Western Michigan University students Stephanie Wilcox and Timothy Waelde started the Husky Club less than a year ago. Waelde says, at first, it was just a way to get the dogs together. But it became about educating the public about the breed and helping huskies to find homes.
“The most widely viewed idea is that huskies are dangerous," says Waelde. "Most people think that--as you will come to find out—they’ll jump on you, they’ll lick your face, you know. But it’s the talking. Most people—when they hear them going back and forth and they’re playing and they’re talking—most people think, ‘Oh my goodness, that dog’s aggressive.'”
The American Kennel Club calls the breed “friendly and gentle.” In fact, they’re so friendly the AKC says they make horrible guard dogs. Wilcox says even shelters can misjudge a husky. She found that out when taking her friend Mike Klepp to adopt his first Siberian.
“There was a danger sign on his cage and stuff and he was a beautiful husky. And we get there and he’s just like sitting back in the corner all scared. We went up there, I’m like ‘Can I just take him out?’ And he came right out to us and was licking our faces. And I mean like just the energy—because they were scared of him and the dog was scared. They would have put him down because they thought he was dangerous. And he was such a nice dog.”
Johnnie Hoyne got his first Siberian Husky, Cheyenne, 18 years ago. Hoyne says, for him, dog sledding is mostly a hobby, but he’s raced against a few pros and still does amateur races. Now Hoyne has eight dogs.
“Michigan has more sanctioned dog sled races than any other state in the United States," says Hoyne. "Alaska has the biggest race, the Iditarod, 1,140 miles. But Michigan every weekend there’s like three or four different sprint and mid-distance leagues that you could go in and you could run.”
After the run, the dogs were calm and relaxed. Stephanie Wilcox says though huskies can be energetic, you don’t have to be an athlete to own one.
“You know, I’m not a very active person. My huskies that I got are pretty lazy, but I take them to the dog park to let them run around,” she says. “[You have to] be very forgiving because they do get into a lot of mischief. And invest in a lot of things for them to chew on because they will tear your house apart if you let them.”
Wilcox says you can't just have one husky.
“It’s so much easier to have more than one because they keep each other entertained," she says. "When the two younger ones get older, I’d like to get them into the dog sledding. And so far the almost one-year-old and the 4-year-old, they pull me on my bike down the road and we go for little rides here and there. But they’re so much fun.”