Cuddling into each other with an abundance of hugs and wet nose kisses, my son and Northern Husky, “Luke Skywalker” were equally excited about the other coming to visit. “He’s very affectionate and loves hugs,” said Dave, owner of Wapusk Adventures (while I wasn’t sure if he was talking about the dog or my son). This was the start of our dog carting in Churchill experience!
Disclaimer: While I share my own thoughts and stories about these experiences, should you click on the affiliate links, I may receive a small commission on that sale which helps fund Adventure Awaits.
Wapusk Adventures is an indigenous cultural ecotourism company founded in 2001 by 7th generation Churchillian, Dave Daley. A proud Metis, Dave is a humble guide with 40 dogs in care, who are his family. The passion for these animals is shown with every interaction between Dave and his entire human leadership team. While he has established himself as the alpha of the pack there is mutual respect for the animals. The animals are there to serve the humans and the humans are there to provide the best life for these animals, mutually working towards a common goal, each caring for the other in a unique way.
Meet the Wapusk Dog Carting Churchill Team
Upon arrival at the homestead in the middle of the boreal forest, you’ll know you’ve arrived by the sounds of dogs barking. Dogs love seeing tour busses come in, knowing that busses = adventure! Once you’ve geared up (bug spray and nets if you want them) it’s time to head into the welcome hut for a quick orientation.
If the Dogs Could Talk
The hut is lined with photos, gifts, and trophies from past racing events. Huge maps showing difficult routes (like a 40-hour unsupported race) make the reality of dog sledding sink in. While we are there for a summer dog carting tour, the dog’s peak season is in the winter when Old Man Winter brings their favourite season. Dave shares insights about what it’s like to be out on the trail with the dogs, what training season is and what the care of these beautiful animals looks like.
Life as a Churchillian Dog living on the tundra one may think that they’d be up against harsh conditions, but these dogs are truly living their best life. From dietitian-approved food, regular healthcare, chiro, physio, and even dog yoga (I didn’t believe it until I saw it) the humans really know how to care for each pooch living out on the pads…Here are some of the fun facts about dog carting and dog sledding that we learned:
While Dave is certified to do most of the veterinary work for his team, his level of care goes beyond vaccinations and healing wounds. From physiotherapy to chiropractic, to even doggy yoga, these four-legged athletes get nothing but the best care while living out their life at Wapusk Adventures.
Dogs can’t run unless their feet are well taken care of and every year the team at Wapusk orders hundreds of doggy booties, to help make sure that their dog’s feet are well taken care of when they are out on the race course.
Having to fuel the animals is a science in itself, especially when they are racing for days at a time. Dave shared how his pack has to get 30,000 calories into the dogs, stopping to feed them every 2 hours when they are out on the course. During races they get a special mix of chicken parts and professional sled dog food, allowing them the highest caloric intake and top fuel to sustain their performance. Their off-season, on-the-land diet varies, with dry food in the summer and premium chicken flown in, in the summer! Their whole fueling plan is dietician-approved, nothing but the best for team Wapusk.
Adventure Time – Dog Carting Churchill Here We Come!
With 40 howling “hellos” the dogs are amped up and overjoyed to greet you as they voice their excitement for being able to head out on a trail ride. They quickly spot the leaders grabbing the red harnesses and start vying for Dave’s attention so that they can be the ones who get to head out on the first ride of the day. There’s no doubt about it, to see these animals desire to be a part of the riding experience is to know that they love being out on the trails and taking guests to explore the land that they live on.
Buckle Up And Go!
A summer twist on the classic sleigh rides, Dave has built simple and fun dog carts allowing guests to head out on the property for a spin through the boreal forest via dog sled. A quick “hup” and the dogs were off, smiles blasted on all of our faces as they we took off around the corner.
A left here and a right here and we were on course, cruising through the woods, my son beaming as we watched Luke Skywalker lead the way.
Back At Basecamp
When your turn is over it’s time to hop off the cart and explore the yard, including a traditional indigenous tipi, and the most beautiful outhouse in all of Churchill (no, I haven’t toured them all but look at it, it’s as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside!). This outhouse was a 2020 project with Dave and his grandkids, a unique way to teach traditional log building all while providing guests with a great place to take a pit stop before heading out on their dog carting adventure!
What to Wear Dog Carting
Churchill does everything big, including the bugs. So while not necessary, we opted to bring a full bug net suit for my son, and then spray him with bug spray on any exposed areas like his hands and ankles. I opted to wear pants, a rain jacket, and a hooded bug net over my face to keep the pesky creatures away. It can get quite warm so layer up and be ready to make adjustments as needed.
Accolades and Awards
Team Wapusk, and more specifically Dave, have won several accolades and awards for their tours as well as for their placement in races. Here are some of the major awards, but all of them would be too lengthy to list.
2007 – Sponsored by Canada Goose and named one of 50 “Goose People” for the company’s 50th anniversary.
2009 – Manitoba Aboriginal Tourism Award
2009 – The Spirit of the Earth Award
2019 – Northern Manitoba Indigenous Tourism Award
Hudson’s Bay Dog Sled Race
While the day-to-day work of team Wapusk includes caring for the dogs and greeting and taking visitors out on tour, the whole team is also dedicated to training for races. As a long-distance racing kennel, the team works throughout the year, training the dogs and nurturing their love of the sport while providing them with the best holistic care. In 2004 Dave founded the Hudson Bay Quest and hopes it is able to return in 2023.
How to Book A Dog Carting Adventure In Churchill
Visitors are welcome to choose between two main ways to book this dog carting experience. You can book an all-inclusive summer package with Frontiers North, or you can book directly with Team Wapusk by visiting their website.
Is this a sponsored post?: Yes, our dog carting adventure was sponsored. However, we take the responsibility of shared posts VERY seriously and only work with partners we can wholeheartedly recommend and services we would purchase ourselves.