred) to or snail mail to;
Thomas Swan
P. O. Box 16237
Two Rivers, AK  99716

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