Longfellow Elementary School second-graders received an Alaskan history lesson Thursday morning as Monarch Dog Sled Rides owner Caleb Hathaway and fellow musher Caleb Awe introduced some of their dogs and demonstrated dog sledding equipment.

Teacher Charlie Verhoeven said the kids had read about Balto, the lead sled dog on the last leg of the 1,000-mile 1925 race to take serum to Nome, Alaska, during a diphtheria epidemic.

That route is now recreated every year with the Iditarod race, which Verhoeven said the kids had also studied.

Hathaway showed historical photos and related the history of sled dogs in Alaska and the Yukon Territory during the Klondike gold rush where large dogs were used to haul heavy loads.

He explained that these days, sled dogs are smaller and faster and used for racing and recreation.

Awe demonstrated old and modern dog sled equipment and how to harness the dogs.

Several students had the opportunity to “harness up” and pretend to be sled dogs, learning commands to “gee” to the right and “haw” to the left and “whoa” while Hathaway acted as musher.

Hathaway said the trip to the elementary school is usually about the end of the season, in mid-April, but with this year’s heavy snows, they might be able to run a little longer before shutting down operations for the season.

For more information about dog sledding in Chaffee County, visit monarchdogsledrides.com

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